I may have mentioned the word ‘quarantine’ a little too ominously in my previous post, Wawasan 2020 (I), saying that I hoped March would be a quiet quarantined month. Little did I realise that my wish would come true; on 18 March 2020 the government declared a movement control order (MCO), a partial lockdown of sorts. And so the nation stayed home and worked from home.
For me, I filled this time with artistic pursuits. I did a 5-a-day for microfiction, and ended up writing 20 pieces altogether at 150 words each. You can read them here if you fancy. I also sent out two short story manuscript pitches, one to a publisher in the UK and another in Singapore, and submitted two newly-written short stories, one to a Penang zine and another to an Australian literary magazine. Using the 5-a-day concept, I also ended up solving 50 sudokus that month. Work was not too busy, with the occasional bits and bobs from all three jobs I was holding down.
In March, I read seven books, including ‘The Ghost Bride’ by Yangsze Choo, ‘King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table’ by Roger Lancelyn Green, ‘July, July’ by Tim O’Brien and ‘The Communist Manifesto’ by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. I also watched many new TV shows, three British (MotherFatherSon, Vera and New Worlds) and one American (The Morning Show). That month, I watched only one new film, and it was ‘Somewhere’ by Sofia Coppola. It’s the only Coppola film I haven’t yet seen, as I’ve been an ardent fan ever since I discovered ‘The Virgin Suicides’ as a teenager.
Come April I had gotten used to the stay home routine. April every year is Camp Nanowrimo for many of us writers, where we set a goal of x number of words and get allocated into “cabins” to spur each other on! My goal this year was 20,000 words, and I met that by participating in a writing project called “1minutestories”. Organised by my friend Shannon, the idea is that all stories are written in one sitting (not one minute), using a prompt sent to you every time you complete a story. You can read all about it here. In total, I wrote 16 stories that ranged from 400 words to 2,000 words, and I had such a blast bringing my characters to life.
In April, my short story ‘Cousins’ was one of fifteen selected for a competition by Secret Attic out of almost 80 entries. Together with another Malaysian-based writer, we were the only two non-UK/US winners, and coincidentally, both our stories were set in Penang! Happy news indeed. In April I also wrote my first poem of 2020, called ‘French kiss with an ice-cube’. In the career world, work got busy in April, with twice a week table reads via Zoom as colleagues started getting a hang of working from home. I also conducted an interview with a teacher in India for a freelance feature article I’m doing, and did plenty of editing in time for Good Friday and Easter (another one of my clients is a Christian publication).
In April I read eight books, and they included three by Patricia Highsmith and other great classics by Mary Shelley, Gaston Leroux and John Steinbeck. In the cinematic world, I watched four films and no TV shows. They were ‘Carol’ by Todd Haynes, ‘Boyhood’ by Richard Linklater, ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?’ starring Johnny Depp and a 19-year-old Leonardo diCaprio, and ‘Six Days of Sistine’, an experimental poetry-travelogue film starring Jamie Campbell Bower. I enjoyed all four of them immensely! I also watched two National Theatre plays, ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ and ‘Jane Eyre’, the latter whose music is so good! In May I am looking forward to Danny Boyle’s ‘Frankenstein’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and looking forward also to getting out of the house.