Monday, May 31, 2010

Watching Me on TV, on Kuppa Kopi!

Georgette, Robert, and Sharnaz

Ok, I have to admit it felt weird watching me on the talk show Kuppa Kopi (31 May, 2010). Going into this I felt pretty nervous, anxious, really. I’ve been having a pretty tough month. The day after the shooting I lost my internet connection for several days, got it fixed, then it happened three more times before my computer went haywire last week, losing a lot of my files and its memory, so each day it starts with a clean slate and it’s a hassle to find anything just so I can begin at normal. Before being on TV, my life was all on automatic, a click here and there, and so was my writing, just open up a document, and get right to it, but that crashed too and I can’t blame that on the computer!

I’ve been going through a pretty bad bout of writer’s block, malaise or burnout! I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard from September through April, long hours seven days a week, pushing several novels on several deadlines, aware that I was leaving Unimas. And then all that marking for 186 students, rushing to wrap up by my final day, so I could submit my marks, finish packing and not have to come back to tie up any loose ends.

What I really needed in May was a break, a chance to get caught up, and to carefully plan out my next several months and my future. Instead I found myself mired in mud in a writing project...Instead of feeling excited about a career highlight, my first talk show, I felt a sense of dread...

Not sure if anyone I know actually watched it. It was on a Monday at 2pm, when most normal people work (in Sarawak, it's the day before Gawai, so people took the day off to prepare for tomorrow). I know, I should've reminded them. Since we don’t own a TV, we went to Quop, to my mother-in-law’s house to watch Kuppa Kopi. When we changed the channel to TV1(at five to 2), my two children loudly protested! Jason even cried, and kept making a fuss as Kuppa Kopi began.

“Look, there’s Daddy,” my wife said to our children, who weren't interested in the least. They see me all the time, (and I was right beside them) so seeing me on TV is nothing special. I tried to quiet them down so I could hear myself answer Sharnaz’s questions.

I was talking fast, making a lot of body gestures (too much, perhaps?), and my voice seemed too high pitched and my nose seemed too long, and both kept reminding me of Woody Allen. Is that really me? Is that how I look and sound? If I’m ever going to get on the Oprah Show, I’m going to have to work on that voice and maybe get myself a nose job, though I’ll shy away from going overboard like Michael Jackson.

How did I actually do? After imagining the worse for the past month, I felt an inner calmness as I watched me on TV. In fact I felt good – the best I’ve felt in a month! I did fine, too. Sure I could’ve done better working in my book Tropical Affairs and my website as I had posted on a previous blog, and I could’ve been more impactful as taught by Joel Roberts in the Excellence in Media seminar in Singapore, but the book and the website and Lovers and Strangers Revisited all got highlighted on the screen, as did my family (Jason and Justin missed it!).

Still, I made a lot of good points, offered some insights into the writing process and gave some good tips, especially about changing the reading habit. Got some good laughs from Georgette and Sharnaz, too. We all looked like we were relaxed and enjoying ourselves for the half hour that we were on.

Just wished my two boys (and the one in KL) actually watched me on TV so they could carry that memory with them long after I’m gone. It wasn’t until after I came off and Margaret Lim, Roselind Wee and her 14-year old writing daughter Victoria came on that my son Jason pointed to the TV screen at Margaret’s children’s books about Payah, and said, “Daddy that’s my book!” He called Justin over 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 and that moment forever. But me, I’m just his daddy who happens to be a writer on TV – nobody special.

*Here's an update - it's official Lovers and Strangers Revisited is going French!

UPDATE July 2017: Payah, a Gift from Margaret Lim

*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited, my collection of short stories set in Malaysia

**Update: Book orders for Trois autres Malaisie  E-book orders.  Or recommend it to your friends, especially those who would like to know more about Malaysia or have an interest in Southeast Asia.
Here's a link to the intro and excerpts, and to four reviews of Trois Autres Malaisie in,,, and Petit Futé mag.

***Here’s an update to the French blog about Trois autres Malaisie and my meeting the French translator Jerome Bouchaud in Kuching, and my involvement in a French documentary for Arte (June 2017) on The Sensual Malaysia of Somerset Maugham.

Here are links to some of my author-to-author interviews of first novelists:

Ivy Ngeow author of Cry of the Flying Rhino, winner of the 2016 Proverse Prize.

Golda Mowe author of Iban Dream and Iban Journey.

Preeta Samarasan author of Evening is the Whole Day

Chuah Guat Eng,  author of Echoes of Silence and Days of Change. 


Beheaded on Road to Nationhood: Sarawak Reclaimed—Part I 


Puan Isah said...

I did watched you on tv1 that monday, in fact put it as a reminder in my handphone. You did well, for a first timer on tv. I agree you talked a bit fast. But I understand that feeling because I remembered my first time speaking at NONA in tv3 a long time ago in 1995. Nervous!

Congratulations for being in tv :)

All the best in your writing.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Puan Isah,
Good thanks! Yeah, while waiting, my mind is thinking of responses to questions I'll be asked, but when we go live, suddenly a different question pops up and then you got to scramble for a coherent response in one take! There's pressure there, but the more relaxed you are, the more natural you'll sound, but it's not easy to relax knowing you'll be on the hot spot as soon as the camera is live!

Hopefully I'll get more chances and get better at it too. Thanks for watching!

margaret said...

Rob, I did not have the opportunity to watch Kuppa Kopi as I don't have a satellite dish in Germany. I am sure you came on very well but I agree with you that one gets side-tracked by the preparatory questions in the script that we got. You're thinking of a clever answer but out pops a different questions. Then in between takes, you're talking comfortably with Sharnaz, but once the camera starts rolling, you think Sharnaz would pick up the conversation and the points you've been making, but no, she goes back to the script and you're thrown off-track again and scramble to answer her question.
PS I thought it was neat leaving my PAYAH series on the coffee table to the very end! And say hi to your kids, and thanks for the mention.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Yeah, your books on the table were great. They were highlighted again and again, and then, during the breaks, they were featured on the screen several times, so that was great exposure without even having to say a word!

So a tip for writers who are going on the air, bring your books and whatever visual props you can, just in case you have the freedom to display them. Luckily I did some research and saw from previous shows that this was possible...

Kartika Azmi said...

omg i missed the show!
anyway sorry for the misconception of your story :)

i'll keep on reading your interesting stories!

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Thanks, and that's ok!