Our Book, Step In, Is Finally Published!

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.

Scary huh?

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).

PRINT COPIES OF THE BOOK ARE AVAILABLE AT:
1) Precious Pages Resources, 19b, Codrington Avenue, Penang (order here)
2) Penang Women’s Development Corporation https://pwdc.org.my

EBOOK For International Buyers (in US Dollars)
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/step-in-emi-yamazaki/1141886086;jsessionid=3F68BFD4094A4C4D2E31C65213293F91.prodny_store02-atgap09?ean=2940166603135

EBOOK for Malaysian Buyers (in Malaysian Ringgit)
https://teaspoonpublishing.com.my/shop/step-in-ebook

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!

Homegrown Heroines

You know me.
Despite my gregarious and oftentimes open personality, I am really shy.

Penelope Cruz on Sept issue of The Malaysian Women's Weekly
Penelope Cruz on Sept issue of The Malaysian Women's Weekly

I was an excruciatingly shy girl while growing up. The only way I shone was through my academic results. Even so, my pride is often mixed with a kind of shyness.
I don’t know how to react when the spotlight is on me.
Crazy as it sounds, yes, that is me.
But I have no problem shining the spotlight on people. In fact, I love doing that.
So where’s this post going? I interviewed Alex many moons ago for our business blog and I thought that was that.
It was not to be.
She came back to me a few weeks after that, asking to interview little old me!
She was doing a feature on 3 Malaysian women who were “women with heart” and one of them was to be me.
Oh gosh!
It was a little follow up to find out what the women of the Great Women Of Our Time Awards were doing after getting nominated for the award. (My claim to fame was in 2008 and if you missed that post, you can check out the glamour me four years ago. I had so much fun during the photo shoot in The Westin KL and the glamorous gala dinner where Ning Baizura sang and I was all goggle-eyed.)
I was in superb company in this September 2012 issue of The Malaysian Women’s Weekly – there I was with Bilqis Hijjas (the president of MyDance Alliance) and Leela Panikkar (co-founder of Treat Every Environment Special or TrEES).

Krista Goon featured in the magazine

Here’s an even funnier aside: two months ago, a local Chinese newspaper (Guang Ming Daily) here in Penang decided to interview me and a few ladies from my women entrepreneur group. It was supposed to be published before our anniversary luncheon happened but you know, you can’t rush the media.
They have their own deadlines. So when the feature on WomenBizSENSE finally got published in its entire full page glory, we were mighty pleased BUT none of us (with the exception of Cecilia) could read Mandarin. That was all of one day’s happiness – great publicity for us as a group and great publicity for us individually.
A few weeks later, there I am in my tatty shorts and grungy t-shirt buying vegetables in the Lip Sin market when the auntie who sells vegetables told me she read the interview in Guang Ming!
Her daughter-in-law mentioned that her mom-in-law (this vegetable auntie) recognized my photo in that article! I must say this lady’s eyes are sharp.
However, being in the media has its cons too. The day our feature came out in Guang Ming was the day a woman from Sungai Petani called me asking for a loan. It seemed she read about our women entrepreneur group and thought we’d be easy suckers!
She gave me some strange tale of being broke, having two kids in college and get this – the Ah Long were chasing her to repay her loan and could we or our group loan her some money?
Wow.
She kept calling me until I told her that we don’t give loans and I would get her the number of a local ADUN help centre so she could get proper help. She stopped calling after that!
That was the only weird incident.
Most times, the publicity has been great and allowed me to get slightly known. I’ve always been grateful for the media limelight (many thanks to writer friends like Alex and more) because media exposure always helps promote and publicize our business!

Missed Me? I Missed Me Too!

My blog title says it all. I missed my blog. I missed rambling like some old nenek. I have lots of stories to tell. In fact, sometimes I think I have so much to tell that I don’t know where to start.
This blog got cranky the past few days and I got booted out. Couldn’t log in. Couldn’t do a damn thing. Nic asked me if I had backed up the blog posts. Like yeah, maybe a month ago! Don’t do this to me, oh Blog. Don’t wipe out my entries. They’re hard work. But Nic’s my husband for a good reason – he can perform some IT miracles. Finally, my Baby (Blog) is back.

Yes, check out my ditzy hair do...
Yes, check out my ditzy hair do...

And now Maya can get down to updating all and sundry about her 2 weeks!
Well, first off, I didn’t win in my Science & Tech category that night at the MWW Gala Dinner. But chill people. When I SMSed a friend, she shot back: “Woman, you are among the 18 chosen women of Malaysia! That’s a big win.” Yes, my dear. You are so right!
Another friend told me she bought MWW and showed “me” off to everyone! Hey, thanks Dot for the life-affirming gesture. I’m proud that you’re so proud of me!
Jennifer, Ming Ming, me and Lisa...Lisa was my invited guest that night.
Jennifer, Ming Ming, me and Lisa...Lisa was my invited guest that night. We were post-makeup session but pre-dress rehearsal

Actually I’m not even disappointed (oh god, I must be aging gracefully! I was a competitive maniac when I was in school) – I was enjoying myself so much that I quite forgot that I didn’t manage to get that Royal Doulton vase (masquerading as a trophy). I invited Lisa along and she had a grand time, being made up by the Guerlain girls in black and having her hair styled.
That's me, Hoong Ling, Alecia, Ming Ming, Jennifer & Dr Tang during rehearsal!
Regina, Carol, Shanti, me, Hoong Ling, Alecia, Ming Ming, Jennifer & Dr Tang during rehearsal...we were taught how to walk with our male models

What I loved most was meeting Jun Lin (artistic director of the Rainforest World Music Festival), Alecia (of Gorgeous Geeks, what a name for a group of IT women, love the name!), Dr Tang (Malaysia’s only pediatric rheumatologist), Cynthia (a retail consultant for One Utama), Hoong Ling (exuberant gal with such a brilliant smile), Maple Loo-Asaro (the really beautiful owner of JapaMala Resort Tioman and Samadhi Retreats), Regina (love her elegant hair do), Prof Dr Halimaton (she won in my category by the way but we had a great time chatting during dinner… she looks so much like Marina Mahathir!) and Shanti Jayaram (who was the Most Inspiring Woman of the night – she told the story of how she was nominated by her boss at Zerin Properties – what a boss, right?).
Ning Baizura in her element
Ning Baizura in her element

I was there with these accomplished, beautiful and fabulous women. Looking at them all, I think Malaysia’s in no way short of talent or skills. We’re all doing something fantastic in our own ways, helping the community and in a way, helping ourselves to grow.
From left: Cynthia Lye, me, Shanti Jayaram, Yeoh Jun Lin & Alecia Heng
From left: Cynthia Lye, me, Shanti Jayaram, Yeoh Jun Lin & Alecia Heng

As we were all being fussed over by hair stylists and make-up girls in a private room which gave us a stupendous view of Pavillion KL across the road, I felt a bit like an awards winner! Everyone was truly down-to-earth, especially the women team of Malaysian Women’s Weekly: Tara Barker (the editor-in-chief), Elaine Kwong (MWW editor), Melati (MWW writer with a hidden talent for designing evening gowns), Rina, Geetha, even to that sole guy graphic designer who shyly asked us to pose for a photo!
Lina Teoh, our affable emcee
Lina Teoh, our affable emcee

Ning Baizura sang a few Whitney Houston songs as we dined on a 3-course dinner (no photos of the food due to the subdued lighting and I had to listen attentively to my dinner companions right? Would be kind of rude to whip out my camera every 5 seconds).
Dr Amran & Lisa, hamming it up for the camera
Dr Amar Amran & Lisa, hamming it up for the camera

My dinner companions that night included Dr Farrah-Hani Imran (remember the gymnast? She’s now a medical doc) and her cute brother, Dr Amran as they were seated at our table. Dr Amran looked like a spitting image of RPK with a deliciously wicked sense of humour.
Great Women of Our Time category winners (left): Cynthia, Dr Tang, Shanti, Dr Halimaton & Hoong Ling
Great Women of Our Time category winners (left): Cynthia, Dr Tang, Shanti, Dr Halimaton & Hoong Ling

Everyone had their five minutes of fame as we were announced by Lina Teoh (who did an amazing job emceeing that night – the right dose of wit!) to go onstage, accompanied by male models, to receive our orchid bouquet from Tara. Nominees in each category were next photographed together. Each nominee received a Guerlain Paris Orchidee Imperial, Patchi chocolates (divine!), an autographed copy of MWW by Ning, a certificate, Royal Albert silver spoons and a bouquet of white lilies and orchids.

I’ll let the photos do the talking… it was a perfect night where I felt like a princess! Thanks to a special friend who nominated me and gave me this chance to try something totally different from my usual Penang routine. Thanks to everyone who SMSed the votes. Thanks to everyone of you who believed in me. Robert even intoned me to visualise winning using the law of attraction! (We’re both serious junkies of The Secret!)
We had to snap a pic with Lina Teoh
We had to snap a pic with Lina Teoh

Related links:
https://mayakirana.com/blog/2008/06/a-hurricane-of-a-trip/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/kristagoon/sets/72157605952122481/

Wish Me Luck!

I won’t be posting for a few days as I am off to KL for the MWW Gala Dinner tonight.
My invitation for the Gala Dinner
Shall be going with Lisa and we two are quite excited despite having to arrive at 3pm at The Westin for a rehearsal.
Yes, you read right. A rehearsal! *making me slightly nervous now*
Ning Baizura will be crooning some songs, Lina Teoh will be the emcee.
It came in via courier in a gold envelope...made me feel like a super star!
A few days ago I got the dinner programme from Rina, the deputy editor of MWW and it seems we’ll be made up by professional make up artists and hair stylists. Am I relieved I don’t have to lug my sister’s Philips hair styling tools to KL. As it is, there’s a lack of leg room on AirAsia planes. Am I relieved I don’t have to do my own make up!
This is what I've gotten into.... something worth remembering!
Anyway, thank you my dears for your SMSes and support and calls. You know who you all are.
I am so grateful to everyone who voted for me. I am going without any expectation of winning because I want to have a fabulous time and I want to meet the other amazing women too! If I win, that’s a bonus! And the Montfort Boys Town will probably be the recipient of the RM5,000 prize….already Nic’s adamant that this organisation should get it. I think so too.
Other than that, I shall have more news and more photos when I get back to Penang next Wednesday!
That's me in the middle...my dad says he doesn't recognise me!
Until then, wish me luck, my dears!
Ah yes, a closer look!