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You’ve probably seen Charissa Ong Ty’s books in bookstores nationwide.
The 29-year-old is famous for her two best-selling titles Midnight Monologues and Daylight Dialogues. But she’s also the founder of Penwings Publishing, a publishing company she began in 2016.
Five years since the inception of her company, Charissa is back with a fourth title, Poetry and Short Stories: A Practice Book. It’s a useful practice book that helps you become a better writer and poet.
The practical guidebook on writing features exercises on identifying common mistakes in writing, daily writing challenges, lessons on deciding on themes and genres in writing, poetry prompts, and even a handy guide on crafting a cover letter for manuscript submissions.
I started blogging like everyone else in high school. Really enjoyed it and had a lot of fun making people close to me laugh at my life stories. Sometimes I’d draw comics but that was it. Writing or being an author was never on my mind at all!
I truly started falling in love with poetry when I was in college after a breakup with my first serious boyfriend. I was 22. I wanted to escape so I wrote a bunch of short stories in all types of genres every Saturday for a few months (they’re in Midnight Monologues) and used poetry as writing breaks.
I started to get a bit lazy because short stories take up quite a lot of commitment to do research so I began to write more poetry and found myself really enjoying the process. Only shared them with a few close friends because I wasn’t confident about my work.
So I spent about 2 years reading and researching about 200 books before posting my poetry on Instagram. And voila! Through the encouragement of my readers, I published my first book.
My main advocacy in life is Education. It has not changed since 2016 when I first self-published Midnight Monologues when I was 24 years old. Over the past 5 years of being in this industry in Malaysia, I have come across hundreds of disappointing manuscripts that have been submitted to my company.
With this book, I aim to increase the quality of work produced by Malaysian writers by providing them an end-to-end guide on how to think laterally when writing a manuscript. The fundamentals are so important.
The majority of them do not meet my expectations. They are either too abstract, filled with grammatical errors, had no edge in the international market, or just had really demanding/rude cover letters.
Poetry and Short Stories: A Practice Book is part self-help and part practical guide. I believe the only way someone can truly learn and grasp concepts is when they themselves try to create an expected output.
There are about 20 exercises in that book that can be done individually or in a group setting. It’s an end-to-end process, starting with a Reframing Exercise (defining your purpose in writing and understanding who your target readers are and more) all the way to creating a cover letter to submit to publishers.
I’ve also broken down factors of what makes a poem or short story good or bad with plenty of examples.
There’s a gap in our education system that only focuses on the technical aspects of writing. They do not teach them how to think outside the box, think about their readers, and how to market their book.
At the end of the day, authors should be part-time salespeople too. They need to learn how to sell their own books creatively.
Writing and editing the book are the easy parts. Finding the right connections and suppliers was hard at first, but with enough digging, talking and blind courage, we were able to build those connections.
Even if it was me desperately emailing the support emails to distributors to help distribute my books. Being the first in my family to explore the publishing industry gave me a really steep learning curve. I was only 24 after all!
The logistical and administrative processes were hard at first but were easy to learn. The biggest challenge was Public Relations and Marketing! It still remains a large challenge today. I’ve been very lucky to have so much support from the media and the book community over the years.
I do! But throughout the years I have been hiring talented illustrators to help out with my ideas.
My professional career is in digital. I’m the Head of Digital Product Design at Inmagine and graduated in Interactive media design in The One Academy. That’s how I get most of my contacts, through my school and Instagram. I did not have any major in English or journalism.
Understanding my target segments is very important. I wanted to create a beautiful book Bookstagrammers would be proud to show off, and create a low barrier-easy read book that Book Haters can enjoy.
My goal is to turn these book haters to book lovers! That’s why my book always starts with short poems > prose > short stories. I was a book hater once.
I’ve received this question a lot! I’ve personally written a very detailed post here.
In a nutshell, these writers must possess the fundamentals of grammar and have the ability to turn my perspectives and old beliefs around. I’m very very picky with those I choose to publish because I want these books to be able to challenge international titles.
Publishing with Penwings would definitely equate to quality and wide distribution because we have quite a strong brand.
All images were supplied by Penwings Publishing.