Published! New Short Stories in “Remang” and “The Tudung Anthology”

I am back and bearing gifts! This August, there will not be one but TWO separate short story anthologies with my name on them! My short story “Restless” is published in Terrerbooks’ Remang: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales whereas another short story, “Shame”, is published in Matahari Books’ The Tudung Anthology.

 

 

It just occurred to me that both of these short stories are wildly different from each other. “Restless” is a horror/fantasy story that revolves around repetitive dreams, guilt and a national tragedy. “Shame” is a literary fiction about two young women handling our society’s heavy expectations against Malay Muslim women with wearing and not wearing the hijab. On the other hand, both stories handle much darker and heavier themes than my first published short story, “Beloved”, which is a fluffy coming-of-age romance! So, honestly, I have no idea how people are going to respond to either of my new short stories. But I think these two stories do show what I’m currently interested in writing, which are horror, fantasy and literary fiction.

To say that I’m excited is an understatement. Sure, every chance in getting published is a great moment for any new writer. However, last year, not only was I not published in anything else, following my debut short story in 2015, I was hardly writing, too. In fact, I was almost convinced that I will never see my name in print again, thinking that “Beloved” was just a lucky break. Having one published short story does not guarantee that you will have another one. In fact, the pressure is even higher for me to follow up that success and to show I have what it takes.

I had to clamber over a lot of insecurities and simply fall in love with writing fiction again without any expectations for public recognition. That took a while, I have to admit, but everything takes time. You have to trust the process. Also, I had to learn the art of facing rejections and rewrites. I mean, “Shame” was initially written for and subsequently rejected by Fixi Novo’s Flesh anthology. Looking back, I’m glad that happened because The Tudung Anthology is the perfect home for this short story! With “Restless”, this short story almost didn’t see the light of day at all, mainly because of the indie publisher’s newly minted status. After a few hurdles here and there, the book is finally published almost two years later. Heck, I heard that Remang is already in stores today! Both short stories went through more rewrites than I could count.

Now, I just want to celebrate! So, I hope you could join me and my fellow other writers for the book launch of these anthologies in the next coming weeks! Below are some details that you can check out:

Launch of The Tudung Anthology

19 August 2017

2 – 3pm

Publika, Kuala Lumpur

The launch for The Tudung Anthology coincides with the KL Alternative Bookfest 2017 and Arts for Grabs weekend so there are other book-related events there as well! I will be a part of a panel of 10 other writers from the anthology for book signing and discussion.

Launch of Remang: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales

26 August 2017

3pm

Silverfish Books, Bangsar

Although this is not necessarily a book launch, mainly because Remang has already been distributed to all major stores including Kinokuniya and MPH, this is the first event with all the writers involved! I’m in good company with the likes of Tunku Halim, Heidi Shamsuddin, Terence Toh, Rumaizah Abu Bakar and many other familiar names in the local short story publishing scene. You can also read my two cents about writing horror and interviews of other writers on Remang‘s main website.

I hope to see you there!

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Once More with Feeling

Of all the resurrected blogs in all the towns in all the world, you’re reading mine again in 2017. Let’s have another go, once more with feeling!

Yes, I am back to using this WordPress blog again. How many sites have I erected and ditched so far? Too many to count and I can already feel the eye roll my friends are doing right now. Look, the Internet is a huge place, so there really is no limit where I decide to sow my creative seeds. However, rest assured, I am definitely aiming to stay at this website address for a much longer period. Forever, in fact, because I decided a free website is a much better deal than a fancy paid web domain.

About three years ago, I made a big splash by getting my own personal domain called atikahwrites.com. In the “goodbye” post written in this blog back then, I mentioned that the reason I wanted my own personal domain is because I couldn’t stand the limitations of a free WordPress site. I wanted to change the fonts, the colours and the entire layout to suit my style. Also, I won’t lie, having your own personal domain looks pretty nifty and at the time, I was just starting my freelance writing career. I thought a polished website would be appealing to clients. I was young, eager and ready.

Sufficed to say, having my own personal domain was the worst idea. I now have a stack of business cards with a defunct website address.

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Entering The Wormhole

Pause!

Before you scroll down any further, a friendly reminder that any post below and earlier than this post was written back in 2014, three whopping years where I last left this website before moving onto another site temporarily.

Even though I am currently back on this address, I decided to still keep those posts up. There are some posts where I have a nostalgic attachment to while some others just show how far back the journey of this site had begun.

So, there are a few posts that may seem outdated or no longer represent my views and my current style of writing. However, if you are still curious, just read on right ahead. Just realise that you are entering a wormhole back to 2014!

An Ode to Interstellar

Simply said, Christopher Nolan had taken us all hostage. There is no other description for creating such an incredible 3-hour film and then shooting us all point-blank with his genius at the end of it. Our brains are all over the wall.

I remember walking out of the cinema quietly, not entirely sure what we just witnessed. The usual mindless post-movie chatter was silenced because what on Earth could we discuss about after watching Interstellar? Spoilers ahead because if I don’t include them in, nothing in this post will make any sense.

I enjoyed Interstellar so much that I get personally offended when someone else doesn’t. Yes, I am one of those people. In the beginning, I didn’t have high expectations, even with the Nolan label. He did put his name on Man of Steel and that was basically trash in CGI. It was so painful to watch, I wished a falling skyscraper would crush me instead.

However, one thing made me chance on possibly watching another version of Man of Steel: Matthew McConaughey. Earlier, when my friend and I saw the trailer to Interstellar for the first time, we both gasped, “RUSTY”. No way I could ever skip another Rusty performance. The True Detective folks won’t give us the goods, so now we’re just chasing Matthew wherever he goes. So to the cinema, I went.

I’m an environmentalist and I say this with the least bit of confidence. I care about the environment, I keep up-to-date on natural disasters, I donate to causes but at the same time, I own a car, I don’t recycle and I love tech as much as it guilts me. In other words, I’m like everybody else who’s familiar with climate change but not sure how to stop it. The Earth depicted in Interstellar is my worst nightmare realised. Set in the near-future of ours, or at least what could happen to us, Earth was in its dying throes and threatening to bury everyone along in its grave. Instead of scientists to amend the situation, they had farmers. Just pure survival mode. And they kept that mode alive by saying that is how they must live as they try to redeem themselves from their reckless and hedonistic past that caused the environmental crisis (read: our current generation). Taken out of context, I can see that happening already. Maybe it’s cynicism or deeply-rooted fears over a future that’s rapidly changing beyond our control, people simply fear thinking out of the box. We want to survive, not to live.

This is what I love most about Interstellar. I mentioned on Twitter that naysayers try to rationalise the science, nitpick on scenes or try to pin down plotlines. Screw that. What I like about it is that it makes me think of more. The possibility of space, sure, but also the many nuances of humankind. That we haven’t just seen it all. That we’re not just farmers waiting for the next crop.

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Making the Words Count

Update: Hello, this is Atikah from the future. This post touches on my writing aspirations and it mentions that I was a part of the writing team of a football fansite. Of course, this was back in 2014 and I’ve since left the team in 2015. Still, this post is a nice reminder of who I was back in that year. The fansite is still running and you can check them out at the link below!

Every time I publish a post, I keep telling myself, I will post more.

And then, I go on a mini hiatus, only to resurface with short posts. I remember last year, I told myself that I will write essays. Well-written, fully-researched essays. And I have tons of ideas. I have a notebook that holds some of the ideas that I want to do. My previous phone had some quick scribbles of things that I wanted to flesh out (I have since replaced that phone).  Back in October, I even read “The King in Yellow” by Robert W Chambers, specifically for Halloween. Halloween went by and I’m still midway reading the book.

So, what happened?

A lot of things. A lot of things that involve writing, just not on this space.

For starters, I haven’t really mentioned it here but I became a copywriter about 5 months ago. I never thought I would be in advertising; it just didn’t occur to me at all to dabble in this line. Like every stereotypical English major, publishing and academia had always been my goal. I had even gotten an offer to work in a newspaper agency as a sub-editor. As I was waiting for the machine within the company to do the paperwork and let me in, I got an offer from my current one. So, here’s a lesson for companies: reduce the red tape. You don’t know who will slip out from the waiting line.

Copywriting in advertising involves a lot of bite-size write-ups. Sometimes I would simmer for half an hour to think up a catchy liner that only has 30 characters. Other times, a handful of paragraphs, but gone are the days where I would plonk on my chair and churn out pages of words. I particularly hate the ones where I have to sell two products that have absolutely nothing to do with each other in the same damn ad. And I have to try my hardest to make it sound natural or quirky, like this food is as delicious as the deal you’re getting when you buy this bottle of perfume at 50% off!

Eh, passable.

My favourite ones are the radio ads. I like to be caught offguard listening to an ad I just made up being played on radio stations. The first time I heard a radio ad I wrote live, I couldn’t stop laughing because it was so weird! It’s a weird feeling to know that thousands were listening to something you typed down after lunch a few days ago. In my first job, I was a sub-editor where I edit other people’s work and was never credited for it, unless it’s a book. So, it’s strange for me to see my own work front and centre. No credits still but I’m working on that.

It’s not all interesting work though. There are times where I just proofread terms and conditions, reword certain sections of the FAQ page or get into arguments about rewriting an ad. After spending a day squeezing my brains out for juicy lines and dealing with vulture-like requests to churn churn churn those words out, all I want to do is go home and watch a lot of Youtube videos. And so, I do just that. My sincere apologies.

There are also other things: I realise that my ultimate goal is to write well and better. Not just fiction work that I’ve been doing with UnRepresented KL, but also non-fiction, commercial, and even corporate. I never realised there’s a market for corporate writing before. But the dumbest thing has to be that I never realised a lot of the media that we consume has its foundation on words. I’m not talking about just articles – advertisements, songs, videos, even tweets are made out of words. Ideas, even how great, would collapse if it wasn’t for the hand of words narrowing and expanding their possibilities. All around us are made of words. I feel that if I could master this, turning the creation of words as a tool, I could create anything.

So I’ve been dabbling in some freelance work and writing hobbies. At the moment, none of my freelance work could make me go “Look at me, Ma!” yet but I’m just leaving the door open. As for writing hobbies, I’ve been waiting to announce this: I’m currently an assistant editor at Bayern Central, a website focused on Bundesliga and FC Bayern Munich.

Look at me, Ma, I’m a football blogger!

Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, I mostly write simple write-ups of current events and the meat of my participation under Bayern Central is editing. We work with a lot of writers and these writers have a lot to talk about. So, that’s where I come in and mould their words here and there. It’s been a long walk from my post about the World Cup to this. I’m glad that I’m being siphoned into this group of awesome and passionate football fans!

I feel somewhat shy to write about football tactics, to be honest. I feel like I don’t have the necessary skills or know-how yet to digest a match as well as these folks do. It is not at all like this:

Yes, but which part of the pitch was he kicking the ball to, Moss? Who is “that man” who now has the ball? What kind of technique? What was the tactical choice used here? And et cetera.

Some of the football bloggers I’ve befriended are some of the smartest people I know. And they could spit out a stat faster than you can Google. People don’t teach you how to write about football, this is something you pick up and hone by yourself. You have to instinctively know what’s happening in the middle of play and how it affects the match, the team, the entire tournament they’ve been playing, and the big scheme of things. That’s incredibly difficult. I’m rather proud of it and although it’s a bit out of place with the sort of content I write on this blog, I hope you will give it a try!

So, yes, I’ve been the busy bee. So busy, in fact, that sometimes I work during my free time and weekends. Just your typical ENFP, hording experiences as much as she can. One thing that I’m glad is that I never announced my participation in NaNoWriMo on this blog. Simply because it fell flat on the second day. I was proud of myself for squeezing out 500-ish words. Then, I went to a local FB page of NaNoWriMo and found out everyone gives birth to thousands and thousands of words a day.

Now, it’s day 16 of NaNoWriMo. How much have I raked up so far? Still the same 500 words on my first.

Across The Universe

    There’s something about Fiona’s calming voice that keeps me coming back to this song. I remember there was a time when I kept playing it on repeat, staring off to the distance while hanging onto the repeated mantra: nothing’s going to change my world. I wanted somebody to reassure me, even if it […]

How Many Birds Are There in a Human Body?

What makes a great storyteller? An amazing story, the way you tell it? Or is it the ability to make anyone listen, give you their attention willingly, needlessly?

If you’ve been following this blog long enough, you’ll know that I love watching vloggers. Vloggers are like bloggers but with videos instead of long paragraphs. I’ve always thought that vloggers had it easy. It’s so much easier to rake in an audience with eye-catching 3-minute visuals than an endless string of words. My fault for choosing this medium, I suppose.

But then there’s Myles. I always commend the great efforts that young vloggers put into their work and Myles is a great example of that.

To me, Myles has somewhat elevated the usual vlogging template. At first, it is a seemingly simple video, something a typical teenage vlogger would create. Then it evolves into something else altogether and by then, you’re too fascinated to stop. His video is like a room opening up to more rooms; he’s the tour guide leading you through each door.

The way he narrates his thoughts and sew them all together into this one video is nothing short of genius. He makes it seem effortless, the way he segways between scenes, moods and revelations. Even the pauses he makes are made to look natural or accidental, instead of carefully structured moments to evoke that feeling in you. I love the way he layered different elements into this video too, that every shot represents something to the overall video. The way he juggles lighthearted moments with the deeper and more serious ones is incredibly impressive.

What can I say? Watch the video.

I keep thinking about decisions. Like every time you make a decision, you’ll never know what you lost out on each time … Every decision you make moves towards what would be your life.