Friday, September 10, 2010


Tropical Affairs didn’t win, so no two years in a row for me, but I did have a nice time. I finally met with Lydia Teh, whom I wrote “The Merdeka Miracle” with last year. Too bad Tunku Halim couldn’t join us.

I also met with authors Kuan Guat Choo and Peggy Tan Pek Tao, a former colleague of mine at USM, and this year’s winner for non-fiction for her book Life The Malaysian Style. So that’s two years in a row for USM!

Afterwards I met with Yvonne Lee, who gave me a copy of her latest book, Madness Aboard! for writing a blurb inside, after we met at the BookFest last year. I also caught up with Lee Eeleen, who has been making headway with lots of her short stories lately, reminding me about a big opportunity to publish some of my own short stories in Singapore that I overlooked! I also met with several MPH representatives, including Eric Forbes and Shirley Ng, whom I’m in contact with constantly over marketing and publicity and ordering books. She been extremely helpful!

After managing to miss me last year when I won for Lovers and Strangers Revisited though he did get to see the trophy before I headed back to Kuching, Zaini, who features in Tropical Affairs, cut one of his classes to give me some family support. When walking with him, all the teenage girls check him out!

The following day I was back with Zaini at the BookFest to meet with Christina Chan and eleven of her students, who are studying my short story “Neighbours” in SPM literature. One of the students, Shorolipi, had contacted me on Facebook, and within days, thanks to their teacher, we had an impromptu meet-the-author-session with lots of questions about “Neighbours” and writing. I may have even inspired one or two to become writers. Although I think they were more taken with Zaini….A friend of theirs wrote on Facebook, “Did anyone get his number?”

This is the press release that I wrote for the education section of the Star. Shirley, who coincidentally attended the same secondary school, contacted the press on our behalf, but they were short-handed for reporters. I’m still waiting for the official photos from Popular.

Press Release: From Facebook to Face-to-Face BookFest Meeting with Author Robert Raymer

Shorolipi Emma Chaudhury of SMK (p) Sri Aman, Petaling Jeya who is studying Robert Raymer’s short story “Neighbours” in SPM literature noticed that he was on Facebook and decided to contact him. Within days, she and ten of her classmates and their teacher Christina Chan and another colleague were meeting with Raymer, author of last year’s Reader’s Choice Award winning collection of short stories Lovers and Strangers Revisited (MPH 2008). As luck would have it, the Sarawak-based American author, who’s latest book, Tropical Affairs: Episodes from an Expat’s life in Malaysia (MPH 2009) was nominated for this year’s prize, just happened to be coming to Kuala Lumpur to attend the BookFest@ Malaysia 2010.

While exchanging a few Facebook replies, Raymer directed her to his blog series The Story Behind the Story of Lovers and Strangers Revisited, to “Neighbors, a Suicide and Making Choices” in Tropical Affairs, and to a MELTA forum for some insights into the story and how he wrote it. When Christina Chan learned that Raymer was coming to KL, she asked if it would be possible that he meet her and her Form 4 students, which he gamely agreed. Raymer suggested they meet at the BookFest, which then turned into an impromptu Q-and-A session about “Neighbours” and about writing.

“What’s a better place to meet an author than at a super huge bookstore?” Raymer quipped. “I thought that meeting them might be fun and that, perhaps, I may even inspire one or two to become writers.”

Christina Chan agreed and told him afterwards, "I honestly don't think the students anywhere actually ever get to meet the authors whose stories they are studying. That's why my girls are very privileged to have met you."

Raymer, however, felt the privilege was all his. He was tickled to learn that several of the students were involved in putting on a play based on his short story. He even met the student who would play the busybody character Mrs. Koh!

Although in the past students studying his short story in SPM literature (or other stories in Malaysian universities and private colleges) have contacted him on Facebook, through his blog on writing, this was the first time they actually got to meet! And it happened so fast!

As a bonus, the students also met Raymer’s 19-year-old son Zaini who features in Tropical Affairs as a boy growing up in Penang. Yeah, they added him to Facebook, too!

Several students and their teacher even managed to pick up autographed copies of Raymer’s books, all thanks to Shorolipi’s Facebook initiative that quickly turned into a face-to-face BookFest meeting with the author—something they’ll never forget.

*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited

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 


Eeleen Lee said...

Thanks for the mention Robert!

BorneoExpatWriter said...

You're more than welcome. You've been getting a lot of success with your stories lately, and that's good! Follow up those leads!

Ena said...

Thank you so much Sir! Appreciate it a lot! -Shorolipi Emma-

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Yes, it was fun, and was glad it turned out well too. I was thinking, this meeting could be very awkward or uncomfortable, or it could be fun. Glad that it turned out so well. Let's hope The Star runs it. The Borneo Post was interested and I followed up using one of Eva's photos, but it got squeezed out of the paper today. Maybe another day...