There’s nothing easy about writing books but for Dr Umi Kalthum Ngah, writing has been a lifelong dream, respite, and distraction from stress. This author of 14 books and counting is certainly an inspiration through and through.

Graduating last year at the age of 61, this Bachelor of Psychology alumnus already has two self-published picture books this year, nine upcoming titles and a few on-going manuscripts. One of them is a picture book entitled Di Laman Herba, which is based on her observation of the plants in her own little herbal patch in Ipoh, Perak.

“I’ve been polishing my colour pencil artwork skills, and the picture book is now in the printing phase. Each plant is self-illustrated based on my own interpretation and accompanied by a pantun. Did you know that UNESCO has recognised the pantun as one of the great world cultural heritages?” Dr Umi Kalthum elaborates.

Inspiration comes from many sources. For Dr Umi Kalthum, this included her lowest moment when she suffered multiple losses in her family. “Seungu Lavender was a book I wrote as therapy for my sadness after losing my father, followed by my youngest brother due to accident, then my mother a few years later. The book has inspired many young adults to excel in their studies and find purpose in their lives.”

Dr Umi Kalthum adds, “The other book which I derived great satisfaction from is Keajaiban Haiwan Yang Mengubah Dunia, which is a PhD thesis of one postgraduate student whom I co-supervised. It was intended to inspire more young people to love science and become future scientists.”

While busy with her own writing, Dr Umi Kalthum is also active in other projects and workshops. She often gives motivational talks, and conducts writing workshops organised by non-governmental organisations. In April this year, she presented a research paper at the Persidangan Wanita Selangor conference.

“I also participated in an online programme organised by Children’s Picture Book Association of Malaysia with other renowned storytellers. Almost 100 children joined in with their parents. I had a lot of fun!” she says.

During the pandemic, she has also taken part in a Pertubuhan Penulis Isu-isu Wanita Nasional initiative to publish an anthology of short stories by frontliners, their children, people involved in the food delivery business, and many more.

Always energetic and passionate, Dr Umi Kalthum hopes to continue inspiring people through her writing.

“Islam emphasises the importance of pursuing knowledge. What better way is there to convey knowledge than writing for others to read? As a Muslim, I’m trying to share whatever knowledge I have acquire. After all, asking people to do good and stay away from the bad is the duty of every Muslim. I try to do that in my writing.”