Savouring stories
Published on: Sunday, July 07, 2019
By: Sylvia Howe

When I was young, some of my best friends were fictional. It saved so much bother!

Would it be so bad to return to a time when people actually read the written word as well as tapping it out on a mobile phone it?

I was told proudly the other day that the use of social media in Sabah, and by extension, Malaysia, was among the highest in the world.  Oh well, I thought, more’s the pity.   I know we all need to communicate quickly. We’re used to it now, for one thing, but it makes us more impatient when things don’t work, and when we can’t send a message now, at once, immediately. A little slower wouldn’t be the end of our world as we know it.  Banks and such need to whizz across the airwaves, OK, but do we all need to whizz as fast?  

Not so many years ago, there weren’t even mobile phones, let alone the internet, and the world functioned perfectly well.

We couldn’t download films and pictures. We had to watch them on the telly or the cinema, or wait to have them printed.

This wasn’t in the 1920s, but as little as 40 or so years ago. It wasn’t that bad, I promise. Messages were sent, people wrote letters and received them with pleasure, arrangements were made and, I would suggest, broken and changed far less often than they are now. 

I do understand about wifi and all that, honestly. I need speed as much as the next person for work. I need to send pictures, to communicate with colleagues and get decisions made. 

But this spills over into our private lives too, and that’s where the trouble (as I see it) starts. 

Telling stories slows things down. 

If storytellers are any good, they capture the imagination and involve the mind, painting pictures that come from the words, but are unique to the hearer. They are talented people, and the ones I have heard have taken my hand and led me into another place. Stories make you laugh, cry, feel confused or happy. And they make your own writing better too.

I can think of nothing nicer than having a couple of hours to myself, making a cup of coffee, opening a book (or a Kindle – I’m not a complete dinosaur, although there is something delicious about the smell, feel and sound of paper) and settling down to read, without interruption.  Things get in the way I know, like children, cooking lunch, guests, shopping and the rest, but surely we can dig out a little space that allows us to let our imagination run free? It’s good for the blood pressure too, unless you read the Jack Reacher books. I read two in a row once and had to go and lie down in a darkened room

A friend has a mentor, a CEO, who says that he doesn’t think he is much brighter than the people around him, but the reason he’s a successful boss is that he reads a lot of books. Fiction, non fiction, doesn’t matter as long as they are interesting or informative. Television and films can be both, of course, but my problem is that if it is an adaptation of a novel I have read, it smashes all my relationships with the characters I have imagined, and I have to start again.  So how about taking to the written and spoken word for a month, and see how you feel?  

WordPower Sabah is an event to back this up! It has workshops to show you how you can write more effectively, powerfully, imaginatively, excitingly. Arisha Akhir will tell you stories and read poetry to light up your mind, Susan Bansin and Normah Nordin will take young people into the garden where they can listen to tales and make up their own.  The Zoo Story is an involving hour-long drama for the over 16s. Bentarakata will encourage and support teenagers to explore writing. Geoffrey Sinn and Edwin Kho will show you how to animate and illustrate words.  Our hope is that all this will ignite a passion for using words to build new worlds, in your head and in your readers’.

I may be preaching to the converted. After all, you have picked up this paper and are reading my article, so you’re half way there already! Join us on a path that will take you even further!


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