LITTLE LIT AUTHOR: DAVID SEOW [PART 3]

This is part of the “Little Lit Author’s First…” series. Today we are continuing with Part 3 of  the interview with one of  Singapore’s first authors of children’s literature – David Seow. 

 

~ SINGAPOREAN CHILDREN’S LITERATURE SCENE IN THE FUTURE ~ 

Linn Shekinah: What do you think of the future of our children’s literature [publishing, writing, distribution, selling] scene? How would you like to evolve as a writer? 

David Seow: I think the children’s publishing scene here has come a long way but it’s still got a long way to go, but it’s getting there.

I work with an amazing editor, Sheri Tan, and my publisher, Epigram Books, publishes some of the most stunning books around. They’ve even managed to get my books for sale online at Waterstones, Foyles and Amazon.

And my distributor, Closetful of Books is doing a great job of arranging school visits for me and getting some of my titles into bookstores.

As mentioned, I think the team at the National Book Council is doing a tremendous job and it’s not an easy job either. But they manage to outdo themselves year after year and I think their accomplishments are largely overlooked by most, sadly.

Every year they bring in literary heavyweights such as Sally Gardner, Wendy Orr, Leonard Marcus and Chris Cheng, and while they’re here they’re introduced to local children’s literature, which they would not be otherwise. They also promote our books when they go abroad to book fairs in countries like India, China, London and Bologna, Italy. So they are doing everything in their power to get our books out there.

As a writer, you always want to grow. Just as I want to become a better person, I also want to become a better writer with each passing day, month, and year. Writing like life is always changing, always evolving and always unpredictable.

 

Linn Shekinah: How do you wish to be remembered as a writer? 

David Seow: I would say I’d like to be remembered and as the enfant terrible of children’s picture books.

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Little Lit Author: David Seow [Part 2]

This is part of the “Little Lit Author’s First…” series. Today we are continuing with Part 2 of  the interview with one of  Singapore’s first authors of children’s literature – David Seow. 

 

~ HIS VICTORIES & CHILDREN’S PUBLISHING SCENE ~ 

Linn Shekinah:  What are some of the greatest highlights or memorable moments in your writing career?

David Seow: The highlights would include:

  1. There's Soup On My Fly by David SeowMy book  “There’s Soup on My Fly” being shortlisted for the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award and then having it dramatized at the Literature Lecture at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content. It was also adapted for the stage [watch trailer] by  the Learning Connections last year.
  2. Seaking on panels with Shamini Flint, Emily Lim, David Almond and John Dougherty.
  3. Being represented by the lovely agents of Jacaranda Literary
David Almond, Emily Lim John Dougherty and David Seow

David Almond, Emily Lim John Dougherty and David Seow @ Singapore Writers Festival

Linn Shekinah:  How has the Singapore children’s publishing and writing scene evolved since you started? Do you think today’s children’s writers have it easier since there are so many intervention measures [grant schemes, awards, workshops, festivals etc] available?  

David Seow: Yes. writers today have it much easier. There was practically no support system in place when I started. Things first started changing with the MDA’s First Time Writers and Illustrators Initiative, which saw a slew of first time writers being published. Now you have the amazing Asian Festival of Children’s Content and the All in Young Writers Festival, which provide aspiring authors and illustrators the opportunity to meet and pitch their story ideas to agents and publishers.

I think the Book Council has played a huge part in changing the landscape of children’s literature in Singapore in recent years. When I started writing, the children’s book scene here was still in its infancy. But thanks to The Director and Deputy Director of the Book Council, Mr Ramachandran and Kenneth Quek, it’s moving on into young adulthood.

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Little Lit Author: David Seow [Part 1]

This is part of the “Little Lit Author’s First…” series.  I will kickstart this series with one of Singapore’s first authors of children’s literature. 

 

David Seow

David Seow is brave, very brave. He plunged into an almost non-existent industry and has worked as a full-time children’s author for the past 14 years.  He persevered and with over 20 well-received titles published, has proven himself worthy to be called a pioneer in the Singaporean children’s literature scene.

In this interview, David Seow, an award-nominated children’s book author, tells us which books are his favourites out of the 20 he has penned, and talks about his setbacks and victories, and his thoughts on the children’s publishing scene and what the future holds for him.

 

David Seow ~  Something about yourself that people do not know~   

I usually assume a different persona from my real self because I only show my real self to the few friends whom I trust completely.

 Loves ~  Something that you enjoy besides writing for children ~

I love meeting stars, celebrities and VIPs. So far, I’ve met  Prince Albert of Monaco, Hillary Clinton, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Ali Larter of ‘Heroes’, Kris Allen of ‘American Idol’ and Jason Mraz.

David Seow and Prince Albert of Monaco with the Littlest Emperor

David Seow and Prince Albert of Monaco with the Littlest Emperor

David Seow and Hillary Clinton with Monkey, the Classic Chinese Adventure Tale

David Seow and Hillary Clinton with Monkey, the Classic Chinese Adventure Tale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Lit ~ Your three [3] favourite books that you have penned ~  

DavidSeow-Book-BlueKangarooBlue Kangaroo is a favourite of mine. It’s a simple rhyming story that’s been underrated I think.

 

 

DavidSeow-EmmasElephant

 

 

 

Emma’s Elephant is also another favourite book of mine. It was written with conservation in mind. I have to say that I love the Typset for the title. It’s very imaginative!

 

DavidSeow-ADaywithDuchessOf course “A Day with the Duchess”. Well, what can I say but I love Kate!

 

 

 

 

 

 

~ DAVID SEOW’S THOUGHTS ABOUT THE PAST ~  

Linn Shekinah: You started writing at a time where there were very few children’s writers and writing events. How did you learn the ropes about the publishing industry then? How did you hone your craft? How did you stay connected with other writers?

David Seow: I started writing books when I used to babysit my niece and nephews who were all under the age of six. My youngest nephew came along a year after I started writing. There were very few stories about children set in Singapore at the time. I didn’t expect to have the stories published. I just wrote the stories to entertain the kids.

But when a publisher offered me a contract. I had to learn the ropes the hard way, by trial and error. I hardly knew what I was doing. It was quite a lonely experience as I did not have any networking opportunities and I basically just kept to myself. I wish I had known about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators back then.

 

Linn Shekinah: What keeps you going after all these years?

David Seow: Well, after all this time it’s the only thing I seem to do relatively well. Boy, do I sound sad and pathetic!

 

Linn Shekinah: You said it is hard to get published but it is even harder after you get published. Why is that so? So how do you overcome the challenges in your writing career?

David Seow: A lot of aspiring authors seem to think the goal is getting published. Getting published is part of the journey, not the destination.

Once your book is out there, it has to compete with other books in the genre for space on the bookstore shelves, in newspaper and magazine reviews and most importantly for the attention of your specified audience. It’s a constant uphill battle. The only way to get any recognition is to write more books, but then again it’s a struggle to get those books into the stores as well. For the most part, it feels like a Sisyphean task.

As an author you can never overcome the challenges, but you have to learn to live with them. It’s tough but I’m grateful that I have a handful of great friends and a very supportive family who put up with me and that’s not easy.

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Singaporean Children’s Literature Scene: Growing by Leaps and Bounds [Part 2]

This is part 2 of a detailed write up of the Little Lit landscape in Singapore which I briefly shared at Asian Festival Children’s Content 2014. You can read Part 1 here.

 

(B) Benefits of a Growing Children’s Literature Scene

(i) Growing Local Readership and Fan base

Linn Shekinah at Asian Festival Children's Content [AFCC] 2014

Linn Shekinah at Asian Festival Children’s Content [AFCC] 2014

We have come a long way. Today, many local books have found their ways into the hands of many young local readers. Not only can local readers relate to the characters and stories set in familiar local contexts, they also support their favourite local authors by voting for them in contests such as Popular’s Readers’ Choice Awards and the Red Dot Book Awards. This marks a stamp of approval and recognition for our authors.

(ii) Growing Influence Locally and Regionally

The books of our “pioneers” such as David Seow and Shamini Flint, multiple-international award-winner Emily Lim and best-selling author Adeline Foo have caught the attention of literary agents and foreign publishers in Australia, China, Korea, India, Indonesia and Malaysia and so on. More authors have been invited to speak at overseas literary festivals and some have won regional writing competition.

(iii) Growing Value & Appreciation of Children’s Books

Increasingly, organisations see the power of the written word and the value of picture books. Some organisations have adopted a more attractive approach to reach out to the young by commissioning local authors to spin a tale, interwoven with some of their corporate messages.

Just last year, National Parks Board celebrated their 50th anniversary with the launch of a middle grade book Secrets of the Swamp by Neil Humphrey. Ministry of Social and Family Development commissioned Emily Lim to write four picture books [The Best Recipe for Tofu; I Want to be a Cheese Taster etc] about the rights of the child. The Housing Development Board commissioned Ho Lee Ling to write a story, “Maddie Makes Friends” for all preschoolers and primary school students.

The print edition of the commissioned books is usually distributed to schools, making their content readily available to students. Sometime a digital version of these books is downloadable. This move cultivates the public’s appreciation in children’s books.

Indeed, the Singaporean children’s literature scene has grown by leaps and bounds. With such growth in 2013, who knows what good news the future will bring?

 Part 1>>

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Singaporean Children’s Literature Scene: Growing By Leaps and Bounds [Part 1]

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]

[from Left to Right] Minister of Education, Miss Sim Ann, Linn Shekinah and Mr Rama of National Book Development Council

[from Left to Right] Minister of Education, Ms Sim Ann, Linn Shekinah and Mr Rama of National Book Development Council

 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.

Part 2>>

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