Roughly a year ago, after completing the 100 happy days challenge, I decided to take it a little further by embarking on a lifelong photo-a-day project. I don’t claim to be any sort of photography expert—and am an apprentice amateur at best—but I loved the challenge of finding something special everyday, something about which to be grateful. We all live in such a cluttered, fast-paced, and “busy” world—and I know I certainly take on way more than I should—that it was such a comfort for me to pause for a few minutes everyday, and see the beautiful things in my life. It’s now become quite the habit, and many of my friends know exactly what I mean when I pull out my phone and say, “Excuse me, I have to take this for my photo-a-day project.” And on some days, there are so many wonderful things going on that I have to decide on just the one photo (which is when I sometimes “cheat” and use multiple frames to feature them all).
A few days before Christmas last year, I sat myself down at the dining table of my English housemate’s childhood home in a village tucked away in the Midlands. In between the hearty home-cooked meals, half-written sonnets, Christmas carols, and an essay on Edmund Burke, I began working on a short story that eventually became “Lily of the Valley”. Upon its completion, I entered “Lily” in the Newcastle University’s International Students’ Short Story Competition, where it was shortlisted early last month.
Last Saturday, I went to one of NCLA’s “Festival of Belonging” events, where I had the pleasure of meeting Hari Kunzru, one of the guest authors in attendance. To my utmost surprise and delight, he announced (on behalf of judge Tahmima Anam, who was unable to make the event) that I had won the competition. “Lily of the Valley” can be now found at the NCLA’s online archive.
A hundred years ago to this very day, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City and sank in the North Atlantic, taking 1,517 lives with her. Since then, the Titanic has been portrayed numerous times in a variety of media including film, television, and stage, eventually becoming a worldwide phenomenon after James Cameron’s 1997 film. I first saw Titanic as a girl of 10, and what could’ve been three hours of simple entertainment turned into a life-changing experience. And so, on the centennial of the ship’s sinking, I’ve made a list of eight ways in which the Titanic has impacted my life.
I don’t usually make personal announcements here, but these two recent events have filled me with literary excitement that I couldn’t help sharing them!
Titbit #1: One of my short stories, ‘Lily of the Valley’, has been shortlisted for Newcastle University’s International Students’ Short Story Competition! I wrote the short story over the winter holidays and in three separate places: Wolverhampton (England), Horst (The Netherlands), and Leuven (Belgium). My thanks go to my three wonderful betas, Lisa, Maria, and Meghan, without whom my writing would be full of Freudian-slip typos and temporal inconsistencies. I’ve received similar honours for my writing in Australia, but this is my first in the UK and I’m very excited about it!
Titbit #2: My proposal to present an academic paper at the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies’ postgraduate conference has recently been accepted! The presenting body consists largely of PhD students while I’m still working on my Master’s, so I am absolutely thrilled about the acceptance! My paper is entitled ‘From Speculations to Pamphlet War: The Influence of Burke on Wollstonecraft and Paine’, and focuses on the British literature of the French Revolution in the 1790s. Not only will this be my inaugural presentation at an academic conference, but it will also be held at the University of Salamanca in Spain! Much excitement is to be had!
And in order to celebrate the harmonious relationship between both my cerebral hemispheres, I’m hosting another postcard giveaway!
This year, as I’m so far away from home, my English housemate and her family—in their kindness and generosity—are having me over for Christmas. They’ve even given me a stocking to join their throng!
Wishing you all a joyous time over this festive season (from an English village in the West Midlands)!
The ‘x’ factor is one of the the most striking things I’ve experienced since arriving in England three months ago. By this, I’m not referring to the singing competition and its massive following (which I suppose is equally striking), but the ‘x-ing’ culture that seems to take place in this curious little country.
As you may know, putting an ‘x’ near your name denotes a symbolic kiss. ‘xoxo’, being American and reversed, stands for ‘hugs and kisses and hugs and kisses’, and should be said in a Kristen Bell accent, preceded by ‘you know you love me’, and followed by ‘Gossip Girl’. In my lovely hometown of Sydney (and I presume in most other non-UK places), when someone says ‘x’, you think of that nasty boy who ate through your fridge or that nasty girl who ate through your credit card. However, the Brits do it a bit differently—here, ‘x’ becomes a primarily electronic kiss, but one that you would spam in multitudes. You put it after a text or email or Facebook wall post or comment or message or Tweet. Just today, the ever-so-awesome Stephen Fry Tweeted, “Leaving cyberspace for a week or so. Travelling to spend Christmas in a place with flaky reception at best xxxx” If we take this practice to be indicative of real life interactions, then the Brits would be as flamboyantly affectionate as the Italians or certain Austrians or drunk Australians in their greetings.