Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Robert's Guidelines

Ideally a story should linger, even haunt you in some way (not in a scary way, but bother you, perhaps; at least make you think about life) so that even a year later, you’re still thinking about that story. Also, I’ll be looking at character motivation, development and change (no change, no story!). Are there conflicts on more than one level? Are the characters memorable? Settings clearly defined? An opening that hooks the reader? Any tension that’s pulls the reader from the beginning to the end? An ending that I didn’t see coming or that resonates in a way that I wasn’t expecting?
Robert Raymer, who is (along with Eric Forbes and myself - okay so now you know!) one of the judges in the MPH-Alliance National Short Story Prize 2009 has blogged some excellent advice for anyone planning to submit an entry.

Lucky Sarawakians who get to attend his workshop in Kucing - wish we could have him over here!

(Photo by Georgette Tan.)


Yusuf Martin said...

Excellent advice from Robert

Janet said...

Sharon, not sure if I updated you earlier but it's Eric Forbes now who's a judge for the competition. Thanks and apologies if I've been unclear about that.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks love. i think you did mention it when we met the other day but my brain is full of holes these days. wasn't going to announce anything but robert did so i thought i would! when does the official announcement come out?

Janet said...

Hi Sharon, will check with my colleague. Soon-ish, I think; I know the interviews with judges will be printed (don't know how much of the material we sent them will be used) on Tuesdays but not sure when the first piece is coming out. Will get back to you on that.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Janet,Yes, keep us posted! Didn't know there was a switch between Janet and Eric either!

Sorry if I jumped the gun but I wanted to get this advice out sooner when it can be used by those entering the contest (and for those in Kuching for my workshop, some of which appeared yesterday in The Borneo Post) and not later, during crunch time!

Thanks Yusof!

And thanks Sharon for posting it!

Anonymous said...

OK, i know i've lost friends and alienated people already, but here's a point for discussion:

why are all the judges mat salleh names?

Ewe Noe Hoo

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Good question! I'll take a stab at this. Eric is not a Mat Salleh: he's Malaysian and he's the chief editor of MPH! Sharon and I have been writing, teaching creative writing (short stories), (married to Malaysians by the way), and living in Malaysia for a combined total of 47 years.

We've both been editors of Malaysian anthologies for Silverfish and I've published a collection of short stories set in Malaysia (individually the stories have been published 63 times in countries). So far my short stories have been published 96 times! And frankly, since we're not being paid, it'll be labor of love! In other words, we're talented (I think), come highly recommended (I hope), and we come cheaply (definitely)!

Anonymous said...

Well, Ewe Noe Hoo, some other You Know Hoo did say the local writers, whether published locally or abroad, are sub par - so definitely can't ask them to judge lah!

- Tau Hoo

Anonymous said...

Good one, Tau Hoo :-) .

Names are not a reliable gauge of Malaysianness, anyway. Eric Forbes, born and brought up in Kluang, is about as Malaysian as they come, EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT HE TAKES PUBLIC TRANSPORT (or WORSE YET, WALKS!)! Aiya, how terribly un-Malaysian of him! Where is his air-conditioned SUV?

I don't personally know you, Robert, but if you're the kind of "mat salleh" that Sharon is, then this whole question about names is truly ridiculous.

-- Preeta

Chet said...

Well, we can always give them Chinese names, lah.

Eric Forbes - Fok Ah Lek
Robert Raymer - Lai Lo But
Sharon Bakar - er, this one needs some thinking

Anonymous said...

So funny-one!

bibliobibuli said...

why are we mat sallehs? well ... all of us have a personal commitment to making our (yes, OUR) writing community grow.

the important thing is to get this competition off the ground. there should be different judges in future years (if this does work out)

Anonymous said...

haha! Robert, i love your reply! well, hope you guys do a good job (cheaply!)!

i was thinking someone like Kee Thuan Chye would make a great judge too. but then he would need a mat salleh name. let's see ... Kenneth Thurston Clarke, Esq?

Yoo Gno Huu

bibliobibuli said...

love it!!

(i can change my name to sharina bakar if the nname is the only issue)

a lot of people were asked (not mentioning names but if you thought of 'em, eric and janet thought of 'em too and approached them). too busy, involved with other projects, overseas (couldn't afford to fly home just for this)

and yeah, robert and i are cheap!!

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Ok, I'm slow on these Chinese names! Ewe Noe Hoo, You Know Hoo, Yoo Gno Huu is all a variation of the same thing, right? They can't be real unless you're parents have a sense of humor. If they are, no offense. I like them.

I especially like the Chinese name that Chet gave to me. Lai Lo But. Sounds like "keep your butt lying low". Good advice, too! I think!

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Oh, so the truth is out, we're mat sallehs of the last resort! I feel very humble right about now, and that's before breakfast! I'll get over it by lunch. Still I feel honored being asked and I'll try to keep my butt even lower.

Chet said...

Oh, sorry, Robert, I didn't mean that!

Expats going to work in Hong Kong (and now China, too) have to Chinese-fy their names, and the way to do it is to take the first syllable of their surname and find the closest Chinese sound that's also a surname, and do the same for the given names, too. Since there's no "r" sound in Chinese, the closest to Ray is Lai. But we can also use the second syllable, in which case the Chinese for that is Mah (I think).

When I was growing up, there was a tendency among Chinese kids to take "Christian" names. A popular one was Michael, but if the boy's surname was Tan, then he would be laughed at, cuz phonetically Michael Tan sounded like egg seller (my-gay-dan).

Sorry again, Robert.

Anonymous said...

Lai Mah?? hehe. poor Robert!

actually it's not really true that there's no "r" sound in Chinese. the actual pronunciation for "people" is "ren." although the "r" isn't really rolled. but the Beijing accent has a lot of rolling "r"s.

Chet said...

Revising Robert's Chinese name:

Mah Lor But

and the "ro" should really be "lor".

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Chet, that was fine! Of course, Mah Lor But makes me think of "my sore butt" after sitting too long when I write. Actually that's a good sign! It means I'm there. They say bum glue is what all writers need. The more you keep your butt glued to the chair the more gets written! Of course, that may have been before internet, blogs, and Facebook. So if my butt gets sore for the wrong reasons, I deserve it! Unless, of course, someone kicks me in the...which I should do to myself now and then, to keep me focused on what needs done.

bibliobibuli said...

we are honoured being asked and we'll do the job well too. we're especially lucky that you said yes, robert.

Anonymous said...

just realised i forgot to sign off in the last anon comment.

You Know Who

Anonymous said...

Someone said something about SA which I feel is relevant to us as well -- the fact that a mountain is "just there" is as much a reason for your average South African to NOT climb it as it is for most of us to do the opposite.

I guess that's why most of the judges have "western" names. Your average Malaysian would probably be like, "what? why?" :)

(actually, you'd probably get this really blank look.)

Anonymous said...

To continue -

And yes, Bob, exactly. _That_ is what is missing from literature. It's gone from something someone writes to make a difference, to selling words for money. Most books are like that, maybe there are one or two that are REALLY good, out of the thousands and thousands that are published every year. Hook the reader, make him WANT to read the book, turn the page. Make him forget to eat. Pull him into your world and don't let him go until the book is finished. Remember "Arabian Nights"?