Sunday, December 17, 2006

Amazing May Zhee

I chaired MPH's Writer's Circle yesterday. The topic was Writing Fiction, but there turned out to be only one speaker.

Lim May Zhee is one determined young lady. She has written and self-published her first novel, Vanitee Bee, which might best be described as chic-lit for teens. Despite being just 16 years old (15 when she wrote the book) she talked and fielded questions from the floor with a maturity beyond her years. And there was a lesson for us all in her experience - if you believe in your book and want to get it out - just go ahead and self-publish.

We were most amused to learn that May Zhee didn't even tell her parents about her project until the book was published. She raised the money she needed by herself. She says she realised that she needed a copy editor and took the manuscript to Silverfish for vetting. Then proofread it carefully again herself, and then sent it to the printer who also designed the cover for her.

She approached MPH's marketing department and they agreed to distribute the book for her, but then her dad had to be called in to sign the contract on her behalf since she was underage!

May Zhee hopes to make a career in writing. I'm pretty sure she will manage to do pretty much what she sets her heart on, she's such a self-starter.

My only (teacherly) advice to May Zhee is that she really should begin to read much more widely - even if she loves chic-lit. She hopes to read literature at university and will need a strong foundation. I listed links to some good sites with lists on teen-reads the other day, and that's probably as good a starting point as any.

Managing the Q&A turned out to be a bit of an ordeal. One gentleman was problematic and started to hog the whole discussion, not giving others a chance - particularly the shier members of the group whom I wanted to coax out rather more. I hope I didn't upset him too much when I had to tell him that his question was irrelevant - but I had to take charge of a situation that was becoming increasingly difficult. (I know the guy in question is burning with the desire to get his books into print, but he does need to think about how other people are feeling ... and not be so ... kiasu. The best way out of his dilemma is actually to pluck up the courage to send out his manuscripts to editors and get professional feedback.)

How nice it was that this guy came along. Recognise him? 'Tis The Great Swifty aka Edmund Yeo, who has been a blog-friend for some time.

I was rather stressed after the session and went to Delicious for a while with David Byck to have something to eat. When I had recovered it was time to head for town for Lydia's booklauch for Honk If You're Malaysian.

I drove through the Saturday jams to reach the hotel ... just a little after time ... only to find it was the wrong hotel. It was supposed to be at the Crowne Plaza and I was at the Crowne Princess. What kinds of idiots gives a hotel a name which is bound to get confused with another? (What kind of idiot doesn't read the invite carefully enough?). More stress.

(Lydia, once again am very sorry ... and glad that the event went so well for you.)

At least a nice tea at Animah's with friends and a good gossip made me feel better.

More rushing about today. Mong-Lan's reading is at Indie Scene Cafe this afternoon at 5. Will maybe see you there!


Swifty filmed Writer's Circle! I hate to see myself on film so I won't watch it.
May Zhee also blogged it. She thinks I look like a book!


Edmund Yeo said...

Aye. That guy was.... interesting. And you can see him at his most, ah, interesting self in the video, which you don't have to worry about, since only your voice was heard, and I didn't actually get any closeups of you :D

bibliobibuli said...

you did that very nicely, swifty!

glad you didn't get close-ups of me! i'd have had stage-fright if i'd realised who you were and what you were up to!

Anonymous said...

Sharon, It’s always great to see you. I’m only sorry I had to leave so soon. I am very serious about the group we discussed. Let’s get together after the holiday and sort things out. Thanks.



bibliobibuli said...

hi david and yes let's meet up and talk
about it. i'll knock up a proposal.

May Zhee said...

Darn. And I thought I was being kind with praising Sharon so honestly in my blog. Haha.

Yes, after I came back from the Writer's Circle, my mind kept echoing what you said to me, that I should read a wider range of books. And I have a lot of MPH Gift Vouchers, waiting to be put to good use. ;) Thanks a lot Sharon.

bibliobibuli said...

i like being told i look like a book, may zhee! i just wonder what kind of book? i think one with a tatty cover and yellow pages ... but unputdownable when you start to read.

Edmund Yeo said...

*cough* You peeps can put the video on your own blog entries if you want to, I wouldn't mind.

Anyway, May Zhee, yeah, I think when I was your age, I was still stuck in my fantasy/sci-fi phase because I was aspiring to write a fantasy novel myself, but after I did literature in uni two and a half years ago, and attempted to expand my own range more (not that I would refuse to read anything else, just that 80% of what I used to read were those cheap Tolkien knock-offs), it just helped me look at things from a much different perspective, and allowed me to, well, write a less conventional fantasy novel (for last year's NanoWriMo) that were more influenced by books of other genre.

I mean, even when I do my screenwriting, to me, it felt no different from writing a novel, just that it's in a different format, haha. I'll give y'all the dvd of my film when we have the chance to meet again. :D

Anonymous said...

Zounds! The Great Swifty was in town? And I wasn't there to bask in his glory...!

Sharon: How about, "The Five People You Always Meet in Bookstores"?

bibliobibuli said...

swifty - i was a sci-fi and fantsy freak at your age too ...

Alex Tang said...

..and some of us never grew out of the sci-fi and fantsy stage...

Lydia Teh said...

Hey Sharon, so sorry you didn't get to come to the launch and for having the hotel mixed up. I kept mixing up the Crowne Plaza with Crowne Princess too! Thanks for posting about the meeting. Can always count on you to do that.

Anonymous said...

Since when are Asians ever participating in discussions willingly anyway? It wouldn't have been any easier TRYING to coax people to talk. I'm the daughter of "the problematic gentleman" (how kind of you to be so generous with the niceties, really) and as easy as it would be for you to say (and I quote); "The best way out of his dilemma is actually to pluck up the courage to send out his manuscripts to editors and get professional feedback." the truth is - they wouldn't actually have the time and interest to really sit and deal with him and his dilemma would they now. I think for the most part, his outspokenness did come across too strongly - in a manner which might have painted him pompous/arrogant bordering irritation but really, he's a good guy albeit frequently misunderstood by the general public at large.

I watched the video that was so shamelessly promoted and found you to be an absolute delight. You carried yourself extremely well given the situation - thank you for your patience and many apologies if he had in fact been the sole factor which ruined your vision of a successful book discussion.

I guess you'll have to forgive him. Delving into something that's not entirely your element can be pretty daunting and he's just looking to gather all the help he can.

bibliobibuli said...

hi melissa. your dad is a good guy and i miss his presence at events. i know how the pain of wanting to write can eat at someone and make them behave in ways they might not otherwise.

there is only one cure for it and that is to actually have the courage to show work to others.

i did invite him to do a reading and there have been lots of opportunities for new writers inc local publications and open mike sessions. these take away some of the pain. another. thing that helps is setting up a critiquing group with like minded friends.

i also invited him to let me see some of his work so i could give him some feedback.

there are great online courses and tutors available which also might help.

but i was a bit exasperated when i told him that to be a writer you actually have to read a lot and he said he didn't have time. that's the cornerstone. there is not shortcut. all you need to know about writing is in the books of others.

in conclusion the help is there but the writer also needs to reach out.

it's good that you are encouraging him. please tell him to come back esp to our readings at seksans and be part of a community.

bibliobibuli said...

postscript, melissa - if you want to call me up and have a chat at any time, please do. maybe there are things i can suggest. my number is 012-6848835

Edmund Yeo said...

Melissa, I have also replied to what you've said about the video over at my blog entry.

(note: I headed straight to this entry after reading and replying to Melissa's comments. Personally had some problems trying to remember what happened then, so needed to come here, and even rewatch the video to jog my memory.)

Anonymous said...

Wow, thank you for taking the time to actually write a response. Truth be told, I had doubted I'd receive anything back but I am pleasantly surprised.

I really don't mean to make a mountain out of a molehill. What more, the event has passed by a good 14 months (as Edmund has so kindly taken the liberty to point out to me). Why then did I decide to leave a comment? Well I guess I was slightly compelled to stand in my fathers defense, just to reassure you that he isn't really as arrogant/kiasu as he might've made himself out to be. Came on much too strong for a first meet - perhaps (and HIGHLY plausible after all, he is my father. I know how he is and can be) and I apologize on his behalf.

Anyway, the point I'm really trying to get at is just that writing's always been a dream of his and literature is his biggest passion. So, I mean, do forgive him for his extreme projection of over enthusiasm and his failure to maintain (self) control.

Oh and all in good spirit - here's my number in return: 0122792113. [=

Thank you for taking the time, Sharon. I appreciate it tremendously.

bibliobibuli said...

you're welcome, melissa. and it is lucky that i can see who posts what from the front page of my blog.

don't worry about this incident. i was venting a bit when i wrote it, but at the time i really did feel bad. one of the problems with the session was that there should have been more speakers but we only ended up with may zhee who did not really have the confidence or experience to answer the questions your dad was throwing her way. (who does at 15?) if there had been two or three confident speakers i think that the dynamics would have been different and the whole thing would have seemed such an uphill struggle.

i met your dad on other occasions after this and things were fine. i was really happy that he started coming to seksan's.

do let me know if there is any help i can give or call me up if you'd like to chat. you sound a very loving and concerned daughter.

Anonymous said...

one shud be reading may zhee's blog.. (if) one wants to widen their (trash) vocabulary..and for examples of arrogance and disrespect.. apparently success does get into their heads.!