Starting With Max


To find out more about the book and Ying Ying, click on

The Max factor from The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald at


 Also hear what she said on Life Matters, ABC Radio National at


Starting with Max is now an Audiobook from Bolinda Publishing,

distributed by Brilliance Audio, Grand Haven, Michigan 49417


Starting With Max, Ying Ying tells how she became a published author, with extracts and interviews

Starting With Diana

‘My passion for writing led me to the idea of a memoir about my dog, Max, and my experience with him at a time when he was ageing quickly. Time was ticking over and I knew my writing would entail hard work. English is my second language and I am never fully confident with what I write. So how did I start?

I started by joining the NSW Writers’ Centre to get to know the writing scene. The Mentorship Program sounded promising and I decided to find a mentor. The professional experience of Diana Giese impressed me and her profile indicated that she’s someone I could work with. We started working together in late 2011, when I was about to complete my first draft. As it has turned out, Diana was exactly the right mentor that I needed at a time of confusion and frustration in my writing journey. At our first meeting, she switched on a bright light to let me see clearly the strengths as well as the many drawbacks of my manuscript.

Diana was quick to point out what would not work, but also sensitive enough not to make me feel bad about my writing. Her interest in my story was encouraging and right at the beginning she was positive about the prospect of publication. But she also alerted me to the obstacles. Her strengths in writing and editing were clear right at the beginning, and so was her gift for mentoring. We talked through emails and over the phone, I sent over my amendments, and she instructed me how to refine the language and the story. It was not a straightforward process, but I went through it with much satisfaction, feeling that I could trust Diana. Her gentle and opened-minded approach made the consultation easy and rewarding. Over time, I have learnt a lot about how to write well.

Looking back, I now understand how valuable her suggestions were, like deleting the prologue and putting in more details of my family’s life with the dog. Under her guidance, I completed many drafts of the manuscript and became more confident in my writing, even daring to imagine publication for my book. With her knowledge and experience of the publishing industry, Diana was able to send my manuscript to a dog-loving agent, Selwa Anthony, who instantly loved my story and passed it on to a publisher. The path to publication was both efficient and pleasant. My first book in English is Starting with Max.

A caring and effective mentor, Diana has helped me to become a published author, and her belief in me as a writer is the drive for me to continue writing. I strongly recommend Diana to any aspiring writer who is seeking a mentor for support and assistance.’

Extracts from Starting With Max

‘We live by time, with time and for time. We are a product of our past and we are unceasingly creating our future. We act and react in a process involving people, animals, things and events, with a purpose, a task and a goal. To live a human life is to embark on a mission with endless duties, worries, troubles and burdens, and sometimes miseries. Of course, we also experience excitement, satisfaction, happiness and joy, but it doesn’t make sense to say we live a carefree life. Because of its very nature, our human life can never be free from care, for we are constrained by time and our awareness of it. No matter what we do, time runs away.

     To be human is to be in a timeline, with our consciousness repeatedly being shifted back and forth. We remember and are shaped by our experiences of the past, even as we visualise and make plans for the future. That’s why we can never truly relax and enjoy the present, and why some people try to forget time for a while by indulging in drinking and drugs. Despite what the positive-thinking gurus may advise, we can never live only for the present.

      Dogs can take us away for a while from our human concerns and bring us to the moment, the now. Be it attending to them or taking them for a walk, they lead us away from our own preoccupations and suddenly we don’t need to take action and manage the outcome. We truly feel free from having to achieve and accomplish. Jeffrey Masson talks to my heart when he writes: “The dog opens a window into the delight of the moment. Walking with a dog is to enter the world of the immediate.”’

(from Walking)

‘Living with a dog means not only letting him be part of your life; it also means letting go yourself. I have banished forever my obsession with cleanliness and tidiness, as what I once considered the maid’s work is now my own. By bending down to clean, brush and talk to Max, I have not only lowered myself physically, I have humbled my ego. I recognise that I didn’t just adopt a dog, but I adopted a dog’s approach to life as well: his carefree spirit, his forgiving nature, his playful yet cheerfully persistent personality and his energy. I abandoned my pride and learned to improve myself so that I honestly believe I am a better person. And I like who I now am. It was through Max that I have the persistence to live a fuller and more joyous life.’

(from A New Identity)

See some enthusiastic reviews of the book at Goodreads: https://goodreads.com/book/show/18407036-starting-with-max

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