Mrs. LKY: “The Dragon Lady”

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A look at Kwa Geok Choo (Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew) through the perspective of Peranakan culture.

This post is presented in 12 sections:

1. Peranakan Roots + Family Background
2. The Dragon Lady
3. Kwa Geok Choo’s Gold Coin Necklace
4. Images of Gold Coin Necklace
5. Peranakan Culture: General Info
6. Peranakan Culture: A Hidden Matriarchy
7. Peranakan Culture: Phoenix Symbol
8. Peranakan Culture: Females
9. Lee Kuan Yew on Kwa Geok Choo
10. Kwa Geok Choo: Intellect and Capabilities
11. Kwa Geok Choo: State Funeral
12. Kwa Geok Choo: Political Legacy

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1. PERANAKAN ROOTS + Family Background

1) Madam Kwa and her husband, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, both Peranakans, are featured in the Great Peranakans — Fifty Remarkable Lives exhibition.

Source: The Straits Times (2015)

2) . . .born to a well-to-do family, studied law as a Queen’s Scholar in England’s Cambridge University, [and] remained a deeply private person.

Source: Philly.com

2. THE DRAGON LADY

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Mrs and Mr LKY | Image from HerWorld

“Dragon Lady”: A woman of somewhat sinister glamour often perceived as wielding ruthless or corrupt power. (Dictionary.com)

Kwa Geok Choo was described as a “proverbial dragon lady” by a former senior correspondent for The Straits Times.

Francis Seow also referred to Kwa Geok Choo as a dragon lady (short version below; click here for the full-length interview):

Transcript:

The whole structure of government, from the time [Lee Kuan Yew] took office, to the present day, has been designed in such a way that his son will succeed him. And the son has succeeded him, you know?

Now in order to preserve that legacy that he has passed on now to his son, all the troublemakers have to be run out of town, to use an American expression. Behind all this grand scheme of things is. . .the word I’m looking for is. . .The Dragon Lady.

Lee Kuan Yew’s wife. She’s the one with the overweening ambition for her son to take over. She is the one who has been advising Lee Kuan Yew what to do, how to do it, etc.

Many people don’t know this.

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Dowager Empress Cixi.

But I’m telling you today, the power behind the throne is the dowager. The dragon lady, if you like. And she is very smart! That is why all these guys have to get out of the way, and they had to be ruined. Or like me, driven out of the country. If I were to go back, I would go straight from the aeroplane to jail.

— Interview with Francis Seow (former solicitor-general of Singapore)

3. KWA GEOK CHOO’S GOLD COIN NECKLACE

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Kwa Geok Choo’s gold coin necklace.

1) A nyonya and her jewellery are never apart. . . the display of opulence was not just a statement of wealth but also spoke volumes of their shrewdness and austerity.

Source: A Nyonya and Her Jewellery

2) For the 25th anniversary of Lee & Lee law firm in 1980, the firm’s partners had two gold coins specially made for the two senior partners, Mrs Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Dennis Lee.

Unbeknownst to them, Mrs Lee had a chain made for the coin, and would wear it as a necklace on special occasions and at formal functions.

Long after she left the firm, partners would glimpse the gold coin around her neck when her image appeared on TV or in newspaper pictures.

She was appearing at those formal functions as the wife of Singapore’s founding father. But the gold coin around her neck was a reminder that she was also a trailblazing legal luminary in her own right.

Source: Straits Times

4. IMAGES of KWA GEOK CHOO’s GOLD COIN NECKLACE

5. PERANAKAN CULTURE: General Info

1) The Baba Culture is one that is unique to the early settlers along the Straits of Malacca. Since the 17th Century, Chinese traders arrived and lived along these coastal lands bringing with them their wealth of wares, customs, traditions and religions from the south of China.

The off-springs of these ‘locally born Straits Chinese’ were called Peranakan Baba (or Nyonya for womenfolk).

With the arrival of the Europeans in the 18th Century to this part of the world, the Babas were quick to adapt to the changing environment. They became the compradors or ‘go-betweens’ for the Europeans and the locals. Many Baba men held office and important positions in the Portuguese, Dutch & British governments and they rose in status & stature to become successful businessmen who even took on leadership roles in society.

Source: The Main Wayang Company

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President Yusof Ishak with Mrs. LKY’s Parents, Kwa Siew Tee (left) and Wee Yew Neo (right), 1968. | Image from NAS

  • Note: Kwa Geok Choo’s father, Kwa Siew Tee, had several leadership roles (he was one of the founders of the OCBC Bank which he served as General Manager from 1935 to 1945, the Municipal Commissioner of the Colony of Singapore in 1947 and Public Service Commissioner in 1953). (Source: PDF download)

2) Peranakans were bilingual, speaking English as well as their dialect of Baba Malay, and embraced influences from various religions including Buddhism, Taoism, ancestral worship and Christianity.

Source: Five facts about Asia’s unique Peranakans

6. PERANAKAN CULTURE: “A Hidden Matriarchy”

“Matriarch”: A woman who controls a family, group, or government. (Dictionary.com)

1) “While the males are out working to support the family, it is the females that preside the household. A hidden matriarchy, the Nyonya wives rule the household with an iron fist, managing and directing the day to day activities of the household and also controlling the funds in the family.”

Source: Women in the Peranakan Family

2) As someone who married into a Chinese/Peranakan family, [KMN’s] family does hold fast to one Perankan tradition: a powerful matriarchy. The women plan the gatherings, steer the families, and in my observations, usually have the first (and last) say on many matters of importance.

Source: I Married Into a Matriarchy

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Source: ST

3) Chris reminded me that Peranakan families are ‘outwardly patriarchal and internally matriarchal’. Of course! Look at the Little Nyonya, scheming matrons obviously reigned over the households, pretending to be subservient to weak-minded husbands on the surface. Chris, who is Baba by the way and should be awarded some authority on the subject by way of relation, attests to the *fact* that the average Baba man is weaker than the Nyonya woman.

Source: Baba Bling: The Peranakan Museum

4) The portraits of matriarchs displayed above Peranakan Chinese altars in Malacca indicate the powerful position of the matriarch in ruling over the family. These Nyonyas came across as assertive, even bossy as they rose to the position as matriarchs in charge of running an extended family under one household. A mature Baba with great status and influence in the society would have to submit to an uncompromising mother at home.

Source: China Media Research: Analyzing the Little Nyonya

7. PERANAKAN CULTURE: Phoenix Symbol

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What appears to be a “Phoenix” motif on Mrs. LKY’s cheongsam. The bird has a crest of feathers on its head.

1) [Kelvin Pow] explains that the Peranakan culture is matriarchal, hence the phoenix rather than the dragon is the preferred embellishment in its decorative arts.

“I think it is very important that we retain our heritage. I think it is also important for people, especially younger Singaporeans to understand their culture and where they came from.”

Source: ST Jobs — House of Antiques

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Nyonya porcelain featuring a phoenix motif, at the Peranakan Museum.

2) A typical motif used in nyonya porcelain ware is the Phoenix, a symbol of the matriarchal infrastructure of a Peranakan household.

Source: On the Trail of the Phoenix

3) The images above show the Peranakan traditional wedding costume donned on the bride. The geometric layering around her neck is the phoenix collar to symbolise the power of the feminine phoenix in Peranakan society.

Source: lonelytravelog (Peranakan Museum + Phoenix Collar)

8. PERANAKAN CULTURE: Females

a) Young Women

In contrast to her sheltered teenage years, the married Nyonya was given relatively more freedom. It was as if she had served her time, and was now qualified to manage a household and take care of herself.

As she gained more confidence in her dealings with her neighbours, friends and counterparts, her role was likened to that of the strong-willed managing director of a corporation. She controlled almost everything that happened at home.

In public, however, it was the husband who was seen to be the number one person.

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Image from BBC / Getty

b) Keeping it within the Family

In the early days, the younger members of the community married among themselves. This desire to remain within the community was so strong that it was common for people to marry their relatives, even their cousins. The only restriction imposed involved unions between paternal cousins.

c) Colourful Metaphors

Be warned that Peranakans have a way with words. Eavesdrop on two Nyonyas having an animated conversation, and you will be in for a linguistic experience that is hard to forget.

Source: Asiapac Books (Gateway to Peranakan Culture)

d) Cooking + Sewing

“Peranakan families are matriarchal, though the nonya’s role is often seen as supportive to the husband – women are often expected to cook and sew well.”

Source: FRV Bali: Peranakan Museum SG

“She was a skilful knitter, and knitted us sweaters to stay warm, one after another.”

Source: Lee Hsien Loong on Mrs Lee Kuan Yew

9. LEE KUAN YEW on KWA GEOK CHOO

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1) “Without her, I would be a different man, with a different life.”
Lee Kuan Yew

2) “. . .a discerning judge of character. She would tell me whether she would trust that man or not. And often she is right.”

Source: Straits Times

3) “My great advantage was I have a wife who could be a sole breadwinner and bring the children up. That was my insurance policy.”

Source: LKY: The Man and His Ideas, Page 235

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Lee Kuan Yew and Kwa Geok Choo. Image: ST

4) “. . .[she’s my] tower of strength.”

Source: Philly.com

5) “Over the years I’ve been a kept man. My wife keeps the family.”

Source: Lee Kuan Yew in Parliament, 1985

6) Lee Kuan Yew discussed the possibility of euthanasia with his doctors and family in his final years as he struggled with illness and mourned the death of his wife.

Associate professor Michael Barr, who has studied and published on Singapore, said Lee had been left lost and distraught following the death of his wife, Kwa Geok Choo, in 2010, to whom he had been married for 60 years.

Source: South China Morning Post

10. KWA GEOK CHOO’S INTELLECT and CAPABILITIES

1) The late Madam Kwa, wife of Singapore’s former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, was undoubtedly an excellent Peranakan woman, steel clothed in velvet, as Peranakan women were known to be!

Source: Passage Magazine by FOM.sg (PDF download)

2) Mrs Lee Kuan Yew was the firm’s ‘intellectual mind‘, while Mr Dennis Lee took care of the business side of things.

Mrs Lee’s personality, according to one prominent lawyer who declined to be named, is best summed up in the way she always dressed impeccably in a cheongsam to work, but would change into rubber flip-flops once there.

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White cheongsam worn by Kwa Geok Choo. Image: Peranakan Museum.

‘When we heard her walk around in the flip-flops, I would joke that that is power,’ he said. ‘Power in rubber flip-flops.’

Source: Straits Times

3) In 1940, Geok Choo entered Raffles College where, to Kuan Yew’s consternation, she beat him in the English and Economics examinations.

They married while in Cambridge, and graduated together with first class honours degrees in 1949. Geok Choo did it in two years; he in three. She was the first woman in Malaya to get a first class honours law degree.

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Lee Kuan Yew and his wife, Kwa Geok Choo in 1968. Photo: Benson Lo

Though she opted to stay in the political background and play the role of supportive wife, she was a founding member of the People’s Action Party (PAP). She was highly skilled in legal draftmanship, helping to draft the PAP Constitution, and later the crucial provisions that guaranteed Singapore’s continued water supply when Singapore separated from Malaysia.

Source: Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame

4) Standing proudly atop its box on the third floor of the Peranakan Museum, the barrister’s wig that belonged to the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo (21 December 1920 – 2 October 2010) is very much a tribute not only to its erstwhile owner, but also to the era’s fledgling coterie of able Peranakan women.

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Kwa Geok Choo’s barrister’s wig.

Source: Passage Magazine by FOM.sg (PDF download)

5) Known for her attention to detail, Kwa Geok Choo once interrupted the taping of an interview to touch up [Lee Kuan Yew’s] hair and makeup.

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Source: Straits Times

11. KWA GEOK CHOO: STATE FUNERAL

From the Press Statement from the PM’s office on the passing of Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew:

The family requests that no obituaries and no wreaths or flowers to be sent. All donations will go to the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) Health Research Endowment Fund.

Kwa Geok Choo was given a heroine’s funeral:

The glass-encased brown coffin of Kwa Geok Choo, who died aged 89 on Saturday after a long illness, was transported to a suburban crematorium on a ceremonial gun carriage normally reserved for state and military funerals.

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Casket of Mrs. LKY

The government said the usage of a ceremonial gun carriage “is in recognition of her exceptional and unique contributions to Singapore for more than five decades, beginning before Singapore became independent.”

12. KWA GEOK CHOO: POLITICAL LEGACY

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Mr. and Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew. Image: CNA

Her political legacy runs deep.

In 1959, she delivered her first and only party political broadcast during the general election that year, urging women to vote for the PAP. She was the only English-speaking woman in the party who had the requisite firmness and conviction for the broadcast.

‘I have been proof-reading and sometimes correcting [Lee Kuan Yew’s] speeches from his earliest 1950 speech to the Malayan Forum in London,’ she told The Straits Times in 1998.

The early history of the People’s Action Party (PAP) also bears the stamp of her involvement.

‘Who else would have drafted that Constitution for them?’ she said. ‘My husband doesn’t draft things. He was an advocate; he was a court lawyer.’

Drafting the rules of a society, by contrast, was her speciality.

Source: Straits Times

MORE INFO:

This blog post has a family tree of Kwa Geok Choo’s relatives holding government positions in Singapore.

Snippet from Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore (on “the people’s minds”)

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5 more chapters and I’ll have completed reading Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore by T.J.S. George (pub. 1973).

Thought I’d share an interesting snippet from the book. I may add a few more snippets when I gather my thoughts for a review later.

Conversation between two friends — a visiting Asian editor and a PAP minister (Page 109):

EDITOR: I have just come from Djakarta and Manila. Nothing worked there. Here my telephone works, my flush flushes, everything is clean and antiseptic. Singapore is simply great.

MINISTER: All right, old chap, what’s bothering you?

EDITOR: Look, what does it all mean? What about people? Don’t they have minds? I see no evidence of people here having minds of their own, feelings of their own.

MINISTER: They are happy. See those modern high-rise buildings? We gave them decent places to live in.

EDITOR: What have you done to their minds?

MINISTER: Well, we are thinking about it. Having given them a clean city, modern amenities and a strong economy, we are now thinking of what culture we should give them.

EDITOR (after pause): Is the culture factory also going to be in the Jurong industrial estate?

End of conversation.

UPDATE (29 May): Book review + excerpts of this insightful book.

Fifty Shades: William Giraldi / Jennifer Hamady / Lily Zheng

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A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was working on an article about quality sexual literature.

The article is titled Beyond the Hype of Fifty Shades of Grey, and can be viewed in full at the OpEdNews website:

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Beyond-the-Hype-of-Fifty-S-by-Jess-C-Scott-Books_Culture_Sex_Sex-140814-381.html

The article features the expert opinions of ten professionals in the fields of academia, psychology, and media communications, who comment on the cultural implications of the series and share their recommendations for quality sexual literature.

I received some VERY lengthy and passionate responses, which I have compiled here on my blog, divided into three different posts. I could only feature excerpts in the above article, due to space constraints. Here are the full responses of the first three guest contributors!

P.S. Check out Part 2 and Part 3 for the full replies of the other guests.

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1. William Giraldi, professor at Boston University and Fiction Editor for AGNI:

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William Giraldi | Image from TinHouse

I’m not certain that men and women deserve better than Fifty Shades of Grey. Emerson once quipped that “people do not deserve good writing, they are so pleased with bad.” And I rarely disagree with Mr. Emerson. I’d tell men and women to put down these books because they are bad for their health, but people never listen to advice about their health.

Quality sexual literature can be found among the poems of Sappho and Catullus, in the satires of De Sade, and in the novels of Nicholson Baker. The Story of O and Venus in Furs are not masterpieces but they have some psychological depth and the prose isn’t toxic. I’d caution that the best sexual literature knows what to leave to the imaginative and what not.

2. Jennifer Hamady, voice coach, psychotherapist, and online columnist at Psychology Today:

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Jennifer Hamady

Thinking aloud, I don’t think the question is necessarily about whether people deserve better than Fifty Shades of Grey. In general I think wrong vs. right arguments aren’t the most helpful. Rather, I’d say that in our culture, which isn’t entirely open about and comfortable with sex, a book like Fifty Shades — or any book — can tend to have a more powerful influence than it might in a healthier context. I will say that the more violent aspects of the book concern me because — again — our current cultural context does not hold women on an equal footing to men (watch any music video if you need evidence). Whether or not it is intentional, the book therefore can be seen as agreeing with the idea that violence against and the subjugation of women is sexy, and even necessary for young women who want to be in relationships.

3. Lily Zheng, president of Kardinal Kink, an advocacy and support group for the kink community at Stanford University:

Stock Image from Dreamstime

(1) On whether men and women deserve better than Fifty Shades of Grey:

Fifty Shades of Grey enjoyed so much success because it talked, frankly and explicitly, about the type of sexual and sensual encounters that our society idealizes but outwardly condemns. In the existing social landscape of almost Puritan-esque opinions on sex and intimacy (sex is something that, if enjoyed at all, can only be enjoyed a certain way) the existence of Fifty Shades was disruptive and subversive in many ways. Not only the book itself, but the surprising number of men and women (women, mostly) who purchased it indicated that the book was fantasy, a fantasy that resonated especially well with its fans.

Erotic literature is necessary because it fulfills desires; erotic literature is necessary because it helps create a culture in which the sensual is more normal, in which physical intimacy is as much a diverse and varied staple as emotional intimacy.

And that precise reason is why Fifty Shades isn’t good enough.

Fifty Shades of Grey is ultimately a tale of nonconsent. As the relationships between characters develop, nonconsent becomes increasingly stamped across interaction after interaction. There is no negotiating of scenes, no establishing of hard and soft limits, not even a facsimile of the consent rituals and focus on safety that the real life kink and BDSM scenes feature. Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t a story that could or should happen in real life. Fifty Shades is fantasy.

To some extent, that’s okay. It’s perfectly fine for fantastical or improbable tales to exist, and many are excellent in their own right. It becomes a problem, however, when people begin to mistake fantasy for reality. People read erotica to experience it. We seek the sensual because we project ourselves into the stories we read, and envision ourselves — tied up, gagged, begging for release, our bodies burning like firebrands — through the lens of the words on the page.

We deserve erotic literature. We deserve good erotic literature. We deserve realistic erotic literature. Argue all you want the Fifty Shades is “good,” but it’s unmistakably unrealistic. Worse still, most people who read it don’t know that.

Most people who read Fifty Shades find themselves fantasizing about or imagining the nonconsensual, dangerous interactions as legitimate, as positive, as desirable. Almost every young adult (and their mother, apparently) knows the general plot of the novel.

“It’s kinky BDSM stuff, right?”

But Fifty Shades is to kink as rape is to sex; they may both look the same on the outside but the differences are fundamental, substantial, and potentially dangerous.

The inaccurate and fanciful depiction of kink in Fifty Shades of Grey hurts both the existing kink and leather communities and nonkinky people alike. The wrong type of kink is normalized by this book, and whether or not we fancy ourselves purveyors of good literature, we deserve to read better novels.

(2) On quality sexual literature:

Quality sexual literature can be enjoyed in more than one way. Quality sexual literature engages with the reader aesthetically — the prose flows well, the flow is dynamic, the descriptions are vivid in lush, practical and concise exactly where they need to be — and viscerally — the writing evokes a physical or bodily reaction from the reader, whether that reaction be sexual, sensual, or emotional. However, the best sexual literature is these two things and more: the best sexual literature is relatable.

There is a difference between imagining the abstract notion of “bondage” and being able to conceptualize the excited negotiation, the handpicking of rope, the vocalizing of desires and fears all laid out bare on the bed long before any clothing comes off. There is a difference between imagining rope on your body and understanding the meaning of the tightness on your skin, the significance behind the vulnerability, the worth of that “yes, sir!” or “yes, mistress!”

Owning Regina, a novel by Lorelei Elstrom written in diary format, is a story about kink that meets that bar. Unlike Fifty Shades of Grey, there is no magic telepathy between people, no porno-levels of endurance, no “perfect” interactions or scenes, no encouraged nonconsent. Rather, this book displays kink as it is in real life: consensual, communicative, and imperfect, a dance between people.

The realism in this novel is impressive. The conflict feels real and pressing; the characters are deep, well-developed, and likeable, and most importantly, the writing tingles with that uncertain excitement that I can most accurately describe as the moment before knocking on the door of partner’s house. This is a diary — it’s not hardcore erotica, but it’s not a documentary either. It’s gritty, dirty, raw, and satisfying in a way that neither of the two are on their own.

I recommend this book because it isn’t fantasy kink. The triumphs the characters exult in are triumphs many practitioners of BDSM and kink, veterans and casual play partners alike, experience. The conflicts are conflicts everyone who has experienced kink with a partner must go through.

Kinky literature tends to be marketed towards those who have never experienced kink, with most people in actual kink communities scorning that brand of erotic literature. For that reason, when kinky literature succeeds with both kinky and nonkinky people alike, it is especially important to acknowledge and understand why.

Owning Regina is one of those few novels I have found that manage to meet the bar I have set for kinky literature.

Poet Interview, David Greshel

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Interview #57, with pop-culture junkie, David Greshel!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

David

Creative, Dreamer, Listener, Pop-Culture Junkie.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

watch the silhouette fade away to the inside of a distant shadow as we creep along the expanse of this haunted night…..footsteps tread lightly as we walk among the dwellings of the left behind….tension dimly lit by the last sliver of a dying moon….will the past undo the things we’ve often hoped for with their whispered resolutions and uncertain dreams….troubling this sleep we often never rest…compelled we wander on…..not quite lost but never really found…

Share an excerpt of your favorite poet’s work (10-100 words):

Sirens

Midnight
criminal metabolism of guilt forest
Rattlesnakes whistles castanets

Remove me from this hall of mirrors
This filthy glass

Are you her
Do you look like that
How could you be when
no one ever could

Jim Morrison

We just featured Matthew Andrako the other day who’s greatly inspired by Jim Morrison! Did reading a poem first spark the desire to write poetry, or was it an experience?:

I think it was a bit of both really. My grandmother wrote poetry and she used to read some of them to us when we were kids. I think that was my first real exposure to the form, but I didn’t get the desire to write my own until much later on. That came from a Jr. High English assignment, and I discovered that I really enjoyed reaching inside myself to pull out these ideas and emotions that I had a hard time really getting out in other ways.

That was kind of like what I experienced with journal writing :) What goal do you seek through your poetry?

I think more than anything I want it to mean something. Not just to me, but to everyone who takes the time to read them. I want everyone to take a piece of it with them because it speaks to them, maybe in more ways than I even consciously intended. I remember reading Morrison’s work outside of The Doors, and also works by Rimbaud, William Blake, Baudelaire, Bukowski and Kerouac and being completely moved by them. They spoke to me on many different levels and enlightened experiences that I might never have but could somehow relate to. Those are the same things that I aspire to. Money and Fame might be nice, but Poets are generally not famous until after death and the last bookstore I was in had their Poetry section reduced to four shelves in the corner by the bathroom so record sales figures are clearly not there.

Yes, I do sometimes think that commodity production is costing society its soul (and its ability to appreciate good things like the arts). Please share your #1 tip for poets/writers:

Don’t be afraid of your influences. It’s ok for those to shine through your work as they helped you develop and aspire to the work you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to grow beyond them either and become your own voice. Don’t let the fact that Publishers aren’t knocking down your door to promote your work stop you from putting it out. If you’re happy with it, there are plenty of DIY options available to help you share your dream with the world.

ITA — that DIY aspect is one of the best things about the Internet era. Your websites/blogs/etc:

* My book on Amazon

* My Blog

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Much thanks to Dave for stopping by!

Author Interview, Junying Kirk

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Author Interview #33, with multicultural writer/linguist, Junying Kirk!

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Hi Junying! Please describe yourself in 5 words:

Creative, Adventurous, Ambitious, Loving, Loyal.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

junying_kirk_2junying_kirk_3

Excerpt:

The time has come, when I must take a good, long look back, beyond the oceans and mountains, beyond countless borders, beyond the crowds of people I have encountered, beyond my shell, and search for the meaning of my existence. Through the looking glass, tinted with the rich colours of passing years, I reflect over significant events, essential to shaping an ordinary life in not such an ordinary way.

Blurb:

Pearl Zhang was born and brought up in China, and she seized the opportunity to study in the United Kingdom – and stayed. How did she adjust to the Western way of life, and what did she have to do to overcome the barriers? She was in a new world, both foreign and exciting – under The Same Moon.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
— Charles Dickens

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

For me, writing is a compulsion, something I had to do. Therefore words come easily to me, most of the time. I know the stories I want to tell and the messages they will deliver, and I’m simply a medium to do it. The only challenge I have is how I can do it better, with English being my second language.

Publication is a completely different animal. Traditional publishing is extremely competitive and almost impossible to get into for the majority of indie authors. With the boom of e-publishing and amazing new technology, authors can have their work self-published and reach a global readership, however, the challenge is the promotion and marketing – how do we reach these readers?

I’ll always have a healthy respect for people who are bi/multilingual :) What is your definition of “good writing”?

I read non-stop, so I know good writing when I come across it :) For me, good writing has to have the essential ingredients of a great plot, believable characters, good writing style, wonderful use of words and images to deliver a message/messages. The different genres may require something slightly different, but fundamentally a good combination of plot, characters, pace and writing style is a must.

Yes, fundamentals will never lose their importance. Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Determination to see it through. People say that everyone has a story to tell, but how many of us actually get down to it and finish what we have started? It requires sweat, dedication and thousands of hours of lonely pursuit. Believe me, it’s all worthwhile at the end of that long winding road.

Please let us know your websites/blogs/etc:

Website: www.junyingkirk.com

Twitter handle: @junying007

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Much thanks to Junying for stopping by! Be sure to check out her website for info/excerpts, posts about travelling, multiculturalism, and more (P.S. Junying loves Leo Tolstoy — so do I!).

jessINK publishing

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* UPDATE (2013): A quick post on why “erotica” isn’t “porn” (and how you can help)!

My original post from early 2011 is left below (unedited).

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ORIGINAL POST (January 2011)

jessINK

Update (31 Jan 2011) — Test screenshot for jessINK (above image)!

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website sketch

Some rough planning/sketches for jessINK, a “main store”/website I’d like to work on in Jan 2011, since Amazon has banned some of my books.

* Jan 2011: Affected parties include Jess C Scott, Selena Kitt, Esmeralda Greene, and Olympia Press. The issue is being tracked on Facebook (Amazon Censors). Amazon has since progressed to banning books with “rape” in the title, while still maintaining their commitment to getting as many books into the Kindle store as possible (LA Times article).

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I’m a little (just a bit — worse things have happened in life, LOL) bummed that I’ll have to “re-adjust” some of my plans, since my deviant material was quite well ranked and well set-up in the Amazon store. I was (and still am) planning an incest short story collection, but will sell it on jessINK because that way, at least it’ll still be available from me, straight (since webhosting companies allow for graphic porn vids/pictures, I am assuming they’ll not “ban/lock” my website for “questionable content”…though I’d better probably just check beforehand, and get something in black-and-white via email!).

I like to work fast and efficiently, so being slowed down a little is always something that will irritate/annoy me. But no use looking at things you can’t change — better to focus on the solutions than the problems (to quote “The Donald”/Donald J. Trump).

I’ll probably write an article over on jessINK (once it’s up) on the content in SOME of my work featuring underage sex and incest, etc (not sure about bestiality, etc — haven’t done those yet, but I might, if I feel like it some time). I grew up in Singapore, so while I am aware of differing international laws, I am  familiar/comfortable with (Singapore’s law) of  the “age of consent” being 16 years old (and that’s an interesting story all on its own — can blog/write an article on that later too).

Part of the reason I don’t want to blog my thoughts (in depth, with excerpts from my work) on those topics yet is out of caution (points to the “Report as spam” / “Report as mature” button on the WordPress navigation bar). I don’t know if such an article on WordPress.com would be considered evil/illegal/immoral/unethical/obscene based on a random person’s “opinion,” so I think I’ll just save myself the trouble and have everything on jessINK next year.

I do not condone pedophilia (12 years old and lower, to set an age), because that is an exploitative nature of pedophilia (taking advantage of a minor that is unable to truly give consent, due to the innocence factor of children). Did I still enjoy Lolita? Of course! Did it make me squirm in disdain at times? Of course! That’s part of its appeal for me — navigating through Humbert Humbert’s “twisted mind.”

I have a half-done short story with an incubus and a sixteen-year-old. Is he just exploiting her due to her age? Partly (but the incubus is not wholly human, so technically, Hell’s laws would apply more to him than Earth’s/A certain society’s laws). Are they having mindless sex? Certainly not.

People who rant about me ranting about “underage sex” tell me that I should “change the story and change the characters’ ages” (then accuse me of not taking their advice, all in the same breath, before I’ve even had a chance to read their reply, LOL), and while that’s an option, I’d already have done that if I felt it’d be to the characters’ benefits (to be 18 or above).

Humans are sexual beings. A person doesn’t just turn 18 and magically earn the right to be a sexual being. I remember my teenage years being quite sex-crazed (to summarize — and there is such a thing as “fantasy” vs. “what one does in real life” — I’ve always had an interest in sexual subjects…).

Some of the things I write are in a very non-mainstream, non-conformist way (thought I strive for the elements of honesty and relatability, as much as possible). This is where indie publishing comes in for me, because I am free to write whatever I want, however I want. And maybe, someone, somewhere, will find something (in one of my projects) that resonates with them.

You will see on many erotica publisher’s websites that “incest” is one of the big no-no’s on their guidelines. But rape is okay. I am not going to bother dissecting the logic behind consensual incestuous adult sex being not okay, and rape being okay, because I don’t think logic is what’s behind it.

Some people are very quick to assume that all erotica/erotic fiction is pornographic (with no value, other than to “arouse sexually”). Which is why they’ll always keep missing out on one of the most (if not the most) powerful forces in human life, which is human sexuality. Sexual repression can, will, and does channel into other areas, such as violence, aggression, oppression, homophobia, etc. Oppressing/repressing/suppressing something doesn’t make it go away, though I understand suppression can be done out of either fear, or displeasure at really facing an issue head-on to “deal with it.”

Sex/uality is an area I intend to continue exploring, wandering around in, and pondering about, via writing. It’s how I deal with it.

And sexual repression/suppression, to me, is dysfunctional.

Which actually kind of explains…a lot.

P.S. I will mention here (just for clarification) that I don’t mean to offend all Christian/religious/conservative people with my “sexual open-mindedness” — I was born Catholic, so I have a good idea of the Church’s teachings (maybe not right down to the exact Bible passages, but in general). Not everyone likes to read about sex or graphic material and there’s nothing wrong with that. But oppressing deviant/controversial material deemed to be “immoral” (because “[the person] says so”) is something I’ll fight. If you read the “born Catholic” link, it also explains where I’d like to try to go with my brand of (NON-explicit!) Christian Fiction. I’ve had blog visitors who’ve typed in “Christian fiction erotica” — who knows. Despite my intentions, perhaps what I come up with will still not be “clean” enough (even if I try…one way to find out).

P.P.S. These are the links that explain the creation and development of jessINK. First link was a thread started by yours truly.

Original Post on Amazon: Deletion of Books / Violation of Guidelines

Amazon Censorship of erotic titles (article at TeleRead)

Amazon in the Book Banning Business

Can free speech survive Amazon’s monopoly? #amazoncensors

The Register UK: Amazon’s Erratic Policy on Specialist Smut

Amazon’s Systematic Moral Attack (by Valerie Gray)

America’s Prudish Literary Morality (Salon.com Article)

Asian Fetish, Erotic Story, Small Town America

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asian girl

Description:

Take-Out (Part 1), the first of Jess C Scott’s “Asian Fetish” stories.

* Note (Feb 2011): Check out Take-Out on jessINK [Jess’s indie publishing division ;)].

SUMMARY: Jake Blake “the Rake” from a small New England town meets his cosmopolitan Asian counterpart-cum-fetish.

NOTE: This story is written in sets of 3 chapters [trying out something new ;)]. The 3 chapters can be read on their own, or combined together (in sequence) to form a longer story. Part 1 features some smut, “social issues,” and the background of the characters, not hardcore sex (though that is highly likely to appear in the later installments).

Cover ‘Pretty Asian Girl’ Photo by: Chris Willis

* First copy sold (on Smashwords) in 2 hours since uploading (zero media mentions) — Dec 6, 2010

Praise and Reviews:

“[Please] keep up the good work . . . the world can certainly use some more authentic, original work like yours, rather than the same old re-packaged mass-market pulp.” — TGirl Revelations / Bibrary.com, October 2010

“You pack huge volumes of experience and information into your [work]. You’re impressive, I’ll say that, and edgy and interesting. And mildly scary.”
— T. D. / via e-mail, 2010

“Dear Jess, I just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed your writing: your writing reflects something genuine, something real, about our generation that few writers have had the talent or the courage to uncover. Thank you.”
— e-mail from a reader, 2010

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» More info on Take-Out @ jessINK (2011).

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