Wishing you well, Dr. Neil Khor

In 2016, I met with Dr. Neil Khor, Think City’s Programme Director, and kicked off an interesting and eventful working relationship with Think City in Johor Baru.

Dr. Neil Khor holding a mock-up copy of Book 1
in 2017 when I submitted it for his review.
After Georgetown, Butterworth and Kuala Lumpur, Think City opened its office in JB and I was introduced to Dr. Neil and his team here.

By that time, Think City had already discovered My Johor Stories.

I remember meeting in their tiny office at Jalan Pahang, located aptly in the heart of JB’s heritage quarter, and listening to an introduction about Think City and its mission to revive cities by preserving its art, culture and heritage.

They also provided a briefing about their Grant Programme with ideas on who should apply, how to apply and what types of projects were welcome.

Dr. Neil, giving his speech at my book launch event.
I cannot forget my conversation with Dr. Neil, who strongly encouraged me to compile my collection of stories and publish them in a book.

It was deeply encouraging to hear from him that my stories should be documented as a slice of Johor heritage.

I pondered about this proposal for a long while and responded much later, in fact about a year later.

In early 2017 I submitted my application for a grant to work on this book project.

Dr. Neil holding a giant mock-up
version of my Book 1 at its launch.
I did not know it then, but it was the start of my most remarkable and unforgettable journey in partnership with Think City and MPH Publishing Kuala Lumpur.

It was an all-new experience for me and Think City JB but Dr. Neil, himself a published author, encouraged me every step of the way and guided me at each Milestone of my project.

After the mock-up version of my book was submitted to Think City for Dr. Neil’s review, his encouraging response boosted my wavering courage because (I confess!) it was not easy for me to reach that particular Milestone.

One of the most memorable highlights of my book launch event for My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage in July 2017, must be the words in Dr. Neil’s speech and how he urged me to start thinking about my next book project!

After the first week of its launch, the support from Think City, MPH Publishing and my readers, sent My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, to the Number One spot of the MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers List.

My Book hit the No. 1 spot in
the MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers List.
This title remained on the Bestsellers List for consecutive weeks and months, and at the end of 2017, my book joined the collection of titles counted as The Best of MPH in 2017.

I was grateful for the newspapers (The New Straits Times) and magazine (The Edge) reviews of my book which also played an important part in increasing interest and attracting more readers to buy my book.

The Meet-the-Author event arranged by MPH Publishing in JB and Kuala Lumpur helped to raise my profile as a true-blue Johorean who is sharing her Johor stories.

My success at a Bestselling Author resulted in invitations to introduce my book and share my book-writing journey experience at local schools, international colleges and clubs.

Some hotels and resorts here, who agree with me that travelers like to stay in a place with a story, placed my books in their hotel rooms and suites for guests to read.

We know that their guests’ stay would be enhanced by reading my books, discovering more about Johor culture and heritage, and then be encouraged to go out and explore!

I was deeply encouraged when Iskandar Regional Development Authority placed a special order for the hardcover version of my book to present to their Board members and as part of their corporate premium gifts to guests.

Book review on My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People,
Rich Heritage
, in The New Straits Times.
When we discussed my book sequel, Dr. Neil encouraged me to expand my collection of stories to include those from various Johor towns.

This triggered off thoughts of the interesting places outside of JB where I know some inspirational people.

I remember we discussed about the practical exercise of going to these towns for my stories and to be prepared to go out there – again and again – if necessary.

With this in mind, I started planning my road trips to Johor towns and started going on these trips since October 2017.

From JB, I drove to meet subjects featured under Portraits and Heritage Traders who were located in Macap, Kulai, Kelapa Sawit, Kluang, Batu Pahat, Muar and Desaru, and some now based in Melaka and Singapore.

I can recall how I enjoyed my drives on the Plus Highway as well as off the highway, on the scenic routes into the various towns, to meet with my subjects.

An article in a supplementary section of The Edge on
My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage
When I submitted my manuscript to Dr. Neil for his review, I was delighted to receive his feedback and comments by email, provided clearly in three paragraphs.

I had to share it with my publisher and the GM of MPH Publishing KL was so impressed that she proposed that one paragraph of Dr. Neil’s comments should be printed as advance praise on the back cover of my book.

And it was.

For the book launch of My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People in December 2018, among the Very Important People present at the event were the subjects and their families featured in this book, who came to JB from various Johor towns, and of course, Dr. Neil and the Think City JB team.

Again, some hotels and resorts placed my Book 2 in their rooms and suites as the sequel to my Book 1, for their guests’ reading pleasure.

Again, Iskandar Regional Development Authority placed a special order for the hardcover version of my Book 2 for their corporate use.

Thank you, Dr. Neil. And I wish you well.
I was still mulling over the exciting prospect of participating in school and university events happening this March and April, when I received a message from Think City JB, inviting me to an event to bid farewell to Dr. Neil.

While I was sad that Dr. Neil was leaving Think City, I was thrilled that his career path was leading him on to apply his skills and experience at an international platform, the UN-Habitat. Wow! The United Nations…

Over tea with friends and Dr. Neil, he talked about his new opportunity that would entail a fair bit of travel while his base would be shared between Nairobi, Africa, and New York, USA.

When Dr. Neil gave his little speech and made reference to me, it was a bitter-sweet moment to reflect on how far we have come in my projects with Think City JB.

I attribute my achievements for My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage and its sequel, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, to the unstinting support from Dr. Neil, who unselfishly shared his experience in guiding me to prepare my manuscripts and kept me on track in my book-writing journey.

Thank you, Dr. Neil. And I wish you well as you head onward in your exciting career!

Here is the link to Think City Johor Baru's corporate video for your viewing pleasure.
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UPDATE A reply from Dr. Neil Khor:

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