[Media Invite] Singapore Writers Festival 2012: Singapore Literature Prize Award 2012, book launches and panels

The final part of the Singapore Writers Festival 2012 Recap!

You can find the other parts here:
Part 1) Highlighted Books
Part 2) Regional and Singaporean Books

So! Nine days, numerous panels, book launches and over a hundred international authors all. In. One. Place.

This is gonna be a long post! But no more lists, I bet you guys are glad hmm?

Let’s start off with the Singapore Literature Prize Award 2012, a biennial competition presented by the National Book Development Council of Singapore, with awards given to the winners of all four official languages in Singapore: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil.

I was invited by the NBDCS to cover the event, and it was great! It’s lovely to see members of the public, and teenagers still in their school uniform supporting the event. The entries are judged based on a combination of things, and I was surprised by the stringency. The works must not only excel in terms of theme and execution, but there must be a consistency in the work published. For example, a collection of poems or short stories must have a consistent quality level across the works. One or two excellent works will not just cut it.

Did you know that all the entries are self-submitted? Now you do.

Photo grabbed from Straits Time.
The winners from left to right:

English category winner
Eddie Tay – The Mental Life of Cities (Poetry)

Chinese category winner
Yeng Pway Ngon – Hua Shi (Novel)

Tamil category winner 
Ramanathan Vairavan – Kavithai Kuzhanthaikal (Poetry)

Merit prize winners
Peter Augustine Goh Mey Teck,
Ahmad Jaaffar Bin Munasip,
Rohman Munasip,
Yazid Hussein

This year, there is no definite winner for the Malay category. It was ruled that if there were no submitted entries of sufficient quality, then there will be no winner for that category. On one hand, I’m impressed by their dedication; on the other, I’m disappointed that there’s no winner for the Malay category. Instead, merit awards were give to four entries in that category. Here’s hoping there will be a winner for the 2014 edition!
One of the writers is Chinese, Peter Augustine Goh Mey Teck, and he wrote a Malay novel. I’m impressed.
Yeng Pway Ngon has won several Singapore Literature Prize Awards, and his book, Unrest, is one of my highlighted books for SWF. If you know how to read traditional Mandarin Chinese, I encourage you to read his books and tell me how they are, given that the only Chinese I know are cussing words, and they’re not even in the correct Chinese dialect.

Onto the book launches! First up is Math Paper Press’ launch for Yeng Pway Ngon’s UNREST and Loh Guan Liang’s TRANSPARENT STRANGERS. Yeng was accompanied by the official translator, Jeremy, for Unrest.
Fun facts from the launch: 1) The translation was rushed to meet SWF, and it took two months instead of the usual four to six months. 2) Loh’s book, Transparent Strangers, has a short story about Jack and the Beanstalk that won him a pair of tickets to watch one of the movie adaptations in theatres. 3) Jeremy has a lovely voice and really great enunciation. Ha!

Not a book launch; this is a poster promoting a book fair in SMU, where the SWF headquarters were.

I was invited by ilovebooks.com to cover the launch for the fourth book in THE DIARY OF AMOS LEE series, LIGHTS, CAMERA, SUPERSTAR. It’s sort of the Singaporean version of THE DIARY OF A WIMPY KID series, with AMOS LEE chronicling the adventures of ten year old Amos as he writes in his diaries (while doing his ‘big business’) about school and following his writer mum as she travels for research. The books are really cute, with illustrations on almost every page.

The series has been adapted into a TV series. You can buy the fourth ebook here! It might seem odd that they’re making ebooks targeted to kids, but having seen my toddler cousins skillfully navigating iPads, it’s actually an ingenious idea.

The platform for the launch. Check out Amos on the loo, and the ilovebooks.com mascot.

Thirteen year old Amos in book 4, with his iPhone …and bunny ears?

Amos with his iPhone.

Writer Adeline and illustrator Stephanie explained the process of writing and illustrating the books to the audience of mostly primary school kids and their parents. Both of them were really cute yet informative, and the audience lapped it up. When it came to Q&A, the children were the ones who took the chance to ask some hard-hitting questions.

“Why does Amos do swimming? Why not any other sports?” a boy asked solemnly.

The answer: Swimming is big in Singapore, along with table tennis and soccer. You should have seen us during the Olympics.

The actors who played Amos and his friends in the TV adaptation were also in the audience, with the lead actor hoping to get into the prestigious Raffles Institution.

Gangnam Style. HAAAA!

Adeline, Stephanie and a fan.

Here’s a story: I rushed from the book launch to the bookstore to get the books, trawling the shelves unsuccessfully. By the time I found the books (right in front of the entrance, hello!), only two copies were left. I grabbed one and waited for a guy to finish browsing the other copy before grabbing that too and getting them signed.

Some pictures from the grounds:

Gorgeous chalk paint drawings on the windows!

National Museum of Singapore, one of the locations for SWF.

Another small story: I was at the Writing for Freedom panel on the first day of SWF. Having come early, imagine my reaction at seeing the authors still waiting among the general public for the Singapore Arts Museum to be open so that they could get ready for their panel. In the end, everyone, including the authors aka the guests of honour, was sent to the side entrance.

This was rectified for the rest of the festival, but still.

Paraphrased in the words of one of the authors: “Southeast Asian writers… even when we’re celebrated, we’re relegated to the side entrance.”


I think this is the stage for Little Lit.

Chef Siti Mastura. My mum’s a HUGE fan of hers, and here she is signing my mum’s copy of her cookbook.

Catherine Lim, aka THE Singapore writer. She’s really sweet and bubbly in person. I was bummed to have missed her panel with Marina Mahathir. It was said to have been intense.

At the opening ceremony for the Ode to Masuri S.N., one of Singapore’s literary greats. It was a really touching affair, with the late Masuri S.N.’s family and friends in attendance. This is a shot of one of his last poems, reminding us Malays not to forget our culture in favour of other cultures, predominantly Western media. I love international media and art, but this struck a chord.

Click for the full size picture.

And that’s about it for SWF 2012! It was a great, fun experience and I’m definitely coming back in the future.

  5 comments for “[Media Invite] Singapore Writers Festival 2012: Singapore Literature Prize Award 2012, book launches and panels

  1. Friday, 16 November 2012 at 5:39 AM

    Those Amos Lee illustrations are super cute.

  2. Friday, 16 November 2012 at 1:30 PM

    Sounds like you had a super fun time at the event! Did you get to meet Cheryl Klein?

    • Tuesday, 12 February 2013 at 4:42 PM

      Unfortunately not. Hopefully one day!

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