Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Around The Peninsula In 37 Days

“Four corners of West Malaysia, 2,664 kilometres in 37 days... Are you two nuts?

...Well, those were probably not the exact words. However, nothing could keep outdoors enthusiast Sandra Loh and her friend Mak Shiau Meng from their goal to travel to the four corners of Peninsular Malaysia on bicycles in early 2009. The tour was Mak's idea, and he had invited Sandra along for the ride.

For Mak, it was the fulfilment of a dream; for Sandra, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Braving exhausting uphill roads in the scorching sun and freezing rain, daredevil lorry drivers, unhelpful road signs and the occasional cow, the two intrepid cyclists made their way to the designated four corners: Padang Besar, Kedah; Tanjung Piai and Sg Rengit in Johor; and Kota Bharu, Kelantan.

As they rode past small towns and big cities, friendly and helpful locals, old and new friends, new and familiar sights and (mostly) good food made the trip more interesting ...and bearable. And Sandra, the chronicler of the expedition, wrote it all down in her chirpy inimitable style.

...This was a really challenging book project.

Several months into my job, I received a bunch of huge Word documents, a manuscript for this woman's cycling travelogue. No, too bloggish. So we sent it back. Being new to this, I added some recommendations.

A few months later, it came back to us. More detail now, but ... rather flat. And still a bit bloggish. Bounce.

I never thought we'd see it for the third time. She's persistent ... well, she did cycle around the peninsula. We took it on. The meeting was scheduled around the middle of last year and at the end of it, an agreement.

G*d, the amount of text I had to chop off. About 14,000 words, by rough estimates. No shortcuts. After looking through it for perhaps five to six times, I could no longer spot the minor typos. So the author pitched in.

The layout people suffered more than I did, however. Though similar to the last book project, there was a lot more material to work with.

The last several weeks before the book went to the printers was (for me, at least) nerve-wracking. We ended up with a slightly trimmer version of the original manuscript. Had we kept most of it, the book would be too thick and too expensive.

(For the author's account of the publishing process, go here.)

Pedalling Around The Peninsula
A Malaysian Girl's Two-wheeled Adventures

Sandra Loh
MPH Group Publishing Sdn Bhd (April 2012)
349 pages
Non-fiction
ISBN: 978-967-5997-82-2

RM 39.90 | Buy from MPHOnline.com
About a month later, the first copies arrived at the office. A book looks a whole lot better and more real once it takes on three dimensions.

The tentative launch date for Pedalling Around The Peninsula is on 14 April, 3pm at MPH Subang Parade. Date, time and venue may be subject to change. We're hoping it'll be in stores by then.

"It's gonna be big," she kept saying.

I wasn't sure. But that teacher's blook surprised us, despite being the easier project.

Fine. Let's see what surprises this book would hold.

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