Category Archives: Singapore

News: Apply now – Speculative fiction writing workshop on AI futures

From Digital Asia Hub

We’re thrilled to announce a 2-day event, aimed at generating ideas and pieces that explore the present and future of artificial intelligence (AI) and related technologies. Apply to join us!

Part of Digital Asia Hub’s ongoing series exploring “AI in Asia”, this regional workshop is supported by the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative, a joint project of the MIT Media Lab and the Harvard Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society. It incubates a range of research, prototyping, and advocacy activities within these two anchor institutions and across the broader ecosystem of civil society.

The deadline for applications is 12 p.m on 5th December (Singapore time).

Background: Our goal is to expand current thinking around AI and related technologies. AI continues to develop rapidly. More and more we see the use of algorithmic, automated, and autonomous systems. These technologies are poised to have significant effects on people who did not participate in their creation—in some cases they’re already having such effects. We need more voices, minds, and experiences to articulate both real presents and possible futures.

For this project, we focus less on spectacles of utopia or dystopia and more on lived experience, relationship, and community. Of course, everyday life happens within complex social systems shaped by larger institutions of politics and commerce, so we’ll be speculating across scales. We expect this to be a very generative process—we’re excited to see where our collective imagination takes us!

Approach: The weekend’s sessions will be structured around speculative prompts and group work. We will write individually and collaboratively, in an environment of mutual respect and generosity of spirit. Drawing on the book sprint model, by the end of the weekend we expect to have finished writing our volume. We are aiming to launch the volume in early 2019, and have a design and production lined up to help us get there.

You don’t have to identify as a writer to participate. You don’t have to have previously participated in a book sprint. You don’t have to be a specialist in AI technologies. We’re seeking a variety of perspectives and a variety of levels of familiarity with technology, AI and otherwise. We’re seeking people who are excited to think creatively, critically, and collaboratively about the role of technology in human lives. We’re seeking people excited to engage in some serious play.

To apply: Submit your application online using this form. Successful applicants will be notified by 8th December.

The workshop will be facilitated by Dr. Amy Johnson and the Digital Asia Hub team. We are grateful to have the Jacaranda Agency as an event partner and collaborator.

About Amy Johnson:

Amy Johnson explores the use of speculative techniques in writing, research, teaching, and advocacy. A linguistic anthropologist and scholar of science, technology, and society (STS), Dr. Johnson is currently a research fellow at the Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Amherst College, United States and a research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University, United States. Her research examines digital play, language politics, and government use of social media. She is a published writer of both fiction and nonfiction, and her screenplays have been honored in multiple international competitions. She received her PhD from MIT in 2017.

About Digital Asia Hub:

The Digital Asia Hub is an independent, non-profit Internet and society research think tank based in Hong Kong. Incubated by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and a diverse group of academic, civil society, and private sector partners, the Hub provides a non-partisan, open, and collaborative platform for research, knowledge sharing and capacity building related to Internet and Society issues with focus on digital Asia. The Hub also aims to strengthen effective multi- stakeholder discourse, with both local and regional activities, and will contribute to – and itself serve as a node of – a larger network of academic organizations: the Global Network of Internet & Society Centers (the “NoC”).

 

 

Poetry: Proscenium and Last Yarn by Iain Lim Jun Rui

Proscenium and Last Yarn by Iain Lim Jun Rui

Iain Lim

Iain Lim Jun Rui an aspiring poet and filmmaker. A winner of the Love Poetry Competition and finalist in the National Poetry Competition 2017 organised by Poetry Festival Singapore, his poetry is published in ASINGBOL AnthologyEunoia Review and Twin Cities among others. His first documentary short is a finalist at Singapore Heritage Short Film Competition 2017.

News: Turtle City – Cavity Monsters Book Launch at Singapore Writers Festival

By Tienny The

Kitaab Publisher Zafar Anjum Perine Seah

Zafar Anjum, Tienny The and Perine Seah

On Sunday, 4 June, 2018, I was privileged and honoured to have Kitaab Publishing arrange the book launch of Turtle City: Cavity Monsters at the Singapore Writers Festival.

I was thankful for the presence of my mother, husband, son and friends (Jessica Yeo, Kisato, He Shu Xin, Teresa, Katherine Seow, Rusyinni Rusanto, Thomas Tee, Rachel Tee, Jonathan Tee, Evangeline Neo, Winston Chan Boon Hock, and Sherrley Seah) who witnessed the publication of this book. I am also grateful to those who came for the launch to give their kind blessings and support and to Perine Seah who was my moderator as well.

 

The idea of this book was born in 2013 when my son was three years old. Around this time, he began to lose interest in brushing his teeth. It was a great challenge to engage his interest in doing so and many questions flashed in my mind. What if people don’t brush their teeth? What if the teeth are gone? With these, the characters of cavity monsters began to appear in my head. Visual events and story situations flooded my imagination and I shared the story with my son. The story convinced him to take action, to resume the good habit of brushing his teeth. Now he expects more such stories from me. It is a challenge to create series of bedtime stories for him and I have to come up with new ones every day.

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Book review: B-Sides and Backslides by Felix Cheong

Reviewed by Mitali Chakravarty

Felix Cheong - B-Slides and Backslides

Title: B-Sides and Backslides: 1986-2018
Author: Felix Cheong
Publisher: Math Paper Press by Books Actually
Pages: 95
ISBN 978-981-11-7304-2

B-Sides and Backslides is the award-winning Singaporean poet Felix Cheong’s collection panning the development of his poetry from 1986 to 2018.  In the foreword, the poet writes, ‘These are pieces which… could not find their place in my published volumes.’ The title alludes to ‘the flipsides’ of his poetry. He compares them to the B-Sides of Beatles’ albums, which often had songs that were really interesting but not top of the charts. They remain an interesting part of a creative process. However, he claims that he has not ‘blackslid even if it might appear so,’ and in that spirit, his poetry touches our lives with its humour and variety.

The book is divided into different periods of his development as a poet. In “Juvenalia”, the section tracing his development as a poet for the first nine years, he says, ‘In various voices and versions, I have been trying to rewrite Prufrock the past thirty years…’ However, through the course of his poetry we can see how he transcends the torpor of the procrastinating Prufrock (“Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, T. S. Eliot, 1910) and the angst generated by Hollow Men (T. S. Eliot, 1925) to become a caricaturist of Singapore life, politics and culture. In “We are the Salarymen”, with an epigraph of the first two lines of Hollow Men, he concludes,

We maybe the hollow men,
but the least we own
is our honesty to know
we have the means to fill
and fulfil this emptiness,
unlike you,
stuffed fool and full of yourself,
little more than moans and bones
on a high horse galloping
with the weight of a lost world.

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The 2019 Hawker prize for Southeast Asian Poetry

(From Singlitstation. Link to the post given below)

The Hawker Prize for Southeast Asian Poetry invites editors of literary journals based in or who identify with Southeast Asia to nominate poems they believe are deserving of greater recognition.

We want to focus on the independent journals and publications from our region that curate amazing work from around the world; we want to draw attention not just to the poets these journals / publications publish, but to their publishers and editors as well. We decided on the name “Hawker Prize” as it hints at our food-loving regional cultures, and also places an emphasis on the platforms which regularly hawk poetry to hungry and eager readers.

The winning poems will be awarded $1,500, $700 and $300 for the first, second and third place respectively. We will accept works written in English and poems translated into English. Works will be accepted from journals based in or affiliated with Southeast Asia, whether or not the authors of those works are from Southeast Asia.

The winning works will be linked here on the competition website to the journals / publications where they originated from. Special features on the winning journals / publications will also be published to showcase their history and contextualise their efforts in the literary arts, to be rolled out within the third quarter of 2019.

The winning poems of the 2018 Hawker Prize may be read here; our interviews with the winning journals’ editors can be read here.

The Hawker Prize for Southeast Asian Poetry was only made possible due to the donations and grants that we receive as a charity and IPC. We would especially like to thank Rambutan Literary for contributing to our cash pool for the 2018 prize winners; Rambutan Literary prides itself on being an online literary and arts journal dedicated to showcasing work from mainland, maritime and diasporic Southeast Asia and to cultivating Southeast Asian writing and artistic communities.

Read more at the Singlitstation link here

Workshops: Singapore Book Council’s October workshops

SBC

1. Good, Clean Copy – How good editing can make you a great writer

1 OCTOBER 2018 (Mon) | 9:30AM – 5:30PM

Truman Capote famously said: “I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” In fact, many great writers refer to the editing stage as “where the real work happens.” The fine art of editing really can make good writing great and time and time again proves the old adage that less really is more. This workshop looks at distilling and crystallizing your writing to make it shorter, sharper and – most importantly – better. The workshop will include practical exercises and will teach you a number of tried and tested editing techniques. As Dr Seuss says: “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

Suitable for: Writers of any experience level, from both fiction and non-fiction, who want to develop a disciplined approach to their work and gain an understanding of the importance and effectiveness of good editing.

Trainer: Simon Clews – Simon is in great demand as a writing coach and has delivered training around the world, including in Singapore, Canada, the UK, Thailand and Hong Kong. Prior to that he ran the Melbourne Writers’ Festival for fourteen years, as well as a slew of other literary events, including Writers at Como, Writers at the Convent, Stories Alive and Crime & Justice.

Register here or https://academy.bookcouncil.sg/courses/detail/good-clean-copy-how-good-editing-can-make-you-a-great-writer#discount

 

2. The New Self-Publishing – How the entrepreneurial writer can challenge publishing’s status quo

2 OCTOBER 2018 (Tue) |  9:30AM – 5:30PM

There has never been a better time to be a writer; the power balance is shifting away from the traditional gatekeepers, the commercial publishers, and back into the hands of the writers. The traditional publishing process is fast becoming known as ‘legacy publishing’ and the canny writer is reinventing themselves as an entrepreneur with a significant digital presence. As part of this revolution, self-publishing has been reborn and is now a force to be reckoned with. Done properly, the new self-publishing allows the writer to carefully cultivate their audience and deliver a book to them that is a hotly anticipated product, rather than just being a small cog in the machine of the very speculative process that is traditional publishing. But it’s crucial to get this right. This workshop will look at taking advantage of this publishing revolution and avoiding any pitfalls that might come your way.

Suitable for: Writers of any experience level, from both fiction and non-fiction, who are new to self-publishing and who have a specific publishing project in mind.

Trainer: Simon Clews – Simon is in great demand as a writing coach and has delivered training around the world, including in Singapore, Canada, the UK, Thailand and Hong Kong. Prior to that he ran the Melbourne Writers’ Festival for fourteen years, as well as a slew of other literary events, including Writers at Como, Writers at the Convent, Stories Alive and Crime & Justice.

Register here or https://academy.bookcouncil.sg/courses/detail/the-new-self-publishing-how-the-entrepreneurial-writer-can-challenge-publis

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Taking stock of a half-century of service: Singapore Book Council’s William Phuan

(From Publishing Perspectives. Link to the complete article given below)

As the organization’s mission statement reads, the charity was founded in 1968 to address literacy issues in the island nation.

“That mission has since evolved,” according to the company’s media messaging, “into encouraging and supporting local content creation through writing, reading, illustrating and storytelling. The book council’s vision is focused on ‘Building Our Imagine-nation’ by developing creativity, imagination and original thought.

“The book council supports the community at all levels, from language programs for children, to aspiring individuals and professionals like writers, illustrators, storytellers, and relevant industry partners by providing a platform to learn, network, and collaborate. It also organizes events to foster professional and community engagement like the annual Asian Festival of Children’s Content and All In! Young Writers Festival. And it grants prestigious awards, like the Singapore Literature Prize, to recognize and encourage excellence.”

We start by asking Phuan where the organization now finds itself at 50.

Publishing Perspectives: How central to Singapore’s literary life has the Singapore Book Council become in its 50 years of serving the nation?

William Phuan: Singapore Book Council is the longest-running independent nonprofit dedicated to promoting Singapore literature in the four official languages—Chinese, English, Malay and Tamil.

Through its 50 years, the council has constantly and steadfastly played an integral role in literary life here, from the first book fair in 1969—the Festival of Books and Book Fair—to the various awards given out since 1976 to recognize writers and their works, including the country’s national literary award, the Singapore Literature Prize.

We also have provided training over the decades to boost the literary arts sector. And our current #BuySingLit movement [which promotes Singapore’s own authors and publishers] is another way the council has made significant and important contributions to Singapore’s literary life.

While there are many organizations that promote literary art in Singapore, the book council is the only one that has such a long history with good, longstanding relationships with key organizations like the National Arts Council, the National Library Board, the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism, the various book retailers and distributors, and quality local and international trainers.

Read more at the Publishing Perspectives link here

On taboos, touring and cultural representation: Sight/Unseen Asian Drama Conference

(From Arts Equator. Link to the complete article given below)

The Sight/Unseen Asian Drama Conference was a two-day event on 26 – 27 April 2018 at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Tara Arts. Billed as an event to “tackle challenging issues facing playwrights in the UK and in Southeast Asia,” participants came all geared up to discuss issues ranging from minority representation to taboo subjects in the region. The conference was helmed by Cheryl Robson from Aurora Metro Books who, in her opening address, emphasised that the project was a labour of love that took her almost a year to complete. The first-of-its-kind conference also doubled up as a platform for Aurora Metro Books to launch its new collection, British East Asian Plays, which featured works from established playwrights such as Stephen Hoo, Lucy Chai Lai-Tuen, and Daniel York Loh who also served as panellists and participants of the conference.

Before the start of the Southeast Asian Plays and Touring panel discussion, participants noticed that something was amiss: there were supposed to be five panellists instead of four. Panel moderator Aubrey Mellor, Senior Fellow at LASALLE College of the Arts (Singapore), quickly addressed the issue: playwright Chhon Sina (Cambodia) was denied a visa from her home country to leave. You could almost see the thought bubbles emerging from everyone’s head.

The remaining panellists included Asa Palomera (Korea/USA), Joned Suryatmoko (Indonesia), Alfian Sa’at (Singapore) and Ann Lee (Malaysia): all leading playwrights in their respective countries and within Southeast Asia. Right from the get-go, Mellor pointed out that it is important to remember that the context of touring is vastly different in Asia than in western countries. It is important for us to remember that culture holds a greater standing in western countries like the United Kingdom as opposed to Asian countries (essentially Southeast Asia), whose main priorities are generally economy-inclined. Apart from Singapore, most Southeast Asian countries are generally struggling with different sets of issues, such as the political instability and corruption in Malaysia, which was later cited by Ann Lee. These factors ultimately lead to cut in funding towards the cultural sector, therefore making touring a non-feasible option for most artistic organisations. Secondly, there has been an issue of generalising Asia and Asian culture around the world. For example, Mellor explained that comparing the culture of Thailand and Japan and putting them under the classification of “Asian culture” is simply out of the question because of their stark differences. It is also important to point out that most western countries are still unable to identify the individual cultures in Southeast Asian countries today. Most of my friends, for instance, are unable to differentiate a Singaporean from a Cambodian, and regard “Asian culture” as ultimately a shared one across all the countries. Lastly, Mellor pointed out that there seems to be a lack of collaboration between Southeast Asian countries, with most of the collaborative efforts taking place between Malaysia and Singapore—mostly due to the geographical proximity and shared history. It is also important to note that Mellor’s preface was necessary since there is a persisting misconception that ‘Asian’ usually just refers to ‘South Asians’.

Read more at the Arts Equator link here

Book review: Senserly Amako by Anita Thomas

Reviewed by Mitali Chakravarty

Senserly Amako 3

Title: Senserly Amako
Author: Anita Thomas
Total number of pages: 269
Publisher: Simurg
Price: Rs 249/-

 

Senserly Amako by Anita Thomas has been described by the author as a ‘scrap-book journal of the “growing up” years (seven to eleven, in this instance)’. Written in the epistolary technique, it consists of a series of phone messages, sketches and emails from a young boy who calls himself Amako, a name he has devised for himself, derived from the ‘mackerel shark’. Drawings of the shark splatter the book and give it an interesting perspective.

Amako grows up with loving parents, a house help from Philippines called Essie, a dog, and a cat. He writes of his life in Singapore, travels in Australia, England and India. The author has taken the persona of a young boy to give a child’s perspective of the world around him, which is refreshing and humorous; for instance, the child defines ‘amber’ (pg 52) as ‘that spewy thing that catches flies’. There are bad jokes as only a child would crack, his reaction to his mother disciplining him, his perception of his school, teachers and friends, religion, his immense love for his father and his interactions with grandparents living overseas.

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Country of Focus: Singapore

Book Review: Horizon Afar and Other Tamil Stories
by Jayanthi Sankar

Reviewed by Mitali Chakravarty

Horizon Afar

Title: Horizon Afar & other Tamil short stories
Author: Jayanthi Sankar
Translated by P. Muralidharan
Publisher: Kitaab, 2016
Pages: 230

Horizon Afar is a collection of twenty-one translated short stories from the Singapore-based Tamil writer, Jayanthi Sankar. Spanning the last two decades, the stories shuttle between life in Singapore and India, creating links between the two countries and drawing on the writer’s multicultural experiences and interactions in the country where she lives.

Often her stories centre on teenagers and young people. The title story is about a teenager who shuttles through a surrealistic experience to find his footing in junior college (high school in Singapore). The most interesting read was a darker story, Mother’s Words, which deals with a reformed convict who is ostracized by the world yet loved by the mother.

A Few Pages from Yuka Wong’s Diary depicts the changing mindset of a multicultural population and their ability to transcend hatred to discover a fascination for a country that had unscrupulous expansionist ambitions in the 1940’s Japan.  The story is told through the pages of a young girl’s diary and makes an interesting and effective use of the device.

Melissa’s Choices is about a young man’s discovery of the fickleness of a young girl’s choices. School Bag, Revelation and Rehearsal are stories about teenagers’ journeys of discoveries in a multicultural society. Seventy Rupees, set in the midst of an auto-rickshaw strike in India, is a glimpse of the apathy of middle class towards the plight of the poor.

The stories often circle around the tedium of modern day existence and focus on the darker aspects of life. The issues faced by workers ‘imported’ from small villages of Tamil Nadu are dealt with in a couple of stories. While Cycle focuses on a flesh trader located in Singapore preying on an innocent Tamil migrant woman, Migration deals with an Indian domestic helper’s inability to adjust in Singapore. There are stories about unwed mothers, a girl who rebels to adopt a trans-sexual lifestyle, university life, school life and marriages arranged within the Tamil community in Singapore.

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