Author Interview with D. Nkwetato Tamonkia

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing D. Nkwetato Tamonkia, a veteran ESL teacher and TEFL trainer with 25 years of experience in the industry. Throughout his career, he has taught students from various language backgrounds both in formal school settings and privately. Mr. Tamonkia has prepared thousands of candidates for standardized tests like IELTS, TOEFL, and SAT, and has also taught Business English to adults in multi-national companies.

He is the founder of the popular podcast Dee’s English Lessons and DNT Academy, and has recently published three books focused on English language learning. These books are a result of his years of classroom experience and emphasize step-by-step learning, vocabulary building, and engaging learning activities. Mr. Tamonkia currently resides in Shanghai, China, where he frequently speaks at conferences and seminars.

Join me in this insightful interview as we discuss Mr. Tamonkia’s teaching journey, his passion for education, and his plans for the future in education consulting and teaching material development.

When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was in the University. Back then it was more like articles, poems and short stories.

What inspired you to start writing?
Talking specifically about the ESL books I have published, what inspired me to start writing them was the rich teaching experience I gathered over 25 years of teaching ESL. I felt compelled to give something back to the industry that took care of my entire life as a teacher. As I retire from ESL teaching, I hope the books can continue to represent me in the industry.

Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?
Writing is not yet a full-time career for me but as I look towards retirement, it could possibly become one. How will retirement life be like? It is kind of unpredictable right now. So, I will see how it goes.

Do you Google yourself?
Hahaha, yeah I do. The first time I did was when I came across an article online about the information about us online we don’t even know about. That was in 2018 I think when there was a lot of media hype about big data and how big tech companies use the data we provide them. That was the first time I googled myself and ever since I have been doing it. Recently when I started promoting my books, I did google myself several times to see what information shows up about me as an author.

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?
Yes I do use social media. Who doesn’t, nowadays? Social media is gaining more and more credibility while the almighty mainstream media we used to trust with our hearts and souls is losing it.
Most of my students are in China and they interact with me on the local social media platforms like Weibo, Xiaohongshu and WeChat.
Ex students of mine who are in other countries, keep in touch with me. They follow my podcast, they follow me on X, Medium, etc.

What drew you to writing your preferred genre?
The urge to leave something behind in the industry I worked in throughout my youth.

What is the first step to your writing process?
Identifying a problem that can be solved by a book with solutions. In the case of my books I realized that many ESL books I came across had something lacking: the variety of activities that push students to practice using the language structures they learn. That is why my books are very focused on language activities for practice both in and out of classroom settings.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Well, I think it really depends on the kind of book and the readership targeted. In my case, the books are for students learning English as a foreign language so, my research is usually on teachers and learners in that niche. The problems they face, how they think the teaching and learning process can be improved and I make extensive use of teaching materials we teachers have accumulated over the years. Every serious teacher has a huge bank of teaching materials. We accumulate them even without knowing we are doing that.

Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?
Personally, I think if the passion is real and the problem your book solves is real, you won’t lack motivation. So, to an aspiring writer I would say you need to ask yourself the question: What will my book do to a person reading it? If you find no answers crossing your mind, reconsider writing. If you find lots of answers crossing your mind, dive in, you won’t get emotionally drained. You won’t be stressed out.

What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?
Three questions to answer before they start writing.
Who are you writing for?
What will your book do for them?
Is the problem real or just in your imagination?

How many books have you written?
Three published so far:
Foundation English Vocabulary Workbook
IELTS Speaking Test Guide
IELTS Writing Workbook

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Two unpublished
Three half-finished.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
The three ESL books I have published each stand alone but are related in the sense that they are all ESL books. As you can see from their names mentioned earlier, one focuses on vocabulary improvement, the other focuses on speaking for candidates preparing for IELTS and the third one focus on Academic and General Training IELTS Writing.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Writing as an indie publisher, you need to rethink many things from choosing your genre, building your content, to editing and publishing. The road is long and rocky. I made many mistakes because I thought writing a book was like writing an article online whereby you finish writing, reread, correct the mistakes and then hit the publish button. Done.

In writing a book the process is different. When you finish writing the book (the easy part), then the real work begins on the book until you publish. And don’t think you are done yet. When you publish (another easy part) then the real work begins again, that of selling the book.

For writers using big traditional publishing houses that give you cash upfront, grab your manuscript and next thing you know you are published, they won’t understand what I am saying here. For all who have published independently they totally understand what I mean.

It is not easy! If, before writing, someone could package and show you the amount of time, effort and resources you have to put in to get a book out there and then show you the price of that book, you wouldn’t even get into writing.

What was your favourite part, and your least favourite part, of the publishing journey?
The favorite part of the self-publishing journey in my case was the ability to decide how my books look like from cover design to interior layout.

The least favorite part was navigating and dealing with various online publishing platforms. Each platform has a different set of rules to abide by and for reasons you could never have imagined, they reject your book, destroying you emotionally and psychologically at a moment when an author needs a lot of support to finish the race after years of hard work. I have just written a piece on this issue on Medium. It is called My Rocky but Romantic Road to Self-Publishing.

What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
Not putting out a clear checklist that authors can look at and decide whether or not to go with this or that platform. The most annoying part of publishing platforms is that they hide their shortcomings, put everything sweet out there to get authors to sign up and next thing you know, your book cover or manuscript is not accepted for XYZ reasons. I think it would do authors a lot of good if every publishing platform just had a long checklist right on their website front pages. That way, both authors and the platforms can save precious time, efforts and resources because it would be easy to see that, I don’t need to bother signing up at Kindle, for example but hey, that other one like Lulu matches what I want and sign up.

What’s the best way to market your books?
Social media platforms

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
No, I can’t think of any.

Are there any projects or books you working on now?
Yes, having published on ESL Vocabulary, Speaking and Writing, I am currently working on a book on ESL Reading and another one on ESL Listening. Hopefully they will be ready by January 2025.

What is the title of your newest release?
IELTS Writing Workbook

What makes your latest book an exciting read?
It provides lots of IELTS type essay topics and answers that IELTS candidates are dying to read.

What books do you enjoy reading?
Personally, I like reading books about international relations and geopolitics.

What platforms do you like to use to promote your book and why?
My personal website: I have the full freedom there to write how I want.
Medium: It has a very rich community of intellectuals.
Micro-blogging websites: The ease of sharing.

What is different about your book compared to other books in your genre?
Unlike many other ESL books that contain very basic English words, the first thing about the book I consider different and unique, is the rich collection of vocabulary lists arranged in alphabetical order and under 45 carefully chosen themes commonly found in ESL curricula. The second thing is the variety of vocabulary activities provided for learners to play with the words they learn in the book. There are over 4,600words, 350 exercises and 250 vocabulary activities.

What are the words you live by?
One of my personal quote is: “The man you think is mad thinks you are mad.”
It helps me to avoid judging people.

What is your favorite quote from your book?
“Get nerdy with words!”
It is a slogan that reminds my students that learning English vocabulary can be a fun activity if they play with English words. It is actually the subtitle of one of my recently published books.

You can find out more about D. Nkwetato Tamonkia here>>

A Book by D. Nkwetato Tamonkia
Want to read some of D. Nkwetato Tamonkia’s work? Keep reading to learn about Foundation English Vocabulary Workbook.

Foundation English Vocabulary Workbook is the learning tool, ESL teachers and teenage learners need in the English classroom. It comes with hundreds of ready-made vocabulary activities designed to keep students interested in new English vocabulary in a fun way. Written by a veteran ESL teacher, the book is designed for the classroom but with whole sections for independent users. The audio readings of the 45 themed word lists, in 5 different native English accents, provide an incredible practice tool for learners. With this workbook, students cultivate the habit of looking up important information from the internet, a skill they will need very much in college. It’s a real foundation builder!
Purchase Foundation English Vocabulary Workbook here>>

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