My latest book is a collection of short stories inspired by the time I spent in India. It’s about women and the issues faced by women living in contemporary India.
How did you come up with the title?
The title of the book, I Exist. Therefore I Am is also the title of one of the short stories in the collection. Each of my other previous books also uses one of the stories/poems as the title. I’ve done this as I wanted to have a title that exemplified what was in the whole collection.
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
The message is that women need to be treated as equals and with dignity and the respect that is their due.
How much of the book is realistic?
Although fictionalized the stories are about real people and real lives. I’ve used examples of incidents that I came across to create my stories. The characters aren’t real but the issues these women face and the treatment they receive at the hands of society and of other women are very real.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
They are based on people I read or heard about from others or from newspapers. I’ve come across women who have either gone through similar experiences that my characters undergo or have known women who have.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
Yes. I’m planning on publishing a poetry collection this year. It is about the effects of conflict on people and how they live through it. As a people, we in Sri Lanka have gone through 30 years of bloody conflict that left no real winners. People from all sides lost. The poems look at what happened and speak in many voices. They discuss a variety of issues and viewpoints. I wrote it because I wanted to create a collection of voices for those in the future to understand, as well as anyone else to realize the futility of war. It’s like a documentation of what happened in verse form.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
I don’t have particular favorites because I think all the characters are special and they serve a purpose in helping me tell my story.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I write both poetry and short stories. My poetry is free verse and the short stories are mostly literary fiction. I’ve also written a few stories that are fantasy or magic realism as well as a couple of children’s stories. Apart from the children’s stories the others are published in literary journals and anthologies but I don’t have enough to have a complete collection. I think it would be nice to have a complete collection of fantasy stories and also of children’s stories, but for this I need to write.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
I’m mostly a seat of the pants writer, but I do plan a little. When I get an idea to write something I make a rough draft in my head. I let the sequence of the story or poem play in my mind like a movie and when I feel it is possible to sustain the story I start writing it down. But I don’t plan how the story evolves. That happens while writing.
What is your best marketing tip?
Marketing is the hardest aspect of writing and publishing. Moreover poetry and short stories are not easy to sell as there is a limited market compared to some of the popular genres. I prefer to get exposure for the book through reviews, interviews and word of mouth.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
I think it’s a huge benefit because it connects us to writers and readers around the world not merely to promote our writing but also to discuss writing get help and advice and find like- minded people. I decided to self-publish because I found many writers doing this and I felt encouraged. I also learnt everything about self-publishing through other writers who were on the same journey as I am and it’s amazing how many people I’ve come to know through social media.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I don’t know if there’s any particular aspect about writing that I like more than others. I just like to write. It’s like being able to direct my thoughts onto a blank canvas and create something beautiful out of the jumble of ideas and words that are there. Writing poetry or fiction is hugely liberating as I can express what I want or write about something that may not be possible to do as a fact. It’s like painting, but with words.
What age did you start writing stories/poems?
I wrote my first poems and short stories when I was in university as an undergraduate student. These were experimental works and I never planned on publishing them. There was a short period after my post grad study in India where I was doing nothing and I wrote some stories and poem that were better than the ones I wrote earlier. But it was really much later that I started to write seriously and this is where the bulk of my work is from.
Has your genre changed or stayed the same?
It has stayed the same for the most part, but I’ve dabbled in other genre, like fantasy. I’ve also written a couple of short stories for children but these aren’t published.
What genre are you currently reading?
Right now I’m reading contemporary romance. Sometimes reading outside the genre I write can be more relaxing.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both?
Both. Right now I’m reading for pleasure.
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
My lecturer from undergrad study Dr. Lakshmi de Silva was someone who encouraged me to write even when I didn’t know I wanted to write. Through the years she has been a huge supporter of my writing and I tend to discuss my work with her. She is also the only person who first sees my writing before I send it to anyone else.
Where is your favorite writing space?
In front of my computer. It’s a mess with papers and books all over the table but that’s where I write.
Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?
I belong to several writing groups on Facebook where we help each other with advice about writing and publishing.
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?
Alice Munro and Carolyn Forche. I like the way they write and it would be nice to just talk to them about writing.
If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?
Right here where I am as this is the place I’m most comfortable. But if I could travel to anywhere in the world then the list would be endless. I think travel opens up your mind and give you opportunities to learn and experience diversity in all forms and this is good not just for writing but in general too. I’d like to visit several places, like Russia, China and some parts of the US like Colorado or Alaska and spend some time there, maybe a few weeks just taking in everything. But I wouldn’t want to move anywhere.
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. It already is.
Shirani Rajapakse is an internationally published, award winning poet and short story writer. She won the Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contest 2013 and was a finalist in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards 2013. Her collection of short stories Breaking News (Vijitha Yapa 2011) was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award. Her critically acclaimed poetry collection Chant of a Million Women (2017) won the 2018 Kindle Book Awards. It was chosen as an “Official Selection” in the 2018 New Apple Summer eBook Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing and received an Honorable Mention in the 2018 Readers’ Favorite Awards. Her second collection of short stories, I Exist. Therefore I Am (2018) is about women in modern India. Rajapakse’s work appears in many literary journals and anthologies worldwide. Rajapakse read for a BA in English Literature from the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka and has a MA in International Relations from JNU, India.
A biography, commonly known as a bio, is defined as a detailed description of a person’s life. Rather than dealing with the basic facts of the subject’s life like education, work, relationships, and death; it portrays a person’s experience with life events, presenting a subject’s life story, with highlights of various aspects of his or her life, including intimate details of experience, and may even include an analysis of the subject’s personality.
Biography’s are usually non-fiction in nature but fiction can sometimes be used to portray the subject’s life. One form of biographical coverage is called legacy writing that deals with in-depth research.
At first, biographical writings were merely a subsection of history focusing on a particular individual of historical importance. The independent genre of biography began emerging in the 18th century reaching its contemporary form at the turn of the 20th century. Biographical research as defined by Miller is a research method of collecting and analyzing a person’s whole life, or on occasion a portion of their life. This is accomplished through the in-depth and unstructured interviews, or even by semi-structured interview or personal documents. In short the research can come from “oral history, personal narrative, biography and autobiography” or “diaries, letters, memoranda and other materials.
There are two types of biography:
Authorized biography which is written with the permission, cooperation, and at times, participation of a subject or a subject’s heirs.
An autobiography which is written by the person himself or herself, sometimes with the assistance of a collaborator or ghostwriter.
The idea of writing our own biography is a daunting one for most of us and knowing where and how to start can be the main stumbling block for many. What to put in and what to leave out!
With other members of my writing group, I helped produce a memoir writing guide, which gives pointers on how to collect and compile artifacts, photos, letters etc. into a themed collection enabling you to format and theme your memoir/biography.
The practical suggestions included in the pages of this book will suggest to you ways you can identify, record, and organize your collection of memories so you can begin to write your stories. It is not a how to write but a how to begin workbook.
Tuesday is the date of my writing group’s meeting. Due to my on the spur of the moment road trip last month, I missed the last one – this doesn’t happen very often but a whole three days of writing, fantastic scenery and great companionship cannot be taken lightly or for granted. This month’s meeting will follow the usual format – announcements of events, calls for submissions for our newsletter and the Never Been Better page. Sharing of stories, constructive critique and general discussion on our current projects, Q&A on any writing related topics and suggestions for presentations or themes for the next meeting.
Every meeting is unique not just because of the topics or stories read but the attendees who may be regulars or new faces. We never know how many will turn up – some meetings the room is full to capacity and lively or others where only a select few attend, making the meetings intimate. No matter the number each meeting is geared to supporting and encouraging writers – any age, any stage of their writing career.
I attended Kurios – Cirque du Soleil’s steampunk show. It was stunning with many heart stopping moments as the acrobats performed routines that were mind blowing and incredible. Such skill, such strength and precision. For the safety of the performers no photography was allowed once the show started. All I can say is if you get a chance to go – then do it!
The costumes, the choreography and sheer organization it takes to put such a show on is extraordinary. The accordion man was one of my favorites. The costume moves just like the musical instrument. Check out the link for more images: https://www.google.ca/search?q=Kurios+costumes&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjh-ryaubHVAhXr7IMKHSSeCsAQ_AUICigB&biw=1216&bih=615#imgrc=OYk3AGT2sszZsM:
As a writer I also appreciated the show for the time traveler story line and the fantastic world the traveler witnessed.
After a quiet weekend dabbling in a manuscript and reading, this week I have a couple of writing related events. The first is a workshop organized through my writing group. It is an interesting theme and I’m sure we will have fun with it.
How can I add wine or alcohol to a story to enhance it? Can a drunk add interest to a story? How can I talk about these topics believably in my writing?
And, as for whining – what could that possibly add and how can one whine in writing?
Do you attend workshops? What benefits did they give you?
My second event is the regular writing group for seniors I co-host with another member of my writing group. It is always a fun and enlightening evening. The stories of days past and the experiences these wonderful seniors have lived though are always amazing.
Have you heard stories from your elders? Did you write them down?
Our group’s memoir guide book can help organize memories into a cohesive format utilizing photographs, objects and letters etc. It gives a great kick start to your memoir.
In parts of Asia, tradition dictates that when a person dies, relatives will mark his or her body—often using soot—with the hope that the soul of the deceased will be reincarnated within the same family. The mark is said to become both a birthmark and evidence that the soul has been reborn.
In 2012, University of Virginia School of Medicine professor and psychiatrist Jim Tucker and Jurgen Keil, an emeritus professor and psychologist from University of Tasmania at Hobart, submitted a paper to The Journal of Scientific Exploration (a peer-reviewed journal for the study of fringe science, from alternative medicine to UFOs). Their study detailed families with children who were born with marks corresponding to their dead relatives.
In one case, K.H., a boy from Myanmar, was noted to have a birthmark on his left arm in the same place where his grandfather’s body had been marked. His grandfather had died 11 months before K.H.’s birth. Many people, including family members, saw the grandfather’s mark made by a neighbor from charcoal of the underside of a pot.
At just over two years old, K.H. called his grandmother Ma Tin Shwe, a name only used by the deceased grandfather. The grandmother was called “Mother” by her children and Daw Lay or “Auntie” by other children. K.H. called his mother War War Khine, just like his deceased grandfather had, rather than Ma War.
When K.H.’s mother was pregnant, she dreamed of her father saying, “I want to live with you.” The birthmark and the child’s names for his loved ones makes his family think the dream has come true.
Ian Stevenson was a psychiatry professor from the University of Virginia who focused on reincarnation. In 1993, he published a paper in the Journal of Scientific Exploration detailing birthmarks and birth defects seemingly linked to past-life memories. According to his findings, the majority of birth defects are thought to be formed by “unknown causes.”
In one case, a child in Turkey remembered the life of a man who was killed by a shotgun. Hospital records told of a man who had died after six days of injuries caused by a blast to the right side of his skull. The boy in question was born with unilateral microtia—a malformed ear—and hemifacial microsomia, which is the underdevelopment of the right side of his face. Microtia occurs in roughly 1 in 6,000 babies, while microsomia is estimated to occur in 1 in 3,500 babies.
8. The Patient Who Killed and Married Her Son
Photo credit: BrianWeiss.com
Brian Weiss, the chairman of the psychiatry department at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami, claims to have seen a patient have a spontaneous past-life regression episode during treatment. Even though he is a classically trained psychiatrist and had a regular practice for many years, he is now a leader in past-life regression therapy.
In his book Messages from the Masters: Tapping into the Power of Love, Dr. Weiss tells the story of a patient named Diane, who worked as the head nurse at an urgent care center. During a past-life regression session, Diane supposedly experienced the life of a young settler in North America during the early years of conflict with Native Americans. She specifically talked about hiding from a hunting party with her toddler son in a secret compartment while her husband was away.
She described the baby as having a birthmark shaped like a half moon or curved sword beneath his right shoulder. While hiding, the son cried out. Out of fear for their lives, and in an effort to quiet him, the woman accidentally smothered the child by covering his mouth.
Months after the regression experience, Diane felt herself attracted to a patient who had been admitted for asthma attacks. The patient also felt a connection or familiarity with Diane. Diane was shocked when she noticed a crescent-shaped birthmark in the same location on the patient. Dr. Weiss claims to have seen asthma in people whose previous memories involved death by suffocation.
At age six, Taranjit Singh was living in Alluna Miana village in India. The boy had been claiming since the age of two that his real name was Satnam Singh and that he was born in Chakkchela village in Jalandhar, roughly 60 kilometers (40 mi) away.
Taranjit allegedly recalled that he was a student of Class 9 (about 15 or 16 years old) and that his father’s name was Jeet Singh. A man on a scooter had collided with Satnam, who was on a bike, and killed him on September 10, 1992. Taranjit said that the books he was carrying the day of the accident were soaked in his blood, and he’d had 30 rupees in his wallet. The child was so insistent, and the story was so odd yet detailed, that his father, Ranjit, decided to investigate.
A teacher in Jalandhar told Ranjit that a boy named Satnam Singh really had died in an accident, and this boy’s father was named Jeet Singh. Ranjit reached out to Satnam’s family, who confirmed the blood-soaked books and rupee details. When Taranjit and members of Satnam’s family met face to face, Taranjit was able to correctly identify Satnam in photos.
A forensic scientist, Vikram Raj Chauhan, read about Taranjit in the newspaper and investigated further. He took samples of Satnam’s handwriting from an old notebook and compared them to Taranjit’s. Even though the young boy “was not accustomed to writing,” the handwriting was a near-match. Dr. Chauhan shared his findings with colleagues, who also found the samples similar.
6. Born Knowing Swedish
Psychiatry professor Ian Stevenson investigated numerous cases of the phenomenon of xenoglossy, which is defined as “speaking a real language entirely unknown to (the speaker) in his ordinary state.” The definition was coined originally by Charles Richet between 1905 and 1907. Richet was a Nobel Prize–winning doctor, whose interests and research spanned many areas, including parapsychology.
Stevenson investigated a 37-year-old American woman whom he called TE. TE was born and raised in Philadelphia, the daughter of immigrant parents who spoke English, Polish, Yiddish, and Russian at home while she was growing up. She studied French while in school. Her only exposure to Swedish was a few phrases spoken in a television show about the lives of Swedish Americans. However, while under eight different regression hypnosis sessions, TE became “Jensen Jacoby,” a male Swedish peasant.
As Jensen, TE answered questions posed in the Swedish language with Swedish responses, using about 60 words not first spoken by the Swedish-speaking interviewer. TE as Jensen was also able to answer English questions with English answers.
Stevenson gave TE two polygraph tests, a word association test, and a language aptitude test, all of which she answered as though Swedish. He also spoke to her husband, family members, and acquaintances about her aptitude or exposure to Scandinavian languages. All agreed that she had none. No Scandinavian languages were taught in the schools TE had attended.
That said, TE as Jensen was not fluent. The transcript of the session shows that TE as Jensen had a vocabulary of roughly only 100 words and rarely spoke in full sentences. In fact, there were no complex sentences at all, despite Jensen supposedly being an adult male. The accent was praised, however, by Stevenson’s consultants. In an added twist, several specialists pointed out that the language was mixed with Norwegian.
5. Memories of Monasteries
In his book Your Past Lives And The Healing Process, psychiatrist Adrian Finkelstein describes a boy named Robin Hull who often spoke in a language his mother couldn’t understand. She contacted a professor of Asian languages, who identified the language as a dialect spoken specifically in the northern region of Tibet.
Robin said that he went to school many years ago in a monastery, and that is where he learned to speak that language. However, the truth was that Robin wasn’t even of school-going age and had yet to set foot in a classroom.
The professor investigated further based on Robin’s descriptions and eventually settled on a monastery in the Kunlun Mountains that matched the information the young boy was able to relay. Robin’s story inspired the professor to actually travel to Tibet, where he located the monastery.
Finkelstein specializes in hypnosis and past-life therapy. He has been on the staff of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and was a clinical assistant professor at UCLA. He currently has a private practice in Malibu, California.
4. The Burned Japanese Solider
Another Stevenson investigation revolves around a Burmese girl named Ma Win Tar. Ma Win Tar was born in 1962, and at around age three, she started referencing a life as a Japanese soldier. The soldier had been captured by Burmese villagers and burned alive while tied to a tree.
The specific life in her account was not identified, but, as Stevenson points out, the circumstances were plausible. In 1945, Burmese villagers would capture any of the stragglers from the retreating Japanese Army, and they sometimes burned soldiers alive.
Ma Win Tar showed traits that were incongruous with her life as a Burmese girl. She liked her hair cut short and liked to dress in boyish clothes (something her family forbade). She refused the spicy foods that marked Burmese cuisine, showing a preference for sweet foods and pork. She also showed a “streak of cruelty,” including a habit of slapping the faces of her playmates. Stevenson said that the Japanese soldiers “often” slapped Burmese villagers and that the practice is not culturally organic to the area. Ma Win Tar resisted her family’s Buddhism and even went so far as to consider herself “a foreigner.” She declared visiting members of the Japanese War Graves Commission (who had come to her town) as “our nationals.”
Oddest of all, Ma Win Tar had been born with severe birth defects in both hands. Her middle and ring fingers on the right hand were webbed and “loosely attached” to the rest of her hand. They were amputated when she was only a few days old. Several other fingers were missing or had “constriction” rings. A ring on her left wrist had three separate depressions. There was also, according to her mother, a similar mark on her right wrist that had faded. The marks were eerily similar to that of a rope burn—something a Japanese soldier who had been burned alive while tied to a tree may have acquired during his ordeal.
3. His Brothers Scars
In 1979, Kevin Christenson died at the age of two. A broken leg at 18 months had revealed metastatic cancer. Chemotherapy was administered through the right side of his neck to combat the many ailments brought on by the disease, including a tumor that caused his left eye to protrude and a nodule above his right ear.
Twelve years later, Kevin’s mother, who had divorced his father and remarried, had another child named Patrick. Right from the start, there were similarities between the half-brothers. Patrick was born with a birthmark that looked like a small cut on the right side of his neck. It was in the same place where Kevin’s chemo IV entered his body. Even stranger, there was a nodule on Patrick’s scalp in the same place that Kevin’s had been. Like Kevin, Patrick had an issue with his left eye, which was eventually diagnosed as corneal leukoma (thankfully, not a tumor).
When Patrick began walking, he limped, even though there was no medical reason for him to do so. He claimed to have a memory of going under surgery. When his mother asked him where on his body, Patrick pointed to the area above his right ear, the same place his half-brother had had a nodule biopsied.
At around age four, Patrick started asking about his “old house,” even though he had never lived in any other home. He described it as being orange and brown. If you’re guessing that Kevin had lived in an orange and brown house, you get a gold star. Researchers investigating the situation actually took Patrick to the old house, but the little boy did not identify anything that convinced them that he was actually familiar with the orange and brown home.
While it is very possible that Patrick was able to pick up on details of his mother’s life with her previous husband and deceased son, the biological connections are difficult to explain.
2. Cat Memories
When John McConnell was fatally shot six times in 1992, he left behind a daughter named Doreen. Doreen gave birth to a son, William, in 1997. William was diagnosed with pulmonary valve atresia, a congenital condition in which a faulty valve directs blood from the heart to the lungs. The right ventricle of his heart was also deformed. William’s condition improved after numerous surgeries and treatment.
When John was shot, one of the bullets entered his back, hitting his left lung and the main pulmonary artery in his heart. John’s injury and William’s condition affected the heart and lungs in a very similar way.
One day, while trying to avoid discipline, William told Doreen, “When you were a little girl, and I was your daddy, you were bad a lot of times, and I never hit you!” Similar overly familiar statements followed. William asked Doreen about a cat she’d had as a little girl and mentioned that he called it “Boss.” Strikingly, only John had called the cat that—its given name was Boston. William was also able to differentiate between Boss and another family cat named Maniac.
William was able to state the day he was born (a Tuesday) and the day John died (Thursday) before he even knew his days of the week without Doreen’s prompting. He said he’d been told on a Tuesday by “God” that he was ready to “come back.”
John had told his daughter that he would always take care of her. Whether he did in fact come back to care for her as William, the coincidences are an interesting link to her father.
The ‘In-Between’ State
Dr. Brian Weiss became involved with past-life regression through his involvement with a patient named Catherine, as illustrated in his book Many Lives, Many Masters. During a regression session, Catherine shocked Dr. Weiss when she mentioned that she was in an “in between” state and that both Dr. Weiss’s father and his son were present. Catherine went on to say:
“Your father is here, and your son, who is a small child. Your father says you will know him because his name is Avrom, and your daughter is named after him. Also, his death was due to his heart. Your son’s heart was also important, for it was backward, like a chicken’s . . . He wanted to show you that medicine could only go so far, that its scope is very limited.”
Dr. Weiss was shocked, as his patient knew very little about his personal life. Photos of his living son, Jordan, as well as a daughter were on his desk, but Catherine seemed to be talking about Adam, the doctor’s firstborn who had died at only 23 days old. Adam had been diagnosed with total anomalous pulmonary venous drainage with an atrial septal defect—the pulmonary veins had grown on the wrong side of the heart, effectively backward. Further, Dr. Weiss’s father went by “Alvin,” but his Hebrew name was Avrom, just as Catherine had suggested. Dr. Weiss’s daughter Amy was indeed named for her grandfather.
The revelation convinced Dr. Weiss of the veracity of Catherine’s regression claims and changed the course of his career.
As you can see there are cases that are startling in their detail. Of course there are ‘explanations’ given for some of these occurrences but not all can be dismissed. My own nephew has remarkable similarities to my father. At an early age, he would reel out whole perfectly formed and enunciated sentences when he was ‘too young’ to know those words. He also walks just like my father crossing his hands behind his back with his thumbs linked.