Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Hospital Adventure for my Two Boys and a Writing Break for Me

Justin and Jason Raymer at hospital
I recently blogged about my creative writing workshop with nurses and found myself surrounded by nurses thanks to my two boys, Jason and Justin, ages 7 and 4 ½.  On Monday we got a call from the hospital informing us of two cancellations so their circumcision operation could be moved ahead by two months, but we had to confirm right now and be at the hospital before 3pm.  The time was 11:30.  My brain raced back and forth.  I would have to drop everything for at least two days, grab a quick lunch, pack for the boys and me (to spend the night with them at the hospital), pick them up from the school and then race to the hospital (the driving alone will consume 1½ hours).

I hurriedly grabbed what I could think of and off we went.  After registering the boys at the hospital for admittance, we got lost several times en route to the children’s surgical ward, when hospital administration and nurses and some helpful people gave us conflicting directions.  We ended up on the fourth floor of the wrong building.  I felt frustrated since it was nearly 3, then I thought, wait a minute, this is good.  We’ve been in Kuching nearly five years, with two small boys and we weren’t familiar with the General Hospital!  In all that time, we have only been there once for Jason (but not admitted) and once or twice as visitors.  Justin had been born in a different hospital and we’ve never been back.

No sooner had I got the boys settled into their ward and the boys in their green gowns, and in beds placed side by side, interns came by, one after the other, and asked all the same questions that the registration nurse had already asked and written down in their files.  I got the feeling they were “playing” doctor by going through the motions, but this is probably how they learn and assist the attending doctors, who would later come around making their rounds, with an entourage of six or seven interns.

Meanwhile, I was distracted by my perfectly healthy, rambunctious pre-surgery boys who were enjoying this new adventure (as I had dubbed it when I first picked them up).  They kept climbing back and forth like green monkeys raiding each other’s bed.  I was hoping to get some writing and reading done, but I was kept busy fielding questions from the doctors and nurses and minding the boys, hoping to prevent them from getting in the way of the doctors and nurses and other patients, mostly babies and toddlers. 

It takes a trip to the hospital, especially the children’s ward, to bring some humility into your life and to appreciate your own healthy children.  One, a preemie, had been in the ward for two months since his birth due to several complications; another, has been there for two years, in and out of surgery for intestinal problems.  One toddler had a growth on the back of his head that had to be removed; another had half of his face pinned beneath a tire, as his father backed up the car, unaware that the child was behind him.  You couldn’t tell it from the way the toddler—who arrived a day after us—kept running around, happily playing, not a care in the world.

Luckily for Jason and Justin, the ward had a playroom, so they could play there, instead of chasing one another and making a nuisance of themselves.  After a fitful night of sleep—nurses kept waking me to ask more questions about the boys—and then dealing with a hostile Justin who was angry at me because I wouldn’t let him eat.  They needed to fast before their surgery.  

Justin just prior to surgery
Justin’s turn came first, and he was quite calm, no doubt a little scared, as I accompanied him into the surgery room and watched as they put him under.  I kissed him just before he passed out, and then waited outside. 

They called me back in and Justin was still out, but then he suddenly woke up, in a dreamy, yet violent state, attacking me while I tried to console him, wary of his sensitive area that had just being operated on.  They told me this was common and had to sedate him.  When he later woke up again, the real Justin showed up and all was calm, until we got him back to bed and Jason saw what they did to his brother.  First he hid under the bed, and then he locked himself in the bathroom.  He shouted and fought with me all the way as I struggled to carry him to surgery.  He regarded me as traitor, and I felt bad because I wasn’t on his side; I was preventing him from escaping.  His mother accompanied him to surgery and waited for him while I went back to attend to Justin.

That evening, I was hoping they would release us since there were no complications, but because we lived so far from the hospital, they recommended another night for us, in case of a middle-of-the-night emergency.  Since we already knew the routine, and since the boys were in some pain, there was no more running around or climbing in and out of the beds, I agreed.  I brought some toys for them from the playroom and even got some work done.

This hospital adventure also brought back memories from two previous trips to the hospital in Penang that I wrote about in Tropical Affairs: Episodes of an Expat's Life in Malaysia, "Hospital Blues" and "A Week of Firsts".  I have to admit, the hospital break did me some good.  It not only gave me a chance to put my writing life into perspective, it allowed me to be there for my two boys when they needed me the most.  So now I’m back home, blogging about this (and feeling a little guilty I’m not doing something else that’s a little more pressing), while the two boys happily run around without any pants.  They’ll be doing this all week, comparing their you-know-what to see who got the worst deal from their adventure at the hospital.
           -Borneo Expat Writer 
***Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Congrats to Yvonne Lee; Congrats to All Nominated Writers and Models!

Yvonne Lee, Robert Raymer, and Adeline Loh
Congrats to Yvonne Lee Shu Yee, whom I blogged about in Got Some Writer Envy.  Not only is her latest book Madness Aboard, the long awaited follow up to The Sky is Crazy, nominated for the 2011 Popular Star Reader’s Choice Award, she’s also a semi-finalists in the Estée Lauder Model Search2011. Check out her photo, next to last row, at left, and feel free to vote for her.   

Recently Yvonne was interviewed on TV twice in Singapore and she's featured in the current issue of Quill (April-June 2011).  So she’s more than just a pretty face--she knows how to write and she knows how to market herself! 

Congrats to all nominated writers and nominated models!  May 2011 be your year!

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

**Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Editing the French Translation of Lovers and Strangers Revisited, a Whole New Experience

Just had my first interview translated into French, due out after Trois autres Malaisie is published.  Now I’m finding working with the French publisher Éditions GOPE over revising Trois autres Malaisie, the French translation of Lovers and Strangers Revisited, a whole new experience, but not in the way that I was expecting.  Over the years, I’ve worked with four editors on the previous versions of Lovers and Strangers Revisited (Heinemann Asia, Silverfish, MPH, plus the editor I hired when I decided to revisit the stories), and all of the previous editors concentrated mostly on grammar and story clarity to make sure it’s clear what’s going on in the story. 

But this time around, there are new considerations.  Other than idioms that rarely make any sense if you translate them literally, the questions I’m getting are mainly about culture or physical details peculiar to Malaysia or even Southeast Asia .  Unlike the previous editors and even the French translator Jerome Bouchaud, who have all lived in Malaysia or Singapore, the French publisher/editor that I’m now working with does not, so many of the questions have been about Malaysian itself. 

If a wrong assumption is made, as was pointed out to me from the onset, then the French translation or any editing changes based on that assumption, will be wrong and it will affect a scene, or how the reader will interpret what’s going on. 

For example, in “Mat Salleh” and “Smooth Stones” I had to clarify if a woven mat, often made from rattan, reeds or pandan leaves, was a carpet or a rug, or if the side steps and back steps were stairs or ladders since the words are different in French.  The best way to describe them, as I did on page 124 in ”Mat Salleh”, is "ladder-like wooden steps".  This seems apt.  They requested a photo so I pulled up a sample from wikipedia (I showed them samples of the mats, too).  The house I’m describing has a totally different front steps, which are in fact stairs, and a proper verandah, but it gives them a better idea as to what I’m actually describing so they don’t make any wrong assumptions.

Also in “Smooth Stones” I had to clarify as to how some Malay fishermen fish, or why the character Omar is slapping the water with the bamboo pole while fishing.  If the French editor is picturing in his mind a bamboo fishing pole instead of merely a bamboo pole, then slapping the water doesn’t make any sense; it will only scare away the fish, thus he won’t catch any.  But in this case, Omar is slapping the water not with a fishing pole but just a bamboo pole to drive the fish in the opposite direction, toward the net that the other fishermen are holding.

When translating, and especially when editing what’s been translated, it’s important not just to look at the original text in English, but also not to make any cross-cultural assumptions.  The last thing a writer needs are errors of any kind to be introduced into the text.  So far that’s not happening because they’re not making those assumptions, they’re asking me to clarify, just to make sure they got it right (or not) and I’m so glad, because once the story goes into French, I’m clueless.  I won’t be able to catch those mistakes, but the readers sure will, especially those readers in French who are familiar with Malaysia.

*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 the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

He Who Asks Questions Cannot Avoid the Answers

Lately I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions and that’s a good thing.  According to a Cameroon Proverb “He who asks questions cannot avoid the answers.”  I’ve even started a Question Asking notebook and have been impressed with the results, coming up with answers and solutions to problems that eluded me in the past,.  Now they seemed to have been there all along just waiting for me to ask the right questions. 
In Anthony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant Within he writes, “I realized that the main difference between the people who seemed to be successful—in any area—and those who weren’t was that successful people asked better questions, and as a result got better answers.

”He lists seven Morning Power Questions to get your day started on the right foot and three Evening Power Questions:

The Morning Power Questions
Our life experience is based on what we focus on. The following questions are designed to cause you to experience more happiness, excitement, pride, gratitude, joy, commitment and love every day of your life. Remember, quality questions create a quality life.

Come up with two or three answers to all of these questions and feel fully associated.  If you have difficulty discovering an answer simply add the word “could”.  Example: “What could I be most happy about in my life now?”

  1. What am I happy about in my life now?
    What about that makes me happy? How does that make me feel?
  1. What am I excited about in my life now?
    What about that makes me excited? How does that make me feel?
  1. What am I proud about in my life now?
    What about that makes me proud? How does that make me feel?
  1. What am I grateful about in my life now?
    What about that makes me grateful? How does that make me feel?
  1. What am I enjoying in my life right now?
    What about that do I enjoy? How does that make me feel?
  1. What am I committed to in my life right now?
    What about that makes me committed? How does that make me feel?
  1. Who do I love? Who loves me?
    What about that makes me loving? How does that make me feel?

Evening Power Questions

  1. What have I given today?
    In what ways have I been a giver today?
  1. What did I learn today?
  1. How has today added to the quality of my life or how can I use today as an investment in my future?
Plus here are five Problem-Solving Questions:

Problem Solving Questions

  1. What is great about this problem?
  1. What is not perfect yet?
  1. What am I willing to do to make it the way I want it?
  1. What am I willing no longer to do in order to make it the way I want it?
  1. How can I enjoy the process while I do what is necessary to make it the way I want it?
Copyright © 1992, Anthony Robbins

They say, ask and you shall receive.  Seek and you shall find….That is what I’ve been doing lately, asking myself a whole lot of questions and seeking the answers from within through the guidance of some pretty smart people.  So, when was the last time you asked yourself a really good question and taken the time to write out your answer?  Questions often lead to decisions. And making decisions is not a bad way to start your day.  

*Get a jump on your New Year resolutions.

**Link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

“Home for Hari Raya” finds a home in Turkey

I know it’s two months early for Hari Raya here in Malaysia, but my short story “Home for Hari Raya” from Lovers and Strangers Revisited (MPH 2008) has just been published in Istanbul Literary Review, the book’s 80th short story publication. Turkey has become the twelfth country that one of the stories from this collection has now appeared.

Of course, come August that number will take a spike when Lovers and Strangers Revisited gets published as Trois autres Malaisie by French publisher Éditions GOPE.  The collection will then appear in about a half dozen countries, several in Europe will be new.  That number will steadily grow as the stories  reach other French speaking countries, or countries that have a large French speaking population to warrant either a French bookstore or a French section of a bookstore like the one in Singapore that has already pre-ordered the book as I blogged about earlier this month in gearing up for the French

Now that the translation has been completed by Jerome Bouchaud, author of Malaisie - Modernité et Traditions en Asie du Sud-Est, whom I met recently in Kuching, the publisher has begun the editing process.  They’re also comparing the translation with the original, and that brings me back involved in the process.  Initially, I revised all of the stories before passing them along for the translation, and now I’m answering questions about the English text to ensure the accuracy of the translation.  For example, I had to clarify in “Mat Salleh” if the “outhouse” that I mentioned in back of the kampong house was in fact a toilet or a wooden shed.

After reading  "Home for Hari Raya", here’s the storybehind the story.   Wishing all those who celebrate Hari Raya, a two-month early Selamat Hari Raya!  By the time Hari Raya does come, those who read French can read the story in French for a fascinating cross-cultural experience.

Update: Now "Home for Hari Raya" is being adapted into a film by Ohio University.

 *Here’s the link to the French blog for Trois autres Malaisie.

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

***Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Creative Writing WorkshopTwo Coming to Kota Kinabalu!

(different from the first--taking you through the brainstorming and writing process to produce a complete first draft, if you're up to the challenge!)
Turning your Personal Experience into a First Draft
of a First Person Narrative

Due to popular request, a second creative writing workshop
When:  Saturday, 13 August
Time:  2.00-6.00pm
Cost:  RM100
Who:  16-90+ years old
Where:  7th Floor, Wisma Anglican, Karamunsing
Next:  Email or sms your name, contact phone number & email address to.................

Contacts:       Jude Day – 014-3514298 /
                        Farida Shukoor – 016-8486874 /

Come and write – produce a complete draft of a first-person narrative-- Your story! 

Plan and start writing an additional piece of fiction.

In this 4-hour workshop, you will complete the first draft of a narrative, editing and revising it if there is time. 

Areas of learning:  probing questions; 5Ws and IH; primary & secondary emotions; sensory details; point of view & point of reference; organising & outlining; 4 killers of narratives; narrative structure; use of dialogue; reasons for editing-it's not just about grammar!

You will also brainstorm and start the first draft of a work of fiction.

NOTE:  You can attend this workshop – even if you missed
the first one!
Find out more about Robert on his website:
Organised by the KK Theatre Group, SPArKS 

Bio for Robert Raymer:
Named as one of the “50 Expats You Should Know” by Expatriate Lifestyle,
American Robert Raymer has taught creative writing for 13 years at two
Malaysian universities, has judged short story competitions including the
2009 MPH National Short Story Awards, and conducted numerous workshops on
writing and creative writing. 
His short stories and articles have been published 500 times in such places:  The Literary Review, Thema, Aim, London Magazine, Going Places, My Weekly, The Writer and Reader’s Digest. 

Lovers and Strangers Revisited (MPH 2008), a collection of short stories set in Malaysia, winner of the 2009 Popular-The Star Readers Choice Awards, has been taught in universities and will soon be translated into French.

Tropical Affairs: Episodes from an Expat's Life in Malaysia (MPH 2009) is
a collection of creative nonfiction about living in Malaysia for over
twenty years. nominated for 2010 Popular-The Star Reader's Choice Award. 
His latest book is Spirit of Malaysia (EDM, 2011)
He is a member of Maui Inner Circle, a critique group.  His blog on writing,
his interviews, and his book reviews can be accessed from his website

One of his latest articles on writing, about pre-writing techniques, is published in Quill Annual 2011.
Another on "The Power of Five" in Quill-Jan-March 2011 and "Getting Known Through the Media", Quill April-June 2011
                                                                 # # # 

*Here is the link to the previous workshop in KK with links to three blogs from participants. 
**Here is the link to the second workshop in KK., the Malaysian Nurses Association.workshop and International Tuition School in Kuching.

***Announcement latest workshops:  Writing Your Life Stories Workshop—Kuching! 23 June 2012 (with links to other workshops and writing tips!) and also a workshop in KK on 17 June 2012! 

****If you are interested to bring one of my writing workshops to your organizations or association in Sabah/Sarawak/West Malaysia/Singapore/Brunei please contact me at  Thank you.

*****Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2011 Popular-The Star's Reader's Choice Awards

*If you're having trouble reading this, go to this link

Congrats to all the nominated authors, especially friends Yvonne Lee, Lee Su Kim, Amir Muhammad,  David TK Wong, whom I met at last year's awards, and Tina Kisil whom I met at my workshop in KK, which she also blogged about.  It's good to see that Borneo is represented twice in the non-fiction category by Tina Kisil and Brother Michael Jacques.

Of course for me, it always brings back good memories from 2009The Write-up and closer look at the award..

***Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Creative Writing Workshop for Nurses and a Tribute, Too

Authors Robert Raymer and Kuan Guat Choo
Nurses have plenty of stories to tell.  They’ve seen it all on their jobs, the daily drama of life-and-death, the painful loss of loved ones (parents losing a child or vice versa), miraculous recoveries after doctors have given up all hope, and even patients falling in love with them.  So I felt honored being asked by the writer Kuan Guat Choo, author of Mouse Clutching Winter Melon and other books, to conduct a creative writing workshop for thirty-three nurses (and several organizers) from the Malaysian Nurses Association over a recent weekend in Kuala Lumpur.

The transition from my two workshops in Kota Kinabalu (a six-hour, and a four-hour) to a two-day (16-hour) workshop in KL went smoothly thanks to the nurses/organizers assisting me all the way from Borneo.  They not only posted the agenda online, but also entertained me during meals and tea breaks with their nursing “war” stories.  These included swapping  'first death' encounters—the first time as a young nurse they encountered a patient who had died.  One even freaked out when that very patient turned out to be still alive.  Although the outside wounds suggested death (partly blown off face and loss of limbs, a soldier caught in a jungle booby trap during the communist insurgency), a more experienced nurse urged her to check his pulse—yes, he was still alive.

One thing I aim for in all of my creative workshops, no matter the duration, no matter the participants, is to keep it lively and low tech to avoid technology glitches that have marred plenty of presentations (a few of my own and others at conferences when the equipment fails to cooperate or a virus wreaks havoc).  So now I use a series of index cards that gives me the flexibility to adjust the tempo merely by changing some of the cards. 

I also make sure that everyone gets involved in the writing process by using pre-writing techniques (and making sure they’re using it properly) while taking them through a series of writing tasks and story starters to to completed first draft.  Besides applying some of my Tree Methodology from Tropical Affairs: Episodes from an Expat’s Life in Malaysia, I use related examples from in Lovers and Strangers Revisited, and also share my judging tips as an editor and a judge in short story contests.

To get them thinking about their own lives, I give them a range of first-person narrative possibilities, from an unusual adventure like "My Four Days with Catherine Deneuve",to something insightful like "Santa Claus Forever" or e learning lesson like when  my five-year-old son Zaini paid me a surprise visit in my creative writing class in “And Please Welcome”.   

After the article appeared in the New Straits Times, an older student, a teacher, quipped, “How can you write 1000 words about a 20-minute visit, when we can’t write about our entire lives in half that many words?”  My reply was, “That’s why I’m here to teach you.”

I taught the nurses, too, whose ages ranged from their early 20’s to 76, taking them through the steps of writing a first-person narrative about a significant, unforgettable experience on Day One.  I held them back from the actual writing until I had them probe further with 5W and sensory detail questions, so when they were finally allowed to write, they were more than ready, since they’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and the results showed!  No surface, off-the-top-of-their heads writing here—I wouldn’t allow it, one of the reasons I take them through the steps so they can produce some­thing not only well written (at least content wise for a first draft) but insightful, too.  The nurses lived up to the challenge.  More importantly, they had tangible proof of their writing to show for their efforts--something they could now work with later on and polish to make even better.
Robert and Zaini, at last year's Popular Reader's Choice Awards
On Day Two, I introduced my now grown up 19-year-old Zaini, who became an honorary nurse for the morning session, which proved to be a bonus for the younger nurses, since I was the only male present.  Several of the nurses, having read snippets about him in their signed copy of Tropical Affairs, asked him to sign their books, too.  I promptly used him as an example for the topic fear (for several years he had a fear of elevators after a bad experience as a toddler), and then I had the nurses explore their own childhood fears.

We then moved into the realm of fiction by brainstorming topics such as “They Found Me” and “He kicked in the Door” which I developed in my creative writing classes at two Malaysian universities so my students could see the endless possibilities that the topic presented limited only by their imagination.  Most of the nurses were able to turn their ideas into a story.

Later, several nurses volunteered to read their narratives, even revealing personal secrets that many of their friends and fellow nurses didn’t know.  Several of these, I felt, had the potential to be published—after some post-workshop writing cleanup—especially those that touched us in unexpected ways.  Particularly one about an on-the-spot offer to adopt one of their patients' new born baby.  Would her husband agree, on such short notice, to make that decision with her, one that will drastically affect their lives for the next couple of decades?  This was a story that had been waiting to be written for over thirty-two years, and it may never have come about had this particular nurse not attended the workshop.

Other stories went back even further, forty-fifty-sixty, and yes, seventy years, including a terrifying (at least for me) account of female circumcision, when two “nurses” visited their house wielding a razor blade and finding her naked hiding under her parent’s bed.  Although retold in a light-hearted, lively manner that only a trained nurse could do, I was caught unaware that this went on in Malaysia for Muslim women.  But that was a long, long time ago . . . Now they do the procedure in hospitals with qualified doctors shortly after the child’s birth, as they did for most of the boys back in the US during my generation.  Thankfully, I have no memory of that!

The things you learn at a creative writing workshop!  From the comments forwarded to me, the nurses learned a lot about writing and were eager for a follow-up workshop so they can improve their writing style, even hoping to have their work edited for possible publication in their newsletter.  Book ideas and an anthology were even bandied about on such topics as “first death encounters” or “first time a patient fell in love with them.”  An example of the latter was being put in the awkward position of having to turn down a marriage proposal from a patient recovering from the trauma of losing his leg.  With all hope gone, he hoped that the lovely nurse taking care of him would also marry him!

I know for a fact that I have learned an awful lot about nurses in those two days, and I do appreciate what they have gone through in their careers as nurses.  I would also like to salute the nurses of the Malaysian Nurses Association, and all nurses around the world, because we depend on them to help us and our families to get through some of the most trying, heart-wrenching periods of our lives.  And yes, nurses do have plenty of stories to share, but so do many of us if we reflect back on our own lives, regardless of our professions. 

The truth is that too often, most of us are too busy living our lives to write, or we tend to think that no one else would be interested in our stories, our triumphs and failures.  So if you’re part of any organization or an association in Malaysia (or this region), and you have a budget for personal development, as the Malaysian Nurses Association thankfully do, you might want to contact me, so I can help you deliver your story into your own eagerly waiting hands . . . .That's doctors—er, I mean, nurses—orders!
                  —Robert Raymer, Borneo Expat Writer

*Here’s the link to the workshop in Kota Kinabalu with three attached blogs from some of the participant and a link to the second workshop in KK.
** And another in Kuching at International Tuition School.

***If you are interested to bring one of my writing workshops to your organizations or association in Sabah/Sarawak/West Malaysia/Singapore/Brunei please contact me at  Thank you.

****Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

*Announcement latest workshops:  Writing Your Life Stories Workshop—Kuching! 23 June 2012 (with links to other workshops and writing tips!) and also a workshop in KK on 17 June 2012! 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Cinderella Story for Writers

As a novelist based in Borneo, which by the way, is way off anyone literary map, I love Cinderella-writer-breakout stories.  Even though this story is a year old (I admit I didn't know the full details), it doesn’t make it any less timely and gives those of us who are actively writing novels hope.  I just heard it Tuesday evening during my meeting with the French translator for Lovers and Strangers Revisited,  who sent me the link.  

The New York Times, which didn’t even review the book since it was so far off their radar, called it the most dramatic literary Cinderella story of recent memory.  Of course I’m talking about Paul Harding, 42, whose novel “Tinkers” was repeatedly rejected by agents and publishers before it finally found a home with the tiny Bellevue Literary Press and paid US 1,000 advance.  Then, amazingly, it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  It happens.  It’s rare, but it does happen.  (The fact he had already signed a two-book deal with Random House back in 2009 and had previously won a Guggenheim takes nothing away from this.  It merely shows he can write and he won't be a one-book wonder.  Random House won't allow it!)   

In April I also blogged about a friend who had no agent in February 2011 but had her first novel go to auction in March (after finally acquiring an agent.)  It all happened so fast for her.  And I have a strong feeling that novel is going to win a prize, though maybe not the Pulitzer.  Maybe something international.

So the moral is.  Never give up on your writing dream.  Find a way to make it work.  And keep on learning about your craft.  Then maybe you or I will be the next Cinderella story...

***Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Start Your Day by Making Decisions

The first step to action is to make a decision.  Decide what you want to do today and follow through with some action.  The opposite of action is indecision, whereby you waffle between projects, not sure what to do, and then you allow worry and doubt to creep in.  Hovering just beneath these, in your subconscious, is the fear that you’re not really going anywhere, that you’re not good enough to achieve the goals that you’ve set out for yourself.  Then you start to doubt your actions (and inactions) even further, and worry even more, and suddenly you’re on this vicious cycle and feel paralyzed with indecisions, and then everything feels daunting, and nothing is getting done and suddenly your whole future seems to be bleak.  Ever feel like that?  Not a good way to start the day.

Napoleon Hill wrote in Think and Grow Rich that “The six basic fears become translated into a state of worry, through indecision.”  But in order to make a decision (especially if you’re already feeling flustered or overwhelmed), you need to take a deep breath, calm yourself down and think a little more clearly by making a prioritized to-do list that you want to accomplish today (ideally do it the evening before so you’re ready to jump into it).  Accept the fact that you’re not going to accomplish everything and there are tons of things you’ve been meaning to get around to this past week (past month), so choose the most important ones for today only, those that ideally will take you close to your goals), and put them on top of your list and then prioritize these.  Then make that first decision by choosing that first item and quickly delve into it. 

For the time being, ignore everything else on that list!  That’s when you start getting into trouble, when your attention and your focus shifts to everything else that you need to do and then suddenly, you’re not working on any of them.  You’ve become the proverbial donkey that can’t decide which haystack to eat and starves to death!  Even the Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, can’t do all six impossible things before breakfast (or lunch as I recentlyblogged about) at the same time.  She has to choose one impossible thing first, and then when that’s complete, choose the number two impossible thing, and steadily work her way through all six. 

No one said this is going to easy, and I bet nothing on your list is truly impossible.  The fact that you put it on your list shows that you think it’s possible since it’s on a “to-do” list, not an “impossible-to-do” list.  Your list may seem merely impossible, because, possibly, you're looking at the whole list!  You have failed to choose only one to start with.  Keep in mind it is impossible to do everything at once!

Also, to control or protect your morning (day) even more, avoid checking your email until after you accomplish at least one thing, or your whole morning can get derailed by someone else’s problem.  Even good news can throw you off your schedule!   Good news and especially bad (especially when it includes more work!) can wait.  Make that decision right now and get going.  If you don’t, then you’re back to square one, and nothing is getting done, and your life is once again falling apart . . . . Not today, though.  Today you’ve already decided that this is going to be your most productive day ever!  
                        -Robert Raymer, Borneo Expat Writer

To put your day in the right frame of mind, ask yourself the following Morning Power Questions, courtesy of Anthony Robbins. 

***Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Meeting French author and translator Jerome Bouchaud in Kuching

Jerome Bouchaud and Robert Raymer in Kuching
The plan was to meet Jerome Bouchaud, translator of Lovers and Strangers Revisited into Trois autres Malaisie and author of Malaisie - Modernité et Traditions en Asie du Sud-Est, at The Junk at 7pm.  According to Lonely Planet “A long-time favourite with visitors and Malaysian celebrities—whose pictures line the staircase—Junk offers superb sophisticated Western food with Italian bias amid a collection of endearingly eccentric, well, junk.”  They should add, “cool” junk, including some collectors items and antiques that will keep you mesmerized as you wonder about the premises, both upstairs and down, along with generous portions of great food.  I thought Jerome would like the place, just in case we ran out of things to talk about, not that I should have been worried. 

After arriving early to beat the traffic, I was dismayed to find The Junk closed on Tuesdays.  At a loss, I texted Jerome and suggested Khatulistiwa Café on the waterfront, a relaxing, open-aired venue, a great place for watching people as they stroll along the waterfront, also a safe first-meeting place that’s easy to find.

Jerome, who I just blogged about two days ago Gearing Up for the French and was in Kuching to update a French travel guidebook (not his own, but another that he contributes to), had one advantage over me, he knew what I looked like from my book, website and blog, while I had no clue, other than hearing for the first time that morning a cheerful sounding voice.  He turned out to be tall and handsome—no doubt excellent qualities for translating—with a cheerful disposition, alert eyes, and a quick sense of humor.  I liked him right away. 

From the moment we shook hands to nearly four hours later, we spoke in a rapid fire conversation, pausing to eat our respective though different beef noodle soups, as we exchanged writing and marketing ideas, our writing experiences, and how we both came to be writing in Malaysia.  

He also told me how he stumbled upon my website/blog, while actively looking for expat writers in Malaysia (which he also did while living four years in China).  He then recommended Lovers and Strangers Revisited to Editions GOPE, who had contacted him via a mutual friend, looking for an expat writer in Malaysia for their new Asian series of books, that I blogged about in February, after the deal was confirmed and contracts signed.

By the time we departed, both of our heads were spinning with ideas, after tossing back and forth viable and rather helpful suggestions, seeing the potential.  This is what every writer needs, especially those expats in far-flung locations like Borneo (me) and Langkawi (him), a kindred spirit with similar writing goals who is putting himself out there, walking the talk and producing books.  Yeah, we’re far from famous, but we both know that if we keep at it and keep producing good books, success will be there.  

Plus now we share a similar fate, having joined forces to take my Lovers and Strangers Revisited and turned it into our Trois autres Malaisie.  Yeah, I wrote the original stories, but Jerome translated them to appeal to a French market, and for that—and for recommending me in the first place—I’m eternally grateful.

*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 the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Think and Grow Rich, Turn Your Life Around Through Self Analysis

Think and Grow RichIn Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich, he devotes an entire chapter on “The Six Ghosts of Fears”; it’s his second longest chapter (out of fifteen) and he saves it for last.  He lists Six Basic Fears:

The fear of poverty
The fear of criticism
The fear of ill health
The fear of loss of love of someone
The fear of old age
The fear of death

Under “The Most Destructive Fear” he writes:

Fear of poverty is a state of mind, nothing else! But it is sufficient to destroy one's chances of achievement in any undertaking, a truth which became painfully evident during the depression.

This fear paralyzes the faculty of reason, destroys the faculty of imagination, kills off self-reliance, undermines enthusiasm, discourages initiative, leads to uncertainty of purpose, encourages procrastination, wipes out enthusiasm and makes self-control an impossibility. It takes the charm from one's personality, destroys the possibility of accurate thinking, diverts concentration of effort, it masters persistence, turns the will-power into nothingness, destroys ambition, beclouds the memory and invites failure in every conceivable form; it kills love and assassinates the finer emotions of the heart, discourages friendship and invites disaster in a hundred forms, leads to sleeplessness, misery and unhappiness-and all this despite the obvious truth that we live in a world of over-abundance of everything the heart could desire, with nothing standing between us and our desires, excepting lack of a definite purpose.

That’s a lot, and that’s just one fear.  (It seems an awful lot of this fear is circulating around the US the last couple of years, a panic of how bad things are and how worse it's going to get, as if its never going to end.)  By the way, it was Napoleon Hill who gave FDR the Great Depression-slogan:  The Only Thing We Have to Fear, is Fear Itself.  To combat these fears, and to turn your life around, Hill recommends that “Self-analysis may disclose weaknesses which one does not like to acknowledge.  This form of examination is essential to all who demand of life more than mediocrity and poverty.”

He adds:
Without doubt, the most common weakness of all human beings is the habit of leaving their minds open to the negative influence of other people. This weakness is all the more damaging, because most people do not recognize that they are cursed by it, and many who acknowledge it, neglect or refuse to correct the evil until it becomes an uncontrollable part of their daily habits.

News stories, newspapers, and the Internet are chock full of negative influences about what's all wrong with the world today (including all that crime, celebrity and political meltdowns, and how innocent people like you and me are wronged, instilling the fear that you might be next, so beware!) 

To aid those who wish to see themselves as they really are, the following list of questions has been prepared. Read the questions and state your answers aloud, so you can hear your own voice. This will make it easier for you to be truthful with yourself.

Having read Think and Grow Rich for the third time, and after finding myself once again procrastinating on a task that I vowed to complete last week (is there a subconscious fear working against me?), I thought it high time that I complete this self-analysis to see what’s going on . . . . I’m half way through right now—taking a break since I’m being so brutal on myself, taking full responsibility for all that I’m doing and not doing effectively (I’ve already written seven, single-spaced pages of answers!). 

I’ll warn you, it’s tough on the ego, but every now and then you need to take stock of yourself, especially if you feel you are holding yourself back (even subconsciously).  This way, based on your truthful answers, you’ll know exactly how to move forward, and that’s exactly what I aim to do. Move forward.  Already I’m anxious to get back to the rest of those questions!  Just reading through the questions will make you think, but the real power comes with your answers, and what you do next now that you know the truth about yourself!

Do you complain often of  'feeling bad," and if so, what is the cause?
Do you find fault with other people at the slightest provocation?
Do you frequently make mistakes in your work, and if so, why?
Are you sarcastic and offensive in your conversation?
Do you deliberately avoid the association of anyone, and if so, why?
Do you suffer frequently with indigestion? If so, what is the cause?
Does life seem futile and the future hopeless to you? If so, why?
Do you like your occupation? If not, why?
Do you often feel self-pity, and if so why?
Are you envious of those who excel you?
To which do you devote most time, thinking of SUCCESS, or of FAILURE?
Are you gaining or losing self-confidence as you grow older?
Do you learn something of value from all mistakes?
Are you permitting some relative or acquaintance to worry you? If so, why?
Are you sometimes "in the clouds" and at other times in the depths of despondency?
Who has the most inspiring influence upon you? What is the cause?
Do you tolerate negative or discouraging influences which you can avoid?
Are you careless of your personal appearance? If so, when and why?
Have you learned how to "drown your troubles" by being too busy to be annoyed by them?
Would you call yourself a "spineless weakling" if you permitted others to do your thinking for you?
Do you neglect internal bathing until auto-intoxication makes you ill-tempered and irritable?
How many preventable disturbances annoy you, and why do you tolerate them?
Do you resort to liquor, narcotics, or cigarettes to "quiet your nerves"? If so, why do you not try will-power instead?
Does anyone "nag" you, and if so, for what reason?
Do you have a DEFINITE MAJOR PURPOSE, and if so, what is it, and what plan have you for achieving it?
Do you suffer from any of the Six Basic Fears? If so, which ones?
Have you a method by which you can shield yourself against the negative influence of others?
Do you make deliberate use of auto-suggestion to make your mind positive?
Which do you value most, your material possessions, or your privilege of controlling your own thoughts?
Are you easily influenced by others, against your own judgment?
Has today added anything of value to your stock of knowledge or state of mind?
Do you face squarely the circumstances which make you unhappy, or sidestep the responsibility?
Do you analyze all mistakes and failures and try to profit by them or, do you take the attitude that this is not your duty?
Can you name three of your most damaging weaknesses?
What are you doing to correct them?
Do  you encourage other people to bring their worries to you for sympathy?
Do you choose, from your daily experiences, lessons or influences which aid in your personal advancement?
Does your presence have a negative influence on other people as a rule?
What habits of other people annoy you most?
Do you form your own opinions or permit yourself to be influenced by other people?
Have you learned how to create a mental state of mind with which you can shield yourself against all discouraging influences?
Does your occupation inspire you with faith and hope?
Are you conscious of possessing spiritual forces of sufficient power to enable you to keep your mind free from all forms of FEAR?
Does your religion help you to keep your own mind positive?
Do you feel it your duty to share other people's worries? If so, why?
If you believe that "birds of a feather flock together" what have you learned about yourself by studying the friends whom you attract?
What connection, if any, do you see between the  people with whom you associate most closely, and any unhappiness you may experience?
Could it be possible that some person whom you consider to be a friend is, in reality, your worst enemy, because of his negative influence on your mind?
By what rules do you judge who is helpful and who is damaging to you?
Are your intimate associates mentally superior or inferior to you?
How much time out of every 24 hours do you devote to:
a. your occupation
b. sleep
c. play and relaxation
d. acquiring useful knowledge
e. plain waste

Who among your acquaintances,
a. encourages you most
b. cautions you most
c. discourages you most
d. helps you most in other ways

What is your greatest worry? Why do you tolerate it?
When others offer you free, unsolicited advice, do you accept it without question, or analyze their motive?
What, above all else, do you most DESIRE? Do you intend to acquire it?
Are you willing to subordinate all other desires for this one?
How much time daily do you devote to acquiring it?
Do you change your mind often? If so, why?
Do you usually finish everything you begin?
Are you easily impressed by other people's business or professional titles, college degrees, or wealth?
Are you easily influenced by what other people think or say of you?
Do  you cater to people because of their social or financial status?
Whom do you believe to be the greatest person living?
In what respect is this person superior to yourself?
How much time have you devoted to studying and answering these questions? (At least one day is necessary for the analysis and the answering of the entire list.)

By the way here’s a short video of these same questions, with pleasant and soothing images and music to accompany them!

Hill then adds:

If you have answered all these questions truthfully, you know more about yourself than the majority of people. Study the questions carefully, come back to them once each week for several months, and be astounded at the amount of additional knowledge of great value to yourself, you will have gained by the simple method of answering the questions truthfully. If you are not certain concerning the answers to some of the questions, seek the counsel of those who know you well, especially those who have no motive in flattering you, and see yourself through their eyes. The experience will be astonishing.

Good luck, and if you want to read the whole book on line, here’s a website that allows you to do exactly that, which I just now found while posting this blog! Good luck.

*It took a few days but I finally managed to answer all 61 questions.  The first direct outcome was to create a new work schedule, when I do certain tasks, in the morning, afternoon, evening, since this was an on-going problem and certain important tasks were not getting done.  It has also fired me up in many different ways now that I understand what was holding me back; it reminded me of my priorities, plus it strengthened my resolve.    
            Borneo Expat Writer

**Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.