Writing Report Card III

“…we make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones…” – Stephen King

Since I’ll be travelling at the end of the month, I reminded myself not to procrastinate for this month’s Writing Report Card, and to get it written and posted. So, here we go!

  1. VSS365 Anthology – It’s currently available on Amazon as an e-book and in paperback. I’ve got the e-book version myself and can’t stop admiring it *insert slightly satisfied smile here* The minute it was published, I shared the exciting news via social media. Though I have to admit that I was a little shy at first to tell folks that I had the stories selected and published because after all, the stories are just tweet-length, not novel-length, so in my mind, I was making a big thing out of a little thing. Then, of course, I berated myself because no matter the length of the story, it is still an accomplishment which should be celebrated. Sometimes, it’s true what they say – the hardest critic is your own darn self.
  2. 50-word-stories – So, I submitted my September story a few days before the monthly deadline and just heard back a couple of days ago that it was not selected to be published. Now, I’ve got to polish my October submission, which is an extended version of one of my #vss365 tweets, and send it off soon!
Upcoming writing plans:
  1. Call for submissions – There’s a call for submission for an online travelogue site. The theme of the submission is ‘overcoming fears’ and should be within 1000 – 1500 words. I have a few ideas swirling but the deadline is the 15th of October, so I’m excited to submit something but worried about making the deadline. I’m a MAJOR procrastinator.
  2. A new blog post series – Since I’ll be traveling with my mum soon, I thought of blogging about it since traveling with her has never been boring, rather too exciting sometimes. I intended to set up another blog but received sound advice to set up a series within this blog instead. So, I’ll be organising that soon (I hope). I’m also still thinking about a title for the series. Ideas welcomed!
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Writing Report Card II

“Write. No amount of self-inflicted misery, altered states, black pullovers or being publicly obnoxious will ever add up to your being a writer. Writers write. On you go.” – Al Kennedy

Yes, it’s the end of August September, and I’m only posting this now but you know what they (whoever they are) say, Better late than never! After I wrote my first Writing Report Card post, I received several encouraging writing news. I also continued to write, reminding myself to continue to write, albeit not daily. Rather my writing efforts have come in spurts and gasps.

I feel a more than slight twinge of guilt for not writing everyday, but then I came across an essay in the The Writing Cooperative, aptly titled “Stop Feeling Guilty for Not Writing Everyday”, and I read this “Write when you can. Be bold. …don’t shrink back no matter how loud your guilty heart screams at you“. Definitely a note to myself – Stop Feeling Guilty for Not Writing Everyday!

  1. VSS365 Anthology – As mentioned in my previous post, two (TWO! I still can’t believe it) of my Very Short Stories were accepted for publication in the VSS365 Anthology, and according to the publisher/ VSS originator, the latest update is that there’s a tentative release date – September 23, 2019! Can’t wait to have this little gem in my Kindle.
  2. #vss365 – I’ve continued tweeting very short stories almost every day which has been good for my creative soul. To my pleasant surprise, most of the daily prompts has a way of extracting strange tales from my brain.
  3. 50-word-stories – The other good writing news was that my July submission to the site was accepted and published, which makes it my 3rd accepted 50-Word-Story this year. I sent in my August story early August, and just got an email that it wasn’t accepted to be published. I’ve yet to send in my September story, which I should do soon since the monthly deadline is on the 15th. Wish me luck!

Very Short Stories Anthology #vss365a

It’s been a rare and happy week of acceptances. Acceptances for stories that I’ve written, that is.

Early this week, it was news that my July 50-Word Story was accepted for publication.

Early this morning, I learnt that not one, but two (!!!!!) of my Very Short Stories, were accepted and will be included in the Very Short Stories (VSS365) Anthology 2019.

My VSS which were accepted were for the prompts mood (June 23) and liberty (July 4). Though I sent two entries for the mood prompt, I think I know which one was chosen. I only sent one entry for the liberty prompt so there’s no wondering which one will be included.

Joining the #vss365 community has been nothing but good for my writing. Though, it’s just 280 characters daily (almost, I missed 2 days this week), whatever I wrote, is potentially a kernel of a story that I can expand for a much larger piece, which I’ve already done. Needless to say, continuing to do the prompts each day is something I look forward to.

As I get more news regarding the anthology, I’ll write an update post.

It’s been a good week.

50-Word Story.6

To be honest, I almost didn’t send anything to the 50-Word Stories site in July. I’d been feeling despondent from all the rejections recently that I couldn’t bring myself to come up with an appropriate submission. However, I’d made a promise to myself to submit every month, no matter what, and I did. To my surprise, it was accepted. If you read my previous post about my 50-Word Story submissions, you’ll know this means that my May and June submissions were not. Never fear though, I’m posting the orphan stories (for now) here –

May: I’d just met up with old friends and was thinking about the awful situation of attending a reunion, which became this little piece –

Reunion

“That school reunion of yours…,” Mark murmured. 

“Oh, I skipped it.”

“Someone died there. A Janice Young, she fell from the roof.”

“Janice?”

“Wasn’t she the one who took your mother’s peacock brooch?” 

“I don’t recall.” I smoothed my hair down and straightened the peacock brooch pinned to my blouse.

June: This was actually an excerpt of a WIP that I’ve been working on for ages. When I sent it, I didn’t expect it to be accepted, so I wasn’t surprised by the rejection that followed.

Where Royals Tread

I stood on the exposed terrace of the Aerial Temple, contemplating the crumbling limestone steps ahead. Once, kings ascended these steps to reach a tower of gold. Within minutes, I reached the summit and was assailed by the scent of sandalwood. Hark! The last abode of the legendary Snake Princess.

July: This little story started out as a Twitter Very Short Story or VSS, based on the prompt for that day which was ‘protect’. Also, I’d had a dream the night before about monsters, so needless to say, all my fears coalesced and became this VSS which inflated ever-so-slightly into a 50-Word Story.

Writing Report Card I

“Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.” – Margaret Atwood

It’s July. Yes, the SEVENTH month of the year! SEVENTH!

Anyway, I did not post in June at all. Not one post! Despite the fact that I intended to post at least twice a month. I don’t have any excuse for not posting, but I know I have to do better and while I do that, I need to remind myself not to be so hard on myself.

I was trying to come up with ideas for how I could keep this promise to myself of posting more regularly, when it hit me that since this blog is about my writing endeavours, I should be posting about what I’ve done with regard to that. So, every month (I hope), I’ll share what I’ve done with regard to putting my writing out there in the world. Okay, let’s get to it –

  1. VSS365a – Which stands for Very Short Stories 365 (days a year) Anthology. Since the 1st of June, I’ve been tweeting, based on a given prompt, very short stories AKA vss, for possible inclusion in an anthology of Very Short Stories. In the beginning, I wrote my stories related to a WIP I was working on, but after a while, the well dried up so I just wrote. The closing date for inclusion for the anthology has now passed, but I still continue to write because, well, it’s fun.
  2. 50-word-stories – As I’ve mentioned before, I have every intention of submitting a story every month to this site. My last published flash fiction was in April. I submitted a story in May and June, both rejected, and just sent in one for July. So, we’ll see how that goes. Once, I get an acceptance, I’ll post the acceptance and the rejections here.
  3. WIP – I’ve got several going on at once, but my most recent, is a collection of posts about my experience as Maid of Honour at my sister’s wedding. It’s still sitting in Scrivener, waiting to be edited, for a cover page, and everything else.

And that’s it, hope there’s an update next time (crossing my fingers and toes)!

A Sort of High School Quiz

So, it’s been a few weeks since the A to Z Blogging Challenge and at first, it was strange to take a break from blogging everyday. I had gotten used to the routine of drafting a post, waking up each day to take a final look at the draft and then publishing it online.

This year though, instead of mainly doing a posting blitz in April, I’d like to be a little more consistent on this blog and try to post more (ideally twice a month), instead of just sporadically posting a handful of times a year.

Though this blog is reserved primarily for posts related to my writing efforts, I decided to mix things up, do this quiz and post my answers here. Yeah, I’m a rebel like that! Anyway, I came across this quiz from The Sound of One Hand Typing, which he got from another blog as well. Like he said, it looked like fun and anyone else who wants to give it a try, go ahead!

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Think about your SENIOR year in High School. The longer ago it was, the more fun the answers will be!

Before I start, I’d like to clarify that in Malaysia, we don’t go to high schools, rather, we have secondary schools which we start at 13 years old as we enter Form 1, and leave at 17 years old, at Form 5. Some students (like me) continue in secondary school for two more years in Form 6 Lower and then Form 6 Upper. But for the sake of this quiz, I’ll respond from the perspective of my 17 year old self in Form 5.

  1. Did you know your current significant other? Nope.
  2. Make and year of car? I got my license at 18 years old but I didn’t start driving until I was in my 20s.
  3. What kind of job? I didn’t have one though I interviewed for a job as a server at TGIF.
  4. Where did you live? In Petaling Jaya, approximately a 5-minute walk from my secondary school.
  5. Were you popular? I don’t think so, and I still believe that.
  6. Were you in choir? Nope.
  7. Ever get suspended from school? Also nope.
  8. If you could, would you go back? If by going back means going back in time to redo some stuff, then maybe.
  9. Still talk to the person that you went to prom with? We didn’t have prom, so I guess no?
  10. Did you skip school? Never.
  11. Go to all the football games? We didn’t have football games. We did have an annual Sports Day though and I went to all those.
  12. Favourite subject? Mathematics.
  13. Do you still have your yearbooks? Yes, I’m a hoarder.
  14. Did you follow the career path you planned? No. I wanted to be a journalist but somehow, well, life.
  15. Did you have a class ring? We didn’t have class rings.
  16. Still close with your best friend? We’ve drifted apart and we only connect on our birthdays each year.
  17. Who was your favourite teacher? I didn’t have one.
  18. What was your style? We had uniforms in secondary school, I wore a pinafore.
  19. Favourite shoes? I can’t remember having any favourite pair of shoes during that time because along with our school uniform, we had mandatory school shoes too.
  20. Favourite music? Janet Jackson and Debbie Gibson are some of the artists I remember listening to a lot at the time.
  21. High school Secondary school hair? I had long hair, nearly to my waist. In school, I normally had it up in a ponytail, which was the easiest way to manage it.
  22. What kind of cologne/ perfume? None.
  23. How old when graduated? 17.
  24. Did you play a sport? Yep, I did track and also played netball.

I Survived the 2019 #atozchallenge

This year was my 8th time participating in the April A to Z Challenge, BUT only the 4th time that I’ve completed the challenge properly, posting all 26 posts in the month of April.

I enjoyed writing my ‘Food Memories‘ post even though I was a little apprehensive at first whether or not I’d have enough food memories to reflect on. But I needn’t have worried, I had more than enough anecdotes, some I even forgot myself until I started writing about them!

When I wrote my posts, I tried to include as many details as I could, including the specific name of the restaurants where I had certain food (if I could remember them) and also the dates (or years) when I tried that food. I tried hard to dig up facts from the memories instead of just writing about the emotions I felt.

Though I still mainly wrote my posts on the posting day itself, I did have some posts written ahead. I didn’t schedule those posts to go live at a certain time and day however, since I preferred to re-read them again before finally clicking that ‘Publish’ button myself. I would then tweet about the post, and if I remember, log onto Facebook and post it on the challenge page too.

One of the most amazing things about this challenge, is finding new blogs to follow, so this year I’d like to give a shout out to these bloggers for entertaining me with their posts throughout April:

  • Allison & Her Camera, who shared about her eco-journey. Also, her pictures (which she takes herself) are pretty amazing!
  • To My Recollection, a blog belonging to S.M. Saves who posted mostly scary flash fiction. She even managed to write a 4 (or 5?) part flash fiction during the challenge!
  • Planet Simon, who posted about sci-fi films throughout the challenge. Some of his posts reminded me about movies I’d forgotten, and best of all, his posts were short and sweet!

Looking forward to next year’s challenge already!

(Z)aru Soba #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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The first time I tried zaru soba or cold soba noodles was on an airplane heading to Tokyo. I was 15 and tt was my first trip to a country which I’d grow to love. I was travelling with my sister, younger brother and father, to visit my mother who was in Japan for a one-year study tour.

Similar to the cold soba served in-flight that I had years ago

During the in-flight dinner service, we were each given a tray which had a bowl of green noodles (which I later learnt was soba), a bottle of sauce labeled ‘noodle sauce’ (duh), a small sachet of wasabi and a small empty bowl containing a packet of small pieces of dried seaweed and slices of spring onions. Thankfully, there were no quail eggs in sight.

My siblings and I had no idea what we were to do with this concoction. My father, who sat in the aisle across from us, pointed at the different bowls on our tray and mimed some actions, which none of us could decipher. He then took out a pen and started scribbling on a paper napkin. He reached across the aisle to pass the napkin to us, and we saw that he had scribbled instructions including drawings for how to eat cold soba! I wish I’d kept that napkin, his instructions were hilarious.

However, since I no longer have it, here’s a How-to video for those of you who’re never tried cold soba – The Right Way to Eat Cold Soba Noodles.

Yummy (Y)uba #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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Yuba, or bean curd skin, refers to the film that forms atop soy milk when it is heated. 

Tofu skin (or foo chok) which are sold as dried leaves or sheets, is quite a common ingredient here. I’ve added it to soups and canned sardines. However, I’d not tried fresh tofu skin, or yuba, until I visited Nikkō, a city almost a 2 hour train ride from Tokyo.

Walking through the streets of Nikkō, most of the eateries featured yuba, as it is the city’s local delicacy. There was deep-fried yuba, yuba sushi, yuba gyoza, yuba burgers, Japanese curry with yuba, yuba with jelly, yuba soup, yuba-don, and yuba cream inside rice cookies!

Our primary destination that day was Nikkō Tōshō-gū, a well-known Shinto shrine located in the city. But before heading there, we wanted to give yuba a try, so we started looking around for a legit-looking restaurant that served it and that’s how we ended up in 神橋庵 (which Google translate tells me is Ryo Takahashi), a soba noodle shop, along the main street.

We were lucky to have found a seat in the restaurant when we did because just as we entered, it had begun to rain and tourists looking for shelter started queuing to get in.

Like most restaurants who relied on income from tourists, they had an English menu and we ordered a yuba appetiser and two bowls of yuba soba (hehe it rhymes).

I expected yuba to taste strongly of soy milk but I was pleasantly surprised that it just had a clean and nondescript flavour. Dipping it into the sauce that accompanied the appetiser added to the dish and the pickled daikon radish on the side suited it well. We polished off everything we ordered in no time at all! Yes, the yuba was yummy!

A quick search revealed that there are plenty of recipes detailing how to make your own yuba, which is good since I have no idea when I’ll be able to reach the city of Nikkō again.

Are you a fan of tofu? If yes, what’s your favourite tofu dish?

Getting into the (X)mas Fruitcake Mood #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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It’s not unusual for me to get into the Christmas mood by June every year. I’d start playing Christmas songs in the car, and make lists for presents and cards. Some years though, I dreaded Christmas and only got into the festive mood when I started my holiday baking.

One of my favourite things to make for Christmas is fruitcake. In my family, I’m the official Christmas fruitcake maker. A title I bestowed upon myself. For a long while though, I kept calling it Christmas pudding, I didn’t know that there was a difference between a Christmas fruitcake and a Christmas pudding since they seemed similar to me. This article set me straight.

There’s something about starting the process of making fruitcake which puts me in the holiday mood. One of the first steps in the recipe I’ve stuck to religiously for years, is to rehydrate the dried fruits. I like my fruitcake boozy so I tend to soak the dried fruits in more than the accepted amount of brandy.

There was one year, I made seven loafs of fruitcake which I gave to my colleagues at work. Some years, I insist on only making enough for the family. One year, my local liquor store asked if I’d make a batch for them to sell at their store for Christmas. They discovered I make fruitcakes when I bought the brandy I needed from them.

Writing this, I realise that I can’t wait for Christmas fruitcake making season to come around. Only several more weeks to go.

Which do you prefer – Christmas fruitcake or Christmas pudding?