home is a cup of tea

hometea01

I’ve been looking at longreads.com’s best of 2017 selection, and this one is from the 25 most popular exclusives: a beautifully written and illustrated personal essay about tea and the search for home by sketch artist and writer Candace Rose Rardon. Longreads gives us useful information about the article and this one is 2,882 words and they estimate will take 10mins to read.

Take longer. Savour every chapter. Appreciate every drawing. Recall the taste of each tea that she describes.

This is how it starts:

hometea02

And already I’m sucked into the mood the writer created. And then:

hometea03

Which triggers so hard. Because as I look around me, is it the home I envisioned? The answer is no. A ‘no’ laced with so much despair. Regret. Disappointment. Anger. Never did I forsee the circumstances I find myself in. Never was I prepared for my current living conditions. Both sis and mm (I met them today for drinks) said I need to do something about not being shut inside my room that is so full of stuff because I had to cram two rooms’ worth of stuff into one that I can’t breathe.

Back to the story, which tells of the writer’s journey through her life and always, there is tea. Her early life is associated with the English Breakfast that of her mother, and then she moved around the world to new adventures. And there’s always tea. Tea in the UK, tea culture in New Zealand that is even stronger, chai in India, a young friend in Canada bonding over tea, herbal teas, camomile. And finding her home in the form of her now husband, because home can be a person. A place. A passage of time.

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I used to say home is where my furniture is; now I’m more likely to say home is where my electronics are. But really, it doesn’t matter. I’ve lost my sense of home, because everything seems to be fading. People, places, memories, experiences, are all behind a mist that is harder and harder to retrieve. Oh, I know where some of them are stored–32,000 images on flickr, 4,800 posts here on the website–I’ve meticulously organised them so searching is easy. But if I’ve forgotten there is something to search, then it’ll never be remembered, right?

Anyway, don’t wallow with me. Make a cup of tea and spend 10, 15, 20 minutes reading Ms Rardon’s article instead.

reading list

goblinemperor

For the reading queue, a bunch of standalone science fiction and fantasy novels offered by mefi readers. Focus on fantasy with some scifi.

  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison — quasi-steampunk fantasy setting with elves and goblins, and is a story about an unwanted youngest child who unexpectedly becomes emperor and has to deal with court politics all while trying to figure out who killed his father and brothers
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik — basically a fairy tale, but with some real depth and great characters, including a strong female lead. Nebula winner
  • Ammonite by Nicola Griffith — about a planet of women. It’s great and fascinating and neither a utopia nor a dystopia. More scifi than fantasy but I’ve always had the author at the back of my mind to try
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson — queer and full of colour and texture and lots of genre-mixing. The writing style is sensuous and moving and very original
  • Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells — a strong, powerful black woman protagonist with a white male sidekick/bodyguard. Epic fantasy, but the worldbuilding is a far cry from the usual Eurocentric middle ages stuff
  • Lock In by John Scalzi — no more introduction needed
  • The Book of Kells by R A MacAvoy — a tale of warriors, love, danger, and Irish history

At this rate I’ll have enough books to read for a long, long while and I can stay in the fantasy genre and not return to our lesfic community. My plan after finishing the deverry books is to either tackle all the David Eddings (I stopped somewhere around the Elenium and the Tamuli), or just take a single book like False Hearts, or the list above. Like I said, scads and scads of books to read.

amber book signing

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I went to Amber Benson’s signing of her book Death’s Daughter today. The event started at 4.30pm, but I got there after work at around 6pm. I could have brought a whole collection of her stuff for her to sign — Chance and LLL dvds, Chance poster (hmm, that one is already signed), my 2 limited edition Ghost of Albion hardcovers (hang on, those are signed too), or any of her comics. Or Buffy stuff. She’s got such a varied body of work. While I was queuing someone at the store asked me was there a signing. I said yes, and he asked who? He didn’t know Amber (travesty!) but I heard him tell his friend “it’s an author.” Little does he know she is more.

I guess there was a reading, which I missed. The queue for the book signing was long, snaking all the way to the back of the store. I wish I’d brought some water cos it was a hot day and I felt dehydrated. It took the better part of an hour. but it was all rewarded when i finally reached the front, because she was warm and friendly. She greeted every single person like a friend, and was genuinely happy to speak with each of us. I didn’t really have anything to ask or say to her, just asked her to sign my book, and another copy for Car.

I took a picture of her and the books. There’s also one with me, but I’m doing the hiding being invisible thing again so that pic isn’t available in public.

book reading

I went to an authors’ reading at women & children first bookstore. The authors, some of whom I’ve interacted with online, are all from one publisher. Car picked me up from PT and we had dinner at a nearby pub/restaurant. I had skirt steak with greek salad, it’s been a long time since I had skirt steak and it looked like a long kebab strip! Washed it all down with 2 glasses of blue moon. We debated whether the american 12oz glass was more than the british pint. Eyeballing it, I think the pint is more.

Anyway, we got to the store before the 7.30pm start and found some seats at the back. Gradually people, and the readers, filtered in. The event was great. Nice and relaxed. These are normal people, no airs, happy that their fans come to support them. Took a bunch of pictures too, I was only one of two photogs throughout the evening. Am extremely glad I took the EOS.

chiss117group

From left: Rachel Splanger, Jennifer Harris, Nell Stark, Trinity Tam, Cathy Rowlands, Anne Laughlin. Full set of 88 pics at flickr.

6-word novels

For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Ernest Hemingway called this 6-word story his best work. In those concise few words, he told a story, but not the whole story. I think the idea is to introduce enough elements in order for the readers to interpret the story. Why were the shoes never worn? Miscarriage? Duplicate baby gifts? Why are they being sold? Where did this ad appear? The brevity and complexity are outstanding.

It’s a popular writing challenge topic. Blackbook magazine ran one in 2004, from 25 influential writers.

“Forgive me!” “What for?” “Never mind.” — John Updike

He remembered something that never happened. — AM Homes

All her life: half a house. — Jamie O’Neill

Wired magazine ran one for 6-word sci-fi stories.

Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so. — Joss Whedon

The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly. — Orson Scott Card

Corpse parts missing. Doctor buys yacht. — Margaret Atwood

Commas, see, add, like, nada, okay? — Gregory Maguire

Smith magazine took it one step further by asking for contributions to 6 word memoirs from the public. A book came out of that exercise.

Recently on a writing forum I visit, there was a 6-word novel challenge which attracted a lot of entries. This week I found out that one of my entries came in the top 3. Wow. The prize is a signed copy of a book by the author who posted the challenge. Except I already have that book, so she was very kind and promised me a signed copy of her next book.

It was fun to do, and I’m going to amend my 101 in 1001 list, replacing a duplicate entry with the task of writing 101 6-word novels. I’m going to post these on the 6wordnovel twitter account I created for this purpose.

day 7: all our charts are belong to us

We started in 2005 with 7 writers and 2 betas. We’ve had a total of 14 individuals writing for the group at one point or the other. Our current membership is 12 writers and 2 betas, although one of our original betas is now a writer and we have a new beta member. I’ve been keeping track of the group’s achievements in terms of ongoing and completed stories in a spreadsheet. Of course where there is data I will chart it. So here’s the rkt achievement chart.

rktchart

The difficulty with comparing long and short stories is that one short story is not equal to one long story. So I’ve used a weighting system, estimating that one short story is ‘worth’ 10% of a long story. This makes the total more reasonable.

Another problem is that it may look like some people have low completion ratios, but what the data doesn’t tell us is how long someone has been writing. The long term writers have a larger portfolio of work whereas the writers just starting out will not. It’s amazing to project that once Car finishes CB and K finishes OF their completion ratio goes to 100%.

nice day

I had writing group chat this morning, but it was quick, not many people attended.

Met mm for a late lunch at the steak place. Something about having steak at 3pm amuses me, but I was hungry.

After lunch we walked around the market, it was very crowded. It was basically to kill time till we could go to the church that mm got baptised in last week. I took her round the back way. Did I mention that I grew up in that area, my school is opposite the church so I know the area quite well?

Long time since I was at saturday anticipatory mass, it wasn’t as crowded as the main sunday mass but the turnout was impressive. For me, it was just another ordinary mass, but mm was clearly affected by it. When she came back from having taken the holy communion she was filled with emotions. I wish I could empathetise but it’s different for me.

She had meetings, the ones for newly baptised people. Originally I was going to hang around that area to wait for her, but she said I should go back to her place and wait. I took the bus and got off to change to another one. Then it occurred to me to pop by the computer centre near the bus stop to get a card reader and a USB hub. Ended up getting tons of software, which meant waiting for more than half an hour for the delivery.

Still had a little time to rest before mm called. We met at the restaurant nearby to her apartment and had a late dinner. We haven’t spent time together like this for a while, it was nice.

bret easton ellis

A recent interview with Bret Eatson Ellis. It’s a long article which I have to read carefully another time, when I’m less tired.

I must have read Less than Zero a million times. Well, not a million. May be 30. More often when I was young and when it first came out. It had a quiet sense of rebellion / impending doom / coolness to it. It was the first and only book I wrote a student newsletter review on (I have the review on hardcopy, hence not linked here). American Psycho gives me the chills every time I read it. Haven’t read his more recent books as many times. I like his style of writing, it’s subtle and he uses an economy of words.

I really need to get back to reading books.

all good things

eventually come to an end. Especially since I get into them, having yet again discovered them late in the day.

Belle de Jour is hanging up her weblogging boots (or would that be 4-inch stilettos). It’s one of the frankest diaries out there, and one of the more controversial, with more than its fair share of critics. Though there’s been speculation that it’s all fake, I took the writing at face value and enjoyed it all. I’m just sorry I didn’t come across it earlier, only finding it after reading the Guardian article.

A few days ago I read that psimetis is going on hiatus, may be even permanent hiatus, in order to get back to RL. So, no more Brave Eyes, no more veracity-verse, no more Master Will or Master T or Nazi Buff. And to think that between June and now I must have read Brave Eyes more than 6 times, to learn that there was originally a Part 2 but now it’s probably never going to see light of day. Sigh.

Devastated? May be disappointed. Resigned. But these writers did it all for nothing, no more than an intense interest, and probably a big chunk is for themselves. They don’t owe us readers anything. Zippity zip. We just have to be grateful for what they’ve shared and hope that they can return someday.