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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sublime

I trace the thoughts
The patterns of
A kingdom found
An eternity lost
A stage of insecurities
On curious display
A sky of comets
To rake out the sun
A hope for peace for everyone
Whilst you bide your time
Flicking fleeting seconds into insignificant corners
Conquering obscure lands
Mapping crooked paths, wayward plans
Your wishes descend
Like large droplets of rain
Drenching minions
In anticipatory glee
They clamour for things not deserved
So you lay bare the cost
The imminent pain
An unforeseen loss
A storm to weather
I watch in silence
The perplexity of placebos
To tranquilise anxieties
Your hopes to be made better
But bitterness is a sneaky thief
That steals your destinies
Multiplying grief
Unless, until a greater find
Knocks down the intentions
Of enemies sublime.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The two sides of extreme

It is common for us in our human nature to want to restrict or condition the behaviour of someone else based on a judgment of whether what they're doing is reasonable or acceptable to us. 

Thus, we have social patterns being formed, fashioned after what is collectively deemed to be right by the society we live in. 
In some parts of the world, perhaps going topless in public may be so commonplace that no one would even bat an eyelid. But in certain other corners of the globe, it would be frowned upon, or the community may take it upon themselves to even reprimand or punish the person concerned.

But I am not here to debate what forms of clothing (or lack of it) are acceptable or otherwise.

What I am writing this post for is to question our rating of the extreme just a little bit. 

We tend to label something as "extreme" if we think it is out of the norm... or to put it more bluntly, out of OUR norm. Or perhaps we ourselves just don't agree with a particular habit or practice, and are out to make it unlawful or unacceptable for others. 

However, we must remember too that there are two ends to the spectrum of the extreme, and whilst we strive to stay away from one end, we should be equally wary to avoid the other end too.

Let me illustrate my point.

Within Christian communities, for instance, we generally do not condone extreme physical displays of affection, especially between couples, and even more so when they are merely dating and not married. For one thing, there is the spiritual-moral aspect about being a good example and being pleasing to God and not stumbling someone else by your indecent behaviour. Let's not go into that topic, anyway.

But take it to the other end of extreme. I've heard (and even seen) in some churches that couples don't even sit together during church services. Well, of course, there are sometimes practical reasons why this is done (one party has duties to do, being hospitable to guests of the church, etc) and that is perfectly fine. 

However, it's a slightly different story if the couple is deliberately not sitting together to so-called show others a higher code of Christian conduct (or something to that effect). It would then appear as if physical proximity between a couple would reflect less spiritual maturity, and that, in order to be a revered Christian couple and one that is regarded as "mature", you should not, in principle, sit with your partner during church meetings.

That is extreme too, isn't it? (And perhaps even a tad ridiculous, if I might say so).

So, actually both kinds of behaviour (public displays of afffection vs. deliberate action to remain physically apart as a couple in front of others) are extreme in nature. Thus, both are in fact not really good practices to adopt.

Hence, the solution isn't to cordon off this or that end of the behavoural spectrum, but rather to encourage moderateness. In that way, you'd have a good balance of things and everyone would be happy. 

In the case of my example, that would mean the couple concerned could peck each other on the cheek, but not start devouring each others' bodies or stripping each other nakes in some way or another when there are others watching. Yet they would not be spending time awkwardly apart during social gatherings at church, but instead remain close enough to feel each other's affection and be able to interact normally with others in the presence of their other half. 

I hope what I'm trying to say makes sense. 

And no, the example that I used above does not have any personal bearing on my own life. I believe I'm pretty well balanced in the way I conduct myself :)

Anyway, I'd say anytime someone cries, "Extreme", the question "On whose terms?" should follow.

But at the end of the day, it's all about being considerate, I suppose. Whatever we do, we should be aware of how it affects others.

And that is how we'll avoid unnecessary extremism. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Refresh

Let's talk about new things, shall we?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The intrigue of irony


Received an email just yesterday from the Deputy Editor of a publication that I interviewed at previously. It's been about 5 months since then, so it's rather surprising that they should write me again on the possibilities of an interview.

Funny how life goes. The timing of things. It's really hard to determine what will happen when, so I guess the best way to make the most out of things is to be openminded and willing to consider whatever it is that comes along your path. And to also be prepared to let go of things you wanted but are either not really meant for you or which is beyond your control to attain. 

At the time when I originally applied to the publication I mentioned earlier, I had limited my scope of job preferences to working for a magazine. At that point in time, I would have not considered business writing nor being a journalist (the 2 jobs which I applied for recently contained these elements). So it's really quite amusing to note how my perspective has changed, and how the opportunities have also both closed and opened at various points in time. 

The irony of it all. 

But in any case, I'm mostly happy. I still have trouble answering that dandy question most people love to ask about where I'd like to be in 5 or 10 years' time career-wise, but it's not for a lack of vision. Rather, I'd like to say I'm open to all sorts of options. I'd still like to be writing, but I don't really want to put a lid on things and say that I'll only want this or that. Let's just see what God brings along and what life ends up offering me.

While we're on the topic, I was thinking... why do people use the term "irony" to describe such circumstances? Why not "coppery" or "steely" or "zincy"? 

And if you wanted to expand this idea further, why not "plasticy" or "spongey" instead? What's so ironic about iron? How is it that it's gotten itself labelled as a word to depict peculiar or unexpected coincidences?

On other matters, it's now November, which makes it Nanowrimo month. I must confess initially I felt rather lazy to even consider doing it, but after another round of contemplation yesterday, I decided to take it up. Teehee. I have my doubts though, whether I'll actually be capable of completing a Nanowrimo novel (I have a long and regretful history of being inconsistent in completing stories - both long and short). But I suppose, nothing tried, nothing gained. 


Anyhow, November is my favourite month, so I hope there'll be some magic to spare over the next 30 days. (Why, you might ask? Well, because it's the month I came into existence in this world a good many years ago). So here's to the hopes of a fantastic, memorable November! May it find you well and thriving too :)
   

Friday, October 29, 2010

Doggonemad part 2

* Continued from a previous post: Doggonemad

Notes:
  1. 1st revision: 29 October 2010
_________________________________________________

"I'm feeling a little under the weather," I groan to the voice on the other end of the line. "I think I need the day off. I'll probably head to the doctor's after this."

The thought that I am lying through my teeth came to mind. Though I had to wonder, even at that moment, how teeth could have anything to do with that.

Perhaps it was like having bits of vegetables stuck between your front teeth. There'd be all these horrid bits of green protruding outwards so clearly for all to see even whilst you continually denied that any were embedded there in the first place.

"It's all your fault!" I exclaim reproachfully whilst casting dirty looks at the dog.

The canine's mouth was open with his lips pulled back just enough for me to see glimpses of his teeth. He looked like he was smiling.

"Yes, yes, I know. What's new? Anyway, can we get on with this?" Hans scampers across the hallway and neatly gathers up his leash in his mouth and trots back promptly to where I am standing.

I stare at him quizzically as I grab the leash from him. I still have trouble believing this furball can talk in plain English. And that he possesses such advanced thinking skills.

"Well...?"

"Oh, get on with it," barks Hans, sitting himself down right in front of me, nuzzling my hands to quickly put the leash on him.

"Mmm," I mutter half reluctantly, but before I know it, we're out the door. The dog's the one who's taking me for a walk this time. Or maybe it's more like a run.

"Would you please slow down?" I screech through gritted teeth as we fly across bushes and flowerpots, jogging paths and pedestrian crossings.

"We don't have the luxury of time. Any moment now, the clues might get swept off or buried away and then we'll never find them and you'll never believe me."

"Why wouldn't I? After all, you can talk," I mumble somewhat sarcastically as I scarcely avoid colliding with a tree as we whizzed past.

Hans is in a zone of his own by now. He doesn't seem to have heard my last sentence. His head is bent low with his nose to the ground, and he busies himself searching for some specific scent that I know nothing of.

"Do I get any explanations yet?"

Hans looks up between sniffs and turns back to reply me, "Just a second, we're getting close now."

I sigh and nearly trip on a large stone at the same time. He had better have a good reason for having dragged me out all this way.

Not to mention the fake illness that I would have to conjure when I finally did make that trip to the doctor's in hopes of a medical chit that can explain away my absence at work today.

"Look," Hans says suddenly and I fix my gaze in the direction where his nose is pointing.

"Uhh.. it's a cat?" The disinterestedness in my voice was crystal clear. "You made me come out all this way for a cat?"

"Sshh!" Hans reprimanded me in a hushed tone. "We've got to follow her."

My movements are careful and calculated now as we tail behind the feline. Anyhow, she didn't appear to have seen us.

Hans speaks up again as soon as we hide behind the shadows of some nearby trees.

"It's your grandma..." He begins.

"What about my grandma? She's dead, you know."

"Yeah, of course I know. That sneaky cat over there was her cat."

I frown for a moment as I try to recall.

"Oh, and this interests me like, how?"

"The cat killed your grandma," Hans said grimly.

I stared at him in disbelief. How on Earth could a canine mind have deduced that?

"And what makes you say so?"

"She had a heart attack, didn't she?"

"Well, yes but-"

"Yes, and that cat had something to do with it. Your sweet old grandma had been in the pink of health before. I don't think it's common for you humans to drop dead suddenly when you're not in the least sick or something, right?"

"Well... yeah..." I admitted, still trying to digest these new pieces of information Hans was feeding me with. "So what do you propose we do now?"

"The cats are up to no good. It's not just your grandma that this feline was out to murder. She and the others like her have something bigger in mind. We need to find out what that is about before it's too late."

And that was how my hatred for cats began.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vagabond


I will be gainfully employed again soon. It's a mixed bag of feelings. 

Frankly speaking, I hate the thought of having my time and energy being subject to someone else's control. Call me a control freak. Or a stingy, selfish brat. But I have come to resent this very necessary part of being an employee. I'd rather head off and do my own thing and earn money in my own way, on my own terms.

But maybe it's not time yet. I don't know.

In any case, I suppose I should not complain. Apparently there are people in this nation who have difficulty finding jobs. Now that one really baffles me. There are only two possibilities for this:

  1. The person concerned is extremely picky about which jobs he/she will apply for, and may even outright reject those that are not up to his/her standards
  2. The person is not qualified enough for the kinds of jobs he/she is applying for

There are many practical ways to overcome both these problems, but then again a lot depends on the person in question. 

But if you ask me, I'd say there are plenty of jobs existing in Malaysia right now. Just take a look at Jobstreet, or even the classifieds section of your daily newspaper. There is undeniably an abundance of vacancies in just about every industry. 

I've been unemployed for less than a month, and have in fact attended a few interviews before finally deciding to accept an offer that was made to me. 

Besides my own experience, another friend of mine recently quit his job as well, and he has already been employed by another organisation - not long after having left his previous job.  

So, if any of you are hunting for a new job out there, take heart. There are employers out there who would be dying to have you on their payroll, as long as you're willing to prove to them that you're worth it. 
     

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Toilet terrors

I was at a public toilet in a petrol station in Mutiara Damansara yesterday when I was greeted by the following words on the door of the toilet stall:

$ One night stand $
Bernie Lim
01x-xxxxxxx

I was somewhat appalled yet intrigued by this haphazard advertisement.

Are there really people out there who are that desperate that they would randomly call a number they found sprawled on the bathroom walls for a night of fun? Hmm. I always thought one night stands were committed because of that irresistable chick or hunk that you chanced to meet at the pub or club or err... wherever. Not by contacting some unknown person whose number you got off the toilet door.

There was this other thought that crossed my mind too: did Mr. Lim actually bother to go through the trouble of visiting the Ladies' just to scribble his little advertisement on the toilet door? And if he had encountered a lady or two in the washroom at that time, would he have tried to work his charms on them in the hopes they just might be so mesmerised as to agree to sleep with him? Or worst still, did one of his present or past clients happily agree to help him put the writing on the door? Eww. All of these possibilities sound gross to me. Anyway, go figure.

Another side of the coin to this is the sad feeling that there really are Malaysians who are so hungry for sex that they would even be willing to indulge in it with a complete stranger. Either that, or they're so keen to make an easy buck that they are completely comfortable with the thought of prostituting themselves. How is this a good reflection of where our nation is headed?

If you will note with me for but a brief moment the state of most developed nations: can you confidently say that crime rates are any lower in such countries as compared to others? Or might it even be... I dread to say it... much higher, even? And yet the aspirations of most developing nations is to head towards becoming developed. But what does being developed mean? Does it mean that the social and financial divide between the very rich and the very poor should be allowed to widen further? Surely the logical answer is "no", but is this what actually what takes place in reality?

Just thoughts, that's what all this is. It's how my brain works - shooting off with a gazillion possibilities in mind for whatever enigmatic reason you can muster.

In any case, I hope some member of the cleaning crew wipes off that advertisement from the toilet door soon. And more than that, I hope Mr. Lim finds something more constructive to do in his spare time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Breaking (into) news


[At 2.15 pm today]

I just got home from an interview at a famous local newspaper publisher awhile ago, and am still recovering from the experience. No, it wasn't a nasty encounter, but nevertheless, interviews demand a lot more ardour than usual and have the tendency to deplete your energy level at rather alarming rates.

As expected, I was required to sit for a test which lasted for an hour. Writing was definitely one of the skills that was being evaluated (after all, I was applying to become one of their journalists), along with some general knowledge on the business world (in line with the kind of publications which I would potentially write for). 

The interview that followed immediately afterwards was with two of their editors, and much to my relief, it was quite an informal chat and not one that was too intimidating (although the longer it went on, the more I felt increasingly restless, especially at the point where one of them says to me, "It's a bit intimidating, isn't it?" What an adverse psychological effect that produces).

The outlook of a career as a journalist certainly is quite different from what I'm used to. Having done freelance stints for a considerable stretch of time, the flexibility it offers is quite lovely (although the earnings are meagre and cannot really sustain you) and somewhat hard to give up. 

Another thing, writing for periodicals such as magazines poses other kinds of demands on you. For one thing, you are often afforded longer periods of time for the entire research and writing process, and perhaps landed with a bigger word count. Topics may vary widely, and more often than not, you're blind as a bat with regards to knowledge and foresight about the subject matter at the first instance when you're just starting work on a particular assignment.

From my current viewpoint, journalism appears to be a more specialised field, and you basically write stuff within a given turf. I suppose in that sense you can speak in greater length and depth about what you write on, and growing experience would dictate that your commentary is valid and your opinions well founded.

I'm not sure which side of the fence I will end up on yet, but hey, I can do features. And I've done press releases before. And blog posts. And citations. And whatever-else-you-want-to-throw-at-me. If it's about the text, name the topic and I'll flourish you with an article. Well, at least that's how I hope I come across. Hmm.

At the back of my mind now is that blog post I need to revise for that boss I freelance for. And the house chores I haven't done. Being without a job doesn't necessarily mean you're actually free. There is really so much to do. In fact, even if I were to just concentrate on finishing my house chores alone, I think there'd be enough to keep me occupied for quite some time. (Only finance-wise I'd be suffering and soon become a pauper, more or less).

Ah, I'm rambling. I guess I should stop here until the next time when I have something more productive to say. 

Good day everyone.
   

Friday, October 22, 2010

Epicure

Just for now, can I be permitted to bask a little in my own glory a little? Just for one teensy moment?

The reason for that is that I am excited. Very excited, if you must know.

Just a little over a year ago, I began the arduous task of taking on silly, tiny, peanut-paying freelance jobs in order to kickstart a career in writing. Since that time right up to the present day, I've written on everything from kitchen mixers to foam mattresses, selecting car insurance to repaying loans and credit cards, detox products, studying in France and even profiles of famous personalities.

And in the midst of all these fantastically bizarre writing episodes, I've earned a little bit of credibility. And with that, coupled with God's merciful graciousness towards my efforts, I have been privileged to attend quite a number of interviews and land a job as a writer.

Even now as I write, despite having recently quit my job, I have new opportunities opening up and it's got me excited.

I hope this doesn't bore you too much, my dear readers, or that I don't sound a tad too full of myself.

But for me, this is nothing short of amazing. For an Accounting and IT graduate who has absolutely nothing on her education certificates to showcase her capabilities as a wordsmith except the fact that she knows she can and she can prove it, this is absolutely amazing.

It just goes to show that, God willing, with an ounce (or more) of determination and some effort on your part, it IS possible to:

  1. Switch careers to something totally unrelated to what you had been doing previously
  2. Make something you love doing into your career
  3. Get recognised for being good at it


I really feel this is a story worth telling. Perhaps someday I will write this down into a book or something. It is something I wish everyone out there knew.

To anyone who's taking the path less travelled, or anyone who's contemplating that leap of faith, I'd say go for it! :)

Perhaps you may not know where you'll end up. Maybe you'll get rejected or belittled once or twice. But at the end of the day, you'll get there. And then you'll look back and reminisce, and realise that it was truly worth it all.

*     *     *

Read my current collection of Receipt Stories and Like them! ;)

The write way

Classifieds

A dream, living

He and I
   

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Doggonemad

Writing prompt:

One day you wake up to find your dog/cat waiting for you at the side of your bed, sitting on your briefcase. Cocking its head, it tells you, in perfect English, that you won’t be going to work today. Why won’t your pet let you go to work, and what happens?


Notes: 
  1. 1st revision: 29 October 2010
_________________________________________________

“Hans, what are you doing sitting on my laptop bag?” I blurt out loud on a reflex, perfectly aware that my loving and devoted German Shepherd probably would not understand a word of what I had just said. 

The huge furry pooch just kept on staring at me, panting noisily with his tongue jutting out and his eyes looking directly into mine. That cute look. Dogs always give this ridiculously cute look that somehow ends up convincing you to give them what they want.

“Off boy, off!” I command Hans in my most stern voice.

Only that I am not good at giving commands, and the reaction I solicit from the canine is merely a momentary pause in his panting, during which he cocks his head to one side and continues to gaze at me in a somewhat wise looking way.

As I sit up and attempt to reach out my hand to pull the laptop bag up from beneath the weight of my stubborn pet, an unfamiliar voice suddenly says to me, “You’re not going to work today, Susanna.”

Puzzled at the existence of this voice, I look up quickly and scan the entire bedroom. As far as I remembered, it was only me and the furball that were here.

“Who’s there?” I squeak tentatively.

I feel the wet nose of my dog nudging my elbow.

“It’s me, silly,” comes the voice again, and this time I turn my attention to Hans and realise that it is in fact him that is speaking.

I shrink back slightly, retreating towards the other side of my bed. I must be dreaming. My dog is speaking English to me.

“You can talk,” I utter incredulously.

“Dogs aren’t that dumb you know,” comes the voice again, and this time I note that the words really were coming straight from the mutt’s lips.

Hmm. Why hadn’t I noticed this before? I own a talking dog.

 “Since when do you talk?”

“Since you’ve been ignoring me over the last few months and my only entertainment has been the evening news. They speak pretty good English in their broadcasts, you know.”

I felt a tinge of guilt growing the moment I heard him say that. Well, yes, I was sort of guilty for having sidelined Hans lately. What could I do? Life was throwing all sorts of nonsense at me, and I was trying my hardest to deal with it. The last thing I had on my mind was making sure my dog was well entertained. I fed him and gave him a comfy place to stay, didn’t I? Surely petting him several times each day should cover it?

Yet, based on the current feedback I was hearing, apparently it was not.

But hey, I’m the owner here, aren’t I?

I crossed my arms impatiently.

“Alright, mutt, so you can speak English. And why should that be such a good reason for you to stop me from going to work?”

“Because,” Hans replies calmly, “I know things you don’t know.”

“Like what?” I mutter in disbelief. “Would you get on with it? I’m going to be late.”

“You don’t understand, do you?” Hans growls and bares his teeth to me.

“Well make me understand then.”

“Take me for a walk and let me lead you. I’ll show you what I mean.”

“Whatever for– ”

“Trust me,” Hans reassures me, and grabs my left arm in his mouth whilst he drags me out of bed.

I groan, but comply. They say German Shepherds are a clever lot. I suppose I’m about to find out just how true that is.

* Continued here: Doggonemad part 2

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Space and time, things that hurt, heal, warm the soul and rhyme

I am relatively free these days.

The reason for this is that I am out of a job - I recently left my last employer due to some sticky issues that I foresaw would not be likely be resolved. Sounds rather vague, doesn't it? Well, as the wise ones say, don't complain about your job online, and especially not on your blog. Thus, I will not do so.

In any case, I freelance fully yet again, ladies and gentlemen ('till such a time that I have full time/part time job offers again). Have you any need of a writer? *puts on a wide, convincing grin*

Frankly speaking, I feel a wave of laziness that is getting increasingly hard to shake off. Earning a living is rather hard work. And although writing is my forte, the truth of the matter is you don't always get to write on the topics you love AND get paid at the same time. It's a rare occurrence, trust me.

Perhaps in this temporary period of freedom, I shall blog more. Let you in on my thoughts and fears and what nots. After all, it takes skill to be gracefully unemployed. 

Now please excuse me whilst I go out to wash my laundry. Hehe.

Shifting seasons

It always begins with discontent.

A tiny gnawing at the edge of your nerves. The inexplainable restlessness that plagues you every few hours. A repetitive questioning, a series of self-contemplations on the meaning of life and whether or not the things you've been investing a significant amount of your time and energy into are really worth the sacrifices you make.

It is in these uncomfortable moments that an impetus for change surfaces. But then comes the crucial bit: the decision on whether something should be done or not.

In that choice lies the possibilities of improvement, deterioration or stagnation. Which of the three becomes a reality really depends on what action is taken. Or isn't.

Whatever the case may be, at the end of it all, we have only ourselves to blame for the outcomes that befall us. But conventional wisdom does dictate: you cannot expect a different result if you keep doing the same things.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Slick, not slack

If you had imagined I'd been slacking, think again, dear readers.

Despite the apparent lack of posts for some time, this writer has been very much busy. If not writing, then reading, lazing about or hanging out with family, friends or the boyfriend.

And of course, daydreaming, the healthy hobby of all good writers.

In any case, I am happy to report that with the absolutely marvellous weather that Petaling Jaya has been enjoying lately (read: rainy), it's no surprise that I've regained some creative juices at long last.

For the ignorant ones, I am a full time writer who writes mostly business/non-fiction stuff for my day job. Boohoo. More often than not, this results in the creative tendencies of my brain getting quashed to make room for the logical and commonplace.

But my heart has always been sold to fiction and poetry.

Yet honestly, in the typically harsh, no-nonsense culture of every day life, it's easy to sideline these seemingly insignificant forms of creative writing (honestly, what has the world come to?). Such is the difficulty that out-of-the-box ideas are getting harder to come by these days.

But let's hope that all changes sometime soon :)

And now, a little summary for you of what's been up my sleeves of late.

Been toying with ideas for a full length book (whatever that means hoho). I've the basic ideas, but still lots of gaps in between what I envision will be the finished product, and what it currently is. Have already thrown out the few pages I started for what was to be the first draft, and have begun writing it again from scratch. Where this leads to, and whether I will finish... that remains to be seen.

I decided to participate in Book Xcess' Receipt Stories competition. Sounds simple enough. Submit multiple entries of 100 words or less and hope to be noticed. Because if you do get discovered, you'll be a winner and will have the chance to see your story printed on Book Xcess receipts. What a cool concept! Here's my initial entry: He and I. Do give it a read. If you dare, that is.

I also wrote a children's story today. I feel rather proud of that one. I've wanted to get one out for ages, but there hadn't been any inspiration. Sad to admit, really, but being an adult does hinder you from hatching whimsical, fantastic storylines that are beyond the realm of the ordinary world, yet appeal to the hearts and minds of the younger ones. It took a small cockroach appearing on the monitor of my office computer to jolt me into a feasible short story plot. Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself. For the sake of labelling, I'm putting it in a separate blog post. Read about it here. I'm getting a niece of mine to help illustrate it. I'm anticipating great things. If all goes well, I shall re-post when I have the images on hand.

Well folks, isn't that a lot to accomplish now? I still have hopes of churning out more fiction, but I guess that will have to be a story for another day (literally).

As I leave you now, I bid all you other writers and Keepers of the Arts a good night and may you continue to champion that which you love. If you're looking for nice, mellow, slightly melancholic music to grace your writing sessions, do check out Fiction Family. It has served me well today, and I expect it will in days to come as well. Perhaps the name has something to do with it. Hehe. (Mr Foreman, you owe me a free CD for my promo efforts).

Goodnight, and do write... wherever, whatever, whenever.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The bug in Jack's computer

It's my first attempt at a short children's story and I finally successfully completed one today. I am quite pleased that I've finally gotten this done. I had some difficulty in coining up an idea for the plot, so I was very much glad when I finally got one today.

It took a cockroach showing up at my computer monitor at work to kickstart the idea. Funny, but it's a true story, believe you me.

I'm enlisting the help of an extended family member to get the illustration done for it. All of this feels really exciting. If it all goes well, who knows? Maybe we'll be able to get something really cool out of this. I've left room for further story development involving the main characters. But whether that takes off really depends on the initial feedback that I get from this first story.

I guess I should be secretive for now and not publish it here. But fear not, I will surely do so once I get the illustration done - well, at least in some form or another.

I'm procrastinating, by the way. I've some work to do, and I'm putting it off by writing about everything else in the whole wide world EXCEPT that thing which I should write. What's new, I suppose?

So as not to put myself in further trouble, I will end here for now. Toodloos then!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wordsy



Sunday, August 29, 2010

Trace

She turned to go
but tripped on a pebble
she hobbled her way
past buses and trains
but no one saw where she went
or when she came

There was no seat
in the occupied carriages
amidst the whistle blows and the chugging engines
a reverie enveloped her amidst a strange silence

In the falling shadows surfaced
tales of old
memories and familiar figures
laughter and song
kisses and warm embraces

The sun has disappeared
behind clouds
as the train pulls away
so do her thoughts
her determination
willing her to keep moving

Must she stay
Should she leave

Ticket in hand
She wrestles with dilemmas
bigger than the station she stands in
larger than the life
she has to give

She walks
retracing her tracks
into a door
into a space
only she knows
and there she replaces
the hopes of better things elsewhere
with a newfound love
for her makeshift home

Edible feelings

"Write about a food that gives you a specific emotional response."
 - From The One Minute Writer

*     *     *

Food doesn't really elicit much of a response from me. That's because I don't really live to eat. I guess the only time I have a huge reaction whilst eating a particular food is when it really tastes bad. Smells are important, though. If something smells really tantalising, the chances are I am more likely to think it tastes great and derive great satisfaction from eating it. Even when maybe, it might not be that fantastic after all.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Crossed paths - The beginning

Sharifah sunk into a corner at the end of the dingy toilet. The stench was overwhelming, but she did not care. Having to enter into more than 20 different toilets in a day - and for reasons other than to relieve yourself - made you immune to the worst of smells. In fact, if she concentrated hard enough, sometimes it felt as though she couldn't really smell anything foul at all.

The horrid sights that she had to endure were far worse. The bloody trails left by some primitively raised girl who had no sense to clean up after her own mess when experiencing that inconvenient time of the month. The toiletbowl that got clogged because somebody just didn't get it that if a dozen wads of tissue were already embedded in there, it probably meant the flushing mechanism was out of order.

It was hard to be imaginative in an environment as demoralising as these public toilets. The best she could do to console herself was to think about how clean and lovely and sweet smelling it would be when she was through cleaning the entire place.

She rose to her feet slowly. Picking up the mop that was leaning on the nearby wall, she got to work.

*     *     *

"Oh this is just great, isn't it," Jasmine muttered as she threw up her hands in frustration at the impossible traffic line up in front of her. Glancing at the clock on her dashboard, she inhaled deeply in an attempt to calm herself down.

She was already half an hour late. And at the rate the traffic is moving currently, she was bound to arrive there in an hour, if not two.

Shoving a hand into her pocket, Jasmine fished out her mobile phone and dialled a number.

"Hi, Mr Toh, I am so very sorry... yes, I will be rather late. The traffic today... horrible... I can't even see the reason for this hold up. If you could be so kind, do you mind postponing our appointment to maybe, 2pm? I think it's better if you had time for lunch first anyway. This will probably be a long discussion. Really sorry... yes, I did bring the documents this time... don't worry... I'll call you again you when I reach. Yes. Thank you. Bye."

Jasmine groaned and she dropped the phone into the passenger seat beside her. The cars in front were beginning to inch their way forward now. Perhaps there was hope of arriving much earlier than she had expected.

From the corner of her eye, she caught sight of some vehicles turning off into another route on the left side of the road. She stopped to ponder for awhile.

A shortcut, perhaps?

Bulldozing her way across two lanes jam packed with cars, she managed to squeeze into the leftmost lane just in time to make the turning. With a grin and a sigh of relief, Jasmine felt much better now. She revved up the car engine and zoomed down the rather empty road before her.

Unexpectedly, a speeding car came careening from some location on her right. Without enough time to digest the gravity of her surroundings, she only briefly caught a glimpse of the car before it collided with hers, sending her skidding off the road and tumbling down... down... down the hill...

*     *     *

Sharifah sighed happily at the sight of the perfectly clean toilet.

'All in a day's work' she thought to herself, and spun around in front of the full length mirror. Some days she felt quite Cinderella-ish and today was one of those days. If only her Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming would hurry up and make an appearance. The days were many and tiring and she could feel herself getting too old for fairytales already.

"Tengok apa tu?" Came an all too familiar booming voice.
(translated to English as "What are you looking at?")

Sharifah turned around to see the awfully displeased face of Aneera, her supervisor.

"Suka-suka kau ya, bazir masa cam ni. Sepatutnya siap setengah jam sebelum ni. Terasa macam Kak Neera nak potong gaji Sharifah ya..."
(translated: "Do as you like, would you, waste time like this. You should've completed this task half an hour ago. I feel quite inclined to give you a pay cut this month, Sharifah.")

Sharifah's lower lip quivered, and she shook her head vehemently.

"Jangan, Kak Neera. Minta maaf, saya ni bukan main-main, saya hanya-"
(translated: "Please don't sister Neera. I'm sorry, I wasn't fooling around, I just-")

Aneera took no heed of her words at all, and merely stormed out of the toilet, letting the door slam hard after her.

*     *    *

"So, do you want to trade places?" Jasmine's voice rang out loud in the eerily silent corridor in which they stood.

"Tak faham lah, Cik..." Sharifah whined and screwed up her face in displeasure.
(translated: "I don't understand what you're saying, Miss...")

"Nak tukar tempat dengan saya, tak?"
(translated: "Do you want to swap places with me or not?")

Sharifah wasn't sure she fully comprehended what this strange, tall, immaculately dressed woman before her was talking about, but she figured, whatever it was that they were exchanging, anything that this woman had to trade with her would definitely be much better than whatever she owned right now.

Jasmine extended her hands towards Sharifah, palms faced up. Beckoning.

Sharifah hesitated for a few seconds, then raising her hands, she placed them right into both Jasmine's hands.

"Tutup mata," Jasmine instructed, her face bearing a somewhat grave expression.
(translated: "Close your eyes")

Sharifah did as she was told.

As she did so, she immediately felt a tingle of electricity pass through her hands. Startled, she opened her eyes, and saw for the first time, a whole new world.

* to be continued*

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Candid career

"If you could try out a new career for a month (magically knowing what to do, without any special training), what career would you choose?"

- Source:  The One Minute Writer

*     *     *


Ganesh watched keenly as the artist made soft strokes onto the canvas with the paintbrush that was tightly gripped within his fingertips. He stared at the point where the paintbrush met the canvas and marvelled at how quickly a plain surface was transformed into a delightful work of art, simply with a few skillful movements from a master's hands. He sighed with a mixture of wonder and melancholy at the beauty of the completed drawing before him.

How he wished he was talented in art that way.

Those around the artist were applauding and verbally commending him. Everyone appeared pleased at the results. One man was patting him on the back and smiling approvingly. The artist himself seemed hugely satisfied. His large grin of contentment was unmistakable.

Ganesh was walking away now, even as he cast one last glance at the artist and his masterpiece. Yet his mind lingered on the artwork. How he loved art.

Walking out of the building where the artist had been, Ganesh crossed the busy street and waited by the roadside for his Mum to come pick him up after work.

All around him people bustled to and fro. The evening was slowly but surely coming to a close, and just about everybody was anxious to get home.

A gust of wind blew, and unsettled a pile of brown leaves, sending them flying in the direction of Ganesh. When they settled, he recognised the car that halted just in front of him.

He smiled to his Mum as he helped himself in opening the front passenger door and settled into the car seat.

"Had a good day today?" She asked, as was her habit every day.

"Yeah." He couldn't help sighing as he said this.

"Something the matter?"

"Naa. I was just... watching this guy paint just now. I wish I could do art like that."

"I'm sure you can," his Mother said cheerfully and optimistically, in the way all mothers do when encouraging their kids to do something beyond whatever was their norm.

He shook his head. But his Mum could not see it because she was looking straight ahead as they flew past intersections and traffic lights, junctions and flyovers.

*     *     *

Sitting cosily in his bed, with a pillow propped up and a block of paper positioned squarely on his lap, Ganesh's forehead crumpled into a frown. In his right hand, he held a brown crayon, poised mid-air.

Drawing a deep breath, he made swift movements across the piece of paper that was before him, willing an image to emerge from the drawing he was attempting to create.

Minutes later, he held the paper backwards and squinted as though something beautiful could only be observed if his masterpiece was viewed from a distance. However, no matter which angle he looked at, or how much he narrowed his eyes in an attempt to so-called focus his vision on some part of the artblock, no real value could be ascribed to what he had drawn.

It was ugly.

The bedroom door opened a crack, and his Mother peeked in.

"Still up?"

"Yes," Ganesh muttered in quiet defeat.

"What have you got there?"

"Nothing," he replied in monotone, dropping the art papers back onto his lap.

"Let me see," his Mum insisted and stepped into the room.

"It's horrible," Ganesh blurted out his final verdict of the endeavour even as she picked up the art paper from his lap.

She laughed in response to his remark, but then feigned awe and admiration at the beauty of his efforts.

He knew it was fake. It made him feel all the more a failure.

*     *     *

The canteen resounded with the echoes of excited, energetic students. The weather was - as it was on most days - scorchingly hot, and terribly unbearable. The line for cold drinks stretched more than halfway across the length of the canteen area. Ganesh scowled when he caught sight of it. He'd probably better eat his fried noodles first before even attempting to get in line to acquire a beverage to quench his thirst.

He sat down immediately at the nearest vacant spot on a nearby bench. Plate placed in front of him, he picked up his fork and bent forward to take in his first mouthful of noodles.

But even as he was about to do so, he caught sight of the blue magic marker before him. It was right there, in the middle of the table, all by itself. There were no other stationery to accompany it. It was just there on its own.

Ganesh's gaze was fixed on it in amusement. He figured someone had left it behind. He toyed with the idea of handing it over to one of the school prefects so they could pass it along to a teacher who could facilitate the process of locating its rightful owner.

But then again, he reconsidered the matter, and pocketed the marker for himself instead.

*     *     *

The teacher had been delayed, and the entire classroom of students was getting fidgety. Noise levels grew, and students began getting out of their seats, each turning to their own ideas on what was the best way to spend a free period.

Ganesh was bored. He thumbed restlessly on the pages of his exercise book. Then on a whim, he retrieved the marker pen from his pocket and absently began making a tiny sketch on the corners of the final page of his book.

In his mind, he figured he should start with something small, so he drew a Starbucks mug. He had always wanted one, although he knew it wasn’t likely he’d ever get his Mum to buy it for him.

So he put lines and circles together and created the mug on paper. The blue marker was a little hard to work with, as it occasionally smudged unnecessary amounts of ink at the wrong places. Ganesh concentrated hard.

Just as he added the finishing touches to the logo design on the mug, a peculiar thing happened. The corner of his book where he had made the mug drawing began to jerk inwards, as though magnetised by something in the middle of the page.

Then suddenly, out of the page popped a mug. A Starbucks mug. Right smack on top of his book.

Ganesh stared and stared. This was most definitely absurd. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief, shut them momentarily, then opened them again to check if the mug was still there.

It was.

He quickly whisked the mug away into his backpack and looked all around to check if anyone else had noticed the queer happenings at his desk.

Apparently not, as everyone else was absorbed in their own conversations, reading books or making paper aeroplanes to send flying across the classroom.

Ganesh stopped to think for a moment.

Then he lifted the marker, flipped a page and started drawing something new.

This time he drew a huge hall. And in the hall, he drew many frames hanging on the walls carrying in them exquisite paintings of seemingly priceless value. Then at a corner of the hall he drew a canvas, an easel, a palette full of watercolours and a thick, bushy paintbrush.

As he was completing the last few strokes on his drawing, he felt his marken pen swerve suddenly out of control and pull him forward. Before he knew what was going on, he found himself in a large hall, surrounded by paintings and with an easel set before him, accompanied by all the other equipment that he had included in his sketch.

He was astounded yet pleasantly surprised.

“Draw something!” An enthusiastic voice urged him.

He turned around and found a tall, elegant lady standing beside him, eagerly nudging him to begin painting.

“But I–“ Ganesh started to explain, but then he noticed there was a crowd standing around him, all eyes fixed expectantly on him.

So he began to paint.

After what felt like only a few seconds, he realised he had already completed his piece of  artwork, without even knowing what he had been painting. He stared at the filled canvas in a daze. It was a scenic landscape with trees and a lake flowing through it and meadows with cows grazing in a distance. It was not humanly possible that he had drawn that. Ganesh was pretty sure of that.

Applause erupted all around him, and gasps of delight were heard from the bunch of people surrounding him. A young man dressed smartly in a grey coat came forward and patted him gently on the shoulder.

“Well done, boy,” the man exclaimed, and went on to praise Ganesh on the excellent job he had done on his masterpiece.

Ganesh turned to face the man and to reciprocate with some words of gratitude. From the corner of his eye, he somehow noticed a small boy walking away from him and the crowd that was around him, heading towards the exit, apparently in a bit of a hurry.

‘Strange,’ Ganesh thought to himself, but merely returned his gaze to his art and to his adoring admirers. 


* Inspiration for this story was also derived from the tale of  the magic paintbrush.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Holiday hop

Try this on for size:

"Come up with a new holiday. Explain why and how it should be celebrated."

*Writing prompt taken from Writer's Digest

*     *     * 

We should celebrate Paper Cut Day. 

This holiday should be celebrated because every one of us has experienced a paper cut in one way or another during our lifetime. As small as it is, paper cuts usually occur on the fingers, and because of this, it has a great impact on our ability to do a lot of things (because we use our hands to do most things). 

Hence, sometimes we need to pay attention to the small details in life. Once in awhile, just one small thing going awry can amount to great problems later on. 

So, the spirit behind Paper Cut Day is to take time to cherish the small things - to mend any hurts that might have been inflicted onto the soul. 

Reconnect with old friends. Revitalise an old hobby. Make amends for relationships gone sour. Take time to smell the flowers. To sing your favourite tune. To listen to God, to just be. To make a big deal about the smaller details in life - because they really do matter after all.  

In order to encourage participation in Paper Cut Day, it is recommended that this holiday should be made a globally observed one, whereby work/school (or anything which requires hard work) on that day shall be completely prohibited, with severe penalties taken on any employer or employee, principal or student who fails to abide by this law.

To commemorate this Day, each person should wear a plaster on one of their fingers as a sign that they are observing this holiday. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

The IT factor

I used to be a programmer by profession, believe it or not. In terms of education and paper qualifications, I have a bachelor's degree in IT, from a rather distinguished university. In fact, I was employed in IT jobs for at least 2+ years previously.

However, I gleefully left my IT ways behind me the moment I gained access to an editorial/writing career. It is my one of my true loves, after all. 

Then, once in awhile, there comes a night like tonight, when my parents present me with some computer challenge that they are facing. And thanks to the principle of past behaviour defining future behaviour, they still think I am able to solve their problem.

So, well, I try. And as how it usually goes at the first attempt, I flat out fail. Then I consult my virtual best friend, Google, and 20-30 minutes later, I've got the troubling issue dealt with. Perhaps my IT troubleshooting skills haven't left me after all.

But really, this goes to prove just ONE thing: you don't have to be a genius or an expert to be able to ace something. You just need persistence, an inquisitive mind, and a nose pointed in the right direction for help, advice, and ultimately, the turning up of the right solution.

And so, my dear friends, before you decide to say "no" to some favour that someone else is asking of you because you think it's out of your league, think again. It may not be as hard to figure out as you imagined.

Plus, you might earn the label HERO afterwards, which is better than any amount of paper qualifications hanging on your wall.

The Scoop

I miss writing fiction, so therefore, it's time for a refresher:

"Write a story from the perspective of a spoon in a dishwasher."

- Source: writing.com

So here goes...

*     *     *

It's cold over here and yet, I am waiting. Nobody ever told me before that this was part of the job description.

My vision is currently half obscured by the heavy porcelain plate that is stacked just right beside the spot where I am nestled beside other fellow dinner cutlery.  In any case, I can't see much. It's pretty dark.

Dinner has been over since hours ago. But I guess someone forgot to put the dishwasher on. So we've been sitting idle here for what feels like centuries. Then again, we spend more time waiting than we do being used. It's just one of those facts of life, I suppose.

My partner in crime, the gorgeously prickly Fork, told me that the dishwasher functions pretty much like a carwash. When I asked her what a car was, she shrugged and said she didn't really know. It's a wonder how she knew what a carwash is then.

I hear some movement from the direction of the front door of the dishwasher. I wonder if it's about to be started soon. I'm looking forward to being washed squeaky clean.

Human voices. Then, a turning of knobs and a pressing of buttons. The dishwasher comes to life.

But then, something feels terribly wrong. The machine begins to shake - more violently than I remember it normally does. I hear the clatter of plates clashing against one another. The other forks and spoons are shivering. The glasses and mugs are shrieking, vibrating, shattering...

I feel the rise of chaos, the cries of helplessness, the sting of heat... and then, a sudden silence and deep darkness, thicker than before.

I try to call out, but then, my voice is not heard. Although I cannot normally move myself, I try to inch forward towards whatever it is that is around me. I feel myself falling. Somewhere. Into something.

Splat.

It is soft. I descend upon its surface unharmed. I look about me. All I see is pink.

A hand reaches into the pink atmosphere. I am lifted from the wreckage and a pile of pink stuff is scooped up with me.

I hear laughter.

Before I even realise it, I am face to face with a mouth - one that's opening and beckoning me in towards its dark, bottomless abyss.

In goes the pink stuff, and saliva smooths my curvy surface.

I stop to wonder how did I ever get here. What happened to the dishwasher?

I feel alone. I miss my precious companion, the Fork.

Again I am dunked into the pink pile. My face is numb. Teeth clench themselves around me.

I am being used. I should be happy. But I am not.

Where are all my friends from the dishwasher?

Swoosh. A wave of cold water flushes out my thoughts.

I am in a cupboard. Or a drawer. I cannot decide which.

I try to rise from where I am. My body clinks against another piece of silverware..

Fork! Dear Fork! It is good to see you.

Oh Spoon! Where have you been?
I'm not sure, but I though we were in the dishwasher? 

Oh we are... we are...
Water sploshes all around. My confused thoughts meld together with the rhythmic rinsing and comforting warmth.

I sigh contentedly.

What a life.

Friday, July 2, 2010

One Minute Writer: Delegate

I'd love to delegate the responsibility of making decisions for my life to someone else. Let them think for once what I should do and the pros and cons and all the other factors involved.

I'd have the hardest time delegating something I'd love to do myself, especially something creative like writing or music. That's because I'd want it done in a specific way, probably.

Idea gleaned from this post

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Write Where You Want It


Erm. Writing isn't always fun. Especially writing for the job. Sometimes you have the most brilliant lines emerge from your thoughts. But at other times your brain feels like the dull end of ye old fashioned me-needs-sharpening kind of pencil.

Today was one of the duller moments for me. After going to great lengths to source for information online, having gathered all my precious archaelogical findings together and almost causing my eyes pop out from reading what I'd found due to its sheer volume, my brain was in a state of stupor.

One of the hardest parts about writing, I must say, especially of the non-fiction sort, is the part where you're just about to begin putting words down - when you've got all that you need right there with you, but for the time being it's still just a huge tangled ball of yarn stuck in your head.

Once the words get recorded one by one and the sentences are getting built and the paragraphs are growing by the dozens, you are in a safe zone once more. A rhythm forms, and soon you'd have a steady momentum to spit out ideas and string them together into a logical train of thought. 

Then you're alright. 

But before then, there's this immense battle combo of boredom, mixed with restlessness, fear (of not being able to write the article properly or convincingly), tiredness (which surprisingly sprang out of nowhere) and lazyness that needs to be overcome.

To describe this most difficult segment of the writing process, I will use the analogy of the feeling a person gets when staring down at a valley from the peak of a very high mountain and wondering when on Earth will he/she set foot on that ground that can now only be squinted at with the eyes. 

Yes, that says it perfectly.

When oh when will that burdensome article be done? The ever familiar repetitive silent cry. Sigh.

Oh, but when you finally get past all that, and you have your first draft fleshed out right before your eyes, the feeling you will get instead will be close to heavenly. 

So plod on you must. And so should I.

For there is no other way to transform ourselves into spectacular authors/writers except if we write, write, write.

Am I not right? ;)

_____________________________________


One Minute Writer:

'Silly birds!  Music is for optimists!'

That was the thought I couldn't help thinking when I glanced out my window upon hearing the loud, chirpy tunes of the fair feathered friends that were cheerily resting upon the branches of the huge tree nearby.


You don't really know much about life, do you?

There is too much sadness to sing. Too little energy to waste on trivial things.

I gathered up the remainder of my stuff. I am almost done now with my packing. The room feels hollow now, with all my belongings tucked away into the pockets, zippers and corners of my luggage bags. 


I keep telling myself I will miss this place. But then I try to think about what exactly I will miss, and my mind draws up a blank. Perhaps I have been here way too long. Longer than I should have been.


"Sherlyn," a voice gently calls to me and I turn around to see Shermaine standing at the door to the room, leaning on the doorpost, observing me intently. She has a look of concern. She is probably worried about me. 


"Do you remember...?" I ask her, my eyes misting up. I try to blink fast enough to prevent tears forming. For now, I still succeed.


"Yes," she says quietly and nods.


I smile and for a moment, am jerked back a few dozen years to when it was. But wait. It wasn't quite that long ago.


*     *     *


"Play it again!" I gasp excitedly, my voice coming out all wrong as I speak too fast and too soon without drawing enough breath. I realise too late that the words have come out in the form of an almost unintelligible squeak.


"Alright, alright," he exclaims bashfully, and picks up the clarinet. 


"Beautiful..." Papa murmurs, and I note that he is staring off into a distant space as he says this.


Mama only claps.


Jester, our adorable beagle, whimpers in his sleep as if in agreement.


Shermaine hums the tune as Shawn artfully blows the notes of the beautiful tune through the instrument he caresses in his strong hands.


The shining hope of our future. 


*     *     *

"Sherlyn! Quick! Get in the car!"


Mama's voice reflects the intensity of her emotions. I pick up my pace and break into a run. I have always been the slow one.

The car speeds off in the direction that only Mama knows. I don't know where we are going. I still don't know why we had to go there.

*     *     * 

The first colour that I see is red. It is everywhere. 


His eyes flitter open and shut, over and over.


I hear the clarinet playing. I remember the look on his glowing face.


I remember. I remember.


Shermaine is wailing loudly, her sobs deafening. Mama is dumbstruck and doesn't seem to be able to move.


I am there. But maybe I was somewhere else all along.


*     *     *

Silence is unbearable. Noise is better than facing the quietness.


Papa clears his throat every so often, but no words escape his lips. I wonder at the lack of them.


Shermaine has the radio on, and the volume has been creeping up in tiny decibels with every few seconds.


Mama appears uneasy with the rising volume. She keeps wringing her hands.


Finally, she yells, "Shermaine! Turn that thing off!"


I swiftly head to my room. Bury my head into the comforts of my well used pillow.


*     *     *

"I wish they would stop singing," I say to Shermaine as I pick up my bags and head towards her.

"I know," she whispers. "I know."


Abruptly, the singing ceases.


In the silence, we walk down the creaky steps to front of the house.


With one last look about me, I hasten outside, leaving behind us a trail of long memories.