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Summary of some Wonderful Stuff…

… since I got back from Toji Cultural Centre.

I’m now living across from the Bukit Batok Nature Park, one of my favourite parks in Singapore and ideal for rambling with dogs.

I locked in a draft of the history mystery I was writing in Korea. Aside from a (former) supporting character coming to life, necessitating a rewrite that makes her the lead character and wanting to totally change the tone and voice to balance this… I’m almost done. After all the support I got during the writing of this (thank you NAC!) I would really like to see this get to the printing stage. But it’s marinading now and I’ll need another three months (at least) for a rewrite.

When I get round to it.

Because the most wonderful, most fantastically exciting thing of all is happening next month–Aunty Lee’s Delights is being published by William Morrow/ Harper Collins!!!

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I’ve been almost afraid to believe it’s really happening. 

But I’ll be leaving for New York in twelve days time and if this is a dream I don’t want to wake up! 

I’m also very excited about attending my first Bouchercon! Bouchercon is the world mystery convention, held at Albany this year. (If not for my book launch, getting to Bouchercon would have been the highlight of the month/ my year/ life up till now).

 

On the less positive side of things, despite all my good intentions of doing home practice rather than spending 45 min in each direction for a 90 min class, my yoga practice has fallen by the wayside. I keep saying I’ll get back to it after this draft/ after the edits/ after I put down this great new idea I got and have to write down before I forget it. I do my meditation and sun salutations and thank the dogs for forcing me out of the house for walks! 

But turning into a computer bound hermit while writing has its perks too.

Thanks to Mur Lafferty I discovered the Magic Spreadsheet which, because I get to enter my daily word count and build continuity chains and I’ve been writing daily even through two trips to Tel Aviv and French exams! (meaning I’ve got two more first drafts salting down in the pickle jar waiting for me to calm down and edit them).

And thanks largely to Leo Babauta and Sea Change, my attempts to simplify life seem to be working… guided daily by Lift Habits. Some days when I’ve been at the computer for longer than is healthy and it’s almost morning and my brain and legs have gone to sleep, being to put a tick in a habit box is the only thing that keeps me going.

(That and my fellow No Fishpond Envy poets!)

And now that I’ve done a catch up on everything. All I can say is I can’t wait for next month, but at the same time I’m so happy here and now with the anticipation I don’t know whether reality can measure up!

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Basics about Toji Cultural Centre

When I was preparing for my time here one big difficulty was finding anything (in English) about what life at this residency would be like.

I had read the official notes of course and knew this place is run by the Toji Cultural Foundation and is set in the rural mountains near Wonju.

I also learned about Pak Kyong Ni (1926-2008) who has a status in Korean literature that has no equivalent in Singapore–but I’ll write more about her, about Korean literature and about what it’s like to be a Korean writer today… later.

Today this is about the very, very basics and I’m writing with future Singapore or at least English speaking residents in mind.

The internet connection is very good if you’re in the right place. This is the block where I’m staying and the connection is simply great. Worth putting up with occasional leaky toilets for:

ImageThis used to be known as the ‘white building’ where most foreign residents are housed and though it was painted orange while I was here, they still refer to it as the white building.

I really love it here, but it’s an old building so there are leaks and cracks and occasionally the floor boards warp and twist but the Uncles who fix everything from the gardens to the lights here come with mallets and whack them back in place.

This is my room on the ground floor of the white/orange house:

ImageIn true Singapore style I’ve got a washing line and washing stand outside. There is a washing machine in the main building but no dryer and a line is a really good idea because we wash our bedding ourselves too. Or could… one of the other residents said he’d been here over two months and it hadn’t occurred to him to wash his sheets so I guess it’s optional. But so far a laundry round once a week is keeping me healthy.

Also fantastic is the food here, which is usually rice and an array of vegetables, either picked fresh or taken out of the kimchi containers. We get our own breakfasts. The kitchen door is unlocked at 6:30 am and white bread and eggs are available in the fridge next to the cast iron griddle which I really love using. I don’t like the white bread but have been experimenting with pancakes and frozen waffles and so far it’s been good. Lunch and dinner are communal meals at 12noon and 6pm. There’s a white board in the dining room and if you’re not eating in you sign out on the board next to your name and room number. I love the food here which is largely vegetarian. Occasionally there’s fried fish or chicken or (today) what looked like spam cubes but there’s always plenty of other stuff I and another vegan writer can eat.

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This is our future meals growing and fermenting–the plot is next to our block.

My daily routine here is wonderfully basic: Because of the days getting longer it’s easy to wake up around 6 am. I write my morning pages on 750 words. Breakfast around 7am followed by a short walk, 9 am to 12 noon writing ‘Angels of Life’, Lunchtime at 12noon followed by email and facebook catch-ups, then reading for 2 hours (At the moment I’m reading ‘The Taj Conspiracy’ by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar and Jung’s ‘Synchronicity’) then editing ‘The Blackmore Girls’ from 4pm to 6pm and Dinner. After dinner there’s time for a slightly longer walk and then shower and web surfing till around 10pm when I’m falling asleep.

Of course this is just a rough guide. There are days when I just want to go out and explore a new trail and then I do because the changes here are so dramatic. When I got here everything was still brown and then suddenly within a week it was all green. What was just a clump of green stalks with one brave purple flower turned overnight into a thick mass of irises–which are now all gone. Likewise the crowds of sunflowers bursting out and tons more flowers I don’t know the names of. Beware though–what looks from a distance like a field carpeted with pretty white blossoms turns up close to be knee deep in dry straw and last season plants and the flowers are actually growing up through that and bloom at waist and chest height (on me at least) another wonderful experience in spite of the thorns and snakes!

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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At Toji Cultural Centre

I got so caught up in writing and para-writing activities that I completely forgot I had a WordPress blog here–just remembered thanks to Jonathan Sung who’s starting his own blog…

Reading the last post I put in here I realise so much has happened since that hopeful beginning of the year–two trips to Hong Kong, one trip to Shanghai, The Mudskipper launched pre-AFCC –which I missed this year  — but I missed it because I’m here at the Toji Cultural Centre in Wonju, South Korea which is fantastic!

I’ve followed the example of my writing hero Louise Penny by opening my Facebook posts to ‘public’ so that the writing journey can be followed there. Over here I can just meander on and grouch a little.

(bathroom ceiling is leaking again… Well I can be glad because this isn’t my apartment and I can sit back and wait for someone else to get it fixed!)

I’ve finished the draft of the history mystery–now tentatively titled ‘The Blackmore Girls’–I was working on at the beginning of the year…  then decided to do a time shift from 1926 back to 1912 or exactly a hundred years ago. I’m hoping that if I ever write a sequel to it I can set it a hundred years back from whenever I do write it. So after that wrote one more draft changing dates… finished that during my first month here though I estimated it would take three months (it’s really so incredibly easy and wonderful writing here where nobody speaks much English, meals are provided and there’s no television!) so I figured I could rework some of the characters and connections… got into a bit more of a mess than I expected, so I’m in the middle of a big reworking/ rewriting–this is draft 6. But I’ve got the consolation of knowing that if it doesn’t work out I can always submit draft 5. I’m not totally happy with that but it’s 60% there…

And I’ve started a new book–thanks to Camp NaNoWriMo. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.   Have to figure out again how to reset the wordscores!

Visiting the grave of Park Kyong-Ni at Tongyeong on the anniversary of her death on May 8th. She was the writer of the great Korean novel ‘Toji’ and founder of the Toji Cultural Centre, Image

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Uncategorized, Writing Life

 

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Great Start to 2012!

It’s been a great first week of the year.

ACF Writing: Read previous draft of The Lizard’s Tail and decided I want to pull apart the structure, change the main focus character, change the tone and introduce a side plot romance (yes, I’ve started a new project file and am shifting cards again, thank you Scrivener!),

Lifelong Learning: went for two beginner French classes at the Alliance (and I’m loving it!)

Misc Writing: wrote 2 scripts (under 200 words so why not) for childrens’ picture books, going to post them later today–fingers crossed!

Exercise & Health: More or less kept up with 15 min of yoga a day and at least 12,000 steps on the pedo (yesterday reached 14,500+!). Eating (organic & expenseive!) apples, pomelo, mangosteens, mango. Experimenting with vegetarian bean curry recipes to get something I like & can do fast to eat with brown rice & frozen veggies. So far like 1) lentils 2) chickpeas best but I think I’d like at least 5 variations

Social: Met up with old friends from MGS / ACJC. Amazing how little we’ve all changed, how widely our paths have diverged, how MUCH we’ve done in such very different areas (literally!)

Yes it’s a very good start to the year!

Oh and I got my travel grant (to speak at the Shanghai Literary Festival in March) approved–Thank you NAC, Shanghai here I come!!!

 

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Homemade Marmalade Reward for deleting CastleVille?

Feel like I’m finally recovering from the last three months of high intensity writing–took over two weeks of ‘writing break’ this time this time but I’m finally starting to feel human again.

Going on the Silent Retreat was a very interesting experience but I think I prefer the familiarity of the pranayama / ashtanga retreats.

Good news: I’ve got a travel grant (thank you NAC!!!) for the Shanghai Lit Fest and my Orchid Chan novella should be published by then… the craziness of trying to complete that in addition to a 60,000 word first draft paid off after all!

(I know, don’t count your chickens till they crap on your fingers but at least I got the writing done and submitted)

And I’m starting to feel like going back to writing/ editing again.

It’s been a great December so far. I’ve been playing CastleVille and reading vegan recipes (cheese is my big sticking point with yoghurt a close runner up) and eating, eating, eating.

But soon it’s going to be time to delete CastleVille. I’m going to miss it. Last break I played Smurfs and the break before that Pet Society. I think of all these things I miss Pet Society the most because my poor little blue CousCous was all alone while the Smurf and Castle kingdoms are pretty well populated.

Maybe I should just grit my teeth and do it now?

After all right now thanks to the LOVELY LOVING Kate James  in London (and thanks also to Kalyani who carried all the bottles back and Eck Kheng and Anita who hosted the distribution last night) I have homemade, hand cut, Seville Orange marmalade to comfort myself with, all I need is an excuse–

I’ll just stick a spoon in the (prettiest little bottle) for comfort and get down to making those deletions…  if someone could go through the patient care of cutting and stirring and sterilising and sugaring and who knows what other magic goes into the creation of preserving ambrosia I can start prepping my computer for next year right?

 

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Final Day (of Fall Trimester)

Today is officially the last day of my fall trimester (September October November) and tomorrow signals the star of s my one month break!

Just a quick look back. Over the last three months I:

1. Finished and printed out first draft (approx 65,000 words) of The Lizard’s Tail, A Sophia Blackmore Mystery. I’m still not happy with it. In fact as soon as I printed it out I started thinking of things to add/ change/ delete/ research and felt rotten about what I put on paper. But… it’s a first rough draft and it’s down and that’s enough to make me happy for now.

2. Finished and mailed out first rough (approx 20,000 words) of the novella, Orchid Chan: The Chinese New Year Murders. We’ll see what happens with this… it was more an experiment than anything else.

3. Signed The Mudskipper contract with Scholastic Asia

4. Accepted invitation to Shanghai Literary Festival (Yay!!! And keeping fingers crossed for NAC travel grant now… but if I don’t get it I’ll find the money and go somehow, it will be my first time visiting Shanghai! My mother was Shanghainese,  she always said Shanghai was ‘Paris of the East’.

5. Applied for a residency (won’t talk about it now, so as not to jinx it but keeping fingers and toes crossed)

6. Took part in a Singapore Writer’s Festival panel “Where Do Ideas Come From?” (with Fredrik Haren and Chris Mooney-Singh, chaired by Goh Eck Kheng–it was great fun!)

7. Spoke to Dr KK Seet’s  Theatre Studies students (with Eleanor Wong–who IS great fun!)

8. Judged the Golden Point Short Story Competition (along with Dave Chua and Meira Chand. I learned so much from them as well as from the writing that came in!)

AND–

9. Epigram published 8 Plays! Thank you Epigram!! The first collection of my plays! Which–

10. Was sold out at the SWF. I know they were because Dr Leong Liew Geok (bless her sweet soul!) asked for more copies and they didn’t have any! :) :) :) I don’t know how many copies they sent to the festival but it’s the first time I’ve been sold out anywhere and I’m going to enjoy it!!! :) :) :)

11. And took part in a reading at Books Actually, officially my favourite book shop, with Tarn How and Tze Chien who are the other playwrights featured in this Epigram series (with 4 Plays and 6 Plays). I guess if they continue the series the next book is going to be 10 Plays… or 2 Plays?

I know written out here it doesn’t look like much but living through it was exhausting. I thought I was going to run out of time for a while and cut down from weekends off to Sundays off, daily dog walks got cut from 90 minutes to an hour, no more Daily Mile swims / jogs… not much I know but the bits of time add up.

And then I actually finished a few days early!

And once I had the printouts bound (superstitiously I have to have a hard copy of each draft) I didn’t want to do anything except play Anthill Strategy and CastleVille. It’s like my brain shut down. I didn’t even want to exercise, just vegetate.  And my regular meditation / yoga routine that kept me going over the last three months just fell apart.

But the good thing is my month long break starts tomorrow!

I’m going off on a Plum Village Asia retreat from tomorrow to Sunday. The timing was so perfect for me I knew I had to go though I’ve never been on a ‘Smiling and Breathing’ retreat before! The monkey mind in me is already worrying whether I can get up at 5am (official start of the day) when at home the alarm doesn’t go off till 6am and what are the toilets going to be like.

 

I just want to get away from words for a bit so the silent side of things is appealing too.

 

And now tonight I’m going to sleep early and see what tomorrow brings.

 

 

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Stage One Done!!!

Draft ONE and Great relief here–I’ve finished dumping the whole lot down and so far it’s an enormous chaotic mess but I can see there’s stuff inside it here to work with.

If you’ve seen (and survived) me going through the early stages of a piece before you’ll know this is the stage which I think of as choosing my stone and twisting my scaffolding and collecting seashells and picking mosaic dyes… I’m far far from finished, I’ve barely started the whole process but still I’ve ploughed through from start to finish once and I still want to work this thing… after a bit of a break to rest my eyes!

Past experience tells me that the ‘start’ and ‘finish’ probably aren’t going to stay where they are. The actual ‘start’ will probably be around the current chapter 3 and I’m probably going to throw out huge chunks of material (that I needed to write because I was figuring it out for myself)

But still, it’s done. On paper.

And NAC says they’re agreeable to shifting my timeline a little.

Originally the next step, scheduled for 30 Nov 2012 was for me to:

1) Submit first draft of script

2) Arrange for a professional editor

But they’ve said I can shift timing around.

My current plan is to NOT LOOK at this manuscript for two weeks… I’ve signed on for a meditation retreat 1 to 4 December so I’ll put this aside till I come back.

Then sit down and tear it apart and write the second draft by April 30 2012… and have a professional editor look at it then when it’s in better shape than it is in now, but which will gives me almost a year to restructure and rewrite to make the final deadline which is March 31 2013.

At this stage I hope to show it a some long suffering friends too–just to get more feedback (would you read it? at which point did you give up? all right what do you hate Most about it?)

And again, while the editor and friends are looking at it, I won’t. I realise that shutting myself away from it completely helps me get started on rewriting because otherwise I see what I Meant to write rather than what I actually put on the page.

SO… I survived the first stage of this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in Writing Life

 

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