We're starting our Home Groan teasers with our city itself, George Town.
Here's a quick sketch-in-progress from X.Z., based on Wilson Khor W.H.'s poem, Walking Along the Streets.
Read on below for a short teaser from Anis Rozalina Ramli's story, The Pickpocket.
The PickPocket (excerpt); Anis Rozalina Ramli
Macalister Road on a Sunday morning was the perfect spot. Big crowd, plenty of distractions, lots of tourists.
The scent of musty old books reached my nostrils and its familiarity made me smile. Many of the old Indian Muslim vendors here were my friends. When I was small, they welcomed me into their shops and allowed me to choose a title from their towering stacks of second-hand books. I’d sit quietly in a corner to read page after page, escaping to worlds of fantasy, romance, and dreams, where life always seemed to be much better.
But today, I wasn’t here for the books. Today, I was here to work. It was almost the end of the month, and Tok Pah had her grocery list ready. It wasn’t a long list since it’s just the two of us living in Lorong Maqbul for many years now—and for many years more, I was sure. At the very top, in big bold letters, she’d written tembakau. I grinned to myself thinking of her weakness for it.
She never could part with her tobacco, or her snuffbox containing the many ingredients and implements needed to satisfy her betel chewing habit. It was almost therapeutic for her, this preparation of a quid of betel. As the dust and chaos of the day settled into the approaching quiet of the night, she would sit cross-legged on the floor, drag her snuffbox closer, and begin the important ceremony.
From her betel box, a wooden container with elaborate carvings, she would pick a betel leaf, smear a smidge of lime paste on it, then scatter strands of aromatic tobacco, a tiny piece of clove, and slivers of betel nut. Folded into a small leaf parcel, in they would go into the long, cylindrical brass mortar, to be crushed before she balled them up and lodged them on the inside of her cheek for hours. As the hours wore on, her lips would be rouged and swollen as though she’d been kissed roughly and loved it.
“Who have you been kissing ah, Tok Pah? Is it Tok Ali?” I enjoyed teasing her about her other love interest, our neighbour three doors down, the widower. And she’d blush all pink and grin widely, baring her red-stained teeth.
Sometimes I wondered what life would be like if there was a man in our lives. How that would change the routine of our twosome existence. Tok Pah had lost her only child—my father—twenty years ago, and her husband five years later. My long-missing mother was something of a taboo topic in our household and was never openly discussed. For many years, it had been just my grandmother and me keeping each other company. Lately, the house felt far too quiet for just the two of us.
But no, I couldn’t bear to let Tok Pah suffer withdrawal symptoms. Her snuffbox needed to be fully replenished every month, or I’d have to suffer living with a sulky old woman for weeks. That, and the fact that she was my only living relative and there was no one else left to fuss over.
I shoved my hands deep into the pockets of my jacket and wriggled my fingers. They were itching to wrap themselves around some foreign bills today.
Like what you read? Want to read the whole story? Click on the button below to get a copy of the anthology!
MYWriters Penang is proud to announce our line up for the year!
Anis Rozalina Ramli
Ash to Ashes
Mama & Me
Tan Jie Ying
The Colour of Glass
Wan Phing Lim
The Goddess and the Sea
Spice of Life
Elaine Lee Yew Mei
Musings from the land of Penang one better lah
Kang Chung Yee
MY Writers Penang’s 5th anniversary anthology
Plaintive groans aplenty on the home-front
Of Sweat and Dirt for Ice Kacang - Ruminations About Growing Up and Setting Down Roots in Penang
Home Groan article submission 2020
The Mysterious Attraction of Penang
Chee Siew Hoong
My Grandfather's Garden
An Ode to a Former Prince
Ah Wang Cafe
Wilson Khor Woo Han
Walking along the Streets
Yee Heng Yeh
Scene at Sungai Burung Estuary
saturday morning bak kut teh
Writing workshops? In this pandemic?
A good question. But why not? We've been planning these workshops since the end of 2019... and our funding just came through, so we decided to go ahead and hold them.
How will we know it's safe?
We're keeping the classes small and keeping our distance! In line with MKN's social distancing guidelines, we picked out a larger, more airy workshop space (instead of the lovely cosy one we originally wanted) and capped our participants at 14 persons.
We're also keeping an eye out on the numbers and current situation, so we'll provide regular updates and figure out alternative solutions if the status in Penang continues to worsen. (Fingers crossed--we made it to Green status for more than a hundred days before... we can do it again!)
Currently, you'll have to wear a mask (boo), sit at distanced tables (aww), and keep sanitising your hands (yikes) but other than that, we'll run as usual. Besides, it's a writing workshop. You're supposed to sit down and write and ignore other people where possible anyway.
Wait... ignore people during a workshop? How does that work?
Our teaching/workshop session runs from 10am to noon. This is the "interactive" part of the programme, where our fine Chevening alumni will impart knowledge and get socially-distanced discussions going. We then break for a catered lunch (each in their little sanitised packets) before starting our writing sessions.
...Which means you can ignore everyone in the room and isolate yourself to your table for the afternoon while you write. Or you can schedule a one-on-one with one of the available programme mentors and/or the instructor. We'll end the day with a quick recap before letting you go home.
What if I can't attend all 6 sessions?
WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO US?!
I mean, sure, go ahead, register for individual sessions, but we'll be prioritising our slots for those who can make it for the whole series.
Okay, so I can attend all the workshops but I'm not sure about this retreat thing.
A retreat is just a way for you to set aside time to sit down and write. Because you're taking this writing thing seriously, aren't you? You've already set aside 8 weeks for this, so why not just see it through to the end! What we'll do there is help you set your writing goals for the weekend, hold critique sessions, and generally push you to finish the stories you've been working on.
We'd really like for you to stay with us for the whole weekend, but we also understand that some of you might have worries with this whole pandemic going on. So we've decided to let you decide if you want to be a day participant, so you don't have to risk sharing a room with someone you've only known for two months. Think of it as going to work. You go to the office to get things done, you attend this retreat to get your writing done.
The retreat is only open for full-time participants (i.e. you're attending the whole workshop series), so you won't have the option to apply for it separately if you're only taking one or two sessions.
Do I need to be like super good in writing to attend this course? Why do you need a writing sample?
No. The point of this course is to help beginning writers figure out how this writing and publishing thing works. We just want a writing sample so we can pair you with a programme mentor who understands your styles/themes/genre/etc as well match you with other participants who are at similar stages in their writing. Or it could also help us tailor some of the sessions to address common mistakes we see in the samples.
Why are you doing this?
The workshops? Or the attendance thing?
We really believe that Malaysians, especially Penangites, have stories to tell. This is why MYWriters Penang holds weekly write-ins and monthly critiques and publish the annual NutMag Zine. We want to provide YOU with a platform to share your stories. As much as writing is a solitary gig, no one improves in isolation. What we want is for you to get to know fellow writers at various stages of the journey so that you (we) can spur each other on in our writing endeavours. The best way to do that is by spending time together and sharing our work.
And if you don't end up making friends, maybe you can just settle for being professional rival instead. That kinda works too.
How much do I have to pay?
Nothing. The Chevening Writers Series is fully sponsored by the Chevening Alumni Programme Fund.
Even for the retreat? In a HOTEL?
Well, yeah, they're covering the costs for that... but you'll have to buy your own meals during the retreat. Unless you can survive on cream crackers and milo.
(Um. We may not have enough cream crackers and milo for 14 people for 3 days. So yeah, you'll have to bring some money to buy your own food.)
Okay, okay, I'm sold. How do I find out more or apply?
Click the find out more button below! (Or surf over to our Events page)
What if I have more questions?
Leave us a comment, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to receiving your applications!
We know what it's like to run out of time.
COVID-19 has disrupted many of our plans and schedules, so since we're not going to be able to launch the anthology in October, we decided to extend the deadline by another month for two reasons:
Remember that we accept multiple submissions - so if you have more than one story or poem to send to us, hit that submit button multiple times! (Or upload them all in the same form - the form accepts up to 4 documents.)
One of the most common questions we've been fielding for Home Groan is, "but what exactly are we supposed to write?" followed by "what are you looking for, ah?"
We understand that calls for submissions are sometimes vague. To clarify things for you, we've listed and answered some of the most basic FAQs to help you figure out your submission and the eligibility requirements.
You can also read our previous volumes to see the kinds of pieces that we like.
Must it be set in Penang?
We don't really care if your Penang is current, or 50 years in the past, or even 50 years in the future. It could be an alternate Penang where orang bunian have taken children or Na Tuk Kong really resides along Karpal Singh Drive in the flesh or dragons have eaten all our MPs and now rule instead. It may even be a post-COVID19 Penang where you explore how future generations have adapted to survive with this new normal--or evolved mutant powers.
Or it could just be normal Penang with normal people going about their normal lives.
As long as we can ground it in one of our daerahs, we're happy!
Can I write about my own life and family?
Although our past editions lean more towards fiction and poetry, we've always left space for essays, or what we call "creative non-fiction"--and we'd like more of it! This includes interesting stories about the history of Penang, reflections of what it's like to live in Penang, and just the many ways that you interact with the state and its inhabitants in your everyday life. Tell us about your grandpa's secret second wife or the nyonya traditions your mother passed down to you.
Just make it sound more like an exciting story and not a boring history book.
PS Maybe change the names in your story if it's something that can get you (and us) in trouble.
Can I swear? What about sex Scenes?
Try not to.
We try to keep NutMag as PG13 as possible, so we won't be too impressed by excessive swearing or explicit sex scenes.
MYWriters Penang tries to encourage people of all ages to write--and as our first edition featured a fourteen year old writer, we'd like to keep it so that our younger writers can actually read their own anthology.
PS We do like fluffy romances and we're okay with fading to black!
PPS NutMag 4 might have one swear word. We struggled over that for quite a long time.
Do I really have to groan?
Must it be a story about growing up?
No, not really.
Home Groan is a play on the phrase home grown (which is what NutMag is) and groaning about our home (which is what Penangites like to do). It sets the overall theme of this anthology, but there are many ways you can interpret it creatively. As we said, "Give us your perspectives as natives or newcomers, reveal the hidden gems and the sordid truths, revel in the secret layers that tourists can’t see in a week’s stay." Which is all a really vague way to say that you don't need to write about growing up or about groaning.
As long as we can relate and say "THIS IS SO PENANG!" you're fine.
I left Penang already, can I still submit?
We've always kept NutMag local--meaning those born and bred in Penang, and those who currently call Penang their home.
At the same time, we also know many people who moved to Penang for university or work and spent years here before moving on, and therefore cannot fit either criteria. Since we have much more space in this year's anthology, we're extending the submissions to everyone who has once called Penang home.
You'll just have to tell us your connection to the state and how that makes you an honorary Penangite.
5,000 words so long lah. what if I only write 1,000 words can?
5,000 words is just the maximum. Stories below 1,000 words are a little harder to place, though, unless they're really, really good.
A good target to aim for is between 2,500 to 4,000 words.
My grammar not perfect ok or not?
We love a good story written in Manglish--as long as we can understand it! Feel free to slip in common phrases that every Malaysian knows, pepper it with lahs and mehs. If it feels natural for you to say it that way, it's probably alright to write it that way too.
This doesn't mean that you don't edit or proofread your work at all. We're very forgiving of imperfect grammar because English is usually our second or third language, but it would really help us like (and understand) your work better if you've done the work to make it the best that it can be.
PS For examples, check out “Underneath Her Tudung” by Angeline Woon from Cyberpunk: Malaysia (Fixi Novo, 2015) or “Double blind” by Zen Cho from Love in Penang (Fixi Novo, 2013).
Will I get paid?
As we said in our submissions page, accepted entries will be paid up to RM200 for prose (i.e. fiction & creative non-fiction) and RM100 for poetry.
Ok Ok, so what are you really looking for?
We're looking for stories and poetry based in Penang and about Penang.
Check out our call for entry, submission rules, and other information on our submissions page for more information.
Let us know if you have any other questions!
In keeping with time-tested elements of blogging, it appears that we need to have an initial "Hello, World" post!
What this post really is about is to say that we've done some housekeeping about the website and have put in all the snazzy new banners by Winnie Cheng at a good enough resolution that it looks great and a small enough size that it doesn't take a gazillion years to load. Hopefully. *squints at the tech*
We've also (finally) gotten round to putting stuff into ebook (in this case, epub) format! We did release an ebook version of NutMag Volume 1 in 2016 but that disappeared along with Pronoun when that publishing platform closed. Then we dithered a little bit about where we should upload it and how and nothing got done, and then by the time we got round to doing things, some of the authors weren't replying emails...
So what we've gone ahead and done is uploaded epub versions of NutMag Volume 1 and NutMag Volume 2: Coffee or Tea? containing only the pieces where the authors got back to us. 6 each in this case. You can download these from the respective pages for free.
NutMag Volume 3: Island Living and NutMag Volume 4: Transitions can be purchased via Google Play at RM5 and RM6 respectively. Not including tax, because for some reason, it's taxable? We're still figuring that out, so for now, it shows at RM5.30 and RM6.36 until it sorts itself out.
Anyhow, the latest thing we've done on this website is to create this blog, mostly for ad hoc posts that can't wait until our monthly newsletter comes around. We'll also be linking these posts in the newsletter (where relevant) so either way, you'll see it somehow. Which goes to say, that if you'd like regular reminders in your email about what we do here at MYWriters Penang, you can subscribe to our newsletter by filling up the form on our Contact Page.
Until next time!