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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

So LITERARY TYPE UPDATES

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!

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

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.

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!

Books #2 and #3 of 2019: Fantasy binge
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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. 

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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.

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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, Fanfiction.net 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. 

First Book of 2019
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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. 

Literary Roundup 2018

I’ve been fairly anal about logging down all my reading activity on my Goodreads account and have technically completed 76 books this year, with like 15 other books I started but never got round to finishing. I’m a little disappointed that I got so close to a full 100 (I had almost 60 books in August so you can tell I really fell off the bandwagon there). BUT if you count the sheer amount of fanfiction and /r/nosleep horror stories I have read, not to mention that ridiculously long web novel which is supposed to be three times the length of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I did good.

Recommended Titles 

  1. Circe by Madeline Miller – I read this book three times this year, that’s how good it is. Greek mythology + feminist retelling seems like an overdone formula but Miller really brings the characters to life.

  2. The Adventures of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – This was slow going at first because a lot of the first three hundred pages is devoted to solid world building.

  3. Hoshimaruhon series by Wena Poon – A hilarious but still deeply moving trilogy that that is a bizarre landscape of East Asian tropes – think swordsmen training in the mountains, and fox spirits, and ninjas – and also a loving tribute to all of these things.

  4. Gaze Back by Marylyn Tan – A lot has been written about how this book is obscene or taboo stomping. All true. It is also pushing at the boundaries of how we understand form and language in poetry. Go read it.

  5. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik – For anyone who likes high fantasy. Devoured this 600+ page edition within a day because it was a story that was easy to swallow.

  6. The Book of Lost Things by John Connelly – A fairytale for adults that like all fairytales uses a literal adventure as a metaphor for grief and change and growing up before you feel ready to. This is basically the kind of novel I want to write at some point in my life.

  7. Pachinko by Min-Jin Lee – I first read this book in 2017 while on holiday in Japan and almost started crying in my tiny one-room Airbnb when my favourite character died. The book was no less brutal on the feels on a second read. This was probably my third book by a Korean author (the first two being Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and Human Acts) and was a complex family saga that spanned three generations which dealt with complexities of Korean-Japanese relations in the 20th century with so much grace and humanity. Highly recommended.

I’ve also been shockingly active on the publishing side. Besides releasing my book in June, I’ve been privileged enough to get accepted into most of the publications I’ve mustered up the energy to apply to. Some of the works listed below were actually listed in 2017 so I don’t really count them as it wasn’t effort put in this year, but still overall a good year despite the poor showing and effort in the last couple of months. Some days I keep beating myself up for not putting in as much effort into my writing as I feel I should; Facebook also likes to remind me that I was producing so much more poetry last year, especially in November and December, and that I am nowhere near the same levels of productivity. I think last year I was also really experimenting with subjects and voice while this year has largely been Angry Woman; while on one level I am glad I have finally embraced that voice (because for the longest time, anger was being emotionally vulnerable as I’m not used to showing it) I really hope to MOVE ON and write other topics soon.

Additionally, I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to speak at events because people for some reason, are okay with hearing me talk, and also being able to read in foreign stages. The goal for 2019 is to keep doing it again, and submit my CV to various festivals overseas and hopefully get featured as a writer. When in London, someone told me after my set that I had made the world a little bit bigger for everyone else. This was probably the best bit of praise that I have received as a writer and is something that I really want to keep doing. There are so many stories to write and share and it would be a privilege to be a part of them.

Works Published/Accepted in 2018

‘Connect’ – My Lot is The Sky: An Anthology of Poems by Asian Women

Poem for my Breasts – Kindling Issue #5

Questions A Sheltered Singaporean Cannot Answer – Rambutan Literary Issue #6 (forthcoming)

and this too shall passa fistful of flowersNight Whisper – Eunoia Review

Nasi Kang Kang – 3 July 2018 Quarterly Literary Review Singapore (should really be spelt ‘Nasi Kangkang’)

But If You Can’t Set His Balls On Fire The What Was The Point, The Stuff of Every Strapping Man’s Nightmares – SingPoWriMo 2018 anthology

how i know i loveMedusa – Oct 2018 Quarterly Literary Review Singapore

The Wives Poem, Cassandra is Every Woman Who Tried To Speak, Almost a Fairytale – New Reader Magazine Issue #4

Apples – The Fairy Tale Review Pink edition, also Runner Up in their poetry competition in 2018 (forthcoming)

The Wolf Isn’t The Only One in Human Clothing – Corvid Queen Jan 2019