When the then 22-year-old Charissa Ong first started putting pen to paper back in 2014, it was in an attempt to channel and work through the complicated emotions of heartbreak after a bad breakup
She never expected to receive such an overwhelming response to her poetry but her poems quickly began to gain traction and amassed a global following once she started posting them on her Instagram account. Transcending the barriers of space and language, her writing reached out and truly resonated with many.
Fast forward to 2 years and a half years later, after what seemed like neverending all-nighters and a significant decrease of her personal funds: her first self-published book 'Midnight Monologues' hit the shelves on 15 July 2016
Despite starting on the manuscript 2 years ago, the book remained a WIP until January this year when she finally kicked things into high gear and properly focused her efforts towards making it happen.
And guess what? Within a week of its release, 'Midnight Monologues' managed to grab the #6 spot on MPH's 'Top 10 Weekly Local Bestseller' list for the 22 July 2016 - 28 July 2015 period. Pretty impressive huh?
There are 3 things that set this compilation of poems and short stories apart:
1. The look: Charissa put her Interactive Media Design degree to good use by designing the cover herself. She went for a vintage feel a'la her Instagram posts to create a gender neutral collectible that people would be proud to be seen carrying around. It certainly does photograph beautifully!
2. The feel: The book is split into 4 chapters: Lost, Found, Hope and Short Stories. These categories will help people cope with whatever they’re going through; readers can just flip to the relevant sections. The placement of the categories tell its own story by taking people on an emotional journey of loss and recovery. She also chose to include plenty of fairy tale-esqe short stories to end the book by opening reader's minds to new worlds and inspiring their creativity.
3. The title: 'Midnight Monologues' is so named to reflect her writing process. She often writes late into the night and reads her poetry out loud to herself to work on the rhythm and flow.
The publication process wasn't an easy one as the now 24-year-old personally handled every aspect herself while holding down a full-time job as a UI/UX designer at Geometry Global #madprops
She even went so far as to set up her own publication company instead of opting to publish with already established publishers. Penwings Publishing is the result of her decision to be part of the bigger picture by growing the culture of reading in Malaysia and helping to guide local writers. It also represents her promise to herself to continually pursue writing; she already has a second volume 'Daylight Dialogues' in the works.
But let's back up a bit and take a look at what started it all, the poems on her Instagram account. What exactly makes her pieces so popular?
Maybe it's the whole #aestheticgoals vintage feel she has going on with the old-school typewriter and sephia toned posts? Or maybe it's because she somehow manages to make totally relatable stuff sound so beautifully deep? Whatever it is, she's definitely doing something right.
For a closer look, click on each of the images below.
People from all over the world have openly expressed their admiration for her work not only through comments and messages but also by creating some stunning artwork that truly bring her words to life
From absolutely mesmerizing calligraphy...
... to those that adorn her words with a little something extra
One even drew an adorable little rendition of Charissa herself, awwww!
As diverse as each piece of fanart is, the one thing they have in common is that they're all as unique and beautiful as the poems they're inspired by
This kind of diminishing poetry is the style that Charissa most likes to experiment with because she likes how its beauty lies in the fact that everything comes from the same sentence and yet each line carries a different meaning. She likens it to a period of time that you can relate to, kind of like a timeline that's telling its own story of change.
The simple calligraphy may not look like much and it certainly is one of the more minimalist pieces of fanart she has received, but it's one that she holds close to her heart. She simultaneously calls this particular poem "the piece I'm most proud of" and "the hardest thing I ever wrote" because it was incredibly challenging to find a sentence with swap-able meanings that still make sense and maintain correct grammer.
Its creator, Keau Kapule, a Hawaiian male in his 40s, has been a loyal fan from the very start and has calligraphed almost all of Charissa's poems. Her gratitude for his support plus the intricacies of his life story provided the inspiration for her poem titled 'Then You Happened'.
Speaking of 'Then You Happened', this .gif animation based on it by her university coursemate Clara Wijaya is Charissa's favourite fan creation of all time. She was so amazed by the fact that her friend had only read the first line of the poem from a teaser post but somehow managed to capture the essence, heart and meaning of the poem as a whole.
It was this outpouring of support and appreciation for her work over the years that gave Charissa the push she needed to take things to the next level and publish her book
If you're looking to grab a copy, 'Midnight Monologues' is available at the following bookstores for RM35.90 per copy: MPH, Popular, Bookaliscious, Bookurve and 50Gram.
It's only available in West Malaysia and Singapore at the moment but fret not because it's releasing in East Malaysia later this month. International orders can be placed via DM to Charissa's Instagram account or by sending an e-mail to [email protected] ($5 shipping fee applies).
But if you want to get your hands on a special personalized copy, you'll have to join our giveaway
All you have to do is share this story on Facebook and tag us plus 2 of your friends. No seriously, that's it! Oh and please do make sure that your post is set to 'public' so we can see it.
This giveaway will be running from 5 August 2016 to 19 August 2016. 5 winners will be chosen at random to receive a copy of 'Midnight Monologues' that has been specially autographed and personally packaged by Charissa.
Come on, you know you want it. ;) Good luck!
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