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By Tom Sloper

March 4, 2007
Column #308

American Mah-Jongg. As promised in column #304, here's an interview with Elaine Sandberg, author of "A Beginner's Guide To American Mah Jongg; How To Play The Game & Win," to be released in May by Tuttle Publishing. It's two firsts: my first time as an interviewer, and (I think) her first time to be interviewed!

TS: Elaine, what inspired you to write this book, and how long did it take to write?

ES: I've been playing American Mah Jongg for 15 or so years and when I started teaching several years ago, I discovered the shocking dearth of satisfactory material to use to distribute to my classes.  So I set to work to write something that was complete, comprehensive, and easy to understand--and answered all the many, many questions I was confronted with in class and more.  It turned out to be a long, long project because it took me over 2 years and innumerable revisions and edits to complete.  (I still am finding things to change.)

TS: What is your philosophical approach to teaching mah jongg?

ES:  Being a great player doesn't necessarily mean you are a great teacher and visa-versa. And I don't believe the game is all luck. It's what you do with what you've got that counts.
My approach to teaching is a little different from most. I don't start by presenting the student with 13 or 14 tiles and going from there.  To me, that seems like working backward. I believe that in order to really understand and learn how to successfully play and win, the student must first understand and become familiar with the processes that underpin the game--like how to "read" the card and the importance of knowing the hands on the card, to how your knowledge of the card leads you to find a hand, etc., to finally, learning the processes and rules of actually playing and winning.   It is unique because it uses all the tools and skills presented in each preceding chapter for the final chapter dealing with simple and ever-important Strategies so necessary to winning that have been sorely missing from other publications.  And that's exactly how my book is structured--going from the simple to the more complex in an easy-to -understand style. 

TS: How is your book different from the others out there?

ES: My book is the first how-to publication written exclusively for the American Mah Jongg student! It differs from the NMJL booklet because of its scope.  It's not just a book of rules.  It has many unique features, including  a practice card, photos, examples, tips and hints, "To Do" procedures, practice exercises,  and summaries. You "do" the procedures as you learn. There are even little quizzes.

To be continued...


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© 2007 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.