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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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.

The Bustle without the pressure

Adelaide’s Central Market @ 8:45: The bustle without the pressure

This is life! Suddenly the pressure of meeting deadlines, of expectations, is gone. It’s like the log that’s pressing on my heart, nailing me down, has been lifted. It’s scary, but that’s how I feel. I think it’s also because I have space to breathe …. Some quiet, where I can think and be myself. It’s like this invisible shroud of anxiety, goal-meeting, and xenophobia that envelopes me just magically disappears. Perhaps it’s also this joy of being with Pauli again … She resembles me most, if I may say so, the forever Pollyanna, level-headed, with dreams that well are larger than life, but isn’t it said that dreams come a size too big that we could fit into it? Pauli, oh Pauli, never lose sight of your dream …. Look at your challenges, then face it squarely and follow your heart. You can never go wrong if you believe in yourself!

I watched Hope Springs yesterday on the plane, and cried my heart out. Always loved Meryl Streep. But it’s not her, but the message in the movie. It’s about two people drifting apart, after 34 years of marriage. It’s about a woman taking things into her own hands because she wants to grow old with the man she loves …. And she summed up enough courage to see a marriage counsellor. She listened to her feelings and did what she had to do to win her husband back. Then I watched English Vinglish and cried even more. This was about a woman who couldn’t speak English and her husband and kids felt embarrassed being with her in social situations. She decided to do something and lo and behold, she learnt more than just English! I think it was the respect she earned that mattered a whole lot to her.

Perhaps … I use the word perhaps all too often 🙂 perhaps, this applies to me too! I think the times when the kids were young were the times we really were planning and discussing as one family. Yes, my in-laws were great, but boy, I listened too much to their opinions that mine got stifled. And why did I stifle my own? Because I heard too many stories about feuding mothers-daughters-in-law that I decided peace in the family was crucial. And when there was a difference in opinion between SF and me, I gave in coz I don’t want my girls to see us arguing.

But everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it? If I didn’t live with my in-laws, I might not have been able to have my three girls grow up so family-oriented, I might not be able to doggedly pursue my love for the written word and SF might not be able to doggedly pursue his own business.

So here I am, at the crossroads of my life again. I faced in at 44, when everything turned topsy-turvy and I had to rebuild. From the ashes (well not exactly, it’s a metaphor for opinions and views and beliefs being shattered and new ones created!) … From the ashes I built my Eco-system, of which I am ready to take on the world. I learnt to adapt, hey, just remembered something I read on the plane, came from this documentary about species that survived in the Amazon many thousands of years ago …. Said by none other but Charles Darwin, “It’s not the strongest, nor the most intelligent of species, that will survive. It’s the one most adaptable to change.”

So yes, that’s my answer to my own question. And I also remember these words: Ten Tiny Words of Power: if it is to be, it is up to me! Hey, what’s keeping me? Haven’t I always explored the roads less travelled? Yes, it’s a metaphor, but it also literally means that to me. The Unique Classroom. My classroom is the world. The right for every child to dream and write. It started from me. Where do I want to go? Adelaide? Yes, why not? Penang? Goa? Yes, what’s stopping me? As it’s said, “if you have built castles in the air, that’s where it should be. Now put foundations under them!”

And what other foundations will I lay? Taking care of the less fortunate. It means a lot to me. Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Jesus Christ ….. Isn’t this the message of love and peace? I think I’ve already started this and I want to continue doing this with The Unique Classroom. Writing from The Heart.

And yes, giving a voice to women too! Or shall I say women of my age, whose children have grown up, and husbands too caught up in running the wheel of “work is Life” that they lost their voice? Ah! I will do my speaking tours with my book! Love! Live Dangerously! And Have Fun! The title! The message! This is getting so amazingly awesome!

So, yes, the message is clear. Let me spend the next 10 years doing this. Get my licensing off the ground this year, start my PhD next year, and establish a network of centers with a core message: Education begins with the heart!

So there! Didn’t I begin this by saying I need quiet to think? Yes, life is great! Live it! Love It! There’s so much to be happy for!

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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!

One child. One story. One dream fulfilled! Part 2

So, Concept: Publishing. Most people don’t understand publishing. They feel the author writes the perfect book, it gets printed and that’s all there is to publishing. That’s as naïve a view as thinking that having tuition and doing assessments would make a smart kid. Okay, no clear link between the two analogies. (Just wanted to make a point!)

Publishing is an art by itself. That’s why I am in it. That’s why I am passionate about it. There’s nothing so fascinating as taking a manuscript in its pure war MS Word format, and transforming it with editing, design and layout into a book which another person, a stranger, someone else halfway across the world, picks up and reads it, and better still, finds it an enjoyable read.

Imagine this scenario. A child writes a story. He sends it in for the Young Author Award. It gets shortlisted. He wins a prize. The story gets published and he’s on top of the world! Research has shown that this spurs his commitment to do more. And that’s better than all the tuition in the world!

Okay, publishing is an art. But it doesn’t end with getting the book out. The most crucial is getting the book off the shelves and into somebody’s reading list. That’s the challenge. But as the world evolves electronically, so does the publishing world. And this is where I feel the opportunities are endless. Imagine I write a book today, it gets published into an ebook, it goes into multiple platforms: amazon’s kindle, google books, Ipads, androids – imagine the possibilities!

And this is what I offer – the 3 in 1 solution to any young child! So, all the way from learning to create, to creating, to selling his creation to the whole world!