UnRepresented KL: The Cooler Lumpur 2014

A few weeks ago, Ben’s at Publika opened up their arms for the first UnRepresented KL reading event in conjunction with The Cooler Lumpur 2014!

Yes, that is me! Photo courtesy of my friend, Afi.

With this reading, my entire UnRepresented KL writing programme experience came to a graceful end (you can read more about my experience in the programme here). It took me a while to write this, simply because there were so many thoughts and emotions linked to this piece of memory. For months, we grew from a small band of strangers to genuinely good friends. Our ideas and conversations evolved from just a talking point to a written piece that stretched up to thousands of words. However, even as a group, writing for UnRepresented KL was very much a solitary experience. I blogged many times about the insecurities and difficulties that I had to face just to come out with a solid piece of writing.

However, reading out a piece of your own writing is completely different than simply writing or presenting it on a website. You are the medium of the story. You tell them the story, you insinuate the mood, you are entirely responsible to catch their attention with your words and actions. For a lot of the participants, this was their first time reading a piece of written work. It wasn’t for me but I’ve never read anything longer than a couple of minutes, let alone a story that develops with each paragraph. I’m just thankful my piece didn’t have any characters! Most of the participants had to act out their characters and I’m glad I’m saved from that. Acting chops, I do not have them. Days earlier, Adriana and Veronica helpfully brought in Shefa, of BFM fame, to teach us how to present. Other than that, we had to face the mic and the audience alone.

The reading itself was an incredible experience for me. True to self, I came in sauntering minutes before the event started. The room was already noisy with activity, it was a full house! The venue was beautifully charming; almost felt like it was a venue for a small wedding. Lightbulbs hanging down from industrial ceilings, white chairs with white walls. And from the front where I was sitting, I could see all my friends scattered all over the room. It was such an awesome feeling to share this moment with all these people that I care about. I kept looking back to all these familiar faces and waving to them. Then, I’d look at the other participants of UnRepresented KL and make faces. It felt like combining two different worlds together because, for a long time, the UnRepresented KL felt like my own secret bubble from everyone else. And I felt proud to show it off at last.

My final piece is called “Finding Home in KL” and it’s a non-fiction article about my journey in understanding “the other side” of Kuala Lumpur through the UnRepresented KL writing programme. In it, I highlighted the many different underprivileged people who go unnoticed and ignored despite living in the same urban space as the rest. A pretty fitting tribute, when I think about it now, seeing the recent debacle about a minister trying to shut down soup kitchens in KL.  In all honesty, the meat of the piece is largely derived from my blog posts about KL. Somewhere along the the lines, after tons of drafts, I realised I’ve been writing the final piece all along. I ditched my original ideas and created a piece that was more personal. Something that I would be proud of to read in front an audience. And I did the right thing.

Everyone had to read about 5 minutes worth of their piece. Mine had 5 pages so I basically siphoned out the best bits, the ones that really packed a punch, and built a 5-minute presentation out of that. Shefa taught me that reading out your work is not at all like personally reading a piece of article, just out loud. No, you have to be a storyteller. A lot of pauses. A lot of emphasis. Intonation to give the right mood. You have to hook them into your story due to the absence of reading. It was hard but standing in front of the audience felt natural.

I mean, it’s been three months, leading up to this moment. Cocking it up at the final point of the journey would be silly. All I did was enjoy the last moments while I was still a part of UnRepresented KL.

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R-L: Shari, the first to present! Andrea, reading out her satire piece on GST. Claire, regaling on life without a father. Vimal and Adriana enacting a dramatic scene together.

The best compliment I had on that day was a girl told me she cried while I was presenting my piece. That reaction is beyond what I expected… and I didn’t even have to kill a character for it! Emma, if you’re reading this, thanks for making my day!

I would like to say thank you for many people who came and watched us present. We were amateur writers and you guys gave us your time and presence. We were so encouraged by the response! I was floored by the reactions.

For the now-former participants of UnRepresented KL, although it was the end, we all knew we parted ways as friends and soon will be reunited again. I am so incredibly proud of us and what we finally achieved! Thank you so much to Adriana and Veronica for including me into this journey. Thank you for the folks behind The Cooler Lumpur Festival 2014 for allowing a space for us. All the best to the rest for their future endeavours.

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The founders of the UnRepresented KL programme! Veronica, Ling and Adriana.

And for all that has been following my journey under the UnRepresented KL programme, thank you for reading in. I hope you enjoyed these posts as much as I enjoyed writing about them.


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