Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Miracle of Getting Published

When a local science fiction writer gets highly commended in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition and goes on to win the Utusan Group Literary Prize, I think we need to know his story! Ti Chin Han's first novel, Trumation Nation, is now on sale, and he is one of the writers appearing at this Saturday's Readings at Seksan's.

This is a piece I asked Han to guest blog for us:
I am always fazed by the huge volume of books when I walk into a bookshop. The talent out there is tremendous. Will people ever notice my book? And if international bestsellers (English) only sell 10,000 copies in Malaysia, can I earn a living as a writer?

Of course, I never dreamed of getting this far. In Standard Four, I submitted a funny poem (about a caterpillar’s struggles before it turned into a beautiful butterfly) for the school magazine. My English teacher didn’t believe that I had written it and it was not published.

I loved reading but never thought of writing as a career. But one day, I thought how wonderful it would be if I could write stories that were as entertaining as the books I had read. However, I didn’t have the time to write as I often left office late at night. I scribbled short paragraphs or mere sentences but never got beyond that.

Then, in 2003, I heard Gary or Nigel of RTM’s Radio 4 announcing the Commonwealth Short Story Competition. I submitted my entry. After several months of checking the mailbox, I thought it didn’t make the cut. One day, I received a UK postmarked envelope bearing the good news. My entry I, Fridge Horror was Highly Commended. It was a great feeling being interviewed on RTM’s Radio4 and a UK-Cyprus Island radio station.

It gave me the confidence to expand I, Fridge Horror into a full-length novel. The win also made me do something “stupid”. I was so gung-ho about the story that I quit my full-time job. I thought that I could do better if I wrote “full time”.

I had writers’ block in the first month and freelance work wasn’t generating adequate funds. I felt the pressure of being “jobless”. Then, an idea for another book came along and I hammered out 300 pages in the next two months or so. But I felt it wasn’t good enough. I tried to return to I, Fridge Horror but it didn’t progress satisfactorily, so I returned to “real” work.

Then, Silverfish sent an email regarding Utusan Group’s literary competition. It seemed only natural to try to complete I, Fridge Horror. Waking up at 5 a.m. or other odd hours in the morning to write, I submitted my entry one day before the deadline. The months passed by and I forced myself to forget about it, trying again not to check the mailbox everyday. Perhaps the first win was a fluke.

Then, I got a phone call from Utusan saying that I had won the Group Literary Prize. I was so excited that I forgot to ask which prize! I couldn’t belief it still, so I fidgeted for several weeks waiting for the confirmation letter.

A publishing contract came with the prize. It took more than a year after the prize-giving ceremony for my book, Trumation Nation (formerly titled I, Fridge Horror) to see print. From an aspiring writer going for talks on how to get published, I had suddenly become a published writer.

I shared my experience on 20-10-2007 at The MySciFiFan Outpost, Cineleisure Damansara, Petaling Jaya, so that aspiring authors will have a better idea of the challenges they may face.

Trumation Nation is a humorous thriller that takes a serious look at how true automation (trumation) may play a role in the wellbeing of the world in the not-too-distant-future. Who are the Trumations, how did they obtain such hi-tech machines, and what are their true intentions? (it isn’t about machines taking over the world)

It can be found in MPH bookstores nationwide in the Malaysian Writers’ / Interests sections although several branches accidentally placed them in the Malay section. If you can’t find it, please enquire at the counter and they will help to search for it. (You can find the book online here.)

Do pick up Trumation Nation when you are at the bookstore. And if you like it, buy it! I only earn enough for a thosai bawang (onion thosai) at the mamak stall for each book sold, so I need all the support I can get! Please email or speak to your friends about it. Your recommendations are the best advertisement.

I hope you Tru-ly enjoy the book.

Best regards,
Ti Chin Han
(Note from Sharon - My payment for sticking this piece up on my blog is 10% of all those thosai bawang at the kedai makan of my choice.)


Amir said...

This post makes me all warm inside! Sorry to miss the reading. Does he wanna write non-fiction too? If he does, I'd love to discuss some book ideas. I am a smaller publisher than Utusan, but I am faster :-)

Anonymous said...

Sharon-inspiring how well our Malaysian authors are doing lately! So much talent out there, innit? Now I can't wait to get out to the bookstores to take a look at this new addition.

Lydia Teh said...

Congratulations to Chin Han. I love to read stories of how writers overcome the odds to get published. Way to go.

Tunku Halim said...

Congrats to Chin Han!

It's great to see new writers making it, particularly a fellow colleague in our "speculative fiction" genre!

Anonymous said...

I just KNOW he will win the Booker next year.

lil ms d said...


chinhan said...

Thanks! It feels good to receive such encouraging words and support. I hope you all have the same comments if you read the book!

Whether Trumation Nation gets good or bad reviews, sure, I will still aim for the Booker prize. Tan Twan Eng was thiiisss close. You people too, right? :)

Anyway, I hope i will continue to enjoy writing and not write just to win awards and money. Of course they would be nice.

Chin Han

Eliza said...

Thanks for the post Sharon, which is very inspiring (and sobering at the same time) and also for all the reviews on Sunday. Enjoyed them and will probably go out and get four of the books!

Argus Lou said...

Congrats, Ti Chin Han!
Will be sure to grab a copy when I'm next in KL.
Can't wait!

Henry said...

Wow, after reading through your blog above! It must have been tough on you to go through the process and to really publish your book!

Will definately pick up your book at the bookstore and all the best too!

s.nizam said...

Congratulations! I will be on the lookout for Chin Han's book :)