About Maya Kirana

Seriously, who the heck is Maya Kirana?

It’s my nom de plume, pen name, secret alter ego. It’s a name I used when I first got online and started blogging way back in year 2000 when I was still working in the corporate world. I didn’t want people to trace me – I felt that being unknown allowed me to voice my opinions freely and openly. 

Too bad that over the years, everyone I know stumbled on this blog. So much for anonymity! Sheesh! So here’s who I am. My name is Krista Goon and Maya Kirana is my alter ego.

I’m 45 this year (2019), a Piscean Tiger and married to a Sarawakian. We have been living on this charming little island called Penang since we both met in Universiti Sains Malaysia like 20+ years ago.

Nic and I are total opposites in personality but somehow we manage to get along well enough to run a business together. I’ve been in business with him since 2004, the year I called it quits in my corporate communications manager role in a public-listed software company called KarenSoft Technology. At that time, I was also the website editor of a now defunct women’s portal called i-asianwomen.com (I was hired to manage and run the portal but soon got sucked into doing corporate communications for the mother company as I could write and handle events and a plethora of other stuff).

Anyway, my ability to write (specifically website copywriting) and Nic’s ability to design make us a rare and potent combination.

We combine our skills and run Redbox Studio, a business focusing on helping business owners attract more customers using their websites. Nic started the business in 1998 so this means we’ve been in this business for 21 years!

Our secret sauce is that we build marketing strategy right into the websites we design. To do this, we have to understand the client, his target audience, his unique offering and how he is unique. Once we understand this (think of us as marketing consultants), we start researching keywords, writing copy (or website content) and designing the website to help position the client as distinctively as we can. For the past 21 years, we’ve proven that our website plus marketing strategy works as evidenced by the reviews and results we’ve achieved for clients who are usually direct business owners.

Besides website design and website copywriting, Nic and I speak, train and consult in the areas of marketing for small business owners, NGOs and SMEs. In 2016, we wrote and published a book teaching business owners our exact formula for getting online success with websites.

We don’t have children so a lot of our time revolves around our business and our community work (TSN Book Adoption Centre and WomenBizSENSE).

We tried (to have children) but nothing quite happened. Many well-meaning friends have asked me to adopt a child or even go for IVF, but it’s not me. And honestly, it is not the end of the world. Maybe I’m destined for other things in life.

I had a fat, grumpy tabby called Margaret Montokong Mustafa (seriously, that’s the name Nic gave her and she lived up to her Margaret-ness till she died of kidney failure on 8 April 2014). As with anyone who has had pets die on them, we were so depressed that we vowed not to have any more cats.

Ah, but sooner said than done, right? Eventually, another tabby came along and now we have a drop-in cat called Timah Boestaman. She comes for meals and belly rubs and hangs about till we shoo her out of the apartment. The cat was named by Nic. He calls himself the cat whisperer. Go figure.

Let’s Backtrack A Little, Shall We?

I’ve been scribbling, dreaming of stories and giving into my imagination since young.

I remember with clarity that at the precocious age of 6, I diligently copied questions and answers from a Tell Me Why book into an exercise book with a red pen!

I recall my first Enid Blyton story book that my dad bought for a princely sum of RM9.90. Back then, RM9.90 was a big deal!

I remember my first pre-loved typewriter at 11. I felt like a star! My Godmother bought it for me when I got first in class when I was in Standard 5. I learnt to type really fast and concocted delicious stories and poems. I even typed out a poem in my rage against the injustice of Tiananmen Square and I was a regular contributor to the Starchild section of The Star when I was 11.

So you see, I’ve been writing for a really long time. What Malcolm Gladwell says about putting in at least 10,000 hours to be train as an expert is possibly true. I must’ve written thousands and thousands of words in my life since I was 6.

I discovered blogging one day in 2000. And I’ve stuck to it though sometimes it unnerves me that there are strangers who read my blog and build up pieces of me in their minds, especially those who have not met me in person.

But people who have read my blog says my writing is refreshing.

Thank you.

I haven’t been as regular a blogger in the past few years as I’ve a lot on my plate – managing my business, being on various committees, helping out in women’s and community projects and trying my best to exercise, eat well, be spiritual and still have time to read my fiction and non-fiction. I’ve also told myself I’m going to write more books and everything (every damn thing) takes time.

As a Buddhist, I believe that living life well is the best gift to yourself. I love being inspired by the people around me and I hate complainers. I have also removed a lot of whiny, toxic people from my life.  I used to want to have the last word in any argument but these days, I just move on. Sometimes, the angst isn’t worth it.

I like cooking more than baking, I love gardening when I have the time to just feel the soil in my hands. I love to learn and I absolutely adore reading.

I love Traditional Chinese Medicine and soups (check out MY OTHER BLOG here), I love the smell of rain on a baking hot day. I love spending time with good friends and family and I treasure relationships like I treasure the moments I spend alone. I love journaling, I love reflecting and I love being patient, strong and courageous.

I also was one of the 18 women nominated for the Great Women of Our Time Awards in 2008 for co-founding WomenBizSENSE, an association for women entrepreneurs. I have been the president of this organisation since 2012 but decided to step down in 2016 to make way for new leadership. I’m still involved as the advisor for WomenBizSENSE but I’ve realised it’s time to do new things and explore new adventures in life.

Besides our own book, I am also co-writing a book on women leaders of Penang with two good friends under the aegis of the Penang Women’s Development Corporation. I am trying to say no to a lot of projects that people pitch me with because I value meaningful projects over mindless fluff.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew the woman I wanted to be.”
Diane Von Furstenberg

Writing for websites is different from writing for myself.

I like escaping to my blog and ranting though these days, as the business needs me more and more, I have very little time to escape here. Still, I could never give up my blog.

I couldn’t live without email, my iPod, iPhone, iPad (big time Apple fan I am) and my Mac. And let’s not even talk about Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Linkedin. 

Partly I am on these platforms because I love connecting with people online. Mostly I am on these platforms doing research about what works, what doesn’t and relaying this knowledge to our clients who trust us to have their backs.

(If you want the full list of what I’ve done – speaking, writing, blogging, coaching and setting up a women entrepreneur network etc – take a look at this.)

And if you feel you need to write to me, please do.

I love getting mail, I love hearing from strangers who in the end become my friends. Many have.

P.S. If you’re wondering how I got the name Maya Kirana, fret not.

Here’s the answer you’re dying to read…in this post.