Friday, February 27, 2009

Jeffers, Sheldon in NST

The New Straits Times today features a Q&A with illustrator Oliver Jeffers (left) who is in town for the British Council's Animating Literature: Words and Beyond conference. (For more on the conference visit Daphne's blog.)

And there is also an interview with author Jeremy Sheldon who ran some of the recent British Council City of stories workshops, who says that he first started writing as a bored teenager, confined to his dorm at Eton for rebellious behaviour. He says too that he got his love of story-telling from his mother who is Hong Kong Chinese.

About the workshops :
Sheldon said working with aspiring writers and having the opportunity to study their written work is similar to getting a “window into their hearts and minds”, an experience that still astonishes him every single time. ... His role said Sheldon is to function as the “external eye” and to show these aspiring writers not just the things they are already doing very well, but also to point out the few elements they may be missing.
The best piece of writing advice he received from his own teachers? :
... quite simply “write every day” ... Writing requires practice and writing daily, even if it’s only a little bit, can make a difference to aspiring writers. You need to keep working out what a colleague of mine calls the writing muscle. You can’t actually touch it or see it working but you know it exists.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

ReKindling The Passion

... the new Kindle edges even closer to the ideal of an e-book reader. The reading experience is immersive, natural and pleasant; the book catalog, while not yet complete, is growing and delivered instantaneously; and apart from the clicky keyboard (an unnecessary appendage 99.9 percent of the time), the design feels right.
David Pogue at The New York Times rather likes the newly launched Kindle 2. It has longer battery life, a bigger memory and can hold many more books. It can even read the books aloud to you!

And it is a hell of a lot less ugly than its predecessor. (Shame though about the silly name!)

So when can we see it here?

According to The Times, an Amazon spokesman in London said :
We are looking internationally and we know that customers are looking forward to getting their hands on a Kindle but we have no announcement to make at this time.
Sod it!

The technology is getting better, but why aren't e-books taking off? Bobby Johnson on The Guardian blog reckons there just isn't enough piracy! :
The real reason that the music industry came around to the idea of downloads wasn't because they had a startling insight into the future, or even because Apple forced the issue by building a clever ecosystem around the iPod (it didn't launch the iTunes store until 2003). It was because customers were choosing to pirate instead. ... To put it less glibly, the publishing industry isn't being forced to confront a radical shift in consumer behaviour caused by technology, because that scenario just is not happening. Customers aren't forcing the issue by choosing to abandon books and read pirated text instead. And this means the problem isn't there to be confronted.
And, of course, reading in general is having a hard time.

Silverfish's Raman gives his view on e-books and readers in The Malay Mail today.

Tale of Cricket in New York Wins PEN/Faulkner

Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland has won the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction worth $15,000.

The novel was overlooked for other major prizesin the US including the National Book Awards, and didn't make the shortlist of the Booker prize. It was though listed by The New York Times as one of the 10 best books of 2008 and is described thus on the paper's website :

O’Neill’s seductive ode to New York — a city that even in bad times stubbornly clings to its belief “in its salvific worth” — is narrated by a Dutch financier whose privileged Manhattan existence is upended by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. When his wife departs for London with their small son, he stays behind, finding camaraderie in the unexpectedly buoyant world of immigrant cricket players, most of them West Indians and South Asians, including an entrepreneur with Gatsby-size aspirations.
You can read the first chapter of the novel here and read Ed Cesar's interview with the author last year, at The Times.

The runners up, who each receive $5,000 each are :
  • Sarah Shun-lien Bynum - Ms. Hempel Chronicles
  • Susan Choi - A Person of Interest
  • Richard Price - Lush Life
  • Ron Rash - Serena

February Readings

Catch our next monthly writers event:

Date: 28th February, 2009
Time: 3.30pm
Place: Seksan's, 67, Jalan Tempinis Satu, Lucky Garden, Bangsar (Map)

The readers for this month are:

Sheena Baharuddin
Jade-Yi Lo
Eeleen Lee
Adeline Loh
Shih-Li Kow
Avanti Kumar (Sorry, Avanti can't make it. Will announce replacement.)

Admission free and everyone very welcome. Please pass on the invitation to anyone else you think might be interested.

"Readings" is the birth-child of Bernice Chauly, lovingly fostered by Sharon Bakar.

(For enquiries contact Sharon 012-6848835,

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Hobo's Life for Writers

A.L. Kennedy issues a stark warning to wannabe writers ... and knows no-one will heed it :
... I do try to tell other people what it will come to – hence my occasional visits to Warwick University and its creative writing students. They want to write, they have application and vigour, they've all come on since I read them last and yet ... it would be unfair not to remind them of how horrible their futures may become. If they're unsuccessful, they'll be clattering through a global Depression with a skill no one requires, a writing demon gnawing at their spine to be expressed and a delicately-nurtured sensitivity that will only make their predicaments seem worse – and yet somehow of no interest to anyone else. If they're successful, they still may not make a living, will travel more than a drug mule, may be so emotionally preoccupied that they fail to notice entire relationships, will have to deal with media demands no sane person would want to understand and may well wear far too much black. (Yes, it is slimming, but unisex Richard III isn't always what the occasion demands. Trust me: experience is a painful teacher.)

Naturally, I don't believe anyone will be deterred by my mad-eyed rantings. Once somebody wants to write it's almost impossible to stop them without also killing them to some significant degree. Nothing beats that raging delight at three in the morning when sentence number 15 finally agrees to do what you want, and never has banging wiggly marks on to a computer screen seemed so heroic – even if you're simply ensuring that the orthopaedic surgeon ravishing your senior nurse in the sluice room doesn't seem implausibly limber and can meanwhile reawaken echoes of that summer afternoon with her funny uncle ... And if you think you might actually be doing some good, amusing someone other than yourself – making them less lonely, more alive, more informed – well, you're just not going to chuck that over in favour of crafting, long walks and a quiet life. Hence the number of regimes and leaders who have discovered that killing writers until they are entirely dead is a highly effective method of slowing literary output. And may angels and ministers of grace preserve the students and indeed myself from any shades of that. We may feel hard done by, but we're not doing that badly – for individuals trapped in a society intent upon eating its own tongue.

Books at the Oscars, Censorship by Astro

Now where would Hollywood be without novelists to dream the dream first?

I'm longing to see Slumdog Millionaire which swept the Oscar's yesterday. It's based (as if you didn't know!) on Vikas Swarup's novel, which was originally called Q&A.

In this interview with Alison Flood, which appeared a few days ago in The Guardian, Swarup describes his reactions to the film and describes how the novel was written.

It was born ... not "from Mumbai's meanest streets" but in "London's rather more genteel Golders Green" while Swarup was working as a diplomat for the Indian high commission in 2003.

His family left to go back to India early, and he had just two months before he returned himself :
After they had gone, I thought: 'Now is the time to write the novel.' But I'm not one of those writers who wants to spend four pages describing a sunrise. There are so many of them in India. I'm a sucker for thrillers and I wanted to write one. I'm much more influenced by Alastair MacLean and James Hadley Chase. I'm no Arundhati Roy."
and knew that he had to complete the novel withing that timeframe because he was due to take up a demanding new post :
He wrote quickly - one productive weekend yielded 20,000 words.

And he struck gold when his agent managed to negotiate a six-figure two-book deal :
I am the luckiest novelist in the world. I was a first-time novelist who wasn't awash in rejection slips, whose manuscript didn't disappear in slush piles. I have had a wonderful time.
Kate Winslet won best actress for her role in The Reader, and Bernhard's Schlink's novel on which it is based is one that made a deep impression on me. (I loved it so much - read it twice - that I am actually afraid of seeing the film.)

I mentioned F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button the other day. Now, according to Singapore's Straits Times it has encouraged girls to go looking for the book that has the lovely Brad Pitt in it! The Hollywood knock-on effect is great for encouraging reading.

The film Milk was based on The Mayor of Castro by Randy Shilts and is the story of the 70's gay activist Harvey Milk.

I didn't see the Oscar ceremony (forgot! duh!) but was horrified to hear this from Pang, via Facebook, and I reproduce it here at length because this kind of censorship is unacceptable :
I want to thank Astro* for screening this year's Oscars, which gave us the very heartwarming wins by the screenwriter and the lead actor of the movie "Milk". Congratulations too to the movie "Milk", about the first openly gay man elected to public office in California who was then assassinated, for winning Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor. The acceptance speeches by screenwriter Justin Lance Black and actor Sean Penn were both moving, bold and timely. They spoke up about the need for equal rights, to love, to share this land, and to be heard. This year, the Oscars celebrated the kind of diversity that the arts is able to champion; it's the kind of diversity that desperately needs championing in a world so overwhelmed by racism, war, and hatred.

This is part of Justin's speech:

"When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and then maybe even I could even fall in love and one day get married. I wanna I wanna thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he'd want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally, across this great nation of ours. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you, God, for giving us Harvey Milk."

And this is Sean's:

"For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect, and anticipate their great shame, and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that way of support. We've got to have equal rights for everyone," said Penn.

However, if you caught the Oscars on Astro, you would have noticed something so bizarre almost to be ironic. The words "gay" and "lesbian" have been censored from both these speeches. For me, this act of censorship defeated the very victory won by these two men. The two moments of silence rang out like the gun shots that killed Harvey Milk.

We live in a time when understanding is needed, when artists need to be bold in addressing the manifold injustices of the world. Hence, such a movie had to be made, such acceptance speeches to be uttered. But by its act of censorship, Astro has sent a message to all Malaysians that gays and lesbians are still shameful things to be censored from the public's ears. As a gay man, I am truly offended. After all these years of contributing to the country through my work, of helping people regardless of their orientation, being proud of who I am and helping others be proud of who they are, I can assure you that the only thing wrong is how much hate gays have to endure simply for the way we love.

What is Astro trying to achieve with the censoring of the words "gay" and "lesbian"? Do they think these words will promote homosexuality? Let me assure you that homosexuality cannot be promoted, it just happens. Just as a person's sexuality becomes apparent to him or her when the hormones kick in in the teen years; you don't need sex promoted to you by the TV, your body does its own promotion.

Meanwhile, words like "terrorist", "rapist" and "murderer" gets passed and nobody gets their panties knotted over how these words might promote terrorism, rapes and murders. On the other hand, words like "gays" and "lesbians" that describe people among us who happen love the same sex get treated like it is a crime to even mention in public. Is Astro promoting hate over love? Just what kind of society does Astro want to be creating? One where people can talk about terrorism but not love?

You want to know what breeds social ills? It is the kind of insecurity and low self esteem that results from such continual shaming through the media, that then leads to machismo, violence, bullying, and other superficial ways with which men employ to compensate for their insecurity.

Does Astro not know that many of its own staff are gay? I won't name them, but trust me, I know many of them (and I congratulate Astro for smartly tapping into such a pool of talents). But is Astro now ashamed of its many talented gay and lesbian staff?

And does Astro not know too that a huge number of its viewers are gay and lesbian? Otherwise, why bother to screen "Brothers & Sisters", "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", "Six Feet Under" and other popular TV series that show how gays and lesbians are not only part of society but play vital roles in shaping that society for the better? Is Astro ashamed of its gay and lesbian viewers? And if this is some national guideline, then Astro needs to question it if it hopes to be fair to its viewers.

Stop censoring the words that describe who I am. I am a Malaysian. I work hard for the right to be here, and I work hard for the right to love, just like everyone else. Thank you.

Pang Khee Teik
If you feel strongly enough about this, please do contact local news papers and you can share your comments with Astro here.

Postscript :

Sir Salman is not at all impressed with the book adaptations ...

Postscript 2 (26/2/08) :

*I'm grateful to Syukran for pointing out that it was STAR and not ASTRO that censored the words, and for providing this link.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On The Right to be Offended

I found this fascinating debate on the limits of freedom of speech (in 9 parts) between Indian diplomat and novelist Shashi Tharoor who is Under-Secretary General for Communications at the UN, and God is Not Great author Christopher Hitchens. It was recorded at the Hay festival last year and is chaired by Joan Bakewell.

Alina's Beloved

Alina Rastam launches a new collection of poetry Saturday 21st March at 6.30 p.m. at Central Market. (For full details click the poster up to size.) Here's my review of her previous collection, in case you missed it.

The launch is open to all but please do let Alina know if you are coming so she can estimate refreshments.

Fatimah Goes to Penang

Something for the literati in Penang.

From Daphne :
Fatimah's Kampung will be launched on March 4 at 9am at the Balai Persiban Agung, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang. The book will be launched by the universiti's vice chancellor, YB. Prof. Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak. Arndt Graf, associate professor of USM's school of humanities, and Daphne Lee, Star Publication's children's literature columnist, will review the book, and Iain Buchanan, the author and illustrator and writer of Fatimah's Kampung, will discuss his work at the launch. The event will conclude with a book signing by the author/illustrator.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Secrets of the Bedroom

Fascinating! As fast as sex manuals in Malay get banned, a new crop appears and the innovative authors are using Facebook to advertise (which is how I know, 'cos it turned up on my page!) and the publishers have now moved to e-books ... embracing the hi-tech in a way other publishers in the country haven't got round to.

Well, it tells you that there must be a market, and that there a hunger for relationship education which perhaps isn't met in other ways.

One wonders too if these are the same books with just a different title and cover?

Harry Nicholaides Freed

Harry Nicolaides, the Australian author imprisoned in Thailand on a charge of lese majeste has been freed. This message came via the Facebook group campaigning for his release:
Dear all,

Some fantastic news! Harry was granted a Royal Pardon by his Majesty the King of Thailand on Wednesday afternoon Bangkok time. The Nicolaides family is grateful to his Majesty the King for the decision he has made and to the relevant Thai authorities who dealt with the pardon application in an expeditious manner. Harry has been released from prison and has arrived back in Melbourne today. For a short time, Harry will not be speaking to any media as he will be initially focusing on regaining his health and rejoining with his family in Melbourne.

The last 6 months has been an extremely difficult and trying time for my family and our mission is now accomplished – we brought Harry home. I would sincerely like to thank everyone who has supported the family’s efforts and in assisting with encouraging the Australian government to take affirmative action to secure Harry’s release.

Best Regards,
Forde Nicolaides
Thanks all of you who signed the petition.

But according to The Herald Sun, his homecoming was tinged with sadness as his mother had had a stroke while he was in prison.

Postscript : (1/3/09)

Yes but ... was Nicholaides deliberately courting danger? A former colleague says he remembers the author talking about ways to achieve literary fame and rejecting advice not to publish the section that gave offense. :
In the end, Nicolaides was simply a literary speculator whose quest for fame and notoriety cost him dearly.
says Heath Dollar in The Sydney Morning Herald. [Links found via Literary Saloon]

Nicolaides accuses Dollar of trying to win a little fame on the back of his case. Dammit, is there no honour among ESL teachers and wannabe authors??

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Prolific Author

Matters of literary quantity have been much on my mind since a new book of mine was published recently. A fair percentage of the reviews described me as “prolific” or “highly prolific,” in one case “wildly prolific.” Now, I’m not going to argue about the accuracy of this. I’ve published 20 books in 22 years (some quite short), and I’d say that’s not excessive, given that I don’t have a day job. But accurate or not, “prolific” definitely didn’t feel like an unalloyed compliment.
Why are we so suspicious of authors who are prolific? asks Geoff Nicholson in The New York Times.

He's found himself wearing the tag himself, and finds himself in some formidable company. Joyce Carol Oates, wrote more than 100 books in 45 years, Updike who managed "60 or so books in 50 years more if you include all the poetry", and Anthony Burgess who wrote 75 or so books in some 40 years and :
... used to say he never turned down any reasonable offer of work, and very few unreasonable ones.
But, Nicholson observes, there's a snob factor at work here :
Prolificacy is not just permitted in genre novelists, it’s insisted upon. ...If the likes of Dean Koontz, Danielle Steel and James Patterson (you can add your own favorites here) weren’t so prolific, they wouldn’t be nearly so popular. Supply and demand are mutually supportive at the “low” end: copious production thrives on copious consumption. If we start invoking Trollope or Dickens as popular, prolific writers who also have literary respectability, we’re only confirming that there’s something antique about the idea of creating a large body of serious yet popular writing.

Saturday Events

Yesterday afternoon presented tough choices - two events I wanted to go to on at the same time.

I plumped for Shih-Li's launch of Ripples at Silverfish. Shih-Li read the title story which is one of my favourites in the book, and fielded questions from her audience - most of them wanting to know about how she writes ("In bits and pieces, here and there.") and where her ideas come from.

(I've managed to nab her for Readings at Seksan's on Saturday, which I am very happy about.)

Gwen filled me in on the event I missed, which I thank her for :
I was lucky to be one of those who were at Kinokuniya KLCC yesterday to hear Oliver Jeffers talk about his books.

He had a lot of fascinating material to show us how he worked.

He showed how he made his collage for backgrounds and how he used the concept of light source in the portrayal of characters and scenes.

The corner where he was giving his presentation was overflowing and inadequate to allow all the people who came to see and hear what he had to show and say.

I bought a copy of How To Catch a Star for my grandchildren and there was an impressive line of people waiting to get their purchases signed. The signature is a personal one with a tiny sketch as well.

We need more visitors like Oliver Jeffers here in KL. There is a growing group of people interested in producing good books for children.

Things to Look Forward To

There I really enjoyed in the ReadsMonthly supplement of Starmag today was the piece written by Abby Wong of Kinokuniya looking forward to some good reads in 2009 after a "barren" 2008. Among the novels she's looking forward to - Tash Aw's Map of the Invisible World, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's The Thing Around Your Neck (out April) and Yiyun Li's The Vagrants which has already been spotted on the shelves of Kino and is worth a journey into town!

(I must add here that I miss Abby now she has moved to Sydney.)

And among the reviews is Janet Tay's take on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald which is a must-read, as do the two stories that are published with it. (And I so want to see the film ... will it get an Oscar tomorrow?)

And again, there are tasty vouchers to clip giving substantial discounts!!

Adeline Goes Bush

A couple of months after I returned from Zambia. I was seeking a more meaningful direction in my life, and decided that I wanted to do some creative writing. At the same time, I had what you could call an “African hangover”, which made me reflect obsessively about my trip. Nobody I knew understood what was so great about my trip or where in the world was Zambia. ... So I thought, why don’t I write about it and tell people about the wonders of this country? It was when I started to work on it that I knew a book was taking shape. Mostly because I think Chan and me were hilarious together.
Adeline Loh shares the story behind her new book, Peeing in the Bush, with Amy de Kanter in the Readsmonthly supplement of Starmag today, while S.W. Low reviews it. And Bissme S. also interviews her in The Sun.

It's an account of a journey into Zambia that I enjoyed very much, and it reminded me of my own backpacking days and the odd characters and scrapes along the way with her naive sidekick, Chan, in tow.

Adeline is more a Bill Bryson than a Paul Theroux, and the humour often somewhat erm ... scatalogical. But I really hope that it encourages more Malaysians to venture off the beaten track and away from the package tour.

Adeline will be reading from the book at Seksan's next Saturday.

(BTW there's a 20% off coupon to clip in the paper to use at Popular Bookstores!)

Penguin in the Doghouse?

Thanks William Shaw for sending me a link to his post re the kerfuffle over the Dubai Festival.

Not all is as it first seemed.

According to Isobel Abulhoul the decision to cancel the launch of the book was communicated to Ms Badell in September ... so why was it only brought to public attention this month?

Margaret Atwood now apparently regrets her decision to withdraw and has :
... come around to Isobel Aboulhou’s view that this was as much a controversy stirred up by Bedell’s publishers as anything to do with censorship. ... On speaking to , the festival’s director, however, she was told that this was not the case, she writes. Rather, the festival director had sent a “candid” and somewhat naive email of rejection, which “was carefully guarded by someone - who? - until now, when it was hurled into the press with great publicity effect, easily stampeding people like me.” Atwood, upset that her principled stance was taken under what she now sees as false pretences, and protective of the “first-time festivalite” Abulhoul, says her “head is spinning” as a result of the controversy.
I think our heads are spinning too. And I must make a note to be a bit more of a sceptic ...

Postscript (24/2/09) :

Margaret Atwood is to take part in the debate on censorhsip via video link.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The End of a Literary Award?

It seems that the Australia-Asia Literary Award, won in its inaugural year by David Malouf, will not be run this year [found via] ... and perhaps not ever again.

The prize money, format and timing are currently under review. The fact that not a single Western Australian writer made the shortlist (although the state was footing the bill) must surely be a factor. And who can afford such generous prize money (the award is worth more than any other in Australia) in these difficult times?

But this is very bad news for authors from this part of the world, who have very few enough literary awards to aim for ...

Stories in the Park

Here's a riddle for you - how is a short story like a park? :
They are both confined things, but no less for being that. A park isn't the sprawling countryside and the short story isn't a long rambling novel, but they give you a pretty high dose of wonderful literature, or being in a natural environment.
Bet you never thought of the short story in those terms, but the analogy works pretty well.

Alison Flood in The Guardian reminds us that London's parks have a literary heritage. And now a group of contemporary authors (Will Self, Ali Smith William Boyd, Nicola Barker, Clare Wigfall, Sheena Mackay and Lebanese writer Hanan Al-Shaykh) have been commissioned to write short stories, each set in a different park. The stories will also be sold on recycled paper in individual booklets from the parks as well as in bookshops.

Rowan Routh (quoted above) devised and edited the series, and explains in The Bookseller :

I love short stories and always felt that it is a misperception that the public don’t. I was walking through Hyde Park, when I suddenly thought, 'So many Londoners love these places, and they have such a literary heritage - so many greats, like Dickens, Thackeray and Conrad, have set scenes in them' . . . So I thought of the Park Stories series and approached The Royal Parks to produce them.
Will it work though? Nicholas Lezard on The Guardian blog is sceptical, citing the unpredictability of authors, and more seriously the fact that :

... specially commissioned literature, particularly in modern times, tends to fall flat.
Still, as a reader and a lover of London, I think that a walking tour of the parks in late spring with a nice story to read on a park bench is a pretty nice way of getting reacquainted with the city.

And like so many other great ideas ... couldn't this one be brought to a city near you?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Don't Keep Me in Suspenders

Lydia Teh's latest book Do You wear Suspenders : The Wordy Tales of Eh Poh Nim is now out and it has my blurb on the back (I seem to be making a profession of this!) :
Learners of English cannot be said to have a mastery of the language until they are able to use colloquial expressions with ease and familiarity and have a wide vocabulary. Acquiring this, of course, takes time. Lydia Teh’s very clever Eh Po Nym columns on the Mind Our English pages of The Star not only help learners build up their stock of language, but do it in a fun way and with a decidedly local flavour through the accounts of the adventures and misadventures of the eponymous hero.
Eponymous /Eh Poh Nym ... geddit?

If you want a taster, Lydia has archived some of her columns here.

And the always enterprising lady actually created this fun bookformercial to promote it:

And on her blog, Lydia has a competition with some tasty prizes - go see.

An aside. Lydia and I were debating this word "suspenders". In Malaysian English guys sometimes use the term to mean "underpants".

"That's wrong," said Lydia "it refers to the things that men keep their trousers up with."

"Nope," said I "It's the thingies that keep up ladies' stockings when they want to look sexy."

She was arguing for the American definition of the word (which seems to be the most widespread in Malaysia), and I was arguing for the British English definition.

I actually find it quite a hoot when Malaysians say they follow British English, because although the spelling system might follow the later, the accepted vocabulary is a mix of both - influenced strongly by the media. (There's a great academic study in there for someone ...)

But this diversity gives Malaysian English it's character ... something that the book celebrates very well indeed.

Clearance Sale at Skoob

Many thanks to Trailshoppers for letting me know about a clearance sale at Skoob which goes on till 25 February.

Every book is priced at RM10 or less!

The address is :

Skoob Books
Lot 122&133
Level 1 Menara Mutiara Majestic
15 Jalan Othman
PJ (Old Town) (Map)

If you haven't ever found your way to this wonderful Aladdin's cave of books, this would be a very good time!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Jeffers' Paper Caper at Kino

Here's news of another literary event you might like to attend this Saturday. Artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers will be at Kinokuniya Bookshop on Saturday 21 February from 4.00 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. to talk about his work.

Some information about Jeffers from :
Oliver Jeffers was born in Western Australia in 1977, and brought up in Belfast. He is an artist who began by exhibiting his work at several small exhibitions in Belfast from 1995-1998, before beginning to illustrate book jackets for local publishing houses. He graduated from the University of Ulster with a degree in Visual Communications in 2001. From 1999 to 2000, he travelled to Australia and the US, settling in Sydney and becoming a freelance illustrator and painter, working for various magazines, and illustrating for the Lavazza Coffee Company.

The first picture book he wrote and illustrated was How To Catch A Star (2004), which was shortlisted for the 2004 Booktrust Early Years Award (Best New Illustrator). Lost and Found (2005) won the 2005 Nestlé Children's Book Prize (Gold Award) in 2005, the 2006 Blue Peter Book of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal. The Incredible Book Eating Boy (2006), was shortlisted for the 2007 British Book Awards Children's Book of the Year. Oliver Jeffers continues to exhibit his work in London, Ireland, Australia and the US, and has undertaken illustration commissions for various organisations, including Starbuck's, Orange, and Sony PSP. He is also a co-founder of the art collaborative, OAR.

His latest book is The Great Paper Caper (2008).

Somewhere To Send Your Work

A couple of writing competitions for you to enter. (And thanks again to British Council for forwarding this information) :

The BBC World Service - British Council International Radio Playwriting Competition is closing on 31 March 2009. If you’ve got the knack of telling a good story and want a challenge, try your hand at writing radio drama! The winner will receive £2500 and a trip to London to see their play being recorded.


The Bridport Prize is one of the top open writing prizes worldwide - in both prestige and prize money. Submit your poems and short stories by 30 June 2009 to stand a chance to win!
(Well, a Malaysian won the Bridport last year! Lightning can't strike twice in the same place ... can it?)

Shih-Li's Launch

Why not go cheer on Shih-Li Kow at the launch of her collection of short stories, Ripples, at Silverfish this Saturday, 21st Feb at 5.30 p.m.? Full details on the website. And yes (much as I hate to admit Raman is ever right about things!) the book is very good indeed.

Cooking Up A Stormkitchen

Author and Publisher Amri Ruhayat (aka Ruhayat X), talks to Bissme S. in The Sun and I think some of his comments are bound to stir up some lively discussion.

On the philosophy behind his imprint, Stormkitchen, he says :
A stormkitchen is this cheap cooker you use on camping trips. It is simple and utilitarian. That is the underlying philosophy: to make writing fun. Even frivolous. ... My belief and experience is that young Malays are repressed. Our society behaves like it does not welcome young ideas … That these youngsters have no value. Fair enough. But we still need to give the young an outlet to express themselves safely before it gets too late. Otherwise it will be like a pressure cooker without a safety valve. But there are not many places where they can be creative and expressive. I wanted to give them one such platform. If they go to mainstream publications, they are unlikely to get published. ... Maybe it is simply the job of the mainstream anywhere to not tolerate alternative viewpoints. Or maybe it is simply because often there are no messages in these "karya picisan" (unimportant works). When I first started out I was often asked: "What is the message of the story? What is the moral?" But heck, not every story needs to have a moral purpose.
No moral values writ large, to cram down kids' throats?? *Blink*

I feel the same, but Amri says it better :
A writer needs to be aware that whatever he writes will have an influence on at least someone. If words have no weight then people would not have burnt books or prosecuted writers throughout history. But honestly, a writer of fiction should write for no reason other than to tell a story. It is not for the writer to guide society. In the realm of fiction, the story should operate on its own moral terms. That is what separates it from reality. ... I do believe that writers have a responsibility, but that responsibility is simply that they should be true to themselves. Anyone who writes deliberately with a subtext in mind is being manipulative, if not naive. Today you cannot dictate what the subtext is going to be anymore.
He also talks about his challenges in running the magazine Elarti. Besides the financial burden he says the publication hasn't been appearing because :
... we just don’t get enough quality contributions. And my bar is not set very high, so that ought to give you something to think about.
And not enough writers are prepared to challenge convention, which, he says, may be a result of upbringing :
Traditionally, the Malays are not outspoken. Even when we criticise, we are very polite. We do not say things directly to your face. For example, if you asked us to do something, we always say "Insya Allah" even when we already know we are not going to do it. It is one of the things I admire about this culture, but these days it is not always the right solution.
He also reckons :
Culture has become stagnant and stereotypical here.
Do the rest of you reckon things are as bleak as Amri paints them? I see writing in English really taking off in Malaysia ... at all levels. But am not at all qualified to talk about writing in Malay. And if Amri's right - then is there anything we can do?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Preeta on Commonwealth Shortlist!

The Commonwealth Writers Prize shortlists for the South-East Asia/South Pacific region have been announced, and Preeta's nominated for Best First Book Award!!!!!!

We send our biggest congrats and loudest Malaysia Boleh shouts!

The list :
Best Book Award: South East Asia and the South Pacific :
  • Between the Assassinations -Aravind Adiga (India/Australia)
  • The Spare Room -Helen Garner (Australia)
  • The Good Parents - Joan London (Australia)
  • Forbidden Cities -Paula Morris (New Zealand)
  • The Slap -Christos Tsiolkas (Australia)
  • Breath -Tim Winton (Australia)
Best First Book Award: South East Asia and the South Pacific :
  • The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga (Australia)
  • The Boat - Nam Le (Australia)
  • The Year of the Shanghai Shark -Mo Zhi Hong (NZ)
  • Misconduct -Bridget Van der Zijpp (NZ)
  • Evening is the Whole Day - Preeta Samarasan (Malaysia)
  • The Shallow End Clouds of Magellan - Ashley Sievwright (Australia)
But you'll note that she's up against some stiff competition. The White Tiger was the 2008 Booker Prize winner, and Nam Le's The Boat won the Dylan Thomas Prize.

More about the prize and the finalists in other regions later ... just wanted to hit you with this news first.

Our Not So Hidden Selves

(Cont. from yesterday)

The theme of the second workshop I attended was Our Hidden Selves. Author Jeremy Sheldon (above) started us off gently with an "I remember ..." freewriting exercise (where, as the ink got flowing, I found myself waist deep in muddy water in the convent fishpond while my the nuns and little kids stood gawping like goldfish at the sides.)

Then Jeremy put up a grid diagram on the whiteboard and marked the axes - high intensity/low intensity, positive/negative. We took turns to name an emotion (jealousy, anger, romantic longing, apathy ...) and talk about where we would situate it on the grid. This, of course, generated debate. And this lead Jeremy to make the point he'd been moving towards all along - no-one else pinpoints emotions in exactly the same way as you do and therefore when you write you need to argue your account of an emotion your way, and as precisely as you can.

We moved on did an exercise writing from the point of view of a child inhabiting a safe place - I wrote a piece about my place of safety - the English stockroom at school where I hid among books - a piece that actually belongs I think in a story I have been hovering on the brink of for some time ...

(Actually it was interesting how several of us in the group found an escape from unhappy situations in a place with books ... Or maybe it wasn't surprising given that writers are readers ...)

It was an emotionally demanding day with packets of tissues being passed around : we were writing from deep and dangerous places where the feelings were still raw.

In the afternoon as a warmer we freewrote about our names for a while (a great exercise this and I could have gone on and on).

Then we jumped into an exercise which took as a stating point the phrase "What I never said to you" ... and oh, I found myself in a very painful place where I still feel a whole mix of things ... hurt and anger. But as Jeremy said, unfortunately the things that are bad for us as human beings are good for us as writers.

Then we turned the pieces we had written around and jumped into fiction by putting ourselves in the shoes of the other person. I found it a tough thing to do ... but I want to come back to both of these exercises having opened a lot of unresolved issues up.

We talked about how short stories hinge on a moment of change, a moment of realisation that tips the balance ... or perhaps in a story that point is reached and nothing happens. And about how characters get what they need, not what they thought they wanted.

Again there was much good writing, a great deal of honesty, from the group as a whole. Jeremy was an excellent listener and able to feedback the strengths of our pieces of improvisation in a very useful way. There's something too about the energy that writing in a group creates ...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Writing and Place

Now I have to transmute scribbled jottings in notebooks, my souvenir from three straight days at the British Council's City of Stories creative writing workshops, into something coherent for my blog. I promised to share what I learned with other folks not lucky enough to get into my workshops, while other participants have said that they will be writing theirs. If you would like to write something and don't have a blog - well, I have this space you could use! If you do blog an entry, I will be happy to link to you. (Let's shaaaaare!)

Sarah Butler's Friday workshop Writing & Place began with a quick warmer. We interviewed a partner and found out about their favourite place. Then we had to write down 2 things we loved about KL, two things we hated. We read them back around the group, alternating between the positives and negatives and Sarah said that just from that she got a very good impression of the city and what it was like to live here.

We went on to think about our relationship to place. We wrote a description of a place that used to frighten us as a child. (For me it was a chance to revisit the carillon bell tower in Loughborough ... a place I still have nightmares about.)

We then looked at how other writers had described place and in groups looked at three extracts - Arundhati Roy's description of May in Ayemenen from The God of Small Things, Dicken's description of the fog from Bleak House, and an extract from The Hiding Place by Theresa Azzopardi. An interesting whole group discussion on the such factors as use of detail, style, rhythm followed, and the group was pretty much divided as to whether we preferred the richness and piled up images of Roy and Dickens, or the more pared down directness of Azzopardi.

We moved on to an exercise I liked so much I must definitely steal it for my own classes. Everyone wrote down the name of a (fairly specific) place on a piece of paper, and on another the name of an emotion. The papers were then redistributed randomly so that everyone had a new place and emotion and then we freewrote about it. (I got a toughie - nostalgia and a KL rapid bus and was glad I didn't have to read it out!)

In the afternoon we concentrated on a specific building in the city and thought about it in various ways. What can it see, and what can't it? What affects it? What is it made of? What associations do you have with it? We then did the same kind of thing with an open space, before writing a piece which was a conversation between buildings. (I had a rather supercilious Petronas Twin Towers talking down to Wisma Selangor Dredging who was fretting over its lost reflection of Bok House!)

Then another very nice exercise which I shall nick for my own use. Sarah showed us some "maps of the imagination" (I think they were taken from this book) which showed different kinds of personal journeys - some through place, others through life.

We then drew a journey of our own through part of the city and marked it with all kinds of personal details. (I drew the area round central market and marked on it such landmarks as the spot where I saw Bandaraya guys fish a crocodile out of the Klang River; the place where I saw Jackie Chan hanging from a helicopter; the beggar outside the LRT station who I always feel like screaming at because I don't want to be confronted by his ugliness; the Dayabumi building which David Copperfield was supposed to make disappear on the day I was sitting a diploma exam etc etc.)

Then we exchanged maps and with someone else's in hand, wrote a piece of fiction. I got a map which had Taman Connaught in the corner and my mind went leaping off to the days when I used to go for extended dim sun breakfasts with my colleagues which got turned into fiction.

It was a great day. I could feel my flabby writing muscles tauten again, and I really enjoyed the pieces written by the other members of the group. It was also great to experience being the other side of the workshop facilitator's desk for a while and see how it felt ....

(More to come!)

Photos of miscellaneous course participants working hard. How many can you name?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ke Sini Sana

Here's another MPH collection to get writing for :
SUGGESTED TITLES: Sini Sana: Travel Stories in Malaysia
Call for Submissions

The diverse culture of Malaysia invites travellers both local and foreign to marvel at towering cityscapes where modernity dazzles with luxury or go through old trunk roads surrounded by oil palm plantations to get to breathtaking mountains, caves, beaches and the tropical rainforests. And, of course, every traveller is amazed by food that can be exotic or a fusion of everything you know!

Perhaps during a jungle trek, you stumbled upon an enchanting place, or had a (nonfatal) swim with wild animals. Maybe you once spent an afternoon befriending villagers who had never met an urbanite off the beaten track before. If you were a journalist invited on a ‘famtrip’, did you encounter something outside the usual itinerary of visiting the most popular marketplaces, skyscrapers and restaurants? You might have enjoyed the tranquillity of a hideaway before it was discovered and destroyed in the name of progress and development. Here is a chance to recapture those scenes.

MPH GROUP PUBLISHING is looking for true travellers’ tales, preferably on places outside the tourist hubs in Malaysia. Stories should be in the form of travelogues with rich, firsthand descriptions of sights and sounds and even tastes. We want engaging stories that will move us to visit the places for ourselves and also to understand why we should preserve the beauty of such places. This is not a travel guide; we do not want to know just where to visit and how to get there. We do not want photographs; the words in the story should capture all the wonders. Tentatively entitled Sini Sana: Travel Stories in Malaysia, we aim to publish the book in 2010, depending on the number of submissions we receive.

Travel stories must be original, nonfiction, between 3,000 and 5,000 words, and must not have been previously published. We invite submissions from both emerging and established writers. Manuscripts must be edited, typed double-spaced with 12pt font and emailed to Please include your name, address, telephone number and email address. You may submit as many pieces as you wish. Faxed or handwritten submissions will not be entertained and manuscripts will not be returned. We will contact you only if your piece has been selected for inclusion in the compilation. Writers whose submissions are selected will be expected to work with the editors to fine tune their stories.

DEADLINE: 30 August 2009
PAYMENT: A small flat fee and two copies of the collection


Does free speech tend to move toward the truth or away from it? When does it evolve into a better collective understanding? When does it collapse into the Babel of trolling, the pointless and eristic game of talking the other guy into crying “uncle”? Is the effort to control what’s said always a form of censorship, or might certain rules be compatible with our notions of free speech?
I can't decide if this post is "off topic", but those who frequent the comments on this blog will find it interesting. (One of them sent me this link so something rang a bell here.) Mattathias Schwartz in The New York Times analyses "malwebolence" (great term, huh?) - the hurt and discord that "trolls" sew in comments and/or, of course, on their own blogs. (The article is several months old, but the content still fascinating.)

This rang true (and I know there are some of you who will nod with recognition of the truth) :
The willingness of trolling “victims” to be hurt by words, he argued, makes them complicit, and trolling will end as soon as we all get over it. Ultimately ... trolling will stop only when its audience stops taking trolls seriously.
Discuss, with reference to a blog near you and your own participation.

Ole Elizabeth!

Is it rational, logical, anyone should be afraid of the work they were put on earth to do? And what is it specifically about creative ventures that seems to make us nervous of each other's mental health in a way that other careers don't?
Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert delivers a most inspiring lecture on the nature of creativity for the TED Conference. I love the way she talks about "genius" and the way that she talks about herself as :
... a mule, not a pipeline.

You might also like to check out what she says on her website about how she got started as a writer. The best advice, I think :
The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” ... The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Editors Are Not Magicians

Editors are not magicians; there’s no sleight of hand involved in the editing process. Nobody sees them working. They work long hours. It ain’t a nine-to-five thing. And they get insulted all the time. I do wish things would improve, but I know it won’t. Most of the typescripts I receive are not only badly written but lack content or substance; there’s not much in the way of depth or breadth or width in the writing. It’s rare that I receive one that I can sink my teeth into. I always jump with joy when a good manuscript lands on my table, something I can work with. But that’s rare.
Eric Forbes gives us a glimpse of what he has to face as an editor for MPH (see here and here), and now he gives us some more on his blog ... including the pushy parent of the J.K. Rowling wannabe, the authors who plan the food for their launch before they have written a word. Please do go read.

I really do not envy him his job ...

Rushdie the House Guest

We made him welcome. I was his lawyer and he was a good friend of my wife, the author Kathy Lette. More important than these links, as it turned out, was the orientation of our house in Islington, north London, which overlooked a church: our bedrooms, the security service explained, offered a clear view of the approach of any would-be assassin.
Geoffrey Robertson QC, in The Times, on having Salman Rushdie as a house guest following the fatwa, twenty years ago yesterday.

More (if you can bear it!) at The Guardian - this time in the form of a documentary which interviews those involved in the book burning incidents.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cheapie Sale

MPH is having a cheapie sale at the National Library. Click the banner up to size and read the details.

Some Romance for Valentines

It's been a long time since anyone's written a great love story, Literary writers are failing to address the subject. I sometimes think that they are more interested in 'writing' than in understanding the human heart – they've lost touch with a fundamental element of what it is to be a writer. I don't really buy into it any more; I go and watch an episode of The Shield or something. I look to drama, TV and film. Literary writers have lost their mojo when it comes to this subject.
So says Tim Lott, the president of the Le Prince Maurice Prize for romantic fiction in a piece in The Independent on romantic fiction by Katy Guest who lets us have a list of her own romantic recommendations :
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (1813)

Often copied, never forgotten, Austen's Mr Darcy was the prototypical romantic lead who would raise women's expectations to unrealistic levels ever after.

Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë (1847)

The brooding hero, the tremulous heroine, but perhaps not the happy ending that would make it classic romantic fiction in the Mills & Boon manner.

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy (1877)

'Anna Karenina' was praised by Fyodor Dostoevsky as "flawless as a work of art". Not a good Valentine's gift for trainspotters.

For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway (1940)

'For Whom the Bell Tolls' saw a young couple falling in love against the unromantic backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. The earth moved.

Gigi - Colette (1944)

'Gigi' could have fitted perfectly into the Mills & Boon stable, featuring a young Parisienne glossily groomed and then married by a wealthy man.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis de Bernières (1993)

This book gave us the lines behind many a modern wedding ceremony: "You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is."

Inconceivable - Ben Elton (1999)

'Inconceivable' was possibly not written with romance in mind, but it fulfils all the criteria, according to the Romantic Novelists' Association.

We Are Now Beginning Our Descent - James Meek (2008)

Last year this became the first winner of the Le Prince Maurice Prize for literary love stories to have been written by a man. "Compellingly authentic," they said – and set in Afghanistan.

East of the Sun - Julia Gregson (2008)

The winner of this week's RNA Romantic Novel of the Year award – "A model of a romance, well written and memorable with a clever plot featuring a lovely heroine and a gorgeous hero."

The Prince's Waitress Wife -Sarah Morgan (2009)

'The Prince's Waitress Wife' is the first in a new series of rugby-inspired romances from Mills & Boon. Moral: enough wild sex can make a man love you.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Galle Festival - How Relevant?

Of course, there's no immediate way that fiction or poetry can be of constructive use in a bloody conflict whose human cost remains concealed. But the fact that most of us can't read the Sinhalese novelists does point to one very relevant literary exercise. A key failing of the otherwise world-class Sri Lankan education system is that while many islanders read at least some English, very few Sinhalese can read Tamil, and vice versa. This will be a major obstacle to any peaceful integration of the island for all sorts of reasons, and allowing Sinhalese and Tamil literature to promote understanding across the ethnic divide is perhaps the least important of them. But putting effort into translation projects would be a small but tangible step in the right direction ...
Lindesay Irvine on The Guardian blog writes about authors celebrating freedom of expression at the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka, and notes the great need for translation of locally written fiction to transcend ethnic boundaries.

Ajith P. Perera [found via The Literary Saloon] refers to the event as :
Colombo elite’s annual intellectual masturbation
and rather cynically asks what objectives the festival actually serves :
A section of Colombo elite might take a long holiday, eat continental breakfasts, drink lots of expensive wines, exchange yarns about their kids, buy few ornamentals, gain few pounds, may even boost the condom sales of nearby pharmacies and disperse. So much for the literature.

The tragedy is large section of creative writers never benefit from either of these festivals. They become untouchables at state festival because they do not appease Talibans. State shows the rebels the door. ... They have no place even at Galle because they do not write in English.
He says he sees the best creative writing - particularly poetry - on the blogs. But bloggers were not a group represented at the festival.

Maura O'Connor of The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka [also found via!] says that:.
.. despite all the fun to be had at the festival, there was a strong sense that the event had yet to seriously deal with the reputation and criticism it garnered in previous years for rather unabashed elitism.

While the programme touted intimate gourmet dinners in Galle Fort mansions and the opportunity to rub shoulders with literary hotshots, there was little in the way of events that allowed for the discussion of topics such as the current ethnic conflict, politics, education, media responsibility, or development. This is strange because one of the festival’s espoused objectives is to “encourage debate on topical issues.”
These are the challenges that the organisers of any literary festival in this part of the world (or indeed in any part of the developing world) have to face up to. The Ubud Festival I think is managing to keep on right side of the line.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My MPH Friends - Toonified!

I picked up the current issue of Quill magazine while I was at MPH yesterday, and was delighted to see my friends who run the magazine immortalised in cartoon form by E. Yu who recently an illustrated biography of the former Prime Minister (very nicely reviewed by Amir).

In the background you can see Datuk Ng Tieh Chuan, the CEO of MPH, with (in blue shirt) Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhari (whose company Jalinan Inspirasi Sdn Bhd bought over the bookstore chain), while in the foreground is E. Yu (in a red check shirt) the editorial team of MPH. Janet Tay (in purple jacket), May Lee (in green) and finally Eric Forbes, set a trap to lure readers into the trap of reading a nice thick book! Really a nice picture.

(I put link to those guys' mugshots, so that if you don't know them you can see how close the likeness is. I think Janet and Eric are spot on!)

The picture above was intended to be the magazine cover (and do click up to full size so you can appreciate it fully) although in the end the ex-PM was featured instead.

Here are the same guys, spotting E. Yu's face in his cartoons ...

E. Yu actually runs food outlets in several food courts around the city ...

and here he is interviewed by Bissme S. in The Sun.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Romancing the City

Thought you might like to see some photos from the Urban Odysses launch today.

Actor Mano Maniam* gave a very powerful speech about the importance of storytelling and ofcapturing this comparatively young city which is a cross-roads for almost all cultures and religions on the page. He was incredibly encouraging of the writers ...

Here's the mock-up copy of the book he signed ... . Isn't the art work (by Chor Shy Miin) great?

And those writers who could make it. I can't put names to all the faces, I'm afraid, so please help me fill in the blanks someone!

Paul Gnanaselvam is at the far left, Rachel Chan is the lady in red, Daphne Lee is the one with her head on the picture (but who is behind her?), Yusof Martin is the mat salleh guy with the beard, Tan May Lee is at the far right.

I would have loved a speech from Eric and Janet, the two editors, but those guys are incredibly self-effacing! For sure, the collection wouldn't have happened without their determination to get it off the ground, and their hard work in putting it together.

I was a bit sad because afterwards most of the writers seemed to disappear quickly before I had time to chat with them or buy the book to get it signed by them ... Maybe it was my fault for gossiping too long with Daphne, Twan Eng and Lansell in the Book Cafe! (There were so many friends there I hadn't sen for a while ...)

Anyway, if any of the writers read this, I would love to extend an invitation to participate in a future Readings@Seksan. Give'em a nudge would you??

(*Here's a piece by Zahara Othman about Mano's recent performance in London.)

Postscript :

I should definitely link here this post on Eric's blog featuring some of the writers whose stories were chosen.