Posted by: mygentlecloud | July 29, 2018

Mission Trip to Sta Maria, Laguna (Philippines)

It was on my bucket list to go for at least one missions trip in my lifetime. This was fulfilled on June 7 – 11 2018 when I managed to join Wesley’s mission trip in partnership with High Praise Church, Sta Maria, to the Philippines.

Being a newbie to Missions, I was tasked to be the team journalist, along with other responsibilities of course. So here are the details of the 3-day trip.

This was Wesley’s 4th trip to Sta Maria which, according to Wikipedia, is a 4th class municipality (town) in the province of Laguna, Philippines. It has 25 barangays (meaning village, district or ward) and from a census done in 2015, a population of over 30,000

Pastor Reggie, his wife, Beth, and Pastora Semy welcomed us at the airport. They came in two vans together with their families.

The ride from the airport to Santa Maria took more than four hours. Along the way, we made a short stop to visit a Wind Farm located on the Barangay Halayhayin in the municipality of Pililla in Rizal Province.

 

The winds were really strong there. The tall windmills made loud whooping sounds as the blades cut through the air. There are altogether 27 wind turbines at this farm and these power almost 66,000 households.

HCP 2018 1st day rizal wind farm group photo The team at Pililla Rizal Wind Farm

We arrived at the guest house owned by the Assistant Mayor of the Barangay.

The team started to sort the items together with the HPC church leaders, volunteers and youth leaders. The many ready hands made short work of more than 150kg of clothes, books and toothbrushes.

HCP 2018 1st day sorting books nice

We also helped to tie the individual gift tags to the stacks of adult and children umbrellas ordered as gifts to bless the households the team will be engaging with during the outreach programs.

HCP 2018 1st day sorting umbrellas

The umbrellas were sponsored by ladies of Kingdom Homemakers SG at Wesley.  The gift tags included a bible verse “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble” from Psalm 46:1.

Day 1: Fri 8th June

We started the day early with team devotions, followed by our first outreach program – a trip to an elementary school and Gaudencio Octavio Integrated High School at Macasipac.

The student program was a bit of a challenge to run. Instead of small classroom settings of 30-40, the principal gathered the whole school of about two hundred children at the basketball court. There were no proper sound system and projector, so we used lyrics written on vanguard sheets and manila paper instead. Fortunately, there was a mike we could use.

We also had four student leaders from the church to help us, which was such a blessing! They helped to show the children the actions for the songs and also did a little dance of their own as well.  AA, leader of HPC Youths, helped with the translation. We learnt later that the kids only became better in English in secondary school, hence the translations for the little ones.

HCP 2018 2nd day elementary school 1

The student program was made up of three parts. We taught them to sing the Chinese version of Three Blind Mice. Why Chinese, you may ask. It was to give them a flavour of a foreign language.  This was followed by a skit on The Prodigal Son, and ended with a singalong with ‘Jesus Loves Me’.

HCP 2018 2nd day three mice song closeup

For the three mice song, most of them followed gamely and did the actions while singing. The older kids found it easier to follow and even had a group who sang it again on their own.

The prodigal son skit went well, more for the older kids who could read and understand English better.

We had the audience participate by reading the chorus in the script. Silas who acted as the prodigal son was quite a good actor and looked and sounded quite repentant.  We reminded them that our God the Father is just like the father in the parable. He loves us and forgives us of our sins.

The highlight of the program was the presentation of the travel toothbrushes and the books. When the luggage flap was lifted up to show the stash we brought, the sheer joy that flashed across the students’ faces was so eloquent in expressing their delight and appreciation that we made a mental note to bring more next time.

HCP 2018 2nd day elementary toothbrush

We paired up to make home visits in Timbangan in the afternoon. The people lived in wooden shacks and are all related to each other from what we understand. Each of us visited 3 – 5 families, armed with umbrellas as gifts. Time was spent listening to their needs and praying with the families.

The ladies make papermarche items for a living. These include pumpkins and dinosaurs using layers upon layers – twelve to be exact – of newspapers stuck with gum and dried in charcoal stoves.  Then they paint these figurines and wait for the vendor to collect them. Each figurine fetches between 20 – 50 pesos, which is between 50 cents to $1.20 and takes a few days to make. The newspapers are not paid for by the vendor, so margins are really thin. Some ladies take on a second job to make ends meet.

One of the residents was very kind and generous. She gave us each a whole coconut.  When we have finished with the coconut water, she used a parang to split open the kernel into three parts and we used part of the husks which she has skilfully hewn as a spatula to dig up the flesh. Simple pleasures.  The free roaming dogs and the chickens enjoyed the coconut as well

We met a family who was so happy and proud of their daughter, Jane, one of the Wesley-sponsored scholars who graduated recently. She is going to be a teacher and will help to support the education of her two younger siblings.

Wesley sponsors about ten students each year, ranging from those who are attending elementary school to those going to college. One year of sponsorship varies between $350 to about $600, depending on the level.

We hope these graduates will help to improve the living conditions of Timbangan and Macasipac and also be a good testament to God’s good works.

At the end of the home visits, there was a plea to pray for a young man. He had a tragic accident seven years ago when a branch broke under him while he was picking mangoes. He fell and broke his spine.

Four of us went to pray for him. He is quite tall and lay in a bed that seemed too small for him. His hands are stiff and twisted into claws. His legs are in an unnatural position, with his feet sticking in opposite directions even though he was lying on his side.

Some of us were moved to tears when we prayed over him. If only he had medical help when he first fell. We prayed for God to help him and his family to lead a better life.

After the home visits, we went to HPC church at Macasipac for the last program of the long day – the ‘Couple’s Night’ program.

More than eight couples attended, along with some of their children and relatives. For the icebreaker, they played a three legged game by tying one leg of the couple together to bring home the point that couples have to coordinate together and talk to each other.

The game became more challenging when they had to transport an object in a spoon across the floor, and later kick a ball to the finishing line. It was hilarious, especially when their children joined in the fray. Everyone was laughing and smiling by the time the game ended. We learned that playing fun games are important to break the ice.

After the games and worship. Pat opened the topic of managing conflict by highlighting family conflicts documented in the Bible, such as those with Abraham’s own family, his sons and grandchildren.

The couples were split into two groups based on the number of years they’ve been married. They then had to identify ten conflicts that couples normally have.  The groups identified the ten areas of conflict to be around money, parenting styles, kids, sex life, work, in-laws, time pressures, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, unrealistic expectations, communication and personality differences.

After sharing with the group, they had to determine the solutions to these conflicts. They came up with the following: Talk it out, listen to partner, talk in positive kind ways, be calm even when the partner is not, not to lash out when angry etc.  Good reminder for all. The workshop ended with the couples and their families praying together, after which we prayed for them.

It was a really long day. Some of the children fell asleep towards the end, including this dog who worshipped with us.

Day 2: Sat June 9th 

The plan was to bring the youths for a hike to Pasonanca Eco-park, the Little Baguio of the South.  Spirits were high as the kids perched on chairs in the back of a lorry, singing and laughing away.

HCP 2018 youths day getting ready

 

On the way, however, Pastora Semy requested for a detour to visit the students at a nearby Elementary School.  The rain came and changed all our plans. The team improvised by telling the story of Jesus in a shelter while some boys played basketball in the rain.

When the rain tapered off somewhat, we hopped back into the van and the youths clambered back into their open-air lorries. The rain came back with a vengeance halfway up the mountain. The youths and everyone else on the lorry were drenched to the bone. There was no way we could go to the Eco-Park which has no shelter.

We split into two groups.

Pastora Semy,  her sister Manon, as well as Kah Kah and Frances from Wesley stayed behind to speak to the children. They were a captive audience as the rain was pelting down and they had to squeeze tightly together on the benches to stay warm and dry.

We sang some action songs. Kah Kah told the story of Daniel and the lions. Sister Manon shared the gospel using the Wordless Book. Then she asked the children who wanted to pray a salvation prayer. Almost all of them put up their hands! Praise God!

The second group stopped at a Bikers shelter to get out of the rain. The youths were soaking wet and shivering with cold. Joe bought hot drinks and chicken soup for everyone. They changed into dry clothes and felt better after that.

Pastora Semy wanted us to run a session to help the youths to plan for their future. So, after they are warm and fed, Pat ran a session to get them to think about what they think they should do to run a purpose- driven life. It was a useful session.

HCP 2018 youth day purpose driven life

The amazing thing was this. When asked by Pat whether they’re happy today, they replied exuberantly that they were! That totally took me by surprise. What I thought was a washout was not in the eyes of the youths. They were absolutely thrilled with the adventure, which came of course with some hardship but that made it all the more memorable. What a revelation!

HCP 2018 youth day rain shelter naomi

The kids are tougher than we thought and can make the best of a situation. Praise God!

Day 3: Sunday, June 10th

This was the last day of the Outreach.  We started the day by going to the Santa Maria church for Sunday service. The student leaders led with some worship songs to the accompaniment of lively music. The eight member Wesley group sang the song “Ten thousand reasons”, after which Silas delivered the message.

He used the model of the windmill bought at Rizal Wind Farm where we visited on the first day to set the stage. His message was that God is everywhere. Sometimes, like the whooping blades of the windmill, we can hear Him. Other times, through a soft gentle breeze, He takes care of our needs. And even when the air is still and dry and we don’t see Him, He is watching over us. What a reassuring thought!

Pastora Semy made sure that every one in the Wesley team shared their testimony at the service. There was no escaping her, even for those who were reluctant to face the audience!

We next went to Adia for the Ladies program and Children’s outreach. Pastora Semy’s vision is to build a new church on a small plot of land in Adia she was recently blessed with.

For the ladies outreach, the icebreaker was totally enjoyable. The women there liked simple games, and were very sporting. Kudos to Beth and Pat for coming up with these gems – introducing oneself with a signature gesture which is mimicked by the others welcoming her, a finger on palm game, sorting each team by ascending dates of birth etc. These truly broke the ice!

HCP 2018 sunday ladies with beth

Frances then shared about the need and the power of a mother’s prayer. She broke the team into groups of six to identify what are the common women’s fears. These turned out to be on money, health, daily needs, education, safety/ accidents and worry about their children. Next, they identified the obstacles to prayer. These include anger in their hearts, too much problems to concentrate on praying, not enough faith, guilt, too much work, too much sin, family discord – no peace in the family, laziness and insecurity. Finally, they discussed and listed possible solutions to these obstacles. These include learning to forgive, faith, removal of guilt, pray together in groups and praying with a friend.

The children’s program was led by Alice & Kah Kah.

We started out with a simple game while waiting for more children to come.  In total, about thirteen turned up, and they were so well behaved!

HCP 2018 sunday children flower faces

The children enjoyed three motion songs we prepared. Kah Kah then told them the story of Daniel and the lion’s den with translation from the church youths.  This was followed by arts and craft, with the children designing and creating lion masks. We had snacks of course, and umbrellas as gifts. The church youths helped, so it was also a ministry for them as well.

After the ladies & children’s programs, there was a performance review for the HPC scholars and their scholarship application for the coming year.  As mentioned earlier, Wesley sponsors about ten students each year, ranging from those who are attending elementary school to those going to college. One year of sponsorship varies between $350 to about $600, depending on the level.

Silas shared with the students the conditions for scholarship approval. These include achieving at least 85% ratings for their exams, submitting a quarterly report to Pastora Semy within two weeks of the results, being active in church, having exemplary behaviour and good moral character and penning a thank you note to sponsors.

HCP 2018 sunday group photo

 

All in all, it was a very tiring but meaningful trip to Santa Maria. The local HPC team and the Santa Maria fledgling church is doing a lot of good works, sowing many seeds and converting souls.

Meet Pastora Semy (on the right of the group photo) who leads the fledgling church in Santa Maria. She shared with us the difficulty in being a female pastor and how she constantly cried out to the Lord for help. The lady in the right photo is Pastora Semy’s younger sister, Manen, who quietly works to support the team without any regard for self. She goes around with a satchel carrying Christian books which she would share with any group willing to listen.

Beth, Pastor Reggie’s wife, is the one in the middle of the photo with the radiant smile. She’s one of the strong pillars supporting Pastora Semy and the HPC team. In the course of the three day mission trip, she suffered a hoarse voice from speaking and translating so often and so passionately in the various programs.

Melba on the left is one of the HPC team members.

This is Pastora Semy’s humble accommodation that she invited us to view. The whole house is made from donated recycled materials. This includes the zinc roof which still has a few small holes where rain can come in.

It is true in the Philippines – the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Resources and money are scarce, and living conditions are hard. We pray for more help to come forth to build the church community in Sta Maria.

This help can be in many forms. These include:

–          More willing hearts to visit and support their ministry

–          Prayers for Pastora Semy and her flock

–          Sponsorship of the Scholarships for their youths.

–          Children’s books

–          Toothbrushes and toothpaste.

–          Preloved clothes

Thank you for reading. God bless!

 

Regards

Su Yin

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Posted by: mygentlecloud | August 10, 2013

Get What You Want – Elle Special

This post is copied from Elle Special : March 2013 edition as I couldn’t find an online link to this article and I wanted to remember the useful pointers. It is written by Stacey Anne Rodriques.

Here are 10 tips she shared to play nice and get on the right track:

1) Always be polite first – Make the first move with a simple “hello” or “morning”

2) Mind your P’s and Q’s – “Please” and “thank you” transform a demand into a request – nobody wants to be barked at, and everybody could use a little appreciation, even if what you’re asking of them is ultimately a basic requirement of their job.

3) Know your janitor – In other words, don’t just be chummy with the big bosses. Know your peers and the interns and the cleaners etc. Treating people differently based on their rank or perceived status in society just sets off an awful cycle whereby your subordinates could do the same to the people below them and so on.

4) Stop trying to be a man as it has dire consequences

5) Remember it’s always personal – To the other person, that it. Thinking this way ensures you’re always aware of saying things with tact, instead of shooting your mouth off and suffering foot-in-mouth syndrome. You can’t ignore the human dynamic and fallibility that exists in an office. Not everybody has high self-esteem and skin as thick as rhinos. And not everybody easily shows that they’re upset by what you’ve said or done. So don’t make enemies by accident.

6) Accept that you don’t know everything – Be humble, admit that you’re lacking in certain skills, and ask your colleague for advice on how she secured that promotion or won that account.

7) Don’t smile. Talk – smiling when you’re talking looks and sounds fake. Don’t do it.

8) Make eye contact – otherwise it may appear that you’re too busy for the other person or are not confident of what you’re saying

9) Speak less. Speak slowly – Motivational speakers speak in a very measured manner. You should speak lower, slower, louder – an authoritative tone without sounding demanding.

10) Stop being passive-aggressive – Learn to speak your mind at the right time instead of holding everything and then letting out your frustrations at moments when the recipient of your sarcasm doesn’t understand what the real problem is. The issue at hand may not even warrant such anger in the first place, and you may look like some who flies off the handle at very minor issues. When you do that, you just come across angsty, moody and temperamental, because no one can isolate the cause of your anger, and others would want to give you a wide-berth to avoid your random outbursts.

Posted by: mygentlecloud | October 21, 2011

Marketing Postcards using Vistaprint

 

Singapore Writers Festival starts tomorrow. I’m excited to try out my new marketing postcard there. I’ve used a Groupon voucher to get a good deal from Vistaprint. 500 postcards plus 250 matching namecards plus 3 business day expedited delivery came out to S$167.  Not too bad, I think.

Quality-wise, the actual colour print appears darker than the softcopy pasted above. The namecards were more elongated than the standard size of namecards.  Still usable, but not as pleasing to the eye. I’ll have to send this feedback to them.

I had earlier envisioned the business model of Vistaprint to be a central WW online marketing/sales & purchase system with contracts with local printers in the represented countries for order fulfilment. It turned out not to be the case. The box I received yesterday was shipped from Australia, a country known for their high labour cost and a currency strength of  S$1.30 to A$1. Wouldn’t getting it fulfilled through a local printer work better? Or perhaps from one of the ASEAN countries where the printing cost would be much lower.

Su Yin

 

 

 

Posted by: mygentlecloud | October 13, 2011

George Orwell’s 5 Rules of Effective Writing

Someone shared a link today on Facebook on writing tips from George Orwell. Here are the five points for a quick reminder. For more details, check out http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/george-orwells-5-rules-for-effective-writing/

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Posted by: mygentlecloud | October 7, 2011

#iRemember

The passing of an icon.

Someone shared a link on Facebook the top ten lessons Steve Jobs taught us. It’s hotlinked so you can read the details for yourself.

Here are the Top Ten Lessons Steve Jobs taught us summarised in point form:

1. The most enduring innovations marry art and science – Steve Jobs focused a lot on the user experience and his earlier liaison with John Scully leveraged the industry design expertise the latter had. That’s the art, the look and feel aspect of the products Apple subsequently dished out. Technology is the science
2. To create the future, you can’t do it through focus groups – The customers today don’t always know what they want, especially if it’s something they’ve never seen, heard, or touched before.
3. Never fear failure : From Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech:

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

4. You can’t connect the dots forward – only backward
5. Listen to that voice in the back of your head that tells you if you’re on the right track or not
6. Expect a lot from yourself and others – There’s a saying: if you’re a “B” player, you’ll hire “C” players below you because you don’t want them to look smarter than you. If you’re an “A” player, you’ll hire “A+” players below you, because you want the best result.
7. Don’t care about being right. Care about succeeding
8. Find the most talented people to surround yourself with
9. Stay hungry, stay foolish
10. Anything is possible through hard work, determination, and a sense of vision

A video insert in that same article covered 6 Principles for Innovation

1) Do what you love
2) Put a dent in the universe
3) Connect things to spark your creativity
4) Say ‘No’ to 1,000 things
5) Create insanely different experiences
6) Master the message (be a master storyteller to inform, inspire and educate)
7) Sell dreams, not products

RIP, Mr. Jobs.

Posted by: mygentlecloud | August 29, 2011

On the Digital Marketing trail

It’s truly a brave new world for authors and writers alike. The Berlin wall of publishing is crumbling. New bridges through social media and technology have sprung up, linking the populations on both sides of the wall to the extent that  each can almost see the other face-to-face. There has never been a better time for us authors and readers alike.

During my three odd months hiatus from work, I had the luxury of diving into our wonderful worldwide web to explore the latest trends and ideas in the writing & publishing community. The journey has been mindblowing, to say the least. The huge movement in social media and its ecosystem has taken on a life of its own. People are learning to use it to make things happen for them in the most ingenuous ways, paving the way for others to learn and follow.

I am taking my baby steps in this area. Here they are, along with some To-Dos.

Twitter : I liken this to standing in a small empty field and shouting out short messages to the world, and hoping that there would be people with the right receptacles to listen and reply. Over time, one would be able to build a network of like-minded people who can then exchange tweets with you. I started out on my campaign trail by targeting teenagers as a potential market for my novel Through The Storm. Using Justin Bieber as the icon which teenagers would latch onto, I started to follow twitterers who have a hashtag on Bieber. I expanded this to include hashtags with the word teens in them. Then, getting a brainwave, I searched for my favourite authors such as Nora Roberts, Laura Kinsale, Diana Gabaldon etc and followed them as well as their followers, the rationale being that these followers would then follow me back. Following the followers of great authors is a daunting exercise. Unless I’ve missed out some wonderful tool to do a mass-follow, it is time consuming and not very accurate a strategy to use. I ended up with readers as well as authors, publishers (both indie and traditional), reviewers, consultants, editors and a host of others. I kept track of the statistics. Todate, I am following 719 Twitterers and have 318 followers. Besides follow-backs which account for about 70% of my followers, I find a correlation between the additional followers with the number of tweets I made. I will continue to tweet story-related stuff to garner more followers and follow-through with snippets of my book video trailers.

Website : I finally invested time and a bit of money in building my website. I’ve used Tripod and Googlepages before, but didn’t like their names used as a suffix in my URL. Therefore, I bought the domain name Gentlecloudonline.com, signed up with a web hosting service provider and used their tools to build my website. New gadgets which I don’t recall seeing in Tripod and Googlepages include RSS feeds to beef up my content, forums for interaction with the visitors, blogs (again for more content), and also a storefront. I have yet to operationalise these smoothly but will find time to do so soon. Likewise, peppering my pages with words and tags to embrace search-engine optimization is still on my list of To-Dos.

Facebook : I’ve found music icons to have led the way in tapping onto Facebook as their alternate website or storefront. Eminem is one good example, though I have to qualify that I don’t subscribe to his kind of music.  If you check Eminem’s FB page to study how his marketing team does it, you’ll find the normal FB wall posts which works similarly to that of a forum. There’s an information page which is the equivalent of Profile which we normally post on our website. There’s also a section called “Music Videos” where the videos posted on Youtube can be played on the FB page itself.  These videos are easily navigated through Next and Previous buttons.  There is an option to Share the page on Facebook, improving publicity. There is also an option to Buy The Song on iTunes or Amazon, two of the same channels authors use. So, for authors, book video trailers can be posted on our FB page and the option for visitors to buy our books added. I am not sure about the cost of creating such a page. I have not explored how it is done yet. If there are readers here who have, please share this with me.

Youtube : This has become the defacto place for posting videos. There are ways to cluster the videos together so that the momentum of the marketing blitz is maintained. Unlike movie trailers where snippets can be stitched together without too much additional investment, book videos seldom have the luxury of such good quality animation or action snippets. Those I’ve seen fall back on using photos, written text on screen, overlaid with music and audio readings to serve its purpose.  I’ve outsourced four snippets of a trailer for Through The Storm to an animator, and the results, after many iterations, came out okay … after nine months, the time it takes to birth a child! At times like this, I chafe at the time required to do marketing when I should be writing. But for indie writers like me, we have very little option, other than not to market our works at all.  And from what I’ve heard, even traditional publishers would require their authors to market their own books. So, it is a necessary evil, whichever way you look at it. You can view this video on my website. Try not to laugh, please 🙂

Blogs : Aside from penning our own blogs and participating in online forums on related topics, there is also this new movement called blog tours which writers now use to drive awareness and interest for their books. This involves penning blogs for the characters in their book as a way to make them more personal and real to the reader. I have never tried it, but a talented writer I know is doing that right now. I will link up with him after the blog tour to get more insight into the thinking that goes behind it and the traction it gets.

Mobile Apps : These are the rage now. Latest research suggest that people will be using more apps and less mobile browsers to browse the net. However, creating a mobile application can be very time-consuming and expensive, which is why a lot of bloggers and blog sites don’t bother coming out with a mobile app of their own. Not any more – Bloapp(www.bloapp.com) is a free web tool that helps convert blogs into a native iPhone app in less than five minutes. And the best part? It’s free to use.  For more information on this, check out the following post: http://www.youngupstarts.com/2011/08/29/bloapp-converts-your-blog-into-an-iphone-app/ I will try it out right after this post.

Indie publishers : No longer is independent publishing priced out of some authors’ reach. These days, at least two avenues have opened up for self-service publishing on the web. One is through Kindle Direct Publishing which allows an author to load the softcopy of their book into the system and the e-book version on Kindle is made available almost the next day. The Kindle version is downloadable onto iBook and Nook format for more flexibility for the reader. The other free avenue – for now, at least –  is via Smashwords which has a snazzy tool to allow the softcopy of a book to be made available, with a nicely linked index, on Kindle, iBook, epub and pdf format. I remembered Lulu.com used to be such a free service provider but for printed versions of the book. They have since tagged a price for their service and may be losing out to their e-book publishing competitors.

And the digital march goes on. I remembered how skeptical I was to the idea of SMS when it was first introduced some ten years ago. Foremost on my mind was the question of why people would painstakingly key in words into the phone instead of just dialling and speaking to the person. I guess I did not stretch my imagination then on its potential and the new needs they met. I will keep my mind open now and see what this brave new world has in store for me.

Su Yin

 

Posted by: mygentlecloud | August 11, 2011

Be careful of words repeated often in the mind

Besides the financial turmoil going on around us, one of the most disturbing news this week is the sudden explosion of riots in UK. A particularly horrible scene I came across was the video of a young man who was injured and sitting on the floor in a daze. A few men came to help him up, only to have one of them unzip his backpack and take his things. Even a cyclist passing by helped himself to the contents which was still hanging on the poor guy’s back. How could they do that?

I shared this with my daughter this morning while driving her to school.  I described how the camera man tracked the looters who were all wearing hoodies, with their hoods pulled up over their heads. They knew what they were doing was wrong, which was why they hid their faces, so that they would not be recognized. Shame on them.

The hooded look reminded me of the music culture I see nowadays which a lot of the young take to. Street gang type of attire. Hand signals with the thumb and pinky and one other finger extended. Chains and studs in some cases. But unifying all of them are the sweater look with a hood either off or on the head.

Prime on the list is Eminem, who struts his stuff on stage with a hood covering his head, spouting hatred and venom and rage at issues he chose to attack. The music is innocuously injected with pleasant, spellbinding interludes by other famous female artists to capture the imagination of  music-lovers. Listen to the words in the lyrics. Read them on websites. It is utterly shocking, referring to sex and killing and the devil in the same breath as love and living, laced with totally gutter language. Some of them have words scoffing at law and order and suggesting ways to manhandle and torture cops!

Think about it. Young people who are fans of these pop idols sing their songs. The songs act like prayers on their lips, memorised in their minds, insidiously influencing their subconscious when the words get repeated again and again when they sing. I watched videos of the concerts where the crowd sang along with the performer. How many times must they have sung it to have those words memorised? What effects do these have on their young minds?

Such songs are rants, a “Let it all out” type of therapy which, in the past, were thought to be healing. Now, I am not so sure. The words and thoughts of the songwriter get propagated a million times and shake the foundations of what is good. Principles like “I will not steal”, “I will not lie”, “I will not kill”, “I will not harm”, “peace, no war”, forbearance, patience,  all get thrown aside, and in their places, are the seeds of evil:  show your hatred , meet violence with violence, curse and swear, “It’s ok to do it. Others are doing it, too” type of mentality. The result of all these are loss of self-control of our words and actions and thinking, and not knowing what is right from wrong. both of which are cornerstones for maintaining peace and harmony in this world.

To nett this down, be careful of what music we or our children listen to. They wreak havoc in our minds, and I daresay, our souls, too.

Su Yin

 

Posted by: mygentlecloud | December 6, 2009

10 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

I’ve been at chapter 2 of my third book since Jan 2009. It’s probably work, but just in case it is writer’s block, I’ve pasted the following from Ginny Wiehardt to remind me of what to do to break out of it. Hope it is useful for everyone else.

Top 10 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

By Ginny Wiehardt,

About.com Guide See More About: * overcoming writer’s block * writing roadblocks

Most writers will have trouble with writer’s block at some point in their lives. The possible reasons for writer’s block are myriad: fear, anxiety, a life change, the end of a project, the beginning of a project…almost anything, it seems, can cause that particular feeling of fear and frustration. Fortunately there are as many ways to deal with writer’s block as there are causes. The items below are only suggestions, but trying something new is the first step toward writing again.

1. Implement a Writing Schedule.Carve out a time to write and then ignore the writer’s block. Show up to write, even if nothing comes right away. When your body shows up to the page at the same time and place every day, eventually your mind — and your muse — will do the same. Graham Greene famously wrote 500 words, and only 500 words, every morning. Five hundred words is only about a page, but with those mere 500 words per day, Greene wrote and published over 30 books.

2. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself.In fact, don’t be hard on yourself at all while writing. Anna Quindlin wrote, “People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.” Turn the critical brain off. There is a time and place for criticism: it’s called editing.

3. Think of Writing as a Regular Job, and Less as an Art.Stephen King, a famously prolific author, uses the metaphor of a toolbox to talk about writing in On Writing, intentionally linking it to physical work. If we think of ourselves as laborers, as craftsmen, it’s easier to sit down and write. We’re just putting words on the page, after all, one beside another, as a bricklayer puts down bricks. At the end of the day, we’re just creating things — stories, poems, or plays — only we use vocabulary and grammar instead of bricks and mortar.

4.. Take Time Off If You’ve Just Finished a Project.Writer’ s block could be a sign that your ideas need time to gestate. Idleness can be a key part of the creative process. Give yourself time to gather new experiences and new ideas, from life, reading, or other forms of art, before you start again.

5. Set Deadlines and Keep Them.Many writers, understandably, have trouble doing this on their own. You might find a writing partner and agree to hold each other to deadlines in an encouraging, non-critical way. Knowing that someone else is expecting results helps many writers produce material. Writing groups or classes are another good way to jump-start a writing routine.

6. Examine Deep-Seated Issues Behind Your Writer’s Block.Write about your anxieties regarding writing or creativity. Talk to a friend, preferably one who writes. A number of books, such as The Artist’s Way, are designed to help creative people explore the root causes of their blocks. (Studying the lives of other writers can also provide insight into why you’re blocked.) If your writer’s block continues, you might seek counseling. Many therapists specialize in helping artists and writers reconnect with their creativity.

7. Work on More Than One Project at a Time..Some writers find it helpful to switch back and forth from one project to another. Whether this minimizes fear or boredom, or both, it seems to prevent writer’s block for many people.

8. Try Writing Exercises.As much as it may remind you of your high school writing class, writing exercises can loosen up the mind and get you to write things you would never write otherwise. If nothing else, they get words on the page, and if you do enough of that, some of it is bound to be good.

9. Re-Consider Your Writing Space.Are your desk and chair comfortable? Is your space well-lit? Would it help to try writing in a coffee shop for a change? Without being too precious about it — or turning it into another form of procrastination — think about how you can create or find a space you’ll look forward to being in.

10. Remember Why You Started to Write in the First Place.Look at what you’re writing and why. Are you writing what you love, or what you think you should be writing? The writing that feels most like play will end up delighting you the most, and this is the writing your readers will instinctively connect with. At the end of the day, writing is too hard to do it for any other reason. If you continue to touch base with the joy you first felt in writing, it will sustain you, not only through your current block, but through whatever the future holds.

Posted by: mygentlecloud | August 9, 2009

About Gentle Cloud!

My chinese name is Su Yin. Literally translated, it means Gentle Cloud.   Clear & Bright is my husband.  (You may roll your eyes).  He is known to most as just Sim.

I have a friend who calls herself Autumn Shower.  She once commented, “Gentle Cloud and Autumn Shower. What a combination.”  I agree. It sounds beautiful, doesn’t it.  Perhaps one of these days, I will pen a short story using that title.

I first knew her when Through The Storm made its debut through a marketing e-flyer I sent out.  She was my first customer.  She invited me to autograph my book at the Art House.  We had a chat over coffee, found a common love for writing, and a friendship was forged.  We’ve come a long way since.

I  began serious writing back in 2004. It was just after the tsunami which hit Asia on Boxing Day.  It was a horrific tragedy. More than 150,000 lives lost, millions left homeless.

I wrote my first chapter on a long haul flight to Orlando. Another two on the flight back. And ploughed through forty-odd more over the course of a year to complete. It took me another year to rewrite it and edit it to a satisfactory stage to earn the Seal of Approval from a writer’s site I joined.

My second book, Bright Links, Dark Links, took a much longer time to write. I finished it in December 2008 and felt a deeper sense of accomplishment. The output was more sensitive and mature, a potential winner, something I could be proud to put my name on. After sitting on it for three years, I’ve dug it out, read through it all over again, edited and changed the ending, and will be publishing it soon.

I’m into my third book., My Brother’s Keeper.   Work has kept me from venturing beyond the first chapter, though. But I will press on.

Su Yin

 

Posted by: mygentlecloud | March 26, 2009

Another milestone

One and a half years have passed since my last post. So many things have happened during this time. Writing-wise, I’ve finished my second book, finally 🙂 It took me a good three years to put it together, one chapter per month. It certainly is a better piece than Through the Storm, of that, I am sure. Anyway, it is in the hands of a potential publisher. I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed and pray hard.

In the meantime, I have a children’s book which will be published. in mid-April this year.  It is a 500 word story for young readers in primary school. The paradox is that it pays much more than the seventy thousand word novels I’ve written.  I am not sure whether to be happy or sad, really. On the positive side, I am now a published author. Hip Hip Hooray!! If it is money I’m after, certainly this avenue would be something I should invest my time in.

But my passion is in novels, the kind which take years to slog it out, with dreamy heroes and incidental heroines similar to the ones my favourite authors dish out. My dream is to create a masterpiece, surpassing theirs, characters who would linger in people’s memory long after they have finished reading it. Now, wouldn’t that be something? Throw in an intrigued (or probably crazed) producer and viola! A movie! A  blockbuster. A legend lives forever. Ah, the price of vanity!

Nothing is impossible. You never know.

But back to bread and butter. My day job still sustains my pockets and saps my energy. I have the second chapter of my third book still at its first paragraph. Is this the proverbial writer’s block I’m inflicted with? I don’t know. I think it is just work, and not me.

Su Yin

 

 

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