Discussion

This Is Me

I do not know why I choose this night out of all nights to unburden myself on this page but here I am. Knowing I will regret baring myself to the world almost as soon as I press the post button.

And yet, here I am. Unable to stop writing because keeping these words inside will hurt more than letting them out.

When I was in grade five or class five as we call it in Fiji, I got diagnosed with psoriasis. It started in one spot. On the back of my upper arm. I had no idea what it meant and why the doctor looked so sombre when he told my dad what that spot was. I didn’t understand what incurable meant.

That December, (in Fiji we get our summer holidays in December), the government cut off the water supply intermittently so my family was often at the river to do laundry. I spent a lot of time outside in the sun and just before school started, all these bumps appeared all over my skin. I still had no idea what lay in wait for me.

In the following months I had the first outbreak of the skin disease. I was given strong pills that I needed weekly blood tests for; I spent countless hours in the dimly lit corridors in the hospital in Lautoka with either my mom or dad waiting for some blank faced doctor to call my name. And school? I couldn’t go; I was a girl on the way to becoming a monster and refused to show my face in public.

I started grade six late but managed to have a wonderful year despite the fact that I wasn’t a prefect and all my friends were. The psoriasis had retreated to some extent and I could go back to being a kid. I think I almost forgot about it as busy as I was sprouting breasts, studying for exams, and memorizing oratory speeches.

Then high school started and with it the psoriasis returned. It was still okay; the school uniform allowed for long sleeves and a scarf was obligatory so I could pretend I was normal. That I had skin.

Have you ever imagined longing to wear short sleeves with the kind of desperation one has for water on hot days? A time when your greatest desire was to wear your hair up with your neck bared–a luxury. When everyone had skin and yours just didn’t work the same way and you didn’t know why.

When I was in form four or grade ten, the disease ravaged my face. That year I learned never to raise my eyes, to never meet anyone else’s gaze because I couldn’t handle the disgust, pity or a mixture of both I was sure I’d find there. I fielded questions with a determined smile and a flippant attitude while inside I shriveled.

I remember when the dermatologist said in perhaps what he thought was a kindly tone that I must be worried about marriage with my skin disease. My world screeched to a halt. Until he told me so, I had never considered that I was undesirable even with my skin a mess. I was smart. I was funny. I was sixteen.

I still can’t meet my eyes in the mirror and having someone else take pictures of me feels like violence is being done to me. In this age of selfies, I can manipulate camera angles until the image reflected satisfies me and I can pretend for a little while that I look like that.

I know that a lot of people who don’t suffer from intense form of psoriasis will not be able to understand the trauma of it. Who will reduce its impact or trivialize the effect it had on me.

I speak about it right now because as I grew up, I learned to like myself despite my skin. My journey isn’t complete and I won’t lie that there aren’t times when I don’t feel more monster than girl.

But I can’t be the only person in the world who feels this way so this is for the girls who hate looking in mirrors because the reflection feels like a lie. You may not feel it but you are beautiful.

You are smart. You are brave. You matter. I matter. No matter the skin you wear.

Discussion · writing · Writing Diaries

On Writing: Figuring Out Your MC

Every writer has their M.O but if there is one advice I am going to give (and you know, if you think I am worth taking advice from), I would tell you to know your MC character factually at least before you start writing their story.

You may think this would be obvious but you would be surprised. I am not saying that you have to know the colour of their eyes or their physical measurements (which you do) but that you have to engage with your MC on a deeper level.

A person is the combination of nature and nurture. Their landscapes shape them as much as the people around them do. So have a conversation with your MC before you start writing their story. What’s their favourite colour? What’s their deepest fear? What flavour of ice cream do they prefer? Sometimes what they don’t like is more revealing than what they do.

Are they afraid of the dark? If yes, then why? Is there a childhood trauma or incident? Do they have any triggers? There’s no reason your main character cannot be as complex and layered as a person.

Chances are, figuring out your protagonist will give you insights into the story you are writing. So open a word doc or a fresh notebook and have that conversation with your MC. Write your notes. Watch them grow and come to life before you. It’s a grand feeling when they do.

Discussion

#CurrentlyReading

So I finished the last batch of books I was reading (and then some) and since it is a Friday night and I have nothing better to do than talk books, here I am. Talking about books.

I really need a social life.

ANYWAY.

For The Wild Ones, I’m reading:

  1. Shrill by Lindy West
    And oh, I have been through many of the things she’s writing. Lindy, I feel you. Not always mind you, but most of the times.
  2. Take It As A Compliment – Maria Stoian
    Oh man, this is going to be so painful. I have only read the first 10 pages but already teared up.
  3. Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said
    Okay so this is not strictly for The Wild Ones but I have been meaning to read this for a while so I may as well use this time to make a serious dent in it. I’m learning so much but the reading is slow. I should finish this sometime this year. Hehe. He’s accessible and interesting though.

My girl Runa’s book finally got to me so I’m reading:

  1. The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi.
    And it is so wonderful I want to eat the words. Yep.

And finally, I’m also reading this collection of short stories:

  1. Wicked Wonders by Eileen Klages

I get the sense that Klages is somewhat a big deal in the short story genre though I haven’t come across her before this collection. I’m super enjoying the collection though so it’s my loss.

What are you guys reading?

Discussion · Roundups

March Reading Wrap Up

I accomplished a number of things in March. One, I finished the first draft of The Fire Within. Two, I read 22 books. I’m quite pleased with myself. Of course the high number is due to the many picturebooks read but still, achievements are achievements.

(I also re-caught a cough so there’s that.)

Here are the titles I read:

  1. I’m Judging You – Luvvie Ajayi
  2. A Curious Land – Susan Muaddi Darraj
  3. The Lonely Hearts Hotel – Heather O’Neill
  4. The Road Home – Katie Cotton
  5. Pandora – Victoria Turnbull
  6. If My Love Were a Fire Truck – Luke Reynolds
  7. Princess Cora and the Crocodile – Laura Amy Schlitz
  8. Lint Boy – Aileen Liejten
  9. This Is How We Do It – Matt LaMothe
  10. Real Friends – Shannon Hale
  11. The Bear and the Nightingale – Katharine Arden
  12. bone – Yrsa Daly-Ward
  13. Wires and Nerve vol 1 – Marissa Meyer
  14. Cigarette Girl – Masahiko Matsumoto
  15. How to Find a Fox – Nilah Magruder
  16. Puss and Boots – Ayano Imai
  17. Dream Big, Princess – Andrea Posner-Sanchez
  18. Lila and the Crow – Gabrielle Grimard
  19. The Last of August – Brittany Cavallaro
  20. FukuFuku – Kanata Konami
  21. Seventh Day – Yu Hua
  22. Questions for Ada – Ijeoma Umebinyuo
Discussion · writing · Writing Diaries

On Writing: A New W.I.P and A New Method to my Madness

I took some time off between restarting the job search (erghhh) and finishing the first draft of The Fire Within. Just one week. And realized that I am most happy whenever I’m writing. I miss being sunk into a different work, miss my characters, and miss their lives. No matter how much I whine and whinge (sorry), writing is what makes me happiest. It only took me 33 years to make this realization. Heh.

So I decided to start a new WIP.

\_(ツ)_/¯

So this new WIP is inspired by Peter Pan in exciting ways and I’m super keen to begin it except you know, I’m kinda still working out the structure. Somewhat.

I mean, also, the story.

The actual meat of it. The thing that will make people invest their emotions and care and right now, it’s really too early to say. So, like fungus, I’m in my absorptive stage. I’m going to read and read and read and see what I can come with.

This will be my 4th novel and I have learned that each one requires a different method, i.e. what works for one probably will not work for another. This one in particular is totally experimental and unconventional which is exciting but at the same time requires a lot of thinking.

Anyway, so I have decided to create a reading list for The Wild Ones. So far, I have read:

  1. Bone – Yrsa Daly-Ward
  2. I’m Judging You – Luvvie Ajayi
  3. Here We Are – Kelly Jensen
  4. A Bestiary – Lily Hoang
  5. The Geek Feminist Revolution – Kameron Hurley

More titles to be added as I read them.

 

Discussion · Nonfiction · review · Review Copy

I’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi

Judging

Paperback, 241 pages
Published November 17th 2016 by Henry Holt & Company Inc
Source: Raincoast Books

I’m thankful to Janani who is quickly becoming my source for interesting book titles. She reads wonderful books and leads me to fantastic ones. Aah, okay.

This book though, you guys. It says everything that’s in my heart and more. I hadn’t heard of Luvvie before I read this book and now I’m following her everywhere because she speaks the truth.

Talking about looks:

“Society has failed people to the point where they feel they cannot like themselves in the skin they were born in.”

SO TRUE.

And you know those people who claim they are blind to colour? Huh. For them:

“I want people to see my colour and my culture written all over me, because I’m proud of the skin I’m in. It is an important of my identity. What I don’t want them to do is mistreat me because of it.”

There’s a poignant piece where she talks about how she ended up using Luvvie as a name because people mispronounced (deliberately lazy?) her beautiful name. This is particularly relatable to me as during my first class in Canada, the teacher looked at my name and said “Napizza” like “Nafiza” is somehow difficult to pronounce or he cannot read like wtf even?

I’m STILL SALTY about this, kay? I’m Judging You has no problem calling out the people in Luvvie’s own community for their problematic ways even as it calls out the white people for their problematic ways.

I particularly loved this sharp clear observation on rape culture:

“Rape culture is the prevailing attitude that women exist primarily to please men, and therefore are not equal human beings with agency of their own bodies.”

Heck, I could quote the entire essay because that’s how much it spoke to me. I adored this book. I return to it every time I am angry and annoyed by people because chances are, Luvvie has judged them already and I can share in the not-so-silent side-eyeing. If you want to read something sharply funny, keen and piercing observations on culture and the faulty way we have constructed our societies, you should read this book.

It is brilliant. I don’t say that lightly.

Discussion

#CurrentlyReading

I like hash tags, okay? I don’t even mind if you overuse them. Some people do. Some people take offense at it (I don’t know why) but I don’t care.

ANYWAY.

I finished the 0.5 draft of my book, you guys. The Fire Within is now complete. Alright, amendment, the 0.5 draft of The Fire Within is now complete. I’m still working on the 1.0 draft but it’s no longer a work of almost unbearable pain.

I can also read because now I can have other peoples’ stories in my head without my story feeling cramped.

I was in a frenzy while trying to complete the first draft. Barely sleeping, eating, breathing, being. I just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote some more. It was not a pleasant experience but you know, writing is never easy. Maybe it is for some people but for me, writing is the most difficult part of the entire process. I can edit happily and continuously but writing? Argh. Even though that’s all I want to do with my life, just doing it is probably the most painful thing I willingly put myself through.

Anyway, so the 0.5 draft is over and now I can read and this is what I’m reading:

A Short History of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James
My friend Teng got me this for my birthday at my request. I had the chance to meet Farah who is my friend Christopher’s dissertation supervisor in his PhD program in England when she came to Canada but as I had neither the funds nor the health to make it, sadly I didn’t. However, my friends who did go to her event impressed upon me how wonderful her speech was and persuaded me to read her book. While the one that is more interesting is her theory text, I thought I’d start with this one as I have a certain interest in fantasy and it would behoove me to know what exactly or where exactly the tradition comes from. And quite honestly, I find the rhetoric a bit dry at the moment though I am hoping it will pick up once we’re done finding out about all the details and dates. Still, the chapters are short and the pace brisk; the writers do not linger upon topics exhaustively so I am optimistic.

Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche by Haruki Murakami
Before I started reading this book, I read some reviews and almost all of them scoffed at what they perceived as Murakami’s attempt at serious journalism. I don’t see why. I mean, have you seen what currently constitutes for “journalism” these days? *rolls eyes* I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading this book and definitely think that people should give this book a try before following the reviews. The book is a collection of interviews Murakami conducted with more than sixty of the sarin attack victims. It’s a harrowing exploration of the effects on lives and bodies of people who were simply trying to get from one place to another. I find it fascinating who many different ways different people can remember and experience the same event. I’m only a 100 pages in and appreciating the book.

bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward
Poetry! This collection is piercing, sexy, and fierce. I love it so I’m reading it slowly because it is only 136 pages long and I will run out quickly if I read quickly. #ReaderProblems

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katharine Arden
Ah, this book I’m going to love. It’s one of those fairytales that catch you unaware.