Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tales FromThe Other Side

If there was one theme running through "Readings" this Saturday it was of folks who are usually on one side of the literary fence (as student, reviewer, editor, avid reader, illustrator), now skipping over to reveal themselves as writers, one or two of them coming out of the closet for the first time!

Janet Tay (below) was a litigation lawyer in a previous incarnation and says that she decided to leave the fast-paced life of waiting in courtrooms and long breakfasts at court canteens to indulge in her first loves - books and writing. She now puts on a literary editor's hat and works for a publishing house. She's also working towards a Masters degree in Literature at Universiti Malaya.

Her short story, Callus, was highly commended in the 2004 Commonwealth Broadcasting Association Short Story competition and has also been adapted for the Oxford Bookworms World Stories collection which will be published in 2008. Another short story, Transience, appeared in the August edition of Off The Edge.

She read from a short story set in an airport lounge and told from two different viewpoints. It was self-assured writing and very well observed.

Catalina Rembuyan works in the English Department at Universiti Malaya and is also doing her M.A. She says that she started dabbling in writing and reading poetry thanks to events and workshops held by the British Council.

She showed us the city waking up in 4.30 a.m. a very effective listing poem, and then read us Like a Sparrow in prayer form. This was followed by several others including a poem about darkness after a generator fails, a comical sonnet Observe the Ant on the Toilet Floor, and a piece she has read in readings before, Moving On. It seems to me that Catalina is growing in self-assurance - both in her writing and in her delivery of her work. Hope that she now looks at getting some of her work published.

I'd been asking Shahril Nizam to read ever since I learned that he writes verse to accompany his illustrations. He used to say that he was too shy, but I'm really happy that with the launch of his book If Only, he is feeling more confident. He chose several of my favourite pieces from the book including KingKat, My Aunt Rose, Creature (Dis)comforts and Rumination.

I had asked him if he would bring some of the original illustrations along with him and he brought a portfolio of pictures from the book and others I hadn't seen before. Here's Erna Mahyuni and Irene Kiew going through them.

Daphne Lee is probably best known as a journalist, writing about books for Starmag where she has a Sunday column. She also has a blog dedicated to children's writing. She recently made her debut as an author with a series of children's picture books.

Today though she read a series of untitled poems telling the story of a relationship which:
starts - flourishes - fails
Very moving and accessible, as with Catalina's pieces, it would be lovely to see them in print now the appetite is whetted.

Shamala S. Palaniappan is a book-addicted friend of mine who also writes. She's a marine scientist by training with post-graduate qualifications in genetics and statistics, and is most interested in communicating science in writing. She's now a full-time medical writer but working on more personal pieces in her spare time. She read two pieces for us Trails and Oasis, the first, inspired by a conference on global warming, drew on a beguiling blend of physics and philosophy to talk about the trails of energy we leave behind us. It felt rather Kundera-ish!

This lady is taking my creative writing class but I don't think she needs any more than the permission to say "Go ahead and write, kid". I don't think she did at all badly for the first time she read.

At the end of the afternoon, Animah Kosai (for some reason dressed in yellow) introduced another first time reader.

She had read a piece Vani (below) posted in the comments of Haris Ibrahim's blog, a big howl of hurt about the ongoing Hindu temple demolitions in this country. Animah was so moved by Vani's words in Oppressed in My Own Country that she invited her along.

Vani had never thought herself a writer before, but when the heart is moved there's a need to express it in words, however raw. And she read her words with great confidence.

I hope Vani will continue to draw on that passion now that she has seen how she is able to affect and reach others.

Anyway, thanks (as always) to those who read, and those who came and supported so well. Thanks to Seksan for the beautiful venue. To Shahril for the lovely poster. To those who helped set up and clear away. To Catalina for bringing wine. To whoever brought all those snacky things.

Will try for December 29th for the next readings and will confirm as soon as possible. Shall we have a Christmas theme? I'll try to get some mistletoe!


Anonymous said...

Some of teh pictures i took.

Not many pictures of the readers, though.


Sharanya Manivannan said...

Am so glad that the issue has affected people like Vani the way it should have. It's not just about ethics and legalities but identity; it is personal.

When I first started blogging about the issue, some Malaysian Indian friends I told refused to believe me. Mainly because the idea that it was happening seems something out of dystopia, I think, something that shook how people what to perceive their own country.

I still get hate mail and comments, not all of which I moderate through because some are so obviously hateful, from people claiming to be Malaysian Indians and supporting the temple demolitions, sometimes even blaming their fellow M'sian Indians for them.

Am praying the dramatic turns that took place in the last few days will turn out to be for the best.

Sharanya Manivannan said...

*want to perceive

bibliobibuli said...

irman - theya re incredible. so much character in each portrait ...

sharanya - i also had to pinch myself and i still don't understand why it's happening, how it can happen ...

i hope things turn out ok. am cut up about that young man's death this morning.

a lot of things are being shaken up in this country at the moment. things aren't going to go back to where they were, but i don't know how they will be either.

Greenbottle said...

well done animah for wearing yellow (BERSIH color) on saturday!

you're a terrific girl!

Obiter Dictum said...

It was a joy to be there for both the events Sharon. It was nice being able to to put a face to to so many names I hear on the blog here.

Sham said...

Same here - people that I have only known as blog ids suddenly came to life :)
I had a jolly good time!

Sham said...

Irman! Your pictures are so nice!

irene said...

Wow, awesome pics, Irman!

animah buzzzzzzzzz said...

Wow, thanks Greenbottle. Machinist now calls me Bumble Bee. Sharon, you have mu full permission to nick my latest Facebook photo and replace it here, and on the Readings Group - this was a request of a longstanding fan of mine (coughs modestly).

Irman, your top model is fantastic.

Sharon, the Readings were lovely. All the Readers were wonderful. Give a big pat on your back.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks animah. you have fans??? you sure?

Sham said...

i am one of animah's fans!

Anonymous said...

Sharon, Sham, Irene, thanks.

Animah - Ive done two prints and they're really good. Definitely because of the model... I'll send the prints next time I go out...