Sunday, 28 July 2013

NaNoWriMo Prep: Live To Write Another Day by Dean Orion (Book Review)

What with NaNoWriMo in less than four months, I've started looking for books on writing to give me more inspiration. And this 'survival guide' is actually really good!

This book is definitely geared towards making a living as a writer (it has chapters on the necessary evils of pitching and stuff), but I think on the whole, it did teach me something that I needed to learn:

And the lesson is - when you finish the book, the 'umbilical cord' is cut and it's time to bring your book into the world. Get criticism and learn from it. And that's something that I haven't done. I finished my NaNo, but I've made absolutely no progress on editing (ok, I did like, two chapters). I think one of my resolutions for this NaNo would be that if I win, I'd ask friends, aspiring writer friends (hinthintfriends!) to read and critique my story.

Now for more about the book: each chapter talks about one aspect of writing, using the author's experience as material. And at the end, there's a cliff notes version and some questions that help you make concrete decisions. The questions actually seem really useful.

Of particular interest was the epilogue, which looked at the future of storytelling. Storytelling isn't limited to books, movies, games, everything can become a story to be told. I still prefer the normal written text, but then again, I really loved the Ace Attorney series (and that's basically a novel told in the form of a game). It's really something to consider.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Happy 126th Founder's Day MGS!

Today is the 126th birthday (Founder's Day) of my primary and secondary school MGS! I can't express how much I love my school. I was singing this the whole time I was at home:

Unfortunately, I don't sing as well as the cute little girl in the video. Although she doesn't look so little now.

MG is actually the reason why I'm in Japan now. When I was 15, MG had what we called a ROCS trip (ROCS= Reality Outside ClassroomS) and guess where I went?

If you said Kyushu, Japan, you're right!

I came here, fell in love with the place and decided to study in Japan. Fours years after I graduated from MG, I'm studying in.... Kyushu University!

And you know, once an MG girl, always an MG girl.

So Happy Founder's Day MG! May you continue on for many many more years!


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A Class Party, A Joke Paper and Exams

Yikes, I just realised my title goes from good to bad ><

Well, like I said, I went to a class party (クラコン - kurakon) on Saturday. It was actually my first time going (I had stuff going the other two times), so I was a bit nervous. But thankfully, there weren't many people there, since only 20 people went . And it was a really good experience!

I forgot to take photos, but I had a pretty good time getting to know my classmates. And embarrassingly enough, everyone knows my name - I suppose that's what happens when you're the only gaijin in class. Everyone was really nice about doing the repeat introductions though. And I discovered something - if my classmate happens to be in my Chinese class, then I know their Chinese name, I just didn't associate it with their face.

But, some of my classmates are quite scary act quite strange when drunk. I'm not going to say more, but it was a good thing my friends came to my help when I needed it.

And yesterday, I almost handed in a "joke paper". I had an assignment to write a paragraph on my High School, and well I did do a proper paragraph (actually, I did about three), but I also did a joke paper. On advice (*coughcoughcough*). This is how it looked liked before class:



My theory was that I wrote 1006 words because of the picture (well, maybe deduct a couple hundred for how terrible it is), but when I showed it to my friends, most of them were really shocked. But no one was as shocked as my English teacher, he did a "really? just that" in Japanese, which is quite unusual since he speaks mostly English to me. But I was nice and explained that yes, I did do an actual paragraph.

Strangely, we all got a week's extension to make sure our work is properly done(;

Lastly, I had a psychology exam today. Well, I couldn't finish reading in time and ended up filling in the blanks randomly. And I really needed a good score. At this rate, I will fail this module (I have one more test, and I need a perfect score to pass overall). I talked to the teacher, and she will give more time for the next test, but the problem is that I can't remember the specific words in Japanese. And the next test involves written answers.

Expect more blog posts soon. When I'm stressed I tend to write more.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

My TOEFL Score is Out (and other news)

If you're wondering why I've been absent for the past few days (not that it's some strange and rare occurrence), you should click here and read about it (I write when I'm emotional).

Now on to other matters: today, I got my TOEFL score! It was actually kind of embarrassing because when my teacher gave me my score, he commented on how wonderful it was. And after, that, he started talking about a student that had an extremely high score. Well, I just stared at the table.

And I don't actually dare to tell Japanese people about my score now. It's feels embarrassing.

I'm not even going to type the score. So here's a picture. 
Coming up....

NaNoWriMo prep will be beginning for me, so be prepared to see book reviews about writing here in the future. And I have tests and stuff coming up real soon, so my infrequent posts will become even more infrequent.

For all those MEXT hopefuls, do let me know if there's any topic you need me to cover. (If you're asking about either Kyushu University or TUFS, that's fine too!)

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Thoughts on going on your own way

When you see this photo, it's a signal
that I'm about to start sharing my
thoughts on a particular subject. 
Today, I'm leaving the virtual cyberspace of Japan and going back to Singapore. So if you're here only for news on Japan, feel free to skip this blog post.

If you're still here, thanks! And well, this is really my thoughts (perhaps I could call this a rant) on a letter/commentary that appeared in a Singapore newspaper, so please click on the link to read Let's Break up the PSLE Core 4 (I'll wait for you to finish reading).

Back? Yay, I can start ranting soon. Before I do, I'm just going to explain PSLE (For those who have no idea). PSLE stands for Primary School Leaving Examination and it's the first of the three nation-wide tests that determine the next educational institute you go to. Yup, in Singapore, we start competing academically from the age of 12 (well, the parents start competing for places when their kid reaches 6, then the kid takes over for PSLE).

Having taken PSLE ages ago in, I think, 2005, here's my experience. My memory of PSLE was that we were playing on the balance-beam at the back of the exam hall between papers. I probably started taking exams seriously around 15, after I went to Japan and decided that I wanted to study there.

You see, after I went to Japan, I came back and happened to see (and attend) a Study in Japan seminar. That was really the turning point. Before I even got my O'level results, I was telling people that "I'm going to go to ACS(I) and take the IB, then I'm going to Japan on the MEXT scholarship." My parents actually asked me to tone it down at one point because if I didn't get the scholarship, I would have a lot of explaining to do.

Well, the rest is history and I'm here in Japan. And that's really my rebuttal to the whole piece - let the kids decide what they want to do.

Right now, the PSLE is working for the majority. Sure, there are a few kids who are better in non-tested subjects like music, sports, history. But that doesn't mean we should change the system so they win - there's no point in that. Instead, parents, friends of parents, everyone, can we just change our minds?

Yes, I'm taking the more-or-less orthodox study system, but that's what I want. There are probably kids out there who would prefer to skip university and go straight into music or baking or whatever it is they want. And that should be perfectly fine.

From my experience, all kids will work hard for what they want. If, for example, they want to study Perfume/Baking/Entrepreneurship at Ngee Ann Polytechnic/ACS(I)/whatever school, then they will probably study hard enough to get there. But if you push them to do something they don't want to do, then they won't want to study.

What everyone should be doing is to encourage each other. For example, (I'm gonna be taking on the role of the parents) if your child likes music, then why are you stressing about PSLE? You could do things like get season tickets for the orchestra so your kid gets exposure, try to get meetings with local musicians, support your kid when he/she goes for the ABRSM diploma, etc. If your kid decides there's a particular school that they want to play music at, then he/she will find the time to balance everything and study. If they happen to just be a little short (for example, just a point off), then you can try writing an appeal letter, helping your child with the appeal letter, and so forth.

Perhaps it's because my parents were very hands-off (well, they do have four kids, if my mom and dad micromanaged all of us, they wouldn't have enough time!) so I was given the freedom to set my own goals and it worked. I appealed into the school I wanted, I was the one applying for the scholarships and going to the interviews, and yes, my mom says with pride "She did everything by herself - the only part we were involved in was when she told us she made it past the next round/got the scholarship" (I'm paraphrasing). I do choose to let my parents know what's going on/ask their advice (especially when it comes to things like buying tickets home), but most of the decisions made were mine.

So basically, I think the current system is fine as it is - the problem is with our attitudes. Once we change the way we look at exams, the problem is solved for good. Even if we change the PSLE, there's gonna be some upset people and it's just going to end up in a cycle of change and change and change and eventually, the exam will lose or meaning.

What do you think? If you disagree, I'd love to hear why! If you do, let me know too! (And feel free to share your own story!)

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Happiness is.... (#3)

Finding one of your favourite chocolate making kits on sale. (Incidentally, why do these things disappear past Feb- wait, I know the answer).

And before you ask, yes, I did check the expiry dates (I'm fairy responsible when it comes to my health). It's good for another few months.

Happiness is..... is a mini-series I do on this blog to document the smalls things in life that I'm thankful for. There are probably a lot that I missed, but these are the ones that caught my attention.