Beyond the Wings: March 2019

This month, more time has been freed up by the completion of my MBA exams. Now I have to start selling myself professionally.

Output

Having had five short stories published, I remain committed to the form, and will attend both The Northern Short Story Festival and The Comma Short Story Writing course later this year. However, if I am ever to get a book deal, I will need to write a novel. I am working on one about a Chinese prostitute. The premise is even cornier than “Pretty Woman” so the execution will have to be super good.

I will finish a draft this year and expect to be submitting it for publication by the middle of 2020.

This month I made a return to performing at open mic nights. The first time, the audience was too small to really gauge how the songs went over, but it was good getting out there again.

Published writing has included a review of Tsering Döndrup’s “The Handsome Monk”, posted by The Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, and two essays in LA Review of Books China Channel’s Hidden Histories section.

Moreover, I have finally completed my brief essay collection, “China in 5 Words”, about business practices in the People’s Republic. I am considering self-publishing the collection in book form.

Activities

I am now able to read for pleasure again.

Books that I have completed this month include “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by Yuval Noah Harari and “Skin in the Game” by Nasseem Nicholas Taleb. Both inspire the reader to consider the wider implications of their own actions or inactions.

For example, Harari points out that in Victorian England, genteel women drank tea laced with sugar that was grown in the Americas by African slaves working in hellish conditions. Their action was not based on hatred, but indifference.

The same can be said of the moral implications today of consuming meat or oil or coal. In the novel I am working on, the central character sets out to live her life by causing as little harm as possible. The conflict will arise from the complications of what this even implies.

The Wider World

On one side of The Atlantic, with the Mueller Investigation having ended, Donald Trump looks in pole position to win a second term. On the other, Brexit is unfolding as disastrously as most knowledgeable people predicted.

The former issue is still massively unpredictable. But to use a term coined by Taleb, Trump is anti-fragile. The Access Hollywood tape for example, would have buried any other politician, but expectations about Trump’s personal conduct are so low, he seems to get away with everything.

The latter issue has made me feel slightly guilty about an op-ed I wrote in 2012 while working for a Chinese government mouthpiece. There are writers I admire who were and still are in favour of The United Kingdom leaving the EU, including Taleb, Theodore Dalrymple, and Paul Kingsnorth.

In a rather rushed op-ed, I made the anti-EU argument clumsily, influenced by the mercifully now-defunct Telegraph Blogs. Most of my op-eds for this newspaper don’t appear to be alive online anymore, which proves that The Chinese Communist Party is wrong about something – there is a God!

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