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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!!!



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!


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.


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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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


Day 41: SWF Opening Tonight!

SWF Opens tonight!

And thankfully my word count is right on target for the week so I’m taking the weekend off writing to go watch/listen writers writers writers!

Very ‘light’ festival for me–one panel (Ideas), one set of post competition comments (Golden Point) and one presentation (Books Actually) and the rest of the time I’m free to enjoy all that’s happening.

Frustrating that so many things I’d like to sit in on are happening simultaneously!


Meanwhile Orchid Chan is on target at 15, 092 words–will have to start tidying and streamlining next week–and the History Mystery has passed the 35,000 word mark, which means I can stop to breathe a little, at least over the weekend!

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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Day 27: Shanghai International Literary Festival 2012!

Thrill of my life–I’ve been invited to the Shanghai International Literary Festival 2012!!!

It’s not till March next year but I’m already excited 🙂 My first literary festival outside of Singapore! Amy Tan is going to be there and A.B. Yehoshua and Alan Hollinghurst and Nury Vittachy…

My late mother was Shanghainese and I’ve never been to Shanghai before so that adds to the excitement and anticipation. If you believed her, not only were Shànghǎi rén the most cultured, Shanghai women were the most beautiful… in China you ask? In the world, I suspect she thought! Of course, as I mentioned she was Shanghainese herself so there may be some bias there! 🙂

So now I’m trying to figure out how to make travel arrangements, will see if I can get help with the airfare–but I’m going to say ‘YES PLEASE’ to them first and I’ll get there one way or another!!

And I’m going to get my first look at 8 Plays tomorrow. Ruth at Epigram says the books have come in and I can go get them to take a look (thank you Ruth!!)

It was very hard to settle down to do any writing with all the excitement so I ended up doing a lot of laundry, cleaning dogs’ teeth, walking dogs a bit more than usual… and then finally when I was too tired to fidget I sat down and got my words for the day in…

Not the greatest writing in the world but I don’t want to break my rhythm/ routine just because I’m bouncing off the walls being happy! There will be time to smooth things out during the rewrites. For now–marked out plot points and Forced the characters through their paces making them describe what they saw/ felt/ ate/ suspected/ wore… believe it’s harder to write when I’m happy than when I’m sick!

And I thought of a great idea for a mystery novella, an extended short story really. I’ve got the structure all in my head and think it will flesh out quite nicely at around 20,000 words.

Crazy thought: if I can finish the first rough of The Lizard’s Tail before December I can write the Novella in December, January and bring it over to Shanghai with me in March !

Well better to dream big than not dream at all right? Tonight I’m very very happy. And I made my word count for the day. And treated myself to seedless grapes. Life doesn’t get much better than this!


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Posted by on September 27, 2011 in Life Happens, Uncategorized, Writing Life


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