Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Taking the Expat Exit – Finalist 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Novel Awards—second year in a row!

For the second year in a row, my novel Taking the Expat Exit (formerly
A Per­fect Day for an Expat Exit) was named finalist for the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Novel Award.  (In 2014 it was also a short-list finalist and a finalist 2012!)  “The Musical Tree”, an excerpt from the novel, was recently published in French.  
In 2015, the sequel The Girl in the Bathtub (for­merly Caught in a Mouse­trap: Expats at Play), was also a finalist (and a finalist for 2012 Novel-in-Progress category).  Both are set in Penang, Malaysia.

An Unex­pected Gift from a Growling Fool, was also named a semi-finalist this year, though it was a short-list finalist in 2013!  In the past, another novel The Resurrection of Jonathan Brady was a short-list finalist in 2014 (and Quarter-finalist in 2012 Amazon Breakthrough) and my novella The Act of Theft, a finalist in 2014 Novella category.  At least I’m persistent!

This year Faulkner-Wisdom had 502 full-length novel entries, so competition was fierce.  Although judging can be subjective from year to year, my two Malaysian-set novels keep striking a chord with the judges.  Every year since 2011 at least one of my Malaysian novels has been a finalist or a short-list finalist for the Faulkner-Wisdom Novel Award.  Not a bad track record….After getting some encouraging feed­back from a US agent recently, along with an insightful cri­tique of Taking the Expat Exit that pointed me in the right direction, I plan to rewrite the novel after finishing the first draft of a new book that I’ve been working on.

I’m also planning to do a series of dialogue type of interviews with other novelists that I have met, starting with London-based, Malaysian author Ivy Ngeow who has her first two novels coming out this year (one of which was crowdfunded in the UK).  She had interviewed me back in July after I read the advance copy of one of her novels and has been quite busy working with both publishers.  Should be exciting.

    —Borneo Expat Writer

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Payah, a Gift from Children's Author Margaret Lim

In May 2010, I met Margaret Lim, a Malaysian-born Canadian children’s book author, while we were waiting to be made-up for our TV appearance on Kuppa Kopi, a talk show with Sharnaz Saberi.  We exchanged books; in fact she generously gave me all four of her Payah books.  She autographed them for my two children Jason and Justin.

Afterwards we went out for tea.  Her son asked me to give her a ride while he picked up another friend and the four of us spend the afternoon getting to know each other while talking about books and blogs and exchanged tips about Sarawak.

Later, while watching myself and Margaret Lim on TV1 (her segment followed mine), my son Jason, who was six at the time, pointed to the TV screen at Margaret Lim’s children book series about Payah, and said, “Daddy, that’s my book!”  He called over Justin, who was three and a half, and they both stood in front of the TV, excitedly pointing at their four newest books.

“Is that the woman who gave me the books?” Jason asked me.

“Yes, and she wrote the books, too!”

He studied her with awe.  I’m sure he’s going to remember Margaret Lim and that moment for a long time.  But me, I’m just his daddy who happens to be a writer, though I was also on TV—not that he gave a hoot!  In fact he and Justin were both upset with me for changing the channel until he noticed Margaret Lim’s books were on TV.  The power of books!

Georgette Tan, Robert Raymer and Sharnaz Saberi

The following May, I was sad to hear that Margaret Lim Hui Lian had passed away from cancer.  Although we had kept in contact via email and commented on each other’s blogs, I never saw her again.  

Her Payah series, however, still live on in our house.   In fact, I made this past week Margaret Lim week!  I had Justin, now ten, reread the books (he’s the reader in the family and had read them before, even though they were meant for child­ren age 12 and above).  I then had Jason, who turned thirteen, read all four of the books to me while I drove him to school (he’s now in Form One, attending the afternoon session), while I reread all four waiting for a couple of doctor’s appointments—I was glad I had them in the car!  I had also read them to the children seven years ago.

The Payah series, consisting of four hard bound books, were based on recollections of Margaret’s childhood, which she spent with the native people deep in the interior of Sarawak on the Island of Borneo.  The books were beautifully il­lustrated by her daughter Su Jen Buchheim and published by her own company Fairy Bird Children's Books, where I believe they can still be ordered.

The Borneo Post called Payah, “A uniquely Sarawakian children’s book that will fire a child’s imagination. A must read for all!”

Payah is about a fearless Kayan girl called Payah, who has a soft heart for small helpless crea­tures. Deep in the rainforest of Sarawak, Payah rescues a hornbill and a mouse deer, while still taking care of a baby orangutan.

Four Eyes
Payah makes a surprising discovery, and takes on a responsibility that becomes almost too much for her to bear when she befriends a run-away.

Precious Jade and Turnip Head
Payah celebrates Chinese New Year with her classmate, Precious Jade, and her little brother Turnip Head, who keeps getting himself and Payah’s friend into trouble.

Nonah, or The Ghost of Gunung Mulu
Payah befriends Nonah, after she joins her parents who teach in the rainforest.  They win a trip to Mulu Caves, where they help to unravel a plot to steal rare orchids.

Thank you, Margaret, again for your precious books, a gift that our family will continue to treasure. I’m sure when Jason and Justin grow up and have children of their own, the Payah books will be waiting for them.  In fact, I’ll probably be the one who’ll introduce them during another round of Margaret Lim week…

*Here is an updated website created in the memory of Margaret H.L. Lim, called Maggie’s Books and Recipes