News @ AsiaOne

The Write Stuff

Thu, Jun 24, 2010
my paper

By Koh Chuin Ying

SINGAPORE'S literary scene is enjoying a resurgence in works of fiction, according to editors and publishers.

Ms Fong Hoe Fang, publisher at home-grown publishing house Ethos Books, told my paper that "the prose writers have always been there, waiting in the wings", amid a proliferation of poetry tomes from Singapore authors readily available on the market.

Mr O Thiam Chin, Singaporean screenwriter and fiction writer, agreed, saying: "Fiction writers are slowly coming into the light."

This year, Ethos Books is slated to publish two short-story collections and an anthology of short stories, up from one shortstory collection each in the past two years.

Mr O attributed the revival of his contemporaries' work to the "recent emergence of new literary journals and websites in Singapore", such as independently run book publication Ceriph and literary journal Walnut Literary Review, and the "new works of fiction that are published in them".

Singaporean fiction writers are also gaining recognition on the international front.

Mr O himself was recently longlisted for the Irish literary Frank O'Connor Short Story Award for his second collection entitled Never Been Better, published last year by MPH Publishing.

The prize is awarded to the author of the book judged to have the best collection of stories published in English for the first time anywhere in the world, in the 12 months between September of one year and August of the next.

This year, there are 57 longlisted nominees. The shortlist will be announced next month and the winner, to be chosen in September, will receive a cash prize of 35,000 euros (S$60,000).

Another Singaporean writer, Ms Wena Poon, has also been longlisted for her second shortstory collection, The Proper Care Of Foxes, published last year by Ethos Books.

But, although the future looks promising for Singaporean fiction writers, poets still rule the day. Ethos Books is publishing five poetry collections and one poetry anthology this year - three more publications more than fiction works.

Mr O said the reason for this was simply that poems take less time to write.

"It's not uncommon for prose writers to take two to three years to produce a story collection or novel," he said.

Still, publishers and editors are confident that the resurgence of fiction will continue.

And, for writers who want their works published, here's a piece of advice from Mr Eric Forbes, senior editor at MPH Publishing: "A distinctive voice is vital. It is important for writers not to pander to any particular group of people when they write, and have the confidence and security of knowing they don't have to do so to do well."

A recognition for S-E Asian publishers

"He trailed behind, carrying his snowboard across both shoulders. "You mean Asian women don't kill themselves over love?"

"I told you a thousand times. Asian women are survivors. Even geishas. If Pinkerton left Butterfly, she wouldn't kill herself in real life. More likely she'd open a nail salon.


MS WENA Poon, 36, graduated from Raffles Girls Secondary school and studied Literature at Harvard University.

She wrote Lions In Winter (2007), The Proper Care Of Foxes (2009) and The Biophilia Omnibus (2009). Her novel, Alex Y Robert, will be released in the United States this month.

Of being considered for the award, she said: "It's recognition not just for (me) but South-east Asian publishers too."

I once read that the language of the heart is the language that one thinks, feels, reads, analyses and dreams with, so it is with the English language for me - the default heart-language that I have lived and worked with for as long as I can remember.


MR O Thiam Chin, 32, graduated with a degree in English Language and Literature from the Singapore Institute of Management.

His debut collection of short stories, Free-Falling Man, was published in 2006, and he published a second collection, Never Been Better, last year.

He has also written a screenplay for which he received a merit prize in Singapore's 2006 National Scriptwriting Competition.

He is excited to be included on the longlist for the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award.

"It's really mind-blowing," he said.

For more my paper stories click here.

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