A Personal Note From the Author of ‘Sushi and Tapas’: Winnie Li August 23 2012

The book launch of Sushi and Tapas: Bite-size Personal Stories from Women Around the World is a very exciting event for all of us at Epigram Books. Not only will the esteemed Professor Chan Heng Chee be our guest-of-honour during the event, we have three authors flying in from overseas as well. Winnie Li, one of the authors, writes us a short post before she leaves for her trip!

I’ve been asked to write a guest blog entry for Epigram Books, in anticipation of next week’s launch of Sushi and Tapas. This is very flattering, because I wonder why ANYONE would EVER want to glimpse inside my mind 24 hours before I’m due to travel to Singapore. (It’s one Scary Long To-Do List.)

“What is on that list?” you ask so innocently.

Here are some examples:

1) Deliver budget and proposal for a year’s worth of film series (for my day job)
2) Lock films for an Arab cinema showcase taking place in Japan (day job also)
3) Attempt to pack
4) Call my mom
5) Email my flatmates that the newly-installed door to the washer/dryer doesn’t quite work so you have to kind of jiggle it to get it to open
6) Attempt to find accommodation and/or trekking guide for Bukit Lawang in Sumatra (where I am going on Saturday)
7) Attempt to store my entire novel in a cloud
8) Write this guest blog entry


There’s 9,992 other things on this list, but I won’t torture you, or Epigram Books will regret they ever asked me to write this.

Regarding No. 7, I was at lunch with my friends today, discussing iPhones, clouds, and other techie stuff I don’t really understand, and I had a brain wave: “Hey, maybe I’ll try to store my novel in a cloud!”  This conjured images of the Care Bears––I envisioned ascending to a fluffy cumulus in the sky and entrusting my shining, incomplete novel to Literary Reading Bear, who would smile benevolently from behind his round spectacles and store it in the heavens along with all the other unpublished novels of aspiring writers.

No really, I like this concept of a cloud.

Because as someone who travels a lot and writes down random thoughts at very inconvenient moments, I live in PERPETUAL FEAR that something will happen to my novel while I am traveling.  What happens if my apartment building bursts into flames when I’m away? Or if my plane crashes when I’m flying? What will happen to my novel then??? All those years of writing, vanished in moments.

Our mortality haunts us even as we try to go about living our defiant 21st-century lives.  For those of you who have read my essay in Sushi and Tapas, you’ll know that grappling with this notion of mortality was key in my recovery from a traumatic incident. My therapist forced me to confront my Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder head-on when she asked me: “If you had died in this incident, what would that mean?”

I shrugged. “That I would never finish writing my book?  That I would never get to travel to all the places I want to visit?” (I listed a bunch more.)

“Well, you didn’t die,” she said emphatically. “So now you can accomplish all those things on your list.”

I eventually recovered from my PTSD. And while I still haven’t finished writing my book, at least I’ve contributed to one book since then.

But I still pray every time I’m on a plane about to take off (even though I’m normally atheist).  And in and amongst all the mundane aspects of my everyday life, I know I need to mix in a bit of wonder and a bit of dreaming through travel, through writing, through art.  Otherwise our lives just become one massive To-Do List, devoid of joy or enlightenment.

So if I manage to get through my current To-Do List (sigh), and if my plane doesn’t crash, I look forward to seeing some of you in Singapore.  I hope you’ll enjoy our book.

www.winniemli.com