Monthly Archives: November 2011

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!)


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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I Hate Sports Cyclists!

I hate sports cyclists–some of them at least.

Scene: This morning on the Parks Connector along West Coast Highway around 7.30 am.

Though it’s a highway there are designated crossings to the factories and offices on the other side. The pedestrians had right of way, all the cars and trucks had stopped when this bunch of cyclists came between them and bashed into the people walking across.

Oh yes, forgot the Cast:

One worker (work clothes, barang-barang in basket on bike, slippers, old bike)

One recreational cyclist (flashy helmet, flashy outfit, flashy bike)

There was a loud crash and they ended up on the road.

The rest of the sports cyclists (identical flashy outfits, flashy helmets, flashy bikes, identical flouting of traffic laws) rode through the red light and picked up their buddy, set up his bike–yes it worked–and rode off, cheering each other on.

A motorcyclist and I helped the foreign worker try to stand. He had a bloody scrape on his leg, a twisted ankle he could not put weight on and the spokes of his front wheel were banged out of alignment so the wheel could no longer turn. To move the bicycle at all he had to lift it and push it along on it’s back wheel, along with all his things and his hurt ankle.

He did not want to miss work he said. He would lose his job. He did not want to leave the bicycle there because he needed it to get to work. Maybe he could get the wheel fixed. He had a mobile phone and would call a friend to come and help. I got him to give me his phone number because I had to go.

(note: there are times when having small dogs is a liability–)

What makes me really mad is how those sports cyclists:

1. Ignored the red light crossing. They were using the highway as vehicles, shouldn’t they watch out for pedestrian crossings?

2. Ignored the injured man and his damaged bike and rode on without bothering to see if he could stand/walk.

They were out having fun with their buddies on their expensive bikes and will probably be laughing about this incident not caring that they’ve damaged someone’s only means of transport to work.

If anyone knows who they are please let them know. If they would like to compensate the poor worker with a new bicycle wheel it would be as good for their souls as for his livelihood.



Posted by on November 7, 2011 in Life Happens


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Day 66: Books Actually Chat

Robin Loon talked to Tze Chien, Tarn How and me about our plays (and our three books–thank you Epigram!!!) at Books Actually last night.


Robin Loon with Tze Chien and me


In the background you can see stacks of our books lined up. Was really impressed by how Robin handled the evening (he knows more about my plays than I do!) and I learned at lot from listening to Tze Chien!

And it felt so good to catch up with Tarn How again.

Last night I think we all realised how much we owe Theatreworks so much–so many of our early plays for all three of us began in the Theatreworks Writers Laboratory!


And what made it really special is how many people from way back then are still in theatre now! Realised both Nora (above) and Jeff (below) were there right from the early days. Dear Verena was there too but I couldn’t find a pic.


But the most dramatic presence last night was of course the cat critic:

The evening was great fun and I met and re-met new and old friends from as far away as Chicago, Italy and–thank you for turning up!–students from next week’s Theatre Studies talk which saved me a lot of grief because I had thought it was next month till they set me right!

Bit of a disappointment followed though–got home to learn the stay at The Cité Internationale des Arts isn’t happening. But I hope it is only a temporary roadblock and so I will say ‘not happening yet’ rather than ‘not happening at all’.

I was hoping to write the sequel to The Mudskipper there. Since Lizhi is part French North African and part Singaporean and The Mudskipper relates how she gets to know her estranged family in Singapore I was hoping to set a second book in Paris, where she introduces her Chinese grandfather to the city where she grew up. I hoped to show that a city is a living character that reacts differently to an old person than to the young; but also that, as with any other character, it is a relationship that can be cultivated.

I’ll still write the book of course–perhaps just not in the immediate future!

(Good news though, first draft of the contract for The Mudskipper has come through!)

I’m hoping to finish the Orchid Chan novella over the next two weeks while I let the first rough of The Lizard’s Tail rest and ferment a little. I know what I want to happen, I just need to round out the characters a little more. Doing sketches of their childhoods/favourite foods/nightmares to try to see them in 3-D.


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Posted by on November 5, 2011 in Life Happens, Writing Life


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Fantastic 2 weeks with SWF and Publishing Fair!

And I haven’t done any writing at all but I can catch up and I KNOW the experience is going to help lots!

Best tip however may have come from Michael Chabon recommending the Freedom app which I’ve bought and installed and over the past two days started and reached 5000 words on 2nd draft of the Orchid Chan novella! 🙂

Amazed how many writers seem to work in cafes. Alone but not isolated.
But I’m trying to limit my intake of coffee & pastries so…

The Lizard’s Tail, having crossed the 50% mark is starting to look like it needs some structural tweaking. Painful as that may be, better to do it now than after I’ve loaded more writing on a shaky structure! So… will think about it for the next two weeks while I finish Orchid Chan. Great relief to be writing a novella where the end is actually in sight when you start–and it’s actually starting to feel like great fun!

And now I’m just really tired. Golden Point Judging is over.

Books Actually launch/presentation on 4 Nov

English Language Theatre meet-the-students 10 Nov
Orchid Chan deadline: last week Nov
FCC Christmas skit to be delivered first week Dec.
LitCamp (never been before but sounds great fun!) on 28 Dec

And I have all my new books from SWF to read.

Happy note: 8 Plays went on sale at the SWF and were sold out by Sunday midday!!!

Don’t know how many copies were brought in but a big Thank You to Joanne and all you other sweet people who paid good money for them!!!

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Posted by on November 2, 2011 in Uncategorized