Book Bites: Workshop with a Literary Agency (MAP)

Book Bites

“You look very familiar, have I seen you at one of my sessions before?”

Needless to say, I was thrilled and surprised that Marysia, the founder of Peony Literary Agency (based in Hong Kong), could remember me from a few years back. Since she was around for the Publishing Symposiums held together with the Singapore Writers’ Festival, The Writers Centre managed to get her down to give the MAP mentees a session on literary agents and what they do.

Marysia showcasing some of the books her agency has brought out.

Marysia showcasing some of the books her agency has brought out.

It was a well-balanced session, with many questions being answered and Marysia going around the room to have tips to give specific genres of writing. And while she mentioned that the publishing industry is having problems worldwide, there is still demand for fiction from this part of the world.

I liked that she went around the room to know where our works were heading for. And therefore, she was able to give advice based on her experiences and what we were working on. While it was true that one needed to network at least a little bit or come up with a few ways to brand yourself as a writer, knowledge of the industry and how it affects specific genres was useful as well.

All in all, I enjoyed this session very much. Many thanks to The Writers Centre, the National Arts Council, and Peony Literary Agency for this workshop! To find out more about Peony Literary Agency, click here.

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Decode: Adventure: VKtion-StayCay #2 – Hotel Jen

Decode Adventure

When Sarah suggested we do a staycay in conjunction with one of our Nanowrimo Write-Ins at the library@orchard, we did not expect Hotel Jen to point us to one of their promotions. One of the newest hotels along the Orchard stretch, we decided to give it a try.

Hello all.

Hello all.

We got a room with a King bed and a bathtub (much to Sarah’s joy), and according to Lyn, it was more spacious than we were used to. There was a seating area next to the platform to ceiling windows, and a lot of living area where we could game, or just sit around and enjoy the radio and tv programmes.

They know who we are! Or at least, who Sarah is. LOL.

They know who we are! Or at least, who Sarah is. LOL.

View of Orchard Road from our room.

View of Orchard Road from our room.

Our room =)

Our room =)

The service centre was prompt, and quite understanding because we had a huge problem connecting to the WiFi in the room. And while we ended up using our own hotspots or 4G, at least for the first night, the rest of the stay was quite pleasant.

Pool and gym facilities were on the 19th floor, with the pool overlooking Orchard Road. Lyn and I enjoyed the quietness of it in the morning, especially with the Jacuzzi being a turn-it-on-yourself kind of contraption (so we were able to enjoy it for as long as we wanted). The fact that the pool was closed at 10:30 at night also offered up options to have moonlight swims or lounging.

Nope, she did not dive in.

Nope, she did not dive in.

But apart from all these awesome in-room and hotel facilities, I feel that one of the best things about Hotel Jen was their breakfast selection. We got this deal with a hotel buffet breakfast, which is a rare option among our group. However, when we got to the restaurant, we did not regret our decision.

If I had to list it, there was hot food, egg station (poached / scrambled / omelette / overeasy), local favourites, a cereal bar, cut fruits, a bread counter, a juice and sweet cereal bar, and Sarah’s favourite – an ice cream station flanked with cheese platters on either side.

Being the foodies that we were, we enjoyed ourselves; especially with the phrase – “On principle, we should have ice cream for breakfast.”

AJ joined me for breakfast =)

AJ joined me for breakfast =)

And there you have it! Hotel Jen generally gave us a good experience with a good promotion package, considering that we were in the heart of town. So if they had another promotion period, I would be sure to check it out if I was in need of a staycation.

For more information on Hotel Jen, click here. Hotel Jen is located at Orchardgateway, in between 313 Somerset and Orchard Central.

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Book Bites: Singapore Writers Festival 2014 Weekend #2

Book Bites

My 2nd weekend at the Singapore Writers’ Festival fell nothing short of highly entertaining – reading-heavy and hands-on, let’s get on with the post then, shall we?

Wena in her element =)

Wena in her element =)

Wena Poon is one of my favourite writers – her character relations are dynamic, her writing is funny, and her stories are at its fundamental level, interesting. Thus, whenever the Singapore Writers Festival comes by, we always look forward to her performance readings. The Tiger and I were incredibly happy to get the opportunity to watch her perform a piece from “The Adventures of Snow Fox and Sword Girl”, one of her latest books.

Snow Fox and Sword Girl tells the story of Emperor Taliesin and his childhood friend, confidante, and bodyguard, swordswoman Sei Shonagon. Together, they form a close bond in a quest to prove that the Emperor of Japan was human and not, as speculated, a fox spirit under the guise of a masked Emperor.

With Wena’s props, costumes, and storytelling, we enjoyed ourselves massively, promptly getting her books signed soon after. Either way, it was great chatting with a fellow writer and friend, especially since we only see her during SWF. (To find out more about Wena Poon, click here.)

Espeon attending "Bald-Faced Lies" with me.

Espeon attending “Bald-Faced Lies” with me.

My last day at this year’s SWF consisted only of “Bald-Faced Lies”, a workshop conducted by Karen Joy Fowler. While I was expecting a few tips on writing tension, I was still able to get a few good lessons from this awesome Man Booker nominated writer.

We had a few on-the-spot writing exercises on believability, persuasion, and the art of deception through fiction. In between, she gave us a few rules to consider while attempting our writing. While rules like, “Tell the truth as far as you can” and “Never tell a bigger lie than you need to” were incredibly useful, one of the main points I found constantly being brought up through the lesson was this –

Believable Fiction will always find its roots in the truth.

In short, the old adage of – there is no smoke without fire. Overall, it was an informative session, with an entertaining Q & A conclusion with Karen speaking of her writing process and how to just persist. Or rather, persist and improve. It was truly an enjoyable session. (To find out more about Karen Joy Fowler, click here.)

So there you have it! My SWF for 2014 has been great, with many thanks to the National Arts Council for the Festival Pass and organising such a wonderful event. While I’m sorry to see Paul leaving as Festival Director, I am looking forward to next year’s festival. Onwards!

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Book Bites: Singapore Writers Festival 2014 Weekend #1

Book Bites

“I was born when the light of the empire was dying.” – Walter Woon, 2014

Okay, that woke me up.

The opening weekend of the Singapore Writers’ Festival 2014 was opened with the theme “The Prospect of Beauty”. With a great variety of genres and topics covered this year, my first panel was The Empire Writes Back, featuring Walter Woon, Dawn Farnham, and Kamila Shamsie.

My first panel of the festival.

My first panel of the festival.

Moderated by Neil Murphy, the panel spoke about writers writing stories set in the colonial past in this post-colonial world. For me, it was a rather heavy panel to start off with, with all three authors speaking about the issues in their books (war, setting, independence etc…) and the experiences which served as research for their stories.

Despite that, I still managed to take one major point – there is always more than one side of story, both good and bad things could and could not have happened if not for various incidents in history.

I went to Worthy Failure vs. Mediocre Success after that, featuring Jason Erik Lundberg, Joshua Gough, and Felix Cheong. This panel was moderated by Gene Tan.

Prep and discussion before "Worthy Failure vs. Mediocre Success" started.

Prep and discussion before “Worthy Failure vs. Mediocre Success” started.

Speaking about their successes and personal failures, the three still agreed on the most important point (for me, at least) – connecting with your audience in a way you want to and are most comfortable with is in itself, a mark of a successful storyteller. If you have a story, that story will have an audience.

Gene was an excellent moderator, weaving the thoughts and recounts of the three authors into an incredibly funny yet thought-provoking session. (P/S – using readings to introduce authors is one good idea as well!)

My last panel for the 1st weekend of SWF was one known as Lion City Secrets. This panel featured Yeo Suan Futt, Dave Chua, and Colin Cheong and was moderated by Zafar Anjum.

My Espeon joins my literary hijinks on Day 2 with this panel.

Espeon joins my literary hijinks on Day 2 with this panel.

Delving into the cracks of Singapore’s “vanilla” state, Dave, Colin, and Suan Futt spoke of their experiences and the motivation behind the crime fiction or true crime stories they have written. While most of their research came from expected sources like news reports, past experiences, and other people’s stories, there was one thing Colin said which stuck to me.

It was a question posed by the moderator, about issues each author would like to look at if research was not going to be an issue. Colin said something along the lines of…

~ I’m interested in you. All of you. When you’re stretched to the point where you have no where else to go, what would you do? Would you snap? ~ (Not exact words but you get my drift.)

I would say this was one of the reasons why I love reading and writing Mystery / Dystopian fiction so much – the Human Psyche is, at its basic level, complicated. And while you can say that reading mystery fiction makes you lose faith in humanity, I feel that mystery fiction is also where you find that faith and glimmer of hope in an environment which seems to be hopeless.

And that is my conclusion for the panels I attended for SWF 2014’s first weekend. Looking forward to my next round of panels, so stay tuned!

To find out more about the Singapore Writers’ Festival 2014, click here.

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Update [October 2014]

Literary Event of the Month

If the second half of the year meant that time was going to fly past us like no one’s business, the last quarter of the year is definitely flowing like choppy seas during high tide. October itself had quite a few literary events, but my literary event of the month has to be the MAP Retreat 2014, where we all got to be the Wordsmiths of Sultan Hotel.

Miguel listening intently to our readings.

Miguel listening intently to our readings.

Definitely one of the best experiences for me this year.

Blanket Fortress Play

Blanket Fortress Play for this month sees another two games – Small World, one of the Tiger’s favourites, and Anti-Monopoly, a game we hope we get to play again.

BFP - Oct

Writery Endeavours and Wattpad

There has been a lot going on lately, but one of the things I have been incredibly excited about (apart from the Singapore Writers Festival) is this…

Espeon lying next to a scatter of literary postcards or some such.

Espeon lying next to a scatter of literary postcards or some such.

I printed my Samplers earlier this year to give out during festivals and events, just for something a bit different from a calling card. At the same time, my Wattpad stories for this month include, “In the Grand Scheme of Views” and “There Was a Road Here.”

Wattpad - Oct

Hope you all like them!

Coming Next Month…

Nanowrimo is upon us! Therefore, I shall be busy writing the novel which I should be finishing by the end of this year. Or at least part of it.

November is always my month of literary goodness, here are the things you can watch out for and then you’ll find out why:

There will be some changes coming to this blog as well so stay tuned and find out!

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Book Bites: Nanowrimo Singapore Kick-Off!

Book Bites

The theme for this year’s Nanowrimo Singapore Kick-Off was “True to Yourself”. So Sarah turned up in a Dragon onesie to show her inclination to fantasy and I wore my dark turtleneck to express mystery.

Let the party begin!

Let the party begin!

Like most of the Kick-Offs of the past, this one was held at the Possibility Room at the National Library Building. And the gang ended up taking a huge bunch of group pictures thanks to Mintea’s selfie stick. (After we did a quick setup, of course)

The line after the selfies

The line after the selfies

The crowd while we were hosting the event

The crowd while we were hosting the event

Co-hosting this year, it was quite heart-warming to look at the sheer number of support which has grown for Nanowrimo Singapore over the years. According to Sarah, initial number of people who have signed in (not counting accompanying friends and parents) reached 101! We were also grateful for the wonderful people from the 24 Hour Comics Day (JF, Ben, Max) and the National Library for giving us the space and a good load of door gifts and prizes.

Our traditional WTF?! cake for every year.

Our traditional WTF?! cake for every year.

So there you have it! That’s Nanowrimo Singapore Kick-Off 2014 for everyone. It ended earlier than previous Kick-Offs, but we still managed to have good fun during and at the after-party (at the Maccas next door. LOL.) And that’s it =)

ONWARD TO 50,000 WORDS!!!

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Next-in-Reading #33: The Lottie Project

Next in Reading

Title: The Lottie Project
Author: Jacqueline Wilson
Year: 1997
Publisher:
Doubleday

Landed with the task of a Victorian home project and sitting in the snottiest boy in school, 11-year-old Charlotte “Charlie” Enright already has doubts about how this year in school is going to be. When her mother loses her job and starts meeting a single father through her babysitting job, Charlotte escapes into her project – the diary of a Victorian maid named Lottie – and wonders what she would do.

Character(s)

Lottie, a Reflection in a possible Past

Lottie is a reflection and fictional manifestation of Charlie in Victorian times. Like Charlie, she is often protective of her family – and Charlie’s growing concerns for her mother’s jobs show at the beginning of her diary, where their present-day situation with Jo’s loss of her job is represented through the meagre earnings her mother earns despite overworking. At the same time, she voices her displeasure and distrust of men – especially when Mark comes into their life in present day.

In a way, Lottie can be said to be Charlie’s escape – where things work out in the end and she is well-liked by the people around her – something that may or may not work out in her reality.

Theme(s)

Growing Pains

The overarching theme through the entire book tends to be the fact that despite the environment, growing pains are universal. As much as Lottie is more selfless, concerned with family, and is working to put food on the table, she struggles with the same problems as Charlotte – taking responsibilities, mending friendships, and issues with men and boys.

Style & Structure

This novel is written in two distinct halves – Charlie’s and Lottie’s perspective. This does not only bring out the parallels in the lives of both girls, it also provides an avenue for Charlie’s reflection and inner character without engaging too much in exposition or too much “telling”. At the same time, readers are able to catch Charlie’s vulnerabilities – like her concern for her family and respect for a good teacher despite her hardened appearance.

The Lottie Project is written by Jacqueline Wilson. You can find out more about the book here.

In the meantime…

And that’s it from me for now. Next-in-Reading will be taking a break in November because I’ll be doing Nanowrimo. Apart from that, we’ll see you for the last stretch of Next-in-Reading for this year in December!

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