Emptying Your Head

I’ve been on a GTD frenzy these few days. (Oh, GTD is Getting Things Done, btw). I always thought I had my time and task management down to an okay – I get things done, I consider myself one of those odd creatures who have lists upon lists of things to do and I find undeniable pleasure in marking tasks OFF in red pen as they are completed and out of my sight.

Read more

A Writers’ Gathering at Beach Blanket

Things have an odd way of turning out sometimes. Two days ago, we were supposed to join the PHT trip to Penang Hill. I got all excited because I love these PHT trips – they’re always informative and I always learn so much history. Which is a good thing because I think we often take our little Georgetown and Penang island for granted. Sometimes way too much.

Last month, we joined PHT and travelled to Taiping. Now that was a fantastic day trip to a town I thought I knew but how mistaken I was. (Hmm, that trip needs a blog post by itself – perhaps even one broken down into different parts because the town contained so many delightful spots to visit. OK, I must get down to it soon. If you think Taiping is JUST another dull Malaysian town, you will be in for a surprise.)

Anyway, we ended up at the Little Penang Street Market instead of Penang Hill because we didn’t fancy jostling with tourists on the Penang Hill tram. Our decision was made easier by the fact that Robert was in town and leaving that very Sunday night!

He was attending a reading by author Beth Yahp at the Beach Blanket Babylon so in no time, we were joining him and his friends from Penang Players at that bistro. (The book reading by Malaysian authors is a collaborative effort by Penang Players and Little Penang.)

Beth Yahp at her book reading
The cosy upstairs area of Beach Blanket Babylon bistro was the setting for Beth’s reading.

Of course Robert needs no introduction (he’s the author of the book, Lovers & Strangers Revisited) and neither does Beth (you can read an interview she did with The Sun newspaper ). I caught the last 15 minutes of the book reading session and interestingly, heard her opinions on the craft of writing.

Beth Yahp in Penang

What I remembered most was Beth saying that people expect writers/authors to churn masterpieces without realizing that writing needs practice. Lots of it.

Her tip? Write at least 500 words daily.

It’s a discipline I know Robert adheres to – he forces himself to sit down and write. That’s how one gets better and better at it. Robert even has a log book to keep track of his writing time. That’s how focused he is and that’s how focused Beth is too. I am rather undisciplined when it comes to writing so her advice was a good reminder to shut up and sit down to write. Daily.

As Robert says, a writer cannot have excuses. “Oh I have kids/family/full-time job/(fill in with fave excuse – I got no time), I cannot sit down daily.” Says who? Robert has kids too, he has a day job, and all but he still gets so gungho about writing. That I applaud.

The other interesting piece of advice from Beth is that you should never take it personally when an editor comments on your writing. Look at it objectively and see how those comments can help you improve your story. That’s a good reminder. Writers and artists tend to be a whole lot more sensitive. Our writing/artwork is like our baby – we get offended if others pass comments. And we’re so fearful of these remarks. It’s like a conundrum huh. At one end, we want it to be seen or read by the masses out there. On the other end, we are so afraid our work will be torn to pieces! Like Tze, author of Penang Passion, told me last week, we all feel inadequate about our writing but the thing is, we must sometimes conquer that fear and inadequacy and forge ahead.

Beth Yahp with her 2 books
Here’s Robert with Beth (and her books!).

But it wasn’t only Beth that we met at the reading. Another writer/the Star columnist, Mary Schneider, was there too with the rest of the Penang Players. I remarked to Mary that she looks so much younger in person (and this is a mother of 2 teens we’re talking about!). Her real self looked very different from the caricature you see accompanying her column.

Robert Raymer with Beth Yahp

Before I forget too, for the first time in Penang, Beth will be teaching a creative writing workshop on travel and life-writing in Penang on 15 and 22 September (10am to 5.30pm, with lunch and tea breaks). Venue will be confirmed later but it’s definitely in Penang (mentally doing somersault and going hurray, hurray). Her workshop’s limited to 10 to 15 persons only and the pre-requisite is that participants should have proficiency in English. Oh, and the cost… a very reasonable RM450 per person (RM350 for full-time students/unemployed). For more info, contact: bywritingworks@yahoo.com.au

Yup, I will be joining her workshop. Because I want to learn how to write better. Mostly I want to challenge myself to write creatively. And apply what I learn to this blog. I am sure my writing could be better.

If you have the means and enjoy creative writing, you’ll be giving yourself a gift by taking Beth’s workshop. 😉

Book Sale This Weekend

Seems to be all about books this week!

A friend of mine who owns a bookstore in KL will be having a book clearance sale of her surplus books.

So if you’re a book-lover, do check it out!

Date: 26 to 27 May (this weekend)
Venue: Flea market at Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya, on the first or 2nd floor.
Time: From 11 am to 7pm on both days

She tells me that they’re good quality books going at huge discounts!

Win This Book!

This is a quick post – just got news that you can win yourself this hot collection of short stories “Lovers & Strangers Revisited” written by my ex-USM lecturer and creative writing teacher, Robert Raymer by going to http://www.georgettetan.com/2007/05/20/contest-win-robert-raymers-lovers-and-strangers-revisited/

Robert is a client of mine (haha, these days must add disclaimer! I don’t blog for money but I must reveal what’s the relationship when I endorse or sing some praises) and before he became a client of ours, he was my creative writing lecturer when I was an undergrad in USM about a decade ago.

Read more

Yo, Dumped a Book Lately?

You know, it’s every reader’s guilty secret. This book dumping thing.

Book dumping happens to the best of us. It happens to everyone who reads.

I am sure we all started out eager to read everything and anything that came our way – I still read the small print on cosmetic bottles, the nutritional information on Danone Chocolate Chip Cookies (with Hazelnuts, of course), the ingredients of my Maybelline and ZA lipsticks, the awful bits of instructions which come with any gadget and gizmo. I guess once one knows how to recognise letters and words, there’s just no stopping us. It’s on autopilot I guess.

And then, there’s book dumping. Book dumping is that act which we voracious, greedy readers commit. Like moi. I pick up a book excitedly, read it for some 4 or 5 pages and then…. get so deflated because the book is NOTHING like the review I read some moons ago. Or nothing like I expected when salivating over the cover or the blurbs or the glowing praises.

The book becomes my personal burden. I am amazed that I even picked it up. But the perfectionist reader in me screams, “But how can you leave it unread? That’s absolutely unthinkable! Unfathomable!”

Therein sets in the book dumping guilt.

But you see, I can’t seem to finish some books. One in particular bugs me to no end. It’s still sitting like some fat cat on my shelf – Hemingway’s For Whom the Bells Toll. I thought I needed some literary inspiration. All I got was some inane mental torture. I can’t decide if the idea of war repulses me or the idea of that strange man’s writing (which for the life of me I cannot understand – errr, does that make me an intellectual moron?).

Of course, Daphne has written about it sometime ago and that I don’t have to feel guilty about not finishing a book. It’s my prerogative anyway. It’s my time anyway.

And yet! The other one is Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (see, I can’t even spell that man’s name!) which is so belligerently boring. He goes on and on about how guilty he feels about stealing from the old woman, whom he also murdered. How guilt is eating into him and how he believes everyone knows he’s committed such a heinous crime. And that’s all I know because I stopped at page 231. Yes, yes, hurray for me because I managed to read half of the book before I gave up in desperation.

I am trying not to feel guilty about book dumping because these days I try to select the kind of books I want to read, not books on someone’s must-read list, or some award winners of some competition or other. It doesn’t work for me.

I’ve decided that if I don’t want to dump books, I should be pickier about books I read. On my to-read list are quite a number of fiction and non-fiction (thanks to book-buying every now and then when I go to Borders and Popular in Queensbay Mall).

There’s Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, Terry Pratchett’s Thud!, Eisenberg brothers’ Waiting for Your Cat to Bark, W.Chan Kim’s Blue Ocean Strategy (thanks to Rona for this true gem of a book), Jostein Gaarder’s Maya (yes, Mayakirana reads Maya!) and Kirk Cheyfitz’ Thinking Inside the Box. Plus, Best Pal loaned to me Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go which I haven’t started on yet! Tsk, tsk. (A side note: My all-time favourite books are The Little Prince by Antoine de St Exupery and Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. The book I don’t like at all was VC Andrew’s very dark, very disturbing Secrets in the Attic which I read at 14 and which traumatised me for the longest time after!)

What’s your book list like and shhh… have you dumped a book lately? Do tell!

Oh Dotty Dear Dotty

I have been meaning to make this post for ages now… but somehow always forgot to resize my photos. And today, tadddaaa…I managed to download the pics and resize them and uploaded them again (phew, the amount of work just to blog….).

I count myself utterly fortunate to know so many great people. And among my earliest friends as a result of blogging (hmm, in 2003 I think) is Dotty. Dotty, my dear, thanks for your gift of friendship.

Read more

So You Want to be a Writer?

Writing for oneself and blabbing away is easy.

Writing for a mass market is tough. I don’t know how publishing houses work in Malaysia but this piece by Marilyn Henderson is worth the read especially if you are thinking of being the next multimillionaire writer comparable to the likes of Dan Brown and etc.

Thought this was a good eye-opener in view of the Nanowrimo-ing going on this month. (And yeah, why am I not joining NanoWriMo? I tried. For 2 years. Somehow, Nov is the worst month for me. My holidays come in between and I lose that zing. And then I lose track of it completely.)

Read more