During our 2012 Christmas emails, as I told my friends the redundancy situations I’d known, I learnt that they too suffered from their countries’ economic downturns.
In Japan, my friend’s husband in his late 50s, was declared redundant, but he refused the early-retirement incentive payout. Japanese labour laws made it difficult for corporates to lay off staff without good reasons. Thus, he was given no work to do and his company hoped under that situation, he’d become depressed enough to quit.
In America, a friend in her early 50s, was not sure if she’d still have a job in 2013. The company was keen to replace ageing computer programmers with graduates so they could reduce their hiring expenses.
In Australia, another friend took a lot of sick leave to care for her family. During her factory’s restructure, she and the workers who were on reduced duty due to work injuries, the aged, the workplace reformers, the bullied, and the harassed later turned the complainants, were all told they were excess workers.
My friends’ powerless and unfair circumstances brought home to me the fear, anxiety and desperation they faced. What happened to them could occur to anyone.
I wanted to tell the world the redundant workers’ story and enter the ACT Writers Centre 2013 3000-word short story competition.
In primary and high school, my Vietnamese essays always got top marks.
In the 90s, in Australia and single, I wrote ironic, humorous, romantic Vietnamese poems for a weekly Vietnamese newspaper and translated songs, The Little Prince and other books from English into Vietnamese to satisfy my writing desire.
But I’d never written a short story before, let alone one in English.
With two pieces of basic advice from my close friend Lily: “A story has three parts: conflict/problem, climax and resolution” and “What do you want to say with each character?” I embarked on the untravelled road.
I drew a table for my characters, describing the events happening to each through the three phases of the story.
I gave my draft to Dahlia, a wordsmith and trusted acquaintance. After three weeks she gave me feedback without correcting my “could be improved” English as she’d commented, and I’d expected.
I asked, she reluctantly agreed, four weeks and some related distressing moments later I got my “English corrected” draft back. Without reading, I threw it away.
For five months I was too disheartened to modify my story according to Lily and Dahlia’s suggestions, until the competition’s closing day.
There wasn’t time for anyone to adjust my English. I went through my story multiple times, trying to comprehend and correct grammatical errors myself.
The story was submitted online, one hour before closing time.
Writing a story is somewhat similar to building a computer system in my fulltime job.
I didn’t win the competition however I feel confident that I can write a novel next.
Still, I’ll heed Lily’s last piece of advice: “Attend writing courses.”
The aged mourn their bygone youth at the feet of Mother Nature,
The injured beat themselves up for they are such eager beavers,
The reformers ask themselves why they want the workplace to become better,
The wronged saw themselves making complaints as so foolish failures,
As all are now considered ‘the unwanted’ by their employer.