Friday, 28 June 2013

What I've been up to

Hey everyone, hope you've had a great week! I'd like to use this massive block of space here to say hello and thank you to my Twitter followers and to the readers of my blog, old and new, for your accompanying me as I wander towards my Grail, which is to actually finish, and I mean *finish*, something that I've started.

Well, I have some news: I've actually finished something! Yay! As is most things in my life, it's turned out to be a lovely surprise from what I was expecting.

I have been co-authoring and co-illustrating a kids' picture book, and writing my London-based sci-fi novel as well as my Twitter novel on the side. In June, my poor, trusty laptop refused to switch on, and I lost a few days trying to get it fixed. When I finally got it running again, I found out that the picture book was ok, but my sci-fi novel was gone. I had a backup of both docs, which should have been the end of it all, but instead of working from the backups, I then spent a few days worrying about how a document could disappear from a computer, which meant that I wasn't actually completing the writing of said document in the first place, as you do (I think this, by the way, is a much better excuse than 'my dog ate my [insert item]').

Anyway, inspiration struck again, and I had yet another story. As I wondered how best to tell it, I realised that writing my Twitter novel had taught me one thing: that it's possible to tell a story in a few words if you pick the right ones. My story became a picture book, complete with pictures, for 0 to 7 year-olds and as far removed from sci-fi and London as it can possibly be. And I am chuffed to bits with it.

So it's on to the next step, which is finding my story a home. In the meantime, I'm glad to say that I added another 200 words to my novel. Stay tuned!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

A memorable occasion I should've marked last week!!!

Or, how to blog, and what a blog is for!

Last week, @bbcthree and @bbcgoodnews challenged the viewers of the BBC Three comedy-news-satire show 'Russell Howard's Good News' to write a poem about Russell on Twitter. The prize? The pride of having your poem retweeted by someone in the Beeb.

If you aren't familiar with 'Russell Howard's Good News', it is worth watching; you can find clips on Youtube. Better still, you can get DVDs. I can count, on one hand, the number of comedians who can make everyone in my family laugh, and as Russell Howard is one of them, he's in my top five.

Naturally, me being me, I didn't find out about the challenge until late in the day. The BBC had written a poem using 'RUSSELL' to begin each line/stanza, so I thought I'd rise to the challenge and do the same. I noticed that just one other person had used 'HOWARD', so I thought, well, why not?

The next step was to figure out what to write about Russell Howard. I mean, I don't know him personally, and I could only go by what I see on his show. I made the decision to thank Russell for making me and my family laugh, and to write about what I see his talents to be, and what I like about his show. 'Laugh' had to be there, and 'W','A',  'R' and 'D' were quickly sorted. I toyed with beginning with 'Russell', but then realised that wasn't necessary. I felt I ought to describe his show instead, so 'R', 'U', 'S' and 'S' were sorted. And before I knew it, I had a poem.

In the end, I submitted this:

'Real, Utterly Silly Story Elicits Loud Laughs and Hiccups Owing to Witty And Rapid Delivery'.

That was last Thursday.

The next day, I woke up to a surprise: @bbcgoodnews and others had retweeted it! The rest of my day was lovely. 

BTW, his show comes on on Thursday nights on BBC Three in the UK. I forgot to post this on my blog, until his show coming on reminded me, hence the week-long delay :-). Happy Friday!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Happy Dragon Boat Festival! 端午节快乐!

'The Dragon Boat Festival' is the English name given to  端午节 the Duanwu Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar, and which has other Chinese names. People celebrate this festival for different reasons; the following is the main one.

Back when China was seven kingdoms, a poet named Qu Yuan 屈原 (c. 340 - 278 BC) served as a minister of the Kingdom of Chu 楚国. Qu Yuan pointed out that Chu ought to attack the neighbouring Kingdom of Qin , which was growing stronger by the day, but the King of Chu banished him. Chu was later destroyed by Qin. 

Incidentally, the succeeding King of Qin and eventual First Emperor of China, Ying Zheng 秦始皇, then unified the other kingdoms and built the Great Wall of China by linking their city walls together. 'Qin' is the word from which 'China' is derived.

Qu Yuan was overwhelmed with grief when he heard of the destruction of Chu. He tied a large stone to himself, and flung it into the Miluo River 汨罗江.

Onlookers rowed themselves out in boats to search for him, but they couldn't find him, so to stop the fishes from eating him, they boiled rice with meat and packed this into bamboo before flinging it into the river.

To commemorate Qu Yuan's life, the ritual was repeated yearly and gradually, people started eating the rice and meat, and wrapping them in leaves to form zongzi 'dumplings' 粽子 of which there are many recipes, shapes and sizes. My grandmother made pyramidal, rice-only versions, while my aunt loves fish in hers. Here's what a dumpling looks like, with and without its leaf-wrap. The savoury pork- and chestnut-filled versions taste even better than they look :-).

As for the search for Qu Yuan, it morphed into Dragon-Boat Racing, which is a fun hobby in the UK (the photo is from Wikipedia (but having said that I had a whale of a time banging the drum :-)) and taken very seriously and at a large scale in the Far East. 

Dragon boat budapest 2010.jpg 

I'm off to grab some dumplings now; Happy Dragon Boat Festival!