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Archive for November 13th, 2010

who this person is

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
~ William Shakespeare

I cannot remember how long ago now but one day I received an email from an editor called Janel Atlas asking me to contribute a story for a book that will be called They Were Still Born: Personal Stories about Stillbirth.

My first response was as always is: self-doubt.

Me? I can’t write. This blog is just spit-up from my mushy brain. This place is where I come to re-gain sanity by spewing, by skimming the froth. No, I am not a writer. I can peck away at the keyboard and string together letters and words, but you will need to beat me up very good or bribe me with three lifetime supplies of dark chocolates before I will agree to call myself a writer.

Yet, I agreed to write. I felt compelled to tell the story. Of Ferdinand, of Lyra, of Life, of Death. Of us.

It was not an easy thing to do. During the process I came to experience extreme suicidal thoughts, probably caused by re-visiting the dark worlds over and over again. I re-read all my old entries to figure out how I wanted to tell the story. Waves of disbelief drowned all light in my world and I felt I may never find the way out of the labyrinth.

But eventually I did manage to send my manuscript out to the editor and miraculously she did not shred it apart. I think I will have to thank a friend, an unnamed English professor, for graciously helping me at short notice. He read my drafts, gave me candid and effective advice, and got nothing for it. I am deeply thankful.

Two major things happened during the writing of this manuscript. One, for the first time I had to write to a major publisher to ask for permissions to use a poem in my chapter. I had to pay for the permissions myself, and I am only grateful that they allowed me to use the poem and processed my request in time for my manuscript submission. Second, I had to decide who is the person who wrote the story.

You see, the name “Janis” does not appear on any of my legal documents. It is a name I adopted out of convenience, after getting tired of people mis-pronouncing my given name. I have used it for more than 10 years now and it had grown on me. But I love my given name too. Transliterated from Chinese into “Meng Kiat”, its original meaning is “bright and understanding.” That was the name I grew up with, for years longer than I am known as “Janis.” I decided to use this given name on my manuscript, so if you read the book and read a story by “Meng Kiat Tan”, that is me.

While discussing with R about which name to use, I decided that when I next return home, I will take up a deed poll to include “Janis” on my legal documents, and I will forsake my maiden name of “Tan” for my married name. My father’s family name had always had negative connotations for me and I feel it will be a good time to shed it and give myself a fresh start.

Writing the story made me step back to look at my story, and re-think all that had transpired, and it also helped me re-establish my identity. So, I really should also thank Janel for giving me this wonderful opportunity.

The book They Were Still Born can be bought from three different sites:

Publisher’s site (Rowman & Littlefield): http://tinyurl.com/3alabqs

Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/39m8mrz

Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/36jlxsx

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If you will like to purchase a copy to donate to your local library, please know I can get 50% off publisher’s list price. I will need to turn around and mail the book to you. Or, if you want it faster and is OK paying a bit more, I have Prime account on Amazon, which means I can have it shipped to you cost-free in two days. Just let me know.

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Finally, thank you for reading here and always having kind words for me. You have no idea what this means to me.


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