By Mitali Chakravarty

IMG_0683

 

Title: Reluctant Editor

Author: PN Balji

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish, 2019

 

The Reluctant Editor has a forward by the prominent Singaporean lawyer and diplomat, Professor Tommy Koh, which tells us that the author, P N Balji “is one of Singapore’s veteran newspaper journalists and editors, and a very good one”. The narrative is not just an account of the Singapore media seen through the eyes of a veteran journalist as stated obviously on the book cover, but also a quick sketch of a man who is introverted and self-effacing.

We do not find the author talk much of himself or his work, but he does give an extensive report on the media history from the early 1970s to the early 2000s in Singapore, including episodes like the Toh Chin Chye case, where a false allegation was made in a newspaper report on an ex-minister of Singapore. PN Balji had been in editorial positions in The Straits Times (ST), The New Paper (TNP) and the founding Editor-in-Chief of Today.

The historic evolution of all the newspapers in Singapore and the government’s involvement in monitoring the media is clearly spelt out — even to the point of deciding what kind of newspapers were necessary for communicating with people. Described as a “brash” newspaper, The New Paper was started to bridge the gap between those who read and comprehended the one hundred and seventy-one-year-old newspaper, The Straits Times, and the people who don’t understand the ST. The New Paper was started to “speak the language of blue-collar workers”. A tabloid and later a morning daily, it needed a set of different writing skills as Professor Koh tells us in the foreword. His article in simple English had to be rewritten by the editor to make it comprehensible for the readers of TNP.

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This November hosts a number of literary festivals in the first week.  The Singapore Writers’ Festival, the Hong Kong International Literary festival and now Macau has announced another literary festival from November 5 th to 7 th.

The Macau festival even has an event in conjunction with Cha, An Asian Journal, the first literary English online magazine with its base in Hongkong.

The 12th annual gathering of APWT the Asia Pacific’s largest and longest-running network of writers, translators, editors and publishers will feature authors from a host of nations across the Asia Pacific will be joining us including Behrooz Boochani, Omid Tofighian, Tim Baker, Melanie Mununggurr Williams, Linh Dinh, Aaron Chapman, Alan Vaarwek, Ashwani Kumar and Elizabeth Woods, as well as Macau authors such as Jenny Lao-Phillips, and Portuguese author Valério Romão. 

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.

Singapore journalist Clara Chow will launch a collection of short stories put togther in a book titled Dream Storeys on November 6, during the Singapore Writers Festival 2016.

The book is a result of interviews and interactions with 12 prominent and emerging local architects – such as President’s Design Award winner Tan Kok Hiang, National University of Singapore School of Design and Environment senior lecturer Nirmal Kishnani, and Genome Architects principal Yen Yen Wu – that gave Clara an insight in to what were the imaginary structures they longed to construct. The author, then wrote short stories set in these dream buildings.

 

Dream Storey’s nine genre-bending stories include a touching tale in a prelapsarian tree house that is both old folks’ home and orphanage, an almost-love story set in an underground city, and a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style fable revolving around a serum that changes human behaviour. An action-packed epilogue reimagines the Singapore Flyer as a political prison.

Desmond Kon
Desmond Kon

Fresh from his double win at this year’s Beverly Hills International Book Awards, Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé has been named a silver medalist at The 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY). This win, in the Multicultural Fiction category, is for his novel, Singular Acts of Endearment (Squircle Line Press & Grey Sparrow Press), which was launched at last year’s Singapore Writers Festival. Monona Wali’s My Blue Skin Lover (Blue Jay Ink) takes the gold, while Chantel Acevedo’s A Falling Star (Carolina Wren Press) walks away with the bronze.

Singapore Writers Festival (SWF), Singapore’s most anticipated literary event, is back this year with an exciting line-up of authors and programmes centred around the theme ‘The Prospect of Beauty’, which promises to celebrate beauty in writing, literature and the world around us.

SWF

 

From left to right: Festival Director, Paul Tan; Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information; Philip Jeyaretnam, Chairman, SWF Steering Committee

Held from 31 October to 9 November, the Festival features a riveting line-up of over 200 Singapore and international writers participating in more than 280 events that comprise panel discussions, lectures, poetry readings, literary meals, film screenings and more.

In its 17th edition, this year’s Festival boasts some of the world’s literary greats such as Paul Theroux, American travel writer and novelist; leading figure in the feminist movement, social critic and political activist Naomi Wolf; Raymond E. Feist, science fiction and fantasy author; Karen Joy Fowler, best-selling writer and most recently long-listed for the Man Booker Prize; Irish poet Paul Muldoon, winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; three-time US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky; Jonathan Lethem, best known for his genre- bending fiction; Barry Lopez, often regarded as the most important living writer on nature and human culture; William T. Vollmann, American journalist, novelist and war correspondent; and prolific women’s fiction author Adele Parks.

Commenting on this year’s line-up and programming, Festival Director Paul Tan shares, “The Festival stays true to its mission to inspire, excite and engage fans of the literary arts through thought-provoking topics and diverse programming. We hope this year’s offerings will bring readers back to basics – by reminding them to take pleasure in the lyrical beauty of words, a well-formed poem, or an immersive novel.”

He adds, “In recent years, the Festival has also evolved into a platform for the lively exchange of ideas and opinions. This year, we want our audiences to think about timely and hard-hitting topics, such as morality in literature, the trade-offs between the environment and economic development, and society’s unrealistic ideals of female beauty. We have also introduced more experiential programmes inspired by the written word and beyond – from interactive theatre to spoken word, poetry and jazz – that promise unique and stimulating experiences for our festival-goers.”