Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

Royal Visit of TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall

TRH The Prince of Wales & Duchess of Cambridge
I'm fifth from right behind the barricades.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a royalist and I have been since I was a very small boy. As an author, I like to feature royals in my stories such as The Littlest Emperor, A Day with the Duchess, and A Royal Adventure, and I've got even more stories about princes and princesses that haven't even been published yet, such as The Great Big Spooky Forest, The Magical Red Prince, and Princess Penelope Primrose. And now, after the recent royal visit,  I'm inspired to write another royal story.

In early October it was announced that TRH would be visiting Singapore as part of the SE Asian Tour. Yes, I started planning where I would try to meet them. When I was a small boy, my late Uncle Philip had the opportunity to play Polo with the Prince here in Singapore and the whole family was invited to watch. 

At the end of the match, I was within feet of the Prince, 
and I had two burning questions that I was dying to ask:1) Who picked up his polo pony's poo? and 2.) What was it like to fall off the said pony? Knowing what 
was on the tip of my tongue, my mother held me back, but my big sister and older cousin were allowed to meet him! What the...I know right...totally unfair!

I was just as unlucky when it came to meeting the Duchess. A couple of years ago, I wrote to HRH and sent her a couple of my children's books for her grandchildren. I was down in the dumps about my writing career and I knew she was an advocate for children's literacy and I wrote saying I admired her efforts promoting literacy and that I knew that the Prince had written a children's book that I, unfortunately, had never read.

A few weeks later, a large package arrived via registered royal post. I ripped open the envelope and The Old Man of Lochnagar dropped out along with a small white envelope. The Duchess had personally written back, thanking me for my books and enclosing The Old Man of Lochnagar because I had never been able to get a copy for myself. It's needless to I was thrilled speechless. It was incredibly kind of her and just goes to show how very thoughtful she is.

The book and letter I received from the Duchess.
I have photoshopped out the letter's content
as it's private and confidential.
A couple of months later, I attended the London Book Fair and I found out that HRH was scheduled to make an official visit to the fair. But sadly I missed seeing her. I was at wrong place at the wrong time.

I did not see or meet HRH at the 2014 London Book Fair. But these
lucky ladies did.
I wrote the Duchess another letter and once again she personally replied! So when I found out that TRH's were coming to town, I was determined to meet them. My publisher contacted the British Council to see if it would be possible to present TRH with my Books, and the Council agreed, but they would present the books to the Royal Couple themselves. Dash! No, invite to the High Commission to meet them!

Thankfully it was announced that The Prince and The Duchess would be paying their respects at the Cenotaph.  The High Commission did not announce when they would be there for security purposes, so I had to make an educated guess as to when they would be there. Fortunately, by the time I arrived at the Cenotaph, there was a small crowd, waiting for the Prince and Duchess to arrive. I, luckily, managed to find a prime spot at the front of the barricades.

Spectators holding up their cell phones in anticipation of the royal arrival were firmly advised not to ask the couple for selfies. I brought along two cameras with me just in case one of them malfunctioned.  

Then as noon approached, the Royal motorcade pulled up. Cell phones shot up into the air, as the Prince and The Duchess stepped out and were greeted by officials before they took their places for the ceremony. 

I might be mistaken about the order of events, but I think the 
Prince laid the wreath, and there was a moment of silence before the couple was ushered to a receiving line of armed services personnel. As they slowly made their way down the line, I alternated shooting on both cameras until one of the cameras malfunctioned!

I was not expecting the couple to do a walkabout and was pleasantly surprised when they came over to the barricades. The royal couple joked with the school children who, in all probably had skipped class, to meet them, and TRH also took their time chatting with the rest of us there. 

I shook hands with the Duchess and reminded her that she sent me a copy of The Old Man of Lochnagar. She told me she still reads my books to her grandkids! It was such an OMG: Oh my Gosh moment for me! I told her that I really enjoyed The Old Man of Lochnagar and she motioned towards the Prince, asking me to tell him.

I was going to tell the Prince how much I enjoyed it but, instead, I blurted out how he had once played polo with my late Uncle Philip and how disappointed I was that I hadn't been allowed to meet him. He shook my hand and smiled: "You didn't miss a thing!" LOL.

It was a pleasure and an honor to finally have met the Prince and The Duchess.  They are warm, incredibly down-to-earth, and self-deprecating. Their Royal Highnesses do not get the credit that they deserve, but perhaps that will all change.  Judging by the reaction of the people who turned up at their engagements, I'm betting that it will.

I  was hoping to meet them again at their visit to the Orchid Garden, but something cropped up and I was unable to do so. I do hope that they did get the books that the British Council promised to present to them. I might just write to HRH to ask if she did, but I don't want to be a bother, especially since she probably gets a ton of correspondence. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

An Author's Purpose

Award-winning author Hidayah Amin writes with a purpose: to produce quality books that highlight the social causes she supports. And although she won several awards, she believes it's more important that her books leave a lasting impression on her readers.

One can't  write stories in a short time period and expect them to be of a publishable standard. Even beloved author Mem Fox spends a few months deliberating on her plots and word choices for each of her books. With that in mind, Hidayah takes her time with each book she produces. 

As an author and publisher, she is ultra-meticulous with all of her book projects. She checks everything from the publication's text and illustrations down to the binding and the type of paper used.

Now,  this process is often a costly endeavor; however, Hidayah believes that if one pursues a publishing career, one cannot skimp on cost. She wants to give her readers a memorable and satisfying reading experience.

Hidayah's book Hang Nadim and the Garfish was published in braille for the visually impaired. Each publication is followed by a book launch, complete with informative discussions, entertainment, and food. The proceeds from the sales of her books often go to charity.

Her latest venture is the bilingual I am Unique series, inspired by a pair of real-life siblings with special needs. Although it's the 21st century, many people misjudge and misunderstand special needs children. Hidayah hopes that her books will change that perception.

The first book in the I am Unique series is "My Name is Nadia. I have Autism" by Huda Patel is already headed to a second print-run. And the recently launched follow-up, "My Name is Mikhail. I have Cerebral Palsy" by Hidayah Amin, published with the support of the National Arts Council, looks set to follow suit.

Like the subjects of her books, the outspoken Hidayah is often misjudged and misunderstood. She has strong views on how to improve the children's literary scene here and they are not without merit. Hidayah's not one to sit around for change; she wants to affect change, and she's trying to do just that with her books. Before I met her I had a vastly different opinion of her. But that just proves you should never judge a book by its over, or listen to other people's opinions. They can be quite misleading. Haters may hate, but this author just shakes it off.
Now I attended the "My name is Mikhail. I have Cerebral Palsy"  launch at the Singapore Writers  Festival recently. And it's needless to say it was a uniquely Hidayah Book launch. She was dressed in a strange orange get up, which I initially assumed was because all her clothes were in the laundry and this was the only clean outfit she had around. I was mistaken. She was dressed as Jaina Solo, an X-Wing pilot, and Han Solo's daughter. Read on and you'll find out why.

The guest list included the students from Cerebral Palsy Alliance School and their friends from Zhangde School, and representatives from several charities.  
The children listened with rapt attention as Hidayah introduced Suhana, a lady who suffers from cerebral palsy, who supports her elderly parents by working as an administrative assistant and by baking brownies to supplement her income. What an inspiration!
Then there was a special surprise for all of the guests: visitors from a long, long time ago and from a galaxy far, far away arrived. The children squealed with excitement when Stormtroopers from the 501st Star Wars Garrison and the Jedi Knights of the Cathar Outpost Rebel Legion joined forces to distribute goodie bags (kindly donated by Hidayah's supporters) to the children. Hidayah had secretly invited the members of the Star Wars groups to the launch as she knew that the kids would be thrilled to see them, and she was absolutely right! Everyone wanted selfies!

Then it was story time. An emotional Hidayah read her book aloud.  She later explained the little boy, Mikhail, on whom the book was based had suffered a seizure the previous night. He should have been there for the launch but under the circumstances it was impossible. Mikhail's grandmother, however, was there to graciously lend her support.
The launch concluded with Hidayah and the Stormtroopers giving out a couple of hundred copies of the book to CPAS and the various organizations there. And judging by the reaction of the children, it was an intergalactic hit!

To Hidayah the recognition, the awards, the bouquets, and the accolades of being an author may be nice, but the ultimate reward is being able to touch the hearts of her readers.  I can tell you, will all certainty, everyone at the launch was definitely touched.

Please go and buy a copy today. I did! 

Congratulations, Hidayah on a great job!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Bahasa Book Launch

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to the book launch of Hidayah Amin's latest book, Bahasa, which traces the evolution of Malay languages throughout the region.

Let me just say that no one in town does book launches quite like Hidayah. She really goes above and beyond to make it an experience that everyone will enjoy.  While one could launch a book at certain book festivals, I feel that book festival launches won't really give one's book the attention it deserves, since so many other programmes are going on simultaneously and one can't really effectively launch one's literary labor of love in a 30 minute time slot.

Hidayah kicked off the launch by giving a short speech before inviting Professor Emeritus Abdullah Hassan to the podium to share a few words about the book.  This was followed by a panel discussion and a musical performance and then it was time for refreshments of Malay delicacies. With their appetites satiated, Hidayah's enthusiastic fans quickly formed a long, long, long line to get their books signed.

If you haven't bought her book, I suggest you might like to do so. It's highly informative and interesting and those aren't mutually exclusive. I'm surprised that it was not included in Bahasa Week, considering the book is about Bahasa. I'm  it will be included in next year's Bahasa Week. I mean like what better book should be included in Bahasa Week than a book titled Bahasa? 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

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