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I realised I didn’t write about the Big Read, which was held last Saturday night at the Beilharz home. I’d never been to their house before, and found my way there easily thanks to Karen‘s directions (my favourite bit of which read ‘Beware of the false steps that lead to no door’ – I felt that it would make a very good beginning to a short story of some kind, which I may yet write). I found Karen lighting lanterns at the front steps, and loved all the fairy lights she had strung up in the stair well and along the mantel in their living room.

I helped Karen order the copious amounts of delicious Thai food we had for dinner, and then braved the room full of people. I shouldn’t be nervous about things like that – after all, even if we don’t know one another we are linked by the fact that we’re writers, Christians, and most of us know Karen (only one woman was there who had never met any of us before, but she seemed to cope quite well!). But I do always find those sorts of social situations difficult, especially when (as in this case) the majority of people in the room already know each other.

But of course, I needn’t have worried as I fell into easy and funny conversations with Ben May, Ben B, Dave and Kel Phillips, and actually quite enjoyed myself. I didn’t get to know the others so well, but at least we’d now be able to recognise one another in the street (and not just from each others’ blogs).

We had dinner, introduced ourselves, then I read Psalm 139 aloud because Karen suddenly remembered that we ought to have a Bible reading and was feeling a bit pressured about having to do everything on the night. I liked that psalm because we had read it at church the week before, and I’d marvelled at it then, and it seemed appropriate in a roomful of Christian writers to remember that “before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.”

We went around the room, reading pieces we had written or brought. Karen read the story she had written during our city day earlier that week, and it was all about coffee and why she doesn’t like it and what led her to that point – more about relationships than coffee. In fact many of the pieces were about relationship, whether with parents and the disappointments that can entail, or with spouses or fiancees and the wonder of that kind of love. I liked Dave’s pieces about technology and toys (one of them is here). And I read my story about the pineapple tarts, a good old standby that I feel everyone has read but in actual fact it hasn’t been published anywhere so the only people who’ve read it are those I’ve intentionally given it to.

It’s an autobiographical story about me making pineapple tarts with my grandmother in Malaysia one Chinese New Year. It annoyed me for so long because I thought it was trite and uninteresting, but my mum always talked about how much she loved it and how real it was in terms of describing that cross cultural gap between my Chinese family and me. I suppose it was really the springboard for my thesis and, later, my novel, extending those ideas into a semi-fictional, semi-autobiographical thing. So I read it at the Big Read (and did the voices and all) and it seemed to go down really well. Haoran said he was “right there” throughout the story, and Little said it made her want to try a pineapple tart, both of which I take as good signs.

After the readings we played some fun writing games, and then it was all over. Some people had to leave straight away, but some of us stayed a little longer for dessert. Then, remembering I had to play piano at church the next morning, I left. But it was a great evening – thanks for organising it Karen, you did a brilliant job!