What Tips would you give a new Playwright or #Writer ?


As part of my ongoing guest post series in this blog,  Jane Camens, who co-edited the recently released New Asia Now edition of Griffith Review, Australia’s leading literary magazine, recently appeared on Daily (w)rite. Today, it is my pleasure to welcome the talented and versatile Michele Lee, an Australian-Asian playright and author whose work has also appeared in the Griffith Magazine. I’ve highlighted some of her responses in blue, because they made an impression on me.

Please ask her any questions that occur to you, and she might drop by to answer them.

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As part of my ongoing guest post series in this blog, Jane Camens, who co-edited the recently released New Asia Now edition of Griffith Review, Australia's leading literary magazine, recently appeared on Daily (w)rite. Today, it is my pleasure to welcome the talented and versatile Michele Lee, an Australian-Asian playright and author whose work has also appeared in the Griffith Magazine.

The Griffith Review: New Asia Now

1. Could you tell us something about your writing journey?

The first time I wrote something of some significance was in year 9. I wrote what I guess you’d call a memoir piece. My teacher, Mrs Swift, was very enthusiastic and told me I would have a career as a writer. She also told me, at a different time, that she was sorry that her teenage daughter was so racist. I later went to college (year 11 and 12) with her. It was so strange having a teacher confide in me.

So I guess writing has been something I’ve been doing since I was a kid. My official line is that I began writing professionally in 2008. This was when I got my first playwriting grant, when I was 27. Then Saturn returned and I was more fully on a writer’s path.

2. You’re a memoirist, essayist and playwright: what importance does each role hold in your life? What are your preoccupations as a writer?

I describe myself foremost as playwright. I’ve got more runs on the board in that realm. I might tack on ‘author’ when describing myself because of a handful of short stories once upon a time and my memoir. But I identify more as a playwright, one of those fringe creatures on the literary scene. I’m more at home in an arts festival than a writers’ festival.

I am preoccupied with myself – isn’t every writer! Well, to be more eloquent about that, when I look at my writing and what I return to, I think my writing has a big sense of absence, otherness, yearning, unrequited-ness and chaos and busyness. My characters are lonely, they are never going to fall in love, they are orphans, they are lost. Oh, of course, mostly my characters aren’t white. You could say I am preoccupied with putting non-white people at the centre of my plays but I’m not absolutely consistent about that.

3. Which authors and playwrights have been your biggest influencers? Could you name a few works that you think all writers should read?

Playwright Caryl Churchill, theatre-maker Young Jean Lee. Books I’ve read recently which I loved are Ali Smith’s ‘The Accidental’ and Atiq Rahimi’s ‘The Patience Stone’ – I could see these books as plays, actually. I was recently in the National Playwriting Festival, and I was very intrigued by Maxine Mellor’s ‘The Silver Alps’. I also enjoyed the absurdity in I’m trying to kiss you’s ‘Madonna Arms’ in last year’s Next Wave Festival.

4. What tips would you give a new playwright or writer?

  • Find opportunities to meet with and talk to other writers.
  • Get used to rejection letters/emails.
  • Write with a big heart.
  • Be nice to yourself.

5. Tell us something about your memoir, Banana Girl, and your impetus behind writing it.

Well my memoir was trying to go beyond migrant narratives – many of which I love – that pitch the conflict between child and family, home culture and outside (white) culture. I know this story. So I wanted to write about being Asian, but also being a woman, also being a sexual woman, also being an artist, also being a Melburnian. The reader I had in mind was other women leading a similar urban life – internet hook-ups, late nights, day jobs on the side, arts at the centre.

6. Talk to us about your piece at Griffith Review: New Asia Now.

I was really stumped when Griffith Review asked me to consider submitting some prose writing. I hadn’t really written much prose, not since ‘Banana Girl’, and I should add I began writing that when I was doing my writing and editing course at RMIT.  So I’d had that course as part of my motivation to write. I’d started to drift away from any prose writing and seeing myself as that sort of writer.

In ‘Where are all the nice Asian girls?’, I am reflecting on ‘Banana Girl’ and expectations around Asian women writing about being Asian. And I am also reflecting on me as a writer, where I fail, where I don’t hit the mark. I try to make fun of myself as an obnoxious hipster, although I’m not sure if that comes across! Someone told me recently that my writing is funny but I can never tell where the laughs will land. I’m probably always a little off in my judgement about what people want to read, and the memoir piece reflects on that.

7. What’s your take on challenges facing Asians writing in English today?

Hmm, well I can’t speak for Asians writing in any other language than English as I’m not bi-lingual enough to write in any language other than English. I think the question of responsibility raises its head. As Asian people, do we have a responsibility to create stories with Asians at the heart of the piece, complex characters that are culturally and proudly specific but also universal and not exoticised? Do we have a responsibility to lead on this? I know that for me, back in 2008, I started to embrace this as a responsibility and an interest. The challenge can be not to be seen as the spokesperson for all Asian people.

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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!

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Michele Lee is an Asian-Australian playwright and author who works across stage and audio. Her works are about identity, otherness, intimacy and chaotic worlds. She is currently working on a digital theatre commission, The Naked Self, for Arts House, and a new play commission, Going down, with Malthouse Theatre. Michele’s produced works are in radio and audio theatre: Going and going, Radio National, 2015, See How The Leaf People Run, Radio National, 2012 (winner of an AWGIE for Best Original Radio Play in 2013); and Talon Salon, Next Wave Festival 2012, and remounted for You Are Here Festival 2013 and Darwin Festival 2013.

Michele Lee: Playwright, Author

Michele Lee is an Asian-Australian playwright and author who works across stage and audio. Her works are about identity, otherness, intimacy and chaotic worlds. She is currently working on a digital theatre commission, The Naked Self, for Arts House, and a new play commission, Going down, with Malthouse Theatre.

Michele’s produced works are in radio and audio theatre: Going and going, Radio National, 2015, See How The Leaf People Run, Radio National, 2012 (winner of an AWGIE for Best Original Radio Play in 2013); and Talon Salon, Next Wave Festival 2012, and remounted for You Are Here Festival 2013 and Darwin Festival 2013.

Have you read the Griffith Review? Interested in writing from Asia? Do you watch or read plays? If yes, what draws you to them? If you’ve been writing for a while, what tips would you give a new writer ? Do you have questions for Michele Lee?

 

Would You Live like a Tree?


Be like a tree, humanitarian, community

Would you like to be  a tree?

I’ve been wondering about writing, life and fiction in the past few days.

Work-wise they have been tough. I’ve had to draw on the reserves of stillness within me, and let the ‘I’m a tree’ part take over.

Today I would like to ask you a question about the sort of person you see yourself as, or the sort of person you would like to be. I know I want to live like a tree, and I’m far away indeed from achieving it.

What about you? Would You live like a Tree?

If you have an opinion but don’t blog, please join the discussion on the Damyanti at Daily (w)rite Facebook Page!

How Important is Setting in #Fiction ? #writing #wepff


Fictional settings Blogfest

Memorable Settings in Fiction

Last week, we spoke about Settings in Fiction, how important setting is in sucking a reader into a story, and heard from Denise Covey and Yolanda Renée  on their event: Spectacular Settings.

For this event, you needed to:

  1. SUBMIT your name to the Inlinkz list NOW if you wish to participate
  2. CREATE your entry according to the theme – August – Spectacular Settings. More info here
  3. EDIT until your entry sparkles
  4. PUBLISH  on your blog August 19 – 26 –  state feedback preferences (full critique to general)
  5. DELETE your former link & add the new direct link with the URL of your entry.
  6. READ  & COMMENT 

Basically, we needed to add a setting excerpt that inspired us (Part A), and post something of our own (Part B).

My entry:

Part A : My excerpt is from a remarkable book, Perfume, by Patrick Süskind: I love this because it shows us Paris through the sense of smell alone, and sets the stage not just for the murder and putrescence to follow in the novel, but also the ‘perfume’ theme.

In the period of which we speak, there reigned in the cities a stench barely conceivable to us modern men and women.  The streets stank of manure, the courtyards of urine, the stairwells stank of moldering wood and rat droppings, the kitchen of spoiled cabbage and mutton fat; the unaired parlors stank of stale dust, the bedrooms of greasy sheets, damp featherbeds, and the pungently sweet aroma of chamberpots. The stench of sulfur rose from the chimneys, the stench of caustic lyes from the tanneries, and from the slaughterhouses came the stench of congealed blood. People stank of sweat and unwashed clothes; from their mouths came the stench of rotting teeth, from their bellies that of onions, and from their bodies, if they were no longer young, came the stench of rancid cheese and sour milk and tumorous disease. The rivers stank, the marketplaces stank, the churches stank, it stank beneath the bridges and in the palaces…And of course the stench was foulest in Paris, for Paris was the largest city of France.”

Part B: Mine is a scene from Chapter 7 of my novel WIP, tentatively titled Underneath the Skin: (This is an unpolished draft, and I’m hoping to use your suggestions to tweak it further. The text contains italicized Hindi words and ‘Indian English’ dialogues, and I’m hoping they add to the atmosphere without taking away from the reader’s understanding: I need to know if this is not so. This is the first time I’m putting it out there. Would love to do beta exchanges for anyone else with a WIP. I have posted it as a picture to prevent content scraping: please click on it twice (not double-click) to get a large font size.)

Novel excerpt: Settings

Click on the picture Twice to get a bigger Font Size: opens in a new window

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Settings in Fiction: Critique

Settings in Fiction: Critique

WORD COUNT : 868

FCA : This is an absolutely unpolished draft, so I’m more than happy to do a crit in exchange for anyone who posts a detailed crit. I usually never put out anything this raw, but this time, I’m going to try it as an experiment. I have every faith in Denise and Yolanda, and this community they’ve created, to help hone my writing in the piece. I trust this blog’s readers, as well– I’ve never regretted being vulnerable in this space.

While this post is for a writers’ event, I also invite readers (who’re not writers or publishing professionals) to share their thoughts.

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Would love to know your impression on both excerpts.

Want to join in Spectacular Settings? You can still sign up.

Have you read the book  Perfume? Would you read it, based on the excerpt? Why, why not?

Based on the excerpt from my WIP, would you like to know more about the character and how she fits into this setting? What did you like about the descriptions? What can be done better? How can the setting show off the character better?

As a reader, how important is setting to you when you read a piece of fiction?

Have You ever had to choose between Independence and Being Alone? #EverydaySexism


My day isn’t done unless I read the Humans of New York (HONY) page: it reminds me of life’s lessons and our essential humanity without being trite or soppy. If you’re on Facebook, I would suggest following it– it’s probably the only page worth reading everyday. If you aren’t on Facebook, consider bookmarking it: all posts are public.

Have you ever had to make a choice between being independent and having friends, family and the society in general stand by you? Have you experienced discrimination at your workplace based on gender? If you're a parent, do you see different challenges ahead of your children based on their gender? How are you equipping them to face these challenges? Have your experiences in family, society or workplace ever made you wish you were the other gender? Any words of advice for the girl in this picture?

A Woman’s life: Choice between Independence and Loneliness?

The HONY page essentially contains pictures of common people, with snippets of what they have to say. Each snippet is special in its own way, and shows us a different perspective. Who we are, who we want to be, who we wish we had been, who we’re thankful we’re not: universal emotions in the particular, with no judgment, and mostly, no commentary.

This post in particular held my attention recently:

“I want to have my own career. I don’t want to depend on anyone else. But there’s a view in our society that an independent woman doesn’t belong here. She is not ‘one of us.’ So if you want to do some things on your own, they expect you to do everything on your own. And that’s difficult. Because wanting to be independent doesn’t mean I want to be alone.”

(Karachi, Pakistan)

This girl is from Pakistan, where Brandon, the man behind Humans of New York is currently on a tour. This line in particular, made me think: wanting to be independent doesn’t mean I want to be alone.

I’m from India, a country in many ways similar to Pakistan, and I understand what this young woman is talking about. In Asia (and I hear it is the same for women the world over, to varying extents), a woman has to make a choice: to be independent, or to be shunned by her society– too educated, too ambitious, too career-driven.

In certain societies, these terms become epithets for women, whereas, for men, these are words of praise.

Click to Tweet An ambitious woman, even in Western movies and shows, seems to have certain negative connotations. I wonder why.

My question to you, irrespective of whether you’re a man or woman, or identifying as any other gender:

Have you ever had to make a choice between being independent and having friends, family and the society in general stand by you? Have you experienced discrimination at your workplace based on gender?

If you’re a parent, do you see different challenges ahead of your children based on their gender? How are you equipping them to face these challenges?

Have your experiences in family, society or workplace ever made you wish you were a different gender? Any words of advice for the girl in this picture?

If you’re reading this, do not have a blog, and want to join the discussion, head over to Daily (w)rite’s Facebook page!

How Do You Stay Yourself? Sunday morning #Thoughts


Damyanti:

As a writer, I do leave parts of myself in front of the public in general– sometimes concealed or disguised in fiction, at others on this blog or on the Facebook page— anyone who trawls through this 7-year old blog would know me, to an extent. It is hard to stay myself, yet be private when the blog is so public. It is hard to be a writer, and not rant on any of my social platforms on one of the bad writing days. The following post by Jamie Lee Wallace examines the challenges of being authentically ourselves. It is long, but well worth the read. She raises important questions: How is it possible to be yourself all the time, when your selves, your roles in life are disparate or fragmented? What if you’re a businessperson but also an artist? A doctor, but also a dancer? What about you– how do you express yourself? How do you stay yourself in the face of people’s expectations from you?

Originally posted on Live to Write - Write to Live:

The not-so-easy art of being yourself

pin who you wereBeing yourself is hard. Maybe you’re more evolved than I am, but I’m pretty sure that when it comes to who I am, I’m still figuring it out. I know I’m supposed to be a grown-up, but I still feel like an awkward kid half the time. I still have so many questions and doubts. I still feel like an unfinished story.

People say “just be yourself” as if it’s a simple matter. They mean well. They intend their words as reassurance or encouragement, but whenever I hear that bit of advice, it’s as if someone opened a trap door beneath my feet.  As I hurtle down into who-knows-what, my head echoes with the question, “But … who am I?”

··• )o( •··

When I was in high school, I was what you might call a “floater.” I did not belong to any of the usual…

View original 2,412 more words

Are you part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group? #IWSG #amwriting


Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group every month! Go to the site to see the other participants.

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Insecure Writer's Support Group

Insecure Writers!

I had dropped out of this group, because I could never remember to post on the right dates, and was on hiatus for a while– but so many of my blog-friends are on it, I have always read the IWSG posts.

The premise of the group is simple– we writers can be an insecure bunch, we need all the support we can get and who best to support us than our fellow-writers?

The avowed purpose is:

To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

I’ve signed on again, and have scheduled drafts for the rest of 2015, so I don’t forget. If you’re a writer, I strongly encourage you to join this group, as well as their Facebook page.

You’ll find all kinds of advice ( they even have a free book of excellent advice), commiseration, encouragement, and you’ll make some excellent friends! Alex, the founder of this group, has been a good blogging friend for years– and being the Ninja Cap’n, he knows a ton about writing, blogging, bloggers who write, and writers who blog.

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Not a writer, but know someone who is? Are they insecure about their writing? If you’re a writer, do you feel the need for a safe place to vent, recuperate, seek advice? Are you part of the  Insecure Writers’ Support Group? If yes, what has been your best experience about this group and why would you recommend it? (I really would like to hear from those whom Insecure Writers’ Support Group has helped over the years!

In the spirit of bonding with writers, here’s another event you could take part in: involves posting an excerpt from your work, or from a book you’ve read: the Spectacular Settings Challenge.

If you haven’t yet joined the Damyanti at Daily write Facebook page, please do. Hope to see you there to join in the fun!

Do You Read more Men or Women #Authors ? #amreading #books


Woman in Silhoutte Publishing Sunday Morning Thoughts

Women in Publishing

Back on familiar ground after my personal blog issues last month, to Reading and Books. My favorite topic in the world..

For as long as I remember, I’ve never bothered about the gender of the authors I’ve read. Been the sort of reader who’s completely un-curious about authors’ personal lives. Writing fiction, as far as I’m concerned, has nothing to do with gender, and I don’t care what V.S. Naipaul had to say on the topic.

But then I read articles like this one, by noted author Kamila Shamsie, in the Guardian:

As a snapshot, let’s look at the Man Booker prize over the last five years. Ever since the women’s prize for fiction – formerly the Orange, now the Baileys – was set up 20 years ago in response to an all–male Booker shortlist, the Booker has been the prize to which the most attention is paid in gender terms, and the question of the prize’s judges and gender came up last year when only three women were on a longlist of 13. In response, one of the judges Sarah Churchwell said: “We read what publishers submit to us … [If] publishers only submit a fraction of women, then that is a function of systemic institutional sexism in our culture.” So I asked the Booker administrators how many of the books submitted in the last five years have been written by women. The answer was, slightly under 40%. This isn’t an issue around the Booker alone. I’ve been uncomfortable with the imbalance between male and female writers in terms of the books that get submitted for prizes that I’m judging on a number of occasions.

So these days, I try to be more aware of the gender of the authors I’m reading. I don’t read much narrative non-fiction, but that’s going to change in the rest of this year. I will consciously try to pick the 9 fiction and non-fiction authors I haven’t read from Powell’s list of 25 women to read before you die.

Looking through the list of authors I’ve read, I find that in my childhood I read mostly men, because those were most of the classics, other than a few like Alcott, Austen, Elliott, Mary Shelley etc. As I grew up, I had access to more books by women, but on the whole, I think I’ve read more men than women, and I’d rather redress that balance. Have started with Eimear McBride and A. M. Homes this week.

Would welcome suggestions from you: literary, contemporary, crime and fantasy by women authors, as well as short story collections. These are the fiction categories that interest me the most these days. Also open to some narrative non-fiction– it’s a segment I’d like to read more of.

And I would like to know:

Does the gender of the author matter to you when you pick a book to read? Please qualify that with the genre you read: romance or scifi or crime or literary etc. Does writing fiction have anything to do with gender? Do you know if you’ve read more books by women than men? What books by women would you recommend to me and all the readers of this blog?

If you’re reading this, do not have a blog, and want to join the discussion, head over to Daily (w)rite’s Facebook page and the thread on gender bias in writing and publishing.