ABC News reports mourning across Australia of one of their great storytellers, Peter Temple. Temple died at 71. Temple was known for his unique narrative voice, that carried strength and precision, particularly when Australian dialogues.
The South African born author won the Miles Franklin book award in 2010 for his crime fiction novel – Truth which was about police corruption, murder and politics. Together Temple and TV Producer Ian Collie produced a series for ABC television called Jack Irish, starring Guy Pearce.
“The uniqueness of Peter’s writing was this incredible beauty and taut sparseness of his prose,” crime fiction author Michael Robotham said.
Oswald died. It was four hours after Oswald’s sibling died. My son pronounced him dead about 6:30pm, but with disbelief I had to turn the duckling several times to make sure he was not just asleep. I had nursed him on my chest and we slept for two hours earlier. He seemed fine, eating a little and drinking water. He stood up and walked. But, he could not settle into the nest where the other duckling had died hours earlier. I change the bedding and kept his little fluffy body with me.
He had been named Oswald by Nathan (my older son). Nathan decided that the five-day-old duckling who lost 11 siblings and parents the night before should be called Oswald. The name carried strength and depicted something or someone showing tenacity for life. I agreed immediately to Oswald.
“The duckling is very brave and strong”, Nathan said.
Oswald was one of our duck Penelope’s first babies. She had 12. We decided to leave the ducks alone when she introduced the babies to our family last week. ‘Let them grow up wild’ was what we all agreed on because Penelope was house-bred. She taught them to eat, swim and play each day last week. The pond was busy.
Earlier Sunday, and not used to quietness from the water, I went out to investigate. I found the once happy flock dispersed in a mud of desecrated fine feathers, duck poop and small white floating dead bodies. My heart was in my mouth as I walked about, trying to find them all. Penelope and her Stalker husband had gone. One mutilated corpse was on the child’s table we left for the ducklings to dry out from the pool. It became clear that something bad happened on Saturday night. At that time, five ducklings went missing and since the parents had fled from whatever it was, the remaining ducklings died from the cold. While searching I heard some soft cries and found Oswald and his brother pinned into the side of the pool, both shivering in the water they used to swim in. I called Nathan for help and we took the ducklings to the house and made a soft box and tried to feed them. Only Oswald ate. Then the two snuggled up and slept. The smaller of the two ducks was very weak. In less than two hours it died.
After the other duckling died, Oswald jumped out of the box and refused to sleep. We took turns nursing him until I fell asleep with the duckling on the couch. It was dark when I fed him again and placed him in a warm bed. He fell asleep straight away. At 6:30pm, Chris checked the box and told me the duckling died. Given the way the duckling had shown courage and bravery, it was not easy to accept that Oswald’s life would have ended the same way as his eleven siblings.
Writing this post about Brain Pickings gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own writing and this blog. Apart from this post, I have two more to go before I reach 500 posts on Tribalmystic blog. Over a year ago I set out to write 1000 stories. I have told close to half of that in stories and pictures. In the beginning, I questioned my own crazy motive to do such thing. It was a goal I thought was unachievable as soon as I wrote that damn post. Then, the more I wrote, I realised that I could actually reach this goal. Some of what I write is just simply information-sharing. Not too much thought has been put into those writings and I’m grateful for the sources of the information. Others, I spent a little time on it between chores, work, family and my other interests. That is because I believe in those posts and I feel they are important in enriching my life and if they enrich others’ lives too, that’s even better. As for short stories, I enjoy it so much, it is like a game. If I had to write a fiction short story – the game is on. I guess it is a kind of icing on my cake – short, sharp and sweet in my writing world. Mondays Finish the Story by Barbara Beacham took that edge off me, but with her gone, I have to re-direct this passion into the next part of this blog.
I also enjoy visiting, reading and learning from your blogs. Learning about you, your culture, your life, pain, happiness and what we all call life experiences. Sometimes I go back through followers list to re-visit and see the transitions and transformations, just like opening a book in the library shelf and stepping into a new moment, completely leaving the present behind. Life is but a journey of transformations. I enjoy you sharing your transformations with me.
I could name many, but one of the blogs, I visit, Brain Pickings is for my pleasure of reading, my admiration for its writings and the digest’s archives are a wealth of knowledge. I started this post by trying to think of the best way to show Maria Popova’s piece on The Agony of the Artist, to Susan Sontag’s comments about writing and many more. The post went from Popova’s writings to my 500 posts …and in the end, I thought, the best way was to connect you to Brain Pickings itself other than to only discuss a few posts.
Brain Pickings is one of my favourite online digests because I keep finding things I want to read which takes me into another article and that makes me want to find out about something else again and again. It is like a travelling foodie who never stops discovering a divine dish on a foodie tour. I guess it comes down to what each of us like and this content appeals to me. Blogger and creator of Brain Pickings, Maria Popova was interviewed about how she came up with her blog and why she chooses the subjects she does. This is probably something I would like to do in the future which is to interview some of my blogger friends. It is not an original idea, but it is wonderful to find out about people you talk to and share information regularly with. And Chris the Story-Reading Ape – I owe you.
I believe the real challenge in writing is knowing your reader. But, how do we get to know the reader? That is what I hope to know one day. I think Popova has covered this – knowing what is right for her readers and maintaining that interest with her content.
There are so many articles Popova has written that I wanted to share on Tribalmystic blog several times, but you can visit and read them yourself. This is a link to what she calls, seven important lessons Popova has learnt in seven years about reading, writing and living.
Here is briefly what Popova said about her writing and her blog:
“Brain Pickings is my one-woman labor of love — a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why. Mostly, it’s a record of my own becoming as a person — intellectually, creatively, spiritually — and an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life.”
You can listen to her interview on her About Page.
Founded in 2006 as a weekly email that went out to seven friends and eventually brought online, the site was included in the Library of Congress permanent web archive in 2012.
This is my contribution to Mondays Finish the Story. This flash fiction challenge requires up to 150 words excluding the first sentence provided by Barbara Beacham. Barbara also provides the image. This image inspired several stories, but I decided to go with this one. I hope you enjoy the story.
“The Cold Lazarus” – JK.Leahy short story
“Few knew about the castle hidden inside the island.” Jezebel climbed carefully over the fragile, sunburnt coral.
As her tender arches gripped for support, she reached out to push the hanging vines apart. Crushed coral dust and tiny pale branches fell off her feet and into the deep blue ocean a few metres below her. A boat approached. Beyond the gentle hum of the breeze, there was a splash in the creek at the opening. Jezebel hesitated before high strident, piercing screeches shocked her as a swarm of black scrawny bats flew at her, ruffling her wispy golden hair. She gasped for air. Suddenly, it dawned on her. The note on her window that led her here; was that really a note from James, her sweetheart? Or was it from Lazarus, James’ evil twin? Ice flooded her veins as she saw his towering, hefty silhouette come into view at the castle entrance. Where was James?
My friend Paco D. Taylor enjoys researching and writing articles. I have not met many people who are so fascinated and interested in a culture outside of their own. Paco is from Chicago, U.S.A, but he is intrigued by Melanesia. After a year of exchanging stories, history, art, music, etc, I can understand why Paco feels strongly about the Melanesian people and culture. His study of the black people in Asia has produced some very interesting connections to Melanesians.
In my culture, as you make friends with someone and whether they are from your tribe, a relative or a friend, they become your “wantok”. Some time ago, my wantok Paco published his article, Black East which discusses the ancestry of the black people in the East. I have read and found this story very interesting and Paco has kindly let me share the article on this blog. I hope you enjoy it. If you have any questions, I’m sure Paco would be very happy to answer them.
By Paco D. Taylor
As a kid growing up on the far South Side of Chicago, whenever I would envision the physical features of Asian peoples—since those I saw most were in martial arts movies and Ultraman reruns on television—a fairly narrow set of characteristics always came to mind. Perhaps not surprisingly, brown skin and curly black hair were never among them. But one fateful day my father told me of an eye-opening experience he’d had as a young man serving in the United States Marines. While stationed in the Philippines between 1961 and 1963, “Pops” learned of Asians whose physical features were significantly different from what most Americans have been conditioned to expect.
There in the Philippines, Pops saw native Filipinos who, albeit small in stature, looked a lot like him, with dark brown skin, curly black hair and—stranger still—African facial features. To say the very least, the sight of such people living in the heart of Southeast Asia was completely unexpected.
It was also unsettling.
Perhaps equally as unsettling, my father learned that these puzzling pint-sized people were referred to locally by a Spanish term, one that translates literally into English as the “little blacks.”
Facts of Life
As the Earth’s largest and most populous land-mass, Asia is home to 60 percent of the planet’s human population. Included in this sum are the continent’s lesser-known groups called the Negritos—indigenous Asians who look a lot more like the relatives of Gary Coleman than Jackie Chan.
Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Paco?
The term Negrito was first applied by Spanish explorers in the 16th century, after encounters with such people during early forays into the region. And though wholly unscientific, the term is still used today to refer to distinct ethnic groups living in parts of Southeast Asia and the Asian Pacific island of Papua New Guinea.
According to James J.Y. Liu, author of the book The Art of Chinese Poetry, the term kunlun is the equivalent of Negrito in the Chinese language, and there are several mentions of kunlun people in the early literature of China. The most well-known of these can be found in the classic adventure romance entitled The Kunlun Slave.
In the language of their Malay-speaking neighbors, Negritos are known as the orang asli, meaning, “first people” or “original people.” This term would come into general use in the 1930s, in response to efforts by the Malaysian government to officially recognize them as the region’s earliest human inhabitants.
Prior to the adoption of a more respectful designation, such people were commonly called by the pejorative term semang (“debt slave”), a word bonded to times when, like other blacks, Negritos too were abducted from their homelands and sold into slavery, but in Asia.
The defining physical features of Negrito people include dark brown to black skin, curly black hair and diminutive stature. The average height among men is 5 feet, 5 inches, and the average height among women is 4 feet, 8 inches.
And though they are seemingly orphaned from humanity’s family tree, Maury Povich won’t be needed to pop for a DNA test to figure out “Who is the father?” According to geneticists, these peculiar Peoples are actually the modern descendants of the first migrant populations to venture into Asia more than 50,000 years ago.
That there is a strong resemblance between Negritos and African groups like the Pygmies of Uganda and Congo is obvious What is impossible to see, however, is that on DL (DNA level), these people share closer genetic bonds to other Asians than they do to now-distant cousins back in the Motherland.
Fossil finds from across the continent suggest that these nomadic hunter-gatherers once lived across Asia from India to southernmost Japan. The southern islands of the Pacific Ocean (Oceania) were also once part of their domain, as well as the southern continent of Australia and the island of Tasmania.
Their stomping grounds today, however, are but mere traces of what they once were.
Challenged by the continuous spread of larger, more organized and more technologically advanced human groups, their once wide-open range has been limited only to isolated parts of the Philippines, Southern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Andaman Islands (off the coast of Burma), and Papua New Guinea.
What’s more, populations that were documented as recently as the late 19th century to have numbered in the tens of thousands now number only in the thousands. But the numbers for some groups have become even smaller.
Today, the tribal population of the Onge people in the Andaman Islands numbers less than one hundred. It is conceivable that in the proverbial blink of an eye, this ancient tribe of humankind will simply cease to exist.
Please visit Paco Taylor’s blog link below to read the rest of the article and view images.
Inspired by Millie Thom and others who take part in this exercise, I decided to try the flash fiction challenge. The challenge asks for a story in 100 -150 words from a picture and a first line prompted by host, Barbara W. Beachman.
“When the team heard the dam explode, the team knew they had limited time to make it to safety.
They were collecting specimens along the riverbank when local villagers warned; environment activists were blowing up the dam. The five ran and jumped into their yellow Kathmandu raft and anxiously strapped on life jackets. Gushing water headed downhill towards them. The raft was spat by the force of dam water metres into the air and slammed down into racing current.
“Noooooo!” screamed Wendy; she had been thrown off the raft.
Wendy! Wendy! The remaining scientists yelled against loud sounds of the rushing water. Nothing. The four held on tightly as the tiny, floating yellow raft bounced roughly down the wide powerful current. Kilometres later, the water poured into Mellow River.
Soon, darkness came and the current delivered them ashore a deserted bank. They lost everything and still, no sign of Wendy. (150 words)
I found this short documentary made by Planet Doc and presented in Spanish. I tried to watch it and work out what the narrator is saying (without the sub-titles). Don’t worry, for you, there are English sub-titles. There is a sequel to this film which I can post later. I believe a cultural heritage of a person can influence what they value is important and how they present that value in a story. There were certain practices of intangible cultures from Papua New Guinea island tribes presented in this film. It stretched from the Trobriand Islands to the islands of New Britain. I don’t understand what the language (Spanish) the narrator is speaking, but watching the pictures, and knowing the culture, I can see what he is trying to show. Perhaps some Spanish speakers here can figure it out what the narrator is trying to say about the shell money he is showing , from both island traditions.
This is the magic of story-telling. Simply, what you can show your readers. As good writers, we need every possible word that can draw a picture well in our reader’s mind.
That was the question of our discussion in creative writing workshop tonight. My friend Bill Heather is an architect. He is also a writer in my creative writing workshop group. The group is tutored by Isabel D’Avila Winter, a published author. Pamela Jeffs, another writer-friend suggested that I should blog this discussion and my own response, to help writers who are planning to write autobiographies and memoirs or fiction based on real life stories. I begin with Bill’s email to me and others in our group.
Bill Heather: Hello all you aspiring and proven writers,
Is there a limit to what you can mine from your own life experiences for a story?
Are authors of autobiographical fiction or memoir at risk of alienating their family and friends in their search for that elusive storyline?
Is ruthlessness in search of your best fiction a necessary attribute of a writer?
Would you publish a story if it could destroy the marriage of your closest friend?
There are good questions to ponder as we head towards the end of another year, and ones which are addressed in the attached article from the November 2014 issue of the Monthly. Link at the end of my response to Bill.
My Response to Bill: Dear Bill and friends,
Thank you Bill. I found the article very interesting and very true. The most safe writing would be fiction.
The pen does ‘cut’ deeper than the sword.
In my Memoir writing, I question everything I write. I know there will be a lot of ‘hurt’ of others as well as my own. I have created pain in many stories I read in our evening workshop. For example, if I had told my mother the old uncle rubbed my sore leg the ‘wrong way’ I think there would have been some serious charges or bloodshed in my family. The man is dead now but if I spoke about it now – what could happen? I don’t know. I also spoke to my mother and step brother about some stories I have written so far, and we discussed them. These stories were all painful…my stepbrother is my late step father’s son. But my step brother is my best friend – we are very close.
So my point is, as often as I do, I ask, should I just change my memoir to fiction and pretend it is not me or get my ‘freedom to express’ in fiction? Perhaps some stories could be written differently, safely..? Those and others are questions I ask myself all the time. 75% of what I have written, I don’t bring it to our workshop, I am scared to. Sometimes, I write the whole thing and then delete it.
Every now and then, I write fiction for the class exercises, because, this gives me the freedom to write freely without guilt, pain, horror and more. I totally lose myself in the ‘fake’ when I write fiction.
I deal with my writing the truth ‘problem’ this way; I write about me, the events, people and places and things that affect me. I write it all, then I decide what I can manage to live with, and I keep that story. I tell myself, ‘stop thinking about everyone else’. I just write ‘my’ story. I can always pull out what I think is too much at the end of the day. The final choice is mine, and I have to live with it.