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Hopping to It

Let's storm that, er, castle.

In an attempt to put my life in some kind of order, let me review some of the things I’m doing / rushing lately.

June 15th? Have to finish this Edinburgh Tour article very soon, like NOW. It’s the first time anyone ever (recently) engaged me to write anything. It’s slow going however as I have to be careful with the research and fact checking, but will be so worth it, I think.

June 27th: Need to submit something to the 2011 Story Shop submissions call for the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF). If successful, I would be able to read an extract of my work, like I did in last year’s festival for the slot on Writing into the Future: The Best from Scotland’s Creative Writing Courses (I still blush at that mouthful of a title). Let’s see if I can repeat the feat this year.

For those wondering, the opportunity came up when I got the email telling me I didn’t get the EIBF bookseller position. Someone was kind enough to get back to me and say competition for the places were fierce this year, and there were simply others with much more bookseller experience than me. Oh well, chin up. Rise and rise again.

July 3: Illicit Ink’s next fabulous evening spoken word event: The Midsummer Murder Mystery. I have again surprised myself by agreeing to read a story! It just so happens I’d already written the draft of a crime-themed tale. So all I need to do is polish it for performance, steel my nerves, and go all out.

July 29: For some reason, I got my eye on this – Cleis Press‘ romantic erotica anthology called Beastly Babes. They’re asking for submissions, and already I am pondering how to come up with something suitably Malaysian. I should also really get around to submitting one or two of my short stories to Interzone or Black Static sometime. One lucky success does not a writer make!

There’s also a LONG list of freelance writing work I need to bid for and battle it out with hundreds of other writers. I know it has to be done, and tried. It just gets frustrating because writing the bids are so time consuming, with often very little gain.

Oh and following certain recent events, I seem to be seized by this sudden need to speak to as many Malaysian writers as possible.

The job hunt also continues. I’ve decided not to spend £1,200 on some ludicrously expensive computer diploma course. Now looking elsewhere for certification and cheaper training.

Oh. Yeah. I should probably also get down to finishing my novel too.

Tick, tick, tick.


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To Train or Not to Train

Yesterday I went to the skills training centre to ask about the sort of courses that might increase my chances of getting a job.

I was wrong. It’s not £100. One particular course costs over £1,000! The advisor said she’d throw in a touch-typing course for free, and that she already took £800 from the cost, but sheesh. That’s about all I have in the world. And there’s no guarantee I can find work with that certification.

Lesse, the course – which supposedly gives a diploma – would teach me Microsoft Word Expert, Excel, Power Point, Access and (wince) Outlook. It’s the certification part of it that I want. I could either be £1,200 poorer, or it might help me find work that would tide me over for my writing.

Or I could keep on submitting for freelance work or looking for temp jobs, hoping it all gives fruit before the funds run out.

The uncertainty and lack of financial security can be paralysing. I hate the idea of asking family for money. I mean, really, at my age shouldn’t I be self-sufficient?

I remember the days when I was rolling in the cash, relatively speaking. I’m not a miser (I think) but I like to imagine I’ve always been careful about what I spend. Whenever I wander into bookstores and pick up a volume I’d love to have,  I ask myself: Am I really, really, really going to read this in the next few weeks? Or is this going to be yet another book to add to the Will Read Someday But Never Do pile.

Chances are I put the book back down, telling myself I’ll get it in a library later. And I can’t help it, they tell me not to convert from pounds to ringgit in this country, saying it will stifle my enjoyment of being here, but I keep doing it. I absolutely love being in Edinburgh, but I am still conscious of every pound I spend. One Pound is nearly Five Ringgit our currency.

Five Ringgit can get you a generous meal, with drinks, at a roadside mamak stall. Hot nasi lemak with spicy sambal sauce, the combination of roasted peanuts, cucumber slices and boiled egg singing hosannas with each lovely bite of coconut rice… And now here comes the tray of drinks, with my frothy cup of teh tarik, the condensed milk tossed expertly together with the Ceylon tea to create nirvana.

Or my favourite ice lemon tea from Kota Kinabalu, the lemon freshly squeezed, just perfect, not too sweet, not too watery, sliding down the throat smooooth on a hot, hot day that makes you go Ahhhhhh…

Where was I? Oh, right.

During the session with the skills training advisor, I messaged me mum, asking if she would kill me if I squeezed her for more money for this course.

She texts back: If that’s what you really want to do, then do it. Just take care of us in our old age.

I absolutely love my parents. I’m blessed to have them support and believe in my crazy dream. Sometimes having someone believe in you is all it takes to keep you going. Even if my Dad so quaintly puts it to a friend – “I have no idea what on earth she’s doing.”

I’m going to have a week long think about it. £1,200 in our currency is nearly RM6,000–okay, okay, I must stop converting 😉

But I have to ask myself seriously whether a UK employer would hire a foreigner, no matter how educated, without the experience he or she needs for the job. My Diploma in Business Communications was earned in Malaysia, and my UK Masters might not be relevant enough for the role. I hate thinking about the race angle but I have to be realistic.

Come on, there has to be jobs out there! I just haven’t found it yet.

PS Meanwhile, looks like I won’t be travelling to St Albans for that writing contract after all. The employer rejected my bid before the interview stage. At least I don’t have to fly there.

Must keep applying, must keep writing.

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