Singer-songwriter Chen Qizhen’s first book, Nowhere Else, made its debut on the Chinese mainland last month.
Her path to fame mirrors that of many Chi- nese singers. As a young girl, Chen began com- posing songs for fun and moved on to singing competitions during her university years.
She found fame at her second singing competition, where pioneering rocker Wu Bai decided Chen should be the winner because it was rare to see a girl both playing guitar and singing original songs. Even today, she is one of the few female singers in Chinese music industry to write her own songs.
In her early career, Chen also wrote songs for other famous singers such as Fred Zhang and Yeung Chin-Wah. Later she became the first female singer signed to Rock Records.Five years later, Chen founded her own studio and began recording The Meaning of the Journey, the album that made her a household name with Chinese listeners.
The journey to complete her first book began in the summer of 2011, when Chen stayed in Havana for a week and recorded what she saw and heard. Unlike singers who publish books to gain attention or earn money, Chen wrote the book for herself and hadn’t planned to publish it.
Cheng graduated from the philosophy department at National Chengchi University in Taiwan. Her studies gave her a special love for books and writing, and Chen took up writing for pleasure.
Chen decided to spend four hours alone sitting in front of her computer to record her feelings about Havana.
To improve her writing skills, Chen returned to her university and attended classes in critical literature under Professor Chen Fangming. When the professor suggested Chen publish her draft, she refused due to a lack of confidence.
Later on, she reread her book while sick in the hospital and decided her professor might be right. Before publishing the book, Chen made several changes to the articles.
“The rough draft was like a travel diary. The revised book adds some interesting details that people hardly notice during the journey. During the third edit, I began to add some of my own understandings that I learned from the journey. I enrolled in more philosophy classes and made a few other changes before publication,” Chen said.
The book consists of 38 prosesections,seven letters, two dialogues and a Q&A session. But Chen said she still doesn’t think she can be a writer.
“I travel, and I learn things on my journeys. Sometimes I need to stop and enjoy life and go back to music,” Chen said.