My Johor Stories - Going Places

In line with the nation’s 60th anniversary of its Year of Independence this August, MPH Publishing is celebrating Malaysian writers during the national day season.

The poster MPH Publishing created to celebrate MPH Writers
Early this month, MPH created a poster with portraits (read: mug-shots!) of writers in the MPH Writers’ Circle and a friend who spotted it on line, sent it to me with his wish, “Congratulations, Peggy!”

I didn’t look too closely at the faces in the poster but I instantly recognised the familiar face of former Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohammed.

I thanked my friend for his kind wishes and told him, while I’m somewhere at the bottom of the list with Dr M and others at the top, I’m still glad to be counted among Malaysian writers in the MPH Writers’ Circle.

It was much later, when I found the time to look closer at the poster and spotted my own face (and due to sheer vanity) wished MPH had picked a better shot of me than this old photo. Even I almost couldn’t recognise myself because I had grown my hair out then and I hardly look that way now.

Published in NST Life & Times
Jom on Aug 17
On Aug 17, “Tales from a Johorean” written by Putri Zanina Megat Zainuddin, my former editor in Travel Times, the pull-out section with The New Straits Times, was published in NST Life & Times Jom.

It was a report on my book launch event which she graciously attended in Johor Baru. Putri is meanwhile, back in Kuala Lumpur, reading my book to write her book review.

On Aug 20, the Sunday Star published a two-page feature entitled, “A nation of stories,” and I was both delighted and humbled to see that My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, was listed among the book titles here!

Another friend who read this spread, rushed an online link of this feature to me with a message, “Your book has been mentioned here too. Congratulations! Now it’s an official must-have for any avid reader of Malaysian authors and their stories…”

There was just a brief write-up about my book but I’m ever grateful that it was counted among the list of distinguished Malaysian book titles mentioned in this feature.

The two-page feature in Sunday Star on Aug 20
In the past few weeks, I had the privilege of more new experiences including giving an introduction of my book at the club meeting of the Rotary Club of Johor Baru, and being interviewed and filmed for a segment in the Think City Johor Baru corporate video.

A date was set for a Meet-the-Author session at MPH bookstore at Johor Baru City Square and as it was a public event, I did not know what to expect. When info about this event was shared online, one of the first people to respond was Ahmad Fadhli who not only told me that he was coming to get his books autographed, he also sent me a photo!

Ahmad Fadhli with his book for me to autograph 
Throughout this time, MPH Publishing was in touch to keep me updated about my book and I’m deeply humbled that my book remained on the MPH Non-fiction Bestsellers list for four consecutive weeks.

I’m glad that readers can identify with the contents of my book and are happy to have a copy of their own as well as present it as a gift to others.

It’s such a thrill to know that copies of my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, has left Johor and Malaysia, being sent abroad to be read and enjoyed in other continents.

My nephew, Aaron, who was at my book launch event, hand-carried copies back to Perth, Australia, and also put a couple of copies in the mail to send to family members in Sydney.


Cousin Malcolm with his book in Sydney
The family there, gathered in cousin Malcom’s home for a comforting steamboat meal at the height of their winter, had fun reading snippets from my book and sharing memories from our family photos.

[By the way, Malcolm Ng and Philip Ng are cousins who also stayed with our grandparents at No. 154 Jalan Ngee Heng, and they went to St Joseph's School, walking distance from our house!]

Among the guests at this meal were our niece, Olivia and her friend, Peter. Aunty Polly and Uncle Steven were also there on holiday from USJ, so receiving my book in this gathering was probably one of the highlights of the evening.

After the meal, (I was told) uncle was hogging a copy of my book while Olivia was holding another copy and reading parts of it to Peter, in an attempt to give him a quick intro to our family!

Olivia [Right, holding my book] reading to Peter
Aunty Polly regretted not being able to attend my book launch event because she was with her family in Sydney, but I assured her that she will have her own copy. And when she reached home, it should be waiting there for her.

[By the way, Aunty is mentioned in the Memories section of my book, in the story about author, Han SuYin’s connection with Johor Baru.]

Weeks passed and then I received her short and urgent message: “Where is your book?”

She was searching for it when she got home but in vain. I had passed the book to my brother, (who lives nearby) to send it over but it looked like my book was not delivered yet!

My brother responded to my “rush-it-over” message and to prove that he had presented my book to our anxiously-anticipating aunty, he shared a photo with me.

Shot sent by Noreen in Melbourne
Meanwhile, my friend Linda had put a copy in the post to for her daughter, Noreen, who lives in Melbourne and I was pleasantly surprised to hear from her with a congratulatory message. She even shared a photo of my book to prove that she was already holding it!

“My read as we’re out glamping for the weekend and whilst the lil’ man was passed out for the day,” read her message – referring to how she found time to read my book once her active son had fallen asleep!

“Awesome book, Aunty Peg! Feels like I’m getting to know more about your family,” she added.

Soon after my book was launched, I was in the UK on a family trip and brought copies of my book to present them to my sister and her family and also to cousin Bernice, who wanted it for herself and her friends.

My sister even had the strategy to keep one book available to circulate on loan to those who wished to borrow and read, while she kept one hardcover copy for herself!

Yeen recuperating after surgery and reading...
Then we received the bad news from Sydney.

Cousin Malcolm’s wife, Yeen, who has a hobby in hiking, often went on trips with her hiking friends, sometimes even camping out for days in the Australian bush. Recently she went on a hiking trip to Snowy Mountain, about five and a half hours south of Sydney.

We were told later that early one morning, Yeen went for a walk and slipped on some ice. Her fall caused her excruciating pain because she suffered at least two fractures on her bones.

Thankfully she received medical attention quite swiftly and the surgery on her leg was a success. As she was recuperating in the hospital, Malcolm showed me how Yeen was making good use of her time – reading my book!

Presenting my book to Aidah in hospital
Glad Yeen is back home now, on the road to recovery, with the tender loving care of her dear husband…

Then on Aug 21, I was shocked and saddened to receive news that my friend, Aidah was admitted to hospital. She was able to send text messages, so I was reassured that she was not dangerously ill but it was just as bad to be a victim of dengue fever.

Her husband and son were there when I visited her in hospital and to cheer her up, I presented her with a copy of my book. I’m pleased that Aidah is also on the road to recovery and should be going back to work again soon.

Later, Aidah told me that her cousin, Yani, who lives in Felda Bukit Besar and reads My Johor Stories online, is my secret admirer. [Blush! Blush!] Thank you, Yani, but it’s no longer a secret now!

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