Monday, February 20, 2017

hush, my darling

I feel like Ive told you everything. Ive told you about exchange, New York, Europe. I dont know if there is anything left to tell.

“You should keep some of it a mystery.”

“Mystery,” I whispered, as if making a promise.

I used to have secrets. I carried them for years, until they threatened to crush me.

One day, I discovered it hurt less to have them out there’. 

Each time I published something, or told a friend, it no longer belonged to me. 

A burden shared is a burden halved (or thereabouts), they say.

It freed me.

I started telling people things I would have once kept secret. (My secrets, not others.)

For the past year or so, Ive been mining memories most choose to forget for ‘material’, to prove I’m neither broken nor afraid, to explain, and take responsibility, for my actions.

Now, I fear I am writing the same thing(s), over and over.

Guilt. Sex. Mother-daughter relationships. (My ‘literary obsession’, A says.)

At what point does one reveal too much?


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Day 1, Year 5

I will be 26 soon. I feel less certain about some things, and more certain about others. A colleague said I cannot talk about my 'early twenties' until I am in my late twenties. I disagree.

I bumped into a friend I had not seen in years at the airport last Friday.

"I've changed since moving to Canberra," I said.

"In what way?"

"I grew up."

(He is one of few friends here who knew me pre-Canberra and I suspect, vice versa.)

This Saturday, I'll be chatting with Zoya and Yen about Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall at Feminartsy's Bookclub. My initial thoughts below explain in part what I mean by 'I grew up'.
... what touched me most was not Kate and Harriet's friendship but Kate's longing for a different life, a life of adventure, love and importantly, choice. I identified with her desire for something more, and was reminded of how I wanted to escape the 'burbs, to be more than 'that smart Asian girl'. Growing up, to me, means coming to terms with one's limitations; the world expands and shrinks, simultaneously.

I used to think 'Wow, that's long!' when I met people who had lived here four, five years.

I am now one of those people.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The year that was... (2016)

Reading over my end-of-year reflections, I notice a pattern. 

Change is constant. It comes ^^^ and goes ^^^ in waves ^^^  How would one cope otherwise?

In 2013, I moved to Canberra and broke up for the first time, twice. 

The following year, I travelled to New York and inched towards coming to terms with my decision to break up with a man I cared deeply for. I was happy for the time we had together yet sad I would never meet someone like him again. 2014 taught me to: Regret less. Forgive more.

2015 was a year of extreme highs and extreme lows. Boy, oh boy, did I rock the boat... perhaps a little too violently. Lauren Elkin describes in Flâneuse this desire to live on the edge: 
The students identified with Sasha's plight [in Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys], just as I once did, on the basis of their own unhappiness, native to the twenty-year-old who has not yet learned to ask for what she wants, or may hardly know it herself. Twenty-year-olds – the kind who wander the streets of Paris looking for meaning – are hungry for experience, but they haven't yet learned self-protection. They run headlong into despair, just to know how it feels, maybe to find out how strong they are.
Rather than rocking the boat in 2016, I resolved to make ripples. (less chance of drowning)

I changed jobs again, still in the public service. Voiceworks taught me to edit the work of others.

Noted came and went. I wrote a blog post here and a piece for The Writers Bloc here which went on to be selected as a Bloc highlight. Check out the Best of the Bloc 2016 here.

In May, I went to Eurovision (1 | 2) in Stockholm and travelled to Reykjavik, London and Berlin.

Winter brought with it Emerging Writers' Festival (and my debut panel!), a new home and writing. Spring, National Young Writers' Festival (1 | 2 | 3) and you guessed it, more writing.

Summer began with a dear friend's wedding xo I was shortlisted for the Anne Edgeworth Fellowship. I wasn't successful but still, an achievement and incredibly validating. Too often we gloss over 'failure' and 'rejection', both are important to growing as an artist and a person.

In short, 2016 was a busy year. But to what end... I suspect busy-ness for the sake of being busy. 

What flaw, what problem, what discontentment are you hiding?

As the year drew to its end, I wrote to a dear friend: 'I'd like a break from writing. I don't want to become a lopsided person.' Writing is part of who I am but only a part. I want to nurture old and new friendships, to read widely, to have fun, to experiment with photography, fiction and poetry.

Ah, but does the writer ever rest? I submitted my first piece for 2017 today and have another due in early February. I have a fresh set of goals in my new diary but the question, as always, is why.

Join me in finding out? xo

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

what makes a good review

I love reading a good review. By good, I mean not 'five stars' but a review that illuminates and provokes thought in its reader, by drawing upon history, other works and/or personal experience.

Felicity Plunkett shares the Seven Ingredients of a Good Review:
A good review works as a piece of writing in its own right. ... This may involve striking phrasing, a sense of a window opened to shed light into the text, voice, wit, an unexpected metaphor or an evocative sense of the impact of the work.
I wholeheartedly agree with her advice  'The best reviews host the text with style and grace, inviting their readers in.' – and recommend reading in full. Wish I chanced upon it last year. As it was, I learnt to review through practice, reading other reviews and with editorial guidance.

Speaking of reviews, my FINAL piece to be published (in The Lifted Brow, yay!) in 2016 is a review of I'm Supposed to Protect You from All This by Nadja Spiegelman.
I'm Supposed to Protect You from All This asks readers to consider whether multiple 'truths' can co-exist, not just as differences of opinion between family members, but within individuals. It examines how we twist our memories to fit the narrative of who we are, so that we may make sense of our lives and thus continue to live with ourselves.
You can read the full review here, with a dash of memoir on my relationship with my mother.

You can also find all books reviewed for The Lifted Brow in 2016 here. My favourite reviews:

So Sad Today by Melissa Broder (Scribe), reviewed by Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen

The Love of a Bad Man by Laura Elizabeth Woollett (Scribe), reviewed by Veronica Sullivan

Rebellious Daughters edited by Maria Katsonis and Lee Koffman (Simon and Schuster), reviewed by Angela Serrano

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy (Penguin), reviewed by Madeleine Laing

Autumn by Ali Smith (Penguin), reviewed by Alice Robinson

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A few of my favourite things... (2016)

The end of the year is like the rising tide. It creeps up, bit by bit, then devours everything. Pop.

My favourite things in previous years: 2015 | 2014 | 2013


This is the year I identified as a feminist and started thinking about race... how it intersects with my gender and how it affects the lives of other people. I still have a lot to learn but I'm less ignorant, less naïve. This is my / our reality. Songs that defined 2016 for me: 'Smile' and 'Sorry'.  

Don't tell me to smile / Don't tell me to smile / Don't tell me to smile
If you don't know me, brother
Middle fingers up / Put 'em hands high / Wave it in his face

Tell 'im boy bye / Tell 'im boy bye / Boy bye

Middle fingers up / I ain't thinking 'bout you


As always, female vocals: Synthia (The Jezabels), TKAY (Tkay Maidza), Lemonade (Beyoncé).


I shared my top five books of 2016 with Pencilled In, a new literary magazine featuring work by young Asian-Australian writers and artists and founded by my talented friend Yen-Rong Wong.
  1. Portable Curiosities – Julie Koh
  2. The Near and The Far (ed. David Carlin and Francesca Rendle-Short)
  3. The Hate Race – Maxine Beneba Clarke
  4. I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This – Nadja Spiegelman
  5. My First Lesson (ed. Alice Pung)
Click on the link here to find out why and for recommendations from Yen-Rong, Wendy Chen and Rajith Savanadasa. Submissions for Issue 1: Fear and Hope close 5 January 2017. Please also consider making a tax deductible donation to support contributors, printing and distribution.

Special mentions: Fantasian Larissa Pham and milk and honey rupi kaur