Tuesday, 15 May 2012

National Flash Fiction Day (UK)

Yellow Protest

Clad in a yellow T-shirt, 
the child walked hand in hand with her parents to her first protest. 
The theme was free and fair elections. 
She could not vote but followed anyway. She wasn’t given a choice.

The sea of yellow trembled with excitement and anticipation, 
geared for a fun-filled Saturday afternoon with a statement to make, 
but armed 
with salt for tear gas and what not to say if detained.

Peaceful almost, till hell broke loose.
Lurkers clad in black sheep’s clothes broke the cordon. 
Water cannons and tear gas exploded as promised. 

The child wondered why the stinging eyes and painful skin, 
in spite of the red raincoat.
Mama, Papa shouldn’t you keep me safe?

We are Gen Y, motivators of change. We occupy squares. It is for you.

Flash Fiction and the like

Fiction of extreme brevity 
has flown under the banner of flash fiction, sudden fiction, microfiction, 
micro-story, short short, postcard fiction, short short story and nanofiction. 
There seems to be no consensus on actually word count, 
anything from 1000 words or less. 

Nanofiction is exactly 55 words long. 
Almost prose poetry.
Its not a new concept, Aesops fables being an early form. 
Chekhov, Hemingway, Kawabata, Vonnegut and Drabble have indulged. 

The Internet, with its new age readership and the love of short quick fixes, 
has brought on new life to flash fiction.
It is addictive!

First Loves Blogfest

My first book was most likely an Enid Blyton book, probably the Noddy series. Then came the Secret Seven and The Famous Five (and dog). George was the cool tomboy I always imagined myself to be. It was a time to read yourself to sleep and dream of adventure with a tight group of friends, exploring coves and solving mysteries. 
That comes from being a single child for 6 years before two brothers came into the picture.

First Song: There are songs and there are songs, but the one that made an indelible impression and the beginning of a phase in my life. "Where have all the flowers gone?" by Joan Baez . It was the 60's, flower power, hippy movement, folk songs and a time of protest. She was the mother of the tribe. Then there was Bob Dylan, Donovan and the Carpenters. I taught myself the guitar and sang in the local radio talentine ala Joan Baez, long hair and all.

First love movie has to be My Fair lady. We had the LP Vinyl sound track and I remember amusing myself by listening to it over and over again. I knew the lyrics by heart. Imagine the delight of a girl watching the film in 1964 at the Cathay Organisation cinemas in Kuala Lumpur. The words came to life and the beautiful Audrey Hepburn was perfection. 

Anthony Perkins was my first love. I obsessed over him as a teenager. On count back, I couldn't have seen the movie Psycho when it first came out in 1960. They must have had PG ratings even then. I know that I was fascinated by Alfred Hitchcock movies and always took pleasure in watching out for his cameo moment.   

Monday, 7 May 2012

A-Z Reflections

The  A-Z April Challenge 2012 was certainly a highlight 
for me personallysatisfying to the core. 
Now exhausted but happy, 
I look forward to the next steps of getting   
a book out in print or circulating in the great electronic library out there.

At the beginning of the Challenge, the possibilities were daunting. 
A plan did not emerge immediately. I played it by ear, with this and that. 

I turned to visual prompts and worked on two favourite places. 
Malacca in Malaysia, from a historical point of view kicked off with 
E for Mista Ee, based on an ancestor and his family.

A recent visit to Istanbul and Cappadocia inspired 
the stories around F for Feriha,  the hamam masseuse and her band. 
This journey came back full circle to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
with one of the characters, Q for Quraishah. 

Characters seemed to develop one story after the other, 
each taking on a life of their own. 
I was pleasantly surprised by the flow of ideas.
My play on the choice of names and their meanings was aimed 
at highlighting how tradition and culture still 
play an important role in individual lives 
in the parts of the world mentioned. 

Positive outcomes:
  • a well organised Challenge with great support;
  • developing self confidence in publishing a story;
  • exposure to other bloggers of similar genre.

  • categorising genres eg. flash fiction, cooking, gardening, spiritual etc would make it much easier to filter through 1900 blogs and perhaps weed out the advertisers and marketing sites.
  • categorising or indicating city and country of origin. This will identify the gaps and improve participation from more countries. 

Monday, 30 April 2012

Z for Zhuhan

Zhuhan Dogan of Dogan Holdings, Istanbul was beside herself with frustration. Here she was shouldering the media empire of Turkey, but could not be herself. The pressure and stress of the job was weighing her down. She was forty something, alone and childless.

After being listed on the Istanbul Stock Exchange, her father hardly stepped into the Dogan Building. He  had taken on an Onassis-like life with his new American wife, sailing the Mediterranean most of the year.

She had many ideas for moving the company forward, but no inspiration to follow through. The wheels just keep turning. There was no fire.

A spark did light up after a chance meeting at a wedding. Political circles were full of expected intrigue and money, but the bride of an up and coming politician sent alarm bells ringing in her head. 

Zhuhan and Ruhsar became friends. They found commonalities that seem too much of a coincidence, so they called it fate. With all the good fortune at their feet, they wanted to be some one else.

Perhaps they were borne of independent genes, that is to say, the type of person who could stand on their own, do their own thing and not be accountable to anyone else. They did not feel the need to belong to another, until now.

They became close, shrouded by their existing lives as successful dutiful daughter and high fashion wife. Rushar probably travelled more with Zhuhan than she ever did with her husband. It suited the trio fine. 

Ruhsar's visit to Konya however did undermine the womens' relationship. Her one night stand with an old lover, Namuk, hit at Zhuhan's core. 

She came to the realisation that in the end one exists alone and remains alone. 

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Y for Ying

Ying, means Jade. That green gem stone that exudes beauty and energy. A name like that should bestow on its owner the same powerful positive energy, one would imagine.

The newspaper notice was looking for girls to work as kitchen hands and look after children in the orphanage. It paid little money, but better than nothing at all. Her family had too many children and they were digging for tapioca roots by the river to survive. If she brought home some money, father would regret less that she was the first born daughter rather than son.

All this time she had dressed up in boys clothes and wore her hair short. This was the general advice for girls. 

"The invaders will snatch your girls," it was whispered in the village. She didn't even wash her face everyday to appear unattractive.

To day however she washed, combed her hair and confidently turned up at the recruitment site. She crowded together with other girls of varying age, some as young as ten years old. 

She eagerly boarded a truck with the others and after an hours ride told to get off. It was a remote area with the jungle in the periphery. The wooden structure could have been a kitchen or orphanage. Secretly she hope for the kitchen job, more food available. Perhaps she could smuggle some out for her family.

She did not get the kitchen or orphanage job.

She was lucky to receive a bowl of soggy rice a day. She lived in a tent with three other girls. 

Ying was raped by the soldiers, never less than twenty a day. In two months her body was broken. She was a rag doll shaken to the end. It seemed like the fever never left her.

So much for a name like Jade. The only colour she lived with was army green and green pus.

When the war was lost, she too had lost five years of her life, all her incisors and stopped having her periods.

The liberators were sympathetic and appalled in the same breath. She returned to her family in shame.

X for Xiao Hong

Xiao Hong had magic fingers. She was a maker of beaded slippers for the aristocratic ladies of Malacca. In fact she was the only slipper maker on the Malayan western seaboard. Her only other competitor resided in Singapore, a three day boat ride via the Straits of Malacca or four days by road or two days by train.

Like clockwork, the rich ladies of Heeren Street zeroed into her shop in Jonker Street like flies, three months before Chinese New Year and a month before the Governors Annual Garden Party. 

"Xiao please remember you promised to get my shoes ready for fitting on the first of April. The Governors Garden Party is on the fourteenth. I'm giving you two weeks for readjustments because there is always something that needs fixing" Madam Ho fussed.

Xiao said nothing in reply. Her sister Xiao Meng jotted the dates on the calender.

Madam Lee, who lived three doors away from the Ho's waited impatiently for her turn to make an order. She was determined to get her slippers before her neighbour. 

"I am invited to the Garden Party too. In fact my husband is a very special friend of the Governor and was invited way before Madam Ho's husband. I want my fitting on the 28th March. Don't get the colour wrong like the last time" Madam Lee hissed.

Again Xiao Hong continued beading the slipper she was working on. Sister Meng noted the dates and  demands of the fussy tai tai.

Tai tai's were a special breed of rich men's wives with money in their pockets and time on their hands. They spent their waking hours playing mahjong, a noisy game of chance using small square wooden blocks, rather like cards or bridge. In between play, there was the untiring job of overseeing the servants who raised their children and indulging in opium smoking from time to time.

The bourgeoisie of Malacca lived on Heeren Street while the working class lived on Jonker Street and the Governor had the Hill. Such was the social structure of Malacca at the time.

The Xiao sisters rented the space above Wong's coffee shop. During the busy season, the sisters worked through the day and night and resorted to having food sent up from the coffee shop as they could not spare the time to cook.

Designs had to be drawn, leather cut and shoe lasts made. The toxic mix of glue and sharp needles would render her delicate fingers to shreds. Even so, beading was Xiao Hong's forte. From her trusty wooden frame, she wove her beautiful patterns of roses, birds, peacocks and dragons like a poet spinning poetry.

While her slippers were sought after greedily by the ladies of Heeren Street, they had a cruel streak and often passed unkind remarks about her. But Xiao always remained unfazed.

The tai tai's stopped for a tea at the downstairs coffee shop after collecting their slippers for the Governor's Party. They chatted to Wong, but in truth were after some gossip about the quiet Xiao.

"It's difficult for Xiao Hong to find a husband" Wong volunteered.

"Why?" the tai tai's asked dying to know the reason.

"She's so clever with her hands, but sadly she is deaf and dumb" Wong added.

A wave of guilt swept over the tai tai's for their unkind remarks which quickly faded. "As long as she continues to make our slippers why do we care?"

At the Garden Party the slippers were admired by all. But after the first hour, the wearers felt pinching in their feet with each step they took.

Each unkind word, though not heard, were conveyed by cruel eyes and facial expression. Xiao Hong had 'heard' everything they said. With every bead sewn, was a little bit of hurt.