Thursday Nov 23

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Get To Know Ying & Huwaida Of Heartwrite

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Tell us about yourselves.
Ying: I like stories, art, and food. Not necessarily in that order all the time haha! Australia and Switzerland were amazing countries to experience living in. I majored in Creative Arts and English, and my last office job was as a business journalist for a now defunct local paper. I love traveling and nature, and I take advocacy for the environment and the oceans very seriously! I skate, surf when there are waves, and love to freedive. Stephen King is the King (ha ha) of horror.

Huwaida: I enjoy listening to and telling stories. I gravitate towards history, human stories, the wild world of physics and quantum physics, and a whole more.  My career has been varied; I’ve hopped industries, roles and countries. I believe everything can be learned, we just have to find the right teacher.

When did your interest in writing began? Who are your role models?
Ying: I'm told I started composing stories while I was still in primary school. I've always loved writing as a form of communication, especially poetry, which I attribute to a very healthy reading habit and an excellent A Levels English Literature class (Thanks Ms. Payne!) Most of my heroes in writing when I was younger were classic English poets and American writers like Wordsworth, Marvel, John Updike; authors I was able to study in depth. These days I'm partial to authors writing from a unique perspective so it's usually stories about unusual experiences (fictional or otherwise).

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Huwaida: I’ve always loved reading. Growing up I held close the typical dream of all bookworms under moon – either work as a librarian or in a book store. In terms of writing, I journal everyday. I’ve used that as a way to make things happen for me – like put dreams into words, clarify what I want or feel, and even personal projects like understanding how to forgive, better my relationship with loved ones, deliberate over my place in the world. I’ve kept my journals over the years. I go through at least six of them annually. I don't have role models per se. There are a lot of great writers out there. I believe that there are many ways to tell a story. It's essence that's the most important, to get the essence of the story out there.

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Tell us about Heartwrite.
We're an independent communications company, with a fledgling publishing arm called Heartwrite Publishing. We write for people, we tell their stories, and help them to convey ideas in the most accurately meaningful way that we can with words.

Tell us about the first publication.
It’s a kid’s book, in appearance. We wanted to come up with a story that is set in Brunei, so that when you open it and see the artwork, you can place it at this part of the world. The story itself is more universal and speaks to the inner child in every person. A young Bruneian girl, Nina, is visiting Tasek Merimbun with her grandfather. She is curious about the world around her, asking what’s big and bigger and biggest. The grandfather, Kong Kong, is kind and patient when answering the kid’s questions. In the end though, she has an idea that just blows his mind – as kids do! This was a really fun project, a labour of love which literally took us nine months from start to finish! You should know it is in French.

What do you think of the writing and reading culture in Brunei?
Ying: It's an interesting time for writers in Brunei. It feels like the creative arts scene has really blossomed in the last couple of years, and for writers it's a really exciting time as it's becoming more recognised as a skill and an art in Brunei. Creative or copywriting still has a way to go. People still aren't willing to value writing as a legitimate profession - yet. Key word at the end there! The culture of reading has always been around but it was always regarded as a 'nerdy' thing to do or something to pass the time. I feel like readers are a little more invested now though in owning their passion for books- we have all kinds of book clubs, independent sellers curating great collections, and discussion groups dedicated to readers and writers, like a feminist book club and regular events organised by B:read which is a local organisation focused on improving the reading culture in Brunei. We do monthly Writer's Jams where anyone can come and learn about new genres of writing, or just get feedback on their work. There's also Spoken Word which we co-run with Bruhaha and it happens every fortnight.

Huwaida: Lots of writers are writing in secret and sporadically. We've met a few good ones through the jams and people who just get in touch with us. It's a time of change, for sure. Writing can be a courageous act, and we've been seeing more people stepping up. It's gorgeous.

What would you like more done locally?
More poetry, please! and more analytical or critical work. It's a overlooked skill in the creative writers eye, I feel.

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Any future plans for Heartwrite you'll like to share?
Recently we launched Bookish Charms, a collaboration with Enya Bijoux. It's a for-charity jewelry line inspired by stories. The first collection was based on Malay Folk tales. Proceeds from the sale goes to two local charities. We aim to continue this project, to bring together writers, artists and crafters to create something that others can enjoy for its own sake, and do good at the same time. A lot of what we do revolves around telling stories. It is one of the first ways that people relate to and connect with each other. Ying is passionate about the ocean and I'm a practicing tree hugger. We're not experts but sustainability, green living, etc, are something that we want to get into more. And we want to share that learning with others.

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Any advice for young writers out there?
Trust, and don't be afraid to reach out - to other writers, for critiques, advice, exchanging ideas, challenges. And know that the first draft is like a friend - open to conversation, great at listening, and won't judge you if you need to make a few improvements here and there.  

Keep a notebook and pen handy always! You never know when inspiration will strike so make sure you have somewhere to keep all those ideas / thoughts, and develop on them later.

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