Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chapter 10 : Proposed Project Timeline

Writing & Publishing :

No. Task Date Due (09)

1 1st briefing for volunteer writers 10 Jan
2 Submission of 1st draft, drafts are returned if more info is needed 28 Feb
3 Collection of 2nd drafts, additional writing, photographs/visuals Apr
4 Drafts returned to writers for sign-off & de-brief sess May
5 Final editing, proof-reading, design & layout Jun
6 Printing Aug

Marketing :

No. Task Date Due (09)

1 1st team meeting 25 Dec 08
2 Submission of marketing proposal 5 Jan
3 Approval by MWH mgt committee Jan
4 Approach all Malay MPs, supporters of MWH for initial support - media coverage Feb/Mar
5 Develop project website Feb/Mar
6 Approach corporations, individuals for sponsorship Ongoing
7 Signing of MOU (corporations, individuals) - media coverage Jun

Events mgt :

No. Task Date Due (09)

1 Ist team meeting 10 Jan
2 Outreach to public during MWH charity event Mar
3 Create awareness through mailers, posters, exhibitions, blogs, facebook Aug
4 Book launch - media coverage Aug
5 Book reviews/talks Aug - Dec
6 Gala dinner/charity auction - media coverage Oct/Nov
7 Outreach to schools/community-based org/public Ongoing

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Chapter 9 : Pointers for volunteer writers

We are delighted to have Jamie Koh and Stephanie Ho from the History Workroom, to work with Nisa to oversee the publication of the book. I have shared with you about our wonderful encounter with them earlier in Chapter 5. You can go to if you want to know more about these 2 warm, enthusiastic and committed ladies and their extensive work.

Here are their pointers for our volunteer writers before they embark on their writing journey for the book:

Writing the lives of other through;

- a life story through anecdote, incident, interview and description

- story of particular turning points in the person's life
  • Interview

Interviews are one of the best ways to gather information when writing the stories of another person.

- Be well prepared. Find out as much information about your interviewee as possible before interviewing him/her.

-Prepare a list of questions, but be open-minded and flexible - you do not need to ask all the questions, answers to which may crop up when the interviewee is answering another question. The question should act as guiding and/or clarification points.

- Do not interrogate your interviewee. Treat the interview like a chit-chat session.

- Do not dominate the session. Let your interviewee talk. Guide the conversation back using your question-list if it is getting way off the mark.

- Do not expect to get all your information in one sitting. You may need to conduct 2 or 3 sessions with the interviewees. Each session should not last more than 1.5 hours.

- To help your interviewee remember, you may want to encourage his/her to look through old photographs, journals, letters, emails, school documents, reports, etc before the interview. You can also encourage your interviewee to bring some of those items to the interview. They may be more comfortable talking with some items in hand.

Some questions to ask if you are stuck:

1. What has been the biggest challenge in your life? How did you overcome it?

2. What are the challenges do you face today?

3. Who are the important people in your life?

4. What are your saddest moment? What was your happiest moment?

5. What are your aims in life?

6. What is the greatest achievement in your life?

7. What experiences have been important in shaping the kind of person you are today? How has your stay at MWH affected your life?

8. What are your talents? What are your weaknesses?

9. What is the funniest moment you remember?

10.What is the most embarassing moment you remember?

  • Description

Details will greatly enhance your story. Description may be of the person's appearance, emotions, behaviour or quirks. You may also add descriptions of the environment. But use descriptions sparingly: do not spend half a page describing the clothes your interviewee is wearing or how s/he is fidgeting all the time. Pace your descriptions, where necessary, throughout the story.

  • Anecdote & Incident

Anecdotes and incidents are good platforms to: start your story and show the personality of the interviewee. This information may come from your interviewee during the interview. It could also come from chatting with other people who know/have contact with the interviewee.

  • Context

Another way of enhancing your story is contextualise. Talk to other people who may know the interviewee. In this case, you may want to talk to MWH staff and friends who know the interviewee to find out their impressions of the interviewee at different points in his/her life.

You can also contextualise by setting your story against a background. Highlight the significant contexts. For example, if you are writing a story on John Lennon in the late 1960s and 1970s, you can contextualise it on the socio-political situation in the US (where he spent most of his time then) - government suspicious of left-wing activities, anti-Vietnam protests, etc.

General writing guidelines

1. Show, do not tell (especially emotions)

2. Details

3. Story

4. Chronology - not!

5. Try to write as simply and clearly as you can


In your story, check with your interviewees how comfortable they are with using their real names. If there are any doubts, use pseudonyms for your interviewee and the people they may refer to.


Ask your interviewees if they are comfortable with providing photographs for their stories. The photographs do not have to be of their faces. It could be of a significant item or place. Alternatively, the interviewees may also draw or write poems/raps, etc.

I hope that the workshop held on 10 Jan 09 has provided an insightful experience for all. I specially thank the following individuals for taking time off to conduct/attend the session:

1. Jaime

2. Stephanie

3. Nisa

4. Rahim

5. Ruhainah

6. Kamaludeen

7. Juniper

8. Sharon

9. Peng Yen & son

10. Dora

11. Elaine

12. Renee

13. Akhtaar

I also wish to thank Juniper for his kind generosity - he distributed a copy of his self-published book titled 'My Students and I : A collection of warm stories' to everyone, including those who were unable to attend the workshop. Juniper has been a strong, dedicated yet humble volunteer of MWH for about 5 years. Juniper is known for his caring and kind-hearted gestures and I will never forget the 'epok-epok' or curry-puffs he brought for us each time he and his Ngee Ann Polytechnic students conducted their regular motivational talks to the residents of the Home. He is also among the first few volunteers I approached for advice on this project before it took off.

May God bless your thoughtful deeds, Juniper!