Write; Post; Share

I first heard about the fringe event dubbed, Write; Post; Share, from Johor Baru Arts Festival director, Suzie Yap, when she called to invite me to join the lineup of speakers.

The event poster
I was out of touch with the local scene in the past few months while adjusting to the changes at home since dad’s passing in January.  I declined many invites but on that day, I had accepted invites to two events back-to-back: first to a cultural event with Yayasan Warisan Johor or Johor Heritage Foundation and then to a Japanese food-tasting lunch.  The latter was specially arranged with Tony of Johor Kaki fame and me.

I was sitting next to Tony, sampling our Japanese lunch when Suzie’s call came through.  She indicated a proposed date in early May and I hesitated a fraction of a moment before saying, “I will think about it.”  Over the years, I received many invitations from clubs and schools to speak on my writing career but I’ve always declined. 

The organisers of the Johor Baru Writers & Readers Festival 2016 (JBWRF) thought that a pre-event like Write; Post; Share, should drum up some interest for the fest from May 12 to 15 at the Mall of Medini, Iskandar Puteri.   

A section of Roost at Jalan Dhoby
Suzie said Tony was also invited to speak and that I should tell him about Write; Post; Share before she called him later.  After she hung up, I told Tony what little I knew about the coming pre-event.  Then we put the matter aside to focus on our food-tasting experience. 

Weeks later when I saw the organisers’ Facebook post on the JBWRF, this fringe event was brought to mind again.  I was then compelled to give this some serious thought because it was an absolute challenge to speak on a topic close to my heart in just 15 minutes!

The seeds for my reading and writing habit was planted way back when I was a kid and it was quite impossible to talk about my journey of development to where I am now, in just a few minutes! 

All this pondering inevitably bought me back to my earliest recollections of how I observed my mum and dad who read the newspapers as a daily habit.  In the days before the internet, dad’s magazine subscriptions gave me a glimpse of the world beyond school text books and story books.  I recalled looking at issues of Life magazine with its impressive photos and reading the jokes usually printed at the bottom of the pages of the Readers Digest.

Event bunting at entrance to Roost
My reading habit was further encouraged by gifts of books for birthdays and Christmas.  By reading regularly, I not only enjoyed the stories but also learnt how different authors tell their stories, the language nuances and catchy phrases and how to use them.  This exercise also made me reminisce about my dad and I had an emotional time struggling to focus on the topic because dad was a strong influence in my career.

My hobby in writing started with writing letters to classmates during term breaks and I used to enjoy receiving their replies from my favourite man-in-uniform, Mr Postman.  We used to live in Masai – where our parents were based for work at the government health centre – and I remember the thrill as dad passed me the post when he came home.  [We used to live in staff quarters next to the health centre and the mail was usually handed to him in the clinic.]  There is nothing quite like opening an envelope to read a hand-written letter and now with email and phone chats, many have lost the beautiful art of writing letters.

The audience paying rapt attention to the first speaker
Closer to the date, the organisers posted the event “poster” on Facebook and when I read my name in the list of speakers, I realised that this was for real.  And I was to share my story to encourage/inspire others in the reading and writing habit – in a nutshell. 

As I thought it through, I only wished I could have more time to share more interesting and relevant details.  In the end, I decided to share briefly about cultivating reading and writing habits, the ethics and integrity in publishing and the story behind My Johor Stories.  While some of the speakers are from the main-stream media and some are bloggers, I actually straddle both because my stories are for main-stream media as well as for my blog!

This event was held at Roost on Jalan Dhoby.  As I was walking there that evening, I thought it rather uncanny that I was on this very road because I just wrote a piece about the past and present happenings here in Discovering Jalan Dhoby.

The crowd swelled and there was only standing room left!
As in any public event, one never knew how many or how few people may turn up but the folks at Roost had a stack of chairs ready to be used along with the eclectic collection of Sea Wong’s designer furniture.  The upstairs shop-unit at the corner of Jalan Dhoby and Jalan Trus, slowly filled up with people who shared a passion for reading and writing.  In typically Malaysian fashion, people trickled in well into the second hour! 

While it was rather annoying that the speaker was interrupted whenever there was a new arrival, it was good to see how the seated audience graciously made way to accommodate them in such a casual seating arrangement.  The interruptions also lightened the mood and allowed the speaker to connect better with the audience. 

I must commend Yannick Siah, the event moderator, who did an excellent job with his opening remarks and in keeping time for each of the eight speakers.  The flow of speakers was arranged according to their topics and I was listed as the last speaker.  After the first four speakers, there was a break before the final four speakers continued, followed by a Q & A session.

My Johor Stories home page on the screen helped the audience see the inspiration that went into its design
Besides a good mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian in the audience, there were Eurasian, Caucasian and even a few Lebanese lecturers from the Southern University College, present.  I must agree with Yannick who declared, “It was a very pleasant turnout with such a well layered crowd.”

Some speakers came prepared with visual presentations while some of us did not use any visuals.  When it was my turn to speak, the organisers, who are familiar with My Johor Stories, kindly flashed the home page on the screen.  This visual helped the audience to see what I was describing about the design elements on my blog – which is particularly personal – and how due credit must be given to the designer, Chris Parry.

When the event was over, one of my friends in the audience told me that she noticed how I fought to keep a tight rein on my emotions when I spoke about my blog design which features many elements associated with my dad.  She was indeed, very perceptive and I appreciate that she was distinctly aware of how much control I had to exercise to speak publicly about dad, whom I dearly miss.  As with all my work, my interesting experience in Write; Post; Share is also dedicated to you, daddy.

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