Sunday
Jul022017

Crowdfunding a tennis champion

THE road to becoming a world champion in any sport is a very tough one. It requires plenty of sacrifices, training for many hours a day and giving up many of the leisure activities most kids take for granted. But beyond all that, it also takes a lot of money — to compete internationally and to train at top centres abroad.

Tennis champion Christian Didier Chin, 16, who has been training full-time for the past two years has set his sights on global success. To achieve that, he needs to raise funds and has adopted a rather unusual approach not yet tried by any athlete in Malaysia.

Christian talks to SAVVY about his complete dedication to tennis, the sacrifices he’s made, the dreams he has and his plan to raise money through crowdfunding.

HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU TOOK UP TENNIS AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THAT SPORT?

I was 10 when my dad introduced me to tennis. Before that, I was playing soccer a lot. My dad also loves soccer but he noticed that I’d come home sporting bruises all over my body or at times getting injured, every time I played soccer. He felt tennis would be a better sport for me as it would be less injurious to my body.

AT WHAT AGE DID YOU START PLAYING COMPETITIVE TENNIS?

Actually, having started at 10 was considered quite late. Many top players start at a much younger age. But I took to the sport quite fast and within two years I was producing some good results, winning national medals in the under-12 category. Later, I would do the same for under-14 and under-16 categories.

WHEN DID YOU START COMPETING INTERNATIONALLY?

My first international competition was at 13, when I started taking part in the Asian Tennis Federation (ATF) tournaments. By 14, I became the first Malaysian in the under-14 category to be No. 1 in the ATF rankings. At 15, I started competing in International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournaments. My current ITF ranking is 111, which is the highest any Malaysian player has ever reached but of course I’m not satisfied with that.

YOU ARE CURRENTLY TRAINING FULL-TIME. DOES THIS MEAN YOU DON’T GO TO SCHOOL?

Yes, that’s correct. I attended primary school in Kota Kinabalu and then at 13, when I got accepted at the Malaysian National Tennis Academy, I moved to Kuala Lumpur and studied at a school in Sri Hartamas. However, to really focus on my tennis, my dad and I decided it would be best for me to take a break from school for a couple of years. I will probably take the American SATs so I can attend college in the US. There are a few colleges with strong tennis programmes that have expressed interest in me but I will hold off college for the time being.

THAT’S QUITE A RISK YOU ARE TAKING, DON’T YOU THINK?

To achieve anything great you have to be willing to take risks. Taking a break from school was something my dad and I discussed at length and in the end he gave me his full support on this matter. I think 99 per cent of the parents out there would have said “focus on education” but my dad understood that in order for me to do well in tennis, I will need to train full time.

HOW LONG DO YOU TRAIN EVERY DAY?

On a typical day, I would train six to eight hours. So, you can say the court is my second home. I’m there all the time!

WAS IT TOUGH TRAINING FULL-TIME AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE?

Yes it was, at first. I trained with many seniors and got bullied in the beginning. I endured it and I think I’m stronger because of that.

DO YOU HAVE A SOCIAL LIFE?

I do have some friends who don’t play tennis but I don’t have a lot of time to spend with them. You could say I’m missing out on a lot of things kids my age are doing but to achieve success you need to make sacrifices. I must say that although at times it can feel a bit lonely, the sense of accomplishment and the authority I feel on court make it all worthwhile.

YOU ARE CURRENTLY RANKED 111TH. WHAT ARE YOUR TARGETS FOR THE COMING YEAR?

I hope to be in the Top 50 by year’s end and by end-2018, I hope to crack the Top 10.

WHAT DO YOU FEEL ARE YOUR CHANCES FOR THE UPCOMING KUALA LUMPUR SEA GAMES?

I’m confident. On a good day, and assuming I’m not injured, I think I can beat anyone in Southeast Asia. At the KL Open last year, I was the youngest player there but I managed to make it to the finals where I narrowly lost to Thailand’s Nuttanon Kadchapanan who is a lot older than I am. That’s nearly a year ago. I’ve improved a lot since then. I’m excited about the SEA Games.

ARE YOU ABLE TO GET THE RIGHT TYPE OF TRAINING IN MALAYSIA?

Unfortunately no. We don’t have the right kind of facilities and training opportunities here for tennis. It’s not like in the case of badminton where we have world-class training centres and top players. I need to train on different court surfaces like hard courts, indoor courts, clay courts and grass courts.

In Malaysia, we have hard courts at the academy and grass courts in Penang but that’s all. I also don’t have the right training partners to spar with. To really excel I’d need to train at one of the top centres in the US, France or Spain.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO TRAIN AND COMPETE AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL?

I’d need to compete in at least 24 tournaments a year and to train at one of the top centres abroad. I figure the total amount would range between RM300,000 and RM350,000 per year.

YOU PLAN TO RAISE FUNDS THROUGH CROWDFUNDING. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

It was suggested to me by the Lawn Tennis Association of Malaysia. The folks at Ata Plus, a local online crowdfunding platform, is helping me out with this. Normally, they do this for entrepreneurs but the concept can be applied to sports too, so we are giving it a try.

WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE FOR POTENTIAL DONORS?

I will make you proud one day when I become the first Malaysian tennis player to compete and win at the World ATP Grand Slam tournaments.

With your support and sponsorship, I am confident I can achieve this within the next 10 years. Thank you for helping to make it possible for me to pursue my dreams.

Sunday
Jun252017

Woman of many talents

BEING a celebrity certainly has its perks. You get to appear on TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. Emceeing gigs offer good cash flow. And everyone wants you to be at their glitzy events. But fame can be fickle. So what do you do in the long run?

That’s a question every celebrity faces. Many seem to like to try their hand at public relations. Perhaps being familiar with the media, they feel this is a logical area to go into.

Singapore-born Jojo Struys who’s made Malaysia her home, could have gone into PR but decided instead to make full use of her TV experience and personal interest in wellness to start new ventures. She talks to Savvy about how she ended up in Malaysia, how she co-founded her TV production company, and her ventures in the wellness industry.

YOU’RE ORIGINALLY FROM SINGAPORE AND LOOK ASIAN BUT HAVE A EUROPEAN-SOUNDING SURNAME. WHAT’S YOUR ETHNIC BACKGROUND?

Both my parents are Eurasian. My mum is half Chinese-half Scottish and my dad has a Dutch, Asian and French background.

HOW DID YOU END UP IN MALAYSIA?

I had just graduated with a business degree from Curtin University in Australia and decided to do some travelling. When I was passing through Malaysia, I attended a casting for a cameo role in the sitcom, Kopitiam. I thought I could do this to earn some pocket money but I ended up getting a major role in the series. One thing led to another and I stayed on and eventually I started calling Malaysia “home”.

YOU’VE DONE A LOT OF THINGS IN SHOW BUSINESS. SUMMARISE YOUR CAREER THUS FAR

I started off with modelling and acting in Singapore, then did some acting, TV hosting and radio hosting in Malaysia. My experience in writing and producing eventually led to the founding of my own production house, Kyanite TV, with my husband, Michael. I also have a wellness business.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO GO INTO BUSINESS AND WHAT’S THE SECRET TO YOUR SUCCESS?

I knew from the start that modelling and acting were short-term. As a business degree holder, I always assumed I would start my own business. So after I gained some industry experience, I decided to form my own production house. Doing the necessary research and preparation before embarking on a business venture is important. We wanted to produce high quality programmes so we spent years learning about the content game, travelling to content and media trade fairs all over the world: France, the US, UK, UAE, you name it.

HOW’S KYANITE TV COMING ALONG?

We started small. In the beginning, Michael and I did almost everything ourselves, from writing and client servicing to producing and directing. And where appropriate, I would host the shows. We were a real start-up but we’ve come a long way since.

These days, we do work for Mediacorp Singapore, Astro, Go Asean etc. We’ve done cooking shows for the Asian Food Channel and reality programmes like Miss Universe Malaysia. We have also ventured into documentaries for international distribution. We recently did a high-end documentary series called Frontier Borneo for Discovery Channel Asia/Animal Planet. It’s the largest co-production deal between Malaysia and Singapore, slated for global distribution.

ANY NEW AREAS KYANITE TV WILL BE VENTURING INTO?

With the world going more digital, we’re developing more content for online consumption. We have started venturing into Virtual Reality as well. Our partner for this is an expert in VR. He even has a column on VR trends in Forbes Asia.

HOW BIG IS YOUR STAFF?

We used to have 45 people when we were also handling animation but we have since scaled down because we’re focusing on live action programmes again. We don’t need a big team for this because when we shoot documentaries or travel shows, we hire specialists and some of them are not even based in Malaysia. So we hire the right team of people for every project.

IT’S OBVIOUS YOU LOVE THE CREATIVITY ASPECT OF BUSINESS BUT WHAT ASPECTS OF BUSINESS DO YOU DISLIKE?

I like the creativity and brainstorming sessions and the excitement of coming up with new ideas but I do not enjoy the administrative aspects of running a business because it can really kill my creativity. So, I’ve pulled back a bit on that and am now spending more time on my wellness endeavours.

DO YOU PRODUCE THE WELLNESS CONTENT YOURSELF?

I generate all the content myself. I research, write, produce and host the content. I’m also about to start shooting online how-to videos so that people can learn yoga and health tips wherever they are.

DO YOU STILL DO PERSONAL APPEARANCES AND HOSTING?

I still make appearances and host events, although what I prefer to be doing most is teaching people something. For example, when I taught yoga to 50 women in Sephora Malaysia for International Women’s Day, that was such a blast!

WHAT KIND OF CORPORATE WELLNESS WORKSHOPS DO YOU DO BESIDES YOGA?

I teach workshops in breathing techniques to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as classes in movement meditation. As a HRDF accredited corporate trainer, I also hold workshops and management retreats for various multi-national companies on stress management, communication skills and employee motivation. A happier workforce is a more productive one.

DO YOU ONLY TEACH CORPORATE WELLNESS CLASSES?

No, I like teaching to members of the public too and I’ve just started my own yoga studio for that. It’s something I’m very excited about. I find it very fulfilling.

DO YOU SPEND A LOT OF TIME ONLINE?

Well, if I don’t need to be online, I won’t even open my laptop. But there are times when I spend the whole day in my bedroom researching workshops and training sessions. I also like to watch videos online especially Ted Talks on topics I’m interested in. When I’m writing an article,

I can literally spend hours researching the topic I’m writing about. So, there’s a time and place for technology. It’s important to strike a balance. If I’m not researching online, you’ll find me out and about, enjoying nature.

ANY WELLNESS TIPS FOR US?

Try waking up earlier in the morning —I get up at 5am — so that you don’t feel so rushed. Also, don’t check your mobile phone the moment you get up because it drains willpower, which is at its strongest when you rise. When you wake up, it’s the perfect time to do a bit of exercise, engage in creative thinking or meditate — whatever it takes to get you into the right state of mind to start your day.

Sunday
Jun182017

Out of the box, from the start

IN this country, we have many businessmen who are very conservative and run their businesses the well-worn, traditional way. Hey, if it ain’t broke, why fix it, right? But we also have a handful who try to do things a little bit differently. Very few are truly out-of-the-box thinkers though.

But Lee Earn Pin is one of them. He started doing business even before he graduated with a degree in engineering. In his second year at university, he founded a web design company and upon graduation, started a web-hosting business.

“This might sound strange but I have never worked for anyone in my life before nor have I ever attended a job interview,” Lee said. “It wasn’t so much that I aspired to be an entrepreneur. It was just that it came down to two choices: work for someone or work for yourself. It was pretty normal for graduates to work for someone in order to gain some experience but I was influenced by my dad, who drilled into me the notion that starting your own business is the way to go.”

Lee talks to Savvy about his unorthodox approach to doing business and his unique outlook on life, in general.

YOU HAVE A FEW DIFFERENT VENTURES GOING ON. WHAT’S YOUR MAIN BUSINESS TODAY?

It’s Evisa Asia, an online visa application service. Many people don’t know what they need to do in order to successfully apply for a visa to visit another country. Each country has its own requirements regarding the issuance of visa. That’s where Evisa Asia comes in. Whether you’re uncertain or unfamiliar with applying for the first time, you can sit back, relax and let us do all the work. We know the tips and tricks required, the actual time for your visa to be ready and we keep track of any changes made to the requirement.

HOW DID THIS IDEA COME TO YOU?

It all started in 2006 when one of my companies won the project to build Cambodia’s electronic visa system. The project made us aware of the complications involved in applying for visas. Five years later, we were able to provide solutions to 11 neighbouring countries. By last year, we managed to expand our e-visa service to 60 Asian countries.

WHAT WERE THE MAIN CHALLENGES OF BUILDING THIS BUSINESS?

Our tagline is “Apply for a travel visa like you have done it a hundred times before”. Well, we have literally done it hundreds of times before so we are familiar with all the different requirements and processes involved in getting visas for the 60 different Asian countries we cover. We have done it hundreds of times so you don’t have to.

YOU RUN YOUR BUSINESS IN AN UNORTHODOX WAY. CAN YOU SHARE SOME EXAMPLES?

I believe that someone becomes your customer not because of how beautiful your name card is but because of the value you can deliver through your service or product. So, I don’t bother with fancy name cards. Mine is very simple. It’s the same with my company logo, invoice, etc. I choose to focus on giving good value to my customer.

Another principle I observe is to not micro-manage or over-monitor my staff. If you’ve hired good people, trust them to do their jobs. Don’t waste your time sweating over how much sick leave they take, etc. If they need time off trust that there is a good reason for it. If you can’t trust your staff, you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR OUT-OF-THE-BOX WORK IDEAS FROM?

I observe a lot and then I ask the “why” questions. Why are things done this way? Is there a better way to do it? If you try to find answers to these questions, you will end up with a box full of new ideas.

WHAT WERE YOUR THREE BEST IDEAS FOR THE WORKPLACE THAT WORKED OUT BEAUTIFULLY?

Firstly, the decision to limit the work week to just four days. Secondly, to allow everyone to work remotely — from home, at coffee shops, wherever. And lastly, to stop tracking the leave taken by staff. Like I said, if they need time off, it must be for a good reason.

WHAT ABOUT IDEAS THAT DIDN’T WORK OUT SO WELL?

I can’t think of any really big mistakes but those things that didn’t work out well serve as lessons that I can learn from.

STEVE JOBS OR BILL GATES?

Steve Jobs. I am a Mac man.

WHICH ENTREPRENEUR DO YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FROM THE MOST?

There are two of them. Eve Van Dyck from Zangra.com (an online store selling old and new home accessories) and Michael Preysman from Everlane.com (an online clothing retailer).

BOTH ARE E-COMMERCE ENTREPRENEURS. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU’RE LOOKING INTO?

We are working on a new project to create a new buy and sell platform that covers products, as well as services. There’s nothing quite like it in the country right now. There are online platforms for selling products and online platforms for selling services but none that cover both products and services.

ANY BLUE SKY IDEAS THAT YOU HAVE IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND?

I hope someday to become a property developer so I can build and sell new concept homes to people. I know this is ambitious and perhaps it’s a long shot but we all have to have dreams.

WHAT’S THE COMMON THREAD IN ALL YOUR BUSINESSES, IF THERE IS ONE?

The ideas that I like to venture into are things that help make life simpler.

WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE TO SOMEONE WHO’S EMBARKing ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP?

Be prepared to change your lifestyle to something simpler so that you have more flexibility.

If you have a lot of overheads and commitments, it’s hard for you to be entrepreneurial because you have to worry about money all the time. It starts with you. You have to be willing to make that change in lifestyle.

WHAT’S YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS?

For many people, money is a good measurement of success and I must admit that it is a pretty good measurement.

It’s hard to say someone is not successful if he makes a lot of money. But to me, the real meaning of success is being able to do what I really like. If I can do that, I consider myself a success.

Sunday
Jun112017

Give value, build opportunities

THE magazine industry is facing tough times — and this is true all around the world. With the cost of printing increasing and traditional advertising shrinking, many publications are finding it difficult to make ends meet. Some have even closed down.

Mass communications graduate Nurlina Hussin understood this when she decided to venture into the world of magazine publishing. But to be commercially viable she needed a lower cost solution and for that, she decided to go digital.

A graduate of Curtin University, Nurlina did public relations and marketing in the corporate sector for 16 years before embarking on her own publishing venture in late 2015. She talks to Savvy about her fledgling publishing business, the challenges and opportunities it offers, and her publishing ambitions for the future.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO DO A WOMEN’S ENTREPRENEURIAL MAGAZINE?

I wanted to do a magazine that will inspire women to go into entrepreneurship, just as I have done. When I looked at women’s magazines, I saw there were a lot of lifestyle titles but none really focused on the business side of things. So, that’s what InspiraC (www.inspirac.net) is all about. It has lifestyle elements to it but at its core, is about entrepreneurship.

WHAT’S YOUR TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC?

InspiraC is targeted at women between the ages of 18 and 45, and is available in both English and Bahasa Malaysia to have the widest reach.

HOW DID YOU FUND THIS ENDEAVOUR?

My husband, Rashid, and I self-funded it at first but we now also have one investor who believes in us.

DID YOU DO A LOT OF RESEARCH BEFORE THE LAUNCH?

Yes, we did. We know publishing is a tough industry to be in. Advertising is hard to come by and we knew it would be a huge challenge. But we’re not just selling advertising space. We are doing content marketing where we help companies tell stories that our readers will enjoy and find useful. So, our business model is a little bit different.

DO YOU UTILISE SOCIAL MEDIA A LOT?

Yes, we’re on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. Social media is important as it provides brand awareness. We use social media heavily for promotional purposes. It’s quite challenging coming up with daily content for this but it’s necessary. You really can’t do without social media these days.

YOUR SECOND PUBLICATION, FRX VIEW IS A BIGGER VENTURE? HOW SO?

There are more investors involved. Last November, we were approached by some investors to start a magazine on the topic of foreign exchange and we were actually made directors of the new entity called FRX Media.

Like InspiraC, it’s available in both English and Bahasa Malaysia and can be viewed online or downloaded. We have big plans for venture and in time it will grow to cover more than just foreign exchange but will deal with investment in general.

WHO DOES THE WRITING FOR YOUR MAGAZINES?

At the moment it’s still just us doing it. I do the writing in English and Rashid will help to translate into Bahasa Malaysia. Rashid is also the one who takes photos. So we really do the magazines ourselves, from A to Z — including the sales and marketing. But we do outsource some work, namely design and IT infrastructure.

HAVE YOU GOT A THIRD TITLE IN THE WORKS?

Yes, very soon we’ll be signing an agreement with a new publishing company to come up with another magazine title. We can’t disclose much yet but I can say it will involve the topic of innovation.

WITH SUCH GROWTH, WON’T YOU HAVE TO EXPAND YOUR TEAM?

Yes, for sure we need to get more people involved — contributors, freelance writers and more marketers. We can’t go on with just the two of us handling everything. So, we’ll be taking on more people. We have engaged a strategic adviser to help us on how to move forward with this.

IS THE REVENUE FOR YOUR COMPANY PURELY RELIANT ON ADVERTISING?

No. Advertising revenue is there but it’s not enough. So we do take on some outsourcing work. The great thing about our digital magazines is that they also act as a showcase of our abilities in terms of developing content for publication. People are amazed that we’re able to do this in two languages.

Recently we did a project for Usahanita (Persatuan Usahawan Wanita Bumiputra Malaysia) producing a publication for them. So, these kinds of things help to generate income.

DO YOU SEE YOURSELF CONTINUING TO DO OUTSOURCING WORK EVEN AS YOUR RANGE OF TITLES EXPANDS?

Publishing is a tough business and we won’t say”no” to any revenue-generating opportunities, including outsourcing work. Of course our passion is in publishing our own titles so that is going to be our focus. Perhaps once we’re more established, we can set up a special division to just focus on doing outsourcing work while we — Rashid and I — focus on our publishing projects.

WHAT’S YOUR LONG-TERM ASPIRATION?

I really want to grow this business and in five years’ time I want us to become a well-established media house like Karangkraf, but with a focus on digital.

SPEAKING OF DIGITAL, DO YOU PLAN TO OFFER MULTIMEDIA CONTENT?

Yes. Right now our content is static but we have plans to incorporate video streaming. We’re very open to multimedia opportunities. The basic idea is to translate content into something that’s very visual, which is what today’s audience wants.

WHAT IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN BUSINESS?

I’d say that building relationships is important — relationships with everyone you deal with, including people you interview, advertisers and sponsors. We try to give them value and build opportunities for them.

HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR NEW JOB COMPARED TO YOUR OLD ONES?

I was in the corporate world for 16 years and towards the end, I was really burnt out. But what I’m doing now doesn’t feel like a job at all. Recently, we attended a gala dinner in Genting which we covered for the magazine. We just came back from Terengganu where we covered an event in Perhentian. These days, there’s no difference between weekends and weekdays for us. We’re constantly working but it doesn’t feel like a job. We enjoy what we’re doing and it’s very fulfilling.

Sunday
Jun042017

Hooked on Malaysia

MALAYSIANS love to go on holidays abroad. Just visit any Matta Fair and you’ll see just how crazy Malaysians are about travelling. But how many of us have actually explored our own country?

It’s ironic that foreign visitors on a relatively short vacation here probably visit more Malaysian towns and states than we ever will in our entire lifetime. One foreigner who has definitely visited more of Malaysia than most Malaysians is Walter Yurt, a former business banker-turned-English teacher who has already written two books about his travels in this country and the region.

He’s working on his third book and is trying his hand at writing a Malaysian-based play as well.

It was in 2008 when Yurt first came to the country after getting retrenched from his banking job. Asia was an intriguing place he’d never been to so when a friend recommended a teaching job at an international school here, he jumped at the chance.

“When I left American airspace to fly to KL, it was the first time I’d ever left North America,” he recalls. “It was a great leap of faith on my part and a lot of people who knew me thought I was crazy, but I’ve never looked back or regretted moving here.”

Yurt talks to Savvy about why he loves this country so much, and about his writing exploits.

WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF MALAYSIA?

In two words, green and new! When I left Kentucky, it was the dead of winter so all I remember in the car driving from KLIA was how green everything was, and later, as we were driving past Putrajaya, how almost everything seemed so new.

WHAT SURPRISED YOU THE MOST?

Within weeks of being in KL, I got to celebrate New Year’s, Thaipusam and Chinese New Year. The diversity of cultures was literally like nothing I’d ever experienced before in my life.

YOU’VE MADE A POINT TO VISIT MANY PLACES IN MALAYSIA, AS WELL AS THE REGION. WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO DO THAT?

I always like to blame my parents for instilling in me the love of travel. They took the family to almost every state in America and to Canada and Mexico as well.

When I was a kid, they gave me an encyclopaedia set which got me dreaming of one day seeing all of these exotic places. I can’t imagine living 16,000km away from home without trying to experience every possible place that time and money allow. And the great thing is, even after 8 ½ years here, I still have so many places to see both inside and outside Malaysia.

WHAT GAVE YOU THE IDEA TO WRITE BOOKS ABOUT YOUR TRAVELS?

I was so enamoured with Malaysia and Southeast Asia when I moved here that I’d spend most evenings writing e-mails back to my family and friends in America, telling them about all the things I’d done. And I do mean everything. Several of my friends would forward my e-mails to their friends, and one of them, a retired English professor, suggested that I turn my writings into a book.

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR BOOKS?

The first one, Finding Myself, is totally dedicated to my travels and adventures within Malaysia. Included are chapters not just about my travels, but also the people and families I’d met along the way.

Finding Myself is in the process of being translated into Bahasa Malaysia by a group of wonderful young women at Universiti Sains Malaysia. The manuscript should be finished by the end of the year. My second book, Finding My World, expands on the first book, focusing more on the other nations around Malaysia.

WHAT’S YOUR THIRD BOOK GOING TO BE ABOUT?

My third book will be more of the same as my first two books, but will also go off in a bit of a different direction. The opening section will be more of an essay, which I’m tentatively calling Knocking The Chip Off Malaysia’s Shoulder.

It’s my way of telling my readers to focus on all the good that Malaysia has to offer and not to dwell on the negative.

I know through my experiences that the best way to overcome adversity is to focus on the good things in life and in doing so the bad things will seem much easier to handle and become less significant.

WHERE DO YOU DO MOST OF YOUR WRITING?

It’s funny but I rarely write at home; too many distractions, like the television, books I’ve yet to read and even the refrigerator. I like being out in a crowd to do my writing. In particular, I have an affinity for writing in Starbucks. With all the noise and people around me, it gets my adrenaline and creative juices flowing.

WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY TOWARDS WRITING?

The first thing I want any writing of mine to be is easy to read. I strive for easy-to-understand language that will ensure that my reader is easily transported to the place I’m writing about. I think that if I can convey just a bit of the absolute joy that I experience living in this part of the world to others who live here and to those back in the West, then I’ve done my job as a writer.

YOU’VE STARTED WORK ON WRITING A PLAY. WHY WRITE A PLAY AND WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

I like new challenges and writing my first play is certainly that. This Place Of Ours is the story of an American and an overseas-educated Malay driving from KL to Alor Star to spend Hari Raya with the Malay character’s family. The dialogue contrasts their two differing views on life in Malaysia and our globalised world.

BASED ON YOUR OBSERVATIONS AS A TEACHER AND AN EXPAT WHO GREW UP ABROAD, WHAT CAN MALAYSIAN PARENTS DO TO MAKE THEIR CHILDREN MORE CREATIVE?

Malaysian parents really need to move away from the emphasis on rote memory type of education and instead focus on each child’s unique talents. If a child loves art, point him in that direction. If a child loves business, point her in that direction. If a child’s education is more tied to what they love to do, as they grow older they’ll have careers based upon what they are passionate about and in the long run they’ll become more productive citizens, to the betterment of their lives and to the nation.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS COUNTRY THAT MAKES YOU WANT TO BE HERE?

I love so many things about Malaysia: the food, the weather, the endless natural beauty, the amazing business climate and the fast pace of change that’s taking place here.

I enjoy telling my friends back in the States just how different and wonderful living here is. That’s why I love writing about Malaysia as much as I do. There’s not another country in close proximity to Malaysia that can offer me the overall quality of life that Malaysia gives me. I love travelling throughout Southeast Asia, but no matter where I go on my travels, I’m always glad to get home to Kuala Lumpur.

HOW LONG DO YOU THINK YOU’LL STAY IN MALAYSIA?

People ask me that question all time, both my friends here in Malaysia and my friends back in the States. I always give everyone the same answer: I’ll stay in Malaysia as long as I love living here as much as I do now.

When that changes, then I’ll know that it’s time to move on. One of the greatest things about my life here is not knowing if that time will ever come.