At this year’s Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC), during the Celebrating Our Stars event graced by Member of State, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Ministry of Education, Ms Sim Ann, I had the privilege of speaking about the significant growth of the Singaporean children’s literature scene. In my presentation, I gave a snapshot of our progress and highlighted the multilingual children’s books published in 2013.
Here is a detailed write up about my observations of the Little Lit landscape in Singapore.
Singaporean Children’s Literature Scene: Growing by Leaps and Bounds [Part 1]2013 was a phenomenal year for the Singaporean children’s literature scene, with a bumper crop of 80 multilingual children’s books being published. Two of my titles – my first bilingual picture book, the Asian Spice Kids: Star Anise, Superstar, and Dou Dou: the Little Imperial Chef – have made it into the Singapore little lit cannon too. The quantity and quality of publications is significant, considering that we are a small nation, and that our scene is still pretty nascent.
2013 – New Titles and New Writers
The year has seen many first-time authors bursting onto the scene. Their books have added breadth and depth into the picture book and chapter book categories, while filling the void in the middle grade and young adult (YA) book categories. Many of them are prolific writers including new YA author Maranna Chan, who has published five teen mysteries in one year!
A few first-time authors are students, including YA fiction writer, Gaby Tye of Run, and picture book author-cum-illustrator Gelyn Ong of The Forest Fable. 2013 has also been a year of collaborations. We see titles produced by husband-wife team, [http://http://sherlocksam.wordpress.com/] A J Low of Sherlock Sam,and mother-daughter team, Lesley-Anne Tan and Monica Lim of Danger Dan.
(A) Contributing Factors: Putting Singapore on the Children’s Literature Map
The exponential growth of authors and publications has not happened overnight. Several factors have collectively helped put Singapore on the children’s literature map.
(i) Singaporean Children’s Literature Champion: National Book Development Council
Our key advocate, the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS), actively champions Singaporean children’s literature and nurtures our authors through its annual conference, the AFCC, year-round workshops and programmes.
(ii) Government Initiatives, Funding & Grant Schemes
The initiatives and funding schemes introduced by the Media Development Authority (MDA), the National Arts Council (NAC), and other commissioning bodies, have also supported publishers and authors in the creation, production and promotion of our books locally and globally. These stakeholders have also organised writing competitions to encourage aspiring authors to pen original children’s manuscripts.
(iii) Greatest Milestone
The most impactful and effective writing competition was the First-Time Writers/Illustrators Award, jointly organised by NBDCS and MDA. This initiative, launched in 2006, ran for four years, with the final competition running in 2009. Eight years on, this initiative has yielded fruit. Almost a third of the First-Time Writers Award recipients are still contributing to the Singapore little lit canon. And most significantly, it has produced prominent authors who have helped pave the way for emerging new authors.