My version of Great Expectations

When I think about Pip and Magwitch, characters in Great Expectations, a novel by Charles Dickens published in 1861, it’s not too far-fetched to find a parallel in how I too was blessed by my benefactors.

My book [can you spot it?] remained in the
MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers list since it
was launched in mid-July
Pip was an orphan who lived with an abusive sister and her blacksmith husband. He was an unhappy child and often played in the churchyard, close to his parents’ tombstones. While he was there, young Pip met Magwitch, an escaped convict.

The story unfolds with an anonymous patron and benefactor whose generosity lifted Pip out of his miserable circumstances and moved him to London where he was groomed into an educated gentleman.

All the while Pip thought that his benefactor was the eccentric Miss Havisham (who kept her wedding gown on after she was left at the altar on her wedding day!) so he was shocked to discover that his mysterious benefactor was in fact, Magwitch!

This is my version of the story:

Throughout the journey to the birth of my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, I met with people with big hearts and the goodwill I received from their kindness and generosity was just overwhelming.
                        
It started with the grant sponsorship from Think City. This was followed by the advance order for 500 books by Member of Parliament for Johor Baru, Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad. This said a great deal about his confidence in me because even before he saw the Contents in my book, the order was placed!

At MPH 1Utama, my book was
displayed on the same wall shelf,
along with books by Tun Dr M
and Datuk Lat!
Looking back to the early stages of my book project, I remember working furiously on the manuscript to meet the Milestones agreed with Think City.

When I was close to completing my second Milestone, I remember thinking seriously about how my book would be distributed and praying earnestly for a solution.

Meanwhile Think City was talking to distributors – mostly based in Kuala Lumpur –but they had yet to revert about the progress of their pursuits.

Unlike other books that had a niche audience, for example a book on say, diving sites in Johor, such books had a natural distribution channel to diving clubs, schools and enthusiasts.

My book, however, was for a wider reading audience and for weeks, while I wondered how it was going to be distributed, I prayed without ceasing.

Around this time our missionary friends, Mr & Mrs Cheong, Whye Choon and Swee Gim, were visiting our church from Kuala Lumpur.

Over dinner, they asked about the latest happenings in my life so I shared with them about my book project and how it was coming together beautifully.

A most memorable dinner with the Cheong's, Whye Choon
and Swee Gim, mum [Left] and I [behind the camera]
With the final manuscript almost ready, I needed a publisher to help with the book distribution.

After Swee Gim conferred with her husband about their friend who’s in publishing, they proposed to share with him about my project to see how he may be able to help.

She asked me to send her the relevant info about my project to share with her friend. At this point, I had no idea who their friend was.

A few days later, I received an email from Sze Mei, General Manager of MPH Publishing, Kuala Lumpur which read:

“Swee Gim, a friend of yours contacted my CEO, Datuk Ng and told him about your book, My Johor Stories. I am happy to inform you that MPH is keen to explore this publishing opportunity with you. Please get in touch with me.”

I read and re-read the email, pausing at the phrase – my CEO – and praised God for answering my prayers with this amazing turn of events!

When Swee Gim said she would share about my book project with her friend in publishing, she never hinted that this friend was the MPH Group chief executive officer, Datuk Ng Tieh Chuan!

I later learnt that Datuk Ng and Swee Gim were friends in Taiping since their days in Youth Fellowship and remained in touch even after they moved to work in KL.

Irene Tan [Centre] brought a backpack of my books
for my signature; with Roseline Ong [Right]
I couldn’t help but recalled the Great Expectations story and saw the parallel in how Swee Gim and Datuk Ng were a blessing to me, just as Magwitch was to Pip!
            
At first Datuk Ng was like an anonymous benefactor but all was revealed when I received that email from MPH Publishing.

From his intuition and experience in this industry, I guess Datuk Ng probably recognized how readers could identify with the local flavour of my book and gave a local writer like me, the platform to showcase My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.

Even as I’m grateful for the partnership with MPH, no one – not even me – ever guessed how well my book would be received by readers. In fact, readers are still seeking me out to autograph their books, not only for themselves but to present to others as gifts!

Elizabeth Louis [Right] brought her book along to a
meeting for me to autograph!
When I met Sze Mei at MPH 1Utama last Saturday for the Meet-the-Readers event in KL, I was delighted with her update that in addition to MPH bookstores nationwide and online, my book is now also available at Borders and Kinokuniya bookstores!

With the presence of an encouraging Saturday afternoon crowd, the Meet-the-Readers event at MPH 1Utama went very well. Little did I know that Sze Mei was then keeping Datuk Ng informed of the event happenings through her photos and short videos!

At the close of the event, I was happy to autograph a hardcover copy of my book for Sze Mei to present to Datuk Ng later.

On Sunday morning, together with the Cheong’s, my family and I went to church where we met with Datuk Ng and his wife. It was a special moment for me when I finally shook his hand and personally thanked him for the privilege to publish my book with MPH.

Peggy with Datuk Ng Tieh Chuan, MPH Group CEO
Datuk Ng casually showed me his phone where he received photos and videos of my event at MPH 1Utama the day before – proving that he was aware of the happenings …

I was deeply humbled when Datuk Ng apologized for not being able to attend my book launch in JB and assured me that he will be there for the launch of my next book!

Next book? My head was still spinning from the exciting thought of working on a sequel as we proceeded to the foyer for morning coffee.

I’m ever grateful for the support and partnership of MPH and especially for readers who have kept My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage on the MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers list since my book was launched in mid-July. THANK YOU!