Madness has overtaken our world: no question about it.
Innocent civilians in nations across the world are either being bombed, shot, and/or taught to fear and hate. Just hours ago, the same old pattern: in Mali this time: terrorists swarming a building, taking hostages, shooting civilians.
In this dark hour, all I can think of is holding my friends and family close, and being kind to strangers. If you already support a charity, I can only suggest redoubling your efforts, as some of us are trying to do. We can be a positive difference in the world, and though helping someone in need in USA or Japan or UK or India or Singapore or Malaysia or Europe will not directly help those struggling with terrorism in Syria or Lebanon or Mali or Paris, your positivity will have its butterfly effect.
Like this Dad says to his son : They may have guns, but we have flowers. A few million of us who’ve watched this video, agree.
So instead of growling at each other on social media (Should we take in refugees? Are all Muslims violent? Should we only take in Christian Refugees? ) , I urge everyone who is in a position to physically or financially help out those in need, to do so.
Now, more than ever. Teach the children of this world about Compassion. Teach them how hating each other is like the nose hating the toes for being different.
If you want to support a genuine organization trying to help children with a few dollars (as little as 5 dollars or Euros would help), where each cent of your money will go to the kids themselves, donate here. I’ve supported them for years, and seen them closely.
This place is run by a woman with a large heart, exactly the kind that can protect us from guns, with flowers. Anouradha Bakshi teaches these kids to see with the eyes of the Heart.
Or, find another place, people, or cause to add your positive energy to. Do something for a person or animal or plant without concern for your own material benefit. We cannot fight darkness, we need to light a candle in order to make it melt away.
To all of you, my blog family, I hold you in my heart, I send you my love, I send you joy, and the strength to kiss guns with flowers.
Has the recent spate of attacks all over the world affected you? How has it made you feel? Where do you think a concrete solution lies? Do you have a few dollars to spare for these kids from Projectwhy ? Do you think the answer lies in what we teach our children?
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As part of my ongoing guest post series in this blog, we recently heard from Omar Musa, a renowned Australian poet and author, long listed last week for the International Dublin Literary Award.
Today, it is my pleasure to welcome award-winning author, and contributor to the Cooked Up anthology,Pippa Goldschmidt. She would be answering questions on writing, her career and her work in publishing. She has given very useful, practical advice, some of which I’ve highlighted for you in blue.
If you have questions for her, please drop them in the comments.
1. You’re a former astronomer and a fiction author, a combination not seen very often. What aspects of your work in astronomy do you find trickling through to your fiction?
I’m interested in showing what it feels like to be an astronomer – it’s a very odd job to observe unimaginably distant objects such as stars and galaxies. To some extent, observing them night after night makes them feel a bit ‘ordinary’, because you start to recognise them in the same way you’d recognise human faces. Working at a remote observatory is also an odd experience, these places are in the middle of nowhere, on tops of mountains. Being there is so different to normal life.
2. What are your preoccupations as a writer? Do you have an ideal reader in mind as you write?
My ideal writer is me! I write stories I want to read. I don’t picture anyone else when I’m writing the first draft, but when I’m editing, I try and consider what other people might think. At that stage I’m writing for people who may be interested in science but who don’t necessarily know anything about it. And there must be an emotional pull to the story too, it can’t just be a load of scientific information. The story always comes first.
3. You wrote a collection of short fiction after you finished your novel. How did the experience of short story writing compare to that of writing the novel? Do you prefer the writing process of novels or short stories?
I spent several years on and off writing my first novel (although I wrote a few stories during that time). So, after the novel was published I was keen to write stories with very varied voices, and I wanted to explore some very different themes.
I really enjoy writing both novels and short stories. I think I mentally switch from one to the other, right now after the book of short stories I’m back in ‘novel’ mode. I can only concentrate on my embryonic novel-in-progress, I don’t have the mental capacity to work on stories too. A short story is not just a chapter of a novel, it’s a very different art form. I enjoy the challenges of writing short stories, they can be ‘perfect’ in a way that novels never are.
4. You write ‘fiction of science’ or ‘lab lit.’ Could you tell us more about this genre?
The word ‘Lablit‘ was first coined by the writer and biologist Jenny Rohn and she edits the website lablit.com which showcases work in that genre. It’s a genre which seeks to show science in a realistic way in fiction, and also to forefront science, to make it a key aspect of the story. So it’s slightly different to a lot of science fiction in which the actual science may not be that important to the story nor might it be real, but rather made-up.
5. Who are your writing influences, the authors whose work has inspired you?
I love the work of John Banville who has written a couple of novels inspired by astronomers; ‘Dr Copernicus’ and ‘Kepler’ – these are amazing novels that are so beautifully written and I think he also captures what something about the emerging, still-developing scientific process in the early modern period.
I also love Jane Gardam’s work. I read her books when I was a teenager – particularly ‘A Long Way from Verona’ which is about a young girl growing up in England during the second world war, and she knows she wants to be a writer. It’s very well-observed and also very funny. I knew when I read that book that I also wanted to be a writer.
6. You also write poetry and non-fiction. Could you tell us about your writing journey, and when you began to write fiction?
I’ve always been obsessed by books and reading. Although I trained as a scientist I used to read fiction all the time. I first tried to write when I was a student, but it was a very gradual process. I knew I wanted to write something about astronomy but it took years. But it was helpful to have to write a thesis and scientific papers, it made me think about structuring my writing, and also getting words on paper was a good discipline. It wasn’t until I left astronomy several years ago that I started writing seriously and then I did a Master’s degree in creative writing at Glasgow which was great at instilling the habit of writing in me and teaching me how to critique my own work.
7. What advice would you give to someone starting out on the writing life?
Just write! There are no shortcuts to it. You just have to do it. Write and edit your work and try and consider it objectively. What works, what doesn’t work. Look at your favourite authors and try and understand what it is about their work that you enjoy. And what motivates you? I’m not so sure about the advice ‘write what you know’ but I do think you have to write about what interests you, because that will give your writing an energy that the reader will feel.
Finally, editing is more important than writing the first draft. It’s easier and more fun to write that draft, that’s when you tap into the subconscious creative side of your brain, but you need to edit ruthlessly and objectively if you want to create something that someone else will want to publish.
8. You’re represented by Isobel Dixon at Blake Friedmann. What was your journey of querying like? What advice would you give to aspiring authors in the process of querying?
My experience wasn’t too lengthy, I approached one or two agents before I was introduced to Isobel and she liked my work. I actually had a publisher before I had an agent, because my first book was published by Freight in 2013, as a result of being a finalist in the Dundee Book Prize in 2012. So I did things slightly back to front.
Before you approach agents you have to make sure that there is nothing in your query that can make them reject you. They get so many query letters that they’re always looking for something to make them move onto the next one – so make sure your work is perfect.
9. Please tell us about your stories in the Cooked up Anthology, and what inspired you to write it.
I have three flash fictions in that anthology and I was really interested in writing about food because it’s such a powerful way of exploring people’s cultural and ethnic identities. It connects us in a very direct way to our families. So, one of the stories ‘Potato Pancakes’ was inspired by my experiences of being taught how to cook by my great-aunt, who cooked a mixture of English and Jewish food.
Pippa Goldschmidt is based in Edinburgh. Her short stories, poetry and non-fiction have appeared in a wide variety of publications including New Writing Scotland, Gutter, the New York Times, and in anthologies such as ‘Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014’.
Her novel ‘The Falling Sky’ (published by Freight) was a finalist in the Dundee International Book prize in 2012. Her short story collection ‘The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space’ (also published by Freight) was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award this year.
She’s the co-editor (together with Tania Hershman) of an anthology of short stories and essays inspired by general relativity, ‘I Am Because You Are’, out this autumn – published by Freight.
Do you read or write short stories? If you do enjoy them, why? And if not, why not? Checked out the Cooked Up anthology? Do you have questions for Pippa– about her work, the publishing scene or her experience and advice as an author?
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Last week I was involved in a body workshop: mining emotions embedded in the body in order to come forth with the most genuine, resonant writing.
One of the things I realized is that we all, writers or not, often internalize criticism. If a parent or teacher or peer picks on a real or imaginary lack, we believe it. This criticism and the hurt it brings stays in the body, no matter how much we ignore it. It seems to take a lot of time to undo the damage it causes.
On the other hand, when someone gives us praise, it is hard to embrace it fully.
This week, I’ve made a conscious decision to embrace praise wherever I find it. To take it, appreciate it, and remember it.
I’ll also make a conscious effort to give more praise: I try always to find genuine facets to praise in people and their work, but I’ll now be particular, and try to step up the praise even more.
The same for critique: I maintain that almost as important as the crit is the way it is given: the generosity and kindness matters as much as the insight.
How about you? Are you able to embrace praise? What was the the last criticism you received in your life and work that hurt? How do you deal with it? If you could praise someone in your life, who would it be and what would you praise them for?
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Today, it is my pleasure to welcome the uber-talented and versatile Omar Musa, a renowned Australian poet and author. This is the last of my interview series for the Griffith Magazine.
I’ve highlighted some of Omar’s responses in blue, because they made an impression on me. He’s a fantastic poet and orator. If you hear he’s reading in your neighborhood, drop everything and attend. I’ve heard him live: it is quite an experience.
Please ask him any questions that occur to you, and he might drop by to answer them.
1. Could you tell us something about your writing journey?
I started writing poetry and telling stories as a child. It was something came easily and was just a fun thing to do. Early on, I was influenced by my mother (who was in the theatre world), my father (he wrote poetry in Bahasa Melayu) and a meeting with the great Indonesian poet W.S. Rendra, who performed very declarative, political poetry, when I was in primary school. In my teens I got into hip hop music and MCing, then in my early twenties into slam/spoken word poetry, then in my late twenties into writing fiction. It has been a weird journey, but one which makes sense to me. They are all branches of the same river.
2. You’re a poet and a novelist: what importance does each role hold in your life? What are your preoccupations as a writer?
Both are important to me, but poetry is number one. When done right, I think it is the highest of the literary forms. My preoccupations are powerlessness, violence, migration, racism — the poetry of unease.
3. Which authors and poets have been your biggest influences? Could you name a few works you think all writers should read?
Roberto Bolaño, Cormac McCarthy, Haruki Murakami, Anne Sexton. Every writer should read and memorise the poem “To Posterity” by Bertolt Brecht. It’s my favourite poem of all time. Every writer should read “The Aleph” by Jorge Luis Borges. If that doesn’t ignite a million poetic fires in your head, nothing will.
ps: I haven’t memorised “To Posterity” yet, so I’m a complete hypocrite, but I’d be a better man if I did.
4. What tips would you give a new poet or writer?
“Write in passion, edit in cold blood” — I got that from my mate Sarge Lacuesta, who got it from his mum, who got it from her Jesuit teacher in the Philippines. “Sharpen your sWord” — I got that from Snoop Dogg. And my own, far more prosaic advice — be fearless and especially, never be afraid of your imagination.
5. Tell us something about your novel Here Come the Dogs, and your impetus behind writing it.
I wanted to write about powerlessness, migration and fire — the fires that burn outside us and the fire that burn within. I wanted to write about Australian suburbia. I wanted to write about hip hop in a way that I hadn’t seen done before.
6. Talk to us about your piece Supernova at Griffith Review: New Asia Now.
“Supernova” is, in part, about the current mess that is Malaysian politics, but it is also about people who are trapped in between worlds. In recent trips to Malaysia, I have heard numerous accounts of people who have gone to vote and been told that they have already “voted,” especially in Sabah, where my family is from. I didn’t want to make Azlan Muhammad a cynical man when it came to politics, even though people of his generation would be justified in their cynicism. I thought that in this story, his well-meaning nature and naivety would make him all the more tragic and somehow, heroic.
7. What’s your take on challenges facing Asians writing in English today?
I’m not an Asian writer per se, but one thing I have noticed is that in the West, Asian writers are often expected to be “exotic” or focus on the historical, folkloric or “traditional”, whereas it seems obvious to me that Asian countries are home to vibrant, complex contemporary cultures.
I’ve loved the editions of Griffith Review I’ve read before, and would encourage you to pick up a copy. The New Asia Now edition carries insightful features, essays, poetry and fiction that give an insight to emerging Asia. I’m stunned by the amazing diversity of voices in this issue. Volume 2 of this edition is available exclusively as an eBook: Download it here!
Omar Musa is a Malaysian-Australian author, rapper and poet from Queanbeyan, Australia. His debut novel “Here Come the Dogs” was long-listed for the Miles Franklin Award and he was named one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Novelists of the Year in 2015. Find him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Have you read Omar Musa’s Here Come the Dogs? Have you checked out the Griffith Review New Asia Now edition? Interested in writing from Asia? If you’ve been writing for a while, what tips would you give a new writer ? Do you have questions for Omar Musa?
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In this group we writers share tips, self-doubt, insecurities, and of course, discuss the act of writing. If you’re a writer and a blogger, definitely go join rightaway!
My post today isn’t writing-related, it is more about this space: Daily (w)rite.
Over the past 7 years, it has grown and I have made so many friends.
The issue is that I’m now being advised to take the blog to my own domain name. Move it out of WordPress altogether: more professional, and apparently, more secure.
My horror is that I might lose all you guys in the process.
It seems I can take my followers friends with me to my new site with the help of WordPress plugins, but no one can guarantee a 100% success rate. I really have never used this blog to market anything, so that’s the least of my concerns– but I have made loads of online friends– and I realized just how many and how supportive when I was in the process of sending off my MS for Mslexia. I had so many blog friends help me out (Samantha, Michael, Michelle), and so many others provide moral support. I cannot, cannot afford to lose even one of my followers FRIENDS.
I have bought my domain name: damyantiwrites.com, and am basically dithering about moving to the new site. Some people have told me to develop an email list– find Mailchimp so I can basically collect email addresses, and mail them when I shift. I don’t know if I want to do that, for many reasons.
What’s your advice? Have you ever been through a shift from WordPress to your own domain? Has this affected your audience? If you’re a long-term friend of this blog, what would you like to see at the new site? Do you subscribe via email or just the reader?
If you’ve just arrived, welcome! Stay on and have a cuppa– we’re a friendly bunch here.
This is stunning, and has caught me with my draft in a mess.
I sent in 5k, and have to now send in about 85k by the 30th of Oct (Of this year!).
As you can imagine, it’s going to be an insane caffeine-fueled waking nightmare. (I know I won’t place– but this is a great opportunity to show my MS to some very esteemed judges, and I don’t want them coughing hairballs. Besides I get to polish my novel in a very short space– what’s not to like?)
So I shall go on a hiatus, and reappear again on November 2, after this deadline, and 2-3 others that fall on Oct 31 and Nov 1.
While I’m away, please feel free to browse through the archives, and leave comments. I’ll have a blogging month soon, when all I do is visit and browse.
Any words of advice for a nervous long-listee? Have you ever had to scramble to finish anything for a deadline?
Today, it is with great pleasure that I welcome Patrick Wensink, bestselling author, with four books and many articles in several reputed journals. His recent book Fake Fruit Factory is as moving as it is funny. If you’re looking for a darkly comic yet poignant book that is full of intriguing and hilarious twists and turns, I would recommend picking this one up right away.
Patrick will be stopping by to answer questions and respond to comments, so please feel free to ask questions related to Fake Fruit Factory, to his writing and editing process, the writing advice he’s given based on Improv, and anything else writing/reading-related.
At what age did you start writing fiction? What prompted you?
I was 24 years-old-when I started writing fiction. I was a freelance rock critic for many years before that. Then, two important things happened. I was fired from my job as a marketing assistant at a children’s museum. During my unemployment I watched Chuck Palahniuk read. Before that I thought fiction was Hemingway and Dostoevsky, which didn’t speak to me then. Chuck was raw and exciting in a way that connected instantly. I sat down and spent the rest of my unemployed six months writing a terrible novel, but I loved it.
2. What are your preoccupations as a writer?
Death. Especially with Fake Fruit Factory. Death on a human level, for sure. But also the death of small towns in America, which have essentially outlived their usefulness.
3.You have a truly gifted comic voice. What makes good comedy—a good comic short story, novel, or play?
Thank you! It’s hard to say what makes a good comic voice. That’s what makes it so hard and I’m a guy who has taught several humor writing classes! I would say the key is to understand what you find funny or ironic or weird and having the confidence to put that on paper, but more importantly to put it down in a way that communicates the joke to readers.
4. You teach a very insightful class with Litreactor.com about writing fiction using the principles of Improv Comedy. Could you give any basic Improv tips that writers can use to generate stories?
Yes! I just did, actually.
Have your characters avoid asking questions. Instead have them speak in declarative statements. Instead of saying, “What happened to your face?” Have a character make a statement, “Your face looks horrible. I knew going to the bar was a bad idea.”
Have characters agree. It’s an easy trap (and a realistic one) to have characters disagree. We tend to think that causes drama. But actually it stalls a plot. Have characters agree and suddenly your plot goes to unexpected territory.
5. What pointers would you give a writer starting out?
Get rejected as much as possible. I recently had a student who was afraid to submit a short story to a contest because he was scared of the rejection. I told him either your story gets accepted and you feel great or it gets rejected and you start building this callus against rejection. I did the math for him and realized I have been rejected over 1,000 times by contests, magazines, editors, publishers, agents, MFA programs and more.
You get used to it and just continue forward, and assume it’s their loss. Not yours.
So my best advice is get rejected a lot and love all the bad writing you produce! I try and tell writing students who are frustrated that that frustration is a good thing. It means you are over the honeymoon period of writing. Now you are in the difficult day-to-day part of the marriage. That’s good. That’s progress!
I think Dorothy Parker said, “I do not enjoy the act of writing, but I enjoy having written.” There’s the reward for all your hard work!
6. For writers querying an agent: what should they look for, in your opinion, and what should they be wary of?
Be professional. As much as everyone wants this to be all about the art, you need to be professional when approaching agents. They love books, obviously, but they also feed their kids from selling books and it’s a business for them. Be courteous, be professional, research an agent to make sure they represent your kind of work and always be familiar with their roster of artists.
7. Tell us about your latest book: Fake Fruit Factory. What inspired you to write the book?
Let’s say “guilt.” I grew up in a small town in Ohio very similar to Dyson, OH in the book. And much like that town my hometown is kind of falling on hard times. Where it was once an independent community with its own grocer, dentist, doctor, clothing store, lumber yard, pharmacy, hardware, etc it now has a lot of vacant buildings and FOR SALE signs in the yards because larger cities are unintentionally clobbering small towns.
I saw this and felt guilty, as a guy who moved from that small town to a bigger city. I wanted to explore small towns and what makes them tick and ask the question: why are they still here and will they survive? Also, I wanted to write about a satellite crashing, desperate attempts at tourism and mummies.
8. What is your drafting process like? Tell us a bit about the process behind Fake Fruit Factory. Is there an interesting anecdote related to the book?
The most interesting anecdote would be that it was five years in the making. I write first drafts very quickly and full of passion. Then I look back and gag myself because it’s all so ugly. Let’s say I wrote the first draft in two months…I then spent the next four years and ten months editing, cutting and adding to the story.
I love putting a manuscript in the drawer for several months, pulling it back out and marking it to shreds with red ink. Whenever I find a bad section of my work, I love it, because it’s a chance to make the book better.
I think a lot of writers dread the editing process, but I think it’s something to be savored. Nobody is perfect the first time around. I think a writer’s real job is in being critical of yourself and knowing how to improve what you’ve already done. It’s also a stamina game. It’s exhausting going over and over and over your own work. I did at least 20 drafts of Fake Fruit Factory before I got it right. Maybe more.
Patrick Wensink is the bestselling author of Broken Piano for President. The book’s viral popularity led him to appearances in New York Times, NPR’s Weekend Edition, Forbes and others. The New Yorker once wrote one entire sentence about him. After which he had a heart attack. He is the author of four other books, including Fake Fruit Factory. His articles appear in the New York Times, Esquire, Men’s Health, Salon, Oxford American and others. HarperCollins will publish his first children’s book, GORILLAS A-GO-GO, in 2016.