For more than seven years now, Gina Yap Lai Yoong has been a mentor of sorts for local writers who intend to get published.
But she is not your ordinary writing coach and depending on your commitment to your craft, she can be a miraculous guiding angel or a badgering nightmare.
She is known to go to great lengths to help her mentees, taking on roles as counselor, organiser and even babysitter to solve problems at hand.
“I’ve had people ignore my calls, switch off their phone and avoid me for months but I don’t let them back out so easily.
“I will do my best to track them down and will wait up to three months. But even if after that they return and ask for help, I will not shun them,” Gina tells Eksentrika.
Each November, Gina announces her mentorship offer and then picks out 10 earnest and willing authors to take under her wing.
Over the years, those who have approached her range from aspiring 12-year-olds to more famous names in the literary circle.
Some have sworn her to secrecy and Gina says she does not mind helping people anonymously.
Remarkably, she also does not charge a single sen.
“All I ask for in return is absolute commitment, two hours monthly, for a year.”
There is good reason for not accepting financial exchange for her time and efforts. It is to prevent the mentorship from being struck off midway by a sudden refusal to pay.
There were people who wanted to compensate her with money but she had refused in order to protect the sanctity of the mentorship.
“It’s not that I can do without, I am self-employed afterall but at the end of the day, it gives me immense personal satisfaction to see my mentees achieve their goals.”
The author of six books to date, published in both Malay and English, says she is also learning by helping other writers.
“When someone asks me how I manage with my own writing and publishing, it forces me to self reflect and analyse the methods that I can share.”
She however emphasises that her focus is not on the technicalities of language or grammar.
“What I have to offer is nothing to do with skills, only heart.
“I can find solutions to help your writing habits and discipline,” she says.
Gina is among the fortunate ones, who have never experienced the dreaded writer’s block.
“I think it’s because I don’t have any expectations when I write.”
Her first attempt at writing turned into a debut novel “Eksperimen Cinta” that was published in 2010 under the pseudonym Geena Edora.
The publisher then didn’t use her real name because they were afraid it would affect marketing.
However, Gina has the last laugh now that she has published bestseĺlers with her full name on the cover in the form of Malay crime thriller trilogy, Ngeri, Mangsa and Obsesi.
As she is constantly sought for and often has to repeat her advice and tips on writing and publishing books, Gina decided to document her experience in a “A Writer’s Journey”, published in March this year.
The 30-year-old has also been elected president of the MYWriters Society, an umbrella body to represent local writers, both upcoming and established, in all categories and languages.
Currently, the 30-year-old is working on Songs and Stories, a colaborative project with musician Juwita Suwito, to gather and tell Malaysia’s unique and diverse anecdotes from the kampungs to the cities.
Gina is a communications expert with abilities in writing, translating and even graphic designing. You can reach her on her website or Facebook page. Her books can be purchased at most bookstores or online.
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