Year Of Change

Image borrowed from Bristol Old Vic

How to make changes during pandemic and post

I can’t believe that we’re almost at the end of February. It seems like time has flown by under lockdown. The Chinese have just entered the Year of the Ox. And feng shui experts promise a strong year of change.

As England eases up on our uniformed incarceration, the mood is buoyant. Articles galore are being circulated around the globe on how wonderful summer of ’21 is looking. Hang on! We are not there yet, but we can hope as we project into the future; hope for change. There is hope too in the UK publishing world as Bonnier Books reveals their inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. They and the UK are moving and shaking to make changes to include more diverse voices and people in publishing. About time! 

As most of us in the industry who are not White know, the focus hasn’t always been on us. Yes, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, People of Colour writers, have existed for the longest time: there are books written by freed slaves (mostly in the USA) that have been mentioned by Toni Morrison, tomes penned by Chinese philosophers and thinkers (all in Chinese but many have been translated into English), and in the modern world, fiction written in English by greats like Tash Aw, Amy Tan, and Tan Twan Eng, there is still a gap in the market that needs to be filled. Patience is the key to seeing change happen for “meaningful change takes time and doesn’t happen in isolation.” But Perminder Mann, c.e.o. of Bonnier Books says that she and her team are committed to more meaningful and prolonged engagement and collaboration to make change happen. I salute them. 

On the home front: As folks know, I am a committed agent of change. There are many reasons why and the biggest one of all is that CHANGE makes us BETTER people. Why be stuck in antiquity? 

On the writing front: I have been prolific in my writing under pandemic. I know that this hasn’t been easy for many writers who have to deal with WFH, home-schooling kids, and being locked down and in small spaces. Don’t be hard on yourselves—choose self-love. For those of us with half empty nests, the lockdown has kept us busy so that we don’t lose our sanity. So, I wrote and wrote reams and reams. Writing helps me find catharsis. But there are other ways to find release as well. 

On the change front: You don’t have to write new stuff. Revising old stuff is also writing. I revised an old manuscript that had been sitting in my computer drawer for ages. I couldn’t find the mojo to finish it under the first lockdown in Singapore. Under my third lockdown in England, I rescued it from my musty computer drawer and worked on it. I shared it with some writer friends in my community and after they’d given me their feedback, I revised it again. Then I found the courage to submit it to an agent who rejected it. No matter. I am an agent of change. So I changed the story a little bit more and I sent it to another agent. This time I got a ‘I love it’ email, are you up for a chat? Now, I’m working with an agent to make changes in the book market in the UK.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. But it won’t happen if you don’t decide to affect change. 

Change happens on several levels and here are three:

  • Choose to change;
  • Vote for change;
  • Make change happen.

Get those pens or ‘puters out and write those stories and be prepared to change them. Then write that query letter and send them out. Here is a list of literary agents in the UK that may like your work. It only takes one. 

Make Change Happen.

I am available for one-to-one consultations and mentoring. I want to help you make that change. Connect with me @evawongnava on Instagram and Twitter. Email me: enquiries@evawongnava.com.

On Synesthesia

Synesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” — Wikipedia.

In my book, Open – A Boy’s Wayang Adventure, the protagonist, Open, likes to read. He reads “about anything and everything”. (Open: pp 7). He would sometimes consult Wikipedia when he wants to find out things. He also perceives his world differently from the rest of us. For example, he describes his feelings in relation to one of the five senses—taste. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 7, where Open talks about how he feels on learning that Mama may be leaving him to work in New Zealand.

I will not be seeing Mama for a few months when she goes to New Zealand. It will take more than 10 hours to reach Auckland by plane. That’s very far away. I will not be seeing Mama every day.

“When will you go?” Papa asks.

“They’re still deciding…”

“It’s just that Open…”

“Oh Ben,” Mama sighs. “I don’t know, Sky. He’s not getting better and I don’t know what to say to him.”

I am tasteless inside.

Some people, like Open, are synesthetes. They often experience one sense using another part of their sensory organs. For example, listening to music can trigger a vision of bright lights in some people. In another case, known as grapheme-colour synesthesia, letters and numbers are seen as colours or coloured. Open experiences his world in a lexical-gustatory way, where certain tastes are experienced when hearing certain words or when certain people are associated with particular tastes. In chapter 7, Open feels “tasteless inside” when he hears his mother uttering “Oh Ben”. Like many lexical-gustatory synesthetes, Open expresses his feelings, sadness in his case, through tasting it.

A well known synesthete was Wassily Kandinsky. He experienced visions of colours in motion when listening to classical music. The moving colours correspond to the movement in the music. In his paintings, you will often see dashes of colours—sprays of blues, swirls of violets, glares of yellows, circles of reds, lines of black—rendered in watercolour. Take for example, his Composition VII (1913), the canvas is a mess of colours, distracting to look at. But in this piece, Kandinsky is expressing a profound sense of the spiritual. He often associates and ascribes certain emotional qualities to certain shades of colours.

Wassily Kandinsky is a Russian artist (1866-1944). He was also an art theorist, often talking and discussing art with his friends and in lectures. Kandinsky is credited with being the first artist recognised to have painted the first work of pure abstraction.

Kandinsky is very grandiloquent in expressing the processes at work when painting: “Our hearing of colours is so precise … Colour is a means of exerting a direct influence upon the soul. Colour is the keyboard. The eye is the hammer. The soul is the piano with its many strings. The artist is the hand that purposely sets the soul vibrating by means of this or that key. Thus it is clear that the harmony of colours can only be based upon the principle of purposefully touching the human soul.” (The Guardian, 2006)

Emotions are too abstract to describe in real terms. Associating an emotion to a certain taste or colour, often helps us picture how we feel concretely, in my opinion.

I would be happy to hear what readers have to say about synesthesia. Please leave your comments below. Remember that this blog may be read by children who have read Open and want to discuss the book here. Do remember to be polite and mindful that young minds may be present in this space.

If you haven’t purchased your copy of Open – A Boy’s Wayang Adventure, you can buy it here. For Singapore readers, the book is sold exclusively at Popular Bookstore until April. To review Open, you can go to Good Reads where the book is listed.

To participate in Instagram, take a picture with the book and hashtag #OpenEveryChildMatters, @evawongnava, to share about your reading journey. I would love to hear from you.