Coffee and Conversation with Israel’s Literary Darling

Yes, it sounded intriguing. And Zeruya Shalev books have been translated into 25 languages. Added to that, a view to die for….. Overlooking the cultured greenery of Orchard Road and just behind a potential UNESCO heritage site, the Botanic Gardens. No, no one says No to this invitation.
I like intimate conversation with authors. I must admit I got hooked on this after my trip to the Iceland Writer’s Retreat. Though I stayed only four days, the intense sharing of authors such as Andrew Evans, Geraldine Brooks and Joseph Boyden provided me insights which helped me rethink my novel.

Zeruya underlined the motivations for writing. I an going to note this down here so I shan’t forget. So I can turn to it when sometimes I feel I am getting nowhere with my words. Three pieces of advice I will always remember:

Literature should make changes in people’s lives.

Set emotional borders. Not geographical borders.

Writing is not only about writing. It is also about listening to your characters.

So, yes, sometimes when I struggle, when all seems tough, it’s good to remember those words…..

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Oh yes! My very first book review

Every so often, I key in my name into Google Search to see what comes up. Every so often I am surprised by the number of “Catherine Khoo”(s) that come up. Then lo and behold, I came across on Page 9 a review. Of my book! Every author wants the lowdown on her book and I am no different. And this came from a male reviewer. I liked what Mr Ivan Chew said about my book so here it is, the unadulterated version, word for word of what he wrote. 🙂 Thank you, Ivan, for your candid comments. And yes, if you are reading this, I am very keen to work with other women on their stories …. if they would give me a chance to ….

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book review: Love! Live Dangerously! And Have Fun!: a mother’s lessons on love, hope, loss and the gifts of life

This one came in the mail for me to review. The book, targeted at young female readers, was easy to read. The tone and style was very personable.

Book review: Love! Live Dangerously! And Have Fun!: a mother's lessons on love, hope, loss and the gifts of life
Cover from: catherinekhoo.wordpress.com. All Rights Reserved.

My take-away from the book:

Crap will happen to anyone and everyone, at some point. No one is immune. The difference is how we choose to carry on.

Taking risks doesn’t always mean we will come up tops. But it also doesn’t mean we will always fail.

Exercise compassion. Life is not just about ‘me’.

Not entirely the way the author described, but I think not too far from it.

The author shared selective episodes from her life, explaining how she realised that one should love and take risks in life.

Right off the start, I sensed this was a woman who did not conform to conventional thinking, even as a teenager. Her mother had forbidden her to go on dates, and that the young Catherine should only focus on her studies. But she dated the boy anyway, even initiating the courtship rather than wait for him to act. The consequence was that her studies were affected, and so did the boy’s.

Before you wonder what sort of message the author is imposing on young impressionable minds, the truth is that many of our friends (perhaps you and I) went through the same, in different degrees. There may be more ‘teen rebels’ among us than we care to acknowledge.

The key difference, I thought, was that a person like Catherine Khoo consistently applied her optimistic outlook towards life.

She wrote in another of her blog:

… I’ve lived this maxim since I was a teenager … and strange enough, it applies so much more as I grow older. Sure, sometimes I jump in without thinking of the consequences, and I fail, but how many times have I brushed off the blood and dust and moved on? Think of it this way, at least I figured out another way not to do it! Truth be told, though…I love this journey

Can we truly have a happy life just by living our dreams?

Cynics may say that there are those who have tried to do just that, and they end up being decrepit and miserable.

Perhaps in anticipation of that, the author peppers her anecdotes about seeing life optimistically.

Part of her credibility arose from her managing and growing her own business. I think it takes a feisty no-nonsense approach to do that, in addition to being a mother, a wife, and a daughter-in-law. If that’s not enough, try starting a writing scheme for teens.

I did not think the author suggests that one should one up-end our lives and gallivant halfway around the world. You get a sense that risk-taking has to be tempered with an underlying sense of responsibility first.

Still, I would not have done some of the things she did, no matter what you tell me. For example, her episode with the illegal taxi ride in a foreign country, where she almost became a victim of a robbery. If I learnt my wife/ mother/ sister did just that (accept rides from strangers), I would be very, very angry. It seemed reckless.

For the most part, I empathised with her stories. Like how she walked out on her husband one time, feeling that she was being unfairly put down by her spouse. As a husband myself, it made me reflect on my words and deeds towards my wife.

One thing I felt the book fell short was that flow of the chapters can appear to be disjointed at times — though this could be said to be the online-diary writing style. Also, I was left with the impression that there could have been a lot more interesting stuff to be told, but weren’t.

I would have wanted to read more was her trials and tribulations in starting and sustaining the Young Authors Club, for one. What went through her mind when she was asked to set up the club? Did she see a business opportunity first, or the social cause?

So, here are a few things that I would be interested in reading, perhaps in her next book:

  • Stories, as told by other woman, whom she met along the way.
  • Interesting stories of the children and teens whom she have met, through the club she set up.
  • The challenges in running a business, never mind being a businesswoman.
  • What was it really like when she “shattered the traditional Japanese male enclave when she became the only woman editor-in-chief of two Japan-based magazines published in Singapore, a position she held for seven years” (see this).

Overall, this would make a good book discussion for teens. Or among teens and parents (I guess the teens would have to be forced to attend such a session, lol).

In a practical and pragmatic society like Singapore, some parents will not agree with the premise behind her book’s title. The call to “love and live dangerously” was something that goes against conventional thinking when I was growing up, and in a way it’s still very much the covert values most of us go by.

This was Catherine Khoo’s fourth book. It is currently available at major bookstores here, like MPH, Kinokuniya, and Times Bookshop.

Her books are also available at the NLB libraries.

Catherine also blogs at www.catherinekhoo.sg/the-meaning-of-education.

Finally, after 10 years …. Light at the end of the tunnel

I've come this far, jumped this high .... Please, please show me the light!

I’ve come this far, jumped this high …. Please, please show me the light!

Finally, after 10 years …. Light at the end of the tunnel

There’s a timeline in my vision  ….. 2013 is the year my The Unique Classroom will go places. Don’t know how, don’t know where, but I know it will travel. I took baby steps in 2004 in but yes, it was more to get out of a helpless situation, more to find myself again. Didn’t help that my partner was the retired Director-General of Education …. Think he and I expected everyone to come knocking on our door, but no, connections don’t work when you are no longer in your position. I ventured again in 2007 to Hanoi, at the behest of again, a retired senior government officer, whose wife was in education, and who, again, knew next to nothing about running a business ….. Scary part was, he thought what he needed to do was to invest and everyone else did the running for him. Of course, the “everyone else” was me! But truth be told, all these failures taught me a lesson ….. Never have a partner who is from the civil service, because they know next to nothing about running a business 🙂

So now, 10 years later …. I feel it in my bones that I can do it! As I discuss with Robin and Winston, I know finally my licensing is going to happen. I want to get a licensee by May 28, 2013. Where would he/she come from? Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia? I’m priming for any of these countries. I know I can find one. Come on, you can do it, Ms Catherine Khoo!

And yes, now to find an investor, a partner, a licensee ….. someone who also cherishes the same dream as I. To build the next generation of thinkers and writers. Who believes in my vision: One Child. One Story. One Dream Fulfilled. Okay, Lord, you have led me so far ….. I believe you will give me an answer. I believe I have reached the end of the tunnel …. Maybe a few more steps, so please, please, show me the light.

My latest book …. a tell-it-all! :-)

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Love! Live Dangerously! And Have Fun! My latest book! A tell-it-all book …. Hey, in a goody, goody, cheeky way 🙂 took three years in the making …. But six months to get it all written.

Yes, it’s going to be published under Experiences & Experiments, my publishing company. It’s amazing how it all fits together. I founded E&E in 2005 to publish my young authors’ works …. Stories that would never see light of day because no one believed in them. And to-date we have close to 500 stories under the Young Author Club imprint.

Now, exactly eight years later, something big is gonna happen. I will launch a series of books under a new imprint. Books about women, for women. I hesitate to say “by women” because hey, men can write books about women! But it has to be books that will help women to understand themselves, that’s my only criteria.

So what do I call my new imprint? I’m toying with “www” Witty Wicked Women, “MAD” Mothers And Daughters. Hey, isn’t this what life is about? You experiment, you experience …. Don’t know what comes first, but I am crazily, insanely, deeply in love with what I am doing!