The November edition of Sharpened Word was held on Saturday, November 19 at the Old Anderson Club featuring six panelists from various backgrounds. They were Sharon Bakar, Aaron Chelliah, Wan Noraishah Samsudin, Ashikin M, Sukhbir Cheema and Ista Kyra.
Born in Britain, Sharon has now lived in Malaysia for 32 years. She is currently a teacher-trainer, teaching creative writing through her company, Word Works. She writes articles, reviews, columns and is the co-editor and publisher of “Readings from Readings: New Malaysian Writing”.
“I’m a very lazy writer but what I love about writing is encouraging people to write. I think it’s how you capture things from the real world and then crystallise them is what makes writing, magic,” said Sharon.
A lawyer by day and a writer by night, Aaron Chelliah spends his spare time reading frivolous fiction and writing short stories. “Dear Zed” is his first published fiction.
When he first started writing, he lacked confidence which led his way to Sharon’s writing workshops. He claims to only write when it is required as writing for the sake of creating something did not come naturally to him.
“What I like about writing is that you’ll never know what’s going to come out. When you’re writing fiction, your mind reaches things inside of you that you haven’t consciously noticed. It’s like a documentary of your own mind,” he said.
Stepping foot for the first time in Ipoh, Wan Noraishah Samsudin had just completed her BA in International Studies and currently has no clue as to what the future holds. Her first published piece is “Catatonia”.
Expressing her eternal gratitude to Sharon who took her as an intern, she claims that she is a fluke writer. When she was 12, her mother fell ill and because she did not know whom else to turn to, she began writing.
“Catharsis, that’s what drove me into writing. I find that feelings and poetry are both abstract. Sometimes there are gaps between your words, in a way only you and hopefully your audience would understand,” she exclaimed.
For the girl who sees colour in everything, Ashikin M calls herself a nomadic poet. Similar to Aaron, Ashikin too was in law school. She had the opportunity to work as a traveller, which played a role in her writing. Her first book, “Burning Constellation” was published in 2015.
“Poetry is a medium for me to connect with my loved ones. I write a lot about other people and the emotions I convey is a connection between the readers and myself,” explained Ashikin.
Music has a huge influence in her writing. She says that her stories grow with the music she listens to and believes that it is the stories which chooses the writers.
Husband and wife, Sukhbir Cheema and Ista Kyra are the two pillars behind “Eksentrika”, a recently-launched website. Sukhbir is also a cartoonist.
Derived from the word ‘eccentric’, Eksentrika aims at promoting Malaysian creative talents who are lesser known as Sukhbir and Ista both believe that every individual has a story to share.
“When I sit down and write, I articulate my thoughts better. The reason I took up journalism was solely to become a writer. It’s very different from writing fiction, but it’s through journalism that I’ve learned to be precise in what I write. And it’s good to have a balance of both,” remarked Sukhbir.