My poem – Nenek (maternal grandmother)

Screen-Shot-2014-03-04-at-5.34.43-PM-165x200I’m on Week Three of a 30 day writing course – Digging Deep, Facing Self – and my poetry guru, Caits Meissner, has asked each of us to share our favourite piece of work as an exercise of vulnerability and bravery. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my poem. It’s still a very early draft, so be gentle, and please do comment!

Nenek (maternal grandmother)

I was thirteen and
an ill-fitting shoe
in my new country
of vegemite and Uncle Toby’s
I, child of chicken rice and noodles

when Nenek died

Mak flew back with Aisyah
I wish I had gone too
to say goodbye before the end
but only two decades later
when I awoke to the meaning of my ancestry

I lost your blue-stoned ring,
Nenek,
forgive me.
it haunts me
how careless I was

while I grieved for you,
refugees were shipwrecked
drowning
trying to enter the country
I waltzed into (via aeroplane)

“There are no children in detention centres.”
said the national lie
as more and more babies were born
into a cage

Nenek, you fled the communists
on a leaky boat with Datuk
not a cent to your name

your catalyst: being at gunpoint
Datuk told the soldier
“Shoot her first.”

you fled on a boat
like so many around the world
dark night, full moon swallowing the sky
risking death by drowning

you were a boat person
scorned
like the others left bloated
in the water
but you survived

you carved out a new life in Singapore
birthed countless children
showed them how to survive the ache of life
served tea to Datuk even when you could barely walk

Nenek, I am comfortable now
calm, grounded, married
you would have been so proud
I have returned to country you fled from
lifetimes ago

you paid for this, in the terror of your
night-time exodus
huddled next to your husband
towards an uncertain future

you have secured mine.

Reflections on my book launch with @markgonzales @mayfahmi @sarasaleh #wagebeauty

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(Photo credit: Subhi Be)

WOW. That’s all I’m sayin’. Being on the “A Word’s Worth” panel with May Fahmi, Sara Saleh, and Mark Gonzales sure was inspiring! It’s so refreshing to be part of a dialogue about the written word because sometimes, the act of writing can be isolating. I really benefited from the creative energy buzzing in that room.

As much as we enjoyed listening to Mark Gonzales speak, I appreciated his curiosity about what the rest of us had to say. May and Sara, I’m SO thrilled to hear that your screenplay is being turned into a short film and I cannot wait to watch it!

Thank you, the LMA team, for giving me the opportunity to be a panelist as well as showcase my book. Reading out the first chapter of Finding Jamilah and The Story of Yusuf really brought back my sense of wonder. It’s so easy to get caught up in the drama and back and forth of editing and publication. My book launch was a reminder of the love I have for writing and story-telling.

I’d also like to thank all my friends and family who came to my book launch, as well as those who couldn’t make it. I couldn’t have gotten this far without your love, prayers and support. Here’s to many more book launches!

For all aspiring writers who haven’t yet published – keep writing! I hope that your stories will see the light of day, the way mine have. That being said, writing is a craft and an art that takes years to refine, so enjoy the journey. Do your part, and let things unfold.

On another note, I took away three gems after listening to Mark Gonzales:

1) Vulnerability is strong, and not weak. #fiercevulnerability

2) We can choose to tell the same stories of our hurt and oppression, or we can write better ones of where we want to be. https://www.facebook.com/narrativegrowth

3) When writing/creating art, remember our values, vision and non-negotiables.

I wasn’t able to attend any other events with Mark Gonzales because of my hectic travel schedule, but I’m hoping to be part of a team who’ll host him in KL, Malaysia! We have amazing food there…#wagebeauty #tehtarik

 

My thoughts on “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”

loveMy first publication on The Feminist Wire is What’s Love Got To Do With It?

This is my most vulnerable piece, and it was equal parts painful and purging to write. I’m still stunned and touched by the outpouring of support after the publication of my article! Thank you everyone, for your public and private messages to me, and for all of your FB shares. I’m humbled by and grateful for each gesture of support and solidarity, from friends near and far.

It’s hard being so vulnerable in the public sphere, and admittedly, I’m still feeling quite raw, but some stories need to be told. I’m hoping that what I shared will resonate with others like me, and provide some measure of comfort and support. The wounds we carry from our childhoods turn into scars which we bear as adults, and the right people will love us BECAUSE of them.

Please keep my loved ones in your prayers, especially my parents.

 

On writing opinion pieces

I’ve always been a lover of fiction. Since I was a little girl, I’ve had my nose in some kind of book. I always imagined myself as a writer of fiction, especially after focusing my English major on creative writing. That’s how Finding Jamilah came about – I had the tools and motivation to craft a fictional story from the bits and bobs of my own life experience.

Over the past few months, however, I’ve started to delve into writing opinion articles for the mainstream audience. What It’s Really Like To Wear Hijab received a lot of FB likes, which is always exciting. HSC: The Not-So-Final Frontier was just published today, and I’m feeling all kinds of happy by the positive responses. I was also very pleased with my piece From Lakemba To Lane Cove. Opinion articles require a different style of writing entirely, and I’m enjoying the break from writing fiction. There’s a whole new level of vulnerability and honesty that comes with writing opinion articles. There’s also the ongoing challenge of refining my writerly voice. I can’t hide behind a character in an opinion piece. It’s all me.

Because I’m still new to the world of opinion articles, great editors have made all the difference for me – Sarah Oakes from Daily Life and Josephine Mandarano from Lip Mag have been nothing short of supportive.

The world of writing and getting published is always fraught with rejection, and it helps to remember that the key is to keep trying and refining your work, and not to take an article rejection personally. Because really, it isn’t. What you’ve written probably isn’t suited to the publication, in which case, look for another one. Look at J.K. Rowling! It took a lot of courage for her to keep sending her manuscript after multiple rejections (12 publishing houses turned her down!), but it finally paid off, and well, the rest is history. This article describes why rejection is good for you. Think of it as an exercise of pushing yourself, and then growing as a result. If you don’t try, then you’ll never know.

Keep writing! Your opinion is an important one, and the only way to get it out there is to keep at it.