My First Short Story Contest – Southeast Asian Urban Writing

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I finally did it.

I finally submitted two short stories for a book contest(?) organised by Fixi Novo, an independent Malaysian publisher of urban contemporary Malaysian pulp fiction. They’ve been doing really well here (surprising, seeing that Malaysians have one of the weakest reading habits in the region – which is changing, hopefully), with Buku Fixi (the main, Malay-language publisher) and Fixi Novo books flying off the shelves at local bookstores. It’s a very good platform for local writers to showcase their talents, and judging by the quality of the entries from previously published books, we have a whole goddamn lot of good writers out there. It makes me really proud! 🙂

This time around, Fixi Novo is spreading its wings to include our Asean neighbours, with three anthologies entitled Heat, Trash and Flesh. Writers are free to use their own interpretations, but the setting must be in South East Asia. The books will be launched at a London book fest next April.

After my last (failed) attempt at submitting a story for the previous theme (Hungry in Ipoh), I forced myself to submit at least one this time around. It’s my first time submitting any sort of writing to a publisher.  It was hard pushing myself to do it, because I was stuck in this apathetic circle of helplessness ie thinking that my work wasn’t going to be good enough and there was no point in submitting anything anyway. I was worried what happened the last time would happen again – that I’d simply start writing, and then leave the drafts lost forever in the recesses of my Google Docs.

So when I managed to write not one, but two (!) stories, I felt proud and accomplished. *pats self on back*. I started the project as a personal goal, and I fulfilled it. 🙂

What are the stories about? 

For Heat:

The Middle Home – The past has a way of catching up with us, no matter how hard we try to outrun it. After being abandoned at a home for old folks, Chan realises that his demons are knocking on the door, waiting to take him to his own version of hell.

*I started writing this story at the end of June/early July, which were really hot months in Malaysia. I was also reading the news about the heatwave which killed many people in the Middle East earlier this year. And since I love horror novels, I thought I’d write what I’d like best – a horror story.

For Trash:

Dumpster Divers – Tun is an illegal worker from Myanmar, working at a wet market in Kuala Lumpur. When his friend ropes him into the business of ‘dumpster diving’ – picking out produce from the trash to be sold – Tun jumps on the bandwagon to earn more money for his family back home.

*I got the inspiration for this story when I was still working at the newspaper, and they reported on foreign nationals picking through garbage at wet markets to be sold or eaten. With that in mind, I thought of doing a ‘social commentary’. Malaysians (at least those I see commenting on the internet and some people I know) are quite xenophobic when it comes to foreigners – because they see them as the root of crime, social ills and joblessness. I wanted to tackle this in my story – of how many people view them as literal ‘trash’.

I wrote this within a week. Even though friends told me they preferred my first story, this is a story I’m personally proud of, because I wrote it for myself and not so much for anyone else.

 

Well, fingers crossed that the judges and editors will like my stories. But even if they don’t, I’m just glad I pushed myself out of the comfort zone and did something I put my mind to. I’m hoping to join more of these contests in the future. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piala Seri Endon 2016: Malaysia’s Premiere Batik Contest

What is Batik? If you’ve traveled around South East Asia, chances are you have seen it in souvenir or clothing shops.

Batik refers to a technique of wax-resist dyeing cloth to make beautiful, often intricate patterns and figures. Although several cultures around the world are known for it, few are as popular as Indonesia (Javanese batik, in particular, is famed for its beauty and craftsmanship).

Meanwhile in neighbouring Malaysia, batik has been recorded in history as early as the 17th century. It has evolved into its own, distinct art form, making waves in the international fashion/fabric industry.

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The Piala Seri Endon is a nationwide Batik contest for aspiring batik designers and blooming talents. It was initiated by the late Tun Endon Mahmood, wife of a former Malaysian prime minister. This marks the 13th year since its inception, but the entries keep coming.

At the press conference to launch PSE, I got to see last year’s winning entries from three different categories: Clothing, soft furnishing (curtains, pillow cases, sofa covers, etc) and handicrafts (toys, book covers, wallets, etc). Here are some examples of the work!

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Batik predominantly features patterns and flowers, but it can be applied to anything (animal images like zebras, for instance) as long as the wax-dye technique is used.

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Winner of last year’s Soft Furnishing category. Now that would be something I’d like in my living room!

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Fashion category winners.

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Sequins on flowy batik material. This is so commercially viable, I can see Datins ordering it for their functions and stuff.

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I went gaga over the Handicraft winners. I mean, who wouldn’t want a kewl notebook like the one at the bottom to tote around and show off to your friends?

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Think you have what it takes to be Malaysia’s  top Batik designer? If you’re Malaysian and over 18 years old, you too can try out for the title and prize money (a cool RM30,000!). Download the form at penyayang.org.my!