Time and the Moment of a Smile

Retreat to Nature

[Note from Editor: This story first appeared in CLARITY (15 June 2019). It’s published here with permission.]

In these last few months, many of us at 7C Life RealiZation Centre feel that time has gone by too fast. Just last week, one of my colleagues said, “Oh my God, the second quarter of the year is almost over.” Indeed, many of our projects have gained a stronger foothold and we’re on track.

In moments of quietude, however, I wonder about it all. What do we mean when we say ‘last few months’? How long is this time? For those of us who are ambitious, time is running out. For others, it’s too slow. What, in fact, is this thing called ‘time’? Is it possible to achieve everything we want in this short space of time that is the human life?

More often than not, we measure time in terms of hours, minutes and seconds. Is this accurate? Is there another way to measure it? Does time run differently in different planes of existence? What happens in different dimensions? Indeed, this was something we had to consider during our Mindfulness Masterclass Programme (MMP) last year. Quite simply, is a day restricted to 24 hours?

One of the first theories that challenged this was a story I read as a child. In a faraway kingdom, there was a king called Kakudmi. He had a beautiful daughter, but didn’t think that anyone on earth was worthy of her hand in marriage. He decided to take his daughter to the abode of Lord Brahma to seek his advice. When they arrived, Kakudmi presented his shortlist of suitable potential sons-in-law. Lord Brahma explained that by the time Kakudmi returned to his kingdom, none of these men would be alive. Time runs differently in Brahma’s abode. One day there was equivalent to several centuries on earth. Kakudmi and his daughter returned to an earth that they didn’t recognise. Nonetheless, the story does have a happy ending for they did find a suitable groom for Kakudmi’s daughter.

So, back to this question of how do we measure time?

The normal method is this:
60 seconds = 1 minute.
60 minutes = 1 hour.
24 hours = 1 day.
It is a convention that a new day begins at midnight.

Now, in Indian philosophy, it’s a little different.
60 seconds or vinadi = 1 minute
24 vinadi = 1 naligai
2 naligai = 1 muhurta
30 muhurtas = 1 day
The first muhurta of the day begins at sunrise.

It is said that one of the most auspicious times in any day is Brahma Muhurta. It starts 2 muhurtas before sunrise. In other words, it starts approximately 96 minutes before sunrise. So, if the sun rises at 7.00am, then Brahma Muhurta starts at 5.24am and ends at 7.00am. During this time of Brahma Muhurta, the Universal Energy, which is described as ‘the energy that sustains life, providing vital energy to all living systems’ 1 is said to be at its peak. It follows, therefore, that any spiritual activity carried out during this time has a greater effect than any other part of the day.

Now that we’ve established that in Hindu philosophy, a day is not necessarily restricted to 24 hours, it becomes interesting when we consider larger numbers. While we’re now in the year 2019 and, technically, in the second millennium, in Indian philosophy, we have already endured grander cycles and more millennia than one can count.

Referred to as ‘yuga’, an epoch or era lasts four cycles namely, Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvarpa Yuga and Kali Yuga. There are books upon books written about how long each of these yugas last, the characteristics of people who live during these eras and how they relate to one another.

In very simple terms, during Satay Yuga, a human being is 100 per cent virtuous and only dies when he reaches 100,000 years. During Treta Yuga, our life span is all of 10,000 human years. It lessens to 1,000 years during Dvapara Yuga and, in Kali Yuga, we live for no more than 100 years. Without doubt, during Kali Yuga, the human being consists of being 25 per cent virtuous and 75 per cent sinful.

All this and more were explained to us by HH SwamiGuru in a discourse during the last Maha Shivaratri. He explained that one day in Brahma’s abode would mean that eons of time would have passed on earth, to be precise, about 8 billion years. Taken further, Brahma needs to go through 20 million lifetimes for one day in Vishnu’s abode. And Vishnu needs to go through 10 million lifetimes to amount to a moment when Lord Shiva smiles. This effectively means that as a human, you will need to live through all these uncountable number of lifetimes to see Shiva smile and receive His grace. He is light years away from us.

Here comes the twist.

Lord Shiva is beyond time; He has transcended it. All you need to do is go within and look for His smile there. To receive His blessings, even if it is for a moment, is to understand that His power is immense. In that moment of Shiva’s smile upon you, whatever you are limiting to the boundaries of your thought disappears. What happens then is beyond your imagination.

As HH SwamiGuru said, “Evolution of mankind and the self is only through happiness. We may think that it is difficult to find happiness, but it begins with a simple smile. When you smile, you are already a moment closer to the Lord of Ultimate Happiness (Satchitananda), Lord Shiva. When you make every moment of your life just about the smile and bring inner joy to yourself, you will become the embodiment of happiness. That’s the only moment in time to live. No other time can be more valuable and meaningful. You will be in the ananda state.”

Taken as a whole, this reinforces one of our lessons from MMP – as humans, our understanding of time is that it is cyclical. When you accept that such physicality can dissolve, there is no time. Everything happens in a timeless dimension. You become free from the cyclical movement of life and experience liberation. It will be possible to achieve everything you desire, and so much more, in this space with no time, but a smile.

References:

  1. 8 Signs You Are an Empath Sensitive to Universal Energy https://www.learning-mind.com/universal-energy-empath/ (Accessed June 2019)

Even though she understands what timelessness means, Aneeta Sundararaj still worries that life is going too fast. Read more stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).

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5 Elements in Bandung

Gallery

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Here are some photos from ‘Retreat to Nature – a ‘5-elements’ experience’ in Bandung, Indonesia (3-5 May 2019).


Read more stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).

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The Journey of a Flower

The Journey of a Flower

[Note from Editor: This story first appeared in CLARITY (15 May 2019). It’s published here with permission.]

You wait with anticipation for your date to arrive. On tenterhooks, you pace up and down in your flat. You rush to a nearby mirror. Is your hair in place? Is the outfit the right colour? Maybe, the outfit is not right. Perhaps, you should change.

The doorbell rings.

Oh no! There’s no time. He’s here.

You open the door and there’s this man standing on your doorstep. All suited and booted, he looks debonair. But what’s this he’s holding?

It’s not a rose. Or even your favourite, orchids. Surely, he’d have made more of an effort than this – a single sunflower with a pretty red ribbon.

All manner of thoughts run through your head.

This man doesn’t care for me.
We’ve known each other for so long and he brought me this?
A sunflower for God’s sake.
Surely a rose wouldn’t have cost that much.
Oh my God! This man is poor.

You look at the gentleman’s face. He’s grinning.

Idiot!

You move to shut the door, but he puts his hand up to stop you. He tells you a story and your heart skips a beat. Then he says something and you practically fall into his arms.

What did this gentleman say?

Well, this was the cliff-hanger moment that Brenda James presented us with at the start of our Speaker Series (‘Making Your Money Work for You’) on 11 May 2019. She told us, instead, her history. Born and brought up in Ipoh, Perak, Brenda completed reading Law before she began her career in the corporate world. Although she became financially secure, she felt miserable. By 2008, she made the decision to start Nook Flowers in Bangsar South. With the realities of running her own business were also painful and humiliating lessons. Throughout, the one quality she retained was her optimism.

One of the most wonderful stories that Brenda shared echoes our focus on being happy, spreading such happiness through the work we do and the people we’ve become. Straightening her shoulders, Brenda gives a bright smile and explains that when she’s done with an arrangement, she’ll holds it in her hands and whispers, “Go, make someone happy.” Saying these words, she believes, results in the transmission of happy thoughts and feelings to those flowers. In turn, the final recipient receives not only the flowers, but the sentiments too.

As expected, generating such happiness always has a spill-over effect on other aspects of one’s life. Even though Brenda was barely making ends meet, she remained determined to look at the brighter side of life and joined the Philharmonic Society of Selangor. Having derived much contentment from this activity, Brenda smiles even brighter when she reveals that it’s through the choir that she met her husband.

Perhaps, the most synchronous moment of this Speaker Series session came about during the Q & A session. The questions ranged from ‘Is it OK to use white flowers for Mother’s Day?’ and ‘Why do we like lilies when they are flowers used during funerals in the West?’ to a point about chrysanthemums having a bad reputation because they were regarded as ‘prayer flowers’.

It is when Brenda said something along the lines of, “How amazing is it that a flower can be used to glorify the Divine,” that many of us who’d gone on the recent retreat to Bandung, Indonesia felt a shiver run down our spine. This was precisely what HH SwamiGuru had alluded to on 5 May 2019, during the last discourse of the retreat. In His words:

“The journey of the flower is meant to enhance the understanding of learning to live as naturally as possible without having to compare your life with that of others. It is only then that you’ll understand the greatness of creation, the creator and creativity. With that understanding, you will realise that life is all about being yourself and not someone else. You have been endorsed by the Divine to be ‘you’. Don’t be someone else and don’t seek some else’s endorsement for who you are. This journey can only be successful if you first make an effort to find your true non-contaminated self. In so doing, you will also realise the power of gratitude and the blessings of life.”

Incidentally, the flower of choice during our retreat was a genus of sunflower. Now that we’re back to talking about this giant yellow palmful of sunshine, let’s return to the tale of the gentleman who brought his lady love a sunflower.

The story he tells her before she falls into his arms is that in Greek mythology, Apollo was the Sun God who rode his golden and ivory chariot from east to west every day. A water nymph called Clytie was in love with Apollo, but it was unrequited. For nine days, unblinking, she watched him move across the sky. Eventually, she was turned into a flower which came to be known as the Sunflower.

The gentleman then looked into his lady love’s eyes and said, “The sunflower is the only one that follows the movement of the sun. Even if there is the slightest glimmer of light in the sky, the sunflower will turn its head to find it. And that’s how I feel about you.”

Sigh!


Quite simply, Aneeta Sundararaj loves flowers. Read more stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).

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Parent or Parents?

In Malaysia, both parents must consent to the conversion of their child to Islam. For now.

Many years ago, in a provincial court, I began to panic. The judge had refused my request for an adjournment. I wanted to wait for my boss to arrive so that he could start cross-examining the witness who was an engineer. No doubt, everyone in that courtroom with mould-stained walls and creaky furniture was aware that I knew next to nothing about construction law. My opponent smiled, certain of success.

I took a deep breath then summoned every ounce of optimism and courage in my being. In the next few hours, I asked the engineer basic questions to determine if he’d followed procedure. As his face became redder by the minute, it soon became clear that he had cut corners and caused damage to our client’s property. The matter was settled out of court.

I recalled this whole episode on the morning of 29 January 2018 when I opened the Malaysian newspapers and read about a high-profile case involving the unilateral conversion of a child to Islam and the jurisdiction of the courts in Malaysia (the ‘Indira Gandhi decision’). And once again on 30 October 2018, when The Star reported that Datuk Seri Dr. Mujahid Yusof had said that efforts were being made by the government to streamline and coordinate Syariah laws nationwide.[i]

Why are these issues such a big deal in the first place? Quite simply, under Malaysian law, once you embrace Islam, there is no going back. You are Muslim for life and your identity changes seemingly forever. You retain the right to seek redress in the Civil Courts, but you’re subject to the laws and jurisdiction of the Syariah Courts.

Confusing? To understand how all this works, let’s look at this real-life case from the Indira Gandhi decision.

Real life 
The story begins in 2009 when a Hindu man, K. Pathmana­than, embraced Islam and took the name Muhammad Riduan Abdullah. Without the knowledge or consent of his now ex-wife, M. Indira Gandhi, he converted their three children under the age of twelve as well. A legal tussle ensued and culminated in the Indira Gandhi decision which was delivered by the apex court, the Federal Court of Malaya, on 29 January 2018. The Federal Court questioned the method of conversion and said that, ‘the issue before the court wasn’t the conversion itself, but the process and legality thereof.’[ii] The Registrar of Muallafs, who issued the conversion certificates, hadn’t complied with the mandatory requirements for conversion of a child.

What generated sensational headlines like Unilateral Conversion ‘Null and Void’[iii] was that henceforth, in a civil marriage, the consent of both parents must be obtained before a Certificate of Conversion to Islam can be issued for a child. This wasn’t always the case.

Parent or Parents?
In 2007, there was a similar case involving R. Subashini, her ex-husband, T. Saravanan, and their children. The apex court there stated that a unilateral conversion of a child to Islam did not violate the Federal Constitution because the word ‘parent’ in Article 12(4) of said Constitution was meant to be read in its singular form. Effectively, this meant that the consent of both parents was not required. Invariably, the non-Muslim parent had no redress.

Things continued in this fashion for a long while and I used the legal uncertainties in all these cases to craft my novel called The Age of Smiling Secrets. It explores the heartache that comes when families are torn apart in this manner. Incidentally, one of the chapters from this novel, The Legend of Nagakanna, was accepted in an anthology called, We Mark Your Memory: Writings from the Descendants of Indenture published by the School of Advanced Studies, the University of London in 2018.

An attempt was made to address the issue when the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Act 2017 (LRA) was first drafted. The idea was to include a clause called ‘Clause 88A’ which stated that the religion of a child ‘shall remain as the religion of the parties to the marriage prior to the conversion’. After the child turns 18, he or she can, with the consent of both parents, convert to Islam. Clause 88A was subsequently withdrawn for contravening the Federal Constitution since, once again, the word ‘parent’ must be read in its singular form.

With the Indira Gandhi decision, there was a clear statement by the Federal Court that Article 12(4) requires the consent of both parents for the conversion of a child. Indeed, the Federal Court endorsed an extra-judicial comment by a former Lord President of the Federal Court made in 1982 who said: ‘In a multiracial and multi-religious society … we strive not to be too identified with any particular race or religion … so that the various communities especially minority communities are assured that we will not allow their rights to be trampled underfoot.’[iv]

There is now talk to reintroduce Clause 88A. Should this happen, the effect may be to ban unilateral conversion of a child to Islam altogether. Not everyone is happy. Some argue that even though the apex court is not bound by its previous decision, with the Indira Gandhi decision comes inconsistency. What shape or form such inconsistency takes remains unexplained.

Perhaps, a hypothetical situation will give some perspective. In future, if my ex-husband converts my child to Islam in Malaysia without my consent or knowledge, the first question I should ask is, “Where should I go for help?”

“Where should I go for help?”
For a start, as a non-Muslim, I cannot seek redress from the Syariah Court since ‘[i]t was trite that the Sya­riah courts did not have jurisdiction over non-Muslims and non-Muslim parties have no right to appear in the Syariah Courts.’[v] However, as a Muslim, my ex-husband is subject to the rules and regulations under Syariah Law. And Article 121 of the Federal Constitution stipulates the jurisdiction of Syariah Court should not be disputed even though they are not constituted as superior courts. So, I go to the Civil Courts and he goes to the Syariah Courts.

To solve such issues of jurisdiction, the idea was conceived to urge state governments to amend their state’s constitutional laws so that Syariah Courts are on part with Civil Courts. Now, Datuk Seri Dr. Mujahid Yusof has confirmed this. In actual fact, this is already the case in the eastern state of Terengganu, but only Muslims are allowed to seek redress there.

The problem is that even if we make both the courts equal and allow non-Muslims to seek redress in the Syariah Courts, what happens to the Civil Courts? Do they become superfluous? If both courts are equal, it is possible that I can seek redress in both courts and so can my ex-husband. We may have four different decisions. Which one prevails? And how on earth will we reconcile all this with our Federal Constitution?

Perhaps, it isn’t wise to be so pessimistic. Instead, let’s forget what may happen in the future and enjoy the present. Today, no longer will a child in Malaysia have something as monumental as his religion changed without the consent of both his parents. The Indira Gandhi decision has ended the unnecessary suffering of families torn apart prior to this. It is a triumph. For now.

Aneeta Sundararaj
9 December 2018

***

The Age of Smiling Secrets, a novel by Aneeta Sundararaj, was published in August 2018. It explores the heartache when a family is torn apart because a man converts to Islam and, without the consent or knowledge of his wife, converts their child as well. It is available in all MPH Bookstores and mphonline.com

***

Endnotes:
[i] Syariah laws to be streamlined, says Mujahid. The Star Online [https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/10/30/syariah-laws-to-be-streamlined-says-mujahid/#34h5QZwZJhQ6Gl4B.99]

[ii] Maizatul Nazlina. The grounds of judgment in the Indira Gandhi ruling. The Star Online. [https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/02/09/the-grounds-of-judgment-in-the-indira-gandhi-ruling/]

[iii] Khairah N. Karim. Federal Court rules unilateral conversion of M. Indira Ghandi’s children to Islam null and void. NST Online. [https://www1.nst.com.my/news/crime-courts/2018/01/329867/federal-court-rules-unilateral-conversion-m-indira-ghandis-children]

[iv] Gurdial Singh Nijar. Review of the Indira Gandhi decision. Thesundaily.my. [http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2018/02/12/review-indira-gandhi-decision]

[v] Maizatul Nazlina. The grounds of judgment in the Indira Gandhi ruling. The Star Online. [https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/02/09/the-grounds-of-judgment-in-the-indira-gandhi-ruling/]

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kɒnvənt ɡɜːl

Commemorating the centenary celebrations of the Church of St. Michael in Alor Setar, Aneeta Sundararaj remembers the Catholics who played an important role in the community.

Programme Booklet

‘kɒnvənt ɡɜːl’. If you’re a former student of St. Nicholas Convent, Alor Setar, you must recognise these words, know what they mean and how they’re pronounced. If you do, you’re a credit to the Sisters who once taught us. If you don’t, shame on you! Remember those lessons in Phonetics? In case you’re still confused, ‘kɒnvənt ɡɜːl’ means ‘Convent Girl’.

The memory of my lessons in Phonetics taught by Sister Alphonse Coombs pales in comparison with what happened one sunny day in 1980. It was just us in the airy classroom next to the vast playing field.

Stop it, Sister. I can’t even look at you right now.  

I wanted to scream, but no sound came out. Mercifully, the bell rang. I gathered my books and escaped from this torture chamber.

“What did you learn today?” Mummy asked during our drive back home.

Wanting only to wipe out the memory of what was said, I ignored her. It was some years later before I shamefacedly admitted the real reason I refused to return to those one-to-one lessons with Sister Alphonse. In 1980, I was all of seven years old and didn’t know how to tell Mummy that Sister Alphonse had explained that to know if something was male or female, I needed to know its gender or sex. My dilemma was how could she, a nun, who was the best and most wonderful of all the Sisters, say this bad, awful word? Sex. How could Sister Alphonse do this to me?

After this, the time lapse between my sins and the act of confession increased. In one particular case, it was twenty-five years.

Imagine. It was a dreary day in September 1981. At about 10.25 am, an announcement was made over the PA system. The unfriendly voice said, “Aneeta Sundararaj in 3 Green, go to Miss Sibert’s office now.” Classmates who dared to, looked at me as though they were commiserating with a death row inmate about to make her final journey to the gallows.

Five minutes later, I stood before our headmistress. On Miss Sibert’s table, that horrible thing called the Report Card was open as she scanned my marks for the month. I swallowed the lump in my throat, aware that I couldn’t plead for mercy on account of the fact that Mummy and Miss Sibert were previously classmates in Light Street Convent, Penang. Was it true that Miss Sibert ate naughty girls? Maybe, she’d cane me instead. But there was no rotan in sight.

She looked up, pushed her straight hair behind her ears and said, “Aneeta, are you interested in learning Mandarin?”

Huh? Interested in Mandarin? A question? No scolding? I stared at her and cocked my head to one side, puzzled.

She turned the Report Card so it was the right way round for me, pushed it closer and pointed to the column marked ‘Mandarin’. That month, I’d achieved a grand total of 10 marks out of 50. Previously, my average was 45 marks.

I can’t remember how I answered Miss Sibert. In fact, I wonder if I said anything at all. Decades later, though, it was time to confess my sins and seek absolution.

“Miss Sibert,” I said during a visit to her home in Penang, “I didn’t dare tell you that the girl who used to sit next to me wasn’t there. She was sick and didn’t come to school that day. So, I had no one to copy from.”

She looked at me with a benign smile and said, “Yes. I knew. I just wanted to see what you would say.”

Oh, dear God. I was mortified.

Reflecting on all these stories reinforced my long-held belief that these women, though cloistered and unmarried, were not dumb, stupid or out of touch with reality. Street-wise, knowledgeable and quite business savvy, they were strict with us, but incredibly kind.

In fact, Sister Alphonse comforted me whenever I was lonely because Mummy travelled outstation for work. Almost every day, my classmates and I, a group of precocious girls, each born into religions that were so far removed from Catholicism, visited her at her home, Sisters’ House. She guided us to the Chapel where we dipped tiny fingers into a bowl of holy water, bent the knee at the altar and made the sign of the Cross. She listened intently as we shared our grievance of the day which was invariably something monumental to us like who used whose eraser without permission.

The highlight of my school years was the celebrations for the Golden Jubilee in 1984. One of them included a production of The Sound of Music at Stadium Dato’ Syed Omar in town. Although the entire school was involved in this, I recall that members of the larger Catholic community in Alor Setar, such as the Rao family, also gave of themselves to help make this a joyous occasion. For a few days in August 1984, Kedah Royalty and the public watched as we morphed into Maria von Trapp and serenaded everyone about the hills being alive, momentarily forgetting that Alor Setar was completely surrounded by flat paddy land.

In spite of these happy memories, many at St. Nicholas Convent, Alor Setar during the 1980s bore witness to a brutal reality. For one, the large Cross above the office building was pulled down because the very sight of it might influence students to embrace Catholicism. New school badges were engraved with a forgettable motto to replace the one that Convent Girls the world over knew – Simple in Virtue. Steadfast in Duty. The spirit of the Sisters of the Infant Jesus who served at our school was whittled away until one day, fighting back tears, one of the Sisters said, “We have to go. Our mission is over.”

By the mid-1990s, the nuns left the home they’d known for more than 50 years and Sisters’ House was razed to the ground. Gradually, all the buildings in the school were also destroyed. Today, the site of what was once the premier school for girls in Alor Setar is a non-descript supermarket.

The legacy these women left lasted long after the dust settled. For example, family friendships such as mine and Shanta Rao’s, which were forged while we were still at school, continue to this day. I often tease her father, Uncle Rao who is a stalwart of the Catholic community and tell him that most of us refer to him as the Bishop of Alor Setar. And his wife’s hospitality is legendary. I mean, Aunty Leela’s delicious cakes…sigh. Do I need to say more?

There is residual sadness at what happened to our school. That said, no truer is a statement than the verse from the Holy Bible: And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13). I speak for the majority of former kɒnvənt ɡɜːls of St. Nicholas Convent, Alor Setar when I say that we carry in our hearts an immense gratitude and love for these Catholic women who made it their mission unto God to shape the women we have become. I pray that the intangible values they inculcated in us will live on in future generations.

(30 September 2018)


Aneeta Sundararaj grew up in Alor Setar and was a student at St. Nicholas Convent in the 1980s. Decidedly a Hindu, she chose to read law and practised for five years before pursuing her dream of writing and created a website for storytellers called ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. Aneeta shares more stories about Sister Alphonse, St. Nicholas Convent and life in Alor Setar in her latest collection of stories, Two Snakes Whistling at the Same Time (MPH Publishing).

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An Evolving Journey

[NOTE: Good news! You can download the digital version of  The Age of Smiling Secrets FOR FREE from Amazon for the next five days or so. The paperback also priced at the minimum price allowed by Amazon. The free offer is available worldwide. Grab it right away here.]

On 14 August, I woke up to the sound of birds chirping and I just knew that it was going to be a good day. An hour later, I was preparing my breakfast as I mentally listed down all the things I needed to do that day. I remember that moment well. In my kitchen, I was pouring boiling water into the cup when I heard the beep on my phone. Who could be texting this early in the morning? I reached for the phone and saw that the notification that a message had come through from one of the editors at the publishing house that helped with the books.

Quickly, I opened the message on the phone app. Hers were the words I’d been waiting to read for a long time. Both my books Two Snakes Whistling at the Same Time and The Age of Smiling Secrets were printed, bound, and ready for distribution. I was aware that it would take up a month for the books to be distributed all over Malaysia. So, in the interim, I had time to figure out how to make these books available to those outside Malaysia. As such, in this story, I am going to share with you that journey to publishing the novel, for a start, outside Malaysia.

OUTSIDE MALAYSIA, IN MALAYSIA
It wasn’t a journey I undertook alone. I roped in my long-time friend, fellow writer and columnist, Rohi. Perhaps, before I share the journey, a little more information about The Age of Smiling Secrets will be helpful.

Malaysia is in a unique position where both the laws of Syariah and the Civil Law are practised concurrently. This has given rise to a conflict in jurisdiction in certain cases. For instance, where a non-Muslim couple is married under the provisions of the Civil Law, confusion arises when one party converts to Islam and converts their children as well. A custody battle often ensues where the Syariah Court can grant custody of the children to their newly converted Muslim parent while the High Court of Malaya can grant custody to the non-Muslim parent.

This is the scenario I’ve played out in my novel where Kamini and her daughter, Nandini, are affected by one man’s selfish actions. It is also a story about Karuppan’s struggles as he tries to survive in modern Malaysia as a child of an indentured labourer.

As you may already know from previous stories I’ve written in this newsletter, ‘The Legend of Nagakanna’, an edited version of Chapter 9 in this novel, was first featured in an anthology called We Mark Your Memory: Writings from the Descendants of Indenture, published by the University of London in partnership with Commonwealth Writers in 2018. The anthology brought together, for the first time, new writing from descendants of indenture across the Commonwealth.

With one adventure over, now came the next challenge. How to make this book available to those outside Malaysia? I sort of know how to create an eBook for Kindle, having created one for Ladoo Dog and The Banana Leaf Men (Reprint). But these were done years ago and I’ve forgotten a lot of the steps. The steps are not difficult to follow, but they require time and patience, both of which are in short supply right now. I have many on-going projects that take up a lot of my time and I knew that there was no way I could manage this project on my own. And that’s how Rohi came into the picture.

MAKING SPACE 
One of the first things he asked me was, “In KDP, do you want Kindle, Kindle Unlimited or Createspace?”

Huh?

I was so confused by all this jargon. And this was only the first step. I decided to use simple language and replied, “Rohi, I want an eBook that we can sell on Amazon.com and a print version for those outside Malaysia.” Mercifully, he said OK, named his fee, and got working on the whole project.

Although we live in different countries, working with Rohi was easy-peasy. He didn’t overwhelm me with questions or choices to make. He simply went about doing what he had to do by meticulously following the instructions provided. In no time at all, he sent me the files to upload onto Amazon.com. I would love to explain the differences between the books in terms of font used, the headers, footers and all the formatting issues. However, I can’t because Rohi did all this for me. Thank God! What I do know is this – the formatting issues for an eBook far differ from that of a print version of the book. I will leave Rohi to explain the rest.

Once that was done and dusted, I decided to attempt something that Rohi vociferously encouraged me to do: enter the Kindle version of The Age of Smiling Secrets into a competition. So, we chose the Kindle Storyteller and worked on uploading the files to meet their requirements.

SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR YOU
Now, what remains is something special for all the subscribers to this newsletter. I have, for the next five days, made this eBook absolutely free. In return, I will be eternally grateful if you could read the eBook and post a short review it on Amazon.com. Here’s the link again:

The Age of Smiling Secrets: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07GC1YNYV

The book and eBook are available worldwide, but for ease of reference, here are some of the more popular links:
USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GC1YNYV/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07GC1YNYV/
India: https://www.amazon.in/dp/B07GC1YNYV/
Japan: https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B07GC1YNYV/
Italy: https://www.amazon.it/dp/B07GC1YNYV
Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07GC1YNYV
Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07GC1YNYV

What’s next on this journey? I cannot say for sure as the story evolves from day to day. What I am learning is the need to take things one day at a time.  It is my hope by the time you read the next story, I’ll be able to share with you more information about the other book, sales and, hopefully, a story about the success of this competition.

Meanwhile, I trust that you’ll enjoy reading The Age of Smiling Secrets as much as I loved writing it. As I’ve said before, I still cry every single time I read the last sentence in this novel.

(31 August 2018)


Aneeta Sundararaj fears social media and aims to ‘go local’ with ‘the novel’.  Read mores stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).

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Changing Kits

[Full disclosure: Some of the links in this story are affiliate links which means that if you click on them and make a purchase, I get a percentage of the payment made at no extra cost to you. Also, links to the webpages/books/resources mentioned are listed at the end of the story.]

Two weeks ago, I was invited for a lunch in the city. I was mingling with the other guests when, suddenly, a lady appeared in the doorway. I admit that I stared at her for a while. Then, it came to me. This was a person I hadn’t seen for fifteen years. We spent the next hour or so animatedly catching up. Naturally, we spoke about my writing career and she mentioned a pamphlet I’d created for The Banana Leaf Men and sent to her all those years ago. I had forgotten about this. After lunch, I started to think about this pamphlet. The more I thought about it, the more I came to see what’s changed in the publishing world, what hasn’t and what’s evolved.

BOOK NUMBERING
Let’s start with the one thing that hasn’t changed – ISBN. Years ago, I wrote a piece about this called ‘ISBN in Malaysia’. While the links to the resources I mentioned in the piece have changed, a lot of the information remains the same.

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is based in London. It is the means by which a book is identified. In Malaysia, the National Library of Malaysia has been appointed as the National Center for ISBN.

From January 2007, ISBN comprises 13 digits. The change has come about as a result of numbering shortages. This is good news for people who love books because it means that there are so many books published that we were running out of 10-number combinations.

Let’s look at this from a practical perspective. The newly-acquired ISBN for The Age of Smiling Secrets is: 978-967-16167-0-3

This is what the 13 numbers mean:

  • The three first numbers (978) is a European Article Number prefix (EAN codes are used worldwide for marking retail goods).
  • The next group of numbers identify the country of publication. Countries may also be grouped according to language, which is why books published in Britain or the United States are identified with the number zero (0) or one (1), the codes for English-speaking countries.
  • Next comes the publisher’s code, then the item number, and, finally, the check digit (arrived at by a formula involving the first 12 numbers in the code).

If you provide the ISBN to the staff at a bookstore, they can tell you if the book is available or place an order for you. The ISBN allows them to identify the right book quickly and efficiently. It also ensures that you don’t get the book mixed up with others having similar titles.

What’s changed with ISBN is how to go about applying for it. During the publication of The Banana Leaf Men in 2003, I contacted the National Library in Kuala Lumpur and asked for help. They faxed to me the necessary forms to apply for an ISBN. I filled in all the blanks and faxed it back to them. A week later, I received the ISBN by post. I took it to my designer and watched as he modified the cover design to include this barcode and numbers.

CLICK, CLICK, CLICK
With The Age of Smiling Secrets¸ everything was online. There was a link on the library’s website that I could use to download all the necessary forms. There were forms for new publishers and existing ones. There were also forms for those whose books are only in electronic form.

Like before, publishers would have to provide accompanying documents such as Identity Card of the applicant, a copy of the cover design and the preliminary pages of the novel (copyright information and title page). The other wonderful thing that’s remained was that the application for an ISBN through the National Library was free of charge. And the officers there remain as polite and obliging as they were years ago.

Once again, I filled in all the blanks in the forms. Unlike before, though, I didn’t send them to the library by fax. Instead, I scanned them, saved them as JPEG files and forwarded them by email. I was also lucky because I had help doing all this from the designers and printers of the novel.

Once my application was approved, I received the ISBN and Barcode by email and forwarded them by email to my designers.

Like before, in the covering letter from the National Library, I was made aware that once The Age of Smiling Secrets is published, I will have to send to the library five copies of the book. And I will have to send them to a new address for this purpose:
National Library of Malaysia
Level 2, AnjungBestari
No. 232, Jalan Tun Razak, 50572 Kuala Lumpur
(U.P: Pusat Kebangsaan ISBN)
Tel. : 03-26814329, 03-26871700 ext 4288
Fax : 03-26811676
E-mail: isbn@pnm.gov.my

MEDIA KIT
When The Banana Leaf Men was published, I knew that I had to get the word out about my books, but hadn’t a clue how to do it. I didn’t have an email newsletter at the time. I had no subscribers. I knew no one in the media who was willing to advise me.

I’d heard about this thing called a ‘Press Release’ and went about learning how to create one. While it sounded grand, what I created for The Banana Leaf Men was elementary at best. I started with a Word document, much like the press release that was created for We Mark Your Memory. I wrote out the blurb, title of the book, author, ISBN and contact details. It was no more than an A5 page. I stuck with black and white and printed two A5 copies. I placed both these A5 pages side-by-side on an A4 sheet and glued them. I didn’t know how to use my Inkjet printer to print two copies of this ‘Press Release’ on a single page.

Once this prototype ‘Press Release’ was made, I took it to a photocopy shop nearby. I made 100 photocopies of this and got the sheets cut right down the middle. This, effectively, gave me 200 copies of my ‘Press Release’. Then, I put this ‘Press Release’ in all the post boxes around my neighbourhood. I was very lucky because a reporter from a local newspaper picked one up and contacted me to request an interview.

My plan for The Age of Smiling Secrets will be similar. I am in the process of preparing the press release. Again, I will do it in Word.doc format. This, time, though, instead of printing it out, I plan to convert into PDF and JPEG formats. These will then be sent out to the masses via Whatsapp, email and other digital methods I can think of. This time, I will be able to add links to several websites in this press release – from links to my website, the publishers, distributors and even the one for We Mark Your Memory.

It’s a little different, but equally interesting, nonetheless.

I would love to know how you promote your books and work. Please share your ideas and thoughts below. And what do you think will change in the next fifteen years?

***

Links to the webpages/books mentioned:

(15 July 2018)


Aneeta Sundararaj fears social media and aims to ‘go local’ with ‘the novel’.  Read mores stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).

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Marking Memories

We Mark Your Memory: Writing from the Descendants of Indenture[Full disclosure: Some of the links in this story are affiliate links which means that if you follow them and buy the stuff, I get a percentage of the payment made with no extra cost to you.]

On 17 May 2018, an anthology called We Mark Your Memory: Writings from the Descendants of Indenture (http://www.commonwealthwriters.org/we-mark-your-memory/) will be launched in London. I am very proud that one of my stories was accepted for this anthology.

As I read the other works in this anthology, I am fascinated by the stories they tell. Things become even more interesting when the editors say that many artists worldwide have ‘artfully created literary responses to the scars of the system of indenture and its legacies.’ I didn’t see the legacies as ‘scars’. In fact, when I was writing this story, my father was aware that the setting for this story would be where he born and brought up – Foothills Estate. He insisted that I should not write ‘bad things’ about it and said, “It was a very nice place to grow up.”

Recalling my father’s words and reading the stories in the anthology made me think a little more about this whole system of indenture. I recognise some of the events the others write about. Yet, I can see that my father’s experiences (and that of my grandfather’s) are also different. So, I decided to study this whole thing a little more.

For a start, to paraphrase what our editors have written, the abolition of slavery was the catalyst to the arrival of the first Indian indentured labourers in the sugar colonies of Mauritius, Guyana and Trinidad. Indentureship then began in South Africa and Fiji.

In Malaya, the indentured labourer was brought into the country to serve a new industry, the rubber industry. Indeed, there was such a demand worldwide for rubber, that the emphasis of the British shifted entirely to large-scale production of rubber in Malaya. By 1910, there were many plantations all over the country and a whole new community existed.

In A Gentleman’s World: The Legacy of Subhas Chandra Bose in Southeast Asia, Nilanjana Sengupta writes about the Indian labourers brought in by the British:

‘…Plantation work, be it rubber, spices, oil palm or tea, required simple, repetitive, unskilled work for which the British deemed the Indians, particularly the South Indian Tamils to be adequately subservient and suitable. … To quote a planter’s observation around 1911: “The Tamil struck me as being a poor specimen, both in physique and morale and of being abject, cowardly and generally lacking in vitality … The blind admiration of the white man by these Tamils is really rather pathetic.” The entire, close-knit world of the rubber estates came to be built on two founding tenets – imperial power on one hand and the systemic exploitation of plantation hands on the others. Be it in the form of a bonded labour or under the supposedly ‘free labour’ system run by the kanganies, their endemic condition remained the same.

As years passed, certain characteristic features emerged. Firstly, life on the plantation was highly regimented with the European planter at the top of the pyramid, followed by the clerk or the krani, from Asian stock but from Ceylon or Malayalam speakers from Kerala. Separated from the labourers from the communal barrier, they ensured the ‘General Instructions of the Company’ were followed, conducted and early morning parade and roll-call, made sure the labourer dismounted from his bicycle every time he passed the planters bungalow or parted his hair in the traditional way with a tuft. After this came the kangani or the overseer, the actual leader of the tappers, while the South Indian labourers were at the bottom of the pile. Most numerous, they led the lifestyle planned and standardised by the management in miserable ‘line house’ – amidst squalor and hopelessness.

… [The] trend of subsistence wages meant the labourers were left with very little margin after meeting their basic expenses. This margin they could either use for remitting to India, or to buy a return passage home, or as it happened in most cases, spend it on toddy – the only means of easy entertainment available on the plantations.

… This large mass of humanity lived on in comparative isolation in the insular worlds of their estates. With the unbending plantation discipline, which made it difficult even for relatives to visit their families, which made it difficult even for relatives to visit their families living on the estates, meant that they were virtually cut-off from the external world.’

With my grandfather once being the head ‘krani’ in Foothills Estate, Kulim, it is this ‘isolation in the insular worlds of their estates’ that I tried to describe in the story for the anthology, The Legend of Nagakanna.

To read about Nagakanna’s world in your own copy of We Mark Your Memory, click on any of the links below:

 

(15 May 2018)


Aneeta Sundararaj fears social media and aims to ‘go local’ with ‘the novel’.  Read mores stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).

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Book Cover Stories

[Full disclosure: Some of the links in this story are affiliate links which means that if you follow them and buy the stuff, I get a percentage of the payment made with no extra cost to you.]

Now that I have come to terms with the idea to self-publish the novel, I’ve got to make a few decisions. One of the most exciting ones, I feel, has to be deciding what goes on the cover. As I reflected on the cover designs for all my books so far, I can see that all my ideas, rationale and experiences have also evolved.

What does ‘cover’ mean?

I still remember that when I approached my first printer, I told him I needed help to create a ‘cover’. He had no clue what I meant. I had to take out a book from my bag and show him what I wanted help with.

“Oh, you mean cover design,” he said, nodding. “That, my designer can help you with.”

The moment I returned from that meeting, I researched the meaning of these words. I learnt that ‘bookcover’ was a term often used for ‘book cover image in library management software’. With hardcover books, the removable paper cover used to protect the book is called ‘dust jacket’. A ‘book cover’ was any protective covering used to bind the pages of a book. Once I understood what these terms meant, I began to analyse the details of what should go on the cover.

I started with what I shouldn’t have on the cover. There was a novel that I was so eager to read. The blurb stated that it was the story of one woman’s struggle in Malaya during the Second World War. The cover design, however, featured a Japanese woman holding one of those paper umbrellas. It made no sense at all and only served to annoy me.

Next, the cover must, at the very least have the title of the book and the author’s name. Everything else adds to this. The blurb is meant to tease and entice the reader into buying the book. The ISBN and barcode makes it easier for bookshops and libraries to locate and stock the book. The ‘puffs’ (comments made by others) means that a person whose opinion matters has read the book and endorses it. A publisher will place his logo for branding purposes.

That word ‘branding’ then hits on what most publishers will try to achieve – strike that balance between marketing and still staying true to the story inside. Most authors who have publishers will say something along the lines of ‘I am not a graphic designer. I am a writer. I leave it to my publishers to decide what is a good cover design.’ This, however, isn’t so easy when you’re self-publishing a book. From my experience, the main concern I had was money. How much was it going to cost to create this wonderful design that I liked and still fulfilled its purpose? Everything depended on the budget.

It’s All About the Money

When I finished the manuscript for ‘The Banana Leaf Men’, I had very limited funds. The budget for the cover design was RM1,000.00. Since the designer was going to charge me RM1,000.00 to convert whatever image I gave him into a format that was suitable for printing and typesetting, I had to think fast. I sat the dining table and, with pencil in hand, sketched my protagonist. Since the overall costs would increase if I used colour, I decided to stick with black white. The only concession I allowed was that the border and script would be burgundy in colour.

After this first foray into fiction, I worked on non-fiction works like ‘Mad Heaven’ and ‘My Cholesterol Journey’. For these, since I was not funding the project, the people who were the subject of these biographies had the final say. They used images of themselves and, naturally, there was lots of colour.

By the time I came to work on ‘Ladoo Dog’, two things had changed: I had a little more money to spend and eBooks were becoming more popular. Again, to get that actual ‘look’ I wanted, I created a painting of Ladoo. Then, I contacted Mitch Moccia of monstercovers.com. I gave him a basic idea of the colour I’d like to use and voila, he came up with a cover design that everyone loved. The cost to create this design was US147.00. When all the print copies were sold, I uploaded the JPEG format file to Amazon.com.

At the same time, Rohi suggested I do a reprint of ‘The Banana Leaf Men’. So, I commissioned Mitch Moccia and asked him to create this new, more colourful design for the eBook.

With ‘Knowledge of Life’, MPH Publishers were very kind and asked my co-author and I for our input. I remember being impressed because taking into account that all the stories were about Ayurveda, the designers had used the lotus as one of the main elements of the design.

Making Memories
Once again with ‘Mark Your Memory’, it’s the publishers who’ve decided on the cover image. This one intrigues me for I’ve never seen a photo of an Indian woman standing with her elbow on the man’s shoulder. I’ve also never seen South Indian men here in Malaysia wear such elaborate turbans. It makes me wonder… And that, perhaps, is what makes this cover design work – it makes me want to take a closer look at the book.

Now that I’ve dissected all the cover designs I’ve been involved with in the past, I need to work on the one of the novel. It’s a literary novel and the examples I’ve looked at include ‘Shalimar the Clown‘, ‘God of Small Things‘, ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin‘ and so many more. While all of them have their plus and minus points, none has served to inspire me thus far.

I clearly need some inspiration and would love to know your stories about cover designs for books. For those who’ve published their work, please share how you chose your designs. For those who are readers only, please tell me what made you like a particular cover design. You can either enter your comments in the box below or send me an email ( editor@howtotellagreatstory.com )

(15 April 2018)


Aneeta Sundararaj fears social media and aims to ‘go local’ with ‘the novel’.  Read mores stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).

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Trials and Tribulations of the Edi-Mission Process

[Full disclosure: Some of the links in this story are affiliate links which means that if you follow them and buy the stuff, I get a percentage of the payment made with no extra cost to you.]

Sunrise at Baray Lake

Tomorrow is a new day.

During the opening monologue of the 2018 Oscars, Jimmy Kimmel spoke about the discrepancy in the payments made to Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams in a movie. The fee for the actress was paltry while the actor received a huge sum of money. They had the same agent and Kimmel said, “[I]f we can’t trust agents, who can we trust?” This reminded me of what I call the ‘Edi-Mission Process’ which involves interactions with agents, editors and commissioning publishers. Today, I laugh, but there was a time I did nothing but cry.

There are also two reasons why I choose to share these stories with you now. First, is that a subscriber wanted a recommendation for an editor he could work with. Second, I’m ready to venture back into self-publishing ‘the novel’.

Broadly speaking, the editing process can be divided into three parts which are writing and preparing the manuscript for editors, editing the manuscript and where I am now.

Perhaps, some background is necessary. I completed the novel in 2010 and started the submission process. By 2012, since there was no response, I decided that something wasn’t right and reworked the novel from scratch. Then, life happened. Between 2013 and 2016, I lost seven people (including the dog) and didn’t have the heart to work on it. I spent 2017 picking up the pieces of my writing life and now that we’re in 2018, it’s time to look again at this project. Quite simply, the novel deals with issues that arise because of two concurrent legal jurisdictions.

Round 1 of Edi-Mission Process: Font, Spacing and Numbers
Today, there are books, websites, tutors, mentors and even software that can help you write a novel. When I started, I turned to books such as Artists and Writers Yearbook and First Draft in 30 Days. They taught me about the usual requirements like use 12 Point, Times New Roman font, double spacing and only on one side of numbered pages.

The biggest problem with the novel was its plot and structure. The one resource that helped me was James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish. I learned about Doorways, Disturbances and the amazing power that comes from putting things in the right place.

Round 2 of Edi-Mission Process: Being Insulted
Once I was ready, I sent the novel out into the world. My first option was to go local. This meant asking writer friends for their professional opinion about the novel. They gave their feedback and helped me re-work the piece. But I wanted something more. I wanted someone who had no clue about my world to tell me if the story would work. I chose to work with some editors from the UK. This proved to be half a mistake.

Before that, you may ask why the UK and not the US? Well, I was trained in UK English and write in that manner (meaning I write ‘colour’ rather than ‘color’). It seemed easier.

The half that wasn’t a mistake was because the editors identified a fundamental issue and asked me a simple question – why was I highlighting this jurisdiction issue in the first place? The answer is something Malaysians take for granted which the British, with their single legal system, can’t understand. I worked the answer to this question into the novel.

The half that was a mistake related to blindly working with an editor because he was ‘supposed to be the best’. This editor insisted that I change my story fundamentally by removing the legal issue altogether and concentrating on a murder-mystery instead. I told him that it didn’t make sense as if I did, all my fellow lawyers would laugh at me. He then said two things that still annoy me. First, no one cares what Malaysian lawyers think. Second, I should insert a ‘white’ element in the story (such as a half-Caucasian character or make the setting somewhere in Europe) so that it would appeal to British readers.

Desperate to please the editor, I tried to do what he asked. But the story didn’t make sense at all and he scolded me for not following his ‘strictures’.

After shedding some tears and paying his demand for full payment (including all bank charges and fees), I reached out to writer friends. One explained something important to me: When an editor avoids addressing the queries you’ve raised and starts picking on nitty gritty, he does not understand the novel. Unwilling to come across as stupid, he’ll pick on your abilities as a writer. More often than not, he will go back on what he’s said previously.

Here’s a perfect example. One of the characters in the novel is Papa Aunty. In the opening pages, I explain that ‘Papa’ is a Tamil word that roughly means baby. In fact, my grandmother’s nickname was ‘Papa’. A year ago, the editor had said he loved these exotic names. When I couldn’t follow his instructions, he wrote to say that British people would be confused by the use of the word ‘Papa’ for a woman.

I wondered if British readers were, in fact, so dim-witted that they can’t fathom a world where one’s grandparents are referred to something other than Grandpa and Grandma. I mentioned this when I contacted the people at www.writersworkshops.co.uk. In particular, I wanted an editor who would help me make this story understandable to the reader, not change the focus so it was a commercial success.

I was so lucky to be paired with fabulous editors like Debi Alper and Susan Davis. I also signed up for the self-editing course. By the end of 2014, I was ready to begin the submission process again. But, as I said, life happened.

Round 3 of Edi-Mission Process: Level Playing Field
That said, once I started re-submitting the novel in earnest, I had some luck. For one, Legend of Nagakanna, which is a chapter in the novel, was accepted as part of the anthology called We Mark Your Memory: Writing from the Descendants of Indenture.

While I am delighted by this success, I am aware that my desire to have the novel published in the UK is no longer as intense, especially when I receive comments and feedback like the ones below.

  • Thank you for sending novel. … Aneeta doesn’t know how to write a novel.
  • It was nice to meet you [recently]. I’m sorry. I don’t think this is a right fit for our agency. I’ve put the [books you gave me as a] gift in the post and am returning them to you.
  • Aneeta’s legal knowledge is a bonus, but she has made the good character good and the bad character bad.
  • Anita, I apologies. You can’t hammer the story down your readers’ throats. You have to seduce them with your words like Charles Dickens.

The least they could have done was to get my name correct. Or worked on their grammar and punctuation.

Two months ago, I was grateful to be rejected by a particular publisher because the day after I received his email, I learned that he was publishing the memoirs of a politician the world hated. Imagine! The politician and I could have had the same publisher, much like Wahlberg and Williams having the same agent.

Laughter aside, here’s what I’ve learned from all this:

  • Honesty is important.
  • Don’t insult me, my dreams, work or people.
  • I admire the publishers who rejected my novel because they were scared the issues in it were too sensitive.
  • I will still work with an editor who refused to take my money because she didn’t know my part of the world and thought she wouldn’t do justice to the novel.
  • I respect writers who write about their world, rather than a world that their editors think will sell.
  • With the internet, we’re now on a level playing field.

Ultimately, it’s wonderful to work with agents and publishers because our combined resources allow for a project to reach far more of its potential than going it alone. This, however, should never be at the expense of insulting each other.

I would love to know your stories of working with editors, agents and publishers. Please share them. You can send me an email (editor@howtotellagreatstory.com) or place your comments in the box below.

(15 March 2018)


Aneeta Sundararaj fears social media and aims to ‘go local’ with ‘the novel’.  Read mores stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).

Click here to return to Story Me


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