Posts filed under ‘Writing’

Book Launch: Towerhill Reclaimed

Written by Justin Foo Min Hua (2P408)
Photographs by Mr Jason Erik Lundberg

Towerhill coverOn Thursday, 19 April, for the final 2011 Library Week and World Book Day afternoon event, junior college members of the HCI Young Editors Club — Ephraim Tan (Co-Editor-in-Chief and Poetry Contributor), Lee Kah How (Artistic Director), and Joel Zhang (Prose Contributor) — launched their new publication, an anthology of poetry and prose entitled Towerhill Reclaimed.

Initially the editors thought of naming the book Parnassus, after the hilltop home of the Greek Muses of music, poetry, and knowledge, but reconsidered when they realized that the obscure reference would be too difficult to comprehend for the general reader. The anthology contains poems by our very own students, from both the high school and junior college, many of whom are our seniors from several years ago. The cover art has a monochromatic theme, which Artistic Director Lee Kah How chose because of its aesthetic elegance.

The anthology is split into two sections. The first section contains traditional elements and cultural themes, while the second section is about the progression into the future. The editors also felt that the book illustrates the movement from past to present, showing how the contributors’ writing has improved over the years; the symbolism of the clock imagery on the front cover contributes to this theme.

Another thing I learned from the YEC members was that we can get our creative inspiration from our surroundings. As students, there are many things around us that we may be unsatisfied with, and we can express our feelings through poetry and prose. Editor Ephraim Tan also mentioned that, “Writing is to express, not to impress.” I agree with this statement, as whenever I feel upset and emotional, I turn to literature and writing for an outlet and release. Joel Zhang said that as we practice writing, we will know what works and what does not. Many people have this personal fear of being mocked when other people look at their writing, but I think that this might show that the writer may not be putting in all his effort when writing, and thus he or she is afraid that other people would despise their work. If we have tried our best, yet still get laughed at by others, perhaps we can look at this criticism in a positive way, as a platform for improvement.

Each copy of Towerhill Reclaimed was sold for only 10 dollars. All proceeds collected from selling the book will go to disaster relief for Japan, following the recent earthquakes, tsunami, and nuclear mishaps. During the Q&A session at the end of the talk, a Sec 4 student asked why each Hwa Chong student couldn’t have a copy for free. Ephraim replied that people would treasure the book more if they use their money to buy it, in addition to the good feeling that comes from donating to a worthy cause.

(N.B. Copies of Towerhill Reclaimed are still available; interested students and staff can contact Mrs Laura Ng for acquisition details. -JEL)


April 27, 2011 at 5:11 pm 5 comments

A Conversation with Dave Chua and Koh Hong Teng

Written by Kean Patrick Murphy (2O412)
Photographs by Lu Wen Hao (2I314)

Gone Case Graphic NovelOn Monday, 19 April, for the first 2011 Library Week and World Book Day afternoon event, writer Dave Chua and artist Koh Hong Teng participated in a Book Talk about adapting Chua’s prize-winning novel Gone Case into graphic novel format, with Mr Jason Erik Lundberg as moderator.

I learned many valuable lessons from the talk. For instance, Mr Chua mentioned that a writer gets many inspirations, especially from other authors. He or she mainly uses past experiences as a reference in writing stories, while adding scenes from the imagination along the way. A good example would be the very book they were talking about, Gone Case. Mr Chua described the setting of the book as coming out of his life experiences and the HDB block that he lived in as a boy. He used the issues that he encountered in his home as a focal point for his story. This interests me as when I write narratives in school, I often do the same thing. Which means that this way of writing is constant not only from published authors, but anyone who writes. A writer also has to read widely to gain inspiration. Thus, if you don’t read many books, you can’t become a good writer.

Mr Chua brought up the fact that there is a difference between comics and books in terms of people buying them for the first time. Books are harder to assess at first glance, while comics are easier as people are able to judge them immediately by the quality of artwork. The artwork needs to be striking enough to attract the reader’s attention, while the first chapter of a book needs to be engaging enough to motivate the reader to continue on. Mr Lundberg added that sales are also affected by the stigma of self-publishing, with books suffering from it more than comics. I think this is so because many people have the mindset that a book is only self-published if established publishers have rejected it, and so it must be rubbish. I disagree, as some self-published books that I have read are very good, and certainly worthy of a publisher, but for a variety of reasons the author has chosen not to go the traditional route.

A good tip that I picked up was that no matter how unrealistic the story is, you must always remember to keep the story believable. If the story stretches your imagination, people enjoy it, but if it is ridiculous, they won’t like it. On a related point, you must make sure the scene fits the setting. For example, many student writers describe gun fights in Singapore, but guns are banned in Singapore, so the situation seems out of place; writers must be careful to avoid falling into this trap. Another tip is a good way to kickstart your drawings: Mr Koh takes reference photos of a scene he might want to draw, then goes back to the drawing board, takes the best photo angle for the scene or panel, draws it in his own style and adds in more personal details. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Mr Chua encouraged us to write what we enjoy! If you are writing about something that you have no interest in, the story will turn out bland and won’t be interesting. Once you write about something that captivates you, you can spend a long time on it and your passion for it will come through in the writing.

The issue of memorable characters was also brought up here. Some characters will stick in the reader’s memory long after the story has been read. Sometimes, they may not even be the main character, and may have a short “page life.” Mr Lundberg described the Malay barber in a scene from Gone Case being one of the most memorable characters for him in the graphic novel, despite the barber’s appearance lasting only a mere three pages; I can recall a few characters just like that from other books.

The graphic novel adaptation as a form has always puzzled me, as conversion from a prose work always seems to twist the story into something else, shortening the scenes and taking out some of its true meaning. Now I know that this technique is actually purposefully intended by comics creators. Mr Chua gave Mr Koh free reign over the story, letting him plan it like a director doing storyboards for a film, and then collaborating on the dialogue and other details.

In conclusion, this talk was very informative for me, and a valuable experience. I can’t wait for the next time authors come to HCI to give a talk. I am especially interested in two Singaporean authors, Jeffrey Lim and Wena Poon, whose writing I enjoyed after reading an anthology which included short stories by them. I used to think that Singaporean literature was a waste of time and of poor quality, but talks like these have broadened my vision and changed my views.

April 19, 2011 at 12:01 pm 9 comments

2011 Library Week and World Book Day!

Embiggen for a Print Quality Image

“I Read, Therefore I Am”

Next week, 18-21 April, celebrate 2011 Library Week and World Book Day at Kong Chian Library!

Gone Case Graphic NovelOn Monday, writer Dave Chua and artist Koh Hong Teng will conduct a Book Talk about adapting Chua’s prize-winning novel Gone Case into graphic novel format. In addition to discussing the challenges of adaptation, they will talk about other graphic novels and prose books that have influenced them, and the state of graphic literature in Singapore.

Tuesday will see two events: the Chinese Share-a-Book will be conducted in the Seminar and Conference Rooms, as an extension of the Chinese reading done during the Term 1 sabbatical week. The NLB Mass Book Borrowing will take place at Oei Tiong Ham Hall from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Mrs Rosalind Lee will soon post the schedule for the lower sec classes on the EMB, and upper sec students are highly encouraged to drop by during lunch time.

The annual Scrabble Challenge will be conducted on Wednesday once again by Mrs Yeong-Loke Lai Fun and Ms G. Kalavathi, with the winners competing against students from the junior college to determine ultimate HCI Scrabble supremacy!

Towerhill coverDuring lunch time on Thursday, the Young Editors Club will launch their new publication, an anthology of poetry and prose entitled TOWERHILL.Reclaimed. YEC members will be on hand to answer questions, recite poetry, and sell copies of the anthology; copies will be sold for $10 and all proceeds will go directly to the Disaster Relief Fund of the Embassy of Japan.

All week long, our afternoon Big Book Sale will be located in the Reading Area and feature a variety of titles; the money collected will go toward the Needy Student Fund. Also during the week, we will facilitate the Know Your E-Resources Online Quiz, the Lower Sec Door Wrapping Competition, individual class Book Swap, and a special exhibition of the winners from the Micro-Fiction Writing Competition.

Stay tuned here and at our official Facebook Event Page for up-to-the-minute details, and join us next week in the celebration of books and reading!

HCI Official WBD Logo Designed by Khor Haoyu of Class 2I2

April 12, 2011 at 12:56 pm 4 comments

Words Go Round 2011: TellTale and Fiction in Singapore

Written by Yau Chun Shin (4H131)
Photographs by Mr Jason Erik Lundberg

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” —William Wordsworth

As part of the Words Go Round program organized by the Singapore Writers Festival, editor Dr Gwee Li Sui and contributors Dave Chua and Jeffrey Lim recently discussed the anthology TellTale: Eleven Stories and the state of fiction writing in Singapore with the students of Hwa Chong Institution. The event was hosted at Kong Chian Library on 11 March 2011.

The session was a lively and fascinating one, with the guest speakers providing insights on the nature of writing as well as their personal motivations for putting pen to paper. Mr Chua, for one, quoted as his inspiration a desire for showing how people simultaneously tried to fit in and stand out in society. Dr Gwee also spoke at length about the current state of Singaporean literature, commenting on how the local literary scene was dominated by well-known, established writers like Catherine Lim, leaving fewer opportunities for other budding writers to gain recognition. In ruminating upon this, the guest speakers also provided the captive audience with a brief list of other Singaporean writers, such as Alfian bin Sa’at, encouraging our students to check out these writers’ works.

Yet the speakers were not the only ones providing material for discussion. Our students proved themselves more than equal to the task of contributing to the engaging and evocative exchange. Proof of this could be found in the incisive questions that they posed, such as: “Does the interpretation of your works ever go beyond what you imagined in the first place?” and “How do language and its inherent concepts affect literature at a fundamental level?” This made for a dynamic and compelling session, with both the speakers and the audience playing an active role.

Of course, all this would not have been possible without the help of Mrs Laura Ng, Mr Lucas Ho, Mr Woon Wei Seng and Ms Crystal Ang. Without the astute choice of these guests, and without Mr Ho’s energetic facilitation of the discussion, the event might not have come to pass, and would certainly not have been of the same standard as it was on that day.

The session was certainly of great benefit to our students, by both introducing them to Singaporean literature and the mechanics of writing, as well as encouraging them to air their views and thus improve their understanding of writing. Given the quality and caliber of the opinions shared, from both the speakers and the audience, such a session in the future would most definitely be welcome, as it would allow us to expand our horizons and develop a love for the arts.

April 1, 2011 at 4:41 pm 1 comment

Neil Gaiman on Giving It Away

Neil Gaiman — author of American Gods, The Graveyard Book, Coraline, graphic novel series The Sandman, and many other things — was recently interviewed by the Open Rights Group (linked previously here) about copyright, misconceptions about copyright on the web, and how piracy can be a promotional action.

In today’s blog entry, Gaiman reposts a few extracts from previous entries on the subject of giving away his fiction for free. In 2008, he decided to post the entirety of his novel American Gods (perhaps his best work apart from Sandman, imho) for free viewing and download at the HarperCollins website:

I was surprised by a few emails coming in from people accusing me of doing bad things for other authors by giving anything away — the idea being, I think, that by handing out a bestselling book for nothing I’m devaluing what a book is and so forth, which I think is silly.


Word of mouth is still the best tool for selling books. This is how people found new authors for more than a century. Someone says, “I’ve read this. It’s good. I think you’d like it. Here, you can borrow it.” Someone takes the book away, reads it, and goes, Ah, I have a new author.

Libraries are good things: you shouldn’t have to pay for every book you read.

I’m one of those authors who is fortunate enough to make my living from the things I’ve written. If I thought that giving books away would make it so that I could no longer make my living from writing and be forced to go out and get a real job — or that other authors would be less likely to be able to make a living — I wouldn’t do it.

Reading American GodsThis was followed by a response to a bookseller worried that by posting his novel online, it would actually take sales away from brick-and-mortar bookstores:

I don’t see this as either “they get it for free” or “they come and buy it from you.” I see it as “Where do you get the people who come in and buy the books that keep you in business from?”

The books you sell have “pass-along” rates. They get bought by one person. Then they get passed along to other people. The other people find an author they like, or they don’t.

When they do, some of them may come in to your book store and buy some paperback backlist titles, or buy the book they read and liked so that they can read it again. You want this to happen.

Just as a bookseller who regards a library as the enemy, because people can go there and read — for free! — what he sells, is missing that the library is creating a pool of people who like and take pleasure in books, will be his customer base, and are out there spreading the word about authors and books they like to other people, some of whom will simply go out and buy it.

If readers find (for free — in a library, or on-line, or by borrowing from a friend, or on a window-sill) an author they really like, and that author has a nice spanking new hardback coming out, they are quite likely to come in to your shop and buy the nice spanking new hardback. You want that to happen. You really want that to happen a lot, because you’ll make more in profit on each of the nice spanking new hardbacks than you will on the paperbacks (or, probably, on anything else in the shop).

Gaiman ends with a note about the sales figures for American Gods during the month that it was posted online for free:

Sales of my titles — all my titles — in Independent Bookshops went up significantly while we had American Gods up here for free. We sold more copies of American Gods. And we sold more copies of everything else. And then, when we took American Gods down, they dropped again, to pre-free book levels.

This seems a counter-intuitive business model, but it is one that has been proven time and again: posting a book online for free download does not hurt physical book sales, and actually gives them quite a boost. Fellow author Cory Doctorow (who actually offers all of his books for free download the day they’re released in dead-tree editions) often cites a quote by Tim O’Reilly that also relates to this issue: “The artist’s enemy isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.”

It is perhaps no coincidence that Gaiman’s young adult novel The Graveyard Book (which won the Newberry Medal, the Carnegie Medal, the Hugo Award, and 14 other major book awards) has been available for free viewing/listening on since its publication and also spent more than fifteen consecutive months on the New York Times Bestseller List.

February 12, 2011 at 9:53 pm 1 comment

Literary Singapore: New Releases

In the past few weeks, there have been a flurry of releases of new literary material from our little red dot:

Ceriph issue no. 2: Technically the third issue (they started with number zero), this new litmag run by Winnie Goh, Wei Fen Lee, and Hans Wong-Jensen continues to get better and better, in terms of both content and design. Published and distributed by Math Paper Press, the issue boasts over 30 contributions of short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and photo essays. Shameless Plug #1: My story “Air is Water is Air” is located on page 114.

Quarterly Literary Review Singapore: Singapore’s national literary journal has published their first issue of 2011 (Vol. 10 No. 1 Jan 2011), with the usual mix of poetry, fiction, essays, and criticism. Contributors include Desmond Kon, Alfian, Sa’at, Wei Fen Lee, Amos Toh, and me. Shameless Plug #2: My story “Taxi Ride” can be read here.

Asymptote: This brand new international journal is “dedicated to literary translation and bringing together in one place the best in contemporary writing.” Founded by Singaporean Lee Yew Leong, with a staff of editors from the US, Palestine, India, France, and Japan, this first issue features writing from or about such notable writers as Du Fu, Mary Gaitskill, Alain de Botton, Aimé Césaire, Ludwik Sztyrmer, Gozo Yoshimasu, as well as many others. Shameless Plug #3: There is no Shameless Plug #3.

February 1, 2011 at 3:51 pm Leave a comment

Authors Covered in Time

Time Cover: FranzenUpper Secondary students who read TIME Magazine during their reading period will see the cover to the right this week, featuring Jonathan Franzen, dubbed by the magazine as “Great American Novelist.” Franzen’s previous novel, The Corrections, made an indelible mark in the American literary landscape when it was released in 2001, and his forthcoming novel, Freedom, is set to do so once again.

Craig Fehrman at litblog The Millions gives a run-down of TIME‘s previous covers featuring living authors, and how each writer was chosen. He also does an interesting job featuring the dilemma that some writers have had in agreeing to be on the cover:

[J]ust about every interaction between TIME and a literary type has been characterized by a waffling between reaching out and selling out that, today, we’d describe as Franzean. Two favorite examples: When Bennett Cerf tried to convince William Faulkner to do a second TIME cover, 15 years after his first, Faulkner asked for an estimate on how much it would add to Random House’s bottom line so that he could simply reimburse the publisher.

Full blog post here.

August 18, 2010 at 10:05 pm Leave a comment

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