When Was the Last Time You had a Conversation?


And I don’t mean ‘Pass me the vegetables’ or ‘We ran out of milk’ sort of sound bytes. Nor do I mean texts, or Facebook messages, or Tweets.

Conversations

Conversations

Conversation is when two (or more) people talk face-to-face, not because they’ve been forced to by the circumstances, but because they wanted to talk, and took time out of their lives to do it.

I was recently visiting friends, and realized how our handheld devices– iPads, smartphones, distract our eyes (and attention) even when we’re with those we like/love. We never give fully of ourselves– in our need to stay connected with many, we hardly ever truly ‘connect’ with the person sitting next to us.

This is why, an article I read recently in the New York Times really resonated with me: (The article is quite worth a look..)

In the silence of connection, people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people — carefully kept at bay. We can’t get enough of one another if we can use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right. I think of it as a Goldilocks effect.

Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the self we want to be. This means we can edit. And if we wish to, we can delete. Or retouch: the voice, the flesh, the face, the body. Not too much, not too little — just right.

Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.

I agree that we use technology to keep others at bay while still giving the impression of complete accessibility– but it is not technology that makes us do it, but our increasingly self-centered world-view. We have no time for others.

A splendid (by my standards, anyway) conversation I had the other day was in fact enabled by an iPad– I and my girlfriends spoke across the seas to another of us, via Skype: she is expecting a new arrival, and we admired her baby bump, the cute (but slightly over-sized) woolens she has knitted for the baby, waved to her husband, and promised to take pictures and facebook all the local food she craved (but could not find in her new country) just in order to tease her!

From time immemorial, technology always has been a two-way process– we use it to make our lives easier, but it also affects us in ways we did not account for. I’m just hoping all our communication devices do not actually deprive us of our conversations.

When was the last time You had a conversation? Do you find yourself having less conversations the more you connect?

How far have you come, and does it matter?


“Always concentrate on how far you have come, rather than how far you have left to go. The difference in how easy it seems will amaze you.”
Heidi Johnson

Is success relevant?

Is success relevant?

I don’t know if I agree with this advice. When I look back, the amount I could fall scares me. I’d rather just keep going, breath by breath, each step of the mountain I’m given to climb.

The thought of scaling up to the top scares me too, because it is so lonely up there. And isn’t it better to just keep climbing and have something to look forward to?

When it comes to my writing, I’d rather just keep plugging away at it, taking each day as it comes. Success is irrelevant. The agony and ecstasy of having written is enough.

Would I have to eat my words some day?

Is success important to you? If yes, what would you do to get there, and what would you do once you’ve reached your destination?

If success isn’t important, why not?

Who was that woman in the subway?


Singapore Subway

Singapore Subway

Last week, I saw a woman in the subway. Not a particularly beautiful woman, mousy, really, with no real personality, nothing on her face that attracted the eye at first glance and kept it there.

Tiny eyes, pudgy cheek, no chin, short straggly black hair. Clothes that had seen better days– a worn pink t-shirt, a sweat jacket on top, several sizes too big.

I kept my eyes traveling downwards, and saw the hands on her lap– strange little limbs, childlike, with four fingers each, the middle finger a stump. I then realized why I could see her across the crowd and not her neighbors sitting to one side. She sat  on a wheelchair, which gave her extra height.

And then I figured out why she had caught my eye. She hadn’t fallen asleep like I’d imagined, hadn’t nodded off—she was listening to music on her phone, and the slow, focused rhythm of  her head had drawn me to her.

As the train sped from one station to another emptying as it went, the head picked up pace and her face broke into smiles. By the time she pressed a button and wheeled herself out of the train at the station just before mine, I was fascinated.

I wanted to walk out and follow her, find out her story—who she lived with and where, what was her voice like, what she did for a living.

A week after, I still want those answers…and being a writer, I would do what I imagine most writers do—supply the answers myself, flesh out this woman in a story.

Have you passed by a stranger you could not forget, for whatever reason? What did you do to satisfy your curiosity?

In which Terri Morgan Talks about Being a Book Junkie


Playing Genetic Lottery by Terri Morgan

Playing Genetic Lottery by Terri Morgan

Caitlin Kane knows more about the impact of schizophrenia than most people could imagine. Both her parents were afflicted with the devastating mental illness, a disease that tends to run in families, and Caitlin and her brother grew up trying to navigate the chaos of living with two schizophrenics. Her  tumultuous childhood left Caitlin determined to forge a peaceful and serene life for herself. Now 32, she is living her dream. Married to her best friend, she and her husband are raising two bright young children in the suburbs of Seattle. While her unusual upbringing has left Caitlin with emotional scars, she enjoys the love and support of her extended family and her challenging career as a pediatric nurse. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t shake the obsessive fear that the family illness will strike again, robbing her of her mind or stealing away the sanity of one or both of her children.

———————-

That was the blurb and book cover for author Terri Morgan‘s book, Playing the Genetic Lottery. An avid book lover, the author today takes over Daily (w)rite to talk about her reading journey:

I read somewhere that most junkies can remember the first time they experienced their drug of choice. I must be the exception to the rule. I’m a junkie—a rapid book junkie—but I can’t for the life of me remember the first time I read a book. I remember reciting the alphabet in nursery school, and finally getting successfully from A to Z after numerous attempts. But I don’t remember learning how to make sense of letter combinations. Where and when I learned to read remains a mystery to me. So does the title of the first book I read in its entirety. All I know is that I got hooked on reading early on, and have been reading avidly, some say obsessively, ever since.

I suspect I inherited the addicted-to-reading gene from my parents, although they seemed to have had their habits under control when I was growing up. Both loved to read, and but, likely due to the time constraints of raising children and working full time, confined their reading mostly to newspapers and magazines during my youth. Oh sure, they’d read a book on occasion, and my mother was a frequent library visitor, but neither let their reading get out of control until after retirement.

In the early days, I too, felt like I had my reading addiction under control. I could go for days without reading, and could easily get by with a once every two weeks trip to the library. That all changed when I was 10. My mother returned to school to earn her teaching credential right after I finished fourth grade. Left unsupervised each weekday, I did what any self respecting book lover would do. I started riding my bike to the public library. That’s when I chanced from a casual reader to a book-aholic. With so many books available, I started experimenting. Instead of staying in the childrens section, I wandered around, pulling books off the shelves almost at random. Novels, biographies, histories, any book that caught my eye came home with me.

Eventually as I got older, I grew ashamed of my habit. In high school I hid my love of literature from all but a few close friends. The fear of being classified as a nerd was too frightening to risk, even for my beloved books.

As an adult, however, I stopped worrying about my reputation and began walking boldly into a library, any library, in broad daylight. That’s when the addiction really took hold. I started becoming anxious if I didn’t have a fresh book available to read. Now that I have an e-reader, and can download a new title in seconds, I no longer suffer from book withdrawal. But there’s not doubt about it, I’m still a library-card-carrying book junkie. And hopefully I always will be.

Happy Reading!

——-

Terri Morgan

Terri Morgan

She is the co-author of two books on photography: Photography, Take Your Best Shot, and Capturing Childhood Memories, The Complete Photography Guide for Parents. Playing the Genetic Lottery is her first novel. She lives in Soquel, California.

When Your Shoes Want to Take a Walk


Singapore Skyline

Singapore Skyline

I live in a country I could walk across, end to end, in less than a day. All twenty-two kilometers of it. If I were fitter, I’d probably do the other way across: 44 kilometers.

Living in a tiny young country like Singapore makes me want to step out every so often, take a flight to a place where the beaches are not man-made, where the history is longer than 200 years, where culture is not a mishmash, where the food is cooked with more emphasis on the quality ingredients than the procedure of cooking.

Travel is irreplaceable when you’re looking for a certain buzz of the body and mind, when you want to be relaxed and enriched at the same time.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

How often does the travel bug bite you? Do you go on yearly breaks, or take a vacation whenever the mood takes you?

What does it all mean?


What does it all mean?

What does it all mean?

When I write a story, (especially flash fiction like this one, that I wrote on the spur of the moment for the A to Z Challenge) I often wonder what it means—what I as the writer meant it to mean, and how does the reader take its meaning.

I’ve written stories which I thought were literary, were the subversion of a myth, and been congratulated on writing a fairy tale; I’ve written about a boy suffering abuse and have had folks root for the abuser; I’ve killed a character and then had the readers wonder what he would do next.

The problem, as I see it, can lie in two things:

I suck at writing: My craft could be undeveloped enough not to be able to support my muse—the story hovers inside me, a shiny hummingbird, comes out on the page a slimy, slow-moving slug.

Counter-argument: Some of the folks get exactly what I’m trying to say—how do they see the hummingbird instead of the slug?

Reading fiction on blogs demands too much attention: And some readers just can’t focus well enough to read the whole story. They comment on the few words they have read, move on.

Counter-argument: Doesn’t that show my weakness as a writer, because I wasn’t able to grab the reader, pin him or her down till my story was done?

This leaves a very confused writer. Do I suck at writing? Do I give up writing fiction on my blog?

Over the last weeks of writing a story a day, I have come to the following conclusion:

I will keep writing fiction on my blog, because it challenges me, and I enjoy it.

Yes, the writing process is never complete without the readers and their reactions– but there is something to be said for perseverance.

If my craft is lacking, practice would help. If blogs aren’t the best place for fiction, well, they’re still the best place to play around and experiment. Most of the stories I have written during the challenge are in genres I wouldn’t have written but for the prompts I was sent.

It is all good.

So has this happened to you?

As a reader, have you ever come across a meaning in a story which you discovered was different from anyone else? As a writer, have you had a reader give you back a meaning to your story that you never intended?

After it rains in Singapore


I’ve lived most of life with four seasons, so the first stay in the tropics was a revelation. In the tropics, there is the rain, and the sun—two seasons, in alternative fashion, through the day.

As I write, outside it pours, with the peal of thunders, lightning flashes. It is dark. The sky means business, you’d think. It will rain though the day and in to the night, and maybe the next morning.

Wrong. In a few minutes, the sun will laugh it all away, people would dip into swimming pools and play basketball below my apartment, the trees would gleam, and the only trace that it had ever rained would show for a while on the wet roads. And then that would be gone too.

So when it rains in my heart, no matter what country I’m in, I wait. I know that for now, raindrops pelt the glass and weep their down– the overcast skies pour down their anger, but it Will pass.

In the minutes it has taken for me to write this, the sun is out, bright and shiny, because that is what happens right after it rains in Singapore.

 

 

Of death and such


Lalwant Singh, in all his glory

Lalwant Singh, in all his glory

Those who have read my blog before, know I had a betta fish, Lalwant Singh.

Lalwant Singh died last week. At night he came to me for his food, nipped at my finger and all was well. Morning, he was curled up on a leaf, all dead. I guess I can take consolation in the fact that he did not suffer.

But then, what do I know of suffering, and how do I know whether a short suffering is any less hard to bear than a prolonged one? Does a small fish suffer? Does it suffer as much as a human? Is the suffering of the human more evident to me because a human is bigger than a small fish, and the fact that I am a human myself? Each time a fish dies I go through similar hand-wringing and attempts at philosophical acceptance.

I’ve tried not to think of Lalwant Singh the last few days, been sucked into A to Z Challenge, which I’m co-hosting this year, and for which I’m writing fiction like this one.

But even in the fiction, I can’t stop wondering about death, about what one feels when one dies, about suffering in death, about the act of dying. And all this because of a fish.

Writers are crazy. No, let me amend that, I’m crazy. Always have been.

I’ve washed the aquarium clean, run the water again, and am waiting for the water to settle down, so I can bring home a ‘replacement’.

Dead is dead, I know. But then, there is also life, for both fish and human, and the embracing of it– with a complete and acute awareness that death is, and always will be, if not the only, but definitely the most inevitable consequence.