I ENTERED A WRITING COMPETITION

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a tweet from SBS Voices inviting budding writers to submit their stories about growing up in a diverse Australia. There is a prize pool of $10,000 by writing a first person memoir of 1000-2000 words. Seeing that most of my blog posts are first person and memoir-ish in nature AND I grew up in Australia, I thought I’d give it a crack.

My first attempt turned into a scene from my childhood that had no real point to the story. I tossed that in the “Use as blog post if desperate” folder.

My second attempt also ended up as a scene from my childhood and it was just sad to read. I tossed that in the “Woe is me” folder. Otherwise known as the bin.

A seed of an idea crossed my mind, and I decided to call my parents to get clarity on some of the information.

“SBS? No. No. No. I don’t want anyone knowing about our past!” My mum didn’t want me to enter the competition. To be fair, she is afraid of her own shadow so her reaction wasn’t surprising.

“Why? Your childhood isn’t anything special!” My dad must have poor memory if he thinks our life was normal. It may not have been special or even unique but to me, it was worth writing about.

Anyway, with no help from my parents, I went back to the drawing board. I discovered that writing memoirs are not easy. I didn’t want to write a “This is my life” spiel, and I didn’t want to overwhelm the reader with negativity and sadness. I wanted to write a story about my life in a way that was raw, honest and uplifting.

I ended up twiddling my thumbs and staring at a blank screen for some time. I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t know what I wanted to say. My mind was a jumbled mess of ideas that I struggled to organise in a coherent way. There were many events, factors and people who influenced my childhood and the person that I have become.

In the end, I decided to focus on my parent’s refugee experience and how their trauma of displacement and lack of social connection shaped who they became and how that influenced their parenting style. I wrote my experiences living with an angry dad and a broken mum. I wrote about moving from home and finding my sense of cultural identity and belonging. Interspersed among the heavy revelations were humorous glimpses of my past. It was a cathartic writing experience.

I submitted the memoir today. I don’t expect to win but if I did, I hope my parents will be proud.

If you want to check out the competition, here is the link. You still have a few days to get your writing in.

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

MY ZANY FATHER

He works long hours

To make ends meet

Driving a beat-up wagon.

He wears dollar clothes

Worn and torn

Rocking the Goodwill fashion.

He loves a bargain

Cheaper the better

A Sunday Market tradition.

His raucous laughter

Uncensored words

Not bothered with reflection.

An open book

With a heart of gold

Raw emotions on his sleeve.

This imperfect man

I call my father

The best gift one could receive.

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/


Today is Father’s Day in Australia. I called my dear old dad this morning to wish him a happy Father’s Day, seeing that we couldn’t pop over to see him due to coronavirus lockdown.

Usually, we would have visited, enjoyed a family meal and the children and grandparents would have spent some time together.

My dad is struggling with this round of lockdowns. He spent a good hour complaining about my mum, his work, his boss, my brother… I think the dogs even got a mention!

For his benefit… and mine, I hope lockdown ends soon.

Happy Father’s Day! Especially to my wonderful husband. We appreciate you!

THAT CRAZY AUNT

We are in stage 4 lockdown where I live, which means people can only go out for four reasons – medical, work, and food and exercise within 5km of their residence. Besides homeschooling the children and the odd walk around the block, I’ve not discovered much inspiration or writing seeds for blog posts. I thought I’d use this time to work on my storytelling/writing skills using past experiences with some creative licence. Hope you enjoy my stories!


“Enough with the spying! Bring these plates out,” yelled Mum, upon seeing me half-crouched underneath the window sill.

I let the curtains fall back into place and did as Mum asked, bringing plates of tofu and cabbage to the dining table. I paused and pondered, repositioning cutlery and food around the hot-pot to make it visually appealing. Satisfied with the result, I wandered back to my spot by the window to watch for arriving guests, careful not to be seen. I didn’t want to look like a weirdo or anything.

I invited just about everyone, even the mean girl from class because statistical probability and all that. I wasn’t entirely confident with the RSVPs, what if they pulled out? I didn’t want to be known as the loner girl who had a party that no one came to. How horrifying would that be? I couldn’t go back to school ever again!

“Don’t touch the food Aunty Ut!” I called out after noticing her small stature hovering around the food. Aunty Ut was worse than a bloodhound with a penchant for free meals and table manners rivalling that of Cookie Monster on a binge fest. I didn’t appreciate her presence here cramping my style. Not that I had any style other than geek and meek. Still, having a crazy and uncouth aunt saying and doing strange things wouldn’t help with my social status or keeping friends.

“What? I didn’t touch anything! I’m just looking!” exclaimed Aunty Ut, looking sheepish at being caught.

I gave her a withering glare before turning down the volume on the TV, kicking the mess of microphone cables to the side. Dad had turned on the Vietnamese karaoke music to a deafening level. Thank goodness our neighbours were hard of hearing.

“Go check the garage. I’ve finished setting it up.” Dad mumbled through a mouthful of duct tape while bent over on the ground sticking power cables to the carpet. The extension cords snaked along the walls, outside the window and to the garage, where several large speakers were set up to play music for the dancing.

I bypassed Mum and Aunty Ut, ignoring their bickering over the right amount of MSG for soup stock and headed towards the garage. All the junk was pushed farther back into the single two-car deep garage and a tarp hung from the ceiling, giving the feel of an empty warehouse, albeit small.

“Your friends are here!” My seven-year-old brother hollered before running off.

Filled with excitement and nerves, I raced out to greet my guests. To my delight, most of the invitees had come to my birthday party. Having no experience with attending or hosting a birthday party, I started the hot-pot immediately after everyone’s arrival to avoid awkward conversations or unnecessary foot shuffles.

I cringed inwardly upon seeing some of the girls wrinkling their noses at the unfamiliar foods. Some couldn’t eat seafood while others didn’t know what hot-pot was.

“This jar is expired!” One of the mean girls was holding up a jar of hoisin sauce and showing everyone around the table.

Blushing with embarrassment, I grabbed the jar off her and apologised. “Uh, I don’t know how that got there.”

I gave the jar to Mum and asked quietly if we had another one that was in date. I winced when her annoyed voice boomed across the room, loud enough for those standing next door to hear.

“What? Why? It’s still good! You young kids not understand hard work and money. When I was younger, I ate everything!” Mum’s diatribe continued until she ran out of puff. Luckily it didn’t take long.

Returning to the room, I put on my happy face and pretended like no one heard Mum and her ranting. All mothers rant, right? So it’s not something these girls haven’t heard before.

“Why is it so hot in here?”

“Feels like a sauna!”

Aunty Ut had turned on the ducted heating to thirty degrees. Who in their right mind would turn on a heater while eating hot-pot on a mild Spring day? I swore she had a few missing screws.

“What?! It’s good to sweat for the pores!” Aunty Ut and her terrible excuses.

Thankfully, we finished the hot-pot without further problems. I ushered my new friends to the makeshift dance floor and with the radio blasting in a darkened room, the atmosphere changed and the party improved.

“What are you doing?” asked a girl named Leila, who stopped her dancing to look at me.

With arms flailing and legs shuffling from side to side at supersonic speeds, I replied, “Dancing Hip Hop?” I might have replicated Urkel’s Dance.

“Oh no girl, this is how you do it. Slow your movements and bend lower.” Leila and a few others took pity on me and gave a few pointers on how to look cool dancing to R&B music.

Amidst learning how to pop and lock, the sound of Vietnamese pop music started blaring through the speakers, causing the dancing to grind to a halt.

“Dad! No one wants to listen to Vietnamese folk songs!”

It seemed like a good time as any for cake.

“Happy birthday!”

The smiles on everyone’s faces and well-wishes filled me with warmth, and I beamed with happiness. I wouldn’t have called the party a complete success, considering a few unexpected setbacks, but overall, it had turned out ok. I could see myself being close friends with some of these girls. Maybe if Mum and Dad stayed put this time, I could even have a best friend.

I leaned over the cake and readied to blow out the candles. From the corner of my eye, I could see the outline of Aunty Ut moving into my periphery, lips in the shape of an O and in slow-mo horror, let out a gigantic snozzy sneeze all over my cake. In her efforts, she snuffed out the flames of fifteen birthday candles.

There was a collective gasp as boogers landed on the cake followed by the wailing sound that escaped from my lips. It was of little surprise that not a single person wanted a slice of cake, including the birthday girl.

I thought expired food, Mum’s ranting and sitting in furnace-like temperatures were bad enough, but BoogerGate and Dad belting out karaoke songs upon the guests departing took the party to a level beyond salvageable.

As far as parties go being memorable, at least people will be talking about mine for some time.

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/