Sat Oct 25th was a very exciting day for me as that is when my short story “Funny Mountain” came out in print and yes, hard copy. I was looking forward to this day. I had not written for a long time and of course, writing is a subjective thing so I need to thank the editor Hadi M Nor for liking my story. It was all the more special as Fixi is an alternative publisher, indie, left-field, edgy one that pushes boundaries and questions conformity. One that is Malaysian. I feel like I have come home.
Posts by Ivy Ngeow:
Frugality, Imagination and the Vintage life: Roald Dahl’s village, Museum and Story Centre, Great Missenden
Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre is set in the tiny village of Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire where he lived for 36 years. He was also buried in the village. I took a train from Marylebone with the family on a bright October day in 2015. We enjoyed a surreal vision of a horse on the ceiling:
It was so poetic and befitting an intro to our outing, since we were going to the village of one of the most treasured children’s authors of all time.
The village of Great Missenden
After 45 minutes we arrived and walked through the pleasant and pretty village surrounded by hills.
We saw some interesting old buildings and antique shops. Some of these old shops were actually in his stories, such as the Red Pump Garage on Great Missenden High Street, which appeared in Danny, The Champion of the World (1975), the Post Office Great Missenden… and… Sukhothai Thai fine dining restaurant? Just kidding.
was very inspiring for readers and writers.
There was so much information on how to generate plots and create characters.
More importantly, I actually visualised Roald Dahl in his shed working away.
Although he was a successful bestseller author and probably minted, he was so frugal and humble. His shed has no decoration or anything pretty to look at. He wanted no distractions. He made all these makeshift fittings himself out of scraps and what he had. His old armchair was threadbare, he made a suitcase filled with logs for his footrest, he rolled up corrugated cardboard for his wrist rest. Nothing was designery, trendy, handmade or even shop bought. When you see his carefully and meticulously reconstructed shed, you will realise that nothing matters but the writing itself.
The most luxurious place is in the mind, I think Mark Twain once said.
Pen and ink – essential, and essential
I write anywhere using my gold fountain Sheaffer pen using royal blue ink. I am not being pretentious. I just can’t write without this pen. And yes, maybe I’m superstitious. The ink is very smooth and I need smooth-flowing ink to be able to think carefully. I hate scratchy blotchy dried-up ball point pens with thin needles for the nib. If I find one of these, I will throw it away straightaway (even if it is not mine).
My father gave me this gold pen when I went to Uni and it has been my constant companion. Since 911 I was gutted I cannot take it onboard a flight in case the ink is actually explosive fluid or in case I stab somebody. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword.
I like to write by hand in bed on hardback notebooks.
My love of writing comes from the love of stationery. I can never resist looking in Paperchase, Waterstones or IKEA at notebooks. I never use pieces of paper or A4 pads because they will get lost or be accidentally used to wrap rubbish or fish bones or something. For days, weeks or months I will think of an idea before I actually write it down. It feels very final and exciting when I put pen to paper because I know the idea has been building and it’s formed. I write down my dreams as a lot of my stories are dream sequences. I never type anything until I am ready.
My advice to you is: Declutter your mind. Always read more than you write. Do both with a passion. Don’t worry what people think. And suffer. Writing is hard work.
In the Roald Dahl museum and Story Centre, these writers share their routine:
Marjorie Blackman says: “I write in my attic. My major characters have to become real people to me. I write down things like what their best friends think of them, what the character thinks of himself or herself and whether or not it’s true, favourite foods, favourite place and why, etc.
My advice to you is: Read lots and lots of different kinds of books, even the books you suspect you might not be too keen on. Don’t copy anyone else’s style – find your own. And don’t give up!”
Mark Haddon says: “I write mostly at my cluttered and messy desk in my very cluttered and messy office/studio. When I have an idea, I write it down, print it out, take it away, scribble all over it, return to the computer and repeat. Later, I give what I’ve written to other people to read, then I go back and edit it. Often many times. My advice is: Read lots. Write lots. And throw lots of it away. In the end our writing only really works if we put ourselves to one side and help readers find out about themselves.”
Michael Morpurgo says: “I write on my bed, in an exercise book, by hand. I spend weeks, months, dreaming a story up, weaving the plot, living the characters, then simply tell it down onto the page. My advice to you is: Live first, live an interesting life. Go places, meet people, listen, look, feel the world around you. Record, write a little each day. And read.”
Roald Dahl says: “My work routine is very simple. And it’s always been the same, for the last forty-five years. I go out to my writing hut at ten o’clock in the morning, and I stop at twelve. In the afternoon, I return for another two hour session from four to six. I have a comfortable chair, I’ve got a writing desk. It’s got on it dark green billiard cloth which is very soft on the eyes. I put a roll of corrugated paper under it so that it’s exactly at the right angle. I have an old leather trunk, filled with blocks of wood, to put my feet on. Once you’re in here, you can lose yourself in your work. It is my little nest, my womb. My advice to you is: Whether it is with a group of characters or an idea for the plot, begin to write. Everything develops under the pencil as you begin to write. It really does. And as Hemingway told me: When you are going good, stop writing. Terrific, because then you can pick up again!”
What’s your routine?
This is my first post this year. After a long time not writing, I was very encouraged by my recent short story “Funny Mountain” being accepted in an anthology called “Hungry in Ipoh” published by Fixi Novo in October 2015.
During the non-writing lacuna of about five years, many things happened. That is, many things in the social media world. While this was going on, I also gave birth to my second child and I became a mum to two young children. In other words, I was frazzled. I barely slept let alone write. Double espresso in the morning. White wine at night. That was my life. (Actually that is still my life now, except that in between those two beverages lies a day of work, music, teaching, meetings, design, cooking, childcare, makeup etc etc)
What’s happening now:
Writing has changed, and publishing has changed. I am now able to reflect on what and how I have been writing and what I would like to next write. And in fact I would like to write on my own blog for a change from fiction. It has always been hard for me to write non-fiction. My essays when I was in Uni let down my grade. I don’t see the point of the real world, if that makes sense. Essays count as the real world. Research, word count, expositions, facts, figures, conclusions etc. This is all very mundane to me. I mean, I don’t even read newspapers. I hardly write emails or letters, unless they are for work and I keep them brief. I squeeze out a paragraph of either and it is rather unpleasant.
But imagination, creation of worlds, characters, beasts, fear, shame, joy, revenge, emotions, ideas. Fiction is a part of my childhood that I am still hanging onto. Without fiction, I will age and my imagination will die. That’s good, right? You need angst for the arts. Actually make that a double.