Singapore Writer's Festival 2019

I have far too many things to do in the next few days and am still recovering from a really nasty cough picked up from the UK and a vicious combination of jetlag, night shift cycles and cough medicine means that I ended up falling asleep at 9pm last night and woke up at 4am this morning and I don’t know what is wrong with my body. But Singapore Writers Festival is coming and I am extremely excited.


Surreal World, Stranger Tales
3 November 8.30pm, The Arts House Blue Room

Panellist alongside other far more distinguished writers Indra Mas and Jon Gresham on urban legends and Asian folklore, moderated by Daryl Qilin Yam (who has already sent an email of fantastic questions) and you should really come by.

Spoke & Bird #27 Feat. Natalie Wang and Joses Ho
5 November 7.30pm, The Arts House Play Den

Will be one of the featured writers for Spoke & Bird - Poetry Open Mic with Joses Ho, as organised by Steph Chan. This is a free event and there is an open mic so come by.

SWF Conversations: The Spaces Between
10 November 1.30pm, The Arts House Living Room

This is a panel with Jennifer Anne Champion, Stephnie Dogfoot, and Zakir Hossain Khokan on the very many cool events that they organise and I'm very excited to hear what they have to say and you should be too.

There are also many many amazing events that I am going to be an eager audience member in - I cannot wait to get my copy of Pachinko signed by Min Jin Lee.

On an unrelated note, I’ve just finished reading Phillip Pullman’s latest novel The Secret Commonwealth, and am really impatient for the next book. You can read my minireview on Instagram here. And then, instead of reading the many many books I have accumulated from the last Book Depository order in August, my trips to Melbourne and London (I say accumulated like they somehow hopped onto my shelves all on their own and have nothing to do with me), I have instead chosen to reread Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver. Given that this is one of my favourite books read in 2018 though, I cannot bring myself to regret this decision.

More Updates (July - November)

I really wish Instagram and Facebook posts could be directly linked to Squarespace, then I can stop saying I will be more consistent with my posting because I post plenty on both, even did a big pow-wow literary event-related update thing in June for but didn’t post it here for some reason unknown even to myself. So very quickly here are things that have been happening

1. "Singapore’s Emerging Poetic Voices
Poetry Writing Festival
21 July 1500 at Arts House
Panellist with Max Pasakorn, Marylyn Tan Andrea Yew, and moderated by Crispin Rodrigues
It is $5 but come see me talk with other people far more prolific and productive than I am and hopefully we will speak about writing that has *nothing* to do with 'what is it like being a millennial writer' because my god if I have to deal with a question about Rupi Kaur one more time I will throw something, preferably across the room, preferably the person asking the question.

2. "When I was Twenty"
Read! Festival 2019
27 July 15.30 at National Library
Panellist with Deborah Emmanual, Grace Chia, Leong Liew Geok and moderated by Joshua Ip
Come see us talk about poetry and writing and I will laugh awkwardly as the only person in my twenties and I have only been writing emails and naggy work WhatsApp messages.

3. SingPoWriMo: The Magazine
Because book sales for previous SingPoWriMo anthologies have not been doing well, there was a big discussion earlier this year on the future of the anthology. I always say my vote is to basically scrap publishing it altogether - but the end decision was to make it an online magazine with three issues. Fingers crossed that it goes well.

4. Melbourne RMIT Intercultural Studio I was basically in Melbourne for 19 days - the first three days for a holiday, and the rest was basically spent doing an intensive (ie. four hour class thing) at RMIT. I’ve written a lot about this entire experience on my Instagram but basically I learnt a lot, met a lot of people, and have realised I still have so much to do and grow.

Also finally got a photo of myself doing a reading looking fairly badass.

Also finally got a photo of myself doing a reading looking fairly badass.

5. I’m in London in October, and just learnt that the London Literary Festival is happening from 17-27 October. I won’t be around for most of it but fingers crossed that I’ll have time to catch a couple of events.

6. And of course Singapore Writers Festival is coming up and I am lucky enough to be invited again as a featured writer - like last year I will be moderating one panel, speaking at another, and reading at one event.

Book Review from Rain Taxi

“Written in both prose and verse, Wang’s poems are surprising and contain moments of curiously grotesque epiphany and charm. In “After Sodom,” Wang reinterprets the story of Lot fleeing Sodom: “I sprinkled some of mother / into our soup, wondering what she would think / of me, of us.” Here, as in many other poems in the book, a spellbinding and ritualistic capacity for understanding is as distinct within the text as imaginable beyond.”

I received a very kind review from Greg Bem from Rain Taxi. Have a look and check out fellow Math Paper Press writers as well!

Book covers.jpg
Literary Updates (March - April)

I keep telling myself that I will actually make use of my existing blog since I do pay Squarepsace money for this space and I actually should be making use of it. At one point I was even considering doing a cooking series - on my Instagram I frequently post photos of my meal preps and then make notes on how to improve it the next time I cook it and figured it would not hurt to do more elaborate details about each recipe - and then never got round to doing it. Tbh I don’t even have much about my life to update because nothing very much has happened. 

Stock image of blank pages because THIS IS MY LIFE

Stock image of blank pages because THIS IS MY LIFE


Conducted my first writing workshop! 

In March, I conducted a workshop for the Singapore Young Writer’s Lab for Singapore Book Council called ‘Reinterpreting Asian Mythology’. Most of my teaching experience comes from being a debate coach, so I warned the kids before the class started that I was probably going to sound like a drill instructor (I probably did). Reviews from the kids after the class was really good though, and made me think a lot about mythology in Singapore and how our ghost stores - those that take place in the army, girls schools, HDB void decks - have a place in that. 

I took part in SingPoWriMo 2019

I’ve been doing Singapore Poetry Writing Month since I accidentally stumbled on the Facebook group in 2014, where the challenge is to write one poem a day. Shockingly, last year (and also the year I started corporate life) was my best performance where I wrote 26/30 poems. I was hoping to repeat that success this year, but only ended up with 15/30. Still, it was a good month and I experimented a little with rhyme and form, which I never thought I would because I usually just free verse everything. Was also trying to go for a more obsessive kind of persona voice for a couple of poems and mostly succeeded. You can find the round up post for all my poems here and I even managed to write the poem about ghost stories in Singapore I was previously talking about - this one focusing on school stories. 

I finally finished a prose piece

I never thought that I would end up writing poetry - I’m pretty sure I was convinced that poetry was death when I was studying for my O levels. Thank goodness I had a lovely lit department in Junior College to beat that notion out of me, and then the lack of time meant I stopped writing short stories and fan fiction and wrote a lot of poetry (because shorter) but it also means that I have hardly ever gone back to short story writing since. I’ve had one short story published in LONTAR #10, I did this bizarre play on the Chinese tradition of scholars falling in love with animal spirits last year that has yet to be accepted in any journal and probably needs a lot more editing, but beyond that I have hardly touched prose.

Then I read this Twitter thread (please read it if you like the new Star Wars trilogy, and especially if you are a Reylo shipper) and somehow ended up writing this. It is by no means perfect and I really am unpracticed with dealing with the second halves of stories and ending things properly - probably because I have very rarely gotten to the ending of a story in years - so I have to work on pacing still. But yes it is at least done and I hope will at least kick me to continue writing some kind of prose on a regular basis, even if it is fic. 

I also forgot how sweet the fanfiction community can be - like yes leave all the kudos and sweet comments yesssss. 

Upcoming things in May

BooksActually will be holding Math Paper Press Day at the bookstore on 25 May. Event page and programme details aren’t out yet but keep your eyes peeled on this!

I’ll also be a featured writer and doing some readings at a book launch on 28 May for Topaz Winters’ book ‘Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing’. (Event page here) I’ve already read a PDF version of it but I’m so excited to get my hands on a physical copy of the book and really sink into the poems!

 In my next post I really want to talk (read: rave incoherently) about the games I have been playing (basically Hollow Knight and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice) and superb storytelling and visuals and music and can all my friends who game please play these two things so we can talk about them? Please? 

A Dance Performance after my book??
Event page  here

Event page here

Happy International Woman’s Day everyone! I have spent most of it hibernating.

I have also been terribly remiss about plugging this (apart from an Instagram post a few weeks back) but arts producer FD basically read my book, liked it enough to ping me on my old site, met me up for tea and then told me she wanted to do a dance production based on my writing. For International Woman’s Day. Of course I gave all my blessings and you can catch the show this weekend! Tickets can be bought here and they’re also stocking my book at $10 (basically cost price).

You can also read up more on the process behind the performance in this Straits Times article. I’ll be catching the closing performance on Sunday and am so excited to see this in the flesh!

A Feast of Japanese Cusine
She said that was the only way for us to live, to be like the poets. That’s what she said. If all you ever see is reality, you just want to die. The only way to get over barriers, she said, is to live in the spirit of already being over them.
— Durian Sukegawa, Sweet Bean Paste

I just finished Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa, and I will admit, this kind of soft soft slice-of-life stories are not my usual fare, but they definitely deserve a place in any diet (When it comes to Japanese writing I am more a Yoko Ogawa / Junji Ito kind of a person.) If you liked Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen, you’ll probably enjoy this one a lot; it gives me that same warm fuzzy feelings. It is a simple story that follows the unlikely couple formula; washed out man working at a dorayaki store meets an extraordinary woman with extraordinary circumstances and gives him a new perspective in life and gently encouraging him. His problems aren’t all magically solved in the end but there is some hope for his future. And at the same time, the story sheds light on social issues in Japan - the way lepers (yes literal leprosy not a metaphor) were treated and continue to be treated today. 


And then a friend of mine introduced me to the mobile game Hungry Hearts Diner (Available on the Apple store and Google Play store). I highly recommend this! The game takes place in a post WWII Japan, where an old lady is trying to keep her husband’s diner going after he’s had an accident. You interact with customers, which unlocks conversations and you find out more about them as well as the old lady, and you have to be heartless to not be moved by the storylines.

I also adore reading the descriptions of the different dishes she cooks. The Braised Pork description is sassy “Some heathens leave behind the fatty bits” while Edamame is educational '“Selectively bred to accompany beer… or so you would think. Did you know they’re actually baby soybeans?” The game has also given me an intense desire to try to cooking Nikujaga, and also maybe giving Japanese potato salad (which is superior to the Western variety I maintain) a go.


i have slowly been consuming
the last traces of my mother

i hold the gurgling maw
of the vacuum as it swallows

tawny strands of hair &
dust on hardwood floor

today i read that household
dust is mostly skin

as if to say outside dust
is stranger or more spectacular

as if to say i am watching
this monster tear into

my mother again & again
& calling it “being productive”

my teeth wearing themselves
down on leftovers: rice & soup & barley

picturing my mother stooped
over the stove bloodletting

when she was here
i couldn’t wait for her to go

now i sit alone in the freezer
& eat everything

without breathing
oh i eat it all

- Ang Shuang, Asian American Writer’s Workshop

Unplugging for a little bit

When at work on Friday, it was starting to physically hurt to look at the screen because my eyes were so dry. And given that my job involves sitting in front of a screen for 11+ hours without rest, and that ALL MY WORK these days is on Google Drive and Evernote and not to mention Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp/Telegram and my Switch, it is really really difficult to get away from screens. Like really hard. And even if I did get away from the screens, most of what I do involves excessive use of my eyes. Like reading. And there was some sewing I needed to get round to doing. And I have a short story I am only 10% through which I need to finish and edit in a few days for a submission deadline. Using Evernote at his point isn’t going to work so I walked into Popular and bought a couple of notebooks for the first time in years.

I was surprised and a little moved to see that they still had the same notebooks I used to buy obsessively in secondary school. I used a lot of paper back then - for diaries, letters to classmates, fanfiction - and it was so satisfying to see them pile high, their paper worn and punctured by ink. Now the callous on my finger where my pen sits on is almost gone.

So I will use these notebooks for the next few weeks while my eyes recover and work on minimising time spent on my phone. (I can still remember being so proud of buying my first smart phone; I wasn’t nineteen yet, my ex-boyfriend had offered to buy me one while we were dating and help pay for a data plan so we could stay in touch while he was overseas but I refused and then we broke up and six months after I drew a thousand dollars and walked into a Singtel shop and paid for it in cash and it was my first real #adult moment). Things I will hopefully get round to writing in the next few days:

  1. Rapunzel-inspired short story

  2. A blogpost on chick lit and the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” series

  3. More poetry - mine and others that I have read

Two Reviews

So I somehow managed to miss that tagged me three days ago with glowing praise I am stunned by but I am more stunned that I also somehow missed the fact that I was featured on Her World Singapore (article here) and only found out with this tag. I am also featured next to amazing female writers Clarissa Goenawan, Pooja Nansi, and Sharlene Teo and am so honoured.

You can get my book from BooksActually. Also, BooksActually will be having a 40% discount on all Math Paper Press (including my book) from 1-3 Feb. Just key in MPP40 at the checkout. Local shipping is free, and international shipping is a flat rate so you can go wild.

The Wicked King, and more squealing about Holly Black
All hail the Faerie Queen

All hail the Faerie Queen

No spoilers below I promise

Yes, I know I gushed plenty about Holly Black in my previous post , but this is my site and I can do what I want, and what I want now is to scream to the world on how much I enjoyed The Wicked King and everyone should start on The Folk of Air series now.

I have been going around squealing about the series since finishing and have been demanding that friends began reading the first book, The Cruel Prince, immediately so we can discuss fan theories and just talk about the overall awesomeness of the series. I foolishly ordered it off Book Depository because I saw that Kinokuniya hadn’t stocked it yet and in the website they stated that it wasn’t in stock and would take two weeks and was almost twice the cost of the Book Depository item. So I ordered it off Book Depository and found it in stock in Kino two days later and was kicking myself every day afterwards until I received my Book Depository order.

To make it more bearable, I started to read Holly Black’s older Modern Faerietale series. While you don’t need to have read everything she’s written to get started on The Folk of Air series, it’s a lovely easter egg for longtime fans to see her characters pop up; the some characters from Tithe are mentioned in her other book, The Darkest Part of the Forest , but it’s only in The Cruel Prince that all the characters actually interact and meet. Tortured angsty elf boy Roiben (from Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside) pops up again a lot in The Wicked King.

Yes, it deeply annoys me that the covers are not a matched set. I’m this close to shelling out money for another copy of Ironside just so that they will.

Yes, it deeply annoys me that the covers are not a matched set. I’m this close to shelling out money for another copy of Ironside just so that they will.

It’s after reading her older writing that I really appreciate how ambitious The Folk of the Air series is. Black introduces a much larger cast of characters than in her previous books and you get to know them more intimately in this book. There are multiple intrigues and plot twists with enough setup and foreshadowing so that nothing feels like it’s completely out from the left field. Jude is the first protagonist we see who actually dishes out murder consciously and it shakes her up each time. I’ve been seeing how reviewers are complaining that a lot of her problems would be solved with better communication, but it makes sense that she doesn’t; much of the book sets up the reasons for her paranoia and she’s right to have trust issues.

Your ridiculous family might be surprised to find that not everything is solved by murder.
— Holly Black

I also really appreciate that romance isn’t the main focus of the book. Also, with the Modern Faerietale, we already knew that the love interests were head over heels with each other and as readers could only shout at them from the sidelines for being so stupid. In The Folk of Air, I still don’t know what to think of Cardan (male supernatural love interest) and his intentions. It helps that we never get a chapter in his point of view (which we did with Roibin in Tithe), which I think is fantastic as we constantly feel on edge knowing that Jude is not the most reliable narrator given her paranoia but don’t have any other point-of-view to corroborate with her reliability/unreliability.

Also that ridiculous mic drop of a cliffhanger is driving me nuts and 2020 couldn’t come quickly enough.

The Folk of the Air series books #1 and #2

The Folk of the Air series books #1 and #2

Beyond romance though, I think where Black really excels is in writing about dysfunctional families, and how difficult it is to not care or cut ourselves away from them, no matter how toxic they can be. We saw this a lot in The Curse Worker series, where the protagonist has a lying psychopathic brother who turns out to have been abusing him for years but they have to work together to save each other anyway. Jude is brought to Faerieland because her parents’ murderer takes her there, and basically brings her up like a daughter. It makes things complicated and my favourite scenes are the ones where the two of them interact; there is grudging respect and affection on both ends and Jude doesn’t know whether to count him as ally or not throughout.

If any of you get around to reading Holly Black please do let me know and we can talk! There’s a lot to unpack in this series and it was hard to write a spoiler-free post.

My First Interview!
Image from  BooksActually

Image from BooksActually

I was interviewed and reviewed on by Dawn Teo on Popspoken, do check it out!

Dawn’s been doing a lovely series of reviews featuring Sing Lit writers like Cyril Wong, Rodrigo Pela Dena Jr, Melissa de Silva, Werner Kho, and Crispin Rodrigues, and I’m really proud to be included. All our books can be purchased at BooksActually. (psst they ship overseas and local shipping is free!)

THINGS I HAVE BEEN DOING (not book related)

I keep talking about how I haven’t been reading very much since buying my Nintendo Switch in November, so I figure I should take some time to talk about them. I’ve so far purchased eight games which is a bit ridiculous but the e-store makes it too easy to purchase games and there have been so many sales. I’m not very good at reviewing games (or books for that matter) but here are my thoughts. 

Title art by  Ubisoft

Title art by Ubisoft

This is a pretty decent turn-based battling system, though I suggest checking the Wiki page when it comes to weapons upgrades as that’s the least intuitive part of the game. The graphics and music are lovely and particularly effective at bringing out the melancholic nature of the quest and ruined surroundings. I finished it twice, and will probably replay it at some point. The biggest downside to it is the cheesy rhyming dialogue - there is actually a character who breaks the rhyme and is continuously corrected by all the other characters. On the second playthrough I didn’t find the dialogue as stilted though. Lots of fun, definitely worth getting if there’s a sale going on. 

Screenshot from  Paste Magazine

Screenshot from Paste Magazine

Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu - Because of course. And while there are people who spent a long time debating over which version to get, I'm of the generation that played Pokemon Yellow so there wasn't really any other option for me. Lots of people were initially grumbling about how we really didn’t need a Kanto remake given that we already have Fire Red/Leaf Green, and the Ultra Sun and Moon remakes were deeply disappointing after the original. But I am so glad that I got this; the remake is done so well, and I am ridiculously excited that I can take my Pokemon out and have them trail after me. You can ride your Arcanine! Your Charizard actually flies you around! It is everything a child who grew up playing the first generation of Pokemon could have asked for!

Art by From Software, but the screenshot is from the  Steam  listing

Art by From Software, but the screenshot is from the Steam listing

Dark Souls (Remastered) - I guess I’m a Souls veteran? I didn’t play Demon Souls but I did play DS 1-3 and Bloodborne, but only finished one playthrough with each game and with long long breaks during the games. It is so magical now that I can play this on a tiny console.

I am so upset that there are so few people playing this! Co-oping was one of my favourite reasons to play the Souls series and now that there just aren't as many people playing on the online system; it was once really easy for me to get summoned/summon others to play with me but there just aren’t many players around. I got to the Depths and then got distracted by other things (namely other games) and was too busy sobbing at the difficulty level of the game to continue. Things are so much harder when you don’t have jolly cooperation with other players.

Edit: Typing this now in late January (this post has been sitting here for over a week) and I have killed the Gaping Dragon, Hydra, Moonlight Butterfly, and helped others with Queelag in the last three days and it feels so good to be back.

Screenshot from  Game Skinny

Screenshot from Game Skinny

Oxenfree - I was playing this obsessively last year on an iPad and then bought it on Steam. It's a lot more tedious without a touchscreen though, so really best played on an iPad or Switch. It features beautiful graphics (apparently the design team used to be part of Disney) and top-notch voice acting. There isn’t any action and much of what you do involves directing your avatar around the map and choosing from a variety of options, but the voice acting is so good you still feel very much involved in the game. I highly highly recommend everyone plays this, especially if you’re into puzzles and character-driven games. Bonus points to your experience if you understand morse. Oh and do play it without a guide the first time.

Screenshot from  Polygon

Screenshot from Polygon

Gris - A lot has been said about this new indie game. The trailer got me so excited, and was a big reason why I bought Child of Light because who doesn’t love soft watercolour backgrounds? The puzzles aren’t terribly difficult, but the entire immersive experience of the game was truly lovely as the smoothness of the animation matched the beauty of the graphics and sound. Make sure you play with headphones on!

I’ve also bought Hollow Knight and Night in the Woods, which I will start on after I finish a couple of books. 

I also finished reading this 55 chapter manga “Kiss Him, Not Me”, also known as Watashi ga Motete Dōsunda after seeing the video clip going viral on Youtube which is one of the most adorable things I have ever read. The manga so so self-aware of how fangirls behave and the problematic tropes in shoujo manga and portrays both really well. It is also so cute that all the love interests have numbers in their names so they are actually just love interest #4, #5, #6, #7 etc for easy reference and shipping. 

After that, YouTube threw some clips of "Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku", so I watched that as well. I’m not usually a fan of the slice of life genre, but I think I have grown into the genre after actually entering the working world and sympathising with the office worker protagonists. It was just nice to watch this while eating dinner after work. The show's basically about two couples at the same workplace who are huge otakus, though each are fans of different genres, and how they just have fun hanging with each other without (too much) judgement. 

Also, I was thinking the other day about how I made it a point to not talk about fanfiction or anime in front of other people because I’d be afraid of being judged, but I need to say that finding friends who actually support these same interests, as well as getting older and caring less about what people think of you is great and is an attitude I intend to continue to cultivate.

If you have read this post ‘til the end, please do recommend anything that brings you joy - movies, books, games, anime, fanfiction (I have gotten into fandoms just because my favourite author has and I wanted to read her work this is literally how I got into the new Star Wars Trilogy despite not being the biggest fan of the originals). I’ll be happy to give it a shot!

Again, Let Me Tell You What I Know About Trust

    - not a damn thing. So let me tell you what I know
about forgiveness - this joke can go on & on, see?
I guess I’m trying to understand what makes a man 
carry guilt the same way he would a bat. How my father
after being confronted about cheating
slapped my mother, came to my room, threw my sleeping body
over his shoulder, & drove off. Who wouldn’t 
beg for a story like this? A story to point & run toward
when asked to explain every decision you’ve ever made 
regarding love. A story to blame when your hands rush
toward the exit. Till this day every headlight is a lullaby.
Imagine: waking up, but this time it isn’t your father
in the driver’s seat, but a man who holds your head
to his lap until your breath is a song pulled from his skin
how just like your father, even when you begged
wouldn’t take you home, not until he was ready to be alone. 

-Hieu Minh Nguyen

Books #2 and #3 of 2019: Fantasy binge
2019-01-14 09.16.18 1.jpg

I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy - starting with Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince, the first book of the Folk of Air series, and following that up with Naomi Novik’s novel Uprooted. 

I've read The Cruel Prince at least twice since getting hold of it last year in January 2018 and honestly, it’s Holly Black at her best. Which I truly did not think I would say after The Curse Workers series (very cool magic system in a modern day setting which includes crime families, dysfunctional families, tortured brooding protagonist, immensely satisfying female characters) as I just didn’t like the novels that came after as much. What I’ve always enjoyed about Black is her ability to write about protagonists who come from extremely dysfunctional and unsavoury backgrounds (a lot of the save-the-day plots involve being light-fingered and/or conning everyone they love around them). Her protagonists are also reasonably moral; they’re usually terrified reluctant heroes who still have excellent motivations for attempting to save everything falling to pieces around them. She develops her side characters well and you actually understand the stakes of dropping everything and running away instead of trying to fix things. 

2019-01-14 09.19.36 1.jpg
What they don’t realize is this: Yes, they frighten me, but I have always been scared, since the day I got here. I was raised by the man who murdered my parents, reared in a land of monsters. I live with that fear, let it settle into my bones, and ignore it. If I didn’t pretend not to be scared, I would hide under my owl-down coverlets in Madoc’s estate forever. I would lie there and scream until there was nothing left of me.
— Holly Black, The Cruel Prince

Whilst most of Black’s stories take place in modern-day settings, The Cruel Prince actually happens in Faerieland. The prologue is already terrifying and sets up so much of the characters; one day a man enters Jude’s home and murders her parents, then takes her and her sisters to live with him. The man turns out to be a faerie named Madoc (a bloodthirsty redcap who is also the general of the Faerie King’s armies to be precise), who her mother was previously married to, but left. If you can call burning down his estate and leaving the burnt corpse of a pregnant woman in its charred ruins ‘left’. Jude and her sisters grow up in Faerieland, and because her parents’ murderer/now-foster father is a Very Important Faerie she grows up amongst the gentry and attends classes with them and is constantly snubbed and belittled, and occasionally tortured. I highly recommend it. Also I was rereading it this time because the second book of the series, The Wicked King, is now out and will hopefully be delivered in my mailbox by the end of the month. 

I am going to keep on defying you. I am going to shame you with my defiance. You remind me that I am a mere mortal and you are a prince of Faerie. Well, let me remind you that means you have much to lose and I have nothing. You may win in the end, you may ensorcell me and hurt me and humiliate me, but I will make sure you lose everything I can take from you on the way down. I promise you this is the least of what I can do.
— BAMF Jude

After Neil Gaiman, Holly Black is probably my favourite writer and if I ever get around to setting up a list of #writinggoals it would be based on her work. Her portfolio is so extensive and she has written SO MUCH in the last fifteen years; she has done The Spiderwick Chronicles (five-part series of children’s books), The Good Neighbours Series (comics), The Modern Faerie Tales (Young Adult, and my first introduction to urban fantasy), and is currently writing the current Lucifer graphic novels. She also shares great writing advice and resources here.

2019-01-14 09.16.16 1.jpg
Those the walkers carried into the Wood were less lucky. We didn’t know what happened to them, but they came back out sometimes, corrupted in the worst way: smiling and cheerful, unharmed. They seemed almost themselves to anyone who didn’t know them well, and you might spend half a day talking with one of them and never realize anything was wrong, until you found yourself taking up a knife and cutting off your own hand, putting out your own eyes, your own tongue, while they kept talking all the while, smiling, horrible. And then they would take the knife and go inside your house, to your children, while you lay outside blind and choking and helpless even to scream. If someone we loved was taken by the walkers, the only thing we knew to hope for them was death, and it could only be a hope.
— Naomi Novik, Uprooted

I purchased Naomi Novik’s novel Spinning Silver after reading Straits Times’ journalist Olivia Ho’s review (sidenote do check out her supercool Instagram which combines my two loves: books and beautiful clothing) where she basically declared Novik as her favourite high fantasy writer. I love the book so much that I had to get Novik’s only other standalone book; I might just get started on Temeraire series next.

Also the stakes in Uprooted felt real throughout. A lot of character death happens at one point so you’re really unsure which one of your favourite ones would actually make it out alive. I also really appreciate the Eastern European influences in these novels! Most fairytales borrow from the Western European tradition so it’s always nice to read about different settings and monsters. 

Both novels feature female protagonists who battle all sorts of unearthly forces to save things greater than themselves; Family, Home, Identity - and throughout they’re dealing with so much fear. They’re still very different though; Jude from The Cruel Prince has learnt to be vicious and hard and her path to victory meant being as cruel and heartless as the fae around her. I’m really looking forward to Book II as it’s about how much she more has to bear in order to maintain her power and victory.

Agniesza, throughout Uprooted, sees violence and throws up, runs away, and eventually, commits it when necessary, but her victory comes about only because she wants to see an end to suffering. I really recommend both novels because they’re very different portraits of female strength, and both are still protagonists who grow into their own.

With bare feet in the dirt, fulmia, ten times with conviction, will shake the earth to its roots, if you have the strength, Jaga’s book had told me, and the Dragon had believed it enough not to let me try it anywhere near the tower. I had felt doubtful, anyway, about conviction: I hadn’t believed I had any business shaking the earth to its roots. But now I fell to the ground and dug away the snow and the fallen leaves and rot and moss until I came to the hard-frozen dirt. I pried up a large stone and began to smash at the earth, again and again, breaking up the dirt and breathing on it to make it softer, pounding in the snow that melted around my hands, pounding in the hot tears that dripped from my eyes as I worked. Kasia was above me with her head flung up, her mouth open in its soundless cry like a statue in a church. “Fulmia,” I said, my fingers deep in the dirt, crushing the solid clods between my fingers. “Fulmia, fulmia,” I chanted over and over, bleeding from broken nails, and I felt the earth hear me, uneasily. Even the earth was tainted here, poisoned, but I spat on the dirt and screamed, “Fulmia,” and imagined my magic running into the ground like water, finding cracks and weaknesses, spreading out beneath my hands, beneath my cold wet knees: and the earth shuddered and turned over. A low trembling began where my hands drove into the ground, and it followed me as I started prying at the roots of the tree. The frozen dirt began to break up into small chunks all around them, the tremors going on and on like waves. The branches above me were waving wildly as if in alarm, the whispering of the leaves becoming a muted roaring. I straightened up on my knees. “Let her out!” I screamed at the tree: I beat on its trunk with my muddy fists. “Let her out, or I’ll bring you down! Fulmia!” I cried out in rage, and threw myself back down at the ground, and where my fists hit, the ground rose and swelled like a river rising with the rain. Magic was pouring out of me, a torrent: every warning the Dragon had ever given me forgotten and ignored. I would have spent every drop of myself and died there, just to bring that horrible tree down: I couldn’t imagine a world where I lived, where I left this behind me, Kasia’s life and heart feeding this corrupt monstrous thing. I would rather have died, crushed in my own earthquake, and brought it down with me. I tore at the ground ready to break open a pit to swallow us all.
— Very different kind of badass, but badass all the same Agnieszka

Also! I have found out that Novik, besides being an amazing writer, also started up Organisation for Transformative Works, and played a huge role in getting Archive of Your Own (AO3) set up. For non-fanfiction readers, this is a site that was basically set up when websites like LiveJournal, DeviantArt, were all going through weird purges or becoming more commercialised. Fanfiction writers tend to be female, and members of the community basically banded together to set the site up and create a platform that is fan-run. There was a fantastic Tumblr thread going around at one point about how the AO3, for the first time, made the reader accountable for what they chose to read rather than make it easy for anyone to report and take down content because they found it offensive; something that was done on previous platforms whenever people didn’t like smutty content that their children might end up reading. I cannot find the Tumblr thread but you can check out this link for further academic research on how the site was a glorious move set out by female writers who were trying to carve out a space for themselves on the interwebs without getting it taken down. 

I’m going to be going through all my other Holly Black books whilst waiting for Bookdepository to get back to me; meanwhile I am severely regretting not waiting a couple of days after the release date and just getting it from Kinokuniya. I suspect my writing in the near future is going to be strongly influenced by all these fantasy elements. But then, I haven’t really been writing anything, and these blogposts are part of my attempts to prod myself to at least write something every once in a while. 

Theories About the Universe

I am trying to see things in perspective.
My dog wants a bite of my peanut butter
chocolate chip bagel. I know she cannot
have this, because chocolate makes dogs
very sick. My dog does not understand this.
She pouts and wraps herself around my leg
like a scarf and purrs and tries to convince me
to give her just a tiny bit. When I do not give in,
she eventually gives up and lays in the corner,
under the piano, drooping and sad. I hope the
universe has my best interest in mind like I have
my dog’s. When I want something with my whole
being, and the universe withholds it from me,
I hope the universe thinks to herself: "Silly girl.
She thinks this is what she wants, but she
does not understand how it will hurt."

- Blythe Baird, “Theories About the Universe”

First Book of 2019
I wake up the next morning renewed. I am a girl with a plan. I’m just going to have to avoid Josh forever. It’s as simple as that.
— To All The Boys I've loved Before, Jenny Han

I paid the new local independent bookstore The Moon a visit on 4 Jan. They’ve basically taken the secret bookstore cafe I’ve always wanted - Because books that focus on women writers! And women of colour! And cake! - and turned it into an actual space! I highly recommend everyone checks it out. Came out with Ocean Vuong’s poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Durian Sukegawa’s Sweet Bean Paste and of course, Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. I haven’t actually finished a proper novel in a while - I’ve been too busy playing with the Nintendo Switch and reading fanfiction on the phone instead, so I figured the best way to kickstart reading the new year would be with something light hearted.

Whilst at The Moon, I was able to have a nice chat with the owner, Sara, and when she was checking out my purchases she asked if I’d watched the Netflix movie. I answered “Twice” with the biggest soppiest grin on my face and she told me to let her know if the book was good. I’ve read that book Kavinsky > movie Kavinsky, and movie Kavinsky (played by Noah Centineo) was already adorable so I had no idea how book Kavinsky was going to top that.

In the movie Lara Jean literally runs away, climbs out the window of her room on the second floor to tumble down to the first, and kisses a boy to avoid talking to another one. She has been no less dramatic in the book so far and I love it. I would also like to say I relate to these heavy handed avoidance methods but a friend of mine tells me that what I do with boys who displease me is hiss at them from a distance. I should probably be more ashamed at the accuracy of this description but I am too amused.

Belated 2018 Life Wrap Up Post

2018 Achievements (in no particular order) 

  • Moved out of house. 

  • Got a book published and while I am under no illusions about its ability to win prizes, people have given generally positive feedback and I am happy with it. 

  • Cooked and meal prepped good healthy regularly, more so after moving out of the house.

  • Got a job with regular pay and benefits which means actually being able to save regularly and I know a couple of people told me they thought I was going to be a boho thing forever I can only say that life costs money ok 

  • Read 76 books, and also read a lot of articles, random online poetry, fanfiction. Basically read a lot of words. 

  • Wrote a lot of words too. I don't have stats on how many words written and I stopped working on the wuxia novel in March (which was about 24k words at that point) but I did write a lot of poetry I was proud of and got 17 poems accepted in 11 journals/contests. 

  • Finally attended Singapore Writer’s Festival! (and not in the capacity as intern or bookstore elf) and also as a featured writer and moderator. Was told that I was very articulate, which is great and will hopefully mean I will continue being invited to more events.  

  • Bought a Nintendo Switch and many associated games on the platform and I wish I could tell child Nat who only got older brother's hand-me-down toy consoles that yes bebe it gets better. Earning money is good. 

  • Travelled to Bali and the UK solo and met people and read poetry in scary foreign stages and ate food and talked to strangers and found old friends and survived. 

  • Single for two years and thrived. Am so much more comfortable now with going to the cinema, and shopping, and eating in public, and wandering around alone. 

  • Blocking and cutting toxic people without missing them. 

  • I think I also got a lot better at asking for help. Usually I would rant about something and then attempt to move on after that and then have massive breakdowns and lie in bed for days but this year I mostly caught myself before it got too bad and actually contacted people before the meltdown stage. 

  • Started a positivity diary on 26 December at the urging of a friend where I write down one positive thing that happened each day. So far it is all either good food or meeting friends or wearing pretty things and I hope that I can continue this forever. 

Things I did not achieve (and will hopefully work on for next 2019) 

  • Working on photography skills  - I’ve been so lazy about taking my camera out since getting my Samsung S8 last year.

  • Learning to sew 

  • Getting better at Chinese

  • Getting better at Japanese 

  • Working on my prose more

  • Set up a writer website with my portfolio and Serious Writer Photos  (and if you’re reading this, it means that this site is up!)

Future goals: 

  • When asked by a friend what my goals for 2019 were, my response was that I wanted to do keep doing what I did in 2018; only more of it. And at the same time get more sleep and rest. Which means either getting a lot more efficient with the way I spend my time, or readjusting goals. I don’t know. But there are so many things still to see and do and learn.