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Day 54: Taking Time Off for SWF!!!

24 Oct

I thought today would be a good writing day after the incredibly exciting weekend at SWF events… but it was hard getting anything on paper. No, I mean it was hard even sitting down at the computer when I’m still buzzing and there are more talks coming up and so many things I want to see!

So–I’ve got Orchid Chan up to 16, 355 words and I’m going to take some time off from the history mystery. I’ll catch up over November, so far there’s nothing scheduled then except one book launch, discussion at Books Actually with Tarn How and Tze Chien, feedback session for the Golden Point short story shortlist and writing a skit for the FCC Christmas show.

To survive, I’m cutting down on writing time for now. I can catch up with everything in November and at the very worst, over December (which means no yoga retreat 😦 but is much better than cracking now!)

SWF Highlights for me so far, just noting down so I don’t forget:

1. Sir Andrew Motion on writing poetry, on responsibility as a writer, as writing as a person. Fifteen minutes into the conversation he said, “so what is it really like for gay and lesbian people in Singapore?” (informal conversation after the opening ceremony. If I didn’t worship him before I would now), the way he read Serenade at the ‘In Conversation’ with Professor Thumboo, I thought I knew the piece but in his voice it was at once much simpler and more poignant, and I learned there are recordings of him reading his work online. I want to go look them up instead of writing!!!!!

Trivia: his wife’s passport had only 4 months left so she couldn’t come with him, he writes in the morning and is usually done by 9am,

2. Yang Lian. He is even more calmly, deliberately, beautifully sensuous, intelligent and provocative in person than on the page. It struck me ‘this is a Writer’ not just someone who writes. What he said about all the writer’s responsibilities seemed to say we can have only individual responsibility because there are different views about everything. But it is also a writer’s duty almost to be aware of and alert to all that is happening in the world around him as well as in history. And that tied in to what the China historian said about the blank years during the Cultural Revolution and goes back to ‘those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it’.

Much much much more of course. All still buzzing in my head. I want to write so many different things and so much more of each of the many different things.

Oh 3) Meeting all the people I haven’t run into for so long until now. The old friends, the old teachers, the new teachers, new friends, before the opening ceremony I was already awed and honoured to be sitting with Lee Tzu Pheng when OMG Steven Levitt came and joined us *still in shock*

It was a ‘gods walk among us’ moment. I feel like I’ve suddenly been shocked back to life.

Now I want to read so many things–enormous gaps in my reading I’m only aware of now. But when? When? Even with an hour of reading a day I’m barely scratching the surface. I think I have to up reading time to 2 hours a day for a start and see how that goes.

I’ve been thinking about the stuff that came out in the panels I attended, am wondering about the ones I couldn’t make it to. There were so very many exciting things all on at the same time.

It’s going to be more of the same over Deepavali on Wednesday when my panel is. I’ve chatted with Chris Mooney-Singh but I’m not telling (here) what we’re going to be talking about 🙂 Then on Thursday and Friday I’ve signed up to attend the Publishing Fair, two full days. Then on Saturday and Sunday more SWF events, it’s wonderful! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Though also tearing me in different directions, why didn’t I go on writing poetry? Why isn’t Yang Lian a Nobel Laureate? Can I write honestly and truly and make valid points in the forms I’ve chosen?

In the short story forum they (F Sionil Jose, Dave Chua, Jeffery Lim, chaired by Koh Tai Ann) talked about writing short stories like solving math equations (or something like that) and I realised with a shock that that is what writing murder mysteries is for me. Like a math puzzle or a mandala I have the fixed form to anchor me and within that limiting structure I can be more free (as a limited consciousness) than if offered complete freedom!

But I think that of all the events I attended what moved me most was the Migrant Voices event. Simple, straightforward, heartfelt pieces were read first in the original languages I am too limited to understand then in English. Of all of them I liked this one best. I took a copy with me and I hope the writer forgives me for including it without his permission.

 

Singapore’s Cat by Yin Jian Jun

I came to Singapore to work for a year and a half, got injured and lived at Geylang. One night I woke up to pee. Because the room was especially hot, I walked to the veranda to cool off and saw a few cats playing. I also saw a rat not very far from where the cats were, looking very calm. It ran over here for a while and it ran over there. The few cats looked at the rat, indifferent, sedentary. The cats must have eaten; they were not hungry. They can only be Singapore’s cats,

I don’t know how the intention comes across in the original Mandarin but in English there is something very chilling about the complacent well fed vermin catchers being noticed only by foreign eyes. And knowing those cats themselves are in danger of being culled on orders by others even more well fed and complacent.

 

 

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