Published: Off Duty, in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore

Good news! In October, one of my fiction stories was published in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, an online space that captures the literary heartbeat of Singapore. Featuring talented local writers like Lee Wei Fen and Alfian Sa’at, I am honored to be published alongside them.

As a born and bred local myself, I am happy to be able to contribute to Singapore’s literary scene. I love writing about my country. It is a tiny dot of a city where many people across the world have mistaken it for being a part of Malaysia or China. It is neither. Instead, Singapore is an independent country that is more than its squeaky clean image. It is a city, with one of the world’s most hardworking people, that had progressed from a third world nation to a first world nation in a few short decades. Our land pulses with the energy of our people carrying big dreams and even bolder personalities. Over the years, we have attained world-class standards in education, science & medicine, tourism, engineering, etc. But these successes came with a price. We may be one of the richest countries in the world, but we, as with other capitalistic countries, cannot avoid the widening income disparity and the social impact of the increasing influx of foreigners/foreign talent. As a result, a sizable group of Singaporeans, despite their contributions to the nation, are finding themselves less and less represented, their voices fading into silence.

My story, Off Duty, was inspired by these oft-forgotten citizens that had worked hard to make Singapore what it is today, but are not reaping the same rewards as the younger generation. I hope to portray more slices of everyday Singaporean life in my future stories. For now, here’s the link to Off Dutyhttp://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1129

Enjoy reading!

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Published: How the Financial Crisis Broke My Family, in Role Reboot

So things have been a little crazy lately (hence the long hiatus) but three main things happened that have kept me more than occupied! One, I’ve a baby! She’s a beautiful girl who is turning 7 months this month! Two, I’d graduated from the University of Southern California with a Master’s in Professional Writing (Fiction). Three, I’ve completed my novel!

So lots of things are happening at the moment, and at the same time, I’ve been publishing some of my shorter pieces of work. Here’s the link to one that was published a couple of months back:

How the Financial Crisis Broke My Family
http://www.rolereboot.org/family/details/2014-08-financial-crisis-broke-family/

When the financial crisis hit, many families were affected including mine. Here’s my story in Role Reboot. I’ll post the links of my other stories that had been published in other journals/reviews soon. In the meantime, you can check out my new other blog on motherhood and parenting at www.bigandtinylove.wordpress.com

What Kind of Writer Are You?

Unfortunately, I am the kind of writer who is easily distracted. For a long time, I had difficulty churning out pages for my novel. This is especially so in the summer when there are no lecturers or deadlines pushing me to write. I wished I could do more but often found myself surfing the internet instead (oh the slippery slope of logging onto facebook), lazing on the couch in front of the TV and doing anything but.

I’ve read how some writers are so passionate about writing that all they want to do is to write all day or else they will DIE (okay, so I paraphrased that, but you get what I mean). Granted that there were nights when I’d been kept awake because there were so many ideas running through my mind, and there had been several times when I got so excited that I jumped out from my bed and wrote. But those instances do not happen all the time, and certainly not every night, and I’d question myself if not having the urge to write all day long was a sign of a lack of passion.

But I realized that that is not true. Writing actually requires a lot of discipline and perseverance, not just unbridled passion. Khaled Hosseini once said at an interview, “You have to write whether or not you feel like it.” Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” That’s quite a comical way of putting it but I agree.

So recently, I established a routine that proved really helpful. I have tried several different suggestions from other writers before, such as spending your first two hours in the morning writing, but they didn’t work too well on me (since I am not really a morning person). So I was glad to discover these three simple approaches.

Firstly, I make sure I read.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King.

Sounds simple? You’d be surprise how many people don’t read. Even for me, I have to make a conscious effort to reach for the book instead of the TV remote on a daily basis. The more I read, the more I was able to learn from other authors and translate that into writing.

Secondly, I try to write a thousand words a day. I first got this idea from listening to Lisa See at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. When I tried this last semester, I couldn’t sustain it for long because I tend to write beyond a thousand words when working on short stories, especially with a deadline looming for class. But in the summer, this helped me a lot. I managed to complete 3 to 4 pages a day most of the time. It doesn’t feel too much or too little and most of all, it trains my “stamina” to write on a daily basis. Some days I write more than a thousand, some days less. I try to do it as early in the day as possible because I find my concentration and attention span to be the best at that time.

Thirdly, I laid off submissions to literary journals and magazines temporarily. I realized that spending too much time mulling over submissions and tracking down journals zapped my time and energy away from not just writing my novel but improving my craft. No doubt I will continue to send stories to journals, but for now, I feel like I need to take some time off to just learn and hone my writing.

So yup, these are my three approaches toward writing this summer and I found them to be highly effective. What kind of writer are you and how do you maintain your stamina for writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Response: The Ecstasy of Influence

Shortly before my semester ended, my lecturer M.G. Lord (author of The Accidental Feminist and Forever Barbie, and judge for the National Book Awards this year) gave the class this reading by Jonathan Lethem. In it, Lethem discusses the limitations of copyright and pieces together a witty essay in defense of plagiarism by borrowing sentences/paragraphs from other writers. In this case, the medium is the message, and he argues that art is created by building on other forms of art.

In that same spirit, our task was to produce an essay by cobbling 500 words from various sources. At first, I thought it would be a piece of cake. How difficult could it be to just copy stuff from others? Apparently, it takes quite a bit of effort, especially if you aim to be coherent! This assignment turned out to be really fun and, after an afternoon of perusing various books and essays, this was what I came up with:

On Writing

For fifteen minutes I have been sitting chin in hand in front of the computer, staring out the window. Trying to be honest with myself, trying to figure out why writing seems to me so dangerous an act, filled with fear and trepidation. It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends. Few of us can remain honest for long, since humans are incorrigibly, self-deceiving, rationalizing animals. So often the “plot” of a personal essay, its drama, its suspense, consists in watching how far the essayist can drop past his or her psychic defenses toward deeper levels of honesty. Likewise, this is my journey of discovery as I essay, as I, through the lens of my writing, try and open up a new flank, locate a tension between two valid, opposing goals, or an ambivalence in my own belief system. As F.Scott Fitzgerald once said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

When I sit down in quiet meditation, the one emotion hardest to fight against is a longing in all things for the past. It is strange how much you can remember about places once you allow your mind to return into the grooves that lead back. I remember the childhood of my yesteryears, the people, scenes, voices and smells of the food in my house. There is much life in memory. I recently came upon an image, taken by Adam Gormley, an Australian photographer. He had been photographing spider webs when a rainstorm hit, and in the aftermath, he captured an image of an ant trapped within a three-millimeter drop of rain whose surface tension maintained the shape of a sphere. Floating in the middle of that transparent pearl, the reddish-brown body of the ant hunches, its many legs dangling toward the bottom of the raindrop’s curve. Gormley at first thought there was a piece of dirt in the droplet; only when he looked closer did he see the ant. “I shouted out in excitement when I realized what I’d captured by accident!” he said.

Why we remember something is not always immediately obvious: within certain memories lies something hidden, the equivalent of a floating ant. In his book How to Use Your Eyes, James Elkins writes, “Our eyes are far too good for us. They show us so much that we can’t take it all in, so we shut out most of the world, and try to look at things as briskly and efficiently as possible.” Too often we skim over our memories as well. They become stories we’ve told ourselves for so long that we think we don’t need to revisit them in greater detail. Yet, as Elkins writes further, “It’s about stopping and taking the time, simply, to look, and keep looking, until the details of the world slowly reveal themselves.” And that is my challenge when I write – as I delve into history, into the many folds of perception, and attempt to uncover its mysteries.

Sources:
“For fifteen minutes I have been sitting … filled with fear and trepidation.” Split at the Root (An essay on Jewish Identity) by Adrienne Rich
“It is easy to see… harder to see the ends.” Goodbye to All That by Joan Didion
“Few of us can remain honest for long… toward deeper levels of honesty.” and “try and open up a new flank… and still retain the ability to function.” Introduction to The Art of the Personal Essay by Phillip Lopate
“When I sit down in quiet meditation… a longing in all things for the past.” Essays in Idleness by Kenko
“It is strange how much you can remember… return into the grooves that lead back.” Once More to the Lake by E. B. White
“I recently came upon an image, taken by Adam Gormley… until the details of the world slowly reveal themselves.” The Ant in the Water Droplet: Locating the Mystery within Memory by Philip Graham