14 July 2007

My First Book

My first book was an ABC book of English with phrases like "A is for Apple"; "B is for Boy"; and "C is for Cat".

But here I am not talking about the first book I read. Some of you may know that I have been writing a children's book. Its title is quite a mouthful - "Horse-powered & Man-powered Transport: a philatelic excursion." (More about the contents of the book in a later post.) It is my maiden book and it has just been published. I am now officially an author. Yeah!

Actually, I really should not be claiming all the credit because the book has 2 other very distinguished co-authors - Dr Tan Wee Kiat and Noel. Dr Tan (not to be mistaken with his namesake who is the CEO of National Parks Board) is a stamp enthusiast, a veteran author and a retired NIE lecturer, all rolled into one. Of course, he is a very good husband, father, grandfather and babysitter to his grandchildren as well. He has written several children's books based on stamps. As for Noel, I think I better let him introduce himself since I do not know enough of him to do him justice.

I have never imagined in my life that I would write a book, least of all when I am over 50 years' old. So how did it all start and what motivated me to do it?

It started on 25 Nov 2006, the day when Chun See gave a talk on blogging for seniors. When the talk ended, Wee Kiat, who also attended the talk, approached me and broached the subject of co-authoring a children's book with him. Frankly, I felt both honoured as well as apprehensive at the same time.

I asked Wee Kiat, "I feel very honoured but I have never written a book before. Do you think that I am up to the mark?"

The grandfatherly Wee Kiat was very reassuring, "I've read your blog before and you write quite well. Moreover, I heard you mentioning that you wanted to blog about the trolley bus of yesteryear. So why not write a book instead? I can search for all the relevant stamps to be used as illustrations. I would like my books to have a new perspective. A blogger's perspective would be nice. Then the books will not always have my same old style and angle which can become kind of stale after a while. Besides stamps, we can include photos as illustrations as well."

Wee Kiat further explained that when writing a children's book, we should keep our language simple. We should also include lots of colourful illustrations to keep the book interesting. Children have short attention spans and if the first few pages of the book cannot hold their attention, they would not read on.

Writing a children's book is just like writing a blog post. Some of Wee Kiat's previous books have only about 20 odd pages with each page containing only 2 or 3 sentences. A few of my longer blog posts could possibly have more words than some of his books.

Yet, I was still not very sure so I asked, "Is it a lot of work?"

Wee Kiat replied, "Sure it is a lot of work. But then, it is also a lot of fun."

Wee Kiat's motive in writing children's books is to share knowledge and not to make money. In fact, he told me that he had to "come out money from his own pocket" for most of his previous books. Not because there were no sponsors for his books, but it was mainly because he gave a lot of complimentary copies to his friends, relatives, ex-colleagues, libraries and other organisations. Shucks, and I thought I could become rich and famous. Now, I can only hope to be famous.

Wee Kiat taught education psychology when he was in NIE. No wonder he is so good at convincing people. He finally talked me into living up to the title of my blog, i.e. Taking Up The Challenge. So it was not so much "what" motivated me to write the book but rather, "who" - Wee Kiat, of course. I cautioned him that I have a lot to learn and he would need to be very patient with me.

(As the famous Cantonese storyteller, the late Lei Dai Soh would say, "So what happened then? Tune in at the same time, on the same day, on the same station blogsite." Heh.)


Unknown said...

Congrats to Victor, Wee Kiat and Noel for launching this book. I am sure that it will unveil many warm memories about transportation way back in the past to the present.

Like you, I have always admired what Wee Kiat has done about putting in personal time, effort and finances to fulfill a dream. I will certainly be doing that sometime in the future, when I have enough knowledge, wisdom and material to write my own.

Victor said...

Walter - Thank you. I am very sure you already have the "knowledge, wisdom and material" to be an author. What you probably lack now are time and energy. Anyone who reads your blog can tell that your articles, especially the marketing ones, are very expert opinions indeed. And you're also an expert on butterflies, birds and the bees, and the like.

I understand that taking care of young Ethan is very tiring. But it is all worth the while. (By that, I mean loving and caring for Ethan and not writing books, although the latter is fulfilling too, in another way). You are really being too humble because the reality is that you are more than qualified to write a book now. And not only for children but also for future entrepreneurs which our country lacks so much currently.

So don't wait till you are over 50, my dear Watson, I mean, Walter. I am looking forward to read your book real soon.

Lam Chun See said...

Congratulations. But you haven't been reading Walter's articles closely have you. How can you talk about the book and not let people know how and where to purchase it?

So pls send me a picture file and the url with info of how/where to purchase and I will do some advertising on my blog like I did for Derek Tait and Wee Kiat's book on monuments.

Lam Chun See said...

Actually, speaking as an 'older person', I must say the term 'children's book' is a bit misleading.

I have read Wee Kiat's books on Jack and the Carnivorous Pitcher Plant and Singapore's Monuments & Landmarks, and have found that the style is very suitable for older people whose attention span can sometimes be quite short too. For example, I found his explanation of the various types of pitcher plants found in Spore very easy to understand, as well as the difference between upper and lower pitchers (my son has explained to me several times, but I never quite got it before)

I look forward to reading this next book.

pinto said...

Hey Victor, Wee Kiat and Noel,

Congratulations on your new book. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Maybe one day we'll have a Transport Museum to accompany the book. You never know who it might inspire!

Anonymous said...

congrats to GD! and salutes to Dr Wee kiat for this,

Wee Kiat's motive in writing children's books is to share knowledge and not to make money. In fact, he told me that he had to "come out money from his own pocket" for most of his previous books.

i DONT WANT a signed copy GD, i want to buy one MYSELF *ROARS*

Victor said...

Thanks for all your congratulatory messages and encouraging comments, my friends.

Chun See - We printed only 2,000 copies. I think you will not see the book on sale in bookshops. However the libraries should have some copies. Those who would like to buy the book can probably get one at the Singapore Philatelic Museum (SPM) in Coleman Street. (I just delivered 100 copies there yesterday.) SPM possibly hasn't even priced it yet. And yes, adults are welcome to read the book too - they probably can finish reading the book at "one toilet sitting", heh.

Pinto - Hmm... good idea. Maybe NHB should consider setting up a transport museum?

Etel - I already got one signed and ready to be hand-delivered to you. Don't worry, I didn't "come out any money" for it as it was part of my wages (50 free copies) for my part in writing the book. Hmm... now how am I going to find another 49 people to give the book to? :P

Sivasothi said...

Congratulations Victor! ANd Noel and the indefatigable Wee Kiat!

Unknown said...

Thanks for your encouragement Victor. You know, I find that one of the most enriching things about starting yesterday.sg and forming our group of friends is the learning, mentorship and life learnings that I experience just by reading your blogs, listening to your stories and your tales. I have learnt a lot more and certainly that life is more than just chasing after the 5 Cs.

Let me know once the book is out and I will be more than happy to publicise it through whatever channels available. And I will tell my friends about it too. ;)

Ivan Chew said...

Steady Lah!!! Congrats guys. I've not read the book but it sounds exciting. Victor -- give us a plug at High Browse Online!

Victor said...

Siva - Thank you. That indefatigable man is obviously very passionate too.

Walter - I should thank FOYers and Wee Kiat for giving me an opportunity too. I too have learnt a lot from you guys in the last year or so. Thanks for the offer to publicise the book for us but we may not need your marketing expertise this time. Not because we expected the book to sell well but rather, we printed only 2,000 copies. Limited edition, heh.

Victor said...

Ivan - Thank you. I will give you a plug if you could show me the ropes. ;)

Don't know how to lah. Can give me step-by-step instructions? :P

stay-at-home mum said...

Congrats to all on the launch of the book. Hope you are motivated to go on to write many more books!

Victor said...

Thank you for the very encouraging words, SAHM. Hmm... that sounds like an acronym for, erm... the Singapore Archives and Heritage Museum, doesnt it? :)

Anonymous said...

Writing a book requires much more than writing a blog post. It takes a lot of care, effort and patience and you cannot make changes any time you like once it is published.

Congratulations Victor!

Victor said...

Thanks Frannxis. What you said is so true. A few more differences:

1. For a book you don't usually get instant feedback from your readers, unlike a blog post;

2. Blog readers don't have to buy or borrow the book, i.e. not much cost involved;

3. Blog readers can't sell unwanted pages to the kacang puteh man.

Crazyaboutsports said...

Congrats Victor, Wee Kiat and Noel! Really admire your dedication and passion. You guys rock man!

Victor said...

Thanks Wei Chong. This is the first time someone says that I rock. (I know Chun See already got one rock. That makes us even. Haha.)

Anonymous said...

Congras! Congras! Can't wait to see the new book.

Victor said...

Laokokok - Thank you. Thank you. You probably can see the book in the libraries very soon.

I was wondering why you are not one of us FOYers. Come join us lah. (You can keep your batman mask on during FOYers' meetings. Haha.)