Archive for the ‘Horrors of Knowing a Writer’ Category

COOKING & THE MYTH ABOUT LOVING IT

End of May; end of school year; a bazillion grade level send-off activities that all teachers who ever taught my kids throughout the year can concoct, and one of my daughters brings home a recipe that she’s supposed to cook with Mom. Why? And as if that’s not enough, the god-awful paper sheet says ‘make it a fun experience’.

I’m ready to commit suicide. Also, they forgot to include 1 fire extinguisher in the ingredients.

I hate cooking. If I wasn’t brought up on good, healthful home cooked meals and ruined for life for wanting them, I wouldn’t cook. If I wasn’t married to a man who understood good food, I wouldn’t cook. If I didn’t have children whom we’d spoiled and nourished on healthy meals, I wouldn’t cook. Also, I’m educated – unfortunately – and I can read labels and ingredients and health blogs and magazines and oh yes, hubby is a doctor so – if we could consider fast food as food – I. Wouldn’t. Cook!

And then to have my kid with me whilst I cook? Oh sure! What are we cooking? Perfect Chaos with a hint of Hysterical Mother and a side of Don’t Freakin’ Touch That Sharp Thingy glazed with Step The Hell Away From That Stove? How about a tall glass of We’re Never Doing This Again topped with Gritted Teeth to go with it?

Besides, I’m not a fan of that trigger: make it an experience. Why? I don’t want to. What’s with the constant need to add a festive tag to everything we do?

I watch all these cookery shows – yes, I love those and I watch them on a full stomach lest I’m compelled (God forbid) to try any of the dishes they’re showing me how to make – and I listen to all those chefs sharing what an experience cooking was when they were young.

“I always saw Mom cooking something,” declares a celebrity chef proudly as she rinses out her celery, and goes on to elaborate how awesome the experience was.

I can relate to that partly. Mom cooked; always. Because if she didn’t cook, we didn’t eat. It was the same way in her house when Nana cooked; and back in Nana’s house when her mother cooked, and so the tradition had trickled down through generations and households and not just among us but all around us as this was the way of the East. Food from outside was not the norm but a sign of indulgence.

But cooking itself was never an experience as if that word is synonymous to something joyous and festive and fun. It was routine; something that had to be done – like eating or breathing or going to school. I mean of course Mom cooked because well…why wouldn’t she? That was part of her job as Mom. As is now part of mine – or my husband’s or my father’s and they have risen to that occasion countless times – lest a feminist pops a nerve here.

Point is – meals have to be cooked, not bought or ordered. You don’t have to like it; I don’t. And yes, you have to pass on the skill; I will – eventually. But I still don’t see myself making it an experience to cherish and blah. To me, it’s a prerequisite for staying healthy. It’s a prerequisite for good quality family time. It definitely feels awesome when my six year old smacks his lips and declares, “Mom is the best cooker ever!”

So yes, all the things that a home-cooked meal brings to the table with itself are, indeed, to be cherished and amazing and great to experience. But no, not the cutting, the chopping, the blending, the blazing heat of the burning stove, the strong simmering smells that fill my entire house and won’t go away, not the onions that make my eyes water, the meat that won’t thaw in time, not the ticking clock that mocks me more than it helps, and certainly not the dreaded daily question – what shall I cook today?

None of that is a fun experience. And none of that becomes any easier when I have a kid in my kitchen, holding a paper from school that says I have to cook with her and make it a fun experience. Then, I’d rather call up a restaurant and order a take-out.

Now, a clean kitchen – that’s fun 😉

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Of Writers & Genres

I was recently tagged in an article that was more a compilation of quotes of some 25 renowned authors. Most of those quotes were dedicated to writing things that haunt us, scare us, upset us; are taboo that nobody wants to talk about. Shock everyone, create controversy and win.

I’m guessing depression sells tons.

Then, somebody left this message for me:

“… write a book on poor, homeless kids of XXX, or anywhere in the world, I am sure you will get a plenty of ‘stuff’ to write about. Use your talents to help the poor and the needy…”

That’s cute. And thanks but no thanks, though, I appreciate the confidence.

I don’t write books about things that scare or upset me. I can’t see why I should. I write about stuff that makes me happy because I believe people need to know that part too about the world I come from. And I believe that that is just as capable of enlightening the readers as the tales of terror and torment that are constantly dished out to portray real life.

Furthermore, if it still needs to be said, real life is made up of sad moments and happy moments, and just because I choose to write about the Happy, doesn’t mean it isn’t real or deep or worth reading about. You can say it’s incomplete, and I’ll say it is just as incomplete as the books dipped in the Sad.

Besides, what if I dedicated my earnings from my happy unreal romcoms to help the needy? Would that help? Or is money earned from romance tainted and can’t be given to charities?

I am amazed at the idea of dubbing one genre more worth one’s while than the other. The why are you wasting your talent by writing This and not That is a rude question. I’ve been asked this enough times to be sore from it.

My answer: because That is not my freakin’ genre.

Every book ever written has a genre, a category: romance, fantasy, humor, drama, horror, creative fiction, non-fiction; the list goes on. Sometimes, the writer chooses a genre but often times the genre chooses the writer. Fantasy chose me. I chose romance. And if you’re a reader who reads neither, steer clear.

Seriously, this is honest advice. I mean well.

Don’t expect Khaled Hosseini to pull off a Tolkien and vice versa because you definitely don’t want to go kite-flying with the Orcs or have them molest a child. Enid Blyton is not Stephen King and will not write Needful Things, and I certainly wouldn’t want to read to my kids about the creatures that might live up Stephen’s Faraway Tree. Sadat Hassan Manto’s idea of love is not what Sophie Kinsella writes about so let them both say what they best believe to be true.

You cannot compare. It is grapes and strawberries. Or grapes and raisins even.

You see, no sensible writer is ever wasting their talent. If I am good at what I write, and the readers determine that and by readers I mean the target market for which I write, then, my talent is not wasted.

If you didn’t enjoy a particular kind of book, and not because it was grammatically or literately atrocious, perhaps it wasn’t written for you. Maybe that book’s genre wasn’t your type. And that’s fine. For every kind of reader there is a writer and for every kind of writer, there is a reader.

It’s all about finding that perfect match.

Just don’t expect a writer to change her genre to suit your fancies. Don’t expect of Jane Austen what you liked about Alistair MacLean, and then demonize her for not doing it right. Shakespeare is nothing but pure genius and if you think otherwise because Hollywood does a better job with drama, your argument is invalid.

The idea is to read and appreciate every writer for what they write best. Now, that will be respectful.

All us writers can live with that 🙂

PS: this post first appeared here.

Mommy Writes.

This blog post is so overdue. I should’ve written it the first time someone told me I need a writing corner to be a writer. Or asked me how am I a writer?

My humble two cents for that person – I don’t have a corner. I have kids. And I am a writer.

I’ve read enough posts and articles on how to be a successful writer to know that none of those will ever work for me because they aren’t written for me. None say oh hey, your kitchen counter is the best desk because it’s close to the goddamn stove! So now you can cook, clean, wash and write. Or did you know that listening to kids radio and watching kids TV even when kids aren’t around is an excellent solo brainstorming session? And of course, you may write every day. But there will always be more days when you can’t write and that’s okay too. For instance – here’s my story with writing a little romance:

I’m all pumped up and ready with my chai and sunlight in my window and my netbook’s working fabulously. The kids are fed and the house is spotless. It’s time to get Aoife and Demon all erotic. I’m thinking hard, picturing him making his move, the warmth of his hands and feel of lips and hearts throbbing and her swooning out of her mind, totally melting and letting go in his arms, his charisma overpowering her, finally she has his heart after much anguish. Finally, her wait is over. Finally, her struggle to make him realize is over!

My words start flowing on screen like a soothing river just when my ten year old sails in and demands to know, “Mommy! How come women had to struggle so much all through history even for basic human rights while men could do all they wanted?”

“Well, darling, because men…because our society…and men, it’s…oh, great.”

There goes my kiss. That ain’t ever gonna happen now. Because now I’m thinking let’s just kill the rascal and see if anyone misses him. No wonder people say I’m good with action and suck at romance.

There’s also this glorious notion put forth by super writers, Stephen King among them, that three months is enough to get your first draft done. No offence to King but his latest books actually seem to have been written in just three months (this one’s for you Shami). AND he is not a housewife.

So, scratch three months. Embrace twelve instead.

The idea is to not give up. Don’t be disheartened if you had to vacuum your car when you really had planned on exquisitely describing how elegant your protagonist’s bedroom is. Maybe you can describe her exquisite car instead.

Also, listen to your kids talking. Often times, they dish out such delicious dialogues, you can literally have your readers smacking their lips. My daughter gave me the term lemonade sky that I used in one of my books. My son asked me if fireflies were really tiny fire fairies. That led me to write about Shimmers…and Demon’s fire sprites.

So, happy housewife-ing and mommy-ing and writing. There’s no one else who can write the way you do so don’t ever stop 🙂

photo image from: http://myliteraryquest.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/first-ever-writer-mom-comic/

I was virtually terrified of the term housewife till I was one myself.

Not my fault entirely. It’s just that the social labels we in the work force constantly attach to that crowd are quite fear-inflicting. But once I was one of them, I found a way of life that wasn’t just new, it was totally badass. So, here I am today cheering for the team.

We housewives are often boxed into creatures who know nothing of the world. All we ever talk about is the home and the kids and the cooking and cleaning and – well excuse me but doesn’t everybody only talk about what they know best?

I mean have you ever heard physicians converse socially? 95% of their gossip starts with the H of a HOSPITAL and ends with the L. And should you even try to divert the conversation by say, asking them about what they think about bending it like Beckham; they’ll look at you like you just asked them if they’ve ever done it on the dance floor. You might as well ask that for the fun of it for if you’re lucky and there are men in the group, you may have answers. Still no fun? Throw in gun control. Congratulations, you’ve just recreated a Congressional session in full swing at a table for eight at a Save Our Souls Benefit.

I’ve always thought men are so much easier to talk to anyway.

However, if you’re at an all-girls table, chances are you’ll be discussing birth control. Of course them rug-rats are such a speed bump in our career paths. The lesser, the better, you say. Right. I have four kids. You bring up that topic in my presence and you will cry. I can tell you all about that won’t work. That 1% chance of error on every box of everything ever invented? Yeah, that’s real. You don’t want babies? Be celibate or get your tubes tied.

I’m also entertained beyond sanity with stories of how tough work life is. You think your boss is harsh? Try working for mine – the baby, the toddler, the preteen. That two hour board meeting when you almost lost your oil-rigging client to sign for your tree-hugging project was not excruciating, nervewrecking or stressful. Try soothing a colicky baby at three in the morning. And no, you may not cuss at or sedate or talk logic to the baby.

Now, if you’re ever sitting across from a housewife like me, she probably hates talking about shopping the way you do. Oh no, I don’t mean talking about the shoes and bags and clothes and labels – just their price tags because chances are she barely ever knows what anything costs. Here’s why: if I like it, I buy it. Yeah, that rich guy I married spoils me rotten. Sue him.

And my favorite – do I work out? Yes, I do. I’m raising two boys. Even my vocal chords can kick your ass.

In my experience, a socially quiet housewife among a horde of loud working women is not silent because she has nothing important to say. It could be, she’s thinking of her own mother who was a working woman, who did all the house work too and never complained. And she’s sitting there quietly, listening to all your talk, smiling and probably thinking – what a bunch of crybabies!

Happy Independence Day

A flowering tree in my neighbor’s backyard unabashedly shades most of my driveway. It sprinkles its pink petals all over the place, lending my driveway a fairytale look in quiet summer afternoons. Its shade turns a shade mistier in the fall and when spring comes, it is the first burst of fresh green on my way to my garage. In winter, it is the first tree to let me know that it’s time to get a wrap; that it’s getting cold.

It’s just a tree. It doesn’t care for the fence that keeps its roots on the other side. It makes a part of my house beautiful all the same…

PS: No, I did not just copy this from anywhere. Yes, there really is a tree. And my neighbor is Indian (no, not Red) who greeted me to her neighborhood with a Calla Lily that sprouts basanti yellow blossoms.

Pakistani Syndrome

I love Facebook! It feeds me such gems as these:

http://fahimakhter.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/oversease-pakistani-syndrome/

Of course I couldn’t resist blogging. So, here’s my take.

DISCLAIMER: I’m cautious. So, I’ve decided to put a disclaimer at the start and end of my article so as to make CRYSTAL, which is also another word for CLEAR, that this piece is not for those Pakistanis who do not have a green passport, do not live in Pakistan, are related to me or are my friends. This article has got to do absolutely nothing with them; this has to do with the rest of them. I mean us. Us them. Okay. End of disclaimer.

ARTICLE: My issue is not with my countrymen who think we living oversease (emphasis on sease) are bad. My issue is not even with their choice of words and temperament and bad jokes when rebuffing us. My issue is every Pakistani living in Pakistan proudly providing me with tempting targets – our politicians (heathen gods), society (chaos), mullas healthcare (what?), education (lack of), infrastructure (bombed), security (total collapse), law and justice (sold dime a dozen – or by diyat if you will), terror infested, corruption ridden uncivilized piece of land, drawing rooms without central heating/cooling, power outages every half hour, poor on the street, our birthright to litter, to not pay taxes and to try our best to get away with as little work as possible – and then tells me to stop pointing it all out ‘cause it makes them feel bad.

Well, boo hoo! Here’s a Kleenex for your tears. That’ll be $4.00. Don’t worry, we’ll minus that from the next installment we send over.

UNDISCLAIMER: I think it is not my weekness (yes, I write weekly) of writing that I could convey my point properly. I am criticizing anyone for telling me I don’t have a right to criticize Pakistan for one (insert comma, full stop, some form of goddamn punctuation!) secondly I have every right to ask how you spend your money (because it includes the amount we send over, too) and how you live. Not all Pakistanis are like that. Heck my father earned an honest living, paid his taxes, never littered in the streets, left his high paying job in a foreign land to come back to Pakistan and now, in his retirement days, sits wondering in extreme heat and power outage what the hell was he thinking?!! And when he screams for his rights, I scream LOUDER.

And if you don’t agree, you should pay up for that Kleenex right now.

Accepting is the first step my friend.

CLAIMER: This post is in response to another blogger’s article. If you haven’t read the said article, please scroll all the way up and stop when you arrive at a LINK (line 2 of this post), hover your mouse over the link, click the link, if it doesn’t work or your mouse has issues, copy/paste the link in a separate browser, press ENTER, then READ that article by that writer there before asking this writer here – what is the writer trying to convey??!!!!!!!!

The joys of a touchscreen; I almost sent this message this morning:

Thanx for the invite. Sadly we cant make it. hope u all have gun!

Lucky for me I still have a livid spell-check implanted in my brain that keeps me from making such errors though honestly – that’s exactly the kind of message I’d like to send to some people I know. But then given the current global state of affairs and the offensive need to be positive, I wonder if one could be too careful in making conversation. For instance, when you wish for someone to have a blast at their party – and then they do…

Excuse the tart and snap in my thoughts. I’m still a bit jet lagged. Also still trying to rub off the sting of whatever is wrong with a country I left behind a decade ago but still love to bits. Among other things, the one thing that disturbed me was terminology – pungent, satirical, taunting. As were certain behaviors that kept me thinking – either I’ve lost my sense of humor to appreciate it all or it all really isn’t funny. I also realized that the way I define being bold and honest is quite different from how some people back home perceive it.

For instance when I invite someone to visit me, I don’t find it funny or honest or bold when they respond with a, “We will never come to the US!” (minus the arrogant hair flip that I doubt would add to my displeasure). Here’s what goes through my mind (and sometimes tongue) at such times: I hardly care if you have political issues with drone attacks on Waziristan or the State’s love for Israel, I bloody just extended an invitation to you to come to my house! The worst possible reply one can dish out to kill this warmth in my book is a simple, “We’ll try”. The absence of a thank you there makes it rude enough, wouldn’t you say? I would! And no, it’s not the White House who cares for your visit to the States; it’s me – your humble relative. But thanks for letting me know how you feel about the entire issue. I’ll make sure to have your name on the list for Those Who Shall Be Denied Entrance in the US of A lest you do change your mind later and commit this unspeakable sin of visiting the forbidden land.

Furthermore, I don’t find it funny or honest or bold to bash the country that is my home away from home now while you’re tapping calls and messages on an iPhone. Even if it was assembled in Timbuktu – it’s still Apple. Not made in Pakistan, FYI.

And then the favorite query: Did you experience any 9/11 backlash? How badly are the Muslims treated there?

My jetlagged mouth twists into a confident smile accompanied with a polite, “We’re good”. But by then, thanks to your awesome welcome to me The Expat With Questionable Loyalty And Darling Dollars, my mind has a response of its own as it chugs out random words and queries: Hazara, Shezan boycott, Yom-e-ishq-e-Rasool, 35 Christian homes burnt down, countless target killings, numerous bazaar blasts, shrines bombed, how are the MUSLIMS and minorities treated in Pakistan?! What backlash are they suffering exactly and why?

But I refrain from lashing out at someone I’m meeting for ten minutes after ten years. Yes, I’m being the better person here. You may thank my jet lag  And I shall thank you for the material for this blog post.

Hope you have a blast and fun reading this 😉