Have #SpecialNeeds #Kids? Shut Them Up! #Malaysia #TCK #Autism


If you have special needs kids, that’s not my problem, shut them up and shut them down, put them where I can’t see them, nor hear them. They’re a NUISANCE.

Bangsa Ria Special needs kids

Bangsa Ria Day Care Center

This is essentially what two Malaysian citizens have to say about a day care center for special needs in their neighborhood, they have filed a case against the school and want it removed from their locality.

To quote them from the article linked above:

“The applicants have suffered nuisance throughout the day from 8.30 am to 5pm, Monday to Friday as a result of intolerable noise made by the special children as well as their attendants and carers. (The applicants have suffered) nuisance of experiencing the uncomfortable sensation of seeing the disabilities and sufferings of all the special children, the whole day, day in day out.”

What is it to me, and why am I writing about this?

My friend helps run the Bangsa Ria Day Care Center , and her son is one of the students.

But that is not the point.

I have been to this school. Watching the smiles of the people who work there, and the special kids they share their day with, is an incredibly joyous experience.

But that is not the point either.

That’s not my day care center, my son doesn’t go there, heck, I’m not even a mother. That’s not my neighborhood, Kuala lumpur is not my city, Malaysia is not my country. What business is it of mine if this little daycare thingie gets shut down? I can make a few sympathetic, clucking noises to my friend, and move on with life.

But here comes my point: I’ve had it Upto Here with people telling me to shut up. With people telling other people to shut up when all they want is to be accepted for being who they are, with no intention of harming anyone at all. Growing up in India as a child, and later as a woman, I have often been told that I should be seen, and not heard. That I should not poke in my nose where it doesn’t belong.

That is where it all begins, in that silence, that apathy.

That, right there, is the starting point for a Society that moves from being liberal and a Hub of the Arts to becoming a Host to Concentration Camps, in small, everyday steps. That is from where a Society starts where women are ultimately reduced to becoming pieces of property, or children are handed guns or sold as slaves.

The beginning of the end is when those without power are shorn of their Voice. When the rest of the Society thinks of it as a small thing. What is it after all, but a Voice unheard?

Who cares, no big deal, two crazies filing a stupid case. Right? Wrong.

Forgive me, dear neighbors of Bangsa Ria, who find these smiling, laughing children (and adults) a nuisance and want to take away their right to have a Voice, to exist.

I don’t give a damn if it is not my country, or my neighborhood. If  people without the power to make their voice heard are being asked to shut up and shut down, then it is sure as hell my business, because I’ve been there. I know first hand what having my voice strangled feels like.

Most of the kids can’t really make a noise, and a lot of them can’t speak at all. So, I’m going to shout and scream and yell and bang tables instead. I’m going to laugh and sing right along. I’m going to be downright NOISY.

If any of this speaks to you folks reading this,  if you believe that sometimes silence equals aiding and abetting, that these kids have the right to exist and be themselves just as much as anyone of us,  Join Me in Making Some Noise.

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Have you had experience with special needs kids? Do you think the Bangsa Ria Care Center deserves to shut down? Would you join in making some NOISE? Would you like to go show some of the brave folk running Bangsa Ria some love?

How to Create a Compelling Lead for a Crime Story? #amwriting #advice


My ongoing writer’s guest post series in this blog today brings Ee leen Lee, a good friend and awesome writer who has often helped me with my stories, and is now an editor for an anthology of crime stories by Fixi Novo.

I hope the writers amongst you submit to the anthology, and the readers pick it up once it is published next year. Ee leen tells us today all about what makes a good crime lead– take it away, Ee leen!

In 1927, T.S Eliot observed, “The detective story, as created by Poe, is something as specialised and as intellectual as a chess problem…whereas the best English detective fiction has relied less on the beauty of the mathematical problem and much more on the intangible human element.”

Although Eliot displays a natural bias in favour of English detective fiction, he succinctly highlights the  “…intangible human element.” that is character. These days readers want more than mere puzzles in their mystery stories, they want defined characters peopling the story, and compelling protagonists.

Call for Crime Story submissions: Fixi Novo

Call for Crime Story submissions: Fixi Novo

The most important character in your crime story is your protagonist. Without him or her, there is no connection with your reader and therefore, no story. Who are your favourite sleuths? Sherlock Holmes, Kurt Wallander, Lisbeth Salander, or Jack Reacher? Some may prefer the quirkier protagonist, and TV features numerous offbeat leads such as Columbo, Adrian Monk or even House, who is more medical detective than physician.

Begin by establishing something memorable in appearance, skill or behaviour. (Lisbeth Salander’s  tattoo,  House’s walking stick, Holmes’ and Reacher’s powers of observation, and Monk’s OCD). When creating your lead character there are four main sources to draw from:

1. Yourself
Pros: Every emotion and experience your character has would have been your own.
Cons: You’re too close to yourself to be objective. Creating a Mary Sue or Gary Stu (the male version).

2. Someone you know
Pros: Best when your characters are composites of your friends, colleagues and relatives. Mixing it up is half the fun.
Cons: Accusations of defamation. Allowing reality to dictate your characters.

3. Someone you’ve heard about
Pros: You’re not bound by many facts or social niceties.
Cons: So far, I have not discovered many disadvantages with this.

4. Your imagination
Pros: Imagination soars unfettered!
Cons:  Imagination soars, unfettered.

A compelling lead should be flawed because perfect characters are dull. But don’t pile on the weaknesses just for the sake of it. Too many negative traits soon become ordinary and drag the narrative. Strike a fine balance between empathy and sympathy. Not every protagonist has to be a hero but they should be relatable, regardless of their situations.

Laying the groundwork for a strong lead character will make it easier for you to render your fictional world on the page. Your reader will follow your lead character to the very end, and by association, your story.

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Call for crime short fiction submissions – KL Noir: Blue
I am editing the third installment of the KL Noir series of short crime fiction set in Kuala Lumpur, published by Fixi Novo.  Previous volumes are Kl Noir: Red (which includes my short story “Oracle of Truth”) and KL Noir: White. Now seeking submissions of 2000-5000 words. Deadline is 31st December 2013. The anthology will be published by Fixi Novo in April 2014. More details  available here.

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Lee Ee LeenEe Leen Lee was born in London, UK. Since 2009, her fiction has been published by Mammoth Books UK, Intellect UK, Monsoon Books Singapore, Fixi Novo and Esquire Magazine (Malaysia). Find her on Twitter.

What did you feel like when you finished writing your first novel?


Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writers Support Group every month. Go to his blog to see the other participants, and understand what the group is all about.

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I’ve been away the past two weeks, traveling, writing, offline. I wrote the last two chapters of my novel. They came easily, but also gave me a lot of anguish. I don’t know how much of myself I’ve put in the novel, in the characters, or the plot, but it is clear that parts of it upset me. The darkness of the subject matter, I suppose. Nearly all my writing has dark undertones. Though I almost always end on a note of hope, it is definitely painful for me and those who live with me!

tside my window in Malaysia

The view outside my window in Malaysia

This time, I had a beautiful horizon to gaze at while I wrote (thanks to a very kind Malaysian friend who lives in front of this view), so the words came easier. Something about gazing at the open seas makes me feel small, unimportant, and with little responsibility. That’s how I want to feel sometimes — because then the onus of finishing, say, a 91,000-word manuscript, is not so much on me. The sunsets were gorgeous, and made me think not-so-sadly of the sunset of my characters.

Sunset from my Malaysian window

Sunset from my Malaysian window

I lay down and did not get up for four days after I finished, flattened out by a series of backaches and headaches after I came back home. No amount of stretching and medication helped, so I went into hibernation. I’ve emerged after the weekend, shaky, sore, and ready to take on the world. I’m not sure what caused the systemic breakdown, but I’m glad it’s over.

Now, a break while I brush my blogs (namely, the A to Z Challenge — sign up now, if you haven’t already!), short stories, my reading, and my life. Then it is back to the novel — the grind of revisions, of edits, re-writes, more revisions.

What have You been up to in the last month?

Sini Sana: Travels in Malaysia


Travels in Malaysia : Sini Sana

SIni Sana: Travels in Malaysia

I have seen my name in print before, but this one is special because it was no long in the waiting: Sini Sana : Travels in Malaysia will be out in bookstores soon. It features one of my travel pieces, “Finding Zen at Tasik Kenyir” .

About the book:

“Hujan emas di negeri orang, hujan batu di negeri sendiri …” Thus begins a Malay version of the proverb, “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” Humble, perhaps, but never humdrum. Sini Sana: Travels in Malaysia features the very Malaysian journeys of a dozen writers who have managed to uncover hidden gems that may not all glitter like gold, but are still rare and precious finds.

A kopitiam (coffee shop) stopover yields an unexpected trip back through time, and a promise delivered too late. A foreigner’s visit to a pasar malam (night market) educates and overwhelms him at the same time. A bad call turns triumph into tribulation atop a storm-swept mountain ridge. A catch-your-own-lunch island holiday enlivened by dodgy old boats, crusty captains and run-ins with the island’s local residents. There are encounters with trees that come alive and a child seemingly possessed by a Hindu god. These are just some of the stories found in this collection.

From idyllic beaches, isolated jungles and ancient ruins, to sleepy hollows and small towns, these travellers’ tales chart a course back to a country we once knew—or thought we knew—and its ongoing metamorphosis into a place of our best hopes and sweetest dreams. Even after all this time, it’s actually possible to find the new within the familiar.

I have yet to hold the book in my hand, because it is on its way from Kuala lumpur, but I know I’ll be happy when I do get it.

I’ll always remember that the germ of this piece was a post on this very blog. I made the post private once I had submitted the piece and it was accepted,  so I cannot link it here, but it is one of the many reasons I’m thankful for this blog.

The other reasons are mostly you, the visitors, who have now become my blog friends. Thank you so much for reading, commenting and cheering me on as I stumble along on my little writing adventure.

Kuching Snapshots: Sarawakian Tribal Dancer


Sarawakian Tribal Dancer, Kuching

Sarawakian Tribal Dancer, Kuching

Another Kuching snapshot, uploaded in the time I should be rushing to finish my story for the day, so here I go, back to my daily writing!

Writing about writing with a view


I have written before about the view from a writer’s window, but that was when I was in Singapore, and the view included the Singapore Harbor Bay, and the tree-filled East Coast Park. The only kind of homes I could see in the distance were tall apartment blocks.

But now, back in Kuala Lumpur, the view has changed. I can see rows of 2-storied town houses, a few 5-storey bungalows with two swimming pools each, roads snaking about far and near, and cars racing along them, like so many shiny beetles when the sun falls on them.

I can see apartment blocks in the distance,but what I most like seeing are the clumps of greenery, in gardens, on the streets, and pieces of tropical jungle that haven’t yet been meddled with, and hopefully never will be

As I sit and write, I have to look up and think, work out some odd crinkle in my head, and I see an old lady doing Tai chi in her garden, a young boy going for a run, and I’m grateful for the morning around me, and grateful for the song of the starlings whose voices reach me so many floors above the ground. And I’m grateful for the breeze that wafts in, teases my hair, wanting to play.

At lunchtime when the sun beats down most days, I hang on to a glass of orange juice, and spoon through a little leftover casserole that melts in the mouth, and try to tell myself I must finish this piece or that one, and send it off.

Afternoons, the sun beats down into my wall-sized glass windows, and I hide, drawing the curtains close.

I like the shadow of play and light on a rainy day, when it might be raining up the hill, but perfectly dry and sunny in my neighborhood. I draw away the curtains and watch.

I love the vibrant orange sunsets, with colors thrown around in happy abandon, as if toddlers had been splashing around in colored water, orange, pink, dusky red, and smearing them on the blue face of the sky. And amid all the color, the sun itself, looking tame and benevolent after the exertions of the day, like a naughty but exhausted little boy.

If a good view from the writing desk made for better writing, I would’ve been a writing goddess by now. But it sure doesn’t hurt, and I write every day in the hope that someday I would finally do justice to this writing desk with a view.

Words written January 6= 800 (misc.)

Writing about a Malaysian lakeside vacation


For me,  vacations have always been about fun. But my trip last weekend was serene, tranquil. Not “fun”, but regenerating.

Writing about a Weekend at Lake Kenyir

Writing about a Weekend at Lake Kenyir

Day 1

A short flight from KL Friday afternoon and we are in Terrenganu, a quaint Malaysian city. A drive through the city and acres of palm plantations later, we are at our resort by the Lake Kenyir, our balcony overlooking miles of blue, and swathes of green. I love it when I get to be at a place where there are more trees than people.

(I’ve put in a YouTube of a slideshow of the pics, but they’re a bit grainy, I’ve been stingy on pic sizes!)

Day 2

I wake up to balmy sunlight through white curtains. Stepping into the balcony, I fall in love with the place all over again. A hearty breakfast later, I settle down to laze, undisturbed, enveloped only by the sounds of lapping water, a distant bird-call or two (my husband spots black and white horn-bills, but I only hear them honking from time to time), and the incessant chirping of a thousand invisible crickets. Palm trees, tall tropical vegetation everywhere, with ferns and creepers galore, the play of light and shadow on the grassy slopes of the lake, the susurrating of lake breeze through a million leaves. Nap-time.

Writing about Lake Kenyir, Malaysia, water trees and sunshine

Writing about trees, water, sunshine

A fishing trip in the afternoon on the enormous lake, a lake which was born when a whole host of rivers were dammed up and the waters gathered to form the biggest artificial lake in Asia. Tree trunks–dried, old, moldy–stick out of the water like eerie monsters, skeletons of the nature that has been destroyed, standing in mute memorial of the jungles drowned to create this lake.

A sleeping trip for me, while the husband attempts, unsuccessfully, to lure fish. The very silence is music to my ears.The wrong notes are the small live bait, pink-white fish, a little longer than my fingers.

They are picked up and hooked, right down their middle and carried, writhing and flapping, to be “cast” into the water, again and yet again, till they go all limp and are thrown away. I am selfishly thankful, for want of a better phrase, that the soft little bait-fish cannot scream, or their agony would break the afternoon stillness over the waters, shatter it into a million tiny pieces.

Day 3

More of the same in the morning, but almost imperceptibly different. The lake turns blue, green or aquamarine and a dozen shades in between, depending on the quantity of clouds in the sky. This ensures that no two days would ever be entirely the same by its shores. Kenyir is like a moody woman, gorgeous, unpredictable.

A lake cruise in the morning, the sun nuzzling the nape of my neck, the lake breeze lulling me again, but I’m not asleep, merely comatose in an orange haze. I part my lashes from time to time to peer at the blue and the green skimming past, or the blue and green approaching, but it is all too much of an effort. When I’m taken to a herbal island and shown Tongkat Ali( a sort of herbal Viagra), and Kacip Fatima (the female equivalent), I’m still drowsy. I sleepwalk through the whole routine and get back to the boat to dream some more.

Writing about Kenyir lake, sunshine

Writing about Kenyir lake, sunshine

We go to one of the 14 waterfalls that grace Lake Kenyir, and the road to it lies through tall, looming tropical jungle, strewn with leaves, red leaves, yellow leaves, leaves the size of my palm, and leaves big enough to form a small umbrella. Creepers and trees in tumbled profusion, stuffy, sticky heat and the omnipresent crickets calling through semi-dark jungle. The waterfall itself is a delight, cool flowing water, noisy yet soothing at the same time. Fallen logs from behemoth trees, small fish in still pools, mossy stones and grassy, slippery banks.

A moment of panic when the boat would not start. A moment that stretches into an hour, as the boat drifts over muddy water almost too shallow for it to tread. Visions of eating bugs, caterpillars and snakes from watching that stupid show Man vs Wild, where a good-looking guy teaches you survival tricks. (The hubby just adores that show.) Thank god they turn out to be merely wild visions, and a rescue boat arrives, dragging us back over the blue waters.

Day 4

Morning is another laze-fest, and I crawl around in bed as long as possible, take pictures, write, sleep. I drag out the seconds, stretch every minute, battle the hours. I do not want to go back to KL, but a ride back through the rain is inevitable. The anti-climax hits us when we realize we’ll be home only by midnight. I dive back into the book I’ve been reading, and surreptitiously take pictures, like this one:

Sleeping woman at Terrenganu Airport

Sleeping woman at Terrenganu Airport

Tranquil vistas at Tasik Kenyir

Tranquil vistas at Tasik Kenyir

Back in KL, Lake Kenyir seems far away.

But then I’ve always had a calm, peaceful lake inside me, a crystal pool of blue waters where all the stress, grief or anger in the world does not reach. I draw back into this lake each time the world is too much.

And Lake Kenyir is not that far, either.

Writing about Rain, Writing, Home


Writing when it is raining outside is such a joy. Specially when it is the kind of rain that pours down in Malaysia, in torrents, clouding out everything from miles around, darkening the sky so you have to switch on lights in the afternoon.

Writing about Rain, Writing, Being at Home

Writing about Rain, Writing, Being at Home

A friend of mine who is stuck in traffic in KL town just called me, and said I was so lucky, I could curl up at home with a book if I wanted to. She certainly wouldn’t mind, she said.

I know I’m lucky. I don’t have to go out to work, I can be writing in my pyjamas and nobody would be the wiser. I can lie back and take a break on a rainy afternoon, go tinker with the aquarium or place some of the plants in the balcony so they can take a shower, even get wet before heading to the shower myself.

Being able to stay at home doing exactly as you please is one of the blessings of a freelance career, or of a writing career in case you are not too worried about the bills.

But paying the bills is a big part of who we are, especially in these financially difficult times. A time which would perhaps someday be known as the Second Great Depression.

So, rain, poetry and writing for the sake of it is all very well, but I need to get down to work if I want cash. Which I do. So, back to work.

See you all after the weekend, I hope it is a relaxing one for one and all!

Writing about Cooking in Malaysia and Singapore


Writing about Cooking in Malaysia and Singapore

Writing about Cooking in Malaysia and Singapore

Cooking is as much a creative and fulfilling process as writing, and in the past few days, I’ve found cooking the easier of the two:).

I cooked over the weekend, and spent seven straight hours yesterday, cooking for friends, and did not mind it in the least. It can be such a sensory, even sensual act. Your ability to smell, touch, and see count as much, if not more, than your ability to taste. I have written before about how therapeutic it can be.


Cucinare e’ ugualmente creativo e soddisfacente come scrivere, e nei giorni scorsi, ho trovato
che  cucinare sia piu facile tra le due cose. Ho cucinato per tutto il fine settimana, e ieri ho passato sette ore  cucinando per gli amici, e questo non mi ha dato nemmeno un po di fastidio. Cucinando tutti i nostri sensi si attivano fino a raggiungere anche una forte sensualita’. La capacita’ di sentire i profumi, di toccare, e di vedere, conta quasi come, se non di piu’, dell’abilita’ di assagiare. Ho gia scritto prima su quanto questo possa essere terapeutico.

In Malaysia, people understand good food, and are willing to go to great lengths to get it. A drive to the other end of town for a particular bowl of noodles is more a norm than an exception. And this fits right in with my gluttonous nature–my GPS has more food destinations saved than anything else.

The year I spent in Singapore was not really such a great cooking phase, because seeing the ubiquitous stick-thin women in mini-skirts killed my appetite for cooking (pun intended).

But now I’m back in the land of people who are forever discussing, ruminating, arguing over what to eat, and I’m happy.