Jane Moh of Borneo Post wrote this lovely write-up and my dear friend Chang Yi shared it in Facebook. So glad that they are still remembering me though I have been back over a month. Back to the grind of day to day life.
A GRIEVING mother found solace in writing while trying to come to terms with the death of her newborn son.
book – Diary Of A Bereaved Mother: Goodbye My Baby – has touched the
lives of many mothers who have gone through the same agonising ordeal.
was the first written work of Sibu-born writer Ann Chin who produced it
in 2010, specially as a birthday gift to her son Andrew who would have
turned 21 that year had he lived.
Andrew was Ann’s third child
whom she lost 55 days after birth. The book was a compilation of the
letters she wrote during that traumatic period.
manuscripts were written when I was in the hospital. Andrew was in the
Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and I sat there for 55 days, writing letters
for families which I have kept till today,” she said.
Penned with such raw honesty, the book soon became a message of hope for mothers who have lost their babies.
who now lives in New Zealand and teaches TESL (Teaching English As
Second Language) in Auckland, has written many materials, including
short stories and poetry.
However, by her own admission, the
amount of energy she spent writing them paled in comparison with that
she spent writing the Diary of a Bereaved Mother. It was the most
difficult to write, she remembered.
The reason was not that it was
her first ever book but rather that having to revisit that painful
period was “just too overwhelming.”
“I actually sat on the
documents for three days. The first and second day, I was too distraught
and didn’t do anything at all. The third day, I finally decided to
revisit those times – and I cried.
“But once I got through them –
on the fourth day – I started writing,” she said, adding that what made
it easier for her to start the opening paragraph was that she had the
letters in proper order.
book is divided into four parts – her struggle during her 55 days in
the hospital; the steps she took after going through the ordeal; poetry
and advice to the people on dealing with bereavement.
hard and finished the book in just two months but there were times she
found it difficult to continue. She recalled the distressing time where
Andrew stopped breathing and turned black. The doctor told her he was
“He was dead for half the afternoon, then he was alive again. When he finally died, you knew that was the finale.”
hoped the book could give words of healing to mothers who lost their
babies – that they are not alone in dealing with such adversity.
don’t talk about this topic – not even in European countries. People
still feel uncomfortable talking about it but mothers who have lost
their babies want to talk about it,” she said.
With the success of
the first book, she came up with her second – From China to Borneo and
Beyond which describes the journey of her family, especially how her
great grandfather came to Borneo from China about 100 years ago.
also tells of her childhood – growing up in Sibu with nine siblings and
how they eventually separated and went on to live in different
Ann said she and her siblings developed their skills in English writing at an early age.
Her father, John Chan, a former divisional education officer, laid that foundation for them.
were nine of us and because dad had so many children, he couldn’t
afford to take us for holidays. Every day, during the holidays, he would
give us each a title for our composition. We all had to write our own
stories and dad would correct them in the evening.
“I think that was how he instilled the love of writing in our hearts and it made our English really good,” she said.
got her first material published when she was in Form Two and she was
paid five dollars for it. Since then, she has been writing all her life
and many of her works can be found online.
Unlike her first book
whose only input was herself, her second contained contributions from
her siblings. She started writing the manuscript in 2006.
father died in Kuching in 2006, I went back to Singapore and I couldn’t
sleep, so I started writing. I then wrote to my siblings and they said
it was good.
“We did like hundreds of emails. They encouraged me
and offered me some recollections and reminiscences, so it was everybody
contributing. That was the first manuscript,” she recalled.
The book was intended as her brother’s 60th birthday gift.
explained the people in Sarawak, especially among the Chinese
community, could relate to the book as it traces their roots and
“From China to Borneo and Beyond kindled a lot of
interests in the state. I am very happy to hear a publisher is going to
print a Chinese version of it.”
The third book
a long stint of short-story writing, Ann came out with the third book, a
fiction novel – Mail Order Bride. The story, set in Auckland, New
Zealand, touches on social issues such as teenage pregnancies, drugs,
paedophile and the like. The book took two months to finish.
does not intend to make money out of her books, saying: “I consider all
the attention I got from the newspapers and television as just a bonus.”
dream was to go places. Dad used to go to England – we always knew he
went to England. We were taught if we wanted to go places, we got to
Ann graduated with a bachelor’s degree (economics) in
Canada in 1975 and three years later (1978) went to Auckland for her
second economics degree and a diploma in management. There, she met her
husband and in 1990, the family moved to Singapore before shifting back
in Auckland in 2006.
Ann, who considers herself a “freedom
writer,” said she self-published all her books as she liked having the
freedom to write what she wanted. Proof readers and professional editors
were all the help she got.
“I call myself a freedom writer because whatever I do, I am not bound by rules.”
Her advice to aspiring writers is to have “patience, plan, persistence, perseverance and imagination.”
“You got to have a plan and a target and try to follow them through. That’s what I did,” added Ann who is also a public speaker.
said she never wasted “any precious time” when writing her books and
would usually spend more than eight hours a day putting her ideas into
“When the inspiration comes, never try to ignore it.
Instead, put your plan into work and write it down. Writing is all about
passion but you have to be disciplined if you want to be a successful
writer,” she advised.