Work and Writing

A whole day spent working and writing: that is my resolution for the day. After the rather unsettling, rainy days this week, today seems to be a bright day, and I’m hoping it would stay that way. Sunny, so I can talk to my notebook in the sunshine, and go for a walk. Productive, because I would have written the ending of a draft.

It is important for me, I find, to try and live every day as if it were my last, and enjoy the small things in life…my morning cuppa for example, the view from my window, the run at the gym.

So here’s to a great day for me and everyone else, and happy writing!

Should I withdraw my story from the Colonial CCC Press?

CCC Press: Colonial, Czarlike, Covetous

Critical, Cultural & Communications Press/Colonial, Czarlike & Covetous Press?

I have been agonizing about removing my story from the CCC Press anthology.

It is supposed to be “post-colonial” literature from Singapore, but the behavior of the the CCC Press shows it might be stuck in colonial times. I’m not sure, but seems like that for now.

They want to retain the right to abridge my work and to continue to publish it not just for one year, but till they decide to let it go out-of-print.

And in the meanwhile, they are going to charge sub-licensing fees to any publisher who decides to publish the story again , including, hypothetically, my own anthology!

None of the other publishers I’m working with which include Monsoon, MPH and Marshall Cavendish have such rules.

I’ve never really thought of making money from my writing (or I wouldn’t be writing fiction at all), but it is the the attitude of CCC press that is making me re-think my submission.

So far, two people in the publishing world whose opinion I respect have weighed in, advising me to withdraw.

I’ll have to take my time over this one, because I want to be professional, not precocious. I’m a beginner writer, and do not want to shoot my mouth in an unbecoming way. At the same time, I’m not over-eager to publish “under any circumstances”.

The give-back of writing is in the process of writing—if it were in publication, I’d stop after my first book. So, is CCC Press really being unfair, or am I being sensitive? Time will tell.

Update: I’m still looking for advice on this. There is further discussion on the CCC Press contract problems issue here and here.

Writing about Love and Lust In Singapore

Imagine opening a book and finding your name under one of the stories published in it! I have imagined it the last two years, not with any conviction of it coming true, possibly somewhat like my fantasies of space travel during childhood.

But now, for the second time in a month, I have seen the cover for a book in which one of my stories would find a home. The first time was the cover on this page. Here’s the second one:

Love and Lust in SIngapore, by Monsoon Press

Love and Lust in SIngapore, by Monsoon Press

Love and Lust in Singapore is a collection of stories from some of the best known Singaporean writers, as is evident from all their interviews on the Love and Lust in Singapore blog, and their long CVs :)

I feel quite honoured, because I am such a beginner in comparison to some of the much published authors and poets in the anthology.

My story, though not explicit as indicated by the anthology title, is definitely my favorite of what I have written so far. It has been published before here on QLRS.

The proceeds from the book will all go towards charity, and so this book won’t bring me any money, but definitely a lot of happiness.

Am not really very obsessed with publication, the process of writing is its own reward. But it is always nice to be validated, and there is that sort of childish joy in seeing your name in print….:D

Writing, Chocolate, Writing Routines

Writing and Chocolate

Chocolate, Writing

Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands – and then eat just one of the pieces. ~Judith Voirst

I’m probably not very strong this week. Last night, while writing, I found myself devouring an entire bar of chocolate.It contained no added sugar, but still made me feel guilty. The only consolation I have for them are the 1000-odd words I wrote (which I might or might now throw out entirely).

I have heard of people drinking or smoking to get into the mood, some set music, each person has a different writing routine, addiction. They have on days and off days in their writing. I can’t call yesterday an ideal “on” day for me, but the chocolate salvaged it from being an “off” day.

Writer Al Kennedy writes here about her ideal “on” day. What does a good day at writing for you look like?

Reading writing reading

Lazing with Old Friend From Far Away

Oziare con Old Friend From Far Away

One of those days, yesterday, when I found myself reading, writing, reading all day. All day spent alone, with almost no talking, unless you count a phone call or two.

Best time I’ve had in weeks, months. Am really loving Old Friend From Far Away, and will soon fill a notebook with the exercises I’ve done from it, and move on to another notebook! I never thought writing exercises could be such a relief or fun or both, but they are.

And I recommend this book for everyone, writers, and non. Great way to pass away ten minutes, an hour, a day, a week, lazing and writing. I learned a new Italian verb, Oziare: to laze around, and I think “oziare” with this book is the best thing I could do for myself.

Writing about Blue Betta Splenden and My Conscience

Yesterday I brought home a Blue Betta Fish. One minute he was hanging in a tiny packet in a shop, amongst a jungle of other packets, barely able to move, and the next he was in his new 5 gallon tank.

Blue Betta Splenden, Siamese Fighting fish

Blue Betta Splenden

For the first few minutes, he kept perfectly still, as if he were still in that tiny packet where he could barely turn around. And then the aquarium was lit up by flashes of cerulean, aquamarine, cobalt, topaz, plum as he darted about, his long fins trailing him, making him look much bigger than he really is.

I am not sure what to think of myself. An year ago I would have not bought a Betta, thought of it as animal cruelty. The male of the species is very territorial and would fight unto death another of its kind. They come from the rice fields of Thailand, where I suppose they are used to big tracts of shallow water. That is why vendors keep them in tiny bottles, (because you can’t keep two in the same container) putting black paper between two, so they don’t get agitated. This seemed to me cruel and unusual punishment.

Then one day a few months ago I bought one because my better half thought a brown and purple Betta pretty. It jumped out and died when I went out of town for a while. I told myself this was a sign. I would not get another.

And then, yesterday, I just had to get one. From a shop where they were hanging in packets, in less than 100 ml of water each.

I’m feeling guilty now, having bought one fish, helped promote the shop.

I’m consoling myself from time to time. At least this Betta has a good home, not one of those 10 cm cube plastic boxes with fake plants that some people keep them in.

My conscience won’t shut up. But when I look at the blue vision my Betta fish makes as I walk past him in the living room, I feel I can live with the righteous noise in my head.

Writing with Random Writing Prompts and the Versaces

Donatella with Gianni Versace

GIanni Versace with his sister Donatella

One of the things that has helped my writing in the past two years is letting loose on random writing prompts: take any word, phrase, sentence and just run with it, time myself, and see where it takes me.

I usually find myself in unfamiliar territory.

It is like running in the woods that you knew in childhood, and suddenly you’re in an area you don’t know, that could be anywhere, not even in your woods. Maybe you’ve even time-travelled, or space travelled, but this is not where you’ve ever been before.

So for today, I decided to pick up the search terms that have brought in the most visitors to my blog this past month I’ve been napping. They are ( and I kid you not):

gianni versace 169
blood splatter 112
donatella versace young 61
bizarre 58
blood spatter 55
rivers 49

And so, here goes, completely at random.

Gianni Versace goes for a walk, and why not, we all like to go for walks. Well, the slightly less sedentary amongst us do. And instead of the Miami Beach, he walks today in the Malaysian tropics, a tropical jungle, if you like.
Why, you ask me?

Well the reasons are clear enough. Firstly, that is one of the spots I’m familiar with, and I’m the writer and I can write any old crap I want, and secondly, he is dead, and from what I know was murdered, and maybe still wanders, as victims of homicides are rumored to do from time to time. Nothing remotely unusual about that.

So Gianni goes for a walk, calling out for Donatella Versace, for she is the only woman in his gay life, his sister, his muse, his daughter by proxy, the one who inspired crazy creations and the one who inherited his glittering empire. Perhaps he wants to ask her what she is up to with is empire, are the slashed-to-the-waist dresses selling well? Does she still do bling-bing handbags ?

And why is she looking more alien than human? What has she done to her body, her face, her eyes? No matter what she looks like as long as she can hold on to that trashy chic for her brand, he’s happy. There is the matter of the blood spatter to clear up though.The one in front of his mansion. He still sees it every time he goes there, and doesn’t recognize a single one of its bizarre inmates.

But she fades away, she was only asleep and dreaming when he called to her. But now she has woken up. And unlike him, she still can only be at one place at a time. She probably dreamt of talking to him in a tropical jungle somewhere, looking pale, his eyes bloodshot, a red hole in his forehead.

That red hole bothers Gianni, he can feel it, and he would like it to fill up. Like in the days when he was young, and his brow smooth. He might look at himself in some water, jungles are not the best places for mirrors. Sure ironic what people come to. From a life of mirrors to one where there are none. A lake then, a pond, a river. Surely there are rivers in jungles?

Gianni potters about looking for the river, forgetting why, because that hole in his head has affected his memory. He hears water in the distance, and comes to a small waterfall overlooking a pool of still waters. And he looks down at his reflection. There in the pool is Donatella, La Donata, the one given by God, playing and laughing, a eleven-year old in pigtails.

That is when the timer ran out, and I have a strange piece of writing exercise :)

But meaningless exercises like this warm you up to your actual writing for the day, be it a boring long article or the chapter of your upcoming novel.

Gianni Versace finds Malaysian waterfall

Gianni Versace finds Malaysian waterfall

I’m off to do what I call my bread-and-butter writing now, all charged up and raring to go!

Writing early in the morning

Writing first thing in the morning

Writing in the morning

Writing first thing in the morning can be such an energizing experience, and I’m so sorry I had lost touch with it for so long. It makes for an easier connection with the sub-conscious, because you’ve just been in dreamland, without the chains of thought that conversations, phone calls, emails, and social networking sites introduce.

I’ve stopped dream journaling for my writing as well, and I need to re-start that.

I have kept up with writing everyday, but this is what I need: wake up early, get pen and paper, and write for half an hour straight. Some people manage to do it on their blogs, a concept that began this blog.

Here’s to more such morning writing sessions. If only I weren’t so weak though. I’ve got to head right back to bed.

Writing after hibernation on hunger and waste

Indians: Wasting food and going hungry

Hunger and Food Wastage in India

I let this blog descend into hibernation mode from time to time, and the last month has been one such time. I simply had so many things to survive, I let the blog fend for itself and go to sleep for a while.

But that does not mean I do not browse other blogs from time to time, and this post on India made me realize just how far I am from my country, and what it has become. This blogger writes and I quote:

“One of the sights that greets us each and every day is wasted food lying on the street, in the slum lanes, in garbage dumps, just about everywhere. You see there is always a wedding, a birthday party, a jagran, a religious do, you name it and it is there. At each and every venue there are heaps of plastic and thermocol plates still filled with good and clean food. It is just strewn on the ground till the cleaners sweep it away and carry it to the dump. But food is not only wasted during festivals or special occasions, it is wasted every day in every home as if throwing food was a way of stating that you had reached, that you had graduated from the rural to the urban status. It seems the be the new mantra of success in the slums. I see it every day.”

Preventing waste and recycling was part of my culture, my parents did it as a matter of course: using shopping bags not plastic, turning vegetable peels into manure for the garden, using package bottles and boxes to store other things, never throwing away a grain of rice.

We were taught to polish off everything on our plate, and gave any left-over food to those who needed it.

Wasting food to show off how rich you are is a new and horribly disgusting concept, especially in a country where hundreds die each minute of malnutrition. Hunger in India is a killer, and 20% of the population in my country is chronically hungry. But I guess a generation of the rich, and even the not-so-rich, sold to the glories of excess, and aspiring towards owning Versaces and Rolexes will never understand that.

In my years away from India, I had always thought the values we were taught as children and those we saw around us have remained. But change is the law of the universe, so I guess my country is changing. Sigh.