Would You #Donate for a Boy’s #Education via @projectwhy ? #WATWB

We are the World BlogfestTo spread peace and humanity on social media, a few of us have worked together to create the We are the World Blogfest. In a world where news and social media are awash with negativity, we aim to turn the focus on to small but significant stories that renew our faith in humanity.

We are the World Blogfest is here with its twelfth edition. We started this blogfest in March 2017, and barring December, participants have posted heartwarming stories each month.

The cohosts for the March 2018 WATWB are: Belinda WitzenhausenSylvia McGrath, Sylvia Stein  Shilpa Garg, Eric Lahti
——-

 

In the spirit of “In Darkness, Be Light,” I’d like to share the story of Yash from Project Why, who I wrote about here.

Yash landed on Project Why when he was barely two weeks old, born out of wedlock to parents of different faith. Such children are often ‘branded’ for life in India and his future looked bleak. Chances at any normalcy were non-existent as both his parents were married to other people. There were recriminations and even violence. The child watched it all.

A solution was found in adoption: he would be taken to another land where his past would not weigh on him. That was the time a couple from outside the country was visiting Project Why and enquired about the possibility of adopting an Indian child. Introductions were made and went very well!  The adoption procedure began, but it went on forever. The prospective parents visited often and little Yash was plied with gifts and smothered with love. Everyone was waiting for the day when the toddler would leave for his new home.

Damyanti Biswas covers the Nonprofit Project why based in New Delhi India, for her A to Z Blogging Challenge in April 2016The legal case took longer than expected and the child changed from a cuddly baby to a little boy with his own character and temperament. And by the time the case finally concluded in favor of the adoptive parents, a lot had changed. The parents had adopted another baby in their own land. And this little boy still needed a passport to leave his birth land and join his new family.

There was still a lot of red tape to be faced and egos to be appeased. The adoption agency refused to give the required clearance in spite of a court order. The ‘would be’ parents lost interest and the little boy’s future was again in jeopardy.

Project Why Non Profit YashThe change of attitude and then the virtual silence of the adoptive parents and the lack of information from the administration made Project Why come to terms with the fact that they were back to square one, the only difference being that Yash was no longer a baby but a three-year-old boy.

It seemed that no one had a roadmap for Yash so Project Why decided to craft one for him. After the adoption fiasco it was Project Why that ‘adopted’ him. He was a student of the crèche and then was moved to a neighborhood school but more had to be done. Education was his only savior. Project Why decided to send him to Boarding school. He is now in Year VII, and doing very well.

But the fates have conspired against Yash once again: Project Why is scrambling to find funds to keep him in school.

project why WATWBI’m not able to individually support him for the entire amount, though I hope to do my bit in the coming week. This is a call for help–every little bit will help Yash stay in school. The details for donations are in the picture here, but if you need another method, please contact Project Why or Anouradha Bakshi at: projectwhy@ymail.com or anouradha.bakshi@gmail.com. You can donate via local transfer from the USA, UK, Germany and France, the details are HERE.

I’ve worked with Project Why and Anouradha Bakshi for a long while, and can absolutely vouch for both.

If you’d like to take part in this blogfest, sign up in the WE ARE THE WORLD Blogfest Linky List below and please help spread the word on social media via the hashtag #WATWB.

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

  1. Keep your post to below 500 words.
  2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love and humanity.
  3. Join us in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.
  4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD BLOGFEST Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More We Are the World Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.
  5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.
  6. Add your post HERE so we can all find it quickly.

 The We are The World Blogfest Community Page on Facebook will continue to show links to the various blog posts. So you don’t have to hurry through. You can always enjoy one a day. Like the page and share your posts on the thread for the purpose.

Would you donate towards Yash’s education via Project Why? Every rupee or dollar would go a long way towards ensuring that Yash stays in the school where he is flourishing right now.

We Are the World BlogfestPlease join Daily (w)rite on its Facebook Page in case you’d like to be heard by this community (Click on See First).

If you liked this post, you can have biweekly posts delivered to your inbox:  SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL . (Feel free to share this post if you like it. You’ll find icons to re-blog it via WordPress and Blogger to the left of this post.)

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Want a Pitchwars Mentor to Tell You How to Ace it? #IWSG

Here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series, it is my absolute pleasure today to welcome Clarissa Goenawan, debut author of Rainbirds , published just yesterday by Soho Press. I’m excited for her, and urge you all to check out her spanking new book. She’s here today to dish out tips on the #Pitchwars contest held on twitter.

Take it away, Clarissa!


PitchwarsPitchWars is a contest where authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents—a great opportunity for un-agented writers!

About two years ago, I got to know some PitchWars mentors. They suggested I join as a mentor for the next cycle, and the idea immediately struck a chord.

You see, I’ve greatly benefited from the WoMentoring Program, a free mentorship for and from women writers. My mentor was Jenny Ashcroft.

Jenny helped me polish my submission package, dished out writing tips, and most importantly, gave me plenty of encouragement. She was the one who suggested applying for the Bath Novel Award. I could never thank Jenny enough for her generosity. Her influence in my writing career is huge. And I wish to pass Jenny’s kindness to other emerging writers.

Brenda got in touch with me, and shortly after, I officially became one of the #PitchWars mentors. I started composing my wish list weeks in advance (or was it months?) In preparation for #PitchWars, I finished all my uncompleted works. I was all geared up!

Unsurprisingly, not everything went according to plan. Around the same time, I received #Rainbirds galley, which had to approved very soon. And then, my husband got deployed overseas for a month. Also, kids fell sick one by one. But the biggest surprise was that I received almost 150 submissions! I’d only been expecting about 50.

Despite the exhaustion, #PitchWars has been a very rewarding experience. I learned a lot about slush reading and developed an even greater appreciation for my agents and my editors. Not to mention the best part: I made a lot of new friends!

Clarissa’s tips to increase your chance of getting selected for PitchWars:

  1. Do your research

Read each mentors’ wish list. Keeping in mind the huge number of submissions, your best bet is to apply to mentors who’re interested in your genre. No matter how mentor-struck you are, don’t waste your option.

2. Create a strong query, and opening pages

Make sure that your query contains a strong hook or a great premise. Capture my attention. Entice me to read further. And what am I looking for on the sample pages? Good writing, that’s a must. Other plus points include an intriguing opening, characters I can relate to and root for, and a strong voice. Also, the x-factor, which is kind of hard to describe, and basically is, “I’ll recognize it when I see it.”

3. The manuscript needs to be ready

If you’re selected as a mentee, you’re going to edit the entire manuscript together with your mentor. But that doesn’t mean you can submit your early draft. Your manuscript should already have been workshopped a couple of times, well-edited, and close to query-ready.

4. Know the expectation for your genre

It can be anything from the writing style, the type of ending to expect, or even the typical word count. Of course, there are exceptions, but those are extremely few and far between.

5. Participate on Twitter

Make full use of #PitchWars related hastag. You can use #askmentor to ask questions, and #CPMatch is great to find a critique partner. Interact with other participants—a lot of them are happy to trade materials. If you’re good at handling stress (or simply want more excitement in your life?), #pwteaser can be super fun.

6. Donate to Pitchwars and and participate in the Scavenger Hunt

Last year, for a small donation, you could get two additional

entries. And talking about Scavenger Hunt, who knows you might get lucky.

7. Be a great community member

Be kind to everyone you interact with. Mentors do stalk their prospective mentees. Bullying is never tolerated in #PitchWars. I don’t care how famous you are, but I want to know if you’re the kind of person I’d be happy to work with for the next two months (and possibly more!) It always pays to be a nice person.

Good luck, and don’t forget to have fun!


PitchwarsClarissa Goenawan is an Indonesian-born Singaporean writer. Her award-winning short fiction has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies in Singapore, Australia, the UK, and the US. Rainbirds is her first novel. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram.

You can meet her at her Singapore book launch at the Arts House at 5.30 pm on Saturday, 10th of March.

—-

Are you a reader, a writer, or both? Are you a self-published or traditionally published author? Have you participated in or intend to participate in Pitchwars?

Do you like literary fiction? As a reader or writer, do you have questions for Clarissa Goenawan? 


IWSG Writing groupThis post was written for the IWSG. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) every month! Go to the site to see the other participants. In this group we writers share tips, self-doubt, insecurities, and of course, discuss the act of writing. If you’re a writer and a blogger, go join rightaway! Co-hosts this month are:Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham, Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen Gardner!

Please join Daily (w)rite on its Facebook Page in case you’d like to be heard by this community. If you liked this post, you can have biweekly posts delivered to your inbox: SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL , please.

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Want to Hear the #Love Story of Two Lost Souls Who Found Each Other? #WATWB

We are the World BlogfestWe are the World Blogfest is here with its eleventh edition. To spread love, peace and humanity on social media, a few of us have worked together to create the We are the World Blogfest. In a world where news and social media are awash with negativity, we aim to turn the focus on to small but significant stories that renew our faith in humanity.

The cohosts for the January 2018 WATWB are: Shilpa Garg, Peter Nena, Eric Lahti, Roshan Radhakrishnan and Inderpreet Kaur Uppal
——-

love and loss
GMB Akash’s Facebook page

In the spirit of “In Darkness, Be Light,” I’d like to share the love story and lives of Rajiya Begum, a former prostitute, and Abbas Miah, a differently-abled beggar:

“she never expected anyone to help her without “using her” or gaining something in return. But one rainy night, when she was heartbroken, a stranger in a wheelchair came forward and offered her money, without demanding anything in return. “For the first time in my life that evening someone gave me something without using me. That day I cried deeply while returning to my hut. That day for the first time I felt loved.”

Touched by the warm gesture, Begum walked the streets for many days looking for the kind man, until she found him sitting under a tree. She learnt that his wife had left him because of his disability. “I told him that I won’t be able to love again but I could push his wheelchair for a lifetime. He smiled and said, ‘Not everyone can push a wheelchair without love’.

The duo connected and bonded over sorrows and difficulties and are married for four years now. Though everything is not all rosy, Abbas Miah has kept his promise and never let Rajiya Begum cry ever again ‘standing under any unknown tree’.”

The entire story and photo credits here.

If you found this piece of news heartening, and would like to take part in this blogfest, sign up in the WE ARE THE WORLD Blogfest Linky List below and please help spread the word on social media via the hashtag #WATWB.

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

  1. Keep your post to below 500 words.
  2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love and humanity.
  3. Join us in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.
  4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD BLOGFEST Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More We Are the World Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.
  5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.
  6. Add your post HERE so we can all find it quickly.

#WATWB also wants to link to charities supported by the co-hosts, and you could choose to donate to some of them or add links to local charities you support. Here’s the organization I’ve come to love and support: PROJECT WHY— and here’s one of my previous posts on the work they do. Feel free to send them a little of your help– every little bit counts.

 The We are The World Blogfest Community Page on Facebook will continue to show links to the various blog posts. So you don’t have to hurry through. You can always enjoy one a day. Like the page and share your posts on the thread for the purpose.

Have you heard love stories like this one? What heartwarming story have you heard recently? Do you have love stories you’d like to share?

We Are the World BlogfestPlease join Daily (w)rite on its Facebook Page in case you’d like to be heard by this community (Click on See First).

If you liked this post, you can have biweekly posts delivered to your inbox: click the SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL button. (Feel free to share this post if you like it. You’ll find icons to re-blog it via WordPress and Blogger to the left of this post.)

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Want Writing Advice from a #flashfiction expert? #IWSG

Here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series, it is my absolute pleasure today to welcome David Swann, an author whose work I’ve admired for a long while. David teaches modules in fiction, poetry, and screenwriting at the University of Chichester, and he has given very generous responses and writing advice –I learned a lot from them, and I hope it would be of help to anyone who reads the interview. I’ve highlighted the parts I liked best in blue.

David Swann's Writing advice1. At what age did you start writing fiction? What prompted you?

There’s a line by the singer Tom Waits — “Never saw the East Coast / Until I moved to the West.” In my late 20s, I lived in Amsterdam, doing a mad range of jobs, and in my spare time I was surprised to find myself writing stories, most of which were about life across the water in Britain. I guess I had to leave home to see it more clearly, as Tom suggests. Eventually I wanted to organise this unexpected word-splurge, and discover if it was any good, so I signed up for an MA at Lancaster University in England, and came back. It was very good for my writing, but, lately, during these grey, insular Brexit days, I often wish I’d stayed away.

2. What are your preoccupations as a writer? Which of your stories/ collections would you recommend to a reader who has never come across your work?

  • I’m interested in those moments when ordinary life suddenly seems strange. The French call it ‘jamais vu’, the opposite of ‘deja vu’ — when it feels like you’ve never ever seen an ordinary thing before. I used to get it a lot with my Mum’s cat. Raymond Carver talks about suddenly realising that an old pair of boots are a bit mad. I like the intensity of those moments — ‘spots of time’, as Wordsworth calls them. It seems I’m interested in the complexities of love, grief, class, work, power, freedom, bullying, resistance, play, etc. — especially in the lives of people struggling at society’s fringes. But that sounds really abstract. One of the challenges for a fiction writer is to find concrete situations that act as stages for individual characters, so that you can dramatise issues, and give them faces and flesh. Otherwise, you’d be better off writing philosophy or sociology, disciplines that require a more abstract approach. David Swann Writing Advice
  • Some questions that preoccupy me: How do we choose to spend our precious time? What forces limit those choices? How free can people be, even in jail? Why do some make their freedom into a jail? And some use their freedom to imprison others? Why are we more cruel (or kind) than we need to be? How much pain (or joy) can a person bear? ‘Who makes the Nazis?’ (as a punk group called The Fall asked). Why do so many people in the world seem incapable of empathy?
  • But I usually want these serious things to sit next to funny things, maybe because one of the characters is pompous, quirky, deluded, eccentric, or too busy, or self-absorbed, or whatever. If people don’t laugh when reading my work, I usually feel like I’ve gone wrong. But it’s a fiddly job — because juxtapositions can jar. Still, that’s the aim. To stay on the tightrope.
  • My favourite writing strikes me as having the effect that a funeral can have — one minute you’re crying your eyes out, and the next someone’s telling an hilarious story about the person who died. Life’s like that, I think: humour, terror and sadness cheek by jowl. The writer Simon Brett says writers shouldn’t ask, “Wouldn’t it be funny if A,B, C, D, happened?”  Instead, he says it’s better to ask: “Wouldn’t it be tragic if it weren’t funny if A, B, C, D happened?”Writing advice by David Swann
  • My books are all with small presses, but sometimes available via Amazon’s evil empire: ‘The Last Days of Johnny North’ (Elastic Press, 2006), ‘The Privilege of Rain’ (Waterloo Press, 2010), ‘Stronger Faster Shorter’ (Flash: The International Short-Short Story Press, 2015), ‘Gratitude on the Coast of Death’ (coming soon from Waterloo Press). You can sample my flashes online at here and here (Vol 3, no. 2). And from late August, here.

3. What makes a successful piece of flash fiction? Other than length, is there a difference between short story and flash fiction? How does flash fiction relate to/ compare with poetry?

  • Flash and poetry are connected by the need to say the maximum in the minimum of space (without crowding the page). 
  • But poetry uses the line-break, and flash has to make do with plain old sentences.
  • Poetry doesn’t always need narrative (although some does) — but I think flash ought to be story-based. Otherwise, it’s heading out into the territory of prose-poetry, where imagery and language take over from narrative. And that’s a different beast.
  • A longer story will have more space to explore character and plot, and perhaps a longer timeframe.
  • In my opinion, the aim of all writing, whether prose or poetry, is to move the reader, to tears or to laughter, to a new point of understanding or emotion. 
  • I read somewhere that, beneath all art, there is one simple urge — to remind us all how weird and wonderful (and sometimes terrifying) it is to be alive. To nudge a reader, and whisper, ‘Isn’t it strange?’
  • … although Chekhov said the purpose was to tap a happy person on the shoulder and ask them to consider misfortunes that they’ve been lucky enough to avoid (for now)...

4. Which authors and poets have been your biggest influences?

  • Too many, too various! I was once advised to read all the Faulkner I could stomach and then wash it out of my system with loads of Hemingway. It’s advice I’ve continued to follow, by reading a funny book after a serious one, prose after poetry, sci-fi after realism, non-fiction after novels, a strange one after a straighforward one, a wordy one after a spare one, etc.
  • Some of my all-time favourites: Emily Bronte, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Frost, Gogol, Homer, Kafka, Lawrence (especially his shorter stuff, and poems), Melville, Orwell, Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Tolstoy, Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald. 
  • I really like chancing upon story collections — it reminds me of that secret, culty feeling I got as a snobby teenager when I discovered a cool new wave single on green vinyl. Some faves: Charles D’Ambrosio, Kevin Barry, Arthur Bradford, Junot Diaz, Anthony Doerr, Aleksandar Hemon, Denis Johnson (his collection ‘Jesus’ Son’ turned me onto flash in the first place), Jhumpa Lahiri, Rebecca Lee, Andre Mangeot, Josip Novakovich, Z.Z. Packer, Annie Proulx, George Saunders, Jim Shepard, Wells Tower, Tobias Wolff, and lots more.
  • Tons of other writers, including: Brian Aldiss, Sherwood Anderson, Margaret Atwood, Pat Barker, Elizabeth Bishop, Roberto Bolano, Stanley Elkin, Vasily Grossman, Joseph Heller, Tony Hoagland, Ted Hughes, James Kelman, Halldor Laxness, Flann O’Brien, Flannery O’Connor, Tony Parker, Andrei Platanov, Alan Sillitoe, Ken Smith, Colin Thubron, Miriam Toews, Anne Tyler, Stephanie Vaughn, Kurt Vonnegut

5. Could you name five flash fiction/ short story  authors we should all check out?

  • So many good writers to choose from, I can’t narrow it down to five! Jonathan Cardew, David Gaffney, Vanessa Gebbie, Tania Hershman,  Jim Heynen, Sean Lovelace, Meg Pokrass, Dan Rhodes, Mary Robison (especially her story, ‘Yours’ and her amazing flash novel, ‘Why Did I Ever’), Robert Scottelaro, Tim Stevenson, Nancy Stohlman, Meg Tuite, Kit De Waal.
  • Talking of flash novels, check out Bath Flash Fiction Competition in the UK, run by Jude Higgins. Jude has put out some great collections of flash novellas, e.g. the brilliant ‘How to Make a Window Snake’ (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2017), edited by Meg Pokrass, featuring three beautiful pieces by Charmaine Wilkerson, Joanna Campbell, and Ingrid Jendrzejewski.
  • Work by the editor Meg Pokrass, features in ‘My Very End of the Universe’, a collection of flash-novellas from the wonderful Rose Metal Press, who’ve also included some helpful essays on flash in the book.
  • For stand-alone flashes, I recommend ‘Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine’ (Chester University, UK), edited by Ash ‘the Flash’ Chantler and Peter Blair.
  • And anthologies put together by Calum Kerr, who’s a mover and shaker in National Flash Fiction Day.
  • And any of the ‘Sudden’ or ‘Flash’ collections edited by the holy trinity of Shapard, Thomas, and Hazuka.

Writing advice from David Swann6. You’ve won many prestigious awards for your flash fiction, and judged various competitions. What writing advice would you give someone submitting to these?

  • Follow the specific rules of that contest.
  • A good title will catch a tired eye. So will a good first line and a satisfying final line. But don’t force any of these things!
  • Have a look at the judge’s biography, so that you can see how his/her tastes align with or differ from yours. This may not always be necessary — because taste isn’t everything (despite popular misconceptions). But it can’t do any harm!
  • Does the story take place “upon a time”?  i.e. is there a narrative? Is something interesting and/or important in motion during the story? Does something change over the course of the story?
  • Julio Ortega said that stories require the following: “a dominant action… what is shown or said happens in time… [and]… the very rule of any story—the breaking of a code.”
  • Is there an interesting character?
  • Is there at least one image in the piece that flashes on the reader’s eye, or engages another sense at a deep level? Does this image connect with the flash’s underlying theme?
  • Have you left a space on the page for the reader? Or is the story still carrying ‘Sub-Titles for the Thick’ (the poet Ian Duhig’s brilliant term for telling at the expense of showing)?
Writing advice from David Swann
  • Has the story earned its abstractions by snapping off concrete bits of the material world and stitching them into the fabric of the flash?
  • Similarly, does the story earn its big ideas, or is it ‘grandstanding’? (Having said that, most good art takes risks — so there can be a fine line between brilliance and pretension.)
  • Does the story make use of what Rose Tremain calls the ‘hope-dread axis’ (or fear and desire, as I often think of it)?
  • Avoid twist-endings, unless they’re absolutely ace. 

  • As well as twist-endings, be wary of loading all of the story’s significance into the conclusion, so that the ending becomes too heavy and/or melodramatic, and snaps like a branch bearing too much fruit.
  • Generally, aim to end with a twang, not a bang!

  • Treat the reader as being three times more intelligent than you, but ten times busier, i.e. they’ll get your story, but you need to do the work!

  • Before sending it off, ask if the piece should leave home dressed as a flash — or whether you’ve decked out a poem in flash clothing, or chopped the legs off a pair of trousers that really fit the lanky limbs of a longer story.
  • Presentation. Be courteous and kind to your reader’s eye. Avoid unnecessary typographical gimmicks. Proof-read for spelling, lay-out, and grammar. A judge would look bad if s/he chose a story littered with silly errors — above all, never make a judge look bad! One tip I was taught as an editor: read work backwards, so that words fall out of their groove, and you see what is really on the page rather than what you expect to be there.
  • Try to really hear your piece. Read all your work aloud, both to yourself and to others. Also, ask a friend to read the piece to you.
  • Ignore all these suggestions if you’re a genius!

7. Would you agree with the line of thought that flash fiction is easier to read, given our fast lifestyles? Is a collection of good flash fiction easier to read than a good novel?

It depends. Reading a good, big novel is like being a guest at a huge wedding in a strange, diverse family — it offers many moods and emotions, and it’s full of many different kinds of people, food, and activities. That can seem intimidating when we first step in, but the longer we stay at the wedding, the easier it becomes to find a comfortable place and to understand the wedding’s flow, and to appreciate its ‘rules’ and variety. So we gain in confidence and understanding and enjoyment as we progress. In other words, a good novel teaches us how to read it, and it rewards us for the effort. In some ways, a book of flash fiction demands even more of its readers. With flash collections, it’s more like you’re speed-dating during a banquet, but the only dish is anchovies! These tiny wee anchovies taste good, but you have to eat them for pudding as well as starters. Meanwhile, each new speed-dating partner requires a new burst of effort and attention, so it’s exciting, but you have to do a lot of work, and it’s hard to settle in, and you may feel like you’re never really benefiting from the effort put in at the start. Plus, the anchovies could become a problem if you keep inserting them into your face!

Writing advice David Swann8. As a teacher, what writing advice would you give to aspiring/ emerging fiction writers? Could you talk about your own journey as a writer and writing teacher in this context?

  • The best way to become original is to steep yourself in other people’s work. Writing requires audacity, so we need to temper that with our reading, which gives us humility and perspective.
  • Read the classics and read trash. Read to learn, and read for pleasure.
  • Read fast, for the flow — and read slowly, to absorb technique.
  • But don’t read so much that you forget to live! My favourite writers have balanced experience and reading.
  • Expect to work at a job while writing — not many people live purely from their fiction!  
  • But — and this is very hard, as I know from experience — try not to let the day-job kill your creativity. Keep going, even when it’s very hard. “A professional is an amateur who never gave up”, as the saying goes. In Hisham Matar’s memoir, ‘The Return’, Hisham keeps going by remembering his dearly-missed father’s mantra: “Work and survive.”
  • Freshness. Sports stars are afraid of “paralysis by analysis”. In other words, the cricket player has over-thought his/her batting action, and can’t do it naturally anymore. Whatever allows you to feel fresh while you write, do it.
  • I use lots of stuff to get me in the mood for writing, and to forget the writing after I’ve done it: sport, Zen, hiking, reading, jogging, cooking, sleeping, gardening, idleness, mindless domestic chores, walking, lying down, staring at moving objects or features of nature, people-watching, foreign travel, eavesdropping, etc., etc… Of course, these things all have the potential to distract us, if we’re not careful… but they can also allow us to enter that weird trance where the best creativity happens — and to find the distance that makes us strangers to our own work (which is necessary when editing). 

  • I heard the England cricketer Stuart Broad say that he needs to do lots of analytical work before and after Test Matches, but that, during the heat of the game itself, he trusts his “core feeling”. I saw a parallel there between writing and cricket (as I too often do!).
  • Love what you do, and try to get better at it. This isn’t as easy as it sounds — because love can interfere with vision and judgment. One of the hard things about writing is that we need two contradictory skills: to go in as deep as possible while writing and to come out a long way before and afterwards. Otherwise, we’re missing out on the intensity we need to write our early drafts and the distance we require when editing. 

  • While you’re working and surviving, keep patiently trying to learn. Hundreds of years ago, Chaucer said: “The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne.” Accept that. Remember, during your lowest moments, that the agony of learning is one important way in which we renew our imaginations and retain freshness. It’s also how we get better, and improve our mistakes (we’ll still make mistakes — but they’ll be better ones, hopefully!).

  • Inevitably, there is rejection in the life of a writer. Learn to deal with it. My successful students never take rejection personally. A tip: ‘disappointment’ literally means ‘removed from office’. But the only person who can remove a writer from the office is him or herself!
  • Therefore, a rejection ought to be seen as the rejection of a specific draft, not of the writer’ body and soul. As the writer, you and you alone have the power to  decide whether you continue writing or not! Don’t kid yourself that the rejection slip made the decision.

  • Enjoy the process and the product, but remember that the process is really what it’s all about because the act of writing is where the magic happens and where you will spend most of your precious time. The writing itself is the reward.
  • Writing is part of life, not separate from it. Without our lives, we would have no writing. The activities of writing and chopping an onion are equally sacred. I didn’t know that when I was younger. I still sometimes forget it now.

David Swann was Writer in Residence at H.M.P. Nottingham Prison. A book based on his experiences in the jail, ‘The Privilege of Rain’ (Waterloo Press, 2010), was shortlisted for The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. He teaches modules in fiction, poetry, and screenwriting at University of Chichester. His short stories and poems have been widely published and won many awards, including  seven successes at the Bridport Prize and two in The National Poetry Competition. He is now hard at work on a trilogy of novels and other writing projects. Find out more about him here.

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Are you a reader, a writer, or both?  Do you read or write flash fiction? Have you read David Swann’s work before? As a reader or writer, do you have questions, or need writing advice for David? What are the difficulties you face while writing flash fiction?


IWSG Writing groupThis post was written for the IWSG. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) every month!My effort is bring in the expertise of authors and publishing professionals which might be helpful for all IWSG writers.

Go to the IWSG site to check out the other participants. In this group we writers share tips, self-doubt, insecurities, and of course, discuss the process of writing. If you’re a writer and a blogger, go join rightaway! Co-hosts this month are: Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

Please join Daily (w)rite on its Facebook Page in case you’d like to be heard by this community. If you liked this post, you can have biweekly posts delivered to your inbox: click the SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL button.

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Have you been to Japan recently? #travel

Japan Tokyo snowJapan fascinates me. I’ve written about the country a few times, including here, but this time was different in one essential way: my first real experience of snowfall. (This is a long post, so if you’d rather only look at pictures of Japan, click to enlarge each of the photos.)

The night we landed in Tokyo, they forecast blizzard conditions. Now, to most people that would be troublesome (and in fact entire crowds got stuck in huge traffic jams inside some of Tokyo’s tunnels) but having been born in the heat and dust of central India, and now a resident of hot and humid Singapore, I’m ashamed to say that the prospect of a blizzard filled me with glee. Wasn’t disappointed, either.

Snow, Tokyo, Japan

The first flurries of snow led to more once I emerged from the airport, and despite stockings and coats, the icy winds chilled me to the bone. Perverse me loved every bit of it.

In the car, as I watched each snowflake make its way to the road, riding the wind, free and alive for one moment before it fell with a tiny splat on the ground, I thought of how much it resembled human life. Ruled by the vagaries of circumstances, a brief journey that would end in oblivion. Like memories and history, some would gather and remain, as fluff on trees and shrubs, as mounds on the roadside, only to melt and disappear in time.

On to more cheery thoughts. Right after we checked in we met a Japanese friend, only to learn of his retirement after 43 years of work at one company–and of course, we decided to celebrate.

We took a bus and a train from Shinjuku to the Tokyo station, and then walked through the snowy pavements, not letting a bit of wind and snow deter us, our noses frozen, spirits high, and took a few (obviously hazy) photographs of my first walk in snow. Try not to laugh, gentle reader, at my various imbecilic attempts to catch and taste snowflakes. Let’s just say I was glad there were few witnesses to said event. Our elderly Japanese friend of course made sure to throw enough snow at me to make me burst into helpless squeaks, and breathless, un-seemingly-teenagerish giggles. I wasn’t ashamed, didn’t care. This was apparently the coldest (and snowiest) week in Japan in 40 years, and I loved every bit of it!

Japan, Tokyo Tempura
Sake bottle, and our Tempura Chef

Tempura Dinner

We ended up at an unassuming-looking but super-fancy tempura joint (this link takes you to fancier pictures of our food than I would ever take– we ate almost the exact same menu) near the Tokyo station, with a magnificent view of the snow, with waitresses in fancy kimonos who smilingly put up with my lengthy, clumsy (frozen hands, no gloves) doffing of entirely un-fancy hiking boots, jacket and cap (I had had no time or reason to change from my traveling clothes geared towards comfort rather than elegance).

The chef cooked each piece in front of us, and served it with directions on which sauces to dip it in. I didn’t want to offend him by taking too many pictures, and anyway, I’m an eater of food, not much of a picture-taker when you put a delish spread in front of me–so I only have a picture of the appetizer course.

The food lived up to the exorbitant prices (it was a once-in-a-lifetime splurge, I guess), the tempura super-light, fluffy and crisp on the outside, the seafood and vegetables remarkably firm on the inside. Entirely worth the humiliating lacing and unlacing of boots in front of an audience of graceful waitresses, if you ask me.

Tokyo Japan Appetiser
Appetizer course before tempura dinner

The hot sake kept the conversation flowing, and warmed our insides. Best tempura dinner I’ve ever had, and I can only hope our friend enjoyed it as a much as I did.

By the time we returned to our hotel, the graceful dark branches of trees stood silent and shining, laden with snow, which fell in brief flurries whenever a particularly strong gust of wind struck.

I stood there, behaving myself this time, and let the awe of all that white magic sink in.

To all of you who have grown up with snowfall, I don’t know if it seems magical at all, but that first night, as I looked out from my hotel window, I thought I’d been transported to a winter wonderland. When I slept, I dreamt of snow.

Buying Stationery in Tokyo, and the changing face of Japan

StationeryOf course, I spent the next day walking about in the snow, trying to find the right ear warmers, neck warmers, leg warmers and so on. The rest of the week went by, shopping for stationery of course, at Tokyu Hands, at Muji, at Itoya. Japan has an obsession with paper, be it one to write on, or to make their fragile traditional doors or cover their windows.

Japan, Tokyo, SnowAs a writer, I’m obsessed with paper as well (and of course, ppens and notebooks), and these stores have entire floors of them, especially Itoya, which is a venerable Japanese institution with eight floors of craft and stationery goodness. You can take a lift up, but must walk down all eight floors if you want all the stuff on the topmost floor.

Some of the trains now make announcements in English, and the Citymapper app has made changing trains and buses a breeze. A far cry from nine years ago, when I made my way around the city with a lot of help from the local populace. The city is now overrun by Chinese tourists, who do not lack money, but seem a huge contrast to the polite, subtle Japanese, who love cleanliness, attention to detail, and a love of aesthetics. This time, I spotted notices everywhere in Mandarin and English, advising the public that smoking or spitting while walking on the roads is prohibited.

A Shinkansen trip to Osaka

After two days in Tokyo, I took a shinkansen day-trip to Osaka on another cold day, armed with the right shoes and warmers this time. The super-fast train offered brief glimpses into the outskirts of Tokyo and the hinterlands.

Dried-up rivers looking cold and lonely, their rocky bottoms visible, thin streams flowing down the middle, flanked by rows of egrets hoping to catch their breakfast. Slant-roofed, snow-hushed villages, toy cars parked beside tiny homes, dark groves of tall fir trees, flanked by factories bubbling with white smoke, a lone man stumbling across icy fields, children playing football in bright orange shorts in defiance of the weather, grey cemeteries upon a hill, all gravestones the same size, behind the hills a brilliant white peak with sunlit clouds on an azure, cold sky, the train making its almost noiseless way past leafless trees standing tall, dry  branches waiting for the flowers of spring, and three black ducks in a small, still pool.

Osaka JapanOblivious to all these wonders outside, sat dour men in well-tailored office clothes, frowning at excel sheets in Japanese. Even as the blue seas beckoned when we neared Osaka, these men on work trips kept their faces firmly in the service of their laptop screens, the cans of Asahi beer, the seaweed-rice-meat sandwiches, till I wanted to shake them and make them look out the window.

The Osaka Castle

Once out of the station, I made my way to the Osaka castle, helped along by train officers in their deeply accented and sparse English, the Citymapper app and the Suica train card. Surrounded by the loud and omnipresent Chinese tourists, I made slow progress towards the Osaka Castle, up a small hill. It is surrounded by a moat, and its charming lines and white contours provide many photographic opportunities.

Japan Osaka Cast;eI hung around on the outside, having seen the Odawara castle before and enough shogun history to last me a while. The Osaka castle was burned down and had to be re-built, so it feels new-shiny, and not worth the time I spent sharing my sandwich with sparrows that hopped up on my shoes, and the much braver pigeons that flapped down and landed on my knees, to eat out of my hands. I sunned myself, watched young women walk their Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in perambulators, the small dogs prettied up with ribbons, wearing their sweaters, shoes and socks, and looking on, silent and curious, as their well-coiffed owners made polite chatter.

Gorging on Octopus at Dotonburi

After a long walk through the Nishinomaru garden, I took a train to reach Dotonburi, in order to sample the food Osaka is famous for.

I reached in the early afternoon, and took a walk down the relatively empty Dotonburi canal-side, joined a queue for Takoyaki, and after two helpings of the dish, tried an Okonomiyaki for size.

They were ideal food for the zero-degree weather, and warmed me enough so I could brave the increasing crowds.

Japan, Osaka, Dotonburi
Takoyaki at Dotonburi
Japan Osaka Dotonburi
Along the Dotonburi Canal

By 5pm, tourists and locals alike thronged the many bridges across the canal, and enthralled me with their obsession for selfies and the various heights they jumped to, and the lengths they swung over the bridges in order to capture the right pose.

Japan Osaka Dotonburi
Tourists posing for pics at Dotonburi

I bought a pretty woolen cap, and the elderly, very kind Japanese saleswomen chatted with me in English that sounded like Japanese. Their smiles widened when they heard I was from Singapore, where they’d been ‘twotimes‘, and told me it was ‘a pressure to meet‘ me. Startled at first, I realised what they meant, and told them it was a pleasure for me too. Eight years ago, when I first visited Japan, it was a fairly insular country, but English is seeping in now.

Japan, Osaka, Dotonburi
View from one of the bridges over the Dotonburi canal

On the way back, the shinkansen ran late (a super-rare event, according to friends), due to snow near Nagoya, and as compensation I received half my one-way fare. At 1 am, I turned in, a tired but not unhappy tourist.

I’ll write the next part, the trip to Kanazawa, Shirakawa-ko and Ainokura– and if you have read so far, I hope you’ll join me for the subsequent leg of the trip next week!

For more pictures of the trip, click here.

What about you? Where did you travel in 2017? What travel plans have you made for this new year? What does travel mean to you? Do you sample the local cuisine, wherever you go? Do you buy stationery? Have you ever been to Japan? If yes, what was Japan like, for you?


I co-host the monthly We Are the World Blogfest: I’d like to invite you to join, if you haven’t as yet, to post Fvourite Placethe last Friday of each month a snippet of positive news that shows our essential, beautiful humanity. After a break in the month of December, it is back for its first outing in 2018.

This monthly event has brought smiles on the faces of a lot of participants and their audiences, and somewhat restored their faith in humanity. Here’s a sampler. Click here to know more. Sign up here and add your bit of cheer to the world on the next installment of February 23rd!

Please join Daily (w)rite on its Facebook Page in case you’d like to be heard by this community. If you liked this post, you can have biweekly posts delivered to your inbox: SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL.

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