Epigram Books Blog
We are excited to announce that Sonny Liew's acclaimed graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye has received six nominations in the 2017 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, topping the list for the most nominations this year.
The US edition of his book has been nominated in the following categories:
- Best Graphic Album
- Best U.S. Edition of International Material–Asia
- Best Writer/Artist
- Best Coloring
- Best Lettering, and
- Best Publication Design
The Singapore edition published by Epigram Books has previously won a number of local awards, including Book of the Year at the 2016 Singapore Book Awards, and Best Fiction Title at the Singapore Literature Prize in the same year. The US edition made The New York Times Bestseller list for graphic novels, as well as numerous year-end must-read lists by overseas publications such as The Economist and The Washington Post.
The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards is widely considered as the comic book industry's equivalent of the Oscars, and this year's nominees involve 120 titles from 50 publishers worldwide.
We'd like to congratulate Sonny for this historic achievement, and wish him the very best come July.
For more information on the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards 2017, please visit the San Diego Comic-Con International website at https://www.comic-con.org/awards/eisner-awards-current-info.
When we first mooted the idea of an early reader series on Singapore’s cultural diversity, one thought garnered the most animated reaction among the Epigram Books editorial team: how do we respond to the most awkward questions children ask?
Many adults, particularly parents of young children, would have gone through this: you’re in a lift with your child, who is unabashedly staring at a stranger riding with you, and the kid suddenly blurts out, “Mummy, why does the Indian lady have a dot on her forehead?”
Cue surprised shushing, embarrassed apology and a hasty exit as soon as the doors open.
Since we started promoting the Understanding Singaporeans book series, we’ve received queries about why we picked such titles as “Why Do Malays Avoid Pork”.
To be honest, we had very much the same concerns while debating the merits of these titles. To alleviate those concerns, we made sure to run through the books’ content through various focus groups sourced from representative ethnic communities and associations to ensure that any sensitivities are adequately addressed.
As for the titles, we ultimately chose questions that might best represent what our children can best relate to and would most likely ask, not to mention that they would also grab the attention of adults enough to spark a much-needed conversation on race and religion.
We’d like to ask that you see the Understanding Singaporeans series with the eyes, mind and innocence of a child, so that you can understand how children might come up with these questions in the first place. While we acknowledge that a four-book series written for 5- to 8-year-olds can only scratch the surface of an otherwise complex topic, we hope this series can help adults address at least some of our children’s awkward questions with more confidence.
Most of all, we hope this series can be the starting point for our children to understand the diversity of our country better, so that they can grow up to be more understanding Singaporeans themselves.
Understanding Singaporeans is a series of four books, each containing 20 questions commonly asked by children on one of four representative ethnicities—Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian.The books are available at all major Singapore bookstores, and online at shop.epigrambooks.sg.
Epigram Books is happy to announce that two of its picture book titles—Grandma and the Things That Stay the Same and Don’t Be Sorry, Dad!—have been shortlisted for the inaugural AFCC Asian Children’s Book Awards 2017 by Genting Singapore.
Grandma and the Things That Stay the Same, written by Eve Aw and illustrated by Yunroo was released during the Chinese New Year period in 2016. The book is about a family whose grandmother asks the same questions as she would at their reunion dinner every year, highlighting the comfort that our elders shower on us through their consistent care and concern.
South Korean illustrator and printmaker Nari Hong’s Don’t Be Sorry, Dad!, translated from the Korean, tells the story of a empathic daughter who continuously reassures her paraplegic father that he is very much a loving dad to her, despite them not being able to do things other children might get to do with their parents.
The Asian Children’s Book Awards gives equal recognition to writers, illustrators and translators, offering a total of S$30,000 for the winning work: S$10,000 for the writer(s), S$10,000 for the illustrator(s), and S$10,000 for the translator(s) or the publisher as an English translation grant for the winning book.
A total of six titles have been shortlisted for the Awards, including picture books from Taiwan and Japan.
The winners of the AFCC Asian Children’s Book Awards will be officially announced at Indonesia Night during the 2017 Asian Festival of Children’s Content on Friday, 19 May 2017.
For more information about the AFCC Asian Children's Book Awards, please visit http://bookcouncil.sg/awards/afcc-asian-childrens-book-award.
We are happy to announce that ten of our titles have been shortlisted over five award categories in the 2017 Singapore Book Awards. They are:
Best Book Cover Design
Best Illustrated Non-Fiction Title
Best Fiction Title
Best Middle Grade/Young Adult Title
- Danger Dan and Gadget Girl: The Animal Abduction
- Mount Emily Revisited
- Sherlock Sam and the Quantum Pair in Queenstown
Best Children’s Picture Book
The Singapore Book Awards is an industry award for books published in Singapore. Into its third edition, the awards shine the spotlight on the quality of published works and celebrate the achievements of the local publishing industry.
Epigram Books also had ten nominations for the 2016 edition of the Awards, and took home four awards, including Best Fiction Title for Amanda Lee Koe's Ministry of Moral Panic, Best Young Adults' Title for Chew Chia Shao Wei's The Rock And The Bird, and Sonny Liew's The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye for Book Of The Year. A special cover edition of Sonny's graphic novel also won Best Book Cover Design.
This year’s award winners will be announced at an Awards Ceremony to be held on the evening of Thursday, 20 April 2017 at the Pan Pacific Singapore.
Epigram Books in the running for Bologna Prize for Best Children’s Publisher of the Year for the second time
SINGAPORE, 2 MARCH 2017 — Epigram Books has been shortlisted once again for the Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publishers of the Year, which will be presented at the 54th Bologna Children’s Book Fair from 3 to 6 April this year.
“We’re doubly honoured to be nominated once again for the prize,” said Edmund Wee, Publisher and CEO of Epigram Books. “We are introducing Singapore fiction to the world through our recently set up London office. We hope this nomination will expose our children’s book authors and illustrators to the world as well.”
Nominated for the second year by publisher associations worldwide and 2017 fair exhibitors, Epigram Books, founded in 2011 to champion Singaporean literature, have published over 100 Singapore children’s and young adult titles, with more than 40 new titles scheduled for this year. Notable titles include the popular Amos Lee series, which has sold a total of 240,000 copies, and the Sherlock Sam series, which has sold over 63,000 copies and is currently being adapted into an animated TV series.
Three picture books published in 2016, Karung Guni Boy by Lorraine Tan and Eric Wong, Grandma and The Things That Stay the Same by Eve Aw and Yunroo, and Emma & Ginger Book 3: Dad’s at Home by Lily Kong and Jeanette Yap, have been sent to Bologna for the judging process.
The Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publishers of the Year, now in its fifth year, rewards creative, innovative publishers based on “the editorial projects, professional skills and intellectual qualities of work produced by publishing houses all over the world”.
Nominees are shortlisted into six categories organised by region: Asia, Africa, Central-South America, Europe, North America, and Oceania. Prize winners are determined by publishing houses, international publishers’ associations as well as cultural institutions taking part in the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.
Epigram Books is the only publisher from Singapore in the Asian category. Others in the shortlist are Borim Press from South Korea, Kaisei-Sha Publishing and One Stroke from Japan, and Karadi Tales from India.
SINGAPORE, 24 NOVEMBER 2016— Epigram Books is pleased to announce the winner of this year’s Epigram Books Fiction Prize—research associate Nuraliah Norasid.
The first-time author was unveiled by the publisher and CEO of Epigram Books, Edmund Wee this evening at an Award Ceremony and Gala Dinner held at Pan Pacific Hotel. The $25,000 first prize is Singapore’s richest literary award and comes with a publishing contract.
Her manuscript, The Gatekeeper, tells the story of a ten-year-old gorgon girl named Ria, who petrifies an entire village of innocents with her gaze. Together with her sister, she flees the jungle of Manticura to the underground city of Nelroote, where society’s marginalised members live. Years later, the subterranean habitat is threatened when Ria, now the gatekeeper, befriends a man from the outside.
The three other finalists, author O Thiam Chin (Fox Fire Girl), architect Tham Cheng-E (Surrogate Protocol) and author/translator Jeremy Tiang (State of Emergency) will each receive $5,000 for their submissions.
All four manuscripts will be published by Epigram Books next year. Wee said, “These stories will power the imagination for generations to come, and we hope the authors never stop telling them.”
This year’s competition drew 52 entries. The judges were Prof Philip Holden, Department of English Language and Literature in the National University of Singapore, Constance Singam, civil society activist and former president of the women’s rights group AWARE, Haresh Sharma, resident playwright, The Necessary Stage and Wee.
At the gala dinner, Wee also announced that Epigram Books had started publishing in London “so that we can bring the wealth of Singaporean literature to the world.” The first UK title is expected in May 2017.
For media enquiries, please contact:
SINGAPORE, 10 NOVEMBER 2016— Epigram Books is pleased to announce the shortlist for the 2016 Epigram Books Fiction Prize. The finalists are, in alphabetical order:
Nuraliah Norasid’s submission The Gatekeeper is a fantasy novel about Ria who petrified an entire village when she was ten. She flees with her gorgon sister to an underground city where she becomes its guardian. Years later, the refuge is threatened when she befriends a man from the outside.
Nuraliah is a research associate in an organisation that examines socio-religious issues in Singapore. She has a doctorate in English Literature and Creative Writing from Nanyang Technological University. Her writing has appeared in the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore.
O Thiam Chin’s entry Fox Fire Girl is the spell-binding tale of a spirited girl from Ipoh who resorts to spinning yarns to both her lovers to hide the truth about herself—before disappearing.
Thiam Chin won last year’s prize with his first novel Now That It’s Over. He has also published five short story collections, including Love, Or Something Like Love which was shortlisted for the 2014 Singapore Literature Prize for English Fiction. He was an honorary fellow of the Iowa International Writing Program in 2010 and an NAC Young Artist winner in 2012.
Tham Cheng-E’s manuscript is a piece of speculative fiction set in an alternate Singapore where hidden among the citizens are “immortals” pursued by a mysterious organisation bent on killing them after having given them such long lives in the first place; Surrogate Protocol is the story of the hunt for one of these Chronomorphs.
Tham is an architect with a statutory board. He writes about the special needs community for the online magazine Special Seeds, and maintains a family blog on parenting and Down syndrome.
Jeremy Tiang’s entry, State of Emergency, spans the guerilla war years of the Malayan Emergency in the late 1940s through the 1965 MacDonald House bombing and the 1987 Marxist Conspiracy to the present day as an extended family comes to terms with its leftist leaning members.
Jeremy is the author of the short story collection It Never Rains on National Day, a finalist in the English Fiction category of this year’s Singapore Literature Prize. He has also translated many books from Chinese, including novels by You Jin and Yeng Pway Ngon.
“All the shortlisted manuscripts are impressive in their ambition and scope. The stories will be familiar to the Singaporean reader in terms of time and place, history and language. Yet, each work has stunning surprises and poignant revelations, demonstrating the writers’ mastery over their narrative and storytelling,” says Haresh Sharma, resident playwright at The Necessary Stage, and one of the judges for this year’s prize.
The other judges are Professor Philip Holden from the Department of English Language and Literature at the National University of Singapore, Constance Singam, author, activist and former president of the women’s rights group AWARE, and Edmund Wee, publisher and CEO of Epigram Books.
The winner will be announced at an award ceremony and gala dinner on 24 November 2016 at the Pan Pacific Singapore.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Marketing Manager | Epigram Books
Tel: (+65) 6292 4456
Marketing Executive | Epigram Books
Tel: (+65) 6292 4456
SINGAPORE, 13 OCTOBER 2016—Epigram Books is pleased to announce the longlist for its 2016 Fiction Prize.
Ten out of the 50 participants have been longlisted. The authors are (in alphabetical order):
Ning Cai was an award-winning illusionist and escape artist. She has co-authored a book Adventures of 2 Girls based on her nine-month travels around the world with her best friend. Her memoir Who is Magic Babe Ning? was a finalist in the English Non-Fiction category of this year’s Singapore Literature Prize.
Grace Chia is an editor and author of several books, including Every Moving Thing That Lives Shall Be Food, womango, The Cuckoo Conundrum, and Cordelia which was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize for Poetry in 2014. She was the first NAC-NTU Writer-in-Residence from 2011 to 2012.
Warran Kalasegaran graduated from the University of Tokyo with a Master’s degree in Public Policy. He also studied Politics with International Studies at the University of Warwick.
Lau Siew Mei is the author of two novels, Playing Madame Mao and The Dispeller of Worries, and a children’s illustrated chapter book, Yin’s Magic Dragon. Her stories have been broadcast on the BBC World Service and ABC Radio National, and published in literary journals around the world. She was born in Singapore but migrated to Australia in 1994.
Pauline Loh has been writing professionally for more than two decades. She is the author of numerous books, largely non-fiction titles and children’s picture books, including the Little Red Helicopter. She is also a director of a non-profit organisation called Women Empowered for Work and Mothering.
Andrew Ngin lectures on Screenwriting for Film and Television in Temasek Polytechnic for the Diploma in Moving Images. He wrote the script for the first season of Fighting Spiders, and was one of the key writers for two well-known local television series Under One Roof and Growing Up.
Nuraliah Norasid is currently a research associate with an organisation that looks largely into socio-religious issues in Singapore. She has a Ph.D in English Literature and Creative Writing from Nanyang Technological University. Her writing has been anthologised and has appeared in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore.
O Thiam Chin won last year’s prize with his first novel Now That It’s Over. He is the author of five short story collections, including Love, Or Something Like Love which was shortlisted for the 2014 Singapore Literature Prize for English Fiction. He was an honorary fellow of the Iowa International Writing Program in 2010 and an NAC Young Artist winner in 2012.
Tham Cheng-E is an architect who also writes about the special needs community for the online magazine Special Seeds during his spare time, and maintains a family blog on parenting and Down syndrome.
Jeremy Tiang is the author of the short story collection It Never Rains on National Day, which was shortlisted in the English Fiction category of this year’s Singapore Literature Prize. He has also translated more than ten books from Chinese, including novels by You Jin and Yeng Pway Ngon.
“We are very encouraged by this year’s entries,” said Edmund Wee, Publisher and CEO of Epigram Books. “The longlist is just as diverse in genre as it is commendable in quality. We will no doubt have a tough time picking out the shortlist.”
The shortlist will be released early next month and the winner will be announced at an award ceremony and gala dinner to be held at the Pan Pacific Singapore on November 24, 2016.
The judges for this year’s prize are Philip Holden, professor at the Department of English Language and Literature in the National University of Singapore; Haresh Sharma, a 2015 Cultural Medallion winner and resident playwright for The Necessary Stage; Constance Singam, author, activist and former president of the women’s rights group AWARE, and Wee himself.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Marketing Manager | Epigram Books
Tel: (+65) 6292 4456
Marketing Executive | Epigram Books
Tel: (+65) 6292 4456
Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2016 manuscript submission closed with 52 submissions on 8 September 2016, attracting 50 participants this year, with 52% men and 48% women participants. The average participating age is 38 years old, with youngest at 15 years old, and oldest at 74 years old.
Stats at a glance:
The shortlist for Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2016 will be announced at the end of October, with the winner named in the award ceremony on the 24th November 2016 at Pan Pacific Singapore.
For more information about the Epigram Books Fiction Prize, please visit http://ebfp.epigrambooks.sg.
Conducted by Jason Erik Lundberg
On 13 July 2016, Epigram Books hosted a forum called “The Great Singaporean Novel: Fantasy or Reality?” at The Projector in Golden Mile Tower. The discussion was moderated by Adrian Tan (The Teenage Textbook), and featured our 2015 Epigram Books Fiction Prize winning and shortlisted authors: O Thiam Chin (Now That It’s Over), Wong Souk Yee (Death of a Perm Sec) and Sebastian Sim (Let’s Give It Up for Gimme Lao!); I was on the panel as well, representing Balli Kaur Jaswal (Sugarbread) at her request, since I am the book’s editor and she is currently out of the country.
In addition to being a compelling and empathetic portrayal of a young Punjabi Sikh girl growing up in Singapore in the 1990s, Sugarbread is also a celebration of women, and it doesn’t shy away from the complicated relationships between them. Each of the main female characters—Pin, her mother Jini, and her grandmother Kulwant (Nani-ji)—are evoked with such affection that it’s hard to believe after finishing the book that they are fictional. Jaswal shows us how flawed and human they are, and the small (and not-so-small) tragedies that they suffer through, as well as the triumphs that make the reader let out woots of joy.
All of this, plus an examination of Singapore’s endemic racism, especially toward its South Asian community. Pin has to brook taunts by Bus Uncle, an old man who collects money from the students on the school bus (and attempts, and fails, to keep order), as well as vile comments from classmate Abigail Goh and others. Pin’s outrage and how she deals with these encounters illustrate the consequences of this casual racism and how the Chinese majority tends to treat South Asians and Malays, and her endurance of it is a social justice punch right to the gut.
Sugarbread is an important book, especially right now, and I believe that it could easily become Singapore’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
In preparation for the event, I passed along the first four questions below to Balli, which had been sent to us by moderator Adrian, as well as five more of my own.
When did you first start writing, at a professional or serious level?
I started taking writing seriously as an undergraduate student at Hollins University [in Virginia]. Most of the workshops I took were about defining my voice as a writer and figuring out the mechanics of narrative, dialogue and character. Sugarbread was my honours thesis, so it was a bit of a test to see if I had learned how to convey a story successfully. I started making more of a career out of being a writer when I received the David TK Wong Fellowship in 2007. That was my first writer-in-residence position. The daily discipline of showing up to my desk and re-reading old drafts was work, work, work—that was when I started treating writing as more of a profession.
What writers have influenced you?
Judy Blume was a big influence because she told the truth and she spoke to young girls about topics we couldn’t ask adults about. Arundhati Roy is another major influence—the first time I read The God of Small Things, it was a revelation that words could create such movement in the mind. In my adult years, Yiyun Li, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ann Patchett, Anne Fadiman, Marjane Satrapi, Kent Haruf, Nikita Lalwani, Zadie Smith, Andrea Levy and Meera Syal have been major influences.
What is the worst thing about being a writer in Singapore?
It can be challenging to find a quiet space to write in this busy city.
What is the best thing about being a writer in Singapore?
The burgeoning literary scene here holds a lot of promise for writers, with opportunities for us to support and mentor each other. The busy city problem above also works as an advantage—it’s a walkable city, which I find very refreshing when I’m stuck in a story.
How important was it to you to illustrate in Sugarbread the relationships between women in Singapore’s Sikh community?
It was very important because I wanted to explore that tension between traditional and modern mindsets. It was important to have different women representing each mindset so I could demonstrate the clashes between them.
How much of your own life influenced Pin’s in the novel?
I definitely had a racist bus uncle and other people of that older generation say blatantly racist things. I went to a convent primary school, so when I set out to write a coming-of-age novel, these were the details that I really wanted to communicate. My mum’s an excellent cook but I don’t think she ever left hidden messages in her cooking (if she did, I was not astute enough to decipher them). My dad’s a very sweet, kind and gentle man like Pa in the novel.
How much of the blatant racism in the book have you experienced in Singapore?
Oh. See above. That and much more. I should point out that I wasn’t solely the victim of racism—I certainly learned (and consequently unlearned) my own prejudices and stereotypes about other groups of people. We’re hyper-conscious of race in Singapore because we’re not supposed to talk about it for fear that we’ll open a can of worms and there will be riots. But because we don’t talk about it, it’s hard to educate ourselves and others about misconceptions. The majority of us simply know that “saying racist things is illegal” but we practice micro-aggressions towards each other every day and don’t necessarily consider them inappropriate because we’re used to thinking of racism in terms of its most blatant manifestation: rioting against another group, for example, or calling names.
What do you think literary fiction can do that no other genre or medium can do?
Literary fiction is multi-layered. It can use language to engage and ignite a reader’s imagination. Other genres can do this to an extent, but literary fiction’s value is in its precise choices of words to convey a narrative with a powerful message, rather than simply tell a story.
Which book(s) are you reading right now?
I’m reading A Change of Climate by Hilary Mantel. It’s one of her earlier works and it really packs a punch (so far).
Sugarbread by Balli Kaur Jaswal is available at all major Singapore book stores and at shop.epigrambooks.sg.