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Author Chat: The journey to 'Tuti and I'

Jas2_webJaslina Yassin gives us a peek into her writing odyssey that led to her very first children's book, 'Tuti and I'.

Reading: gateway to the world out there

Since I was a child, reading has always been my favourite past-time.  It all started when my mother used to read to me every night before bed. I always looked forward to those storytelling moments. It didn’t matter if my mother repeated the same books for a few nights. What mattered was, I had to listen to a story before I went to bed. I enjoyed feeling the colourful pages with my fingertips and reading aloud the best part of every book that my mother read to me each night.  By the time I could read on my own, I was ‘attacking’ bookstores every time we went out.

I grew up with Enid Blyton, Louisa May Alcott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and many more. I couldn’t stop. It didn’t matter that I appeared geeky in front of my friends. Everywhere I went, I had to have a book.  Whenever I was reading a book, I would immerse myself deeply into the story. Reading was like an immediate short getaway for me, except I don’t need an air ticket.

Till today I am an avid reader. I love the knowledge I gain from reading, I love the temporary ‘journeys’ I take with the characters or the authors whenever I get myself lost in the stories I read. However, I have no favourite author because I read anything depending on what I feel like reading at anytime. I read anything from religion to biographies to classic literature.

From reading to teaching

Anybody in my family can vouch that I have always wanted to be a teacher since I was a child. Well, like every child, my ambition changed every two weeks. First I would want to be a teacher, then an air stewardess, then a singer, then a vet etc. But teaching had always been on my list. I achieved my dream nine years ago, graduating from NIE with a Diploma in Education. Today, I teach English, Math, Music and Physical Education in a primary school. Till today I never fail to share stories with my students, never stop telling them that the knowledge that one can get from reading is truly amazing because once you get that knowledge, nobody can take that away from you.jas_3


My love for children's books

I started to really love children’s books when I began my teaching career. Every week I would read a story to my students. Before I knew it, I was buying children’s books like nobody’s business! My collection grew, ranging from simple picture books to pop-ups and young adults series. I am amazed by how much values one can get from reading children’s books. My favourite to date is Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.

Tuti and I: the journey

Aside from reading, I enjoy travelling. I have been backpacking since I got my license to travel from my parents. I have backpacked to Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, India and Nepal. Each time I travel, I bring stories of my travels home to my family, friends and students. I was inspired to write ‘Tuti and I’ after I scaled Mount Rinjani in Lombok with my husband last June. We climbed the mountain with great difficulty given that we were not experienced climbers. But we went up anyway. And what we saw at the summit was amazing. No words could describe the volcanic eruption that was happening before our eyes. We could only stare in awe at the wondrous sight of the eruption, every second taking in that magical moment.

Throughout our journey up to the crater of Mount Rinjani, Tuti was with us the entire time. Tuti was our guide. He lives in Sembalun Lawang, a small village that is near the mountain. He was the one who shared with us the love he has for the mountains and how often he and his friends would climb up the mountain in his younger days. He shared with us stories of the mountains and his job as a guide with so much passion that I felt ashamed of myself. I was ashamed because I did not know if I could ever tell someone about my career with such spirit and passion as Tuti did. I was ashamed because I did not know if I could ever tell someone about something I love so much like how Tuti expresses his love for the mountains.

My husband and I have since forged a strong friendship with Tuti. After we said our goodbyes, we adjourned to Gili Meno, one of the three Gili islands not far from the coast of Lombok. It was there while watching the beautiful sunset that the words for ‘Tuti and I’ came to me.  I wrote the story with ease. Everything came to me most naturally. However at that point, I had no intention to write a book but my husband urged me to do so.

Before I knew it, ‘Tuti and I’ was published in Malaysia. It was launched officially on 20 March at the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fest 2010.  ‘Tuti and I’ is my stepping stone to writing children’s books. It is my first and hopefully not my last work to share with children and adults, of a friendship so dear and so strong between a man and a mountain.  Finally, after all the stories I have read in my life, this is a story that I can call my own, my very own story of ‘Tuti and I’.

Meet Jaslina at the launch of 'Tuti and I' this Saturday, 8 May 2010, 6.30 pm at Earshot Cafe, the Arts House. This book launch is held in conjunction with the Asian Festival of Children's Content from 6-9 May 2010. The book will be sold at a special price of $15 during the launch, and will be available at bookstores soon.