Epigram Books Blog
In this week’s installment of A Day in the Life we hear from Jason, another valuable and recent addition to our editorial team. A published author, editor, teacher and small-press owner, Jason brings to Epigram Books a wealth of literary experience.
The life of a book editor was always something very mysterious to me growing up and reading fiction, and then still later after becoming an author myself (you can find me online at JasonLundberg.net). What power those people must have, I thought, and what fun. They are the ones who determine what books get published, and they get to include their fundamental love of reading and books into their daily job.
After a month as one of Epigram Books’ newest editors, I can say that much of the mystery has fallen away, but the passion remains. I had editing and publishing experience as an anthologist prior to being hired—Scattered, Covered, Smothered (Two Cranes Press, 2004), A Field Guide to Surreal Botany (Two Cranes Press, 2008) and Fish Eats Lion: New Singaporean Speculative Fiction (Math Paper Press, 2012)—but acquiring and editing books as a house editor is a completely different animal.
Our fiction publishing line has thus far largely consisted of reprinting older works, of bringing them back into the public consciousness after years of being out of print, which is a noble endeavor; but our publisher, Edmund Wee, is also eager to release new and original titles, to show that Epigram Books is committed to championing the best new Singaporean writing in English. And that’s where I come in.
So far, I’ve mostly been working on titles that Epigram Books has already acquired, and shepherding them into shape for publication in 2013. I’m working with authors of both novels and short story collections of the literary variety, although I’m also very interested in speculative fiction as well (since that is my specialty), and hope to start bringing in more SF to our stable as well (submission guidelines are here).
One of the unexpected benefits of this job has been the projects that have come up because of an immediate need to be filled. This has resulted in me writing a children’s picture book about the pandas who have just arrived at the Singapore Zoo, and curating a biennial anthology series of best new Singaporean short stories. Both of these projects are stretching me as a writer and editor, and likely would not have happened if I were not in the right place at the right time.
I’m part-time at Epigram Books, meaning that I only work mornings. My days consist of emailing the authors with whom I’m working to ensure that everything is coming in on time and to our satisfaction, editing the text in Microsoft Word (thank goodness for change tracking), reading and assessing other manuscripts that have been sent in over the transom for quality and marketability, drawing up author contracts based on our standard template, applying for publication grants from the National Arts Council, and meeting with the rest of the editorial staff to discuss our production timelines.
In the afternoons, I’m free to work on freelance projects, and to get my own novel into decent shape (I finished writing it in August, and have just completed my own second editing pass; I hope to have it ready for first readers by end of October). It’s a situation that has worked very well for me so far, enabling some steady income but still giving me time to pursue my own creative passions. I’ll be appearing in my authorial capacity at the Singapore Writers Festival in November.
I have to give many thanks to Edmund Wee for recognising my potential as a book editor and bringing me aboard Epigram Books. It’s a relationship that I hope will continue for many years to come!
In our new instalment of A Day in the Life, we bring you the perspective of Esther, our Design Intern (officially under Epigram). One of the bubbliest interns we’ve ever had the fortune to have under our employ, Esther pitched in with quite a few Epigram Books’ projects as well!
“Hello, this is Esther here, I am coming here for an interview, but I think I got lost. I don’t know where am I now, somewhere near a school called St Nicholas Girl School.”
“Huh… Got difference mehhh?”
And that was my adventurous start at Epigram, the award-winning design firm! I’m a design intern so officially I’m under Epigram. However, because we’re one big happy family, I’m often tasked to assist Epigram Books on design jobs as well!
On my first day, while I was sorting out PANTONE colour chips, I felt a huge sense of disbelief that as an intern, I had a such huge desk in such a nice open office, with whole stretches of white book shelves, and black and white photographs everywhere. I was stunned by how nice the office was and even more stunned by the awards displayed at the front of the office. While I tried to look cool and collected, I kept saying to myself, “Ahh… is this for real? I’m in Epigram! EPIGRAM!!”
This is a list of A+ experiences I had with Epigram:
1. Went for press check for the book Farrer Park.
It was really cool and a fantastic learning experience for me to see the maze like printing press and witness the birth of books! Seriously, those machines are crazy!
2. Doing overtime to read books.
Yes, design books, children books, coffee table books and all other kinds of BOOKS! I always imagine books on those nice white shelves will fly and one day if I accidentally fell asleep in office, words in it will line up and cover me with blanket.
3. Ate raw beef…
… and also other things that tasted really good but in all honesty, I didn’t really know what they were. This was during Edmund’s (the Managing Director of Epigram and Epigram Books) birthday.
4. Admitted to hospital.
Kidding, I became an actress! I posed as a mock patient for an annual report photo-shoot.
5. Did the layout for a book that is going to be published this year.
The title of the book is Sushi and Tapas and it will be out mid-August this year! Speaking about readability and legibility, Macheads spent lots of time getting things like layout and formatting right! (Macheads=designers who buried their heads with Mac). “I shall appreciate books and words more.” Repeat 3 times before you read any book!
Yes, I used to be afraid of doing illustrations because someone once told me I couldn’t draw. But I’ve found new confidence by illustrating for SPARK newsletter. It is one of the things I enjoyed most in my to-do-list. By the way, SPARK is an ADHD association, which Epigram supports.
7. Attended a book launch.
I’ve never attended any book launch before as I’m not quite a book person, but I get to eat nice pastries and drink champagne! (It was the launch of our new play, Mimi Fan by Lim Chor Pee). And it was really fascinating to see how the team at Epigram Books together with BooksActually pulled it all off! It’s really hard work!
Edmund once asked me, “So how? Do you still want to be a designer after being with us for 6 weeks?”
“Maybe, but I want to be a housewife! That’s my long term dream!” I replied with a silly grin. (But of course I wanted to be a designer first!)
I came to Epigram as a design intern thinking “hmm… I’m just an intern, I’m just going to learn about publication and probably a lot short cut keys using Adobe InDesign!”
But in the end, it turned out to not just be an internship, it was much more…
Hello from Beijing!
Here are some participants who attended the China-Singapore Publishing Symposium. From left to right, Daniel Ho from People’s Trend, Evelyn Chia from Pan Asia Publishing, Catherine Khoo from Janus Education, (me) Adeline Foo and Edmund Wee, CEO & Publisher from Epigram Books.
Here’s a household name in MediaCorp Channel 8 dramas, Edmund Chen (the other Edmund, also the other author, on this trip).
I remember when I was a teenager, I used to watch Edmund on TV. I envied him for his easy switch between use of English and Mandarin in speaking; I was never comfortable, nor good, with my mother tongue. Preparing for this trip had been a nerve-wrecking experience. For someone who prepares for a school presentation just the night before the talk, I’ve had to rely on quick thinking to get through speeches. But this is China, and this presentation is in Chinese! I can’t think and speak fast in Mandarin! Arrrghhhh!
So what was the hardest part in preparing for my talk? Well, what do you call Amos in Chinese?
The original computer-aided translation was 阿莫斯 李的日记, but I thought it sounded really weird! I had to work on sooooo many permutations before coming up with this, something that sounded like ‘er mo xi’. But how do you write that? My son, Ben, helped me to install an app for Chinese word recognition. I went through hundreds of characters before deciding on 儿模施的日记. The last word was inspired from the names of one of China’s four greatest beauties, Xi Shi. Then what about ‘I Sit, I Write, I Flush’? I liked this one which a friend suggested: 我上大号、写日记、冲马桶！It sounded really cocky, something naughty that Amos would say in Mandarin! I’m also pleased with the other translations for Book #2 and Book #3:
Girls, Guts & Glory: 有女生真烦! 要成名太难！
I’m 12, I’m Tough, I Tweet!: 十二岁的我很威风，因为我会发微博!
There’s more than just translating titles in the presentation, of course, but for this blog, I thought it’s enough to share this. So, after surviving the presentation, how did we celebrate? In Beijing, over Peking duck of course! A quick check with locals led us to this quaint, run down Peking duck restaurant called ‘Liqun’ (definitely an ‘F’ rated dining place for hygiene, see pictures!) But we’re all good foodies, we eat everything that’s served, and we don’t ask if the cooks ever wash their hands!
It was a really eventful trip, thanks to the Media Development Authority and organisers from EonBoo Publishing who made it possible. Hopefully, this first symposium would pave the way for more authors from Singapore to enter the China market.
Work aside, how did the Peking duck rate? I gave it a five-star, while Edmund (not the author, but the publisher) said Singapore still has the best Peking duck. But he’s not telling where because he doesn’t want the place to be swarmed by people.
Cheers from Beijing!
It started with a letter from the National Arts Council inviting our Managing and Creative Director, Edmund Wee, to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2012. From 19 to 22 March, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair will be held in Bologna, Italy (where else?!), and is the most important fair devoted to children’s books, publishing and multimedia in the world. At the fair, publishers (like us), authors, illustrators, literary agents, distributors, booksellers, librarians and more children’s book professionals the world over meet to discuss the selling and buying of rights. There, these industry professionals will discover the very best in children’s publishing and multimedia, meet up with their peers and make important contacts. Deciding to go, a flurry of activity then ensued!
Felicia, our Rights & Marketing Manager, has been busy sourcing for air tickets, making hotel arrangements and buying book fair tickets (she almost forgot but she’ll never admit it: forgetting would have left Edmund stranded outside the fair, ticketless and barred from entry) while juggling the many emails requesting appointments with Edmund and trying to fit everyone into his busy schedule. On the creative side, our designer, Stefany, together with Edmund, worked hard on creating fun and eye-catching catalogues for two of our best- selling children’s series, The Diary of Amos Lee and Archibald!
Months later, our fearless leader’s bags are packed and he is finally ready to take off and represent Epigram Books at Bologna for the first time ever! Well, almost ready, we are waiting for advance review copies of Archibald and the Black Knight’s Ring, publishing only in June 2012 to come back from the printers and then he’s off!
Keep a look out for Edmund’s misadventures once he returns.
When Frankfurt Book Fair representative Ms Lei Ren was in town in May, we met up to chit-chat and show her our catalogue. Imagine our delight when Frankfurt Book Fair then invited us to be a sponsored guest of their special Invitation Programme! A sponsored trip to Germany? Free air ticket and accommodation? How could we say no? Apart from the trade fair itself, we’ve been given the honour of attending special seminars and workshops for publishers and agents from around the world. Word is, we’re the first Singapore publisher to be invited for this programme. What can we say? We are truly humbled.
So, wish us luck! Our small but enthusiastic team, led by our fearless director, Edmund Wee, will be making our dazzling Frankfurt debut between 12-16 October. If you’re in the area, come visit; we’re at Hall 5.0 Stand E.987.