Student Spotlight: international student Soisangwan finds success in first book deal

Soisangwan, who is simply known as “Pop,” is thinking about writing another book in the future. It may possibly focus on intercultural communication as well.

By Amanda Eakin

The determination required to study abroad may be impressive, but international student Patcharporn “Pop” Soisangwan’s ability to get her first book published at such a young age is worthy of just as much recognition.

Soisangwan first came to Ashland University in 2008 and will be graduating in May to obtain her second bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising.

Soisangwan’s first book, “Thai the Knot,” does not directly pertain to her major. Instead, it focuses on intercultural relationships and the challenges one might face due to cultural differences.

“It’s for married couples and dating couples, but it is also for anyone who is interested in learning about other cultures, especially Thailand or Asia, and how to do deal with them,” Soisangwan said. “There’s plenty in the book that can be practical advice for situations outside anything romantic.”

Despite the differences one may see between fashion and intercultural relationships, Soisangwan sees ways in which they are connected.

“[Because] clothing is produced in a global economy, U.S. companies work with many different countries around the world [in order] to source garments, especially in Asia. It’s important to understand other cultures in order to be able to communicate effectively,” Soisangwan said.

The catalyst for the book’s creation came from the cultural tensions Soisangwan noticed between cross-cultural relationships and how it would often create problems.

“In my country I saw many relationships between Thai women and foreign men fail or suffer because of misunderstandings that could be cleared up with a little knowledge. That’s where my book comes in,” Soisangwan said. “Some of the advice and warnings are direct and stinging, but it is presented in a humorous way.”

Most of Soisangwan’s advice comes directly from her own revelations after living in America for several years.

“Coming to America I realize why [Americans] act as they do by seeing how they’re raised,” Soisangwan said. “For example, American kids are so much more confident than Thai kids.”

Soisangwan highlighted specific situations in which American parents differ from Thai parents, such as whether or not a child is asked for his or her opinion.

“American kids grow up learning how to express themselves-they know what they want and say it. Thai kids learn to follow. They are then too shy to express their preferences,” Soisangwan said.

Soisangwan found that even seemingly trivial distinctions between cultures, such as asking children for their opinion, can lead to complications in intercultural relationships.

Though bursting with ideas, it took Soisangwan about one year to write the book, as she used her own personal experiences to propel the progression of her writing.

“I would write a chapter when I observed something or experienced something in my own marriage that would make a good lesson,” Soisangwan said.

Although writing her book was challenging in English as opposed to her native language, Soisangwan was well prepared for the daunting task. With her first bachelor’s degree in English under her belt from Chiang Mai University, in addition to being submerged in constant English in the U.S., Soisangwan has polished her ability to fluently speak a secondary language.

As one would expect, there were many obstacles Soisangwan had to face in order to see her book reach the market, though she credits a considerable amount of people who aided her in the process.

“To make it to the bookstore, there are many people who step in along the way and add another layer of quality to the book,” Soisangwan said. “I have readers and an editor that helped too with comments and improvements. Writing a book is not as lonely as people think.”

That isn’t to say getting a book noticed is an easy task. Because her family is directly involved with book publishing, Soisangwan is aware of the rules to the publishing game, such as how to find the appropriate company to make the proposal to.

“I felt that I had an idea that would work for the right publisher, so I felt confident about it,” Soisangwan said. “But hardly any writer gets a break with the first door he or she knocks. You have to knock on many before someone opens it.”

With persistence and patience, Soisangwan was eventually able to attract a publishing company’s attention.

“Blacksmith Books is the 5th publisher I pitched the idea to. Some publishers won’t give you the opportunity unless you’re ‘somebody.’ Much of publishing is luck I think, catching the right publisher who is open-minded to new authors and looking for your type of book at that time,” Soisangwan said.

After graduation, Soisangwan could imagine her career taking multiple paths. Soisangwan hopes to start her own business, such as an online boutique store, though she also sees herself writing another book to succeed her initial one.

“But my first plan,” Soisangwan said good-naturedly, “is to just rest and be a couch potato for a while.”

With Soisangwan’s high ambitions, however, one can expect to see her books populating Barnes & Noble’s bookshelves in the promising future.