Epigram Books Blog

Epigram Books in the running for Bologna Prize for Best Children’s Publisher of the Year for the second time March 02 2017

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.



For media enquiries, please contact:

Winston Tay
Marketing Manager | Epigram Books
Tel: (+65) 6292 4456
HP: (+65) 9770 0369
Email: winston@epigrambooks.sg

Andy Lim
Marketing Executive | Epigram Books
Tel: (+65) 6292 4456
HP: (+65) 8533 5234
Email: andy.lim@epigrambooks.sg

Epigram Books Fiction Prize raised to $40,000 July 13 2016

Singaporean publisher increases prize money, offers prizes to all shortlisted manuscripts this year

Singapore’s richest literary prize is set to get richer, as local publisher Epigram Books raises the stakes for its annual Epigram Books Fiction Prize to $40,000 this year.

Now running in its second year, the 2016 prize will see three of its finalists receive $5,000 each, while the prize money for the winning manuscript will be increased to $25,000. Last year, only the winning manuscript received a $20,000 cash prize.

“While we’ve never doubted the abundance of Singapore’s fiction writing talent, we felt deeply encouraged by the quality of manuscripts from last year’s submissions,” said Edmund Wee, Publisher and CEO of Epigram Books. “And seeing how well our finalists’ novels are doing, we feel the shortlisted manuscripts should also get something more than the publishing contracts we offer them.”

Speaking at a writers’ forum titled The Great Singaporean Novel: Fantasy or Reality? at The Projector on Wednesday, Mr Wee also noted that two novels from last year’s shortlist, Let’s Give It Up for Gimme Lao! by Sebastian Sim and Death of a Perm Sec by Wong Souk Yee have already gone into their second print run a couple of months after their release in March and April respectively. The two other books from the 2015 prize, Sugarbread by Balli Kaur Jaswal and the winner Now That It’s Over by O Thiam Chin, were released in June.

Epigram Books will release three more titles from last year’s longlist—Annabelle Thong, a chicklit novel by Imran Hashim due in August; Kappa Quartet, a fantasy novel by Daryl Qilin Yam in September; and Altered Straits, a sci-fi tale by Kevin Martens Wong to be published in January 2017.

This year’s judging panel includes Mr Haresh Sharma, resident playwright for The Necessary Stage; Ms Constance Singam, former president of AWARE; Professor Philip Holden from the Department of English Language & Literature in National University of Singapore (NUS); and Mr Wee himself.

The closing date for manuscript submission is Thursday, 1st September 2016. The shortlist will be announced 2 months later, and the winner named in a gala dinner on 24th November 2016.

For manuscript submissions and more information, please visit ebfp.epigrambooks.sg.

Two new judges join Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2016 panel April 25 2016


Epigram Books Fiction Prize


First of last year’s shortlisted novels also released

SINGAPORE, 24 March 2016 — The Epigram Books Fiction Prize is pleased to announce the judging panel for this year’s competition, in conjunction with the release of Sebastian Sim’s Let’s Give It Up for Gimme Lao!, one of last year’s finalists.

Returning to judge this year’s prize are Professor Philip Holden from the Department of English Language & Literature in National University of Singapore (NUS), and Publisher & CEO of Epigram Books Edmund Wee. The two new judges are: Haresh Sharma, resident playwright for The Necessary Stage, and Constance Singam, former president of AWARE.

Haresh Sharma was conferred the Southeast Asian Writers (or S.E.A. Write) Award (Singapore) in 2014, and Singapore’s Cultural Medallion in 2015. Constance Singam recently published her memoir, Where I Was: A Memoir From the Margins.

"I am thrilled to be part of the panel of judges along with Philip Holden and Haresh Sharma," says Constance. "It's an exciting time for fiction writing in Singapore, and I'm eager to see who we will be offering the Prize to."

First launched in 2015, the Epigram Books Fiction Prize is Singapore’s richest literary prize, boasting an award of $20,000 and a book publishing contract for the winning entry.

Last year’s winner was short story writer O Thiam Chin, whose book, Now That It’s Over will be published in May. Finalist Sebastian Sim’s Let’s Give It Up for Gimme Lao! is now available at all major bookstores, while Death of a Perm Sec by Wong Souk Yee and Sugarbread by Balli Kaur Jaswal will be released in the coming months.

The Epigram Books Fiction Prize is now open to all Singaporeans citizens, Singapore Permanent Residents, and ex-Singaporeans. Manuscripts must be original, unpublished and uncontracted work, and should have a word count of about 40,000 words or more to be eligible.

The closing date for manuscript submissions is Wednesday, 31st August 2016. The shortlist will be announced 2 months later, and the winner named in a gala dinner in early December.

For more information about the Epigram Books Fiction Prize, please visit http://ebfp.epigrambooks.sg.

For media enquiries, please contact us at enquiry@epigrambooks.sg or call +65-6292-4456.


Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2016

Open Invite: The Finer Art of Editing III-V April 14 2015

After hosting the internationally acclaimed writers Miguel Syjuco and Meira Chand for the first two editions of The Finer Art of Editing, we’re so proud to announce the next three authors who’ll share their international editing experiences with the extended Singapore Literature family. Joining us next for our monthly mixer series are: Tash Aw (8 May), Githa Hariharan (29 May) and Robin Hemley (26 June)!

If you don’t know already, Tash Aw has been longlisted for The Man Booker Prize for Fiction for his novels, The Harmony Silk Factor and Five Star Billionaire. Writer-editor Githa Hariharan’s first novel, The Thousand Faces of Night, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and her work now also encompasses short stories, essays, newspaper articles and columns. Former director of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Programme Robin Hemley has won a Guggenheim Fellowship and many other awards for his 11 books (our personal favourite is Nola: A Memoir of Faith, Art, and Madness).

All three star-studded sessions are open to every Singapore publisher—especially those with a literary fiction arm—and will start at 7.30pm on those three Friday evenings here at Epigram Books. Please note that there will be no session in April as there are two in May. Do RSVP with our Sales Manager Ilangoh Thanabalan at ‘ilangoh@epigrambooks.sg’ if your publishing house is keen to join us for a complimentary evening of editing enrichment, snacks, drinks and conversations with some of the best writers in world literature.

  • The Finer Art of Editing III with Tash Aw
    • 8 May, Friday, 7.30pm, Epigram Books (1008 Toa Payoh North, #03-08, S318996)
  • The Finer Art of Editing IV with Githa Hariharan 
    • 29 May, Friday, 7.30pm, Epigram Books
    • The Finer Art of Editing V with Robin Hemley
      • 26 June, Friday, 7.30pm, Epigram Books

    A Day in the Life of Dustin March 31 2015

    Our long-running series, A Day in the Life, makes a long-awaited return with Dustin Wong’s entry! Until recently, Dustin was our intern and we miss him dearly. Few know that Dustin’s not only a published poet but an actively performing one too. Why, he even gave an an impromptu poetry recital at Queensway Secondary School’s English and Literature Appreciation Day while selling our books! So savour his words...

    I suppose that I should explain my role in Epigram Books before I take you through a typical day in the office.

    I am officially recorded as an ‘intern’ in the company archives. What that means in the context of Epigram Books is that I do everything from lugging cartons of books about the stock room to filling in vast and complicated data sheets with rather sensitive information.

    It may seem like a fair bit too much to heft upon a mere intern but I’m not complaining. The work is challenging, but not impossible, and my colleagues are a friendly lot; we all get along just fine.

    All in all, this internship has been turning out to be a rather enjoyable shindig. But I shan’t break into the details without flexing my withering literary muscles.

    I present to you folks, a day in the life of Epigram Book’s sai kang warrior:



    I trudge into the office, feeling the hairs on my arms rise in response to the sudden blast of frigid air hurtling out from the depths of the office interior. The office floor is gloomy, with cold, actinic light silhouetting those few colleagues of mine who have deigned it fit to come in this early in the morning.

    There is a list of tasks two pages long inside my daily planner.

    It’s going to be a long, long day.


    The office is unusually chilly this morning. I pull my arms closer to my body, folding them across my chest in an attempt to preserve whatever little bodily heat I can.

    Some have taken to blaming this oddly out of place cold on the monsoon season, pegging the drop in temperature to the storm clouds and raindrops rolling and falling across the land. Others whisper of catastrophic changes in the workings of the world, uttering phrases like ‘ozone depletion’ and ‘global warming’ in trepid voices.

    I blame it on the two air conditioning units that my desk is sandwiched in between.


    I am slouched over in my seat. My fingers are numb from the wintry drafts that blow me by as well as from jabbing away at an unresponsive keyboard. My temper frays with every spinning ball of doom that pops up on the screen of my Mac; there is a vein throbbing away beneath my right temple.

    I glance at the time, so proudly displayed at the top right hand corner of the Mac’s screen, and find myself muttering some curse of ill taste beneath my breath my breath.

    The words nearly drift past my lips in an effervescent cloud.


    I find myself sitting in a secluded corner of the stock room at the back of the office. The air here is still and unmoving, and possessed little trace of the frigidity that so often pervades the main office space, with only the occasional chilly draft blowing by my cheeks every now and then. 

    I recline on the dusty concrete floor, and shut my eyes, in an attempt to make the most out of my lunch hour and catch up on my enormous sleep debt.

    I hope a spider doesn’t find its way into my mouth.


    I wake up coughing and sputtering.

    There is a spider ihas found its way into my mouth. 


    “Dustin,” someone calls my name from the left.

    Ilangoh is sitting in his chair, completely unaffected by the cold that plagues so usually me, given how none of the air conditioners were built to blow his way. One of his arms hangs casually off the back of his chair, while the other nurses a warm cup of coffee. A smirk peeks through his salt and pepper circle beard.

    He is the sales manager of Epigram Books, armed with years of experience of working in the publishing industry. Due to reasons hitherto unknown to myself, Ilangoh and I are the only two people in the sales and marketing department.

    “I need you to help me out,” he says as he passes me list, transferring paper from warm hands to frigid fingers, “I’ve got a list over here...”

    I can almost hear the stock room and its spiders beckoning for me again in the background.



    Half an hour later and I am walking out of the stock room, a cramped and narrow space tucked away at the back of the office, built for the express purpose for storing our many titles as well as copious amounts of dust.

    A trolley, laden with books and cursed with squeaky axles trundles along in front of me. Dozens of books sway precariously on the bed of the trolley, having been stacked rather haphazardly in the interest of saving time. 

    I push the trolley to the other end of the office, this time without feeling the bitter sting of refrigerated air biting into my bones.

    Manual labour has its own way of warming up the body after all. 


    I sink into my chair in front of my ailing iMac, beholding a neat little stack of sales reports and invoices to sift through and upload onto the corresponding Excel sheets.

    A little quip from the mighty office manager, Boon, floats through the back of my mind at this point in time, a snarky little voice, muttering something along the lines of ‘thanks for being an EXCEL-lent intern’, right before a little rainbow ball of death pops up on the screen of my computer. 

    Yet another curse drifts past my lips in an effervescent cloud.


    I am standing in the carpark right in front of the office block. A soft, warm tropical breeze caresses my face, taking with it the last of the chill that had settled within my bones during my time inside the office.

    The door to the boot of Edmund’s car is open, swung wide, and I am loading box after box into it, each full of books pre-destined for some bazaar somewhere no doubt.

    A little vein is throbbing away in my temple once again, but this time, it doesn’t beat to the pulse of frustration. Somewhere, depe in my veins, blood is surging forwards once again, called into action after being put into dormancy by the horrible cold put forward by the air-conditioning.

    The vein throbs away, and as I shut the door to Edmund’s car and lock it with a note of finality, I find myself humming the chorus to some pop song whose title I can barely remember.


    One more minute to go. The edge of my vision is turning blurry, and a small part of me wonders why everything seems to have taken on a chilly shade of blue. I rub my palms together, the action sending bits of hoarfrost to the floor, where they dissipate into tiny little spools of ice water.

    I feel my teeth rattling in their roots, my jaw shaking involuntarily of its own accord. The howl of the air-conditioning system is all I hear now, and it is jeering at me, mocking my human frailty and a lifetime spent growing up in one the warmest climes in the world.

    The world slowed to a crawl around me, even as the air-conditioner’s unrelentlng assault barrages my skin, cracking underneath what has to be a layer of ice. A slurry of regrets start to bubble forth from underneath the partially frozen grey matter beneath my skull. The world gradually edges its way into darkness, but I know I cannot die here.

    It has been said that it is nigh impossible to die of hypothermia in Singapore. But still, even as I trudge from my seat to the door with shards of ice cracking and re-forming in my joints, I could not help but feel a nagging sense of unease pervade my weak but tenacious heart, that I have damnably close.

    A little part of me wonders how all my other colleagues manage to even put up with the temperature in this frigid place.


    I am off work now, far from the office and its evil air-conditioners inhospitable atmosphere, and quite thankfully, the air around here is warmer.

    There is a cigarette in my battered fingers, and I take a drag from it, letting its heat fill my lungs before exhaling it through my nose, sighing incontentment as I do so.

    “Note to self,” I find myself muttering under my breath.

    “Bring a bloody jacket to work tomorrow.’

    The Finer Art of Editing II: Meira Chand March 14 2015


    Thank you for coming to last night’s edition of The Finer Art of Editing—the second instalment after the inaugural session with Miguel Syjuco. Over the course of two hours, Meira Chand, the internationally acclaimed author of eight novels generously shared with us about how the UK editing landscape was like in the 1970s and 1980s, when she was published by the same imprint as Jane Austen herself.

    Meira also related how her first editor sat down with her for five days, going over every word, sentence, paragraph and chapter—her greatest lesson in writing yet. Now, she edits her own manuscript before submitting it to publishers, like her latest, the Oprahs Book Club selection A Different Sky (Random House, 2011), which Meira herself edited down from over 1,000 pages to its final 500 plus.

    Our thanks also go out to NUS Press, Super Cool Books and NTU Centre for Contemporary Art for joining us. Do join us for April’s instalment of this complimentary evening of editing enrichment, snacks, drinks and conversations with some of the best writers in world literature. RSVP with our Sales Manager, Ilangoh Thanabalan, at ‘ilangoh@epigrambooks.sg’ today. Until then, keep reading!

    Singapore’s Richest Literary Prize Launched March 10 2015

    For Immediate Release


    SINGAPORE, 10 March 2015—Epigram Books is pleased to announce the launch of a new literary prize, the Epigram Books Fiction Prize.

    The annual prize of S$20,000 is the richest literary award in Singapore. It is to be awarded to a Singaporean, Singaporean permanent resident or Singapore-born author for the best manuscript of a full-length, original and unpublished novel written in the English language. The first winner will be announced at this year’s Singapore Writers Festival in November 2015 and have his/her novel published by Epigram Books.

    “We want to reward excellence in contemporary Singapore creative writing and to encourage the readership of high-quality Singapore literature by publishing the winning and shortlisted entries,” explains Edmund Wee, Publisher and CEO of Epigram Books.

    The competition is now open for entries. The manuscript must be unpublished and uncontracted to a publisher. Four hard copies of the manuscript and a completed official entry form should be submitted by post or delivered by hand to Epigram Books at Block 1008 Toa Payoh North #03-08 Singapore 318996. The closing date for submissions is August 31, 2015, 6pm.

    The judging panel will be chaired by Edmund Wee. The names of the other judges will be announced at a later date. For more information about the inaugural edition of the Epigram Books Fiction Prize, or for any queries, please visit www.epigrambooks.sg.

    For interview opportunities or further media enquiries, please contact ebfp@epigrambooks.sg or +65 6292 4456.

    About Epigram Books

    An independent publisher based in Singapore, Epigram Books is known for putting together well-designed and thought-provoking titles. It began as a division of the multiple award-winning communications design firm Epigram but registered as a separate entity in July 2011 to champion Singaporean literature.

    It is best known for the middle grade series, The Diary of Amos Lee, which has sold over 240,000 copies worldwide. Other landmark publications include translations of Cultural Medallion winners and new editions of out-of-print classic Singaporean novels.

    In 2014, a debut short story collection Epigram Books published, Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe, unanimously won the Singapore Literature Prize for English Fiction. 


    Epigram Books Fiction Prize

    The Epigram Books Fiction Prize promotes contemporary Singapore creative writing and rewards excellence in Singapore literature. The annual prize is Singapore’s richest literary award. S$20,000 is awarded to the Singaporean, permanent resident or Singapore-born author for the best manuscript of a full-length, original and unpublished novel written in the English language. The competition is now open for entries. The first winner will be announced at the Singapore Writers Festival in November 2015 and have his/her novel published by Epigram Books. Please download the official entry form and rules and regulations here

    Open Invite: The Finer Art of Editing February 06 2015

    We’re kicking off a monthly mixer called The Finer Art of Editing and all you publishing folks are invited. Renowned fiction writers, like the multiple award-winning Miguel Syjuco, will be dropping by to share their experiences in an engaging, informal and frank manner. Join us so we can all become even better editors of Singapore Stories.

    At our inaugural session, Miguel kindly spent nearly two hours chatting about his publishing journey—how his debut novel Ilustrado won the Man Asian Literary Prize in its manuscript form—global book marketing practices and even the nitty-gritty details of the editing process at Farrar, Strouss and Giroux. Plus, he fielded Edmund’s embarrassing, Prosecco-fuelled questions. 

    In March, we’ll be hosting another exciting, internationally heralded novelist. Do contact our Sales Manager Ilangoh Thanabalan at ‘ilangoh@epigrambooks.sg’ if your publishing house is keen to join us for a complimentary evening of editing enrichment, snacks, drinks and conversations with some of the best writers in world literature.

    We'll see you here soon!

    Revealing ‘A Certain Exposure’—10 Questions for Jolene Tan April 09 2014

    “Brian organised for the body to be flown back”, Jolene Tan’s debut novel A Certain Exposure begins. From this unsettling start—tragedy met by administration—the story only grows in disquietude, encompassing within its cool grasp a suicide, burgeoning sexualities, fledgling romances and myriad forms of unfeeling as its cast of characters seek an answer to resounding grief.

    Revolving around the adolescent years of twin brothers Brian and Andrew, A Certain Exposure alternates between their coming of age in Singapore and Cambridge, UK; the waning years of the LKY-led 1980s and the softer “heartware” of the 1990s. Newly published, Jolene Tan’s novel has already been hailed by author Sandi Tan (The Black Isle) as possessing “the feel of an essential Singapore classic”.

    You may recognise Jolene’s name from her letters to the press. Educated at Cambridge University and Harvard Law School, she works for the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), Singapore’s leading gender equality advocacy group. Some issues Jolene has addressed as part of her job include the need for regulation against workplace sexual harassment, abortion rights and in regard to the recent hijab question, “the right of every woman to choose what she wears”. A Certain Exposure marks the first time she has published her fiction writing.

    In this email interview, we unravel the many layers of A Certain Exposure with her.

    1. What drove you to write A Certain Exposure?
    I’d always wanted to write fiction, but wasn’t confident that I could craft a good story. But then I read Still Life by A.S. Byatt, and it was one of the most pleasurable experiences of my life, somehow without featuring a story as I then understood the term: more a working through of dynamics, relationships and ideas. And I thought, right, this was well worth reading, and something like that would be well worth writing—so why not give it a shot.

    So A Certain Exposure was me working through longstanding preoccupations about how much of ourselves we can afford to reveal or conceal, when prejudice and hierarchy can make opening ourselves up risky, but the apparent refuge offered by conformity is also more dangerous than it seems.

    2. With this being your first book, what was the writing process like?
    I wrote the first draft between the summer of 2009, when I was living in London, and the spring of 2012, when I was living in Heidelberg, Germany. Everything else—chatty emails, angry letters—I write pretty quickly, but with fiction I am agonisingly slow. I can’t bring myself to churn out words in a messy draft and come back later; I have to continually polish as I go along, like some kind of pedantic cowrie. A sentence can take an hour to happen, and then ultimately unhappen. I also get obsessive about researching certain points, or repetitively acting out movements, gestures and speech descriptors to check that they make sense. These things then become single lines or even two words of background detail. So basically I’m really slow.

    3. So what did it feel like, in three words, when you finally saw A Certain Exposure in print?
    A friend said she would have pissed herself in my position, so I guess my three words are “Remarkably continent, considering.”

    4. Like the protagonist Andrew, you studied at Cambridge University. How much of A Certain Exposure is based on your real-life experiences, and/or the people you know?
    I was very conscious of not wanting to write an autobiographical first novel. The book is resolutely fiction and nobody in it maps easily onto anyone I know. But I see something of me in all the characters, including the more unsympathetic ones, and many of the petty and not-so-petty cruelties in the book are based on things I have seen or heard.

    5. You chose a pretty evocative title. How did it come about?
    “Exposure” is a word which encompasses many of the themes that I had in mind: in particular, the danger that comes with revealing oneself in a hostile world, but also the notion of a risk that could carry a reward, such as connection or understanding or support. A lot of the book is about people trying to manage these tensions—to decide on just how much they can bring themselves to reveal or conceal—and the notion of a search for certainty is ironically reflected in the title. It’s obviously also a photographic pun, referring to a particular picture which plays a pivotal role in the plot. (How many more ‘p’s can I get into that sentence?)

    6. You’ve written plenty about books on your website. What are your literary sources of inspiration?
    I can’t say ‘inspiration’ is something I feel very much, but I guess writers who have achieved things that especially awe and resonate with me include: A.S. Byatt, Alison Bechdel, Yiyun Li, Greg Egan, Edward St Aubyn and China Miéville. (A very white list, I know; I’m working on broadening my reading habits.)

    7. Speaking of, what do you miss most about living in England, and why?
    The countryside. I’m sure this is partly or entirely a function of being a brainwashed postcolonial child, but the British countryside has a comforting human scale—in size, temperature, colours, walkability and textures—that nothing else in my experience matches.

    8. Closer to home, what issues in Singapore concern you the most?
    I’m professionally obliged to be mostly preoccupied by women’s rights, but fortunately that covers a lot of territory. Otherwise, the disempowerment of children bugs me a lot, and I have a long-standing interest in penal reform—I used to work for a prisoners’ rights organisation.

    9. Do you have a favourite work of Singapore literature?
    I don’t have strong opinions about a favourite, but of what I’ve read recently, I’ve really enjoyed Tania de Rozario’s Tender Delirium. I’m also a fan of the poetry I’ve heard from members of the spoken word troupe Sekaliwags.

    10. It might be too early to tell, but do you already have a second book in mind? And if so, have you started writing it?
    I’ve had too much going on in my life lately to have the bandwidth! I have, however, been working on a short story for two years (see the bit where I’m really slow). It helps that my husband is incredibly supportive and goes out of his way to create time for me. I would love to write a second novel; it’s just going to take a bit of time.

    Experience A Certain Exposure with a reading by Jolene Tan and a Q&A hosted by Teng Qian Xi.

    BooksActually, 17 April 2014, 7.30pm.

    Epigram Books’ Staff’s Favourite Books January 20 2014

    The Request:
    Make a list of your top ten favourite books.

    The Result:
    We are not very good with numbers.

    Some were good and stuck to the ten requested. Others, cheated with parentheses. And then, true to the love we have for books, many just could not whittle their list down. Just as we all have different favourites, we all had different ways of expressing ourselves as well so here are our lists, with parentheses, comments and all.
    Aditi’s Favourites
    Drown by Junot Díaz
    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
    The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
    I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
    Matilda by Roald Dahl
    High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
    Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
    To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
    The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
    Christine’s Favourites
    Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
    His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
    Anansi Boys (and The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere heh) by Neil Gaiman
    Ender Series by Orson Scott Card
    Chrestomanci Series by Diana Wynne Jones
    A Fractured Mind: My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder by Robert B Oxnam
    Drina Series by Jean Estoril
    To Sir, With Love by  E.R. Braithwaite
    The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
    Heart of Darkness (not exactly a favourite but a stuck in my head book) by Joseph Conrad
    Dan’s Favourites
    After the Fire by Boey Kim Cheng
    Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
    Complete Plays by Sarah Kane
    Complete Works by Harold Pinter
    One Fierce Hour by Alfian Sa’at
    The City of Forgetting by Gopal Baratham
    The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
    The Three Theban Plays by Sophocles
    The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
    Edmund’s Favourite Books of 2012 and 2013
    The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
    The Dinner by Herman Koch
    In One Person by John Irving
    Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
    The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
    The Infatuations by Javier Marias
    The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
    Hothouse by Boris Kachka
    HHhH (debut novel) by Laurent Binet
    May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes
    A Hologram for a King by Dave Eggers
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
    Ancient Light by John Banville
    Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
    Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
    Ilangoh’s Favourites
    Fav African author – Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart.
    Book I read every Dec – Frederick Forsyth, The Day of the Jackal.
    Fav Book that was made into a Play – Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman.
    Fav Singapore published book – Lee Kuan Yew, The Singapore Story, From Third World to First.
    Fav Philosophical Book – Michael Sandel, What Money Cant Buy.
    Fav Parable – Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese.
    Fav Biography – Allan Hoe, David Stirling, the Authorised Biography of the Founder of the SAS.
    Fav Thrillers – Tom Clancy, Rainbow Six and The Hunt for Red October…I took almost four years to read the former.
    Fav Non Fiction Title – Victor Ostrovsky, By Way of Deception.
    Fav Indian Author – Arundhati Roy – The God of Small Things.
    Fav Classics – Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Charles Dickens, Great Expectations and Alexander Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo.
    Fav Jeffrey Archer – Prisoner of Birth and Not a Penny More Not a Penny Less.
    Fav Author I followed and then gave up on – Richard Marcinko, The Rogue Warrior Series.
    Fav Self Help Book – Yu Dan, Confucious From the Heart.
    Fav Ian Fleming – From Russia With Love.
    Fav Mafia Themed Book – Mario Puzo, The Godfather.
    Fav Author read during my childhood – Franklin W Dixon, The Hardy Boys, think read ‘em all till 1983.
    Fav Singapore set book authored by a Caucasian – Noel Barber, Sinister Twilight.
    Fav Flawed Characters in crime literature – Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus and Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander.
    Jason’s Favourites
    Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
    American Gods by Neil Gaiman
    Outside the Dog Museum by Jonathan Carroll
    The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
    Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
    The City and the City by China Miéville
    The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender
    The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
    Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov
    Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
    The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin
    Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
    The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories by Vandana Singh
    Corrupting Dr. Nice by John Kessel
    The Five Wonders of the Danube by Zoran Živković
    Alabaster by Caitlín R. Kiernan
    The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera
    The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
    Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
    Drawing Out The Dragons: A Meditation on Art, Destiny, and the Power of Choice by James A. Owen
    UBIK and The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
    Lydia’s Favourites
    At Home by Bill Bryson
    Issola by Steven Brust
    Life of Pi by Yann Martel
    The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy by  Douglas Adams
    The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers
    The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
    Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
    The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
    You Cannot Count Smoke by Cyril Wong
    Fool’s Fate by Robin Hobb
    Mira’s Favourites
    About a Boy by Nick Hornby
    Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
    Room by Emma Donoghue
    Ash Wednesday by Ethan Hawke
    One Day by David Nicholls
    Man and Boy by Tony Parsons
    Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
    Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
    Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
    The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
    Ruth’s Favourites

    Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
    The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
    Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
    Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
    The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas Friedman
    Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
    Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Riechl
    Wild Swans by Jung Chang
    The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
    Understanding People by Larry Crabb

    Sheri’s Favourites


    Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson
    Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault and Lois Ehlert
    Henri’s Walk to Paris by Leonore Klein and Saul Bass
    The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
    Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
    Wonder by R.J. Palacio
    Room by Emma Donoghue
    She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb

    (NB: It’s very hard for me to whittle my list down to just these…and these are some of the ones that I am remembering at the moment…and I’m sure there will be more favorites that I have not yet read….)

    Wei-Ling’s Favourites

    The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
    To the Wedding by John Berger
    Impossible Object by Nicholas Mosley
    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
    The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami
    Turtle Diary by Russel Hoban
    Teacher by Sylvia Ashton-Warner
    Broken Vessels by Andre Dubus
    The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka
    The Inland Sea by Donald Ritchie


    Wen Yeu’s Favourites

    Sam, Sebbie and Di-Di-Di by David Seow
    Monsters, Miracles & Mayonnaise by drewscape
    The Girl Under the Bed by Dave Chua and Xiao Yan
    Scenegapore by miel
    Myth of the Stone by Gwee Li Sui
    真的假的阿? -几米
    一年甲班34号 - 恩佐
    妖怪模范生 - 恩佐
    The New Sweater by Oliver Jeffers
    The Rock and the Bird by Chew Chia Shao Wei
    Curious George Series

    EB Xmas Pop Up 2013 November 13 2013

    We’re celebrating Christmas with unbelievable prices at our Christmas Pop Up Store!

    Come and do all your holiday shopping with us. It’s time to share the love of books this holiday season.

    What can you expect?

    Well, we’ve released 20 NEW TITLES since August and these include:

    - Plusixfive: A Singaporean Supper Club Cookbook
    - Five Children’s Picture Books
    - Three additions to our Cultural Medallion Series
    - Four new Literary Fiction Titles

    And many more!

    Plus, a total of 30 NOTBOOKS to choose from (Secret Santa gifts anyone?).
    P.S. “I’m Not Kiasu, I’m Singaporean” is in stock!


    Please note: All sales are on CASH TERMS ONLY


    10 am – 6 pm
    7th and 8th December 2013
    Epigram Books
    1008 Toa Payoh North
    Singapore 318996

    We hope to see you then!
    It can be a little difficult to find us to here’s some help

    Staff Picks!

    We Love Toa Payoh | Sam, Sebbie and Di-Di-Di: At the Night Safari | Penghulu

    Sam, Sebbie and Di-Di-Di: At the Night Safari | Only the Best! | Myth of the Stone: 20th Anniversary Edition

    Ministry of Moral Panic | The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One | The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza | Clear Brightness

    The Good, the Bad and the PSLE | Confrontation | The Short Stories & Radio Plays of S. Rajaratnam

    The Robot in My Playground | The Crane and the Crab | Mum’s Not Cooking

    EB SWF 2013 October 03 2013

    New Titles, New Voices in local fiction and More Variety than ever!

    With an increasingly diverse repertoire, Epigram Books is presenting its largest collection of books at this year’s Singapore Writers Festival! In addition, we have 28 authors, illustrators and translators who are in the festival’s programme in various capacities. We are very excited for the Singapore Writers Festival 2013 and are glad to share this excitement with you!

    This year we worked with established authors to publish Cyril Wong’s first novel, The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza, and the 20th Anniversary Edition of Gwee Li Sui’s Myth of the Stone. In addition, new voices are being presented in The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One and Amanda Lee Koe’s Ministry of Moral Panic. On top of all this, we have brand new Children’s Picture Books and additions to our Cultural Medallion series.

    At the Singapore Writers Festival 2013, we will be launching 10 new titles under the “Brand New Books” segment. Spread across two days, our authors, editors, illustrators and translators will be at the Festival Pavillion (SMU Green) on 2 and 9 November 2013.

    2 November 2013, Saturday

    1130 – 1230
    Ministry of Moral Panic – Amanda Lee Koe
    The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One
    The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza – Cyril Wong

    1430 – 1530
    Tibby, the Tiger Bunny – Emily Lim | Illustrator: Jade Fang
    The Robot in My Playground – Pauline Loh | Illustrator: Avina Tan
    Myth of the Stone: 20th Anniversary Edition – Gwee Li Sui

    9 November 2013, Saturday

    1130 – 1230
    Other Cities, Other Lives – Chew Kok Chang | Translator: Shelly Bryant
    Durians are Not the Only Fruit – Wong Yoon Wah | Translator: Jeremy Tiang

    1430 – 1530
    The Tower – Isa Kamari | Translator: Alfian Sa’at
    Confrontation – Mohamed Latiff Mohamed | Translator: Shafiq Selamat

    Myth of the Stone: 20th Anniversary Edition by Gwee Li Sui
    Gwee Li Sui’s Myth of the Stone, first published in 1993, is an endearing tale of one unlikely hero’s journey through an unfamiliar landscape. This 20th Anniversary Edition of Singapore’s first full-length graphic novel in English comes with improved art and bonus features.

    The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One Edited by Jason Erik Lundberg
    The best short fiction published by Singaporean writers in 2011 and 2012. Here are twenty unique and breathtaking literary insights into the Singaporean psyche, which examine what it means to live in this particular part of the world at this particular time.

    The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza by Cyril Wong
    A retiring teacher reflects on her long career, and discovers a truth that will completely overturn her perceptions. The stunning first novel from award-winning poet Cyril Wong, The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza is a tour de force, an exceptional examination of the power of choice and the unreliability of memory.

    Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe
    A fresh collection of short fiction that transgresses the normal and examines the improbable necessity of human connection. Told in strikingly original prose, these are fictions that plough, relentlessly, the possibilities of understanding Singapore and her denizens discursively, off-centre. Ministry of Moral Panic is an extraordinary debut collection and the introduction of a revelatory new voice.

    Confrontation by Mohamed Latiff Mohamed | translated by Shafiq Selamat
    Seen through the unique perspective of the young Malay boy Adi, this fundamental period in Singaporean history is brought to life with masterful empathy. In the tradition of Ben Okri’s The Famished Road and Anita Desai’s The Village By the Sea, Confrontation is an incredible evocation of village life and of the consequences that come from political alignment.

    Tibby, the Tiger Bunny by Emily Lim | illustrated by Jade Fang
    In this cheerful tale about fitting in and acceptance, Tibby, a black-and-orange striped rabbit changes the minds of other rabbits after he shows them what he’s really made of.

    Robot in My Playground by Pauline Loh | illustrated by Avina Tan
    Lucas loves robots. Especially the robot in the playground by his house. He wishes that robot would wake up, so that Lucas can play with him. And one night, he does!


    The Cultural Medallion is Singapore’s highest cultural award, given to those who have achieved artistic excellence in the areas of literature, dance, music, theatre and art. Epigram Books’ Cultural Medallion series is a commitment to bringing works written in native tongues to a wider audience. Matching the acclaimed writers with talented translators such as Alfian Sa’at, Shelly Bryant and Jeremy Tiang, these books are being made available to an English-language audience for the first time.

    Following the launch of the first five titles in our Cultural Medallion series at the Singapore Writers Festival 2012, Epigram Books is launching three new titles this year!

    Other Cities, Other Lives by Chew Kok Chang | translated by Shelly Bryant
    A collection of mini-fiction by Cultural Medallion-winner Chew Kok Chang. Told in the elegant, spare style of a Chinese scholar, Chew’s micro-fiction reflects the voice of his generation, living through a time of immense change in the region.

    Durians Are Not the Only Fruit: Notes from the Tropics by Wong Yoon Wah | translated by Jeremy Tiang
    A collection of nature writing and essays about Malaysia and Singapore from scholar and Cultural Medallion-winner Dr Wong Yoon Wah. Both personal and informative, this selection of Wong’s essays is a stunning re-addition to the creative non-fiction landscape.

    The Tower by Isa Kamari | translated by Alfian Sa’at
    From Cultural Medallion-winner Isa Kamari comes a masterful tale of success and failure, which has been translated for the first time into English by Alfian Sa’at, his debut work of translation.

    All books will be hitting bookshelves soon so keep an eye out at your favourite bookstore!


    With these 10 new titles, we have a total of 28 authors, illustrators and translators at the festival this year.

    Apart from the “Brand New Books” segment at the Festival Pavilion, many of our authors will be participating in the different programmes at various venues during the festival. One of which is the Sherlock Sam Treasure Hunt! On the 3rd and 9th of November, as part of the “Little Lit” programme, AJ Low will be conducting a Sherlock Sam Treasure Hunt. 

    We are very excited to be contributing so much to the Singapore Writers Festival this year and we hope to see you there!

    Interview with ‘Sherlock Sam’ Authors! January 04 2013

    Happy New Year, dear readers! Here at Epigram Books, we’re looking forward to another year of putting out well-designed and thought-provoking titles. Today, we’re excited to present an interview with A.J. Low, the husband-and-wife writing team behind our latest children’s series, Sherlock Sam. The series follows “Singapore’s greatest kid detective” and his trusty robot sidekick Watson, and is illustrated by drewscape.

    1. What are the ingredients that go into the making of a great children’s book? Are these aspects what you used or thought about in concocting the story of Sherlock Sam?

    The same as any other kind of story: relatable characters and a good plot. Everything else is an added bonus (things like genre, humor, etc.) that can make a story better, but without that foundation of character and plot, readers, especially children, will be able to tell and will never pick up a book by you again.

    For Sherlock Sam, we first focused on all the characters and tried to make them as great as possible. Sherlock, his sister Wendy, his parents, his robot, and his friend Jimmy make up the core of the first book, and we think readers of all ages will love them, and recognize them as people they might know (even possibly the robot). We think our plot is pretty good too, if we do say so ourselves, and was made better by invaluable input from various folk who read our initial drafts, especially our editor Ruth Wan. If you read our very first draft now, you’d think it was a completely different, and not as good, book as what we ended up with.

    2. What kind of preparation and research went into the story and the series?

    We researched Peranakan food a lot. Like, we ate it every day. That was fun research.

    3. What are the characteristics of a good children’s writer in your opinion?

    Again, the same as any other kind of writer: being able to write a good story that people will enjoy. I think it’s important to not talk down to children, but also understand that there are things they won’t be able to understand yet. It’s a fine line between “dumbing down” a story, and writing age-appropriate material, but I think we were able to hit that sweet spot in the middle with Sherlock Sam.

    4. Describe your creative collaboration process as a writing duo.

    We tend to plot out the book together, agree on all the major story beats and then get them down on paper, then we split up the actual writing: I’ll write a chapter, then she’ll write a chapter, etc. After that’s done, we go through it together and make sure everything makes sense and is cohesive. Chances are good that if something doesn’t make sense to your writing partner, it’s not going to make sense to anybody else either, so something needs to be changed.

    5. Why would children enjoy this book and the series?

    We set out to write a book that we ourselves would enjoy, at any age. Since we’re mostly still kids ourselves (you should see our LEGO collection!), and we enjoyed writing and reading the heck out of this book, we cannot imagine anybody else not enjoying reading this.

    6. Why should parents buy this book for their children?

    Because it’s good. It’s the only reason to ever buy any form of media.

    7. What makes this book and the character of Sherlock Sam different from those of other investigative series?

    We based a lot of Sherlock Sam’s mannerisms on his namesake, so he’s extremely intelligent, he has a food vice, and he wants to solve mysteries for their own sake. However, unlike Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Sam is quite a nice person, so while he wants to solve mysteries because, in his mind, they all need to be solved, he also does it because he wants to help people. And he readily asks for and accepts help when he needs it. He’s not in it for the fame or money or prestige; he simply wants to help people and get to the bottom of things.

    8. What were some of the key inspirations of the book and its characters?

    Nancy Drew, the Famous Five, Scooby-Doo, and, of course, Sherlock Holmes. We’ve been watching a lot of detective shows as well, like Castle and Elementary, to help with our plotting. When and how to reveal clues is a very important element of all mystery fiction that we constantly have to keep up on.

    9. What advice would you give to parents in bringing up their children as avid readers (having grown up to become avid readers and writers yourselves)?

    Let them read. Let them run wild at a bookstore, or give them a library card, and let them read. If they ask to be read to, read to them (in fact, chase them around the house reading aloud to them). If they pick up something you think might be too advanced for them, don’t tell them to put it back. Instead, help them with it. Read it with them and explain words or concepts that they don’t yet know or understand.

    Let them read.


    Look out for the first book in the series, Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong, out later this month! In the meanwhile, explore the Sherlock Sam website and follow the Facebook page for exclusive content and behind-the-scenes sneak peeks.

    See more of series illustrator drewscape’s work on his website and check out his collection of short comic stories, Monsters, Miracles & Mayonnaise, published by Epigram Books last year.



    ‘Spider Boys’: Interview with Author Ming Cher December 28 2012

    Last week, our editor Jocelyn offered some insight into the editorial process behind Ming Cher’s Spider Boyspart of our Singapore Classics series—and gave us an overview of the gritty story set in 1950s Singapore. Today, read on to find out more about the novel from the author himself!

    Epigram Books: What prompted you to write Spider Boys? At which point in your life did you write it?

    Ming Cher: I wanted to write a novel about Singapore’s recent history since the country had changed so much over a 30-year period. I began writing in 1988 when my son Marco was five years old (Marco has an Australian mother) to show him something of my own childhood at around his age. I was living in Auckland and had just sold a shop on Grafton Road which I had owned for ten years (Batik Bazaar) and was at a loose end and needed something to do.

    I also wanted to move into the present by setting down everything I knew personally about the past. The past is of value especially when it leads us into the future.

    EB: How long did it take you to write Spider Boys?

    MC: It took me four years to write Spider Boys. Writer’s block was always a problem and my English was not really up to the task. The writing went very, very slowly. A page often seemed to take an eternity.

    EB: Which of the characters do you most closely identify yourself with? Why?

    MC: I identify with most of them in a literary sense. I should stress that while it is not “my” story, many of them are based loosely on my friendsKwang, Chinatown Yeow, Sachee. It is however a work of fictionto protect the reputations of the innocent! Although it sounds autobiographical, it is not an autobiography. My own life has been different and often darker than the events within the book. I am however proud of all my characters in their struggle for survival and in their truth to themselves. They are colourful and essentially honest. There is a lot about life in Singapore that I do not wish to talk about.

    EB: We understand that you grew up in Bukit Ho Swee, represented in the book as Ho Swee Hill. How did life change after the big fire in 1961?

    MC: I was away from Bukit Ho Swee, living on construction sites wherever there was workJurong, Bedok. The whole face of Singapore was changing rapidly and we lived in workers’ camps wherever the big jobs were.

    EB: Why did you leave Singapore? Do you think you’ll return any time in the future?

    MC: I went to work in Sabah and then worked in Vietnam as a construction supervisor. I became a seaman and for seven years sailed all over the world with many of the big lines at that timeHogg Line, under the Norwegian flag, Neptune Orient Lines (Singapore), KDM Shipping.

    However, my six brothers and sisters all remain in Singapore. If I return, it will be only as a visitor, since I relinquished my citizenship for citizenship in New Zealand.

    Original 1995 Penguin and William Morrow editions of Spider Boys

    EB: Spider Boys had been out of print for several years now. Do you have any particular thoughts on this new edition?

    MC: I am delighted by this new Singaporean and Malaysian edition for many reasons. The first is that I am working on a sequel to Spider Boys, which follows the characters after the first novel ends. It is called Big Mole and any interest which comes as a result of the new edition may translate into interest in the sequel.

    The second reason is that the book has never been published before in Singapore. It has been successful in the US, in Australia and New Zealand, and in Italy. It is the subject of many university courses on Asian writing in English but, really, has been looking for its true home for almost twenty 2 years.

    The third reason is that it was written away from Singapore, and from memories of a distant past, so naturally there were some inaccuracies. The excellent team at Epigram Books, and in particular my editor there, Jocelyn Lau, have ensured through diligent historical investigation and enquiry that location and street names are all accurate for the time it was written, which means, in turn, that it will read more authentically for a contemporary Singaporean. These things do not matter in an “overseas” publication, but are vital in your homeland. Funnily enough, the Italian edition, I Ragazzi di Singapore, was very popular with readers there because in translation into the Italian tongue, the street slang of the spider boys rang true immediately for local readers!


    Find out more about Ming Cher’s Spider Boys and read sample pages from the novel here.

    ‘Spider Boys’: A Book Recommendation by the Editor! December 21 2012

    Spider Boys, by Ming Cher, was launched earlier this year as part of our Singapore Classics series. First published by Penguin New Zealand in 1995, Spider Boys has been re-edited to not only retain the flavour of colloquial Singapore English in the dialogues, but also to improve the accessibility of the novel for all readers by rendering the narrative into grammatical Standard English. Our intrepid editor Jocelyn Lau offers some insight into the painstaking yet rewarding editorial process she undertook:

    “It’s like reliving my boyhood again.”
     Tan Kok Seng, author of Three Sisters of Sze, Son of Singapore and Man of Malaysia

    When I first began the daunting task of re-editing the original edition of Spider Boys, published in 1995 by Penguin Books, New Zealand, I had to decide how to go about making the book more accessible to readers—both international as well as Singaporean and Malaysian. For me, not only was the use of tenses in the narrative and the dialogues inconsistent, but the depiction of the ‘street slang’ was not wholly accurate; I found it taxing to read beyond even the opening paragraphs.

    The work involved ‘regularising’ the narrative so it conforms to standard English, and also retaining as much of the colloquial flavour in the dialogues as possible; this was so that readers from our part of the world would identify more closely with the language they use in informal banter, as they certainly would with the life in Singapore in the 1950s portrayed in Ming Cher’s novel.

    As I turned the millstone, I was gratified to discover how handsomely the story would reward my efforts. Set in Chinatown and Bukit Ho Swee, two historically-rich neighbourhoods, Spider Boys is true to “[…] aspects of colonial Singapore in the mid-fifties: gangs and gang rivalry, fighting spiders, fighting fish, kite flying, adolescent angst, religious observances and superstitions amid working-class poverty”. (Robert Yeo, introduction, Spider Boys).

    “As someone born in 1940, who also flew kites, kept fighting fish and spiders and took part in competitions […], knew gangsters in my district of Hougang and grew up hearing stories of old wives’ tales, I can testify to the authenticity of the novel.”
    — Robert Yeo, introduction, Spider Boys

    Gritty, it is unsentimental in its description of poverty: while the parents are out all day (or, in some cases of live-in servants, all month), the street children scrabble in mosquito-infested grasses for fighting spiders that would bring them extra pocket money through bartering or gambling, or in stench-filled monsoon drains for recyclable scraps for the karang guni men—while tourists took photographs of them. Grim, it tells how betrayal of one’s compatriots can result in untimely death—by knife, perhaps, plunged into the chest once in drunken sleep. Gripping, it is evident of first-hand experience in its richly textured account of Chinese festivals, such as the Hungry Ghosts Festival, and attendant superstitions—pontianak can be kept at bay with a six-inch coffin nail, for example, while one must be careful not to be suddenly shocked, because the soul can unknowingly jump out of its body.

    But it’s not all gore. The teenage protagonists of the novel, Kwang and Kim, while grappling with the daily reality of making ends meet, also spend leisure moments chatting, playing with their fighting spiders and—exploring each other’s sexuality. When the heat from the ‘Spider Olympics’ intensifies, Kwang becomes increasingly obsessed about winning the Championship—equally for prestige as for the prize money, and his bored companion turns her attention to Kwang’s dangerous gangster rival, the smiling-faced Yeow, and finds herself on unfamiliar terrain.

    “It reminds me of the old days, when your mum used to cut our hair by putting a rice bowl on our head! Very funny.”
    — Priscilla Lee (my aunt!)

    Hypnotic, arousing and shocking all at once, Spider Boys will especially endear itself to readers who grew up in Singapore between the late 1940s and early 1970s. To readers younger than this, the realness of the story, the palpable excitement in the plot and the historical value of the novel will appeal.


    Find out more about Ming Cher’s Spider Boys and read sample pages from the novel here. And visit our blog again next Wednesday for an insightful interview with the author himself!


    ‘A New Home for Bo Bo and Cha Cha’: Interview with the Author December 14 2012

    Here at Epigram Books, we’re especially excited about one of our latest children’s titles, A New Home for Bo Bo and Cha Cha, as it is written by one of our own—author Jason Erik Lundberg has been an editor here since September this year!

    Bo Bo and Cha Cha have come to the Mandai Zoo! Bo Bo is excited, but Cha Cha is not.
    Everything here seems too strange: the other animals, the heat, and the food!
    Cha Cha wants to leave—until a caring sloth shows her what being home really means.

    Read on to hear from Jason about his experiences working on the book:

    What was it like working on a children’s book? Was it very different from editing or writing speculative fiction, which you have previously done?

    Very different indeed! Writing for kids, especially for very young kids, was a big challenge, because you have to hit all of these emotional beats with character and plot, and do so in an entertaining way, and in language that is both simple enough for three- to seven-year-olds to understand but at the same time doesn’t talk down to them.

    Many people think that writing picture books is easy; you’re only dealing with 32 pages, only about a thousand words (or less) of text, but children tend to be a much less forgiving audience than adults. If you can’t grab and keep their interest with a good story and interesting characters, they’re on to the next thing straight away.

    I’d written a couple of middle grade stories prior to A New Home for Bo Bo and Cha Cha, but had never even considered writing picture books. However, when the opportunity arose, I took it as an exciting task, and actually had a great experience in doing so. Crucial to this as well was working with editor Sheri Tan, who has years of experience editing children’s books; after I’d come up with the basic story, we worked together closely to shape it into something that was compelling and meaningful, and also fun to read.

    What was your process working with illustrator Patrick Yee? For instance, did his illustrations come first, or did he base them on your writing? Did you work collaboratively?

    Patrick actually approached Epigram Books with the premise of the pandas coming to the zoo, as well as some initial illustrations, back in April or May, so I had some preliminary visuals to work with in my head. But in terms of story, I basically started from scratch, turning it from a concept that was more appropriate for a baby board book into a proper picture book with some emotional complexity.

    Once Sheri and I had finalised the text, she sent the story to Patrick so that he could illustrate the pages based on her proposed layout. There was again some back-and-forth between him and Sheri about the artwork, and once that was all finished, everything was sent to our designer Andy Koh for the final publication layout.

    Is there anything in particular you hope kids (or, in fact, any readers) will take away from the book?

    At its heart, the book is about the experience of migrating to a new home, and having to deal with a different environment and culture, as well as the inevitable homesickness. It’s very much based on my own journey from the US to Singapore back in 2007, and all of the culture shock that arose from relocating to a country very different from my own. Many of Cha Cha’s complaints in the book—Singapore is too hot, the food is weird, the people behave strangely—were my own at the time.

    But what I hope that kids, as well as older readers, will take away from the book is that, even if moving to a new place is a disruptive and disorienting experience, it is possible to feel at home there. That homesickness can feel horrible and never-ending at first, but that it will dissipate, and things will get better. People are surprisingly resilient and adaptable, especially children.

    Jason reads his book with his daughter Anya.

    Did you learn anything interesting or amusing about pandas in the process of writing the book? Did you have to do a lot of research on them?

    I did some research on pandas before I started writing, but because we were on such a tight timeline, I wasn’t able to do as much as I would have liked. Regardless, what I found was fascinating. Many pandas are quite solitary creatures, and prefer to have lots of time to themselves; as an introvert, this appealed to me greatly, and I projected much of this temperament into Cha Cha’s personality. They can also be playful and gregarious, and so I steered Bo Bo’s character in this direction to show the contrast between the two of them.

    Also, even though pandas’ digestive systems can accommodate different types of foods, including fruits and even meat (they’re actually classified as carnivores), they choose to solely eat bamboo; and because bamboo can only give them limited amounts of energy, they have to eat massive amounts of it. This seems counter-intuitive to survival, but since pandas appear happy to hang out in the mountains of China, where bamboo is plentiful, there’s no need to vary their diet.

    What’s next for Bo Bo and Cha Cha? Can you give us any hints about their next adventures in Singapore?

    A New Home For Bo Bo and Cha Cha is the first book in a planned series about the pandas’ new experiences, and the next three books have already been outlined; now I just need to write them! And that’s all I’ll reveal for now. :)


    A New Home for Bo Bo and Cha Cha is available in all good bookstores. Check out the book page and view sample pages on our website. You can also visit author Jason Erik Lundberg’s website and illustrator Patrick Yee’s website to find out more about their work!

    NOTBOOKS: New Titles, New Price, New Promotions! November 30 2012

    Long-time readers of the Epigram Books blog may recall reading posts about our NOTBOOKS series  before. With the holiday season upon us, we’re excited to reveal four new titles, a new price and exclusive promotions!


    NOTBOOKS now come in 20 different designs, each featuring a witty catchphrase and unique, eye-catching colours. Each NOTBOOK contains 128 flexibound and thread-sewn blank pages of quality paper for your scribbles and sketches. The matte hardcover and handy A6 size make them the perfect accessory for the creative, stylish individual who’s always on the go!

    We’re also proud to share that design firm Epigram recently clinched the Bronze award in the Print category at the Singapore Design Awards 2012 for their work on NOTBOOKS!

    NOTBOOKS are sure to be a great gift for those keen to make a statement with their stationery. Each NOTBOOK now costs just S$9.90 before GST (previously S$11.90 before GST). Order through our website and take advantage of our exclusive promotions now.

    • Buy 5 NOTBOOKS, get 1 free
    • Buy 8 NOTBOOKS, get 2 free
    • Buy 12 NOTBOOKS, get 4 free
    • Buy 14 NOTBOOKS, get 6 free

    Best of all, you get to select your free NOTBOOKS!

    Click here to order your NOTBOOKS online now!

    NOTBOOKS are also sold at selected retailers including: Singapore Art MuseumNational Museum of SingaporeAsian Civilisation MuseumThe Shop at The Arts HouseSantriosTotally Hot StuffIsetan (Shaw House),BookaburraNBC (selected outlets),  Woods In the BooksCat SocratesStrangelets, De Walk in Wardrobe, Mono Yono (Plaza Singapura), This & That, Kiitos, Kalms (selected outlets) and A Curious Teepee.

    Also stay tuned for announcements on holiday fairs where we will be selling NOTBOOKS!

    The Travels Of Amos Lee November 23 2012

    It’s been an exciting few weeks for Singapore’s most famous toilet diarist, Amos Lee. He thought his world would come to an end when his diaries were stolen and published, but it seems fame and fortune await him! A director has even offered to adapt his diaries into a television show—but a new boy will take over from Amos. How unfair! The show must NOT go on! But will Amos succeed?

    Fortunately, Amos hasn’t let his jealousy get him too down. In fact, he has been on some exciting travels!

     Checking out the toilets at Changi Airport—they're known to be amazingly clean!

    Checking out the toilets at Changi Airportthey're known to be amazingly clean!
    Oh wow! Can you guess which city Amos is in?
    Oh wow! Can you guess which city Amos is in?

    That's right—it's London! Amos is excited to see the famous Tower Bridge and the River Thames.
    That's rightit's London! Amos is excited to see the famous Tower Bridge and the River Thames.


    Looks like Amos is the star at Shakespeare's Globe theatre as well...
    Looks like Amos is the star at Shakespeare's Globe theatre as well...


    Look at that beautiful scenery! Can't wait to go swimming!

    Look at that beautiful scenery! Can't wait to go swimming!


    "Headed back to home, sweet home...gotta write in my diary about my great trip!"

    "Headed back to home, sweet home...gotta write in my diary about my great trip!"

    Wow, that looked like a ton of fun! Look out for more photos from Amos Lee’s exciting travels—coming soon.

    In the meanwhile, now that the school holidays have started, are you headed on adventures overseas? Or perhaps you will be exploring Singapore’s hidden corners with your family and friends? We want to see YOUR travel photos! Send them to contact@amoslee.com.sg and who knows, you too might find fame like Amos Lee himself.

    The Diary of Amos Lee 4: Lights, Camera, Superstar! is now out in bookstores. Don’t miss the final instalment in this series! You can also view more photos from the Amos 4 e-book launch at the Singapore Writers Festival here, and photos from the official launch at { prologue } bookstore here—a big thank you to those who joined us!

    A Day in the Life of Michelle October 19 2012

    It’s time for another instalment of A Day in the Life! Read on to find out from Michelle about marketing efforts and events at Epigram Books.

    It’s been six months since I joined the publishing industry as an Editorial and Marketing Assistant for Epigram Books. To date, I’ve worked on or organised seven book events, emceed at four of these events and performed spoken word with a jazz band at our very own ‘Evening of Poetry and Music’ to celebrate the Singapore Pioneer Poets Series featuring the best of Edwin Thumboo, Robert Yeo and Kirpal Singh.

    At last count, together with my manager Felicia I’ve launched, promoted and written to the press about our first graphic novels, three children’s titles, two food titles, one photography title, one travel book and one literary non-fiction collection. That’s a total of 29 books I’ve worked to promote in the last six months. Phew. On average that would make about four books a month but in reality, our publishing schedule does not work according to an average each month. Oh, and I’ve also co-produced three book videos to date with Meteor Workshop for our books. That was just too much fun to be called work.

    Rock musician and friend Mik meets Singapore literary giant Edwin Thumboo
    Rock musician and friend Mik meets Singapore literary giant Edwin Thumboo

    Coming from a background of teaching drama, arts administration and a short stint in journalism and copywriting, a mid-career switch to publishing was a surprise just out-of-the-blue for me. I had just reconnected with my childhood love for comics and graphic novels having discovered Koh Hong Teng and Dave Chua’s Gone Case as well as Sonny Liew’s works. When a school friend with an illustrious career in the books industry called me about a part-time position in the publishing house she had moved to, something in me jumped. Before I knew it, I was tearing joyfully telling my soon-to-be employer why comics trump films any day. Before I knew it, I had my foot in the door of the enigmatic business of publishing. Before I knew it, I was hosting events I organised for books such as the never-before-published Mimi Fan, Singapore’s first English language play by a local, penned in 1962. I had come full circle from treading the hallowed boards as an actor since school days, to teaching students drama, to marketing plays and encouraging people to read Singapore literature and to buy books written by Singaporeans.

    Actress Karen Tan, who once played Mimi Fan, at our event

    Watching Karen Tan, who played Mimi Fan in a 1990 TheatreWorks production, tearfully express love to the late playwright Lim Chor Pee in the company of his family and friends meant something to me. I felt the same kind of gratitude as she did to him, as someone who also fell in love with the theatre and who never got over it. So did interviewing my local comic artist idols Koh Hong Teng and Sonny Liew who had been supporting me even before I joined Epigram Books at my jazz gigs at The Old Brown Shoe. Still, the most nerve-wracking experience I’ve had to go through apart from speaking in front of the likes of Singapore’s Ambassador-at-large Chan Heng Chee, was performing selected poetry by the likes of Edwin Thumboo, Kirpal Singh and Robert Yeo. It was a great honour to be trusted to present their works musically with my chosen genre of jazz and I will always be deeply humbled by the experience. If you’d like to see it, here is a preview on Epigram Books’ very own YouTube channel.

    My best friend recently said to me, “I always see you posting about your work and photos of your events, glam glam all lah…” I related to him the analogy of the pretty-looking Mandarin ducks swimming on the lakes – elegant and calm above water, frenetic paddling below water. If you can see me as a Mandarin duck, that just about sums up this six-month-long Day in the Life of Michelle. This explains too why my blog post reads more like a retrospective than a Day in the Life account. It was six months in the making (or rather writing) as I just could not have written it until today.

    For a taste of what the journey has been like for me this past year at Epigram Books, this is what it looks like above the water at least, in the public eye. Watch out for more Epigram Books titles and book events in 2012 and 2013!

    With Denise Fletcher, author of Mum's Not Cooking: Favourite Singaporean Recipes for the Near Clueless or Plain Lazy, after a successful event!

    ‘Blanket Travel’ Illustration by Kim Da Jeong October 12 2012

    At Epigram Books, we value not only quality writing, but also well-designed books. Recently we have put out four titles for children, translated from the original Italian, Spanish, Korean and French into English. We love how these these books can be enjoyed not only by young ones but also by adults, with their heartwarming stories and beautiful illustrations!

    Enjoy the following video from Kim Da-Jeong, writer and illustrator of Blanket Travel, about two siblings who reassure their sister that nighttime can be fun rather than scary. From diving into oceans to riding a kangaroo, they travel together everywhere on their blanket.

    Da-Jeong graduated in 2006 from Kookmin University in Seoul, South Korea, where she studied painting. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree in illustration. Blanket Travel, published for the first time by Epigram Books, is her first children’s book. We would like to thank her for taking the time to specially film this video for us!

    Call For Submissions: ‘Best New Singaporean Short Stories’ October 08 2012


    Call for Submissions for Reprint Anthology Series

    Singapore, 8/10/2012 — Epigram Books and editor Jason Erik Lundberg are excited to announce the premiere volume of Best New Singaporean Short Stories, a new biennial anthology series of Singaporean short fiction, with an expected publication date of May 2013.

    “We have wanted to put together this series for a long time,” said Epigram Books publisher Edmund Wee. “It is important to collect and promote the excellent new short fiction being published by Singaporean writers, and no one else in Singapore has yet done so in this way.”

    Epigram Books is now considering nominations from periodical editors and book publishers who have published English-language stories by Singaporean writers, both in Singapore and abroad. Authors must be Singaporean citizens or permanent residents.

    The original appearance of the nominated stories is required to have been published in magazines, literary journals, anthologies, or collections (both in print and online) between January 2011 and December 2012; OR achieved prize placement (third place or above) in a national/international writing competition. There are no restrictions on genre or subject matter.

    Submissions are open until 31 December 2012. Full submission guidelines are available here.

    For further information or queries, contact:
    Jason Erik Lundberg | Editor, Epigram Books
    jason@epigrambooks.sg | +65-6292-4456

    A Day In The Life of Jason September 28 2012

    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!

    Epigram Books goes to the Singapore Toy, Games, and Comics Convention August 30 2012

    Made-in-Singapore GRAPHIC NOVELS

    “(This is) the first real commitment by a local publisher to try out local content, and (it has) made us all very excited.”— Sonny Liew, artist

    Epigram Books proudly presents a new initiative never before ventured by any Singaporean publisher: a collection of graphic novels by a group of Singapore-based creators—from seasoned comics veterans to fresh, emerging talents.

    The Girl Under the Bed is Dave Chua’s tale of a 13-year-old who befriends a spirit during the Hungry Ghost month. Set to the beautiful absurdist drawings of newcomer, art student Ng Xiao Yan, it will beguile and give you spine-tingling chills. Then be tickled by drewscape’s whimsical Monsters, Miracles & Mayonnaise: a delightful collection of short comic stories that feature the uncanny (monsters), miraculous (miracles) and absolutely mundane (mayonnaise), that will surprise, amuse and draw involuntary chuckles from even the most cynical reader.  Alternatively, go back in time with Miel’s jaunty ‘jalan-jalan’ (walk) through Singapore history in the humorously named Scenegapore, or Oh Yong Hwee and Koh Hong Teng’s Ten Sticks and One Rice, a tale of a former secret society member turned satay seller, reflecting the struggles and tribulations of a man making a life for himself in the ever-transforming Singapore.

    Finally, award-winning artist Sonny Liew pays tribute in The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, a graphic novel showcasing the life of a pioneering but largely forgotten comics artist in Singapore.  This ground breaking work straddles the divide between the real and imaginary, reflecting Chan’s deep passion for both his chosen medium of comics and his country. This title is due to be launched in February 2015. Look out for it!

    Epigram Books’ debut foray into graphic novels reflect the wonderfully diverse and creative skills of these Singaporean creators. The works call out to all of us to appreciate and enjoy the art of comics, and recognise and treasure the artistic talents in our society.

    The first four titles, The Girl Under the Bed, Monsters, Miracles & Mayonnaise, Scenegapore and Ten Sticks and One Rice will be launched at a panel-cum-book event at Books Kinokuniya Singapore on Saturday, 17 November at 4:00PM.  Before that, get sneak-peeks, the inside scoop and find out trade secrets on the local comics publishing scene at the Singapore Toys Games and Comics Convention at Marina Bay Sands on Sunday, 2 September, at 10:30AM where all six of our creators will be holding a panel discussion entitled, “How to Maximise Wealth, Ace Your Exams and Be A Winning Winner by Drawing Comics”!



    A Personal Note From the Author of ‘Sushi and Tapas’: Winnie Li August 23 2012

    The book launch of Sushi and Tapas: Bite-size Personal Stories from Women Around the World is a very exciting event for all of us at Epigram Books. Not only will the esteemed Professor Chan Heng Chee be our guest-of-honour during the event, we have three authors flying in from overseas as well. Winnie Li, one of the authors, writes us a short post before she leaves for her trip!

    I’ve been asked to write a guest blog entry for Epigram Books, in anticipation of next week’s launch of Sushi and Tapas. This is very flattering, because I wonder why ANYONE would EVER want to glimpse inside my mind 24 hours before I’m due to travel to Singapore. (It’s one Scary Long To-Do List.)

    “What is on that list?” you ask so innocently.

    Here are some examples:

    1) Deliver budget and proposal for a year’s worth of film series (for my day job)
    2) Lock films for an Arab cinema showcase taking place in Japan (day job also)
    3) Attempt to pack
    4) Call my mom
    5) Email my flatmates that the newly-installed door to the washer/dryer doesn’t quite work so you have to kind of jiggle it to get it to open
    6) Attempt to find accommodation and/or trekking guide for Bukit Lawang in Sumatra (where I am going on Saturday)
    7) Attempt to store my entire novel in a cloud
    8) Write this guest blog entry

    There’s 9,992 other things on this list, but I won’t torture you, or Epigram Books will regret they ever asked me to write this.

    Regarding No. 7, I was at lunch with my friends today, discussing iPhones, clouds, and other techie stuff I don’t really understand, and I had a brain wave: “Hey, maybe I’ll try to store my novel in a cloud!”  This conjured images of the Care Bears––I envisioned ascending to a fluffy cumulus in the sky and entrusting my shining, incomplete novel to Literary Reading Bear, who would smile benevolently from behind his round spectacles and store it in the heavens along with all the other unpublished novels of aspiring writers.

    No really, I like this concept of a cloud.

    Because as someone who travels a lot and writes down random thoughts at very inconvenient moments, I live in PERPETUAL FEAR that something will happen to my novel while I am traveling.  What happens if my apartment building bursts into flames when I’m away? Or if my plane crashes when I’m flying? What will happen to my novel then??? All those years of writing, vanished in moments.

    Our mortality haunts us even as we try to go about living our defiant 21st-century lives.  For those of you who have read my essay in Sushi and Tapas, you’ll know that grappling with this notion of mortality was key in my recovery from a traumatic incident. My therapist forced me to confront my Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder head-on when she asked me: “If you had died in this incident, what would that mean?”

    I shrugged. “That I would never finish writing my book?  That I would never get to travel to all the places I want to visit?” (I listed a bunch more.)

    “Well, you didn’t die,” she said emphatically. “So now you can accomplish all those things on your list.”

    I eventually recovered from my PTSD. And while I still haven’t finished writing my book, at least I’ve contributed to one book since then.

    But I still pray every time I’m on a plane about to take off (even though I’m normally atheist).  And in and amongst all the mundane aspects of my everyday life, I know I need to mix in a bit of wonder and a bit of dreaming through travel, through writing, through art.  Otherwise our lives just become one massive To-Do List, devoid of joy or enlightenment.

    So if I manage to get through my current To-Do List (sigh), and if my plane doesn’t crash, I look forward to seeing some of you in Singapore.  I hope you’ll enjoy our book.


    ‘Our Gurkhas’: The Process of Creating the Book August 17 2012

    Epigram Books is proud to present Our Gurkhas: Singapore Through Their Eyes by talented photographer and writer Zakaria Zainal.

    Do keep a look out  on the Epigram Books Facebook page for more details about the first book event!

    Zakaria will be on hand to autograph copies of your book.

    Date: Friday, 31 August 2012
    Time: 7:30pm to 9:00pm
    Venue: National Library, Possibility Room, Level 5

    Without further ado, we’ll hear from Zakaria about the journey he embarked on to publish his book.


    Exactly a year ago, I was based in Nepal doing fieldwork—gathering portraits and anecdotes of the retired Singapore Gurkhas. Little did I know the impact this work would have on the Gurkha community as well as Singaporeans.

    What a difference this year has been.

    Let me state upfront: The journey in making a book on this invisible community would not have been possible without the support of Epigram Books.
    I first met Edmund in November 2011, as we both were speakers for PLATFORM—a gathering of Singapore-based photographers, who use stills, video or multimedia, to tell stories.

    I was sharing my work on the Gurkhas while he was sharing more about book publishing, especially photography books. A few meetings later, work on the book started. I believe we were both excited at the thought of making this photography book possible.

    It was my first time being involved in such a process but I have enjoyed it at every step—be it the editorial direction, choice and sequencing of portraits and stories as well as marketing this book project.

    But it cannot be said enough, the help and support of the Singapore Gurkha community in Nepal for opening their homes and hearts, and allowing me to document their lives to be shared with other Singaporeans.

    Enjoy these photographs that documents the process of making the book.

    On Books, With Ovidia Yu August 15 2012

    This week, the energetic and vivacious playwright and author Ovidia Yu graces us with her take on books!

    Ovidia has published an anthology of plays with Epigram Books titled Eight Plays.

    What was your favourite book growing up?

    At different ages:

    Apple Bough by Noel Streatfield
    The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
    Metamorphosis by Ovid (probably because of the name!)

    What books are currently on your ‘to-read’ list?

    The Taj Conspiracy by Manreet Sodhi Somesshwar (just published, I’m part way through now!)
    The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (coming out Aug 28th)

    Who are your top five authors?

    Currently: (if you’re talking living writers)

    1. Louise Penny
    2. Alan Bradley
    3. Kerry Greenwood
    4. Donna Leon
    5. Alexander McCall Smith

    But the list changes from month to month, sometimes from week to week and from day to day so don’t engrave this in stone!

    Have you ever faked reading a book?

    If you mean to avoid being drawn into conversation, yes. But it doesn’t work very well because if people want to talk they’ll ask “what are you reading?” “Is it any good?” So as a general rule it works better fake praying or meditating.

    Have you ever bought a book just because you thought the cover was beautiful? If so, which one?

    So far no.

    If you could pick just one book to recommend, which book would it be?

    Malay Sketches by Alfian Saat.

    Is there a book that changed your life? If so, which one?

    Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

    What is your favourite line from a book?

    (I may be misquoting, I don’t have the book with me but this is roughly how it goes.) From Nancy Mitford’s Love In A Cold Climate:

    “Such a beautiful girl and no BA at all,” Lady Montdore said. “SA,” said Lady Patricia faintly, “Or BO.”

    What book would you want to read again for the first time?

    Sorry, I can’t think of one. I think the more I reread books the more I grow to love them. I wouldn’t want to lose that bond with any of the books I’ve grown to love and I wouldn’t want to read any of the others (again) for the first time.

    What book or book character would you want to be real?

    The Three Pines books by Louise Penny. I would love to go visit the B & B in Three pines where the food is fantastic (in fantasy and novel worlds I can eat meat) and all the furniture is for sale, and meet Clara Morrow and Inspector Gamache.

    On Books, With Robert Yeo August 08 2012

    We’ve been bringing our readers A Day in the Life of Epigram Books staffers for a while now, so we thought it might be a nice change to give our readers an insight into the minds of our authors!

    First up, the brilliant and gentlemanly Robert Yeo, prolific poet and author. A welcome and familiar sight in the office, Mr Yeo has published The Adventures of Holden Heng and The Best of Robert Yeo with Epigram Books.

    Without further ado, a very quick Q & A with Robert Yeo on our favourite topic, books!


    His poems are personal poems, reflections on observed reality. They chronicle the developments of an individual consciousness while at the same time they chronicle the developments of Singapore. The parallelism of the poet and the city is unforced but recurrent.
    –– Michael Wilding, novelist and Emeritus Professor of English and Australian Literature, University of Sydney.

    What was your favourite book growing up?
    There were too many, but if I have to give a favourite, it is the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, read when I was probably an adolescent of 14 to 15 years old. I must have been precocious!

    What books are currently on your “to-read” list?
    What Maisie Knew by Henry James, Confucius by Meher McArthur, Shame by Salman Rushdie, July’s People by Nadine Gordimer.

    Who are your top five authors?
    Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Michael Wilding (an Australian writer), Ernest Hemingway and Arthur Yap.

    Have you ever bought a book just because you thought the cover was beautiful?

    If you could pick one book to recommend, which book would it be?
    The Analects by Confucius.

    Is there a book that changed your life?

    What is your favourite line from a book?
    The first line from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

    What book would you want to read again for the first time?
    A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

    What book or book character would you want to be real?

    A Day in the Life of Huda July 25 2012

    Thus far, we’ve given you an insight into the workdays of our editors, marketing managers, and interns. However, behind every successful publishing house, there are the quiet heroes, the people who ensure that everything runs smoothly for the rest of the team.  In this installment of our A Day in the Life series, we find out what our new Administrative Executive has to say about her job at Epigram Books!

    I was quite nervous on my first day of work at Epigram Books (barely a month ago). I didn’t want to be late and in the end, I was half an hour early to work. Fortunately, our Studio Manager was around to show me around.

    As I came from a bookstore environment, with the ambient music, constant chatter of customers, and ringing of cash registers, the quietness of the Epigram Books office environment took me by surprise. The office is big and white, lined with shelves filled with books and an amazing collection of artwork displayed on the walls. Plus, the pantry is filled with glasses, plates, and cutlery, chopping boards, state-of-the-art coffee maker, and microwave. Also, did I mention that every table comes with an iMac (seriously, how cool is that?).

    As it was my first day at work, they decided to take it easy on me. I was given simple administrative duties which gave me the chance to get used to using an iMac. It was a bit of a struggle at first but I can now declare that I am no longer a Mac noob! Yay!

    However, it was just the calm before the storm. As the week progressed, I was given more responsibilities, sorting out the accounts and paperwork for our line of NOTBOOKS, organising work flow, and other administrative duties. I’m also in charge of calling our vendors to check on our accounts and payments (this is quite fun, I have to admit). With so many new responsibilities that included meeting with distributors, doing overseas orders, payroll, and doing up sales invoice, my first few weeks passed by swiftly.

    It’s been almost a month now since I first joined Epigram Books and here’s some of the things that I’ve done as Administrative Executive:

    - Fulfilling a book order from Kinokuniya Dubai (I thought this was my first major responsibility!)
    - Replying potential customers on their enquiries about purchasing our titles.
    - Learning to post up new titles on our website. My first post was for our new poetry title, The Best of Robert Yeo (part of our Pioneer Poets series) using WordPress, which thankfully is quite idiot proof.
    - Scribbling on post-it notes and sticking them onto my iMac so I won’t forget important things.
    - Peeling tags of wine glasses with Edmund and our intern, Josephine. (I started reminiscing about the good old times at the bookstore doing returns…). We take our event preparation quite seriously!
    - Liaising with our HK distributor (who spoke to me in Cantonese at one point) and rushing to get their last minute orders out on time.
    - Segregating box after box and labeling them clearly (By Air or By Sea) for our HK Distributor together with Josephine (a back breaking task, I must say).
    - Maintaining our contact database so that Michelle, our Marketing Assistant, can set up a mailing list (let us know if you’d like to join!).
    - Getting an Excel spreadsheet ready for Ruth, our Managing Editor, to use as part of her presentation in a meeting.

    That, folks, is the life of an Administrative Executive! I can’t say that I miss the retail environment of a bookstore (okay, maybe a little bit), but regardless of where I am, my love for books won’t ever change.

    A Day in the Life of Esther July 16 2012

    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.”

    “Are you coming for an interview under Epigram or Epigram Books?”

    “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!

    6. Illustrate.
    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…

    Book Launch: ‘Malaysia Bagus!: Travels Through My Homeland’ by Sharon Cheah July 16 2012

    “My goodness, where is this place?” friends asked, when they received invites to my book launch at Sekeping Victoria. That’s because it’s the newest and hippest event space in town, and tucked in a grid of streets filled with derelict warehouses and crumbling godowns.

    The warehouses and godowns were built for the shipping and trading business that Penang had thrived on.  The island was settled as a trading entrepot by its founder Francis Light. While trade had been the reason for the boom of Penang in the 19th century, the sun has definitely been setting on this industry since the mid-20th century. Little wonder then that warehouses like the one we were in had simply crumbled into obscurity.

    They are coming out of The Twilight Zone now though. Just look at Sekeping Victoria which has been beautifully “Sek-San”ed. Ng Sek San is one of Malaysia’s premier landscape architects, and quite an eco-warrior. Like a Banksy of the architecture world, He’s been quietly showing Malaysians – and the world – how spaces can be re-designed minimally but cleverly so that they don’t lose their former personality. At the same time, they’re made relevant to today’s new uses .

    It was a complete boon to learn that Sekeping Victoria was open for events – when I was planning my book launch in Penang. Because the Penang chapter revolves around the revitalisation of George Town, listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008.

    Reading excerpts from the chapter in an old warehouse space, with much of its architecture like its walls left intact and practically untouched was completely poetic.

    As I read out loud: “George Town is a city being revitalised, with new businesses taking over old ones and new entrepreneurs coming in to transform old spaces—former budget hotels (some otherwise known as brothels) are being turned into boutique hotels, derelict shophouses into art galleries, and disused warehouses into chic restaurants”I really could feel that happy vibes were bouncing off the walls.

    Just on Victoria Street alone, named after Queen Victoria, there is Sekeping Victoria, and a legal office where one of the partners is an avid art collector, and China House, a hip restaurant/bar/art gallery.

    The first launch of my first bookMalaysia Bagus: Travels Through My Homelandwas held in Penang, and the crowd of friends and acquaintances numbered anything from 50 to a 100. About a core of 30-50 people had collected under the thin shadows of spindly trees planted inside the event space, to listen avidly to three guest readers and myself. Moira Toh, my running buddy, kicked off the reading with a Selangor excerpt; followed by Meng Yew Choong, a journalist, who read from Perak. Then Marina Emmanuel, Penang-based but born in Terengganu, read from that chapter. I finished off with excerpts from Penang, extolling her arduous journey towards heritage listing.

    I then signed books after the reading. And posed for pictures with many friends and with many books!


    Epigram’s design is totally eye-catchingthe yellow, especially! Which, to a Malaysian these days, has meaningful connotations.

    Our tea was local kuih and yummy orange-almond cake from China House. I was especially delighted to have the launch attended mostly by friends so it was a warm and friendly gathering, with most people knowing one another and even having something like a mini reunion on site! Seven girlfriends from Singapore had also flown up for the eventand since a couple of them were from PR and marketing, I had ample expert advice and help on the side! More photographs of the launch are available here!

    Next up, the Kuala Lumpur launch on Aug 25, at 11am on a Saturday, at Kinokuniya in KLCC; and then the Singapore launch on Aug 26, 4.30pm, during the Causeway Exchange at The Arts House!

    A Day in the Life of Josephine July 06 2012

    After a brief hiatus, our A Day in the Life mini-series returns with Josephine, our newest intern! Read on to find out what high jinks our interns get up to everyday.

    My editor and supervisor, Ruth, warned me to always remain objective while evaluating a manuscript.

    “Even if you like it, it might not sell. Or if a book bores you, you still have to read through everything,” she told me, in her wise motherly voice.

    What this meant was that I would have use all the objective analytical skills at my command to evaluate the manuscript that she emailed me, no matter how much I liked or hated it. So I cuddled up on my seat with a nice steaming cup of Milo, and was quickly absorbed by the manuscript. To my colleagues it must have seemed like I was taking a nice, slow stroll through the park. As they passed by and saw me so comfortably sprawled in my seat, they eyed me with suspicion, and as I like to imagine, envy.

    The previous intern had so much work to do,” Stefany, our in-house designer, accused me during lunch, when I seemed to have nodded off by accident at my desk. (I wasn’t really though, I was just resting my eyes. Honest).

    “I wasn’t slacking! I was assessing a manuscript!” I cried. And they all nodded pacifyingly.

    After I was done with reading, I began typing out my evaluation report about how the book depicted a protagonist’s journey through life, and while the characters were realistically portrayed, with touching moments, the prose style could be somewhat awkward and stilted.

    As I valiantly fought to insert both the good and bad points of the story in my report, I also considered the four criteria that were used to judge a manuscript’s potential to be published––Personality, Prose, Plot and Profit. I decided that the manuscript scored points on Personality and Plot but none on the other two, and explained why.

    I then sent the report to my editors, who would use my report to help with their evaluation process. They make the final decision of course; I’m just an intern after all. And that, folks, is the manuscript evaluation process for you.

    If you are a hopeful author reading this, please do go ahead and submit your works. We’re very nice people and like the good and professional publishers we are; we try our best to help all aspiring authors achieve their dream of getting published!

    If you are a hopeful intern reading this, and think that this is an exceedingly easy job, you haven’t heard about the other tasks. But don’t worry on that count either. Nothing a book-lover can’t handle.

    An Interview with Author SherMay Loh at the Launch of ‘Archibald and the Black Knight's Ring’ June 13 2012

    Tell us a bit about your new book, Archibald and the Black Knight’s Ring. What is your inspiration for the book?

    Archie grows up in this second book and gets swept off his feet on a new adventure! His brother Alexander is framed for a theft that he did not commit, and Archie must help to clear his brother’s name and find the real thief. As Archie investigates, he and his friends get caught up in an even bigger mystery surrounding the death of a Black Knight seven years ago.

    The Black Knights were introduced in the first book, and as you can see from the title, they are central to this second novel. I was inspired to further explore the life and culture of the Black Knights because, in the context of this story, they’re like a 19th Century version of the CIA or MI-5––they get sent on all kinds of classified secret assignments and even the location of their headquarters is a mystery. It’s good old-fashioned spy stuff, and Archie gets to be an amateur sleuth again.

    Most local writers tend to focus on local content, why did you decide to write a book about 19th century England?

    There’s a richer sense of adventure and intrigue when your characters fight with swords instead of guns and ride horses instead of cars. I grew up reading and enjoying stories about knights and castles and legends, so naturally my story was set in 19th-century England. In fact, I wrote a chapter of this novel while I was in holiday in England last June!

    One of these days, though, I would like to try writing a local story set in Singapore.

    How did you do research for Archibald and the Black Knight’s Ring?

    The Internet is an amazing repository of information. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t speak Latin, but I could translate what I needed for the story. Also, I wanted the vocabulary to fit the setting of the book, that is, the 1800s––and certain words such as “sabotage” didn’t come into use until 1910, so I couldn’t include them in my story.

    Research is great because you can pick up all kinds of interesting nuggets of information. For instance, while researching about food in 19th-century England, I learned that poor folk in London would catch eels from the Thames River, since eels were one of the few creatures that could survive in the heavily polluted river. Eel became staple diet of the working class and eat them in a variety of ways: eel pie, jellied eel, stewed eel. Disgusting, yes! But this was a fascinating nugget of information, which I used in the story.

    Was it easier or more difficult to write the second instalment of Archibald? Why?

    It was more challenging and took longer to write––about four months.

    Firstly, because the first book was well received, I wanted to make sure the second book lived up to the standard set by its predecessor.

    Secondly, Black Knight’s Ring was like a bigger budget movie – the first book was set mainly in Wyndsor, the boarding school that Archie and his friends attend. However, this book has many different locations, which required more time and research to write.

    However, because the first book had already established the characters and their interactions, it was easier to dive straight into the action. I could focus on continuity and character growth, as well as developing the new characters in the story.

    The first book, Archibald & The Blue Blood Conspiracy, won the Bronze Award for the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. How did you feel about this win?

    Surprised and very flattered! The Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards is a US-based contest, with entries from all over the world. So it felt great to know that Archibald could compete with all these entries and still impress the judges. It reaffirms my belief that Archibald has international appeal, and some publishers in Europe and Canada have expressed interest in acquiring overseas rights to the Archibald books.

    You have a growing readership with young and adult readers. What do you think is the appeal of your series of books?

    Archibald is a character that all of us––young and not-so-young––can all relate to, because he’s just a normal person finding his place in the world. He’s not fearless, he’s not perfect, but that’s what makes him real. His loyalty and empathy, in particular, are his strengths, and these help him to overcome his doubts and fears as he deals with problems and challenges along the way.

    Additionally, the story has a strong and colourful supporting cast, such as Alexander, Archie’s older brother, as well as other interesting characters. Both kids and adults enjoy the twists and turns in the plot – I’ve been told by readers that the last four or five chapters of both books HAVE to be read all in one sitting. They couldn’t put the book down!

    What was involved in publishing this book? Are you already writing the next book?

    Not yet! It has been a whirlwind getting this second book ready for publication. A great deal of work went on behind the scenes. In a nutshell: there were several rounds of editing, done by me and my editor. The designer laid out the book pages and a professional illustrator from Imaginary Friends Studios created the cover and nine awesome interior illustrations. We also printed a small number of review copies that were sent to advance reviewers, who gave a blurb (short review) for the back cover of the final book. There’s also the marketing side of things, where we prepared for the book launch and planned marketing and promotion initiatives (such as contest tie-ups with bookstores to feature the book).

    What is your advice for budding young writers?

    This may sound counter-intuitive, but don’t start writing to be published. Don’t write what you think people want to read. Write what’s fun for you. Because what you write when you’re just starting out should be just for practice and for fun. And more importantly, this process will help you develop and improve your unique writing style, which is the foundation of writing for publication in the future.

    Direct From Boston Recipe Test Report: Bak Chor Mee for First Time Cooks May 28 2012

    Our interns form an integral part of the Epigram Books family. We entrust them with important duties like keeping the marketing and editorial teams sane. We also feed them regularly. However, because they’ve been so pampered by us, often when they leave us for the great big world, they find themselves ill-equipped to handle simple things like feeding themselves properly!

    Siau Rui was with Epigram Books for a short four weeks, but we’ve kept in touch with her through Facebook and emails. As such, when our Marketing Manager came up with the idea of trying out some of the recipes in our upcoming cookbook, Mum’s Not Cooking: Favourite Singapore Recipes for the Near Clueless or Plain Lazy by Denise Fletcher, she immediately thought of our dear ex-intern, far far away from her family in Singapore, with very little culinary skills to speak off. A perfect guinea pig.

    Siau Rui is actually studying in Vermont, but did her report from Boston where she was visiting her sister during spring break.

    Goh Siau Rui, International Student
    Boston, USA

    I was actually pretty psyched when Felicia got in touch about trying out a recipe from Mum’s Not Cooking: Favourite Singapore Recipes for the Near Clueless or Plain Lazy. I mean, I’m not proud of the fact but the sub-title describes me perfectly. I hit my (hopefully) lowest point  (food-wise) this summer in the US when I gave up trying to eat like a normal person and just snarfed down mint Oreos for dinner (don’t judge––we all make bad decisions). Anyway, because some Chemistry major told me that our metabolism starts to slow down and our body becomes increasingly intolerant of junk food once we hit 25, I’ve decided to try cooking some…Bak Chor Mee!!

    It is probably the food I miss the most here. You just can’t find it in the US––not even in New York City, which is supposed to have everything. I checked out the recipe for Bak Chor Mee in Mum’s Not Cooking and it seems fairly simple––no chopping, no frying––just mixing and boiling. So far so good!

    But first––ingredients. A bunch of my friends cook regularly so most of the ingredients are already on hand––I just needed to get chilli garlic oil and the Mee (noodles). It’s a good thing that it’s Spring Break and I was visiting my sister in Boston!

    I went by Chinatown’s C-market (the big one), but they only have chilli garlic sauce. Why!?

    I got some chilli oil instead––

    But how to make chilli garlic oil? There was information in the recipe on how to make it from scratch (i.e. making the chilli oil from scratch too) but I wasn’t sure about the measurements now that I already have chili oil…so I just mixed the chopped garlic into a random amount of chilli oil that looks right. Seemed to work.

    The minced pork. Because I was doubling the recipe, I was working with way more meat. Cue bigger bowl. As it turned out, the bigger bowl didn’t fit into the microwave oven. Bummer. So the bowl didn’t rotate and the meat wasn’t evenly cooked. Also, I had forgotten to cover the bowl. I felt pretty ‘lame’. But I transferred the meat into a smaller bowl and covered it this time––it still came out of the microwave oven weird. Too much liquid. Looked a little goopy. I threw the meat into a pan and it ended up looking…okay. I didn’t really know though, I’ve never really cooked meat before so I was just guessing.

    Then I made the noodles and put everything in a bowl. It tasted decent! Better than my laksa attempt that ended up looking and tasting like mee rebus. The chili oil has a crazy kick (probably because my proportions are all off) and the pork was a little overpowering (probably because of the weird process I put it through) but it tasted close enough to the real thing. I got a neutral response (not a lambasting!) from my fellow Singaporean and a thumbs-up from my Malaysian friend (apparently they don’t have bak chor mee/meepok in Malaysia?). Also, no one got food poisoning. Good enough I suppose. Maybe I can actually be a real person and start cooking real food someday soon, especially now that I have a copy of Mum’s Not Cooking!

    ‘Archibald’ Has Some True Fans Indeed May 09 2012

    Last month, we invited members at the Budding Writers League to participate in our Advance Review initiative, and we are extremely pleased with the enthusiastic response that our young hero Archibald has generated.

    Many were delighted by the gripping plot from author SherMay Loh, who impressed readers with a well-thought-out mystery adventure. Our reviewers exclaimed that they were kept in suspense after suspense, twist after turn, as the mystery of the black knight’s ring unravelled.

    One of our young reviewers, Rachel Han, was thoroughly impressed by the book. She wrote:

    “Many secrets are uncovered and there are many revelations in the story. Friendships are tested and promises are broken. Each mystery uncovered leads to another mystery…I personally think that Archibald is a wonderful book suitable for readers of all ages. It is one of my all-time favourite books and I think that the writing is pure magic.”
    - Miss Rachel Han, 11, from Methodist Girls’ School

    Another reviewer, who wrote a lovely, elaborate review, said:

    “The themes in the book are admirable and inspiring—honour, dignity, courage, heroism, friendship and love are portrayed in the book. I found the brotherly love between Archie and his older brother very moving.”
    -Miss Lee Mei Chuen

    We want to thank all our reviewers for reviewing Archibald and the Black Knight’s Ring! Remember to introduce Archie to all your friends, or to anyone who loves a good read!

    Oh, and before we forget, you’re all invited to the book launch!

    See you on the 2nd of June for a day of games and contests! There are prizes to be won, so bring your friends and family, and grab a copy of Archibald and the Black Knight’s Ring!

    The Diary of Adeline Foo in Beijing April 26 2012

    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!

    Adeline Foo

    From Stage to Print, With Haresh Sharma and Tan Tarn How April 20 2012

    “The political drama that unfolded in real life in Singapore last year was perfect fodder for the political drama of the stage”
    The Straits Times

    Epigram Books presents the latest additions to our Stage to Print series: Model Citizens by Haresh Sharma and Fear of Writing by Tan Tarn How.

    Both plays, written amidst a climate of increased political awareness, inspired impassioned thought and discussion upon their respective releases.

    Model Citizens delves into the lives of the people affected when a man stabs an Member of Parliament at a Meet The People’s Session. Exploring the state of Singaporean social order through a cast of highly relatable characters, Haresh Sharma delivers a work both intellectually stimulating and deeply humane.

    Fear of Writing is a groundbreaking commentary on the political climate of Singapore today. Tan Tarn How, Singapore’s quintessential political playwright, marks his return to the scene after a decade of inactivity with a monumental play that confronts the purpose of art and censorship in Singapore, and questions whether Singaporeans have become indifferent to the injustice around them.

    The books continue to pose questions as of yet unanswered by Singapore’s shifting political scene and remain representative of the tumultuous period.

    Model Citizens won Best Director and Best Actress at the Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards 2011. Fear of Writing was nominated for Best Original Script, Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards 2012.

    Model Citizens and Fear of Writing will be launched at The Arts House on Friday, 18th May at 7.30pm. Both Haresh Sharma and Tan Tarn How will be attending to discuss their respective inspirations and motivations behind their works. Additionally, cast members from both plays will be staging a reading during the event.

    Be sure to make a date with these prolific playwrights and delve into their creative processes writing these bold, winning plays.


    Meet ‘Amos Lee’ Fan Delia Lee, Author to be Comic Artist and Writer April 13 2012

    Meet 9-year-old Delia Lee, who is becoming an author and is our first young comics writer and artist featured on our blog. She wrote and posted us a letter, and shared a comic she drew. In her letter, Delia insists, “I AM A CHILD! SERIOUSLY!”

    We believe you, Delia and must say that you are a very accomplished child with a great ear for dialogue.

    The comic brings to life a conversation she had with her mum which resulted in her mail to us. In the comic, her mum informs Delia that the hardest part of becoming an author is finding a publisher. An avid fan of The Diary of Amos Lee, Delia hits on contacting us at Epigram Books with her ardent proposal to publish her comic “if it is good”.

    Having studied in Macau for 7 years, Delia says studying in Singapore is more fun and tells us about a schoolmate in Macau who wants everything everyone else has. Stay tuned next week to read in Delia’s letter, what this girl does when she is refused. A master at manipulation at such a young age…

    Delia, we had a blast reading your comic and would like you to keep drawing and writing your witty stories with such snappy dialogue. We’ll be glad to receive a manuscript from you for your first comic book.

    We send our love, from all of us at Epigram Books. Thank you for making our lives at work special and extra-fun with your heartfelt letter and comic!

    The Truth About Advance Review Copies April 04 2012

    From the perspective of the book-loving team at Epigram Books, there are few sights more magical than watching a book being made. A few of us have attended book binding courses, but this is the first time that Epigram Books has produced Advance Review Copies! (to be subsequently referred to as ARCs)

    So just what is an ARC for, you may ask. Usually, ARCs are sent to professional book reviewers and reporters for advance praise and reviews. In our case, however, we have printed ARCs for our partners at the Budding Writers League for their members to participate in our first ever review initiative! 

    The title in question is Archibald and the Black Knight’s Ring by our award-winning author SherMay Loh! The second book in the Archibald series, the book will be officially launched at Books Kinokuniya (Singapore Main Store) on 2 June at 2.00pm, but a few lucky people will be able to read this exciting new instalment more than a month before anyone else.

    So how is an ARC produced, you ask? In chronological order: printing the book on our in-house printer, cutting it to size, and then binding it all together. The last step is printing the front and back covers and sticking them on the bound book, and viola! A completed ARC. Of course, from the printing of the ARC to the actual publication of Archibald and the Black Knight’s Ring, there will frantic final edits between the editor and the author, harried insertions of advance praise on the front cover by our designer, and final checks on all the text and illustrations (done by the fantastic Imaginary Friends Studios!)


    So there you go! Another brief inside look at what goes on at Epigram Books and the not-always-glamourous world of book publishing.

    ‘Uncle Lau's Teochew Recipes’ March 28 2012

    Announcing our latest culinary title: Uncle Lau’s Teochew Recipes. Written by chef and food consultant Tan Lee Leng, this book lets home cooks create the classic light soups, steamed seafood courses, and other delicacies for which the Teochews are renowned, as well as original dishes exclusive to the author’s own family.

    Featuring step-by-step instructions for over 80 recipes, Uncle Lau is the latest book in our award-winning Heritage Cookbook series, which includes time-tested recipes for South Indian, Cantonese, Peranakan and Eurasian cuisines.

    Please visit this book page to learn more about Uncle Lau. This title will be available in bookstores at the end of April 2012.

    Sample recipes:

    A Day in the Life of Sok Wan March 28 2012

    Rejoice! It's the latest of instalment of A Day In The Life. Sok Wan talks about her life of Editing and spills the beans on our top-secret upcoming launches.

    One of the perks of my job is that I often get to meet and work with some very interesting people, with fascinating stories and backgrounds. Tomorrow I will be meeting Ernest Goh, the photographer behind The Fish Book, to discuss on future marketing plans for the book, and he will also be showing us samples shots from his new project! His photographs have never failed to amuse and amaze me and I very much look forward to seeing what he’s been up to after wrapping up The Fish Book. (Felicia and I couldn’t help bursting out in laughter when Edmund shared with us the subject for this new project. It’s unheard of and Edmund even came up with a hilarious title for the project. I’d love to share, but I have to keep mum for now to protect Ernest’s interest!) Later this week, I’ll be meeting a famous local comic artist to discuss on publishing his comics, and also a local celebrity chef to have a follow-up meeting on publishing his cookbook. Plus many more meetings with poets, artists, photographers and chefs in the following weeks.

    Besides these prospective projects, here’re the statuses of the ongoing projects I’ve been working on for the week…

    1.Uncle Lau’s Teochew Recipes by Lau Chiap Khai and Lau Lee Leng.

    This book was supposed to go to print like…two weeks ago? But that didn’t happen because we had to make some last minute changes to the illustrations. Last week, Lee Leng requested that we use illustrations done by her late husband (renowned local architect Mr Jack Tan). It’s quite problematic as our publication deadline will need to be pushed back for at least a month and our ongoing promotion and publicity plans halted. However, after seeing the illustrations, I believe the delay will be well worth it. Mr Jack Tan’s food illustrations––stunningly intricate and lovely––are perfect accompaniment to the delicate and refreshing Teochew recipes in the book! But don’t take my word for it, grab a copy of the book when we launch it late April and see for yourself!

    2. A series of poetry collection by Professor Edwin Thumboo, Professor Kirpal Singh and Mr Robert Yeo.

    This landmark poetry series will showcase the best works by Singapore’s Pioneer Poets. To ensure that the poems included in the collection are indeed the ‘best of’ their works, the poets have been working hard, and I have been working closely with them to re-re-re-revise their selection. Mr Robert Yeo dropped by in the afternoon to pass me his revised poetry selection, which was all hand-written. I spend about an hour typing it out, but, I quote my managing editor, “For you, Robert, anything!”  (see A Day In the Life Of: Ruth) But, seriously, Mr Yeo is a very nice person to work with and I’m really grateful that he has been dutifully keeping to the timeline of the project. And today, I finally manage to confirm a date for the book launch event! Given the busy schedules of the poets, finding a suitable date for the launch is no easy task—it took about 20 emails back and forth and frantic flipping of the calendar to confirm a date that is three months in advance! Yes, the series will be launched in July!

    3. Graphic novel series (or comics series, but calling it graphic novels does make it sound more ‘atas’ and serious, because we are a serious publisher!)––Epigram Books’ new imprint!!

    I’m real excited and looking forward to this project. Who knows? This could just be Singapore’s first successful graphic novel series that breaks into the international market! We have big plans to sell rights of the series to the US where the comics industry is burgeoning. Details of the graphic novels or identities of the comic artists that we are working with will be announced via our blog and Facebook. So hurry and ‘Like’ our Facebook page right now! And stay tuned!


    Edmund, Meet Bologna. Bologna, Meet Edmund March 19 2012

    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.


    A Day in the Life of Felicia March 12 2012

    Welcome back to the hectic harried universe of Epigram Books. In this edition, our Rights and Marketing Manager Felicia gives us an inside view into the glamorous world of book marketing.


    Greetings Earthlings!

    I’m Felicia, the Rights & Marketing Manager with Epigram Books. Basically what this means is that it is my job to ensure that all our titles are known by and hopefully read by everyone the world over!

    Now. When I decided to join Epigram Books, I thought that I would be taking on something less hectic in my old age. I mean, after more than five years in book retail, what could compare to prepping for the release of the final book in the Harry Potter series or a new Lee Kuan Yew title? Now that’s the Hard Truth. Little did I realise the insanity that awaited me at Epigram Books: firstly, a food crazy Managing Editor constantly dragging us around the island for lunch to try new food places; secondly, a Managing Director who only answers emails after 2am. And yet…I wouldn’t change anything for the world (Well, maybe just the printers. Maybe).

    So here you go. A peek at my to-do list slash post-it mad day.


    • Ask someone how to turn on the darn Mac! Buy new mouse because the Apple mouse has no roller and fingers are not equipped to deal.
    • Call Canadian publisher to discuss sale of rights for Archibald and the Blue Blood Conspiracy. (Update: When trying to use a Skype account, first remember to set up Skype account.)
    • Read Rights Contract. Bring contract home to read. Bah. (Note: Go back to school to get a law degree.)
    • Chase editors to fix a launch date for new titles in Stage to Print series: Model Citizens, Fear of Writing and Mimi Fan. (Note: Remember to read scripts in order to appear somewhat intelligent when talking to playwrights.)
    • Talk to Min about press kit for Stage to Print series. (To think about: How far is too far when it comes to creating controversy over political plays? Should probably check with someone as would like to keep job.)
    • Tell Aran minion to mail samples of The End of Char Kway Teow and Heritage Cookbook title to Overseas Singapore Unit (OSU). (Update: Make sure that all future minions are taught from the start that they should write the address on the front of the envelope not the back.) — Reminder: Email OSU about new cookbook for lazy people aka students!! Also newlyweds.
    • Check with Boon how to print paperwork needed to process first ever Epigram Book title order from Dubai!!! (Note: Also ask Boon why the printer hates me and refuses to print for me. Create own Epigram Books letterhead because the printer hates me.)
    • Talk to Jocelyn about marketing plan for new local kid’s poetry book coming out. (Reminder: Tell her about the time I almost drowned longkang fishing since there’s a poem about longkang fishing in the collection.) Also ask Sok Wan what’s the progress on the SG Poets series (Note: Think really, really hard about how to plan an event with Professor Edwin Thumboo, Robert Yeo and Kirpal Singh).
    • Email Adeline Foo on her upcoming appearance at the Hong Kong International Young Readers Book Fair in March. IMPORTANT: Make sure Sok Wan is around to speak Cantonese in case HK distributor calls to talk about sending The Diary of Amos Lee titles to Hong Kong. Speaking Mandarin in a funny accent does not Cantonese make.
    • Continue to set up meetings for Edmund at the Bologna Children’s Fair in March. To check: What exactly constitutes spam mail? (OMG, remember to actually BUY Bologna fair tickets for Edmund!!!!!)
    • Prepare for Books-in-Progress meeting next week. (Note to self: actually prepare this time, don’t pretend to have lost notes. THEY KNOW.)
    • Help draft email to comic creators keeping in mind delicate sensibilities of artists (Note: remember to hide notepad so no one can see comments on delicate sensibilities of artists, especially in-house designers).
    • Do a to do list for tomorrow. (Reminder: Buy more post-its too. Sticky ones this time)


    A Day in the Life of Jocelyn March 06 2012

    It’s time again for another dispatch from the world of Epigram Books! This week, we learn what goes on in Jocelyn's day.


    Someone recently asked me how I’ve liked working here as editor since joining the company in December 2011. I think my haiku “Lo Hei”, which I composed after our company lunch during the Chinese New Year and posted on my Facebook wall the same evening, should speak volumes.

    Feastful of dishes:
    Never more tasty than in
    present company.

    For one, I now have a namecard that says, simply, “Jocelyn Lau, Editor”, printed on a nice hard card. Editor, not Assistant Editor, not Associate Editor, not (oh gosh) Production Editor. Just Editor. (It matters!)

    For another, everything I’d imagined life as an editor would be, since the year 2000 when I graduated from the University of Denver Publishing Institute course, has finally taken form. I’d almost given up (boss, you know this), disillusioned, until this job presented itself.

    At present, I’m juggling five book projects: Model Citizens by Haresh Sharma of The Necessary Stage (April––it’s a very, very good play! Read it! Or go watch it!); a book of rhyming verses for children (April––this will have sweet hand-drawn illustrations); a cookbook for clueless Singaporeans (May––I will be buying my own copy), Singapore Classics 2’s series of books (October––interesting job, this one); and a to-be-edited manuscript for Singapore expatriates (August?). [All the editing and proofreading at Epigram Books are done in-house.] There’s also a new photographic book project we’re brainstorming, due Christmas. And a couple of other projects in the pipeline we’re keeping an eye on.

    Today, I had my face in a complicated author’s contract, which has been negotiated at length. Taking breaks while doing so, I wrote to a literary agent in New Zealand to explain why we want to edit the Singlish used in a book we’re hoping to republish; texted another writer to request personal particulars for an ISBN application; communicated with two photographers about a potential project; and wondered about a potential author’s silence over a draft contract. In between, our studio manager managed to distract my intense gaze from my Mac screen long enough to receive my project updates for the next day’s publishing meeting. And just before dashing off, late, to pick up my kid from his daytime minders, I sent off by email my suggestions for the title of that book of poems, knowing full well that ideas will come in fast and furious from various colleagues – throughout the night.

    It’s been a good day at work.

    A Day in the Life of Aran February 29 2012

    The latest entry in our series on working at Epigram Books. In this episode, our intern Aran finds out what it’s like to track down an author the old-fashioned way.


    Today Jocelyn, one of the editors, approaches me to give me more work. This is most satisfactory––an intern is created to serve. As the voluntarily enslaved, designated master of menial tasks, lackey work is what I exist for. Maybe it will be a new press clip to upload to the website, or a parcel to pack. Or maybe even an invoice to do up…One has the right to dream.

    But Jocelyn has in mind something outside my usual job scope. Today I am to be an intern-cum-private investigator, set on the trail of a case shrouded in mystery and intrigue: The case of a man named Tan Kok Seng, who wrote a series of notable books in the 1970s but who has now seemingly vanished off the face of the earth. A tip-off from an unnamed informant tells us that he is still alive, and still in Singapore. Jocelyn has done reconnaissance via the Yellow Pages; I’ll just have to call every person with that name.

    There are 49 people named Tan Kok Seng in Singapore.

    Tan Kok Seng #1:

    “Hello.. Can I speak to Mr Tan Kok Seng?”

    “He’s working. What you want?”

    “Do you know if he’s written a book before?”

    “没有 la [No, he hasn't]. Bye bye.”

    The next 10 or so calls repeat this pattern: “Don’t have la”…Never pick up…Never pick up…“Sir not home sorry”…“Wrong person”…Weird sound (dial up connection?!)

    Around #15 is this very funny Tan Kok Seng.

    Me: “Have you written a book before?”

    TKS: “Return book?! I never borrow book how to return?”

    Then around #17/18 is this old lady.

    “Can I speak to Tan Kok Seng?”


    “Can I speak to Tan Kok Seng?”


    “Can I speak to Tan Kok Seng?”


    “(same thing in chinese)”

    “Oh…ha ha. 他不在 [He's not here].”

    Wah lau. The search for the true Tan Kok Seng does not seem to be drawing closer to an end. I pause for a while to contemplate the enormity of the task and the disastrous consequences of failure, then continue.

    At #30 plus is this Tan Kok Seng who actually wrote a Chinese book before, but nothing in English…

    By this time I have perfected my manner of speaking to grumpy old men, which is what most Tan Kok Sengs turn out to be (no offence to the handful of nice/youthful/non-grumpy TKSs). Just speak loudly and impatiently and they will relate to you/understand what you are saying much better.

    #32-39 is this long stretch of no one picking up and discontinued numbers. By this time I’m almost just going through the motions. Even as the excellent, resilient intern I am, any hopes of getting to the end of this mystery are rapidly fading. Of all the countries in the world, Tan Kok Seng has sought refuge in the one where the most people share his name, and spun around himself a web of deception and misdirection. His insidious guile has bested me and he will forever remain an enigma, a phantom roaming the dark streets of Ang Mo Kio, an urban legend whose books we’ll never get to publish. With a heavy heart, I pick up the phone to resume.

    Tan Kok Seng #40:

    “Hello can I speak to Mr Tan Kok Seng please?”

    “(woman’s voice) Ok wait”

    “Hello? Mr Tan?”

    “Yes, this is Tan Kok Seng speaking.”

    “Hi Mr Tan I’m calling from a book publishing company. Have you ever written a book before?”

    “What book are you talking about?”

    “It's called Son of Singapore.

    “Oh yeah, my first book was Son of Singapore, my second book was Man of Malaysia, my third book was….”

    But I’ve stopped paying attention. An angel’s choir has erupted in my head, and I feel like my entire being has been flooded with light. Felicia, Sok Wan and Charmayne, who have been eavesdropping on my phone calls and laughing at my failed conversations, freeze and turn in my direction.

    “Mr Tan!!!!! I have been looking for you!!!!!!!!!!”


    A Day in the Life of Ruth February 16 2012

    What is it really like to work at Epigram Books? How is a manuscript or an idea scribbled on an NTUC receipt turned into a finished book that you hold in your hands?

    Now, with our new series A Day In the Life, you can find out! First off is our managing editor Ruth, who recaps a typical day. We hope you enjoy this glimpse into the wild, weary and wonderful reality of literary publishing.



    I fumble for keys as I walk towards the locked doors of the office. First to arrive. Again. Have just dropped my son off at his primary school––school starts way too early, and I’ve nothing to do after bidding him goodbye, so that’s why I’m always the first one in. After staring at my computer for a while, I begin work.

    First task of the day: sieve through the 100 emails I have received. Indian company advertising its book cover design services. Hotel in Frankfurt advertising cheap hotel rates. “Book now for the Frankfurt Book Fair in October (or risk disappointment!)”. I also get other emails: a potential author griping the advanced royalties we offered him is way too low (“how to feed family?”), a colleague who sends a funny quote she read on how to write well, and another cold call from a wannabe writer with a tome of a manuscript for me to assess. I make hot tea while contemplating the trajectory of my day. Oooom.



    Ding, dong! We receive a surprise visit from Robert Yeo! How I love that man––such an easy person to work with, always a gentleman, so dapper. We republished his book The Adventures of Holden Heng last year. Robert is stopping in to drop off his introduction to a play we’re hoping to publish in April––Mimi Fan by Lim Chor Pee. I look at the introduction––it is handwritten! How cool is that! I spend the next hour typing it out. For you, Robert, anything!


    After sending off the introduction to my intrepid designer, Boon, for layout, I buckle down to look at the emails that really matter. Imaginary Friends Studios has just sent in the draft illustrations for the new Archibald book, out in May. Eeks! Why does Archibald look like a Japanese manga character? It’s ok, it’s ok––still early days, and I’m very confident they’ll get it right because Darren Tan of IFS is DA BOMB.

    Have a quick discussion with Stefany regarding the draft cover. We also spend time choosing eight portions of the book to illustrate––these will be spot illustrations, more like sketches. Should we illustrate the twist at the end of the book? Hmm. Would it give the story away if someone accidentally flips to that picture at the end? Double hmm. Should we illustrate the evil villain? Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Or leave it to the readers’ imagination? Got budget? What is best for reader? Decisions, decisions, decisions. And oh yes, Stef and I both agree this Archibald book is even better than the first one. Go SherMay!


    Hunger check. Do I want to snag a biscuit from the pantry…or work?

    Tough question...

    Think I’ll continue working while I figure out the answer.


    Receive an email from Lim Chor Pee’s family. They are the ones signing contract with us as Lim Chor Pee has passed away. The daughter, Claudine, explains she is from a family of lawyers. I understand the reason for her explanation as I read her email––she is requesting to include, among other things, the following clause in our contract:

    The illegality, invalidity or unenforceability of any provision of this Agreement shall not affect the legality, validity or enforceability of any other provision of this Agreement.

    Wha wha what?

    I call Claudine and she is extremely friendly and approachable. In essence, the terms and terminology and phrasing and phraseability of the aforementioned contractual agreeity are rectified, clarified and demystified in, but not in exclusivity of, and not limited to but in consideration of the following ways: colloquial banter, jokes, plainspeak and much humour and discreet laughing. In short, we sorted it out!


    Contract settled (I think! I hope!). It’s time to…call some celebrities! Yes, celebrities! Wait, let me check my breath. My nail polish. My hair. JUST kidding. First on the list: Woffles Wu. Yes, we are doing a book project with Woffles and he is lovely to talk to over the phone. Next I call Mr Brown. I hope to convince him to do a book project with us. I call, and call, and call. Then email. He replies to email, “Ah, that was you? Sorry, having flu.” I tell him I will call him later. It’s off to lunch then. Lunch is porridge, colleagues, talk of board games, Munchkin, Ticket to Ride, Hwa Chong students, doing wushu as CCA and studying in America.


    Start chatting with Felicia, our marketing manager about marketing ideas for our Gurkha Book and our Teochew Recipes Book. Unlike our fiction titles, these non-fiction titles rarely receive sponsorship or grants. =( How do we ensure they make money for us? How do we ensure people buy our beautifully-designed cookbooks and photo books? We think of a few ideas which Feli will follow up on. Suddenly, I get a call from SherMay––she was supposed to drop by to discuss marketing for Archibald. “Sorry, Ruth, I have flu. On the way to doctor’s. Postpone to next week?” Is there a flu epidemic today? Hee. No matter, I start to type out my discussion points with her over email, since our meeting has been postponed. Don’t want to lose a week because of flu!


    Off to a meeting with Edmund which will take the whole day. But before that, I note down my key tasks for tomorrow: a) Proofread Mimi Fan in layout b) Call Mr Brown c) Send new short story to Dr Howard Goldblatt who is helping us translate some Cultural Medallion Chinese novels, including You Jin’s, for publication in October this year c) Chase Tan Tarn How for the revised manuscript of Fear of Writing (yes we’re hoping to publish that in Apr!) and d) Send email IFS to discuss our comments for the book cover (make Archibald less manga!) and spot illustrations.

    I switch off my computer, grab my bag and speed off behind Edmund while he harrumphs and harranghs about our celebrity book project, his latest culinary find ODP and how we should rename a poetry book we’re putting out soon. That’s all, in the day of a life of an Editor, for you!

    A Valentine's Day Menu from ‘Robin's Eurasian Recipes’ February 13 2012

    It’s almost V-Day! If you believe music is the food of love, play on. If you believe food is the food of love, we have just the thing––four delicious handpicked recipes from Robin’s Eurasian Recipes, a collection of treasured family dishes that is now available in bookstores.

    Click on the image below to download the following recipes for free:

    Starter: Devil Wings

    Entrees: Vegetarian Bee Hoon and Pot Roast Beef

    Dessert: Coconut Agar-Agar

    Announcing the ‘D-I-Y Diary’ Cover Contest February 01 2012

    Have you got a copy of Amos Lee’s D.I.Y. Toilet Diary to Fame? Yes? Good. Are you ready for The Diary of Amos Lee TV series? Yes too? Great! You are officially ready to take part in our contest!

    Here’s what you need to do: Simply colour, doodle and decorate the front cover of the D.I.Y. Diary, and let us know what you love about the TV series.

    Ten lucky contestants will stand a chance to join us at a tea party and writing workshop on 10th March with Adeline Foo and Stephanie Wong at AllanBakes Bakery! And yes, you will get to try some of the Famous Amos (Lee) Cookies too!

    Email a (1) scanned colour image of your cover and (2) a message describing what you love about the TV series to amoslee.blogger@gmail.com. Remember to include your name, age and telephone number!

    Contest period:
    25th January 2012 – 25th February 2012

    Results will be announced 1st March 2012. Winners will be notified by email, so keep a look out!

    Amos Lee at Compass Point January 19 2012


    On Saturday, 28th January, meet the cast of the new Amos Lee TV series and hear author Adeline Foo talk about the new Amos Lee D.I.Y. Diary! Behind-the-scenes stories will be shared about the filming. Books will be signed. Plus special guest Allan Teoh, the master baker behind the Famous Amos (Lee) cookies will share tips on how to prepare the recipes in the book.

    Join the fun at Popular Compass Point next Saturday. The start time of this event will be announced soon on Epigram Books’ Facebook page. See you then!