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About

 
 
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
 
 

 
 
 

I tell stories about travel, migration, culture, and identity.

 
 

Writer
Journalist
Photographer



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I’m based in Kuala Lumpur, and travel occasionally. Got a commission or a story tip? Email emydeewrites@gmail.com or fill this in.

I write because it gets me out of the house and into the world. (Well, besides the actually writing part.) There’s nothing I find so rewarding as to roam outside my own experience, talk to strangers, learn something interesting, and write all about it. In this way, I see every story I write as something of a travel story, even when I don’t “travel” for it.

My writing and photographs have been published, or is forthcoming, in a mix of local, regional, and international news, travel, and literary media—such as the Virginia Quarterly Review, CNN, Washington Post, Vice, Roads and Kingdoms, Slate, the Mekong Review, New Naratif, Esquire Malaysia, and The Malaysian Insider.

Not to sound pat, but essentially, I’m curious about how people live differently in different places. I’ve written across varied themes, but I’m most interested in searching the intersections of culture, politics, and identity for surprising stories—particularly the ways in which geopolitics, migration, and conflict (and the memory of conflict) shapes communities, and their struggles for visibility, redemption, or survival.

I write comfortably across varied forms: news, culture, and travel features; narrative journalism; reported and personal essays; Instagram singles and series. But wherever possible, I like to take on longform stories that allow for deep reporting, intimate storytelling, and a longer view on events, where I can poke at the origins of things, evoke a vivid sense of place and, hopefully, offer a glimpse into people’s inner lives.

English is my first language. I also speak Malay, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese—though I may require a translator in more formal situations.

I always wanted to write, but I read Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science and at the City Law School. I try to compensate for not lawyering up by revisiting, occasionally, criminal justice stories.

 

Editor

I also provide freelance editing services, bringing my experience from Esquire Malaysia as Associate Editor and the practical know-how of a writer in wrestling with words.

I can go beyond sentence-level architecture, and help you organise complex ideas and structure your writing, whatever the project may be—though I specialise in feature and longform nonfiction.


Other Hats

When I’m not out reporting and collecting ideas, or cooped up inside eyeballing my laptop, I’m exploring parts of the city yet unfamiliar to me, swing dancing, scribbling in cafes, working on some short fiction, and cocooning myself in books and movies.

I also work on personal and collaborative projects—like Sweatheart, a live true storytelling night in Kuala Lumpur, with funnyman Kuah Jenhan and spoken word poet Tshiung Han See.

When I’m travelling and looking for adventure, I go hiking and horseback riding, or take long, very long, bus/train/boat rides.

 
 
 
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Previous Experience

 

Editing & Writing

I've had about eight years of professional experience writing news and features for various publications.

I started out interning at The Star, a Malaysian national daily, The Melbourne Weekly, and The Guardian. Early experiments also include a time at Ogilvy Malaysia as a copywriter and at Litro, a London-based literary magazine for emerging writers, as Online Editor.

Later, I spent a stint at The Malaysian Insider (a now-defunct news website; the team went on to found The Malaysian Insight) covering the 2013 Malaysian general elections. 

Just before I started freelancing full-time, I was the Associate Editor, Feature Writer, and Books Columnist at Esquire Malaysia.

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

Research

From 2015-2018, I worked as a researcher and fact-checker on a series of documentaries covering Malaysia's political history, produced by Rack Focus Films in Kuala Lumpur and broadcast on History Asia and National Geographic Asia.

In 2016, I did research for a 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 helped 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 a thesis on the practice of sharia law in the UK as part of my Masters of Laws (LLM) at the City Law School.

 
 
 

 
 

Where I'm Coming From

 
 
 
 

I grew up in a little city called Ipoh, in the northern Malaysian state of Perak, before my family moved to Kuala Lumpur when I was twelve. You could say that travel started early for me: I was weaned on routine interstate family road trips around Malaysia and across the causeway, via my grandparents’ home state of Johor, to Singapore, where half my relatives live.

Later, I went to university in London, and living there must have set in motion a desire to see more of the world, unmediated by friends and family. But it was when I went backpacking on my own in Central America after I graduated that I realised I could travel alone without feeling lonely, live on five dollars a day if I had to, speak Spanish without butchering it, and do the salsa without inflicting bodily harm. It’s hard to overstate how those months changed the idea of travel for me. It was no longer about escapism, if it ever was, but a closer communion with the world—which, for me, always goes hand-in-hand with writing.

But I'm not a perpetual traveller. Because of work commitments and often inexplicable ties that still bind, I’m usually based in Malaysia. Once, I lived for some months in Peru to better explore it and write about it; and I revisit London sometimes. But still, Malaysia is my emotional home, even when I resist it. What's that line from that movie, Gone Baby Gone? Something about how it's the things you don't choose that make you who you are? I have the traveller's eternal problem of here versus there, no matter where I am.

But before I ever travelled physical distances, I wandered, even further, between the pages of books: The Call of the Wild, The Last of The Mohicans, Moby Dick, The Jungle Book, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Great Expectations, The Lord of the Flies, The Hound of the Baskervilles… Did any child ever read these books and not grow up wanting to be out in the world?

 
 
 

 
 
This is what I thought: for the most banal even to become an adventure, you must (and this is enough) begin to recount it. This is what fools people: a man is always a teller of tales, he sees everything that happens to him through them; and he tries to live his own life as if he were telling a story. But you have to choose: live or tell.
— Jean-Paul Sartre