Tuesday, November 16, 2010

From court shoes to bunny slippers

Hi! My name is Alexandra Wong – Alex for friends – and I’m a word geek.

Translation: I write for a living.

I developed serious word lust at primary-school age, a condition which I attribute cheerfully to Enid Blyton's mouthwatering picnic basket descriptions. In retrospect, the truth is much more Machiavellian (more about that later)

After graduating with a degree in English Literature, I worked my way up to sales manager in a Fortune 500 Company. The money was mostly good and occasionally obscene. I did well enough to win a couple of sales awards along the way, but something wasn’t quite right.

I found out what when my subordinate chattered excitedly one day, “Alex! Do you know how much commission we’ll be getting this quarter?”

She whispered the figure.

I dutifully widened my eyes. “That’s fantastic!”

I tried to look euphoric, but I obviously failed, because HER eyes widened and she went, “You really don’t like money huh?”

Well I wouldn’t go that far … but yeah. Money, alone, isn’t enough to rock my socks.

So I quit to find out what did. Rock my socks, I mean. I had no idea what the hell I was going to do with my life, so I did the next best thing: soul-searching.

I travelled. I figured there was a good chance I would come back with a more definite idea how I was going to put food on the table. You know, travel broadening one’s horizons and all.

So I backpacked to Kuching. Visited Turkey. Stayed in the US for 7 weeks.

I had a ball. Those experiences were too good to keep to myself, or worse, get forgotten, so I started a blog (which I’ve locked up, sorry). My small but loyal audience seemed to enjoy my stories. Heck, my friend’s MOM started following my blog.

That got me thinking. Hmm, maybe I could try getting them published? No harm trying.

So I began sending out pitches. To my surprise, all my stories got published without much trouble.

An idea began germinating … Maybe I could make a living out of writing commercially?

My baby steps into the writing world - as a serious career - began with travel articles, then navel-gazing pieces, then food reviews, then culture, then other topical issues …

Before I knew it, five years had passed. And today, on 16 November 2010, I find myself still happily scribbling about life, love and the universe - when I’m not tearing my hair out in stress that is.

That's how I made the transition from court shoes to bunny slippers.

Writing portfolio
My reports on travel, trends, food, relationships, information technology and personality profiles have made their way to numerous bastions of great writing publications. The list now includes publications with international audiences like Going Places (Malaysia Airlines inflight magazine), Malaysia Women’s Weekly, IntervalWorld (USA) South China Morning Post, Bangkok Post, Quill and Kuala Lumpur Explorer. Although I’ve written for all kinds of genres and covered all sorts of subjects, I am best known for my first-person accounts in Navel Gazer (where I try to be funny and touching and fail most of the time, but one must persevere!), my monthly column for Malaysia's highest-circulation English language daily The Star.

My work falls chiefly into two categories:

1. Media work. The abovementioned.

2. Corporate and commercial work. I develop editorial content across multiple mediums that serve as calls to action for a target audience. In English, that’s marketing and advertising collateral (corporate videos, newsletters, show dailies, press releases) and non-print media (websites and tv scripts).

I have also ghost-edited manuscripts for several Malaysian best-selling authors.

I am also a solopreneur. In 2008, I registered the enterprise WordMatters.

Academic Qualifications
My happiest academic years were spent in Universiti Sains Malaysia.

I hold a Bachelor of Arts in English Language & Literature with a minor in Mass Communication.

I still wonder how a ditzy bunny like me made it through that wilderness of William Thackeray, Philip Larkin, and Shakespeare *dramatic shudder*

I divide my time between my hometown Ipoh; Penang, where I spent my formative adult years, and Kuala Lumpur, which I loathe and love in equal measures.

I've worked out of hotels, coffeeshops, cafes, friends' apartments, my car - I parked it by the roadside to key an epiphany into my handphone.

I am an egalitarian.

I am a pop culture fiend.

Some have dubbed my literary taste questionable. It certainly isn't very highbrow. It spans everything from Grapes of Wrath, to Chinese Tea Culture, to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, to blogs like Perez Hilton, Go Fug Yourself and Cracked.

On days when I feel like being a literary smartypants, I lurk at Slate, armed with a dictionary.

My ideal woman would be a Frankenstein of these parts: Katy Perry’s body, Lady Gaga’s chutzpah, Helen Mirren’s agelessness, Adam Lambert’s pipes and Douglas Adams’ funnybone.

Why I still write
I still get a kick out of seeing my byline :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

No beef

Weekender, The Star, Scratching Post

No, I didn't write this headline but it was worth a chuckle anyway.

Wonderful friends ...

...and wonderful pizza :)

... Sepuluh ringgit sahaja! (Obviously I like eating here very much, and not just because it's eminently affordable)

Though the question was at the back of my mind the WHOLE time when I called Frank on Sat night, I waited till the end of our phone conversation before asking timidly, "Where did you go for dinner?"

"AJ. Ta pau."

"Were there anybody who came because of the article?" Gulp. Nervous. Sweat.



He continued grimly, "A LOT of people. Some cancelled their orders. What to do? He said philosophically. They all came at one shot."

This is one of the reasons I didn't want to write a full-length feature about AJ's Pizza and Pasta. Having tasted the consequences second-hand at Vary Pasta (the writer was so traumatized that he ate his pork knuckle dinner in quiet terror, while the waiters dashed about in a tizzy attending to the avalanche of customers), I knew the consequences of a review in a major national newspaper: pandemonium.

A two-man show like AJ's wouldn't be able to handle a crowd of such mob-like proportions.

All said and done, I was ecstatic when Khan sent me this message: "God bless you. You care for us."

Ah, food for my stomach, heart and soul :)


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