Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bad Luck

The past few weeks have been strange. I'd say Murphy's Law was at its best. Everything that could break broke and different sorts of repairmen came and went. Things that needed replacing for over 8 years were done in the past month. I spent most of my time hanging around for them instead of "being creative" as I would have preferred.

Why is it that when one thing breaks and you call in the repairmen, they almost always end up breaking something else. When you think nothing else can go wrong, you slump in the armchair and heave a big sigh. That's the exact moment two cats decide to have a fight and somehow--I still don't know how--bump into the modem and crashes it on the floor. In the crash, one of the pins of the two-pin adaptor breaks off and the only place you can get it replaced fools you into buying the wrong one. You return home and try it, get frustrated and curse a lot. And then suddenly, illumination! You remember that HP laptop that always gave you trouble and take it out of hibernation. Bingo! The adaptor is the perfect fit. You had it right under your nose and spent a whole Saturday morning looking to buy one.

Today I'm going to turn my luck around. I'm going to sit and write 1000 words or more.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Writing Past and Present

How hard can it be to write one's bio?

I've been reading, writing and counting for as long as I can remember. Aren't these the things geeks love doing? I remember Dad teaching me the ABC ad 1 to 10 when I was about a year and a half old. I wonder if I could even walk at the time.

Granddad (on Mum's side) lived in the centre of Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius. That's where I was born in the early hours of a probably very hot day in December 1961. Dad says Granddad--whom we called Papa because Mum called him that--wouldn't agree to Mum being taken to hospital when she felt the first labour pains. He also says that if he hadn't got that midwife when he did, he would have lost both his wife and his daughter--that's me! It appears everything went well, and I was a healthy 10 lbs girl at birth. Now, why am I saying all this?

Anyway, since I was very small Dad started teaching me and I can say with all honesty, that my dad is the best teacher I've ever had. He taught me Arithmetics, English and French and years later he taught me how to drive. He encouraged me to read and whenever I was idle, the punch-line was "If you've got nothing to do, either read a book or go to sleep". Oh, I remember the Granddad connection now. Granddad was the owner of a large-ish piece of commercial property comprising several shop units under and around the house I was born and basically raised in. The largest of these shops was his own and the others were rented. So, I grew up living over Nalanda Bookshop. One of its entrances was on the main street and the other at the back, just in front of the staircase leading to the living area. Apart from the fact that Dad bought me a new book (from the Ladybird series) every afternoon on his way up, I started taking the bookshop as a "longcut" to Granddad's shop on the main street. The owner was a kind hearted man who never complained about this "what I now consider to be bad" habit.

Since those days, books have constituted the major part of my budget. I lived in their world more than my own. I dreamt of a Christmas like those I read about and of the fairies that changed the lives of little children everywhere.

When I started writing, it was in French which came more easily to me at the time. I won a national prize in the 1981 edition of the Concours de Contes pour Enfants, sponsored and run by Pepsi. My story was published in the Sunday paper and in an anthology. Mum was very proud of my achievement.

Life had other plans for me. My love for science took me on another journey and I flew to Dublin to study Pharmacy. After 4 years of undergraduate and 3 years postgraduate studies, returned home with a Ph.D in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. I had left my writing years behind me. In the years I worked as a pharmacist--retail, hospital and industrial--I never bothered about writing. Writing was limited to reports and accounts until that day in October when Poupie and Guizmo gave me my new life.

I came across Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" on one of my frequent trips to Bookcourt. I was looking at books in the "Spirituality" section and it hit me. As I read it, I realized that somewhere along the line since my great moment, I'd been blocked and I COULDN'T write anymore. Julia Cameron's advice gave me my writing back. Writing whatever was in my mind out cleared the fog and I started writing again. Slowly, the URGE of writing returned and I decided to take a Freelance Writing course online with Penn Foster. They were the only ones I could pay by installment. That's where I learnt about the SCBWI. Since I joined them, everything started falling into place. I joined what I consider the world's best critique group. From those ladies, I learnt almost everything I know about writing and I'll be eternally grateful to them.

I paused for a minute, wondering why I wrote all this. Oh yeah... I had to go back in time to look for publishing credit. I have none, except a 360-word Ph. D. thesis and that little story "L'Histoire d'un Enfant" prized in 1981. I hope it doesn't go against me in my marketing endeavors.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Me and Art

I was blessed with the best teachers at the Craft Academy--which unfortunately closed down when Pat got sick. This is a pity because she did a lot for those street kids and today many of them have mastered a craft well enough to be able to earn a living from it. She wanted it to go on, but for some reason, the Board decided otherwise and it closed down in February 2006. 

Having been a geek, I studied Maths and Physics up to Cambridge A level. This constituted a major advantage--considering I couldn't call myself an art-inclined person--making color theory and perspective not so hard to master. I started with acrylic painting in March 2002. At the end of the first day of the weekend course, I realized that during the time I'd been painting, I hadn't once thought of my numerous job-related problems. My mind was fresh and I was looking forward to the next day. What I found great about painting was that there was no "wrong" and "right" about it. You're our own judge. No one can come and say, "this is not right". If they do, you can just reply, "Seems fine to me." and get away with it. Having had to score high marks all through school and university--not always succeeding so easily--this was a totally new world opening to me. 

After Acrylic painting, I followed a watercolor class--March 2003. This is a story in itself. The night before watercolor weekend, I was awakened by a cat wailing and Poupie--bad dog--barking angrily. It wasn't even 5 am. I rushed out and found Cat hanging from a metallic passage, one foot caught in the mesh. Poupie was waiting, ready to attack. Without thinking--I should have pulled on a dressing gown--I ran to save Cat. As I fought to push his foot out of the mesh, he grabbed my right arm and started biting savagely. After a while, the pain was so intense that, without even thinking, I changed arms. Left arm was attacked as savagely as Right. Finally, he managed to get his foot out--I still don't know if I had anything to do with it--and ran away. My two arms were bleeding and the pain was awful. I managed to get another couple of hours' sleep and in the morning woke up and got ready for watercolor class. 

All day, I ran a high temperature. The pain made me dizzy and nauseous but I continued. I know I should have been in bed with antibiotics that day, but I couldn't not do the course. The tutors used to come from South Africa only twice in the year and I couldn't afford to miss the lessons. The second time they came it was the same week I broke Right Wrist. I did an advanced Acrylic course with Right Arm in cast. That was the day I started painting with my left hand. I even took notes--since I was a fully-pledged geek at the time--with my left hand. In a mirror, it could be read perfectly. However, as I proceeded on my way to become a semi-geek, I stopped taking notes, which wasn't so bright because today I realize that I should have taken notes in "Framing" class! 

When Right Wrist came out of the cast and I couldn't use it like before, I was angry and upset. I quit my day job at the end of 2003 and worked on getting my wrist functions back. 

In 2004 and 2005, I followed courses in Mosaic, Pottery and clay Portraiture. Pottery was instrumental at getting my wrist back to normal. In October 2005, I started Tai Chi classes to help with my arthritis. Tai Chi and Qi Gong also helped with the wrist. Today, I can say that, though overdoing things causes pain, I have recovered at least 90% of my wrist function. Where there's a will, there's a way. 

As Tai Chi helped me control my arthritis pain, I returned to one of my first passions--bonsai. I 
started going to plant nurseries and getting the ugliest specimens. Like the ugly duckling, they make the best bonsai. 

Tai Chi--or maybe my coach--also helped with mentally. I decided to go back to another one of my earliest passions--fiction writing. 

Today, I'm very happy. I read, write, paint, draw and spend time with my 12 cats and 3 dogs. When the Craft Academy closed down, I bought one of their turning wheels. I'm planning to go back to pottery. 

And I say thank you to all those who have helped me with my new life. With the support of my family and friends--the real ones, not the ones who are around only when things go well--and especially Pat, I am very happy to be a semi-geek. 

I don't think I'll ever be a non-geek because being geeky is my first nature.