I'd once said "If I can do anything to help, let me know," and she took me up on it. But when the baby was handed over to me to foster my first reaction was ... terror.
Bernice knew everyone in the arts. I didn't. Bernice had the confidence to emcee the whole thing with panache. Me ... well ... when I get a mic in my hands the brain disconnects, what more after a glass or two of La Bodega wine?
But the event that Bernice had started needed to happen. It provided an important coming together for writers, a source of encouragement, a point of contact. It had helped me personally (gave me more confidence in my words, pulled me out of a period of depression).
And I found that the formula that Bernice has used worked very well indeed - whether by accident or design, I don't know. Six writers. Published preferably or about to be ... or certainly working at something interesting and deserving encouragement. All genres. In English or Malay or a mixture. And truly democratic - everyone with equal time, the order of readers chosen randomly. (First writers to turn up get first pick of slot.) No prima donnas. A beautiful gallery. (And none of it would have happened without the kindness of Seksan.)
It took courage to approach the "big name" writers ... those published and greatly respected guys. But none of them has ever turned me down. (Some have so far been too busy so far but the invitations still stand).
I was afraid that they wouldn't want to share the billing with folks less well known, sometimes newbies. That hasn't happened either.
I was a bit afraid at first that I would hurt some feelings turning down writers I didn't think were "there" yet ... but it hasn't worked that way, because they seem to have an instinct about whether they are ready or not.
In fact in some cases I've actually had to push and cajole and beg these modest people to share their work. ("Yes, yes, you are that good. Believe it!")
Every single month I panic about getting all the details together. (Ask Nic Wong who has been a first hand witness to Sharon's anxiety attacks about everything from ice to corkscrews to getting the mic to work.)
Every single month the readers are in a state of panic too - would they have the courage to face the crowd with their words? (Scary!)
But every single month the formula has worked, and I've gone home both exhausted and elated.
And then when Bernice was finally free again (but also sadly free as she lost her mum) I said to her "You can take it back whenever you're ready. It's your event" and meant it. I was ready to return the baby because that's what you do when you foster.
But she saw I was enjoying myself ... and so she went out and adopted another baby: Readings at No Black Tie.
Here's news of the next one on August 5th:
This month we present the following writers at our series of Readings at No Black Tie.
No Black Tie is located at 17, Jalan Mesui KL. For reservations please call 03 2142 3737.
Cover charge: RM15.
Readings will begin at 9.30pm
Ann Lee is a playwright, writer and award-winning director. Educated in Sandakan, Penang, Colwyn Bay and Oxford, she writes for various languages in her plays which have all premiered in Kuala Lumpur. Two of her plays 'Hang Li Poh: Melakan Princess', and 'From Table Mountain to Teluk Intan' (co-written) were invited to perform at the Asian Monodrama Festival and the New York International Fringe Festival, respectively - to excellent critical acclaim. She is one of four Malaysian writers who have been invited to the Ubud Writers Festival in October this year.
Jit Murad is co-founder of the Instant Café Theatre
Company and Dramalab. His first play, the seminal Gold Rain and Hailstones (1993) has been performed in Penang and Singapore. He also wrote the plays Visits, Malam Konsert and, in collaboration with composer Saidah Rastam, the musical The Storyteller and M The Opera. His play Spilt Gravy on Rice was voted Best Script in the 2005 Cameronian Awards. Last year, he received the Best Actor award for the revival of Gold Rain and Hailstones. He also does comedy monologues.
Jordan MacVay is a Canadian English teacher/corporate trainer who likes to fancy himself a writer. He enjoys writing short fiction and poetry and can usually be found ranting away in his blog (http://macvaysia.com). His articles have been published in an online Malaysian lifestyle magazine, and he really hopes someone will publish the book he is currently writing about a survivor of the 2004 tsunami. An unofficial permanent resident of Malaysia for the past five years, Jordan currently lives in Kajang with his lovely wife, their adorable son, and a fat, extra-toed Canadian cat.
Nicholas Wong was a recipient of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, Britain's most prestigious poetry prize for young writers. His publication credits include The Rialto, a poetry journal in the UK, Softblow and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore . He is also part of the editorial team for Inkyhands, an online litmag for young Malaysians. He was a finalist for the recent KLUE Blue Chillis Awards 2007 . This might be his last reading in KL before he leaves for the US in a few weeks.
*Readings began in 2005 by Bernice Chauly. Our monthly events at 67tempinis satu are organised by Sharon Bakar and the No Black Tie events are organised by Bernice Chauly.
See you there!
hp: (6) 012 323 0929