It sounds at first something of a pipe dream: a Raglan bakery owner who’s written a book wanting to get it on the prestigious New York Times best seller list.
But Pisey Leng’s determined to make her “impossible dream” come true.
So much so she’s timed her Raglan book launch and the start of her internet campaign for ‘The Wisdom Seeker’ – which gives a gripping account of surviving the Cambodian genocide that left two million people dead and an entire country devastated – for next Tuesday, May 19.
“Tuesday is a good day and I like the number 19,” says Pisey. But it’s also exactly the right time to “get me up on the Amazon ranking”, she explains – Amazon being the largest internet-based retailer in the United States and a stepping stone to the New York Times best seller list.
To make the list Pisey needs to sell as many copies as possible of her book at the end of next week, on the 22nd or 23rd, to coincide with shipping dates from the US market and a one-week window of opportunity.
Raglan Library has already ordered 100 copies of her book to sell at that time, she says, to help her on the way.
Pisey – whose face is more familiar behind the counter of the downtown Raglan Bakery – has studied book sales worldwide with the same self-discipline that set her two years ago on the way to becoming a published author, despite being dyslexic and with the limitations of English as a second language.
That was when she adopted as her mentor New York Times best-selling author Peggy McColl who, she says, told her “Pisey you can do this!”
About the same time she discovered the books and seminars of personal development guru Bob Proctor and signed up for one of his courses in Toronto, Canada, where she journeyed with her husband and two sons.
“From there, everything changed for me,” Pisey recalls. She had a horrific story to tell of how her family miraculously survived the infamous killing fields of their native Cambodia in the late ‘70s, eventually finding freedom as refugees in New Zealand.
But it was a “story of hope” she most wanted to share. Through Proctor’s philosophies Pisey learnt to look deeper – spiritually – within herself for the meaning of life, and was inspired enough to produce a manuscript which told how to move on in life and overcome the odds no matter what the circumstances.
Her manuscript was “pure, raw emotion”, she says. She had to re-write it and get it edited twice-over last year by a company in the States but even then it wasn’t until she was introduced through McColl, her mentor, to a ghost writer early this year that the book took its final form.
Pisey had to “give up on my own English”, journey to Orlando in central Miami for a three-day meeting with ghost writer Jennifer Colford and begin recording her story over hundreds of hours. “It was a huge process.”
Her book – which has a foreword by Olympian and author Rob Hamill – was finally published last month to mark 40 years since the Khmer Rouge took over Phnom Penh where Pisey, now 47, was growing up.
It is also the city in which her father was executed for treachery, before she fled to safety with her mother and older brother.
Pisey admits there were still dark days – and even thoughts of suicide – after they arrived in New Zealand in 1988, nine years on from the atrocities. “I suddenly felt smothered by the freedom … and alone in a world where I could not fit in anywhere.”
But moving from Hamilton and setting up Raglan Bakery back in 2003 with her extended family was, she says, a “wonderful” experience in a place she now calls home.
Pisey trained and works too as an anaesthetic technician at Southern Cross Hospital in Hamilton. Hardly a day goes by, she says, when she doesn’t feel grateful for the blessings in her life whether it be commuting to her job of choice or simply thanking locals at the bakery for their custom.
Writing ‘The Wisdom Seeker’ has been her way of healing and finding peace or, as the subtitle says, “finding the seed of advantage in the Khmer Rouge”.
“I share my story with hope that you find inspiration,” she tells her readers, “and become a wisdom seeker yourself.”