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Monday, January 18, 2016

Tales of A Malaysian Children's Writer

The story about the Malaysian writer who talked about using storytelling to preserve unique cultures in other lands...
Before Christmas 2015, Caroline Godfrey, from Lantana Publishing (the publisher of Phoenix Song ) suggested the possibility of talking to students in a few UK primary schools via Skype, an initiative of the National Literacy Trust, UK.
Nothing happened until the first week of January and I assumed the idea was shelved. Then I received another email from Caroline - the talks were going to be next week, starting 11 January. I was in a bit of a panic as it was about culture and storytelling. We thought it was a good idea for me to make a video to play to the students first before proceeding to Q & A. After two days of filming, with the help of Shona Yean, and the best part of 48 hours editing the video - I found it almost impossible to email it. Caroline suggested that I use WeTransfer. When the 1.4 Gig video finally uploaded on WeTransfer (after 8 long hours), it was already 5.30pm, Malaysian time and it was time for me to face the students on Skype! Well, never mind, I'll just have to wing it.
When I turned on Skype, to my horror, I found that I could hear the teacher (a young woman from the sound of her voice) and students from Abbotsmeade Primary alright, but the screen was blank! Luckily they could hear and see me. So I launched into my talk... and then had a panic attack in the form of a coughing fit. I rushed into the kitchen to drink a glass of water, took a deep breath and came back to continue. Not too bad really, despite being 'blind.' 
I was determined to cover everything I recorded on the video and started to read, Phoenix Song. And then it started to rain (no worries, I'm indoors) but the dogs who have been locked out, to stop them from distracting me, started banging on the door loudly to be let in! I doggedly continued with my reading, raising my voice higher and higher to drown out the loud banging... luckily the dogs gave up after a few minutes...

Best questions: 

* How do you pronounce all the names?

*Does it have to be a bamboo plant? 

That evening, Caroline emailed me again, and suggested I upload the video on YouTube for the next school, Gladstone Primary. My daughter's comment, "You mean you're going to put yourself on YouTube just like THOSE PEOPLE who make videos of themselves putting on make up?" (Implying I'm too old to appear on YouTube, I suppose. Apparently, one either has to be 'hot' or ' cool' to make it on YouTube; ' lukewarm' will not do...)

More stress. But I checked out YouTube and found out that you can use settings such as Unlisted or Private to prevent trolling. So another 24 hours of editing to bring it down to 1.2G before uploading on YouTube at 2pm, 13 January. This was surprisingly trouble free and quick (less than an hour.)
At 6pm, 13 January, Gladstone Primary called me on Skype and I was relieved to be able to both see as well as hear them.
After the greetings, I asked them, "So you have all seen the video and..."
Teacher ( a young man), "What video? No we have not seen any videos."
Me, "Oh..." Our voices were drowned the sound of a passing locomotive. I made the astute deduction that Gladstone was located close to the railway line.
Teacher, "Now who is going to ask the first question?" Almost every single child in the room raised their hands.
So I spent the next 30 minutes fielding questions from 7 - 8 year olds and it felt like a full fledged press conference:
"What inspired you to write books?"
"Did you always want to be an author?"
"What do you do when you're not writing books?"
"What was your childhood passion?"
"What is your favourite culture?"
"What is your next book about?"
"Have you met Roald Dahl?"
One question tipped me off "What was it like at Hajimemashte when you there?"
I said, "Oh you mean, Tokyo?" I then knew they must have looked up my profile on my blog grin emoticon
But the question that floored me was the simplest one, "Who is the most famous person you've met?" I had to ask them, "Who would you consider a famous person?" I have a feeling they were thinking of Roald Dahl. I'm still thinking about this. Most probably, Shashi Tharoor. Anyone heard of him? 

Best question: Do you talk about nature in all your books?
Comment from the teacher (conveyed by Caroline): "The children thoroughly enjoyed it and we feel that they got a lot out of it. It has certainly inspired them to start their own stories!"

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