Elviza Michele Kamal of the Write Away blog – now here is one self-confident and talented writer who happens to be a lawyer. She’s also a wife, a mother, a daughter and a friend to those who know her.
I don’t really know about the other aspects of her life, but if they are like her writing, then she is more than worthy of a place in Malaysia’s “Who’s Who”. No, not necessarily that one catering to “high society” but to “the real people” – you and I. The fact that I have included her link here, plus RSS her blog at the Cendana Blues: Addicted to Politics site despite it “not being a political-centric blog” (and have RSS it in my Firefox browser too) shows how highly I rate her.
It’s hard to get me to write posts here even if someone were to pay me. And I’m not joking, for I don’t treat this Recovery site like I do Cendana Blues. This isn’t to say “everything that is posted here is of high/exceptional/outstanding quality”, no. But things that do come out here come about “because I want them to; because my heart says `Write it’ and I really want to”. And for this one – “Elviza’s Assignment” – I really want to. Which is why I’m leaving the continuation of that last post for the time being and am doing this one first. I’m just sorry that I had not done it sooner, due to my being caught up with quite a number of things.
So what is this all about? It’s from a post at Elviza’s blog titled Writer’s Writuals on Sept 25. It’s rather flattering and an honour indeed that she had tagged me as one of the seven people to continue with this “Tag”. And besides her self-confidence, she’s feisty and vivacious too. Who would have dared to come up with this line upon tagging the seven victims: I found the tag at Writer’s Retreat and I hereby tag Mat Salo, Mat Bangkai, Jac, Puteri Kamaliah, Pak Zawi, Ahmad Cendana, Thetha, Kak Teh and Tunku Halim – only if he’s not too busy writing the new book. You don’t have to do it, but you will do it anyway because you love me.:-)
Yes, I’m doing this because I do love her; in the sense of her writing and her spirit – she is one of the people I “know” from the blogs who embodies “living, living life, enjoying life, responsible life…” (like a couple in Kuantan I’m fortunate to know of) And her writings? Oh my!… Just have a look for yourself.
No, she doesn’t use the “carpet bombing style” in her writings – of `giving weight’ to her posts with words that would require most readers who had never studied at Oxford University, or having lived within a few miles radius of Buckingham Palace, to reach out for the dictionary (actually quite common with some writers as a bullying way to camouflage their lack of real substance). Or in my case, that excellent digital dictionary and thesaurus, WordWeb (something that I’d recommend to people I really like; if they don’t have it already). And I love Elviza for that.
To me, Elviza is like Puteri Kamaliah of kata kama. It’s only quite recently that I had discovered the latter’s blog (a few days before Raya) despite having heard (or “read”) of her name mentioned here and there (But then, it’s only since mid-July 2008 that I finally had an Internet connection at my beck and call since 2002). Both seem to have that same effect on me – their writings reach deep into me (And I’m still stuck with some inner turmoil having read her very first post of the “When Love Comes A-Calling” series. Which part and why is another story for this site here, “when the time is right”).
Anyway, with Elviza, I came to know of her site from “Mat Bangkai’s” very posh What! No Tea and Scones? (By the way, I `had cheated’ by going to see what Mat Bangkai and Puteri Kamaliah had written first. Have to add that I sometimes feel small and inferior when I read the writings of people like Mat Bangkai, Zaharan Razak, Sakmongkol AK47 and my American friend, David R) (Incidentally, both Elviza and Mat Bangkai use the same “Cutline” theme in WordPress. And I like their writings. And my blog here is on WordPress too. So maybe I should also… NO).
Mat Bangkai came to my knowledge through reading Susan Bakar’s excellent blog which is filled with writing/writer-related material, resources and links; and I knew Sharon through David R’s e-mail from South Korea last March, when I had just gotten this Acer Aspire 4315 laptop (“The mysterious David R again! When will you write about him?”, some may ask. “In its own good time”.)
So back to this “Writer’s Writuals”: I feel quite odd being included in this. For one thing, there is still this part of me that wants “to stay in the shadows”; as in Pink Floyd’s The Wall double-album … to be anonymous. But another part says “It’s time to seek others’ company; to open up to others, to know them, to let them know you…” And since you are seeing this post, the latter must have won this time.
CAPTION: Among the Pink Floyd songs that I had heard hundreds of times (might be `thousand’, for it was “very often”) since 1978 that are etched in my mind and psyche are the haunting “Time” , “Breathe in the Air”, “The Great Gig in the Sky” and “Brain Damage” from the “Dark Side of the Moon” album (1973). In “The Wall” (1980), `the extraordinary ones’ are “Hey You”, “Comfortably Numb”, “In the Flash”, “In the Flesh?”, “Waiting for the Worms”, “Vera”… Might as well name ALL, no?:-) 
Actually, I feel a bit like a fake when being referred to as “Writer”. In my mind, this should be “author” too (as in “has written a book”) – of people like Fyodor Dostoevsky, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Frederick Forsythe, John Grisham, A. Samad Said, Shahnon Ahmad … this type (Zaharan Razak has, and I think Puteri Kamaliah too. As has David R – with his 20-plus). But since it also covers “A person who is able to write and has written something“, being WordWeb’s less stringent definition, I’m going to oblige Elviza.
Q1. Where are you?
In a village about four miles from where the nearest English language newspaper is sold. Mohd Zawi of Pasir Mas: The Land of the Golden Sand and Life As I See It knows its exact location. I’m in the living room of a “rural-Kedah-style” wooden house on stilts (which was once mine) 11 feet above the ground, which is on a slope with the mighty Kelantan River about 20 metres away. Only bits of the river is visible from the house due to mangosteen, durian, duku and coconut trees plus two bamboo groves on the different sides covering the view. By the way, I resolve to get this house back. How? “I have a few plans”. Whether they work or not is another matter. But I have the ambitions and hopes fermented in Gambang and Kuantan and I will try.
Q2. What are you writing with?
If it’s not by directly typing to the laptop, I usually use an examination pad or/and exercise books. The pad and book that I’m currently using have sentimental value – they were sent by my father to Pusat Serenti Gambang (PSG) around February 2006, which I had taken to Pusat Khidmat AADK Kuantan in September and `back home’ (where the heart is. But then so is PSG. So how?). The pad is by creative products (CP) with mostly olive green cover, and the paper is the “just right” 70gsm. The exercise books are your regular thin, brown-cover Buku Latihan of 200 pages by NM Paper Converting Sdn Bhd in Province Wellesley South, Penang (the owner is likely a diehard Anglophile, and one the Umno and “Bahasa Kebangsaan” extremists would love to hang from the nearest rambutan tree. Oops! Forgot that politics should never be mentioned here). Anyway, as sort of to make it up, the “CABARAN WAWASAN 2020” AND “FALSAFAH PENDIDIKAN NEGARA” are printed behind.
As for writing instruments, I use ball-point pens – Staedler Stabilo, Reynolds and Bic are my favourites (but NOT the thin Kilometrico please; of which PS Gambang seems to prefer!) I used to have Parker and Sheaffer fountain pens (the lower end models), but have stopped using these 15 years ago. One reason why I’m not so enthusiastic with pens is because my handwriting is quite poor. But strangely, after coming back from Gambang, I’ve discovered “how to write better”! My handwriting is a lot better nowadays, but I tend to lapse into “the old mode” when in a hurry or tense.
Q3. What is the oddest object in front of you?
Cheap “tembakau darat” (village tobacco) and thin phonebook paper to wrap it with. I rarely buy cigarettes since seven years ago, and this “tobacco and paper” (instead of “daun” or palm leaf that `ordinary people’ use) is something brought back from Gambang. And prison. And lockup. The next “oddest” is perhaps this Huawei E220 HSDPA USB modem. (A lot) Faster ADSL Streamyx Internet connection is available in this area but I had opted for Celcom `Broadband’ due to a couple of reasons (Getting only GPRS 53.6Kbps most of the time instead of the 384Kbps 3G I had subscribed for).
Q4. What are you listening to?
The laptop’s fan spinning and vehicles along the main road 30 metres in front. There’s a hand-me-down, one-small-speaker Pensonic transistor radio with a non-functioning cassette player. Some weeks ago, I’d often tune in to Engku Emran’s Suria FM. But I haven’t switched it on since the fasting month; except to hear the Azan for Maghrib. Might start doing so again soon. But its sound is a put-off. If I really feel like listening to some music, I might use the MP3’s in the laptop instead.
Anyway, I try not to listen to Pink Floyd’s songs anymore, although I love them very much. I believe songs do influence us somewhat; and I try to avoid being in the state that I once was before going to Gambang. One thing about Pink Floyd’s songs – they move me. And often not in a positive way. It’s very easy to feel depressed and moody after an hour’s session listening to Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall especially. When I do get a decent music system, I’ll “be going a different route” this time. David R loves classical music; and since “he is what he is”, I’m going to give it a try. Plus Malay songs too.
Q5. Is there anyone else in the room?
No. “But where is your wife, children?” She’s at her parents house 30 feet away, with my youngest. “But why aren’t they here; or you there?”
Q6. What time of the day is it?
6.15 AM. I got up early to finish this post. When it comes to writing, I do it best from 4.30 PM onwards to the small hours of the mornings. And especially when it’s raining. On days when it’s stuffy, reading (anything) is more productive.
Q7. What do you do when you are looking for inspiration?
Previously morphine or heroin would sometimes do it. And spike it with methamphetamine (pil kuda). But since you always end up losing sooner or later, and since you have “to pay the piper” for “borrowing the inspiration” with hefty interest rates, I now look for other alternatives. One way is by reading the works of writers I like – like Elviza and those mentioned above. Plus from the books that I have (many of them are from David R; and through the efforts of a certain assistant editor with one newspaper), or downloads from Project Gutenberg. I think it should be simple enough – when looking for inspiration, look to the inspirational sources that come in those people, places and things who/that are.
Q8. What is guaranteed to remove your concentration?
Like most people, the handphone beeping a SMS signal. I’ll always immediately check it. Usually it’s the Alert from The Star (which could actually have been put off). But if it’s from friends and family, I’d welcome these at any time, and wouldn’t care even if it does distract me. [Psst! Awak berdua are doing just fine!:-) ] But what distracts and irritates are “vehicle horns” where I’d sometimes curse whoever-it-is in my heart. However, I try to immediately be in control and refrain from this for it’s not beneficial to me at all. And it won’t hurt the offender – unless I throw a fist-sized stone. Or, to learn from `Pusat’, unleash `something’ with a catapult (Don’t worry, my friends, for I don’t do that)
*UPDATE 12 Oct 12:04 PM – Had received a SMS from Elviza at about 8:15 AM. Just added Mamasita Mamamia! to the links under “Malaysians”. She is the other half of SakmongkolAK47, a political-centric blog that I had RSS at the other site, and which I MUST go to and read every day . I had mentioned his link in this post but I’ve not included it in the links – I don’t want this site to be connected to any site/blog that is directly connected to politics. But there is one exception though in Our Table by Mike Tan. Even though it is political, Our Table is, in my opinion, not partisan.