"I view all stories as journeys. Even when I don't actually go anywhere for a particular story, the way I report is to immerse myself in something I usually know very little about, and what I experience is the journey toward a grasp of what I've seen." —Susan Orlean

Hello, I'm Emily—a writer/editor/researcher and photographer for hire.

I've done a wide range of writing in the past six years, but these days I'm focused on covering stories about travel, culture, and society, informed by the long arc of history. I'm also exploring narrative nonfiction in its various forms: reported features, personal essays, and everything in between. I also do guides and listicles.

My work has been published at CNN, NBC, Slate, Roads & Kingdoms, The Guardian, The Huffington Post UK, Esquire Malaysia, The Malaysian Insider, The Star (Malaysia), and The Straits Times (Singapore), among others.

Professionally, I only write in my native English, but I'm conversational in Malay, Spanish, and Mandarin.

As a former Associate Editor at Esquire Malaysia, I can promise editors clean copy; and as a self-taught photographer, complementing visuals for my writing. 

I'm also available for editing and research work. 

I hold a Bachelor of Laws from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Master of Laws from London's City Law School, supplemented with optional course modules in History and International Relations.

I am originally from Malaysia and usually based in Kuala Lumpur, but am currently spending some months in the UK and other parts of Europe.

Previous Writing & Editing Work

I've had more than six years of professional experience writing news and features.

I've undergone internships at The Star (Malaysia's highest-circulating English daily) and The Guardian; and later, a stint at The Malaysian Insider (a now-defunct leading online news outfit, replaced by The Malaysian Insight) covering the 2013 Malaysian general elections. More recently, I was the Associate Editor at Esquire Malaysia, for which I've also written news, cultural and personality features. I was also the Travel Editor and Books Columnist.

I've also written travel blogs and guides for the likes of Tripadvisor and Expedia, and provided copywriting and translating services to other publications and companies.

Blips on my resumé very early on in my career include a time at Ogilvy Malaysia as a copywriter and a year-long position as Online Editor at Litro, a London-based literary magazine.

Research Work

Currently, I'm also working as a part-time researcher with the Kuala Lumpur-based Rack Focus Films on a series of historical documentaries about Malaysia. The first, Journey to Independencewas broadcast on History Asia in 2016. The second, Formation of Malaysia, will also be broadcast on History Asia on Malaysia Day, September 16, 2017.

In 2016, I also assisted in the research for an in-progress Malaysian feature film set during the Japanese invasion of Malaya in WWII, focusing on the Malayan Volunteer Air Force and the British and Japanese military forces.

In 2010-11, I assisted in researching a background paper outlining the UK's approach to anti-terror legislation for the Malaysian Bar Council Human Rights Committee to provide a comparative analysis for the Malaysian government. That same year, I also wrote my masters thesis on sharia law in the UK.

“I want to live other lives. I’ve never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler

Personal Geography

Like many of you, I'm a culturally scrambled byproduct of globalisation. 

Born and bred in the little town of Sitiawan and the little city of Ipoh in the Malaysian state of Perak, and later, Kuala Lumpur, I was weaned on books and conditioned on interstate family road trips around Malaysia and across the causeway to Singapore.

Later, I spent my university years in London, but the world really got under my skin when I went backpacking on my own in the countries between Nicaragua and Mexico after graduation. It was there that I realised I could travel alone without feeling lonely, live on five dollars a day if I had to, speak the Spanish language without butchering it, and salsa without injuring the latinos. It’s hard to overstate how those months broke open my worldview, and how it planted the idea of a lifelong journey of writing and exploration, though it would take exactly seven more years before I gave it a go.

These days, I'm usually based in Malaysia, though I travel whenever and wherever I can put my writing and photography to work.

I should also say: before I ever travelled physical distances, I travelled, even further, within the pages of books: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Last of The Mohicans, The Call of the Wild... Did any child ever read those books and not grow up wanting to be out in the world?

How I Travel

I tend to seek out immersive travel for a closer communion with culture, history, and food; and a better understanding of the commonalities and idiosyncracies of other societies—and their hidden life. Growing older, I've also become more interested in exploring my ancestry and heritage, and my own backyard.

But nothing gets me going like the promise of sheer adventure, though not necessarily of the physically heroic variety because I am—sad to say—incredibly average of fitness. I've cage dived with great white sharks off Australia's southern coast (and got so seasick I vomited my guts out), paddled in a dugout canoe for ten days in the flooded Amazon jungle (my guide did most of the paddling), and rode horseback in the sand dunes and moon-like landscapes of the Atacama desert in Chile (the horse did most of the work). I also enjoy hiking and diving and will try most things at least once.

I've learned that the surest shortcut to adventure is to brave unconventional methods of transportation—the longer the journey, the better. If there's a way to get there on land, I'll rarely choose to fly. I have weirdly fond memories of riding the back of an open van that was filled to the brim with my butt sticking out for a good hour, watching the stars while lying in the back of a rattling truck with other sleepy Guatemalans making their way home to their highland pueblo, and overnighting in a rickety cargo ship in the Amazon jungle.

And yes, I do also like to have fun the way most people define it. I enjoy swing and salsa dancing, live music, good grub, and good (especially gin) bars. I try to go to the movies in every country I visit, whether or not I understand the language. I occasionally enjoy sun-soaking and partying at the beach, though I'm really more of a mountain-and-desert kind of girl. And I love hotels as much as anyone does—once I've spent weeks in the country getting dirtied up.

I tend to travel on my own, and on a budget. I steer clear of big groups wherever possible, and will generally only do tours with guides who are especially knowledgeable and can lend me a perspective I would never otherwise access, or will save me from killing myself with my own ignorance in the wilderness.

Despite whatever proclivities I may have though, I'm always open to new experiences. There's a time and place for every style of travel, after all, including the kind where you just lounge back and, yes, relax.

"I like to follow Jan Morris’s line and think of myself not as a 'travel writer', but rather a writer who travels. It’s a compulsion, like a tic, like a bad habit. Stories of human nature are linked with pathologies of places." —Suzanne Joinson


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