Archive for March, 2011

Advice for writing in English, when English is not your first language.

Quote for the day:  “A book itself threatens to kill its author repeatedly during its composition,” Michael Chabon.

Song for the day: Hot n Cold, Katy Perry.

I decided to write this post after I’ve had to google a word for the umpteenth time.  I am not completely inadequate when it comes to English; let’s just say I don’t dream in English.

It helps that I am, and always have been, a voracious reader. (Excuse me for a moment while I make sure that ‘voracious’ is the correct word here … okay, I’m back.) I read books at the rate that Donald Trump fires people, or Imelda Marcos bought shoes.

We’ve also had English as a subject at school and my tertiary education was conducted mostly in English. But let’s face it, a three-page marketing proposal written under duress, doesn’t really prepare you for having to write a 75 000 word novel in flowing prose.

And don’t be mistaken, your prose damn well better be flowing, or your dreams will be flowing out of the window.

If the mere thought of submitting your query to agents causes your stomach to drop ten stories storeys, the internet can be a great help, but can also become the great time-sucker-upper if you don’t watch it very carefully. (See how cleverly I made up a new word there? This is a great ‘save’ if you can’t think of the English word.)

The most important thing is to read, read, read.                             

Learn while you are reading, even when you are lying on the beach on some remote island with the latest bodice-ripper in your hands. Learn when you are sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, standing in a queue at the Traffic Department or waiting at the airport. Then, go and apply what you have learnt in a way that is entertaining and flowing. Not too much to ask, is it?

And finally, never forget that the above tip gives you the perfect come-back when The Husband complains yet again that you didn’t hear a word that he was saying and that he is going to ban you from buying more books:

“But Honey, I am studying!”

So please excuses I now as I goes back to works on my fiction novel.    😉 

On the beach.


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I am from Africa.

Quote and song for the day
The Sound Of Silence
(Paul Simon, 1964)

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.


A while ago, I attended a writing workshop presented by Susan Conley. She was still living in Beijing with her family, and finishing her book: The Foremost Good Fortune. Her book has been selected by the Oprah Magazine Book Club for their February reading room.

I am of course very happy for her, as well as being jealous as hell! It is a strange dichotomy of emotion; on the one hand cheering a writer on and on the other, gnashing your teeth and vowing to spend more time working on that WiP.

So, jealousy is actually a good thing … right?

Well, during that workshop, we had two minutes to write about where we came from. This is what I wrote:

I am from …

I am from Africa.  I am from snow-capped mountains and empty grassy plains, impenetrable jungles and barren deserts.  I am from the dusty markets where hollow-eyed children beg with outstretched hands, pleading not to go hungry for another day.  I am from the City of Gold, where my designer ball gowns go unnoticed in an ocean of sameness.  I am the Zambezi River, wild, savage, screaming with fury and destroying everything in my path.  I am Lake Tanganyika, calm, placid and member of the PTA.  I am the 2 faces of Africa.


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Photography at Houhai Lake, Beijing

Quote for the day:  “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx

Song for the day: Complicated – Bon Jovi

On Sunday, a group of us went on a photography walk-about with the talented Lukas Birk. The idea was to pick a theme and spend 6 hours walking around Houhai Lake, photographing whatever fits your theme. We would practise aperture and shutter speed settings (yes, I still don’t know what I’m doing).

Houhai Lake is situated in central Beijing and is surrounded by little restaurants, bars and old hutongs. There are a lot of renovations going on in the area and I understand the need for it as many of the buildings are literally falling apart. However, even though the same color tiles and building styles are used, the shiny newness of completed structures just didn’t compete with the weathered age of their neighbours.

(Why am I suddenly thinking about plastic surgery?)

I was very determined to stick to my theme of  ‘colors and textures’, but was quickly distracted by the many great opportunities for photos, especially portraits. Not only that, but I could also see a little story behind each and every photo. I would walk around, making up stories and trying to remember it, so I could write it down when I got home.

No, I am not mad (she says while the bunny is boiling …).

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