Monday, December 26, 2016

Maria Savva's Blog - Interview with Sandra Yuen MacKay


INTERVIEW WITH SANDRA YUEN MACKAY originally posted on Maria Savva's Blog, December 26, 2016. 

              























Welcome to my blog, Sandra! Please introduce yourself. 

I'm a Chinese artist diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia, living in Vancouver, British Columbia much like the main character of my most recent book, Cathy Fung in Chop Shtick. My first book is My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness, published by Bridgeross Communications. I have an art history degree from the University of British Columbia and have won awards for advocacy.

Why should people buy your books?

My Schizophrenic Life is a poignant, inspiring story about my journey through life and recovery from mental illness. It gives insight into symptoms of the illness and is intended to build awareness and lessen stigma. Chop Shtick is a humorous work of fiction about relationships between people and Cathy's search for answers in life and awakening as an artist. The story peaks several times before the final ending, which I hope will surprise readers.

Tell us a bit more about your latest novel.

Chop Shtick is a romp about a group of artists, their intertwined lives, absurd situations, danger, loss, and triumphs. There are many themes in the book, creating a mishmash of ideas and emotions. It's easy to read and the story shifts quickly, reflecting Cathy's scattered thought processes and vulnerable sensibility. The Big Six, a group of struggling artists are commissioned to build a sculpture in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. 

I think Chop Shtick could be considered controversial because of the way I point out ethnicity, like Italian, Chinese, Eskimo, etc. But that's the whole point. If you make an issue of it by pointing it out, are you being politically incorrect? Stereotypes are prevalent in the book, but they are justifiable as a fictional character's opinion. Life isn't so serious, if we can laugh at ourselves. I consider the book to be satirical also because it pokes fun at the individual and serious issues like schizophrenia. You may have heard of Russell Peters, a Canadian comedian and actor of Indian descent. He uses accents and pokes fun at ethnic groups in his acts. I do much the same but in print. If Archie Bunker can be a bigot in the comedic All in the Family, or John Cleese in Monty Python can mock religion or gender, why not today? Are we so afraid to poke fun at anyone at any time?

I totally agree, Sandra.

Where does your inspiration come from?

The inspiration for Chop Shtick came from reading TEMP by Douglas Coupland published as a series in the Metro. A fellow writer James D Young sent me the newspaper clippings from New York. I looked at his style of writing and humor and wanted to write this novel.

Are there any characters in your books that are based on real people?

In stories, you write what you know. I believe all writers borrow from their own experience when formulating a book.My Schizophrenic Life is based on my real life, so the names of persons are changed to protect their privacy. In Chop Shtick, I draw attributes from people I know, but much is fictional as well. I think it makes the characters more multi-dimensional and reality is a springboard for characterization. Also the café Montagna's in the book is based on a café on Main Street in Vancouver.

What are some of the pros/cons of being an indie author?

In my experience, the book industry frowns on self-published books as being inferior and that anyone can publish a book nowadays. However, I have met some very fine indie writers and the big publishing houses turn away good writing. With e-books and the availability for self-publishing, the publishing market has changed drastically. Self-published books may not be as available in bookstores if they are print on demand. Promotion is left up to the author. And so it goes.

Most of my favourite writers these days are self-published, and I grew up reading bestsellers. I think people are missing out on some real gems by only reading traditionally published books.

Who did your cover design?

I designed the covers of both of my books and did some work on covers for other Bridgeross Communications titles. I think the cover is very important to sell the book because that's the first thing you see. It should be eye-catching. For the cover of Chop Shtick, I made it as modern as possible and give nothing away, hoping potential readers will be curious and want to preview it.

Your covers are great. I love your art work. I've been seeing you posting a lot more of it online recently. It's great stuff.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I enjoy word play and puns, and sometimes would rather type than speak in a conversation. The written word is powerful. Writing stories is about creating a believable world for the reader that moves them.

Writing can certainly be a lot of fun and very challenging :)

Thanks for joining me here, Sandra. Best of luck with the new book. It sounds fascinating. I'm looking forward to reading it.

About the book:

Are you interested in art, artists, comical situations, unusual circumstances, or stand-up comedy that verges on political incorrectness? If you said yes to any of the above, I recommend my novel, Chop Shtick. Told by Cathy Fung, a single, schizophrenic, Chinese artist, nicknamed the "Queen of Cliches," this story twists quickly into mayhem and amusement. The Big Six, made up of six struggling artists including Cathy, are commissioned to build an Upcycled sculpture in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. Cathy is paranoid about the neighbours' missing cat and strange goings on next door. The artists investigate, which leads into a dangerous escapade. Not only is Cathy envious of her older brother Leonard the Pest but also Nathan X, an aspiring painter in the group, who dates a snobby Parisian named Sylvie. "I know all about Canada. The beaver fur trade, hunting buffalo, igloos and pemmican," says Sylvie. Marco Manicotti, a muscled sculptor, fights with Denise, a Chinese accessory designer, over the position of a pipe. The leader of the group, Raj aka the Big Kahuna, a troubled artist himself, knows Cathy's weaknesses are her naivety and a heart that cares too much. Cathy is led on a path of self-discovery toward her true potential."

Buy the book on Amazon and Amazon Kindle:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Chop-Shtick-Sandra-Yuen-MacKay-ebook/dp/B01NAKDBUD/
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chop-Shtick-Sandra-Yuen-MacKay-ebook/dp/B01NAKDBUD/
Amazon CA:https://www.amazon.ca/Chop-Shtick-Sandra-Yuen-MacKay-ebook/dp/B01NAKDBUD/

Thank you for the interview, Maria! To find out more about Maria, please visit: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1418272.Maria_Savva

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Chop Shtick, new book release from Sandra Yuen MacKay

Hilariously funny! You won't want to put it down.

Are you interested in art, artists, comical situations, unusual circumstances, or stand-up comedy that verges on political incorrectness? If you said yes to any of the above, I recommend my brand new spanking novel, Chop Shtick. Told by Cathy Fung, a single, schizophrenic, Chinese artist, nicknamed the "Queen of Clichés," this story twists quickly into mayhem and amusement. The Big Six, made up of six struggling artists including Cathy, are commissioned to build an Upcycled sculpture in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. Cathy is paranoid about the neighbours' missing cat and strange goings on next door. The artists investigate, which leads into a dangerous escapade.

Not only is Cathy envious of her older brother Leonard the Pest but also Nathan X, an aspiring painter in the group, who dates a snobby Parisian named Sylvie. "I know all about Canada. The beaver fur trade, hunting buffalo, igloos and pemmican," says Sylvie. Marco Manicotti, a muscled sculptor, fights with Denise, a Chinese accessory designer, over the position of a pipe. Raj aka the Big Kahuna, a troubled artist himself, knows Cathy's weaknesses are her naivety and a heart that cares too much. Cathy is led on a path of self-discovery toward her true potential.

Available internationally on Amazon and Amazon Kindle!






Friday, November 4, 2016

The show must go on

So I have a flurry of art exhibitions this fall. Exciting opportunities to show and have exposure for my art.

One highlight was the BC Home and Design Show where my large floral paintings were included in a ROAM Gallery/Suquet Interiors exhibit. Suquet Interiors received an award for the Best Use of a Large Space.

Another highlight was my solo exhibition at the University Women's Club of Vancouver at Hycroft. The Dream Series consisted of 19 paintings exploring the connection between reality and dreams with an urban theme. I also explored working on a small wood panel piece and mixed media in some of the works.

I would like to say that being an artist is a process. An artist friend said to me, it never stops. You never meet a final destination. It's always about the next show, the next sale, the next challenge. And I do enjoy challenging myself with new ideas and concepts and never stay with one theme or style for long. I go through rapid cycles of creative exploration.

During periods of high productivity, a lot of mental and psychological energy goes into the work. It can be exhausting but also exhilarating. It can cause me to 'go into my head' temporarily, so I force myself to take breaks or do other activities to avoid paranoid fantasies or hypomanic states.

How is it that I work at something that causes me to delve into those types of states? I think it really is a two-edged sword. Painting is my refuge but also my temptation. It gives me identity, purpose, engages all my senses. I'm passionate about it. I can escape into that creative zone. However, with temptation, sometimes it leads you to a less favoured path.

It's like playing with fire. It's intense, hot and keeps me alive but I can get scorched. It's finding a balance.

Empty Green World, 30 x 40

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ismaili Walk for Mental Health

On Sunday, September 18th, I shared my story of recovery at the 25th Annual Ismaili Walk at Stanley Park. They raised over $280,000 toward the Segal Family Health Centre at Vancouver General Hospital and the CMHA Living Life to the Full for Youth program which teaches cognitive behavioural therapy.

There was a turnout of close to 300 by my estimate. They had wonderful food, a live band, bellydancers, and great support from the community.

Over the past five years, I've seen more courageous people sharing their story, their struggle and solutions to the problems we face. There is this movement gaining momentum in events like this, conferences and the Me Too Conversations sponsored by the VGH/UBC Hospital Foundation. There is a spark, a focus to improve the lives of people living with mental illness and reduce stigma.

I went to the Me Too Conversations Vol. 5 last Friday where I learned about coping strategies.
1) Self-regulation of physical, mental, psychological and mental health
2) Self-awareness, living in the present not the past or future
3) Self-empowerment, don't dwell on the barriers or the can'ts but be positive, take initiative and believe in yourself
4) Prepare yourself with a back-up plan if things don't work out

For years, I depended on health professionals for advice on dealing with conflicts in my life, but truthfully, I haven't been hospitalized for 18 years. I've heard the same solutions: self-care, exercise, rest and reduction of stimulation. It's time I applied the rules to myself and not depend on others to find solutions for me. I've been fortunate to have stability in my life. It's time to take the reins and move in new directions.

Life seems to get better the longer I'm around.




Me Too Conversations Vol.2

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Communi-Tea

I'm speaking at this event this coming Saturday at Century House, 620 8th Street, New Westminster about using one's brain to aid recovery from mental illness. The event is put together by high school students and all proceeds go to The Initiative for Neuroscience and Dementia.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Television and other stories

So I confess I do watch a lot of cable tv. Blindspot is a show about a woman with amnesia who is discovered with tattoos over all of her body, naked in New York's Time Square. On her back is the name of a FBI agent, Kurt Weller. The tattoos on her body predict crimes or events that the FBI try to solve or prevent. It becomes apparent that the woman has the equivalent of Seals training and has past secrets that have been erased from her mind.

Okay, so now I have a problem because how did the tattoo designer or someone know these events were going to occur months ahead of time? Who is orchestrating this? Is it ESP or is there a massive plot against the FBI and for what reason? The storyline is starting to introduce another group from her past. But who can trust who? And the whys are getting larger.

Another show I watch is Lucifer. The character of Lucifer is not only fascinating but played very well by Tom Ellis. He leaves hell to come to earth, rejects his Father, burns his wings and decides he doesn't want to go back. He opens a nightclub and enjoys the temptations of sex and vices in the city of Los Angeles. He links up with Chloe, a beautiful homicide detective and aids her in solving cases. However, he starts to become more human and starts to do some good. As he becomes more human, his body is no longer invulnerable. Before he could be hit by a bullet and not bleed, but now he does. There is chemistry between Lucifer and Chloe, but complicated by her ex-husband who brings troubles of his own.

I'm waiting to see where these two shows go with the plot lines.

So how is the Saga of Sandra? I've been the Vancouver Art Gallery four times to see the MashUp show that runs to June 12. It's a history of collage, readymades, appropriation, mixed media, music, sound, writing, architecture and video that fall under art production that remixes or 'mashups' ideas and/or objects and makes them new. The exhibit occupies all four floors of the gallery. My favourite floor was the 4th, where there are works by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Kurt Schwitters, and Marcel Duchamp.

The gallery had a replica of The Fountain, a urinal signed by R. Mutt. A tour guide told this story that Marcel Duchamp wanted to submit this work to an exhibit but couldn't because he was on the board. He gave the idea to a female artist who took on the pseudonym R. Mutt, but the piece was rejected and Duchamp resigned. The original ready-made was destroyed.

The first floor has more contemporary versions of MashUp art production. However, I would agree that it takes perspective and time for art trends or styles to be established and recognized as such. In today's world, art is for everyman and may be created and possessed by everyman because of technology. Anything can be art. Put it on a pedestal or nail it to the wall and it becomes aesthetic or a comment on art, politics, or society. A person with a Smartphone can have access to a multitude of images with a touch of a button, or take photos, record and alter using a built-in camera.

As an artist, I am influenced by many art styles and life experiences. At this point, I am still exploring, which artists should do. A friend of mine explained that not every painting needs to be a masterpiece. This did a lot to break down the feeling of artist's block. It's not that every work has to be a marketable success, but that I as the artist am fulfilled with doing it. Have fun, throw paint!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Lost and Found, a new release by Maria Savva


"Human nature is not neat and predictable.

What makes us betray a loved one?

Can isolation lead to irrational behaviour?

Why do other people’s lives always look more appealing?

Ordinary people living ordinary lives, torn apart by regret, remorse, and deceit. We’re all stumbling through life together. This collection of stories shows you the Lost and Found among us."

Kindle release date is 18th March 2016. The book is currently available for pre-order on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Found-Maria-Savva-ebook/dp/B01BX7Q6HE 

It will also be available in paperback soon.

Maria's various links are:


Maria is a very talented, seasoned writer living in the UK. Please check out her other books on her website or Amazon!