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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Saturday 27 June 2009

Beverley Raw's Telling Tales, courtesy of UKUnpublished

by Suzan Abrams

Should I say that self-publisher David Buttle's vision is a cool one? As cool as frosted ice on a cream cake? I'd be lying if I didn't.

At first, it just sounded too good to be true. Buttle who opened UK Unpublished for writers who wanted to see their work in print on a low string budget - and he explains how this miracle is possible on his well-laid out website - said he sourced his ideas all of 2006 and 2007 before volunteering to help publish a writer's book for as low as say, £200 (the average estimate) and if you wanted a design cover he knew just the right person - but add on another £100 and well...the fee may hover a bit up and down the stakes but depending on the number of pages...and not a total sum that would invite disgruntlement.

In the meantime, Buttle would secure you an ISBN code for those necessary online & bookstore retailers/databases and the rest would be up to you...

Of course, if you were wise, you would have your manuscript seriously edited and proof-read beforehand...

Well, to-date Buttle has successfully catered for three authors - he published them in March/April 2009 and there's always room for more.

I decided to order Beverley Raw's 188-page paperback, Telling Tales from Waterstone's Dublin without ado. I haven't yet read her collection of short stories but excerpts from Telling Tales, The Looking Glass, Old Beaky, Rendezvous and Daddy's Little Camper don't disappoint. There is a free-spirited Woodstock tone about the lot...and I am reminded of a Lynne Reid Banks' classic; The L-Shaped Room.

Raw is an artist and jeweller, living in East Devon and clearly over the moon with her discovery of writing joys in later years.

Well...she has good reason to be proud. The book is so beautifully produced and with such an enticing cover that it quite took my breath away.

Buttle made the right decision in using Lightning Source, currently the UK's foremost Print-n-Demand expert; also a faithful companion to Salt Publishing and YouWriteOn.com

What a glossy neat finish to the cover, a tidy, pleasant template to the interior and overall, a sharp, snazzy look. Beverley Raw has herself a gorgeous paperback with Telling Tales if only she would go to town a little on her promotions.

Together with Lightning Source as his choice of printer, Buttle shows up a thoughtful sophisitcated result that would triumph over many mainstream publishers of traditional print in Malaysia and Singapore alone. In this vein, I'll exclude Silverfish Books Kuala Lumpur and Monsoon Books Singapore for a superb quality that currently shape their respective title lists.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

"The Gift", by Malaysia's debut novelist Zaipah Ibrahim, published in the States

by Suzan Abrams

A reliable Google search engine and a touch of common sense, tells me that with the exception of her family, friends, students and of course her publisher in the United States and online booksellers worldwide (do count Amazon Japan); few if anyone else in Malaysia currently know that one of their own; modest Malay writer and teacher, Zaipah Ibrahim from her homestate of Terengganu -Malaysia's luscious and scenic East Coast - recently published her first English Language novel, The Gift (ISBN: 9780979357770) with MuslimWritersPublishing in Arizona, America.

Ibrahim stands tall alongside other select international writers producing an eye-catching list of adult and childrens' titles that veer towards the philosophical and would in turn, create Islamic culture as a high point of intrigue for any curious observer.

Priced at £9.59 with Borders UK and $14.95 in the States and available at Barnes and Noble, the 292-page paperback, features a thoughtful if not heart-rending blurb, as easily reminiscent of MuslimWriterPublishing's head, Linda D. Delgado or otherwise affectionately known as Wihad's, poignant choices, as she aims to publish quality literature that heralds and celebrates Islam.

In this respect, Delgado says that she would soon break into other genres, including science fiction and crime for her submission lists.

Meanwhile, The Gift is described as a "love story set in exotic asian Malaysia.". It talks about a mother's last wish for her son, where in her feverish attempts at offering him a gift of a new life, the parent must bravely reopen buried wounds from an unresolved past.

As the novel's foremost thematic approach, The Gift - which represents an almost intangible object - would meander through timelines and lost episodes with the rush of a gushing brook. It would mark a mother's final handover to a son whose life can now be rebuilt where it was once torn from an ill-fated event. The Gift would then turn this young mother's face to her own parent, where through unfortunate circumstances, she had dismally failed to make her mother happy. The Gift would then once more serve as catalyst for the young woman and the dying mother's son to each triumph over their past, while fulfilling another mother's wish.

Zaipah Ibrahim, a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in the US, worked as an English lecturer from 1990 – 2001 at the Sultan Zainal Abidin Religious College, Malaysia. She presently owns and manages her own tutorial centre, writes books and teaches the English Language in Malaysia.

Before Ibrahim's manuscript was selected for publication in the States, the author had self-published two other educational children's books Islamic Word Games Books 1 & 2, which were designed to introduce "basic Islamic terminology in English".

From a fellow Malaysian writer in Dublin, Ireland, many congratulations if you read this, Zaipah.

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Sunday 14 June 2009

A Gem of a Find: The Singing Top: Tales from Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei by Margaret Read Macdonald

by Suzan Abrams

June 15: Look at the treasure I found, courtesy of accomplished American author Margaret Read Macdonald whose long list of works reflect sparkle, colour and fun! A secret chest too, I'll maintain and for good reason.

Several online booksellers in the UK, USA, and Australia including their respective libraries
have readily advertised and stocked the tempting 191-page book of tales (pictured), since it was first published by Libraries Unlimited in August 2008. Yet when I scoured the online web for two major Malaysian booksellers, the names of author, title and ISBN number all drew a blank.

As I skimmed quickly through Google, no Malaysian book blog seems to have mentioned it either with the exception of one as a tucked-away 'reading list' a few months ago. None popped up but then to be honest, this once robust scene has now dwindled to a trickle.

Still as a consolation, I doubt that Macdonald, the lively-spirited Fulbright scholar, children's librarian, author of over 55 print and audio folklore tales and the grand dame of storytelling would have noticed. Not when it sounds like she could be having herself a ball at this very moment, travelling the world. Studying the animated writer's illustrious portfolio on her cheerful website, nothing I write could possibly do her justice.

Dedication and pure passion spell the author's life work as she reads and acts the perfect role of raconteur at storytelling workshops, festivals, conferences and schools worldwide. Already, her calendar this year looks pretty full.

The Singing Top: Tales from Malaysia... is Macdonald's latest title. The writer who is expert in recording various ethnic folklore, sketches 15 Borneo tales in this anthology as part of a specialised World Folklore Series. Having a quick glance through the titles, it's easy to see that Macdonald has gathered all the right enriching fables that provide for an exotic and flamboyant Malaysian history - there are Malay legends and intriguing if not humorous stories of the sultanate as well as the wily, cunning mousedeer. Tales of orchards, princesses, curses and animals offer decorative plots for the rest of the fare. Accompanying novelties include colour photography, puzzles, games, proverbs and notes sketched alongside the tales. Having grown up with all these stories told us by teachers, friends and parents, while I was at school in Malaysia as a little girl, I can assure you there won't be a dull moment.

I will let you know more once I've read the book. I'm glad to see the title on Waterstone's database. I'll be along tomorrow to order it for sure, never mind that the hardback stands at the slightly steep price of £22. Already, it feels like a nostalgic heritage for me here in Dublin. I'll probably have a moment flicking through the beautiful tales and remembering my classmates long gone. But then I who never really stopped being the child, long for the excuse.

Photograph of Margaret Read Macdonald courtesy of MargaretReadMacdonald.com

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