A Year in the Making

A year has passed since my very first blog post! Unsure of the direction to take, but wanting my blog to be a place to practice and maintain the craft and habit of writing, I decided to kick off with a 30 day writing challenge (it has its own dedicated menu header). I stayed true to the challenge for 20 odd consecutive days before being rudely interrupted by DRESS syndrome- a hypersensitive reaction to a rheumatoid arthritis medication I was on which had the potential to put a permanent stop to further posts! Anyway, once that cleared up, I was grateful to be alive and I made up for the shortfall on the 30 day writing challenge, with a renewed perspective on what challenge means.

Aside from my 30 day  writing challenge, the other period of prolific posting here was via the Writing 101 assignments which were a great way to stretch myself, particularly in writing about my life (e.g. favourite childhood meal, house I lived in when I was 12). I found it quite confronting to delve into my past for a story, but those posts are amongst my favourites. Writing 101 was a great way to engage with other bloggers and become a part of a community that spans many countries, cultures, customs and communication styles. Interestingly, looking at my “top” posts based on likes, it is my non-fiction posts that feature in the top 5- clearly truth and authenticity resonate with readers, and what greater truth is there than sharing what we have known and experienced?

It has been really lovely to know that what I write is being read by people, and sometimes even receiving a like or comment and engagement in further discussion. Thank you if you are reading this now, and thank you if you have read any of what I have previously written- it is an honour, as there is so much competing for our attention online and in real life, so to have a splice of your time  wherever in the world you are means a lot to me. Apparently the day and time that means the most for readers of this blog is Sunday 11:00 UTC/GMT + 10hours, happy hour here according to the WordPress stats.

Over the past year, where my days have largely been dictated by the whims of my now 13.5 month old baby (more toddler now, but he’ll always be my baby), the majority of reading I have done has in fact been blog posts through the growing number of blogs that pop up in my reader. Just ask the librarian at my local library- I usually walk in with a stack of well intentioned books that I return late, unread. The librarian normally looks at the stack, looks at my pram, looks back at me, and nods in understanding, waiving the late fee. I have fond memories of reading blogs when awake at 2am, 3 am, 4am during the sleepless baby phase. Some posts would make me laugh, others would make me think and probably infiltrated my brief dreams, no doubt inspiring me to continue blogging and connecting with my fellow bloggers.

Here are some interesting numbers:

365 days that 10000hoursleft has existed

55 posts (including this)

71 followers– four of whom I know personally, probably about 10 that are bots, and the rest other bloggers who follow my work in progress

5 top posts at time of writing this, plus a couple of wild card entries which didn’t get much of a look in when first published:

1. A Year of Sunrai

2. House Sitting Ducks

3. Memories in a Meal

4. That Place

5. Writer’s Manifesto

Wild Card Poem- Moonrise

Wild Card Story- Intermission: Kathleen

1.5 hours: typical time spent per post- conception, writing, editing, publishing, then editing agian cause I didn’t edit well the first time. Technically I should rename my blog 9917.5hoursleft.wordpress.com

1 birthday wish: more engagement in the comments section, particularly constructive feedback on writing – but I guess I may need to work on inspiring that!

Planting the Seed of a Novel

At the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011, I had a lovely period of about 3 months in between jobs, having been made redundant from one, and not feeling urgency to start looking for the next. In that time, I enrolled in an online writing course “Unlocking Creativity” with The Writers’ Studio and immersed myself into the life of a writer, a full time writer.

Three interconnected pieces I wrote as part of that course have stuck with me,  inspiring the novel I am working on (currently on the 2nd draft of my novel, through the same writing school). The pieces were a response to a prompt to write a scene where the  character was facing the following predicaments: pressure, worst nightmare, challenge. I will from time to time post scenes and insights I’d like to share on the writing process, but to launch the new menu item on my blog,  here are those three scenes, seeds of a story that is currently in the germination stage. Incidentally, the dates indicate I didn’t have much happening on valentine’s day 2011. Continue reading

Climate Summit

Will the leaders sit

Atop a climate summit

As ice peaks dissolve

From rising thermal currents

A convention of hot air

Following the fun I had with tanka in my Day Twenty Nine effort, I’ve used the same prompt from The Daily Post here. This time, inspiration for the subject was the movement with a global focus and local action – the People’s Climate March ahead of the UN climate summit in NYC. This brings me to the end of my 30 Day Writing Challenge.

Vantage Point

Photo by Richard Baxter

Scene from mountain top

Horizon beyond valley

A seamless landscape

Tree tops merge with long grey clouds

The sun diffuses soft light

Seen from the valley

Mountain stretched to evening sky

One ends, one begins

Soft clouds caress leafy ridge

Dappled light on granite stone

Write a poem with the structure of a tanka (5 lines with 5-7-5-7-7 syllables). Prompt from The Daily Post. Subject inspiration from a walk this evening, using a sequence of two tanka. I had no idea about the structure of a haiku or a tanka and had never attempted to do either until writing this post. What a challenge! I scratched my head a bit trying to work out the number of syllables in some of the words I used, saying the words out loud while counting on my fingers. This site helped in the end, even allowing entry of a whole sentence for a syllable count. I had a lot of fun writing this post and look forward to playing with this form of poetry again…

Last Autumn

It was the final line that got me

“I have so much more to say, I hope you will allow me to visit before it is too late.

With love,


I was approaching the end of my shift and tidying the desk before the night nurse came in. It was a quiet evening, so I decided to do a little extra and pulled out the in-tray to clean beneath it, when I found the yellowed, dusty letter lying there, hidden from the world and the process that follows insertion in the tray. It was neatly handwritten and addressed to Irma Johnston. Although it wasn’t dated, it struck me that it must have been quite old. Irma, who’d been resident at the hospice, had passed away in autumn last year. I remember the season clearly as she liked to paint watercolours by the window and we still had her final work stuck on the fridge in the staff kitchen, the towering ash tree with its flame hues of reds and oranges.

I read and re-read the letter, my hands shaking uncontrollably and that lump in my throat that was part and parcel of this job going into overdrive. It was too late. Or did Jeremy stop by and leave another letter, another time? It wasn’t clear from what I read who Jeremy was, the letter was brief and didn’t go into much detail, except for the regrets of years of silence that had passed between them. I couldn’t remember ever seeing Irma receiving visitors. I carefully folded it to take home with me. I felt I had inherited a great responsibility, though with no clear course of action.

As I passed the ash tree on the way to my car, its moonlit barren branches coaxed the tears that I had been holding back.


You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter. Approach this post in as few words as possible. Prompt from Writing101.

The Void

city street

“Loneliness is an interesting feeling.” Her grandmother’s words often came to her and it struck her now, as she was navigating through the chaotic city traffic. She felt more alone than ever when amongst a crowd. It was seven years now since she’d moved to the city from her family’s village in the North, first for university and then a return not long after, once she’d secured a job with a global telecommunications company. Her friends back home envied her; her grandmother lamented her loss of culture; and her parents, though proud of her achievements, were always worried that she was spending too much time focused on her career and missing the boat on finding a nice husband and starting a family.

Ngoc lived in a high rise apartment, surrounded by others in their boxed existences, segregated by the all too permeable walls that allowed sounds and even fragrances to weave in an out of each others lives. It was on the advice of a colleague that she got the two dogs- dachshunds that she called Long and Linh. The idea was for them to fill the void of her loneliness, or at worst, disguise it as she wandered the neighbourhood in the absence of a human companion. The novelty wore off fairly quickly for her, however, and walking Long and Linh became somewhat of a chore, though one she diligently carried out daily.

On their walks, she preferred the distraction of the busy streets to the parks that were full of other dog owners who she felt projected their emotions onto their furry friends and had an unnatural attachment to them. It was a stretch for her to even talk to Long and Linh apart from to call them for a meal or to round them up if they had wandered away off lead. “Loneliness is an interesting feeling” again, she heard her grandmother’s frail whisper. What did she mean by that? Ngoc would have been about 10 years old when her grandmother was espousing her words of wisdom, and although the context was long forgotten, piecing together the dates places the conversation roughly around the time her grandfather had died. It certainly didn’t feel interesting when you were immersed in it, she thought. Her life seemed like disjointed lonely moments- work, home, walking the dogs, home, and the diurnal pattern continued.

While a part of the flow of traffic, she felt the loneliness sweep her along with the cars, bicycles, scooters and other pedestrians, close enough to touch and moving like some giant coordinated organism, yet each travelling as separate entities, protected by their coats of anonymity. It was while she was lost in this thought that the police car travelling in the opposite direction to her set off its siren and whirring lights and took a dramatic U-turn, chancing a collision with anyone in its path. The traffic dispersed around her and that was what first caught her attention, followed by Long and Linh both tugging at their leads, pulling in opposing directions. A motorcyclist attempted to swerve and avoid Linh, inadvertently blocking the path for Ngoc to step out of the way of the approaching police car.

Lying prone and concussed, when she came to, she was eye to eye with Long and Linh who were standing beside her, guarding her from the harm of the strangers who had milled around. A paramedic was taking her pulse while another one was tending to her grazes. Reaching across with her free arm, she stroked Long and then Linh and felt a connection with them that had eluded her till then, perhaps because they’d inevitably failed to cure her loneliness. It is a funny feeling; she thought again- a paradox that gives you a longing for connection but an urge for isolation at the same time.


Write a post with your selection of options for setting and opening line. From this challenge. I chose the image below (photo: Cheri Lucas Rowlands/The Daily Post) and the opening line “Loneliness is an interesting feeling.”

Shimmer Like Mirrors

“Only YOU can do something about it.”

“Let me hear you all shout out loud ONLY.I.CAN.DO.SOMETHING.ABOUT.IT!”

The capacity crowd at the stadium dutifully shouted back to Timothy Robbins, not wanting to miss out on any of his calls to action that could guarantee success, wealth and eternal happiness in their lives. As his seminars progress, crowds usually loosened up enough to incorporate foot stamping and fist waving with the shout backs of rallying lines that Timothy asked them to repeat.

Timothy, not to be confused with Andy, although secretly Timothy is always a little chuffed at the confusion, is a motivational speaker. It just so happens they share a surname- quite fortuitous for Timothy going by the number of calls received by the booking agency after people have attended his seminars only to see his face for the first time and realise that they got the wrong Robbins. However, according to Timothy’s estimations, 75% of people who attend his seminars under the misunderstanding of which Robbins they will be seeing leave feeling that it didn’t matter because they walked away with The Skill, an as yet to be trademarked set of guiding principles for life.

Seminar attendees were initiated into The Skill, and also received a Success Pack with a signed postcard sized copy of the principles; a bumper sticker; a silicone wristband inscribed with “The Skill”; and Timothy’s self-published hardcover book elaborating on the guiding principles, complete with high resolution images of Timothy and the cars, houses, holiday destinations and other countless ways that he  spent the spoils of his “Mega, Mega Success”, as he likes to refer to it. Continue reading


Moonrise by George Inness, 1887


He wears his solitude

Like a life vest

Impervious to judgment

Of eyes that pry

And thoughts delving

Deeper than the waters

That he navigates


Night falls

And he is safe in its darkness

Taking his cue from the moonlight

As it rises

Reflecting on the surface

Leaving the water more viscous

Bearing the weight of his quiet contemplation

His vessel floats on


Poem inspired by George Inness’ Moonrise

Sunrai and the Planets

I don’t have a lot of say in how or where I spend one minute to the next. I just have to accept my circumstances, or at least that is what I’m expected to do. I do, however, have control on what I can focus my eyes on, and my thoughts and observations while doing so. That freedom is mine despite all else that is outside of my control. Perhaps that is the ultimate freedom. Most of my days, and nights for that matter, are spent in bed. If I look to my left, there is a window with an expansive view of a valley, the colours of the undulating hills and trees varying depending on the time of day, and the cleanliness of the glass. I’ve yet to see a change in season, but I’m told that’s coming. That view is dependent, of course, on whether the curtains are open. If they are drawn then to my left is the rather unfortunate choice of floral fabric that I have no choice but to avert my gaze from. To my right is a wardrobe and various other pieces of bedroom furniture, including a much larger bed which doesn’t interest me much unless it is occupied, though most of the time it is empty and I am the sole occupant of the room. The only other viable option to while away my waking hours is to look right above, and that is where things have taken an interesting turn of late. Continue reading