Friday, April 30, 2010

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (A Reflection of Life So True)

 With great sadness I am just waiting for the Form 3 Literature Component Text to inevitably finish its run in the syllabus. Next year, the last batch of students will read 'Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde' before it is replaced by a new text.

And what a beautiful text it is (eventhough the read-aloud session can potentially disable your larynx). As I read the struggle between good and evil in Dr. Jekyll, I found that I'm experiencing the same dilemma.There is this pressure to maintain a kind of a perfect image for yourself to be viewed by people around you. You are a mother to your children, and an adult very much in the view of your young students. Yet you know you are not perfect. Sometimes you slip. And when you slip, there are dire consequences. And thinking that you are supposed to be perfect, you can't seem to live with that. You feel that Mr. Hyde has won and the Dr. Jekyll facade that you try to keep as this while is a hypocrisy. You feel worthless and useless. You feel like rubbish. You feel that you have failed as a person because you let yourself make mistakes.

So you're turning a new leaf. You are not perfect and any attempt to be so will be absolutely futile. So, you have to not think too highly of yourself. And just hope the world will accept you the way you are. You are sometimes naughty, sometimes moody, sometimes angry, sometimes reckless, sometimes lazy, sometimes anti-social, sometimes lie, sometimes screw up big time, sometimes careless, sometimes you want forgiveness, most of the time you are coward.You will not judge people too much as you know you will be judged one day. You are not perfect and you have to face the consequences of your imperfection. Whether you are coward or courageous, the consequenses are always there in front of you.

This is what good literature can do to you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Creative Writing Class (3)

Today's Journalism Club's Creative Writing Class had the participation of 4 students - 2 members and 2 non-members. Today's tutorial topic is 'How To Begin Your Story'. I didn't talk about writing techniques but I presented exercises that will guarantee students to be able to create the MAIN CHARACTERS and THE PROBLEMS faced by these characters. The combination of these two will inevitably create a storyline. So, the students, Shuhada, Aida Farzana, Kharul and Suraya pitched in their spontaneous ideas and the ideas gelled into this story:

A girl named Kamilia has issues with commitment. She can't seem to like any contact with the male species of the population. Her family thinks that it is high time and she gets married and kind of matchmade her with the hero of the story named Helmi Affendi. Kamilia rebelled and she 'ran away' from home. She is by the way 25 years old and she rents with her friends. Enter a villain named Ainin Sofia, whose sweet name and sweetness are only a facade to a sinister and obssessive personality. Ainin Sofia likes Helmi Affendi but the guy thinks that the shrew Kamilia is destined to be his match. So there is this chasing triangle. Ainin Sofia plots lots of stuff to ruin Helmi's pursuit for Kamilia but nothing works. Ainin plans for her magnum opus involving thugs in a recreational jungle.

Meanwhile, the family plans a get-together for Helmi's parents and Kamilia's relatives in a recreational jungle. With everything thrown in, the stage is set for disaster. Helmi and Kamilia got separated from the group and the race for survival begins. Kamilia gets into BIG life and death complication and Helmi makes the final sacrifice, which makes Kamilia realizes that Helmi is THE ONE for her.

The End.

Cliched, you think? Done to death, absolutely. But it is so EXCITING. Young love, antagonism, jealousy, and JUNGLE ADVENTURE and the climax that makes the reader breathless. So, when am I going to teach the ideology of patriotic and religious writing, writing about science and history that can change the way people think rather than rehashing old themes added with sensationalism?

I am going to wait. These kids are 16 and 17. I am getting them to write first, in the age cellphone games and online chatting. I managed to slip in 3 moral values - the sanctity of marriage, not running away from problems and know when to accept kindness.

The Creative Writing will continue, God willing. It was such a scintillating session that I forgot the camera again!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

MERANTAU (2009): Cabaran Menulis Novel Seni Bela Diri (Bahagian 1)

Saya masih terkenangkan MERANTAU (2009) dan asyik berfikir seputar potensi yang bakal dihasilkan oleh genre ini.

Jika hampir semua penulis mengimpikan novelnya dijadikan filem, saya berfikir sebaliknya sekadar kerana saya suka mencabar pemikiran tentang penulisan. Saya mengimpikan hendak menukarkan filem yang baik menjadi sebuah novel ataupun menghasilkan genre penulisan yang selama ini medium yang paling sesuai bagi genre tersebut adalah persembahan secara grafik dan pergerakan (filem atau komik). Sudah banyak novel-novel pop dihasilkan berdasarkan filem (terutamanya dari H*******d) dan ini bukan sesuatu yang baru.

Tapi bagaimana hendak menghasilkan novel seni bela diri yang asli dan menghasilkan sesuatu yang sama kesannya dengan kisah tersebut di filem? Apakah maksud 'asli' dalam hemat saya? Asli maksudnya novel seni bela diri yang di mana teknik dan falsafah seni bela diri (ikut kumpulan masing-masing) itu adalah penggerak jalan cerita. Ia jika boleh bukan satu cerita di mana semua orang dalam cerita itu masing-masing adalah juara peringkat kebangsaan dan masing-masing dengan permusuhan masing-masing, semua berdiri untuk dipukul dan kemudian membalas sambil membuat 'kembangan'.

Saya hendak menggambarkan penggerakan yang kompleks yang selama ini hanya boleh diabadikan oleh video kamera dengan PERKATAAN/ KALIMAH  dan kesannya, gambaran tentang ketangkasannya sama dengan apa yang ditangkap oleh mesin.

Bukan itu saja, bagaimana rasa keterdesakan (sense of urgency) itu hendak digambarkan dengan jalur cerita yang ketat dan kemas, tiada berdolak-dalik, tanpa masa makan atau tidur, dan masa hanyalah untuk bernafas!

Bagi saya inilah cabaran paling hebat bagi seorang penulis yang tidak berapa hirau tentang apa dunia/ pengkritik akan katakan tentang novel yang begitu pop/ sensasi/ pelik/ sadis (?), tapi lebih pentingkan kemahirannya untuk mencapai kepuasan bermain dengan perkataan. Namun jika dimulai dengan niat yang murni (bukankah seni bela diri itu salah satu jalan berjihad?) dan pendekatan berhemah, hasilnya mungkin akan menjadi sesuatu yang berseni, bergarda depan, menggoncang jiwa dan menginsafkan.

Jalan ini masih diturap batu kerikil dan ia mungkin agak sukar pada mulanya. Saya melontar idea dan hanya yang punya kekuatan akan menulisnya.

Anyone can give an idea. But only those with the courage to write will take on the idea and make it his/her own.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Creative Writing Class (2)

The second session of the series of creative writing class is on what students have to do to publish their work. Eventhough this seems to be more suitable as the final class but it is sometimes better to know the ending of a story before embarking on the journey of reading the story and not knowing where you are going.

Of course the session was embroiled in nitty-gritty details but the important message is clear. Teenagers living in Malaysia is very lucky because getting published in this country is still considered as an open field. You don't need to find an agent to publish your work. As long as your manuscipt is of a readable kind and you are open to corrections from the editors, you can get your work published even if you're an unknown.

So, go for it kids.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I realize that I spend a lot of time WAITING. I am waiting for a film which is still at the stage of action choreography (Man, does that mean they already have a storyboard? Can I find that on the Internet?). I am waiting for that phone call that will change my life (and it is getting LATE, VERY late). I am waiting for people to leave and return (if they are planning to come back and sometimes, most of the time, they don't). I am waiting for people to leave for good.I  am waiting for a lot of things. Life is one long (hoepfully) cycle of waiting.

When I wait, I focus more on work-related tasks, senseless day-dreaming, and menial housework.This means less time for tasks are meaningful to my heart and mind.

I want to live more and wait less, or even better have no term in my vocabulary for waiting. I want to go on and on, doing things, thinking out things.

In my mind, I have at least 5 stories to tell and write down. I have at least one charcoal portrait to draw. And 2 silat books are waiting to be read on the bookshelf ( TETAK: Tempur Tangan Kosong - heady stuff).

So, let this be a reminder that I am putting an end to this activity of wasting time.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Creative Writing Class

There are a few exhilarating things I have done intelectually, and this is one of them. I opened a Creative Writing Class for students in my school under the pretext of handling the Journalism Club. Of course, members of the Journalism Club are compulsory to attend but you know how it will turn out with these busy children. Them and their activities! Instead the class was attended by ELEVEN children who were really interested in making it as writers, and some of them are not club members. ELEVEN? you ask. ELEVEN for something free? That is pathetic. Actually, eleven is quite a large turn out, for my standards. I mean, this is no Glee Club. ( And Glee Club has like, what, seven kids in it).

I started with Module 1: Why Write and Write For Money. I gave them reasons and consequences. And I lay out a game plan for kids who are 15 and this plan is going to fully take off when they are 24. I didn't forget to stress the point that 'writing may be an alternative to formal vocation' but 'writing or formal vocation will never replace education'. I stressed on the importance of reading, learning and going the furthest children can go in attaining knowledge.

And I got some mind-boggling questions and opinions from these 15 year old kids which I seldom see in formal classroom situation,such as:

1. How do I send out my stories? (Will be revealed in Module 2)
2. How long will I take to finish one novel? (For fifteen year olds who have their dinner served by their moms, 2 years maximum)
3. Science fiction writing takes up more time for research.
4. Some 'new' genres of writing - comic script writing, thriller-fantasy-romance.

It was exhilarating and absolutely heady. But there is a problem when you're handling a one-woman show. I got too excited that I forgot to take any photos of this excellent session. The camera was in my handbag but I was too busy talking and kids were busy asking questions that I forgot to even take out the camera and ask a kid to snap some photos.

So, this week -  I am going to take some photos for Module 2: How to Publish Your Writing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Free Novel Writing Class/Kelas Penulisan Kreatif Percuma

Saya akan mengajar menulis fiksyen secara percuma di bawah penyamaran sebagai Guru Penasihat Kelab Kewartawanan. Pelajar-pelajar yang berminat dijemput hadir walaupun bukan ahli Kelab Kewartawanan. Guru-guru yang berminat boleh meminta lampiran kerja percuma daripada penulis cabuk ini. Sila peka dengan notis/ iklan di papan-papan kenyataan.

I will teach fiction writing for free under the guise as the advisor of the Journalism Club. Students who aren't club members are welcome to attend.Teachers who are interested can ask for free handouts. Keep your eyes open for notices!

Thank you, Followers!

I think it has been 3 weeks since I started this blogging thing. And today, I have my first cohort of Followers! I love Followers! They're like a tribe of people who love ME. I'd like to thank Pn Sulhaniza for adding me to her facebook thingy and started this thing after I BEGGED her to follow me for the whole week. And the students too - Syafinaz, Hazriq (former Editorial Board member), and Aishaa K (student & younger sister of a former Editorial Board member). You are the firsts!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Wahai remaja, mulakan karier penulisan anda!

Bidang kesusasteraan/ sastera di sekolah menengah selalu dikaitkan dengan kalangan pelajar yang tidak boleh/ tidak berminat dengan bidang sains, dengan kelas-kelas lembam, dan dengan nilai ekonomi yang hampir-hampir sifar. Pelajar-pelajar sekolah menengah mengkaji dan menjawab soalan-soalan tentang sesuatu teks. Sedangkan nilai komersil bidang sastera terletak pada hasil penulisan peminat sastera tersebut.

Jadi, wahai remaja, sedang keadaan ekonomi yang agak menakutkan di mana pekerjaan tetap yang menjadi idaman hati sukar didapati, kenapa tidak tetapkan hati sejak di bangku sekolah untuk menjadi seorang penulis? Inilah masa yang tepat kerana industri buku sedang menjadi-jadi. Janganlah tunggu sehingga anda menyedari anda tidak dapat kerjaya idaman baru anda hendak menjadi penulis sebagai punca rezeki. Waktu itu ia sudah terlambat kerana pekerjaan menulis ini memerlukan perut yang kenyang dan hati yang senang, dan anda perlu membayar sewa dan sara hidup sambil menulis. Bukan itu saja, komputer pun perlu berfungsi dengan baik dan pencetak mesti berkertas dan berdakwat.

Jadi, carilah arah anda untuk menjadi penulis sejak remaja lagi! Dan pastikan novel pertama anda terjual sebaik saja anda habis peperiksaan SPM!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

MERANTAU (2009): Reasons Muslims have to write the culture of Muslims

MERANTAU (2009) is not a perfect film. It is outstanding in its effort to showcase an art form and an aspect of culture seldom seen in the media. However, it contains some obvious errors in writing a film to reflect a cultural aspect of a particular group of people after the story invested a large part of the story on the Islamic aspect of the characters.

1. A Muslim writer who understands and practices the tenets of Islam will show how the religion is integral in the lives of the characters.

The writer spends a lot of time showing the religious aspects of the society Yuda came from - a devout Muslim family and a society entrenched with Islamic values. This is seen in the prayer scene in Yuda's house and the 'pelepasan' ceremony' (Indonesian cut). The international cut sees the sejadah nonchalantly hangs on Yuda's bed, a very intimate reminder of how Muslims hang their sejadah on their beds. Being once upon a time a person on a lot of merantau myself, the sejadah on the bed is very familiar.

But then when Yuda arrives in the city, he sleeps in a construction site, in a concrete piling structure. I know the structure looks great on screen, but at least have Yuda clean himself and pray in a mosque first, as I believe they don't allow people to have a wholesale sleepover in mosques these days. There is a scene where Yuda was going to sleep in the concrete circle and the azan was heard and he did absolutely nothing to respond to the call of prayer.

Now, this is okay if you're writing films about drift racing or the bohsia thingy, but not after the prayer scene in MERANTAU.

2. A Muslim writer will not question the concept of rezeki.

In anger, the go-go club dancer Astri cynically said that 'people believe that having a lot of children will bring rezeki and for someone to take care of them in old age, but they are not ready to feed the mouths of the children before one day the children bring them rezeki' and as a result Astri dan her little brother were left in a lurch by their parents. I know how anger makes people say things and blame fate but presented in a film, this is cold.

A Muslim writer will have to say something through Yuda's words, that she should not put blame on rezeki and say things happen for reasons that God has dictated. But Yuda was silent going through that while he himself had lost his father (dead) thus giving him some personal experience to comment about pain and hardship.

3. A Muslim writer will make the hero gain strength from his faith.

Every time Yuda is about to face an opponent/ opponents he will have this few seconds of deep breath. A Muslim hopeful will think that he is doing a silent prayer, to gain strength and guidance from Allah Almighty. But the scenes were so wordless. As a work of writing, faith sometimes need to be translated into words.

And the penultimate act - Yuda managed to say a lot of things to Astri about a lot of things, but not a mention of God's name came from him. Well, if he was suddenly hit by a truck I wouldn't be complaining but believe me, he did say a lot to Astri.

4. A Muslim writer will be sensitive about the aurat.

It is great that Yuda was geared in such Muslim sensibility. He didn't do a Tony Jaa, displaying flexed muscles and mucles aren't what that matter in martial arts. But when Astri was in the village, she was wearing that crazy pair of shorts picking tomatoes with Yuda's elder brother following her around like he was under somekind of spell. And we saw in the opening scene there was a girl wearing a head scarf in the field picking chillies. Astri should at least wear track pants if she was not into the headscarf yet.

But then, MERANTAU is not written by a Muslim. And the bloopers are understandable. The writer did try his best representing a culture that very few Muslim writers will do in the future. And it is very difficult to say that silat and Islam in the South East Asia region are mutually exclusive.

But at least, for writers who are Muslims, please, please try to not write works that glorify illegal automobile racing, bohsia thingy, 'evil' ghost stories, and lame comedies. We are basically living on a goldmine that was waiting to be discovered and it has been discovered and we are just watching with jaws dropping to the floor. Up next from the writer is something called 'Berandal' (look it up in Kamus Dewan) and it won't be as nice and wholesome as MERANTAU. So there goes.

And I won't be a writer who hopes in bated breath that some upstart filmaker to turn my books into films. I don't give myself that much credit. I 'm just hoping these people can start to write good films and then, they can do justice to the literature texts.