My book ...one year on


One year ago, on July 15, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage was launched in a simple ceremony at the DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru.

My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage
among the books on a shelf at Think City Johor Baru
It was both significant and sentimental that my book, which contains some of my favourite ‘grandfather’s stories’ was launched at this hotel which is located on Jalan Ngee Heng, just across the road from where our grandfather’s house was at No.154.

That double-storey bungalow with an adjacent badminton court, is no longer there because the land was acquired by the government to build Jalan Tun Abdul Razak.

[An enterprising warung operator took up the space which was our former driveway and over the years, he has expanded his business and recently, even tiled the floor!]

One year on and I still remember all that happened that Saturday morning of my book launch – unforgettable for so many reasons.

I’m deeply grateful for the friendship and support from readers, friends and relatives who have bought my book, not only for themselves but also as gifts to present to others.

My book at the Number One spot of the
MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers in July 2017
And in so doing, they sent my book to the Number One spot of the MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers list on the first week of its launch.

I’m deeply humbled that we all agree that my book is a special piece of Johor to present to friends and family, especially to those who were born here but have moved away or lived abroad.

After the book was launched, I would receive a weekly update from the General Manager of MPH Publishing, Sze Mei.

A week later, she sent a photo with a brief message that said, “Hi Peggy, Good Morning. My Johor Stories still a bestseller for two consecutive weeks.”

The interest for my book continued in the following weeks and months and it stayed on the Non-Fiction Bestsellers list for the rest of the year.

On Christmas Day 2017, it was almost 10.15pm when my phone signaled a message from Sze Mei.

She sent was a colourful poster designed with a line-up of books and her message, superimposed on it said: “My Johor Stories made it to the list of MPH Best Non-Fiction 2017.”

My book was among these titles in the
MPH Best Non-Fiction 2017 list
Before I could grasp what this means, my eyes widened in awe as I read her next message headlined: MPH is proud to present… The Best of 2017!
           
The small print on this announcement read: “Each title is selected based on overall sales performance at all MPH Bookstores and mphonline.com, international reviews and recommendation from a team of professional buyers.”

As her message slowly sank in, I felt ever so grateful for the publishing opportunity presented to me by Think City and MPH Publishing which led to this book and its success through the support of readers, fans and friends.

I’m also thankful for the support from my friends in the hotel and resort industry who wanted to place a copy of my book in their rooms (boutique hotel) and suites (resort hotel) because they are aware that having my book available for their guests’ in-room reading pleasure, will enhance their stay.

In fact, they placed advance orders for the bulk quantities of my books and collected their orders from the MPH book sale table at my launch event.

A section of the happy audience reacting to my
presentation at my book launch event on 15 July 2017
Each hotel or resort have their own experiences about my book with their guests but one that they have in common is that some of my books has gone missing from the rooms!

We arrived at the conclusion that unless they chained my book to the room, there was always a possibility that guests may inadvertently pack my book along when they checked-out.

Another reason was probably because the book is so un-put-down-able that they did not have any alternative but to bring my book with them!

Since its launch, I have introduced my book at Meet-the-Author sessions organized by MPH held in their bookstores in Johor Baru and Kuala Lumpur, public events that were attended by friends, family members and shoppers in the mall.

Thanks to Think City who supported me in my book project and which led to yet another new experience – being featured in their corporate video.
                               
I'm featured in the Think City JB corporate video
[see screen behind!] I'm at their office with
Faezah Ayub [Right] and Gan Yi Reng [Left]
While I am used to being the one behind the camera, this time I was in front of the camera for an interview plus live-action on the streets of the JB heritage quarter for this video shoot!

Last year, I have presented my book to various groups in separate events, including the gentlemen in the oldest Rotary Club in Johor, the Rotary Club of Johor Baru and to the expatriate ladies in JB who belong to the International Women’s Association of JB.

In March this year, I was invited to be guest speaker at a Book Talk event with student leaders of SMK Dato Jaafar Johor Baru.

The Teacher-in-Charge, Navinder Kaur d/o Dhiraj Singh, explained that the Book Talk was with a group of 30 students who were student leaders from Forms Two to Six.

It was such a pleasure for me to speak to local secondary school students about my book. While most of them were born here, they are from another generation and it was an eye-opener for them to hear about some of the heritage stories in my book.

We shared an interactive time and had much fun as they gained more confidence to speak to me in the English language.

Not long after that, I accepted an invitation to Crescendo HELP International School in Taman Desa Cemerlang, Johor Baru, as guest speaker in an event with some 300 secondary school students, to kick-off their annual Book Week.

Fancy that! My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real
People, Rich Heritage
 is displayed next
to the biography of Tun Siti Hasmah in
the MPH bookstore at JB City Square
It was an eventful morning where students and their teachers gathered in the assembly hall to get to know me and more of Johor through my book. This was the largest audience I have addressed, thus far.

In the latter part of this event, I had a reading session with Year Six students, in the school library.

With the students seated comfortably on beanbags in front of me, I read to them selected parts of various stories from my book and enjoyed an interesting Question and Answer time with these lively 12-year olds.

When I received an invitation from Marlborough College Malaysia to speak to some 100 fulltime boarders on a Sunday morning, I learnt that these talks by Sunday Speakers aimed to broaden the students’ perspectives while promoting soft skills within the college.

So on that appointed Sunday morning, I was at the college to share my story to inspire the youngsters, with the aim to encourage them to consider a career in writing and open their eyes to life beyond college and university.

Besides introducing the contents of my book, I also shared with them about my writing assignments and discussed some on-the-job experiences, from interviews with various personalities to hotel and food reviews as well as travel to destinations both local and abroad.

Then in June, I received an invitation to the University of Southampton Malaysia, campus at Educity, Iskandar Puteri. This time, it was not to be a guest speaker but to join a panel of judges in a Public Speaking competition for engineers.

It made me wonder why I was being considered for the role of a judge in a national level event, jointly organized by the Young Members Section and Student Chapter of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Malaysia.

I then discovered that ‘Speak Out For Engineering Malaysia 2018’ is a public speaking competition for engineers to hone their skills in verbal and visual communication, with the aim to convey engineering and technical ideas to a client with a non-technical background.

My name tag for the
'Speak Out for Engineering' public speaking
competition at the University of Southampton
When I accepted the invite to join the judging panel, I did not know that the other three judges have an engineering background; two were involved in the industry while the other was in education.

But on hindsight, I was probably the most important person on the panel because I was the only non-engineer and if the competitors could present their talks and made me understand an engineering or technical idea, then they would have achieved their aim!

So in this event, I was judge instead of speaker and I must say that it was interesting to be surrounded by an auditorium full of engineers, to judge the presentations of seven competitors.

At the judges’ deliberation, we tallied the scores based on the judging criteria and as our opinions about the presentations were unanimous, the clear winners emerged.

A great deal has happened in the past 12 months since my book was launched.

But apart from the many new experiences, nothing much has changed. I am still the same, going about my work with interviews and writing assignments, doing food and hotel reviews.

The next exciting new happening that I’m happy to share, is that Think City and MPH Publishing have presented me with yet another opportunity to work on my next book project.

So here I am working hard on my next book – the sequel to My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.

My book was a weekly
Bestseller in MPH bookstores;
Spot it on top shelf, Far Right.
It’s still a collection of My Johor Stories which has a section of my ‘grandfather stories’ plus inspiring stories about ordinary people with extraordinary lives, not just in JB but also in various Johor towns.

Writing these exclusive stories involved travelling to meet these interesting people in their hometowns. While this is both challenging and fun, I’m ever so blessed to have the privilege to share their stories and document them as a written legacy for their families.

As I’m working on my sequel, I’ve been encouraged by small but significant incidents.

Like a friend who was leaving for Canada the next evening and she would be carrying along a few copies of my book, already autographed, to present to her relatives there.

While packing, she realized that she was one book short for her distribution so she rushed to the MPH bookstore in JB City Square to buy another copy of my book.

Meanwhile she sent me a message to ask if I could please sign this book for her, but early the next morning as she had much to do before her flight that evening.

“How early is early?” I asked because I too had an early start the next morning to go to Educity for the event at the University of Southampton, and planned to leave by 7.45am.

She replied, “At 7.45am can?”

And there she was even before 7.45am, patiently waiting at my front gates, with a copy of my book. I was ready with my signing pen and gladly autographed my book for her – against her car bonnet.

So everyone was happy and we went our separate ways. By now that book would already be in Canada.

Speaking of Canada, I just received an email from a reader in Montreal with such encouraging and insightful words. In his message Robert Houde said:

I came across your blog by chance during a search on some Han Suyin material. I thoroughly commend your writing and creativity and especially how you convey your attachment to your native city. Not to mention those amazing details about Dr. Han.”

Words cannot fully describe how grateful I am for all that has happened in the past 12 months since the birth my book. Praise God and thank you, all.