Yes, the book that I had been working on has finally seen the light of day. This is a late post as I had drafted it but no thanks to many other things, I forgot to put it up on this blog.
For the longest time, Emi, Jo and I had struggled to complete our women’s stories anthology. Not because the stories were incomplete. They were. Not because we didn’t want to. We did. Somehow we slowed down and while we could blame covid, it didn’t seem fair to the contributors who sent in their stories.
I myself spent so much time interviewing and writing the stories that I was jaded. I couldn’t re-read another line. I couldn’t even catch my own typos or grammar mistakes anymore. I was THAT weary!
Finally, we decided we had had enough of wanting perfectionism and just pushed the ‘baby’ out into the world. We could’ve gone on to tweak more, fine-tune, reread and refine the book but enough was enough.
We chose the title Step In because many years ago, we were inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. We even emailed Lean In to ask if we could use that term in our title. Lean In is a copyrighted term so we had to figure out what to name our book.
The three of us had many brainstorming sessions and finally, we decided on Step In. Instead of just leaning in, why not step in? Step In as a concept gave us some fun imagery as well – we used our own shoes in the photography (and you will see many of these colourful shoes in the pages of the book too).
Women can step into any role if she chooses to. Whether she wears high heels, flats or trainers, she can be whoever she wants to be.
For the book cover, Emi persuaded her daughter to be our model and they had to wake up before dawn to rush to Wawasan Open University just to get that perfect early morning shot with all the various shoes on the steps.
The behind-the-scenes is just as exciting as the book we published. We also had a separate photography session with another photographer, bringing our own shoes so he could shoot the shoes for the inner pages of our book. That session took half a day.
Then we also had to figure out the women whose stories didn’t quite fit the book. We started out with 30 women that we interviewed mostly (most people cannot write and if they did, they usually wrote a long memoir which isn’t the point of this book).
So if you are ever going to produce an anthology like us, be smart. Don’t solicit for stories unless you know that the person you solicit from is a remarkable writer. Otherwise, factor in the time and get down to interviewing them. It’s easier this way as you know exactly what you want to highlight in the story.
Some women, after we interviewed them, decided they DIDNT want their stories published. They retracted their stories. Yes, it was crazy! Maybe some women didn’t feel that they could be as vulnerable as they wanted to. Or some stories revealed too much. Who knows?
I had 2 women pull out this way. One was a general manager of a multinational corporation. I sat with her for 2 hours, spoke to her, took notes, and wrote the story and after multiple edits with her corporate comms, she didn’t want her story featured.
Another woman wrote her own story and later decided she didn’t want to be featured.
For the first woman, I felt I had wasted my time and energy. This was a pro bono book writing effort. But I told myself, it was OK. I learn, I live and I move on.
It was not easy cutting stories out of the book. But we had to. Some just didn’t fit the theme of the book.
The thing with producing a book is that we could go on forever editing the book. At some point, we decided to just get on with the book layout and design. It was time to put our baby out into the world.
It was scary because it was an anthology of other people’s life stories and we wanted to get their ‘voices’ right and yet have a strong message that would touch the hearts of our readers.
I didn’t want to bore readers (I’m a big book fan so I know when books bore me and I get so distraught if I don’t complete reading a book that I started. I’m now better at relinquishing books halfway but it was incredibly hard in the early days).
Coming back to the book, we managed to organise the book launch on our own on 5 June and to this, I take my hat off to Emi who really is a workhorse! She rallied her daughters to help and in between producing the launch gimmick (with balloons), checking the printed books and preparing everything for the book sponsors, book contributors and schools!
Check out our video of the book launch. The book launch came together beautifully despite the fact that I was late and the parking attendant refused to let me park along the road. I was late because I had been with Emi all morning at the venue doing the launch set-up and then drove home to shower, get prepped and drive back to the venue.
And yet I managed to calmly and confidently moderate the short session with Dr Vimi Ramasamy, Den Chiew Fung and Dr Florance Sinniah during the launch. The things women do!
If you want the full story, it’s best to read the article that Buletin Mutiara published. Such a lovely article with lots of great photos.
Our book is available as an ebook internationally if you can’t get the hard copy book (since the hard copy is available only in Penang at the moment).
EBOOK For International Buyers (in US Dollars)
EBOOK for Malaysian Buyers (in Malaysian Ringgit)
Emi and I believe this book has something that can be turned into a movement. That’s why we want to go to schools and colleges to talk about the book and feature some of the women we’ve interviewed. If you know of any schools or colleges that would like to support this book or the female empowerment agenda, please contact me!