Mari At Work · thinking out loud

Harry Potter Book Night 2017

This is the third year we hosted Harry Potter Book Night, and every year it’s the same – for at least a month or two before February, it’s hard to think of anything else. Only a small percentage of that is due to excitement/anticipation – the rest was just lots and lots and lots of planning and work.

Since our events usually have a mix of children and adult participants, it isn’t as fun to just use the activity packs we get – some of the activities would be boring for the adults, while others might be too difficult for the younger kids. So we would improvise, or create our own games. And we would be making props, doing research, writing e-mails (which is the work-related thing I like to do least, and unfortunately the most important bit of any event planning) all while trying to do my regular work.

Every year, as we get nearer to the event, I would think “I can’t wait to get this over with.” Every year, the moment we wrap up, and I’m cleaning up, I would think, “I have so many ideas for the next one.” And it starts again…

This year we managed to wrap things up on time, by making one of our staple games more elaborate with side quests, and adding only one extra game after. We also hosted a small gaming session a couple of hours before the event, playing the Wizarding Duel card game that one of our staff created for last year’s HPBN, and a kid-friendly, wizarding-world-only version of Cards Against Humanity (with the addition of “power cards” which caused much drama and back-stabbing!)

The card games were so fun, I may include them in the main event next year. Continue reading “Harry Potter Book Night 2017”

Mari At Work · Personal · thinking out loud

thinking out loud (April 25th)


I haven’t written random updates in awhile, right? Lately I’ve noticed that my books/shelves (see above) have started to get… a tad overwhelming. I’ve been pulling out some books to give away, and started to tag others as “to give away” or “for sale” on my LibraryThing. Speaking of LT, does anyone else still use it? Seems like everyone’s on GoodReads now. Which isn’t a bad thing – I love GR, and use it to keep track of all the books I’m reading, although sometimes I still forget to add things. I also love the lists on GR, and it’s definitely a more social place than LT.

But when it comes to cataloging books I actually own, because I’m meticulous about cataloging, it has to be LT for me. And recently they’ve introduced TinyCat, a system for small and personal libraries, which I really love.

I still desperately need to get new shelves, though.

At work, being the comics buyer is turning out to be really, REALLY hectic – it’s nearly the end of the month, and I’ve yet to catch up with ANY of my pending orders or promotion proposals. At least I’ve done all the editing I needed to do for the May newsletter, and we managed to get the May special catalog to the printers in time. I did a Q&A with Brian K. Vaughan for the catalog. I am still fangirling over it, many weeks later.

In May, I will be attending this year’s AFCC (Asian Festival of Children’s Content), which is an annual festival that celebrates children’s (this includes YA) books. There’s a different country of focus every year (Malaysia was the focus two years back) and this year, it’s Japan. You can check out the guests related to the the Country of Focus at this post. I’m pretty excited to attend the panels on Japanese picture books and kamishibai, and am glad that the first time I’m attending is the Japan year, but what I’m most excited about? The fact that LEONARD MARCUS (my favourite Children’s books historian/critic) is going to be there. My friend Daphne – who is also a panelist, for the #WeNeedDiverseBooks talk – asked me which books I’d bring to get him to sign and I still don’t know. Can I bring all of them? Okay, I’ll stop fangirling now.

On a not-as-happy (in fact rather depressing) note, over the last couple of months I have lost an aunt, uncle and cousin to diseases/accidents quite unrelated to each other. I really want to minimize the sad stuff on this blog, so that’s all I’m going to say about it.

Mari At Work · thinking out loud

Zen Cho in the house!

zencho1Around June last year, I went to the launch of Fixi Novo’s anthology, Cyberpunk: Malaysia. I met Zen Cho, the editor (and writer of the collection Spirits Abroad, also published by Fixi Novo) if she would like to curate a table for Kinokuniya. Usually our tables are curated by our buyers, but for our 15th anniversary (themed “Good Books Make Great Company”) each buyer are instead choosing a favourite local figure (mine being Zen Cho) and an imprint (mine will be Balzer + Bray this July/August) to curate a table for us. She said yes, and that’s how we got our January/February highlight for World SFF, as curated by Zen Cho.

Then, at the end of January, Zen said that she was going to be in town for the CNY holidays, and did we want to have an event. Of course we did! I had wanted to do an event for Spirits Abroad when it first came out, but somehow all the Fixi titles fall under “literature”, so it wasn’t my call to make back then. Sorcerer to the Crown, which is published by Ace and Gollancz, is a different matter altogether, though!

We hosted Zen’s talk + signing event at our Fiction section on February 13th. Zen started out by talking about her curated table, and explaining why she had decided on the World SFF theme, before going on to Sorcerer to the Crown, and taking questions from the crowd. We had a good crowd – usually at our events, the audience would be too shy to ask anything, and instead wait to talk when they’re having their books signed. But this time, not only we had a lot of people asking questions – most of them asked very interesting questions. I liked one of the questions about how it was like to work on a novel instead of short stories, and Zen replied that while with short stories she could focus on moments or characters, with Sorcerer to the Crown she really had to learn to plot.

zencho2She said that she never really thought much about plot before, and likened a story to a person, in which the plot would be their bones. One wouldn’t fall for a person because they had good bones, usually – they get attracted by the outer appearance, and perhaps fall for a person’s personality. But take away the bones, and you wouldn’t get much at all. She had used tropes she liked, and looked to Regency romances (think Georgette Heyer) in framing her story, but tweaked it into something that made it different – more Zen, perhaps, and definitely more local, despite being set in Europe, and sensitive to the other issues that existed during the Regency period, that rarely made it into the books.

The other questions also touched on Colonialism, Zen’s research while working on the novel, if publishing with a mainstream publishing made any difference to her, and whether she might write something more local in the future (she said, probably yes!). I’m really looking forward to the sequel to Sorcerer to the Crown, but I think I would love a fantasy/SF set in Malaysia even more.

Mari At Work · thinking out loud

Kinokuniya is 15!

Or, well, it would be on April 1st, but this year we’re beginning our Anniversary Promotion on March 25th.

Years after my first day at Kinokuniya, I still wonder why our store’s birthday is on April Fools. Anyway, it’s been – or will be – 15 years since Kinokuniya moved to the 4th floor of KLCC. Before that, we were a much smaller store on the 2nd floor (back when I was fifteen), and before THAT, we were an even smaller, Japanese-books only store in Sogo. Continue reading “Kinokuniya is 15!”

Mari At Work · thinking out loud

A day at Hogwarts

Hogswarts staff for a day!
Our Hogwarts staff for the day – a truly awesome team.

Hi, it’s been awhile since I posted here. I’ve been pretty swamped at work (some of these, I’ll write about here, starting with this post!) and have been spending my weekends in Malacca looking after my niece (so, not as many reviews in the next few months, maybe), and I’ve accepted an offer to teach a Lit Theory class part-time at my old uni (where I’m supposed to start on my PhD, maybe I’ll write more about this here later?). Basically, there’s a lot to catch up on, so I’m starting with…. Harry Potter Book Night.

This is the second year our store participated in Harry Potter Book Night, and somehow, on both years February 4th have turned out to be rather inconvenient dates – this time it’s too close to the Lunar New Year, which means that many fans were off to their hometowns, and couldn’t make it to the event. Even so, the registrations filled up within two days of being open, and we continued to be bombarded with fans asking if we could add in a few more people. We opened a “wait list” in case of cancellations, and decided to include non-participants as eligible for the Best-Dressed Witch/Wizard prize we were giving away.

The decision to participate in HPBD had been for our staff as well as our customers – so many of them are big fans of the books and movies. I had elected four “house teachers” to do the planning of the event, and their enthusiasm made it one of the most exciting events of the year. For the games, they had decided to start with a wizarding duel – except that instead of just shouting out spells, as suggested in the guide we received, one of our staff had created a card game to play, inspired by Magic: The Gathering, but using Harry Potter spells and characters. Hufflepuff won that round.

The duels were followed by everyone’s favourite event, the treasure hunt – because it allowed for the participants to explore the store, which had turned into Hogsmeade for the day. Information counters became Flourish & Blotts, Gringotts, Ollivanders, etc., and selected staff were in character to offer riddles, duels and challenges to help with the hunt. Last year’s participants did better in the hunt overall, but Gryffindor and Ravenclaw were particularly good this year.

The final game was Potions Class, which was a basic memory game, in which they had to remember difficult steps in making different potions. Slytherin turned out to be excellent at this, getting a perfect score.

Gryffindor was a close second, the evening ended with us announcing Ravenclaw as the year’s house cup winner. I had a lot of fun, and I know the rest of the staff and participants felt the same – we’re looking forward to doing it all again next year!


[All of the photos were by me, originally posted at our store’s unofficial instagram account]

Mari At Work · thinking out loud

James Frey & Harry Potter Book Night

James Frey at Kinokuniya KLCC
The first YA event at our store this year! James Frey is doing an Asian tour to promote his book Endgame: The Calling. I joined him and his Malaysian distributors for lunch before the event, and I thought he just seemed really tired (he had come to KL from Manila, and was heading to Singapore next). He said one of the reasons he used characters from all over the world was so that it wouldn’t be yet another book with all white Americans, which is nice.


Harry Potter Book Night
I guess I should have realised that when we put out our original notice for HPBN – for ages 10 to 13 – that people would make a lot of fuss. The Harry Potter fandom here is mostly made of those in universities, and older. So we increased the age limit to “all witches, wizards and muggles” and prepared for an evening of loudness and fun. Of course, the most excited among them all were my staff – from the ones I selected to work as “House teachers”, to the ones that volunteered to help out (our camera guy kept asking people to “smile, this is for The Daily Prophet!” Haha) to the ones that took time off to join in as participants. Sometimes I wonder if half the geeks in this city work here, or used to work here. But then again, that’s why being here is so fun.

Harry Potter used to be really important to me. These days I’m not so keen, but I liked seeing my staff and customers happy about HPBN. Then the next day I found out that Feb 5th is also Howl’s birthday, and felt a bit guilty about not doing something to celebrate.


(James Frey + owl balloons pics by Ee Ling, from the store’s facebook. The potions table pic is by me, taken from the store’s instagram account.)