Epigram Books Blog
Book Launch: ‘Mum's Not Cooking, Favourite Singaporean Recipes for the Plain Clueless and Plain Lazy’
Guess what! Awesome chef and talented writer Denise Fletcher is our guest blogger for this week!
Mum’s Not Cooking : The Aftermath
I’d like to say a really big thank you, to all who attended the official Mum’s Not Cooking book launch at Kinokuniya, last week on Saturday 21 July. I was a bundle of nervous energy, full of anticipation, anxious that I might trip up, twist my ankle (damned stilletoes *grrr* damn you and your Amazonian stature Michelle *GRRR*) or kill someone with my fiery curry devil, but in the end, it was all good, save one casualty, my favourite cuff bracelet. One of the glittery panels got knocked out by an enthusiastic handshake (thanks Jos, for babysitting my ‘jewel’ while I took to the mic). Makes me wonder what the guy had for breakfast, that morning…
Speaking of enviably tall women, did you know that Mum’s Not Cooking is now available on Amazon.com??! Yes, yes, I’m doing a little happy dance right now, because wherever in the world you may be, my fellow Singies, you no longer have to miss your chai tow kway, nasi lemak or sup kambing!! Anyway, back to the book launch… I got the chance to channel my oh-so-shy son Joseph, star of my slideshow on how to make Chocolate Chip Mug Cake, talk about why I wrote Mum’s Not Cooking, why it’s such a great little book, and banter with the lovely, vivacious and very tall Michelle (Epigram Books’ uber marketing assistant and sparkling event host).
Iron chefs, NOT! but, from left, the quick thinking Josephine, gallant Fernando and very young and promising Gabrielle.
As hoped, I met friends, readers, relatives, curious strangers and book fans, talked, talked, talked then talked some more, presided over an acar making contest, tasted the efforts of the contestants then made a hard decision on who produced the best rendition of my acar recipe (a nine-year-old budding chef who got the flavour spot on). Thank you Josephine the knife virgin and improv genius who ditched the blunt knife in favour of her nimble fingers, Fernando, present day incarnation of Sir Galahad who thought nothing of helping out a damsel in distress, even at the cost of winning, and Gabrielle, pickle prodigy and upcoming chef, for being such great sports and adding a ton of fun to the contest.
After the excitement of the contest, samples of Mum’s Not Cooking recipes––Cottage Pie, Devilled Sausages and Breakfast Banana Muffins were passed around the appreciative crowd, who made short work of them. The all too short hour ended with a book signing session.
It was such a pleasure chatting with the lovely people who waited patiently to get their copies signed, for spouses, sweethearts, siblings, friends, children, parents or themselves. Thank you each and everyone of you, for attending and spending the hour with me, and for your wonderful support of the event and Mum’s Not Cooking! I hope you enjoy using the book as much as I relished writing it and that if you were before, you will no longer be a stranger to your stove.
“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 book—Malaysia Bagus: Travels Through My Homeland—was 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-catching—the 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 event—and 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!
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.
“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
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.
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.
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!
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!
Schoolboy, toilet diarist, Twitter star—just who is this Amos Lee? Visit our Facebook page to view this teaser. “Like” us for the latest updates on the books and special events! The Amos Lee TV series (official page) starts next Wednesday at 8pm on okto.
By the way, the Amos Lee series will be the first local children’s books adapted to TV! Thank you, all you Amos Lee fans! Your support has made this achievement possible.
In the meantime, you can find the latest Amos Lee book, The Diary of Amos Lee: Your D.I.Y. Toilet Diary to Fame! in major bookstores islandwide.
Here are photos from yesterday’s launch at the Kinokuniya Main Store.
Save the date! On Sunday, January 15, meet Ernest Goh, photographer of The Fish Book, and Adeline Foo, author of the brand-new Amos Lee book The Diary of Amos Lee: Your D.I.Y. Toilet Diary to Fame!
Write your way to fame and fortune the Amos Lee Way!
Along with the premiere of the live-action TV Series, we’re excited to announce a brand-new Amos Lee book: The Diary of Amos Lee: Your D.I.Y. Toilet Diary to Fame!
This is a daily diary-cum-activity book that features activities such as personality tests, creating and drawing your own superhero, palm reading, and even some simple yoga poses and recipes. This book is designed to let your imagination run wild—you can even colour in the cover!
If you like to write about your life and have lots of fun doing it, this is the book for you.
The D.I.Y. Diary will be available in all major bookstores by the end of January. If you’d like even more Amos Lee swag, author Adeline Foo is running a contest with exclusive notebooks and tumblers as prizes! Just think of an answer to the question “If I am going to be a famous TV star, who would I choose to be?” in 50 words or less. The deadline is 15 January 2012. Good luck!
You’re cordially invited to the launch of The Fish Book, the first book by leading photographer Ernest Goh. At the launch, the book will be sold at the special price of $20 (GST inclusive) and light refreshments will be provided.
Date and Time: 17 November 2011, Thursday, 7pm
Venue: Chan Hampe Galleries, 27 Kreta Ayer Road, Singapore 088994
(for directions: www.chanhampegalleries.com)
Evoking the fascination of children fishing for guppies in longkangs, the book is a quirky, close-up look at the world of ornamental fish. It is a characteristic project for Ernest Goh, who has often focused his lens on uncommon beauty hidden amongst everyday life. Ernest’s images also shed light on the passion driving the global aquarium fish trade—it is relatively unknown fact that Singapore is the largest global exporter of ornamental fish.
The Fish Book is also the first title published by Wee Editions, a new imprint of Epigram Books. Wee Editions aims to buck the trend of hefty art books with its new line of high-quality, compact and accessible photo books. We hope to champion many more local photographers, arts, designers and architects by showcasing their works in beautifully designed print editions. Stay tuned for six more photography titles in 2012!