Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Favourite 'Skin Head'

A Tribute to Tony Freeth (My Older Bro')
21st January 1964 - 13th October 2009

What can I say about my older brother, Tony? We were born thirteen years years apart, he was white and tall and I was Chinese and squat. We did have a few things in common, such as: a fondness for the Beach Boys and Adam and the Ants (he introduced me to 7 inch records when I was three years old), we both had names with four letters beginning with 'T' (it didn't register when I was a kid that his full name was 'Anthony' - he was always just Tony). And well, we'd been adopted by Jean and Ron Freeth and live in the same little three bed council house in Dale Road in Selly Oak. I took over his bedroom with the green walls that he'd painted, the flowers were embossed and so I'd spend hours pushing them in. Oh, and I can't forget the hole he'd punched into the wall which had bits of blood around the edges, it was a constant reminder of my brother's little Saturday night tiffs. But despite the holes and left over vindaloo containers that stank out the house, he could be a very sweet and caring guy. He loved animals, perhaps more than he liked humans, I don't know. He bred rabbits when we were kids, hundreds of them and sang 'Bright Eyes' around the house. He also had cockatiels, one particular one called Angus - he left with us - he was a clever bleeder that bird, it could talk and everything. My Mom loved it, finally we had a pet that would answer you back! Sadly, Yvonne from next door left our backdoor open one afternoon and little Angus flew away. We liked to think of him free and having fun, but then someone mentioned that he'd probably been attacked by wild birds who were jealous of his fancy colours. Tony was a bit like Angus in some ways, his blue eyes and dark hair was likely to make other men jealous, especially as he had a genuine smile as well. And just like Angus, if the door was open, he'd fly through it.

As well as animals, and me his favourite little 'sis', Tony also loved the outdoors. That's probably why he spent many years as a landscape gardener. When I was small, he used to work for the University of Birmingham tending their colourful flower beds and mowing the grass with a tractor. I was quite proud of my brother for looking after such a big place, obviously he didn't do it all alone but knowing he was keeping something neat and tidy, and alive was quite nice. My dad would take us around the Uni for walks, and we'd play on the playing field. Once I took my red bike around there and started riding it on the grass used for rugby and cricket. Tony shouted at me to 'Get off the grass! You'll get me into trouble!' - I never rode on the grass again. Later when I attended the uni as a student, I often remembered those times when I'd played there and watched my brother cutting the grass or driving along on the tractor with traffic behind him.

I hadn't seen him since just after his 40th birthday in 2004. Mom had passed away the summer before and we couldn't find him to inform him about the death or the funeral. When he finally knocked on our door and found out what had happened, he was devastated. We saw him a few more times in that year, he got my dad to shave all his hair off instead of having a Hulk Hogan/Jack Nicholson About Schmidt look going on. My dad kept up his 'number one all over' shaved head, except now it's grown back ala Nicholson because he's been in various hospitals for most of the year and he begrudges paying the £7.50 for the hospital hairdresser to cut his hair, when he can get Tina from Headman to cut it for £3.50 (he gives her a fiver so she can keep the tip). We went to Evesham during that year to see where he lived and meet his friends in the pub. He was proud that I was the first one to go to Uni and asked for a copy of my graduation photo with Mom, it was the least I could do being as he'd been unable to say goodbye to her.

Tony often 'disappeared' for years, often resurfacing smiling and asking how we'd all been for the past few years. It was hard to catch up on so many years, but it was quite normal and we accepted that he needed his own space. Mom would always tell us stories of how Tony used to sleepwalk when he was a young adult, and one day he walked down the stairs stark naked much to the amusement of everyone in the living room. Despite the lack of contact with my parents as he got older, Tony would always show up sooner or later just to say 'Hi' and to check in.

The news of his death came as quite a shock and my dad, whose in hospital himself was very upset too. I never thought I'd be arranging my brother's funeral, but that is the way it has happened. I'm happy to have spoken to his friend Ian, who has known him for quite a few years and was like surrogate family to him. As adopted children, the whole concept of 'family' is unstable and fluid and we go through life trying very hard to find out who we are, I hope that Tony's search is now over and he can finally rest in peace.

If you knew my brother and would like to leave a tribute then you can do so at the link below:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter eggs and a belly full of emotions

It's Good Friday, a bank holiday when pretty much everything is still open. Gone of the days of being stuck in the house with provisions from the market to last for a week. I went to see my dad in hospital again, he's been there for over three weeks now with an infection in his urinary system. Apparently, it's a mystery. He's on his thrid round on antibiotics and now has a catheter pumping out blood red urine into a measuring box. It always shocks me when I see it- I can't help but say "it's not supposed to be that colour," to which my dad replies "but they haven't said there is anything wrong with it, they'd say if it wasn't supposed to be that colour." I thought he'd be out after a week but it seems like he'd not doing too well. I noticed today (after not being able to see him yesterday) that he was slumped over to the left side. It was like his left half just couldn't hold itself up. I asked him to lift his arms up, and punch my hands as I'd seen three or four doctors do when they admitted him weeks ago. I don't know if doctors don't talk to each other because they are so tired from shifts, or whether someone is just really crap at taking notes but after arriving in the ambulance (which I had to call despite being told he was ok by the first ambulance paramedics)each person seeing him would ask the same questions over and over again. I often feel angry and sad when I leave the hospital. Once I arrived and he was sat in a chair covered in blood, tea and piss. The hospital that he is in isn't great to be honest but I try to be positive and know that he has nurses there to help out even though they are not the most informed people and the ward seems grubby and dank. I don't know if being around ill people can make one feel sick too but I leave after my daily visits exhausted and I always have a mixture of emotions. I don't know if I'd be considered a 'young carer' anymore being as I'm in my early thirties but I was thinking I'd like to write a story about that theme. I guess I began looking after my parents in 2002, or perhaps it was a little earlier than that. It's been difficult. I'm sure there are a lot of young people out there who care for their relatives who are having a difficult time too.

It's much better than it used to be though. Back in the old days I would have to go to the hospital everyday and take my dad food because he wouldn't eat anything. I would cook him dinners and take him in a taxi. Now I don't do that. I do as much as I can but I try to also do things that make me happy. I'm going on holiday for a few days next week and I'll feel worried that I won't be able to call him directly but I'm not going to cancel my trip. A few years ago I probably would have stayed at home and not gone away. Dad has been trying things he wouldn't normally eat and then some days he doesn't eat anything but a sandwich. He moaned about the pureed food and the "chilli con carne muck," they gave him. I do take him things to eat but often he says "Don't like it," and "Ergh, no it's too dry," and I either end up eating it myself or chucking it in the bin.

I have been more centred as I've gotten older. I would get a lot more stressed in my younger years caring for my parents. I managed to work this week and carry on as 'normal'. I did some breathing exercises today and a yoga session in my front room. I sometimes have to remind myself when I am feeling self-pity (which can be quite often in times of duress)that I am not the one suffering in the hospital and that I should be grateful for my own health and that I have the time to go to see him and be there for him. In some strange way, this hospital episode has brought us more closer together, I'm cleaning up his litle table that gets sticky from the spilt milk and juices, and I've been cleaning and moisturizing his feet and legs as they had swollen and the skin had gotten flaky. I've never done that before. I often feel like I have more insight than some of the medical staff who walk pass blind to detrimental signs that something is wrong with him. I've been giving him some reiki, putting my hands on his back and warming up his cold bruised hands (they said they find it hard to find his veins).I think that has helped just make him feel like a human.

I took in a couple of the anthologies that feature my stories today but I didn't get them out of the bag to read them to him. I didn't feel it was the right time. He sits in his chair all day with no TV and he doesn't want to read, he hardly moves...he's been in that state for three weeks which is some kind of feat in itself. I would go insane. I fear he's depressed and the other day he started to cry and then stopped himself. He's never been very good at showing his emotions.

The hospital is in stark contrast to the storytelling I've just completed for Herefordshire Council this week as part of Destination China. The event has been in the planning stages since October last year. I spent much of the last two weeks making props and trying to remember the stories (Chinese myths that aren't actually very good for storytelling sessions). I enjoyed all of the events and realised that kids in Ross-On-Wye are super smart! Well, and super cute. The journey to Hereford station on Wednesday was divine with the gorgeous hillsides of Great Malvern on the way. I enjoyed dressing up as Guan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of Compassion and Mercy once again, there is something about the outfit, it really does make me feel all floating and goddess-like! The kids loved it. I reckon it's also because the probably don't see that many Chinese people in ye olde countryside but I was all glittered up to the nines too. The storytelling went well and the first session set the tone for the rest. I was very nervous as I had five stories to remember, plus props, and actions for the children to perform. All in all it went well with each session very different depending on the location and the types of children participating. I'm hoping to do more of this kind of thing in the future.

Spring is here and so is the final year of my writing course. How fast it has gone! I am now planning to get working on my memoir. We'll see how it goes, I'm a little bit scared but if I break the project down into sizeable chucks that should make it easier. I'd like my dad to get better now so we can go on day trips out. He can't travel abroad which is one of the things I wanted to do with him, so days out to pretty places will have to do.

I'm going to see my dad again tomorrow and will buy him some cheesy TUC biscuits as he requested. I wonder if he will be able to eat them or not. The mini pain au chocolat did not go down well today. He is like Andy from the Little Britain sketch, the guy in the wheelchair who often says "Don't like it," - that's it, my dad is Little Britain! I hope that like Andy he will be able to get up and have some fun when my back is turned. I did buy him an Easter egg but I ate it tonight whilst watching The Shawshank Redemption.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Happy New Year 2009 - writing, yoga and YELP

Happy Chinese New Year of the Ox! It's been a whooping six months since my last post and as I am unable to write everything that has happened in detail, once again I'll do a 'catch-up' post.

I realised that I hardly ever write anything about yoga despite declaring myself a 'yogini' (a female yogic practitioner). I started Ashtanga yoga this time last year after practicing the more gentle style of 'Hatha' (actually, all yogas with postures are Hatha, but if it's advertised as a 'Hatha' style it usually is a moderate paced class with breathing and relaxation work). There has been a strange symbiosis going on with my life and the introduction of yoga to it. I can now do postures that I could not complete when I first started classes, and like my writing it has taken time and patience getting to grips with the technical aspects even though I had some natural ability. I recently found an electronic journal article that linked Thoreau's 'On Walden Pond' with Yoga. I had read the text whilst studying my undergraduate degree. Back then it had no real effect on me, however, now I follow a yogic path it makes a lot more sense. I was really happy to see a link between yoga and literature, as they are my two favourite things!

There has been quite a huge change in me since I last posted a blog entry. I feel like I've slowed down and life is not as frantic as it used to be. I wrote another short script last October called 'Aston Manna' which was inspired by true events. I had had the idea of writing about the main characters for some time but had not considered writing it as a script. Roger Shannon (Producer) and Pogus Caesar (Director) asked me if I had something I'd like to write for the Screen West Midlands Digishort and I thought about that old idea (I keep an ideas folder on my computer, along with an unfinished stories file). They liked the sound of the story and so I wrote it, still quite unconfident about my screenwriting abilities as up until that point I had only written two short film scripts. We submitted it, and the wonderful news is that we have been shortlisted to pitch to a panel which includes representatives from Screen WM and the UK Film Council. For myself, I've just very pleased to have gotten to the final nineteen from around one hundred and fifty scripts. Obviously, I'd be chuffed if we did get the funding as I'd like to see how a film is made. I am curious to see how my vision of a story becomes transmutes into a collaborative vision on the screen. Last year was great for me to simply 'have a go' and try different writing formats and collaborate with different people.

I also wrote a ten minute play for the SCRIPT/Beijing Map Games competiton. Shockingly, I was one of the winners. I'd never written a play before but felt that a short script would be a good training ground to see if I could do it. I've seen only two plays in the last two years and my knowledge of the mechanics is very basic.

October 2008 was a really busy month as I also wrote a sample for a children's book which was created by a lady who contacted me via e-mail. Earlier in the year I had received my first rejection letter from Hodder for a concept book for young children, however, I was told that the sample I wrote was interesting and Franklin Watts (the largest publisher of children's educational books) would offer me a contract. Funnily enough, Franklin Watts are part of Hodder and so it felt like some karmic reckoning was going on. The series is called The Crew and the title I wrote is the Day of the Dog and will be out in July. The books are quite unique in that they are about six inner-city children from various ethnic backgrounds who live on a housing estate. It's very much my kind area. When I read the notes I recognised the similarities between the fictional location and an area I lived in a few years ago. I'm very happy to be part of something so positive.

I've pondered some time about the kind of writer I want to be...I've come to no concrete conclusions, however, it has always been my intention to connect to other's emotions through my words. I have been deemed by a couple of people as a 'storyteller' and I quite liked that label. I thought every writer was a 'storyteller' but now I realise my work often has a very definite story to it. You will not reach the end of my writing and ask 'What was that about?' In many ways, learning about screenwriting has helped my prose writing, as I always begin my plan for a screenplay with one line detailing what it's going to be about.

My friend Allison sent me a book for Christmas called Writing Well whic is by an Austrailia guy called Mark Tredinnick. I'm enjoying most of it. There is a section for creative writers and he quotes George Saunders who wrote:

"Art, at it's best, is a kind of uncontrolled yet disciplined YELP, made by one of us, who because of the brain he was born with and the experiences he has had and the training he has received, is able to emit a Yelp that contains all of the joys, miseries, and contradictions of life as it is actually lived. That Yelp, which is not a logical sound, does good for all of us."

Yep. I like it. I wanna YELP!

I have said it every year, but I want to write a book. I feel that I've had good practice with the shorter pieces and now I want to challenge myself to create something FAT with vitality. I'm excited about this year and the possibilities that it may bring.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Goodness Gracious Goddess

It's Sunday and I've done two loads of laundry, mopped the floors, emptied out the compose bin and cooked tuna and sweetcorn pasta for the dog I'm looking after for two weeks, she thinks she is human. Little does she know how it's hard being a human when you've been a goddess for a day! I'm back down on earth after a whole day as the most beloved Chinese goddess - Guan Yin.

Yesterday's Silk Screen celebrations in Birmingham, London, Manchester and Glasow ran simultaneously throughout the day and was a huge success. The day was organised by the BBC and Emergency Exit Arts who did a grand job of co-ordinating the event and finding great entertainment. The aim was to promote British Chinese culture, mark the end of the China Now festival and highlight the BBC Videonation diaries that had been made (click here to view 'Adopted Identity' ) by the British Chinese community all around the nation.

My dad Ron!

The other people from the Birmingham Videonation group were also there yesterday - so it was a mini-reunion. Their films can be seen on the Videonation website.
My personal favourite is Julie Sohoo's film West To East as it's endearing and I've never met anyone from 'the Valley' before so it's interesting how we have things in common despite growing up on very different places. We realised we went to the same University at the same time, and were in the same building! I think I might remember her (there were very few British Chinee students in at Uni back in 1995/6), but I'm not one hundred percent sure. We both had English friends and at University I thought I was a basketball playing (yet quite academic) gangster! It's funny how your identity changes over time and you realise that really you just need to be YOURSELF!

I love Julie's grandmother too! I love Chinese grandmothers. I've recently got to know my own a little bit more after meeting her a couple of years ago and she's an wonderful woman. My first fictional short story 'Lychees and Bingo Balls' features a Chinese grandmother who braves it in the U.K and I think people who are older and move somewhere totally different in terms of culture, cuisine and basically everything are amazing. I know that small cultural enclaves form around ethnic communities, and I saw that this weekend during the festivities where a lot of the Chinese community turned out to support the Silk Screens event.
I think the local Chinese people were happy with my portrayal of their beloved Guan Yin (they called me 'Gwun Yam' in Cantonese, no, not Yam Yam!) and one lady told me: "Gwun Yam, she is dignified. No big grinning!" I put on my best demure yet compassionate face during the day and only grinned when my friends were about!

I had done a lot of research on the goddess and discovered that she was a lot like me (although I've yet to reach Bodhisattva status!). The goddess Guan Yin has many legends told about her and is quite a multi-dimensional being. You can't always find one definition of who she or or what she represents (very much like me I feel). In some representations she is androgenous, and in others she is a feminine beauty with a bust and a full face of make-up. In some stories she has helpers, and in others she sits on her lotus in a contemplative mood, happy in her solitude.
I enjoyed the whole process of 'becoming' the goddess too. My good friend Ramona, a Buddhist and very creative person helped me make the costume. Together we bounced ideas off each other as the best way to personify this important deity for her manifestion in Victoria Square and I think the end result did us both proud.

I discovered a little of my own inner goddess as a result of participating in the Silk Screens Festival. I also got to know about the Chinese myths and legends surrounding this important figure and told members of the public who I was and why she was so important for Chinese people.
I think Guan Yin's universality is a trait I would very much like to have as a writer, and so not only was it an honour to 'perform' and be a goddess for a day but I know that other good things will come of it - both in terms of my personal journey and as a developing writer seeking new ways to connect to humanity (cheesy? Yes, of course I'm cheesy...I dress up as mythical figures in my spare time!).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Creative Writer Seeks Illustrator

Must be patient, imaginative and good with their hands.
GSOH and non-smoker essential.

“As in marriage, the rules of collaboration are communication and surrender. Afterall, it's all a learning experience.”
Syd Field - Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting
Title Page by Elaine Brambil

Collaboration One: Constructing Tina Freeth

As part of the National Academy of Writing Professional Development module we are required to work with others in creating a piece of work. I had managed to make contact with a Birmingham City University lecturer and artist Chiu Kwong Man in the hope that I might be able to meet some of his illustration students to work on a collaboration. He put me in touch with his third year student Elaine Brambil, whose illustrations weren’t what I imagined illustrations to be…that is drawings. Elaine’s work is subtle collage and nostalgically layered images, stuck, cut and pasted together to create a visual narrative. Elaine wanted to collaborate with a writer to experiment with a narrative that was already in place. Her previous work assembled from bits of discarded pieces (postcards, old tickets, old photographs) and trinkets sold cheaply in the Rag Market or passed down to her from her parents or grandparents. I have to admit this kind of collaboration was not what I had expected to do, but the more I thought about it the more I came around to the idea.

Elaine discussed her initial ideas about a fictional person dying and leaving behind objects which form the basis for a narrative. On hearing her ideas I began to formulate my own in alignment with hers. My mother had died a few years back and I inherited the family photographs and old documents. I offered these up to Elaine for her use and agreed that I could write some pieces of fragmented memoir. Unbeknownst to Elaine I had started my memoir last year, but had reached a blockage when I had to begin writing about my distant past and the 70s. I knew this project would get me thinking about memories. Elaine was very much interested in secrets and the emotional and quirky parts of families we rarely see beyond the smiling family portraits, so I wrote fragmented accounts of my family and of my childhood growing up in a council house in Birmingham.
The result of our collaboration is a dummy book made by Elaine featuring my words and her illustrations.

This is the prologue:
I used to have recurring dreams of Mom dying. Some nights I’d wake up sobbing with snot and sorrow drenching my pyjamas. The terror of not having her in my life was larger than my phobia of snakes and my fear of the dark. She was just like the light on the stairwell - always switched on helping me to navigate the ups and downs of life. I was twenty-six when my light went out. Mom died on the 6th August 2003 whilst I held her hand. As a child I used to sneak into her bedroom asking for pain relief from cramped calf muscles. ‘Put your foot on a cold floor,’ she would whisper, as she rubbed my hardened leg with her warm hands easing my pain away. It always worked, like some kind of instant magic. The one person who used to take my pain away, was gone. The woman whose apron strings I was tied to, had left me as others had left me before. She was the person I loved most in the world and suddenly I felt very much alone.

Collaborating with Elaine has been great for me as it enabled me to look at my past creatively, we went through my old photos together and she picked out the ones she felt were visually interesting. I began writing whatever came into my head about my past, using the photographs as memory joggers. If I was stuck with knowing what I should edit and cut I would look at her illustrations and vice verse, she would looked to my writing for inspiration on visual content and composition.

Collaboration Two: The Lonely Lemon

After working with Elaine for a few weeks, Chiu then asked me if I wanted to collaborate with him, a kind of see-saw experiment where we both draw and write. I have to say that I was unconfident about my drawing abilities and also Chiu’s style is rather dark compared to my own happy-go-lucky conversational writing style. We began with a sentence:
There was a lemon boy, how he came to be nobody nose (yes, a homonym!).

This collaboration began quite rocky with my social realism drawings not working alongside the art I know Chiu produces. I didn’t see how it would work. After a few attempts to create a working path that we would both be happy with, we decided on sticking to what we did best, him drawing and me writing. Chiu produced eight illustrations featuring a lemon boy and a host of other strange characters and left me to get on with writing a first draft response to the creatures that had broken free from his imagination.

I wanted the story to mean something and so it is about the human condition, I also wanted to get as many lemon references in there and play with language and the meaning of various words. The whole first draft can be read on Chiu’s website http://www.myeyeisonfire.net/ (The Lonely Lemon) and I’m currently in the process of rewriting it as a children’s story inspired by his family’s collaborative follow-up to my initial draft.

From collaborating with other people and visual artists in particular I’ve realised how creative we can encourage each other to be. Collaboration, like Syd Field said is like a marriage, a relationship where both parties should get what they desire but with the overall outcome foremost in your mind. From these two projects I’ve decided to write some short stories using my friend’s photographs of Hong Kong as starting points and visual stimuli for creating a narrative. I’ve also recently been to Paris and bought some postcards written during the early 1900s. Anything can be a made into a story – all you need is that creative spark ignited, whether by another person or an object or memorabilia.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A split personality and her two blogs

I've been keeping TWO (that's right count 'em, two) blogs. The BLOGSPOT one which I rarely post to (and only really set up to boost the chances of GOOGLE picking up my website), and the one on my website, that I post to more frequently. I'm not sure if there is a way to post simultaneously, do one with my left hand and the other with my right? Can I kill two birds with one stone? From now on I'm going to cut and paste my writing so that both sites have the same posts. If you have missed my other blogs (not that they are very enlightening or exciting, I talk mostly about what I ate and what I've not been writing) then you can find my other one at: http://www.tinafreeth.com/page6.htm

I was all ready to go out today. I imagined myself at a Starbucks with my laptop occasionally staring out of the window, whilst my fingers typed away for hours. Now and then I would sip on peppermint tea that tastes like chewing gum and costs one pound fifty. However, it's miserable outside and I thought I'd clear up my blog mess instead. Back in the day I had a Myspace blog where only friends were allowed to read about my heartfelt feelings about someone or other who didn't reciprocate, yes, back then I wrote a lot about unrequited love. Or I moaned about my boss who ran her charity like a dictator calling it her 'regime' - apparently I was a threat to the 'regime'. Now I know that I don't need to blog that stuff anymore because I've got fiction and screenwriting to explore all the things in life I want to talk about. My overly-emotional blogging of the past did help me unburden things stored up that needed to come out in words, so you know, writing does help get all the crap out of you, a bit like a colonic.

I'm reading a few books at the moment and one of the authors has a kind of split personality, like myself. Peter Ho Davies has a new book out called The Welsh Girl...that's not the book I have. I have his short story collection called Equal Love and I didn't mean to buy it. It kind of winked at me from the shelf in Waterstones. I had only intended to buy a copy of Starfishing by Nicola Monoghan (my tutor at the NAW) and on way to the till, something pulled me over to the shelf, it's not the cover as I don't particularly think it's an eye-grabbing one. I think it was the HO in the middle of his name. As an amateur Chinese person I'm getting very good at spotting people with Chinese names. I'm not sure how I saw the HO sandwiched between the PETER and the DAVIES but I did. That's why I bought the book, the HO had me.

In the book, Davies does what I would like to do, and that is he writes about everyone! As a half Chinese/half Welsh expat in America he has the ability to write characters from all walks of life. His characters are white, black, Chinese, working-class, academics, English, American, children, and the list goes on. I love it. Right now my writing is very British, but I would like to write more American style fiction as that has influenced me a lot, I studied it and I lived over there for a short while during my first degree. I used to take yearly trips back to California and New York but I've been unable to do that recently. My mate called me from San Francisco and I told him about one of Davies' stories called 'How to be an expatriate' it reminded me of my friend who has moved from his West London environment to be with the woman he loves, last night he said the word 'awesome' far too many times. When we lived in Berkeley in '97/'98, I'd get a sharp reprimand from him if I said the word 'elevator' instead of lift.

I also just finished a great book called The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. It is a very American book and its characters remind me of American people I know of a certain age. But what I liked about it most was its descriptions of mental health and how we cope when people we love have mental malfunctions and they don't know what to do and you don't know what to do. It was very touching and well done, and written with a wonderful pace and generosity.

I think I might tackle Atonement next as my expat mate said it was "brilliant" (not just "awesome", it was "brilliant"). After that I'll watch the film and hope that Kiera Knightly has a facial expression I've not seen her do yet. She is beautiful though.

As a multi-tasking reader, I'm also reading Syd Field's Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. He talks about how everything in life and in the Universe is connected. It's like he's giving you a spiritual lesson as well as a screenwriting one, my new agey side likes that a lot. Syd's ok by me. I find that when I critique someone's work often I'll give it a intuitive/holistic once over before I look at things like sentence structure and character development. It's probably not the best way to judge somebodies work but I tend to do it, I'll think about the work and whether the author put their love into it, because often if they didn't, you can really see that. Yes, you have to work on editing and getting the little things right, the parts are connected to the whole, but I think it's very important that you do have a connection to your work as it is a little piece of you. I might be talking complete and utter bollocks! That would be the other personality.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Where I'm at...

SO...where to begin. I last blogged here some time way back in 1957 when food was short. Oh, no that wasn't me that was someone else. September 2007 was the last time I bothered to write anything here and that my friends is because I was focusing on my website http://www.tinafreeth.com/ and writing for my friends' amusement. If you look at my guestbook on that site, it's all my pals saying 'well done' etc, etc. I paid them half a sixpence to tell me how great I am. I think a lot of people were shocked that I created my own website. But hey, I'll try anything once.

I'll do a brief summary of the months preceding this one so you can catch up on the thing I call 'life', sometimes I call it 'flailing cows intestine soup'...

October - was manic depressive. I was part of two events at the Birmingham Book Festival, which was really amazing for someone like me, who was all new and starry eyed (still have one star in my eye) to the literary world. It was going well, then, suddenly my roots were yanked out and I had to dismantle my rundown and manky childhood home as my dad was offered a place in sheltered housing. It was perfect, but it was very painful at the same time.

November - I spent three hours at Heathrow and on a bus, with this circus (slash) actor (slash) dancer (slash) stripper gay guy that I'd been in love with since 2003. He was transfering from the airport to a cruise ship. Not a gay cruise I'm told. I'd been to see him, whereever he was, every year since we'd met (I'd flown to LA. Montreal and Taipei to see him), or he'd come here to visit me here - so that was nice, but weird. Three hours....probably the perfect amount of time really. We didn't want to kill each other for a change. When the book is written you can read all about this strange relationship we had. Other than that, I can't think of any other defining thing that happened in November, how sad is that? I got business cards, that was kinda sorta exciting...I learnt in Taiwan that everyone has to have business cards! Joined local gym, hoping to be ten stone or under sometime soon.

December - Obviously Christmas came and (thankfully) went. I always say I'm boycotting it, but I never do. I lost my cat Mo for three days, I roamed the streets calling 'Mo! Mo! Come back Mo!' - she came back on Boxing Day, emaciated and walking like she was drunk. Had she been to a cat's only piss up? I had three Taiwanese people, a Chinese friend, my dad and a Moroccan over for Christmas dinner. It was not as diverse as the Christmas before with Congolese and Japanese guests. Oh I had the flu over the festive period too. It kicked my ass.

January - I handed in my notice at the British Red Cross as I wanted to focus more on my writing and even though I loved the cause and the people I worked with, it was more responsibility than I wanted. I decided that my years as a fundraiser should come to an end. The charity world will see me again, but not for some time (I'm still volunteering, I'm out with my fancy bucket on friday as it happens). I still want to start my own charity some day but I need to do a lot more work on mysel before that happens. I went to the launch of BBCN (British Born Chinese Network). I also received a Wing Yip bursary which was brilliant as the students that apply and win are always the best in their field. I would say I've little competition in my field. There aren't many BBC writers out there. I started work supporting disabled students temporarily, and wonderfully I've chosen all arty students which is helping me be more creative too. I started ashtanga yoga and that is what I want to write about when I started this post...but once again, I digress...

February - no Valentines for me. But I wasn't shocked. I've only ever received one card in my entire life and that was from a friend who did it out of pity. Went to London to see Varekai which was the first Cirque Du Soleil show I'd ever seen, it was in L.A last time with that gay guy. I've seen six others since then in Birmingham, Montreal, and San Francisco. It's a enchanting show. I met Lord Melvyn Bragg of Wigton and gave him a copy of 'Original Skin' the Anthology my story is in. He's very charming and I'll make more of an effort to watch him on the tele now that I've met him. He does have amazing hair. I didn't know this was common knowledge, anyway, it's true.

That brings us up to date - It's now March and I feel like I'm working like a nutter. I'm working on two scripts (ten minutes or less) for a BBC Writersoom initiative. Part of me knows that I am once again I've gone for the affirmative action route. Is that wrong of me? I've being fortunate because there is a need for British Born Chinese writers to be writing. I know a couple of BBCs who have heard of Helen Tse, who wrote Sweet Mandarin (a memoir) and the BBC have a writer called Jo Ho whose short films are great. The BBC is actively looking, and that's great. When I studied at Berkeley in California, I always wondered why Chinese-Americans were more prolific in the arts and in creating a voice for themselves then us BBCs over here. There is a general feeling that Chinese children aren't encouraged to be artistic (except perhaps to go to ballet or to learn the flute like affluent white, upper middle-class kids). I was fortunate to have parents that didn't really care what I wanted to do. My dad is happy now I'm writing, but he thought I'd make a good air steward, my legs are too man-like for that job. I'm taking part in BBC Videonation too. I'm doing a SCRIPT screenwriting course during the weekends and I want to get a Penguin submission in by April as well as a couple other articles I have to write. AND I've about a hundred ideas for childrens books as I've been working as a support worker in a class where students have to design and make a childrens book. It's been inspiring being around creative and enthusiatic people. Manic! I just wanna be paid to write. My perfect day at the moment would look something like this:

Tina awakes with the sunlight held back behind her thin white curtains. The kids next door cannot be heard screaming at their mom, perhaps they got up for school this morning without fuss. Tina merrily skips downstairs to the front room which is warm and inviting. Lighting her nag champa she devotes herself to an hour and a half yoga pratice, followed by a brief swim in the pool and a stint in the sauna. She then has a healthy breakfast, roasted museli, made by good friend Rena who has supplied her with enough for one year! Tina then has lunch in a well-lit and friendly cafe where classical music plays in the background. She sits with her laptop (that isn't slow on that particular day) and types for five hours straight. Her story is perfect and not in need of editing or revision (obviously this is fictional). The story is e-mailed to someone with lots of money who then wire transfers an amount (6 figures) to Tina's Swiss bank account. During the evening she relaxes with friends, hosting a dinner party where the catering is carried out by gourmet chefs from the Andes. When the guests leave she begins to paint abstract shapes over her spare room where she converses with the dead.

I'm going to bed now....tired.