There has got to be a thrill to be subjected to a six hour wait to get one’s new passport in this day and age. And that thrill is Dapur, a Malaysian diner about three minutes’ walk from the visa and consular office at the Malaysian High Commission in London.
Dapur means kitchen. It’s perfect for those who want an honest no frills lunch street food treat. And I seem to have had this same meal twice in the two times I’ve been here – nasi lemak. Also on the menu is lamb kurma and butter chicken, see the blackboard menu. But I really just like a simple meal. Actually except for the cardboard box it came in, it is very authentic but I do miss the pyramidal banana leaf package that it SHOULD traditionally come in. As I have a loyalty card I will definitely be back!
A trip to Dapur helps to break up the staggeringly mind-numbing six hour wait at the immigration office and you really cannot get cross with them because they are all, the adiks, kaks, enciks, all the officers, clerks whoever they are, very sweet and kind. Service with the Malaysian smile so you might have to forgive them the terrible system issues and errors and delays.
Crowdfunding. Is. Over. The three big little words. 100% in 100 days. And the last 3%? Was the longest, shortest journey in the world (I used to say that about giving birth: new person travelling down 62mm birth canal takes what? Anything from about 2 to 20 hours.) But what a push. What a journey. Made me laugh, made me cry, made me wait, made me cry some more, made me eat carbs. The congratulations have been pouring in from y’all. Since last post, Stephen McGowan, Mary Fivey, Gemma Lloyd-Jones, Jessica Duchen, Lisa Radoje, Lulu Allison, Johari Ismail (my repeat patron!), Jacqueline Sardinas, Nicole Vatanavimlakul have come on board the Heart of Glass cruise and others previously named. 100 days is not long for someone who has been writing for 40 years. So many, many thanks to you. Supporters, apparently you get a top quality, first edition, limited edition paperback, months ahead of the shops – which I did not know before. That’s a bonus, right? A surprise!
If you would like to become a patron, you can! Up to the point where in some factory they press print, you can still have your name listed. Head over here.
Next step: editorial team will be in touch with me in the next week or so to introduce me to my developmental editor and start the editorial process. More news to follow very soon! I love to hear from you. Please leave me your feedback or comments. If you liked the vlog, please share.
You can’t get more post-colonial, vintage and ironic than this! This photo was taken on my fifth birthday in Segamat, a little railway town in Johor, where we lived for a couple of years. It is on the line from Singapore to Bangkok via KL. We lived in a colonial bungalow which was the staff quarters of the hospital where my dad worked. The grounds were huge. There were fruit trees and frangipanni trees where my dad had made a makeshift swing using a couple of ropes and a short plank (with drill holes, naturally, to keep the seat dry). I knew all train time tables by heart. I waited for them each day, the whistles, the chink-chink, the bells. They were my friends. Even now I find the sound of trains very timeless and soothing. Beyond all trains, is the world. But first, the plantations. Rubber, pineapple, coffee. Segamat was all plantation.
I remember wearing the Scottish kilt, waistcoat and my first wristwatch that my dad bought on his trip to Edinburgh. It was probably the smartest outfit any child had ever worn in the entirety of Johor. Two years after this photo, I first started writing. The reason I know it was two years after was because I used a new unused diary and it had the year on it. Oral storytelling came first. I was only trying to entertain my toddler brothers. ‘And then what happened?’, ‘But who was the first girl?’ Once the stories were too long to tell, I had to write them down, with illustrations of course.
Subsequently, about twelve years ago, I wrote my first novel Cry of the Flying Rhino which was set in Segamat.
Please support my novel Heart of Glass here, become a patron today.
The first story which I wrote and submitted was for the 1984 New Straits Times Short Story Competition. It was called Miel and the Honey Bunch or something pretentious-sounding like that. The exact story and wording are all gone now. Success came to me early as a writer, to my detriment, as I since then I always thought I would be a professional and successful writer without much effort. I developed a complacency towards the creative act of writing.
I was then 14 years old and the youngest entrant. There was no such thing as YA genre at the time. You were either an adult or a child. I didn’t get a mention and didn’t win anything. I competed as an adult but any competition was as tough then as it is now. Out of hundreds and maybe thousands of entries, there can only be one winner and the rest runners up or in the commended list. I was fine. I remember thinking that I just wanted to send it out, no matter what.
In 1986 I entered the same competition again. I was now 16. As per two years before, I wrote the story by hand and dictated it to my mother who typed the story up in triplicate on this typewriter pictured, the Royal 240. My dad bought it in the Johor Bahru NAAFI in 1970*. It was attractively wood-panelled. It had red and black ribbons. I remember that distinctive strong fresh chemical smell of the typewriter ink. It had two discoloured or stained keys, I am not sure why. Graphic designers? Anybody? When I saw this photo (which is the same model but it is not the actual typewriter that was used) I noticed that it also had two discoloured keys! Imagine my excitement at the discovery. I could not type and neither could she. She used two fingers and typed out 1,500 to 2,000 words. I sat next to her and read out a paragraph first, where we would edit manually, orally or aurally, then a second reading word by word for it to be typed. It took some time but in those days you have time! Everybody had time! We used and re-used the carbon paper for the triplicate copies until it was transparent, until you could put it against a window and see the view beyond the window, until an abstract pattern was made by layers and lines of juxtaposed and superimposed text which no longer made sense, which no longer could be read legibly.
She was strangely a perfectionist and I did not know it then, I just thought ‘Damn! Mummy’s fussy!’. We quarreled, I sulked, we came back to the typing, we snapped, we sent it off. Now I feel grateful now that my mother was so supportive and meticulous about it too. When the words looked messy or clumsy on the page, she would rip the paper out and crush it into a ball like those cartoon caricatures of writers. And then we would start again. As she typed I remember her correcting my grammar and turns of phrases. ‘Is’ or ‘was’, ‘would be’ or ‘would have been’, she would ask, sometimes to herself, sometimes to me, and we would discuss. The final decision was sometimes hers, sometimes mine and sometimes joint. Letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence, my story was typed out.
This time I won a prize of a weekend writing workshop at the New Straits Times headquarters: 31 Jalan Riong, 51000 Kuala Lumpur. I got to meet the amazingly kind and funny writer Robert Raymer, a poet called Jeya and a film critic called Kee Thuan Chye. You must remember that I was born and raised in Johor Bahru where nothing happens and most definitely, nothing exciting. It is like saying you are from Hull. The address and postcode of The New Straits Times office is etched in my memory forever. I referred to the letter until I memorised it. It went everywhere I went. It was more valuable than money or keys. I just had to have it with me. I held it in my hand, my school bag, my drawer until it tore at the creases where it once folded. I do not have it anymore. Sometimes I wish I still have it but maybe it was the right thing after all that it has perished over time. The letter had served its purpose which was to endorse me as a writer when I was still young.
*The Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI /ˈnæfiː/) is an organisation created by the British government in 1921 to run recreational establishments needed by the British Armed Forces, and to sell goods to servicemen and their families.
Welcome to the Cinema. Make yourself comfy and watch my 1980s-inspired show. Go on! It’s only 1 minute 19 sec long, I swear. Join in the discussion. The 1980s Reagan era was a time of excess, greed and materialism. Do you agree? Which song or songs from the 80s do you identify with which reflect these values? OK I’ll start. “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross. Why? It’s disco, innit.
To everybody especially those passengers who have just boarded HMS Ivy the Heart of Glass cruise in the last three weeks – Hello to Andrew Lee, Serena Lowe, Paul Greenleaf, Tracey Husbands, Peter Fuller, Serif Jones, Simon Vrij, Amy Carr, Clair Whiteman, Nadege Houlbrooke-Bowers, Charlotte Callister, Rebecca Ollis, John Wong, Sadie Nathanson-Regan, Mihori Erdelyi, Cissy Piercy, Lesley Ewels, Vanessa Moloney, Stella Soh, Gloria Chin, Kate McVeigh, Hugh Graham, Shirley Hartley, Luciana Sena, Lee Eng Seng, Emma Chase, Simon Miller, Sophie Chong, Vivienne Woon, Ania Kielbasa, Emma Bowman, Andrew MacDonald, Maria Donoghue, Sandy Noble, Sabine Goodwin and each of you previously thanked for joining the Heart of Glass journey. We are 161 strong today, we are 88% funded, 12% to go. Apologies if I have not already contacted you directly to say thanks – it is because I do not have your contact details.
Blogger Peggy Loh is a writer herself. She is, like me, born a writer, and born and raised in Johor Bahru. She is a writer with the New Straits Times.
Read Peggy’s detailed and insightful write-up here of Heart of Glass and of me. Check out her blog also at peggyloh.com which is called MY Johor Stories. Her blog has a wonderful vintage feel as she knows the old world well and tells her stories vividly and with so much atmosphere.
If you have been wondering “why Chicago, why Macau?” why not take a look at the original, vintage settings? See inside the excitingly rare1964 book found in a wet market (Chowrasta) in Georgetown, Penang, which inspired the ideas and setting of Heart of Glass. Hope you are “stirred, not shaken.” (HINT)
Welcome to everyone on board HMS Ivy boat, especially those who have just embarked. “Why crime?” Indeed. Without further delay, make yourself a cup of coffee or a martini and watch it now. It’s only 5 minutes long, packed full of ideas and most of all contains ORIGINAL vintage material not available anywhere on the internet!
Where to start? What nails? I have no more nails to bite. Come to think of it, no cuticles either. Where am I going to get my daily intake of protein from? I’m going to be eating a low carb humble pie from now to eternity. I can stomach this. There is no room for dignity.
It has been a crazy week. I have never done this before. I am learning myself each day. I learn from others. I am learning the ropes. I am learning to give what people want and need, which is this niche I seem to have created, a grave I have dug, back rod I have carved, for myself. The niche of international fiction, postcolonial writing, crime noir, etc. Exactly! What is the et cetera bit?
I have taught myself patience and humility. This is the opposite of vanity publishing. If anybody thinks this, it’s the total opposite. Don’t even go there! Being vain has sold nothing. Ask any cosmetic-peddling salesgirl in a brightly-lit luxury departmental store. Never in my life after three degrees would I think I would have a sales job. Yet now, I have a sales job. I could be selling makeup but I am not selling makeup. I am selling something that does not even exist yet. I am selling the idea of potential, of investment in writing, of myself, selling a dream.
This is me reading from near the beginning, but not the beginning, in my Unbound shed vlog.
My name is Ivy Ngeow and I am an award-winning writer. I am raising funds for Heart of Glass, a finished product, a completed novel of 74,000 words, with Unbound, an imprint of Penguin Random House. When the funding target is reached, the book will be go into publication.
It is a unique story. There is nothing like it on the internet or in the market. It is cross-genre and features themes of music, crime noir, vintage 1980s in an international setting, with an Asian female protagonist. It is an underdog story, addressing issues of life as an immigrant in a big city, whose constant desire for success is often squashed by repeated failure. This is a story that needs to be told. The ambience is rich and stylish. The setting is dark, exciting and exotic, set in the days of disco, drugs, smuggling and casinos.
Please support my project and me as a writer
1/ to make the book a reality. Readers and writers today are part of something exclusive and special, a community, a network, a team.
2/ to invest in the publication. The book does NOT required funding to be written. The funding is purely for pre-sales to enable its publication with Unbound, getting it off my hard drive and into the world.
3/ to promote cultural diversity and the post-colonial writer, who is from an ethnic minority that is under-represented in fiction, a non-English person writing in English. I am not only writing in my second language, I am writing about immigrants.
“It is commercial, punchy, crossover, popular fiction.” – Anna Jean Hughes, Editor, Pigeonhole Publishing
What people and I myself don’t realise is how tough my business life as a designer is and has been. I pitch for ten jobs to get 2. Five jobs to get 1. Clients today make you bleed. You are competing against younger, cheaper and more innovative pitchers. So how do I make myself stand out against the competition? By being totally rehearsed, slick and experienced. I am already very used to pitching. I can do a 3 minute, 30 minutes, 45 minute, 1 hour pitch. All of it is the same process, across all industries.: 1/ This is what I have got. 2/ If you want what I’ve got, then great. 3/ If you don’t want it, this is why you need it 4/ Think about it, cos if you do, this is what it costs. 5/ If you don’t like what it costs, what is your offer? And it must always finish with a question. Because the answer in the end comes from them, and it is a yes or a no.
And that is pitching. If you are in a marketplace you will understand what I mean, except you are both behind a stall and in front of a stall. You have got to sell what people want. Otherwise the stall will have to pack up. I come from customer service. I know how to make people happy. And if they are happy, I know how to make people happier. I have done this for 20 years in my architecture and design business. Once you get the whole point of pitching, you can move on to pitching like a fork and making your pitch stand out from everybody else who is pitching.
What about the market – not in demand and so on?
Don’t worry about the market. If we did, nothing would be invented. You make something. You make people want it. If they don’t want it, modify the product so they want it. It they still don’t want it, make them want you.
Pitching like a fork
Already I had spent an enormous amount of time prepping for the pitch. Making the pitch video took me something like 28 hours. 2 hours initially to storyboard and write the script, then 3 hours every night for a week plus another six hours or so and then the file was corrupt, and so I had to re shoot half of it, and then edit it down to half. I thought I was going to go insane. Then the sound was wrong. So I had to re-record the voice over AND dub. I never questioned what am I doing and why am I doing it? I just thought – I gotta finish this damned video. I made the footage and all the music myself, so I had some files left which were undestroyed. It was the live footage that was spoilt but what can I do? I have to work with what I have to work with which is a nine-year-old MacBook (I swear I love you, MacBook, please don’t give up on me. I just love you, OK). I am still prepping. The launch date is technically Monday 12 December. I have got the weekend.
What about writing it?
But 28 hours – still quicker than writing the novel, right? It took me a year to write, two years to edit (8 drafts) and two years of living in my hard drive, untouched by time and energy and emotions. With two young children, two jobs and almost no time at all, I was doing all this in the early mornings, late at night, weekends for three years. Finally I wrote the book. I had the best literary agent who was also my editor. She was kind and professional. We parted ways a few years ago. Therefore the book is polished and finished-finished. It does NOT need funding to write it. When a friend Fiona Parker-Cole badgered me into showing her the first 30 pages, I demurred and reticently agreed. I sighed and pressed print, thinking all the time this is a bloody waste of paper and ink and she won’t read it. But she did and she told me she could not believe that it was living in my hard drive like some caged animal. She convinced me to start submitting it again. It needs to be published. It needs to get off my hard drive.
Pitching is a skill. So like any technical skill, you will get better and quicker at it.