This study, drawing upon data triangulated from interviews, classroom research reports, and school documents, sheds light on how cross-border teachers from mainland China to Hong Kong construct and negotiate their identities when teaching English creative writing. Using identity control theory (ICT) this study examines discursive and complex identity development and reveals contextual and interpersonal factors that hinder identity construction among teachers of English creative writing. Factors include isolation from local colleagues, failure to integrate into the host community due to cultural and linguistic differences, standardized school instruction, heavy workloads, students' distrust, and students' low English proficiency. Cross-border teachers were found to experience negative emotions including stress, anger, and unease due to failed teacher identity verification in a new land. This study contributes to theoretical knowledge of ICT, suggesting inaction and secondary emotions as outcomes of the incongruence between the meanings of identity standard and input. Relevant theoretical and pedagogical implications are also discussed. Copyright © 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.