I always rush from project to project. But I was convicted of the need to pause, look back and appreciate the books I had worked on before. The results are amazing. I am so grateful that these books go on to places I can never reach and touch people whom I would otherwise not meet.
Last month, I caught up with Jiamin Choo, the author of Out of the Harbour and my friend. Back in 2010, we met together as a writer’s group, and later, she invited me to edit her book. Since then, the book has gone into its third print! Out of the Harbour is an intense account gleaned from her 25 journals penned over six years. At the beginning, Jiamin was just a young girl, fresh out of university. Faced with promising career prospects, she made an unprecedented decision – she volunteered full-time onboard the mission ship Doulos. Jiamin sailed to over 30 countries and learned to “love the world, one port at a time”.
She is back in Singapore and shares with us what life is like as a published author.
PL: Where is your book sold?
JC: Out of the Harbour is in its third print. It is sold locally as well as overseas. I would bring along copies of the book during my speaking engagements at churches or at youth meetings. It gives me an opportunity to interact with the audience after my talk.
PL: I heard that Out of the Harbour has been a strong encouragement to some readers. Please share with us some of these experiences.
JC: My youngest reader is an 11-year-old boy called Cyrill who hails from Switzerland. He finished reading the book in five days and said that he dreams of becoming a Captain on board an Operation Mobilisation (OM) ship one day. OM is an interdenominational missions organisation dedicated to transforming lives and communities.
My oldest reader is 76-year-old Uncle Lew of Singapore. After reading the book, he signed up for a mission trip. He is living proof that one is never too old to go on an adventure!
One middle-aged professional who was facing life’s crossroads found comfort and courage through reading Out of the Harbour. He was moved to join the OM Ship’s short-term programme to do something new and serve the community. I believe it was a breath of fresh air for him and it allowed him room to think through his life goals.
These are just some of the feedback I received. It is comforting to know that Out of the Harbour is inspiring people to be brave to step out of their comfort zone and to pursue their calling in life.
PL: How about you? Have you been blessed by one of your readers?
JC: I’ve been blessed by a reader whom I did not even get to meet, and will no longer have the chance to. This young girl read Out of the Harbour while she was fighting cancer. She found comfort and strength through the book which reminded her that she was not alone in hardship and suffering. The message she came away with was that there were many others around the world who face struggles and choose to press on.
When this story reached me, the girl had just passed away. I broke down and wept. I did not know that the book could touch someone this way. I was grateful that the pages of Out of the Harbour could accompany someone who was finishing life’s race. This young girl’s story will always remind me not to give up in hardship, but to press on in life.
PL: Why did you write this book in the first place?
JC: Having sailed around the world, visiting 31 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Pacific, I’ve met people from all walks of life and learnt much from my encounters with them. Also, living on board Doulos, the world’s oldest ocean-going ship built in 1914, was such an adventure. I experienced living in a tiny cabin, witnessed dolphins and whales splashing around in the open sea, and joined 350 international crewmembers in serving the local communities wherever we docked. As a fresh graduate, this journey was something I’d never dreamed of.
Since I had been blessed with the privilege to go to so many places as a young person, and having witnessed God’s work in people’s lives around the world, I wished to share these experiences with other young people as an encouragement. To young people I say ‘There is a world beyond our shore to discover.’
I also wanted to write the book as a testimony of God’s goodness, to remember the wonderful people and encounters He had brought along my path. I hope that Out of the Harbour will encourage readers to draw close to God and inspire them to live to the full with purpose and passion.
PL: How did you feel working with me as the editor of your book?
JC: I met Pauline at a Christian writers’ workshop organised by Armour Publishing in 2010. When she heard my plans to write a book about my journey on Doulos, she invited me to join a writer’s group. She said this would be a serious commitment, that she would help me with getting the book out, but I would need to work hard and persevere until the book is completed. I was so glad she knew what she was doing!
The writer’s group met every few weeks to exchange our sample chapters and give constructive feedback and critique. Pauline was a great encouragement in cheering us on to keep writing, especially in moments when we felt like giving up. She was also strict in making sure we did our work, and did not hold back from giving honest feedback about our writing.
Having Pauline as my editor was a blessing because she was professional in her work and I learnt much from her. Sometimes, we argued over which parts of the chapter to keep or cut out, other times we laughed about it. I appreciate the many days and nights we spent going through my thick manuscript over and over again, until it was finally ready to be published.
Getting a book published is only possible because of great team work. I have to thank my dear editor-friend Pauline for all that she has done to make Out of the Harbour a beautiful piece of work. I am also grateful to my designer Thomas, friends who gave feedback on my chapters, and others who encouraged me to press on in writing.
Out of the Harbour took two years to write and publish, but I’m so glad that it is now in the hands of readers around the world, and bringing them on a journey of faith.
Thank you, Jiamin! Your words motivate me to continue working with other authors so that their books may also go out into the world.
Out of the Harbour is sold at SKS Books Warehouse (http://www.sksbooks.com)
and on the book’s website (www.outoftheharbour.com).
You can contact Jiamin for book talks at firstname.lastname@example.org.