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On Books, With Robert Yeo

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!

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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?
No.

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?
No.

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?
Hamlet

August 08, 2012 by Epigram Books Admin

A Day in the Life of Ruth

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.

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7.45am 

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.

 

8.30am

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!

9.30am

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!

11am

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.

11.15am

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!

11.45am

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.

1.30pm


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!

2pm

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!

SG Classics book launch on 29th October

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about Singapore’s literary heritage, this is the event for you! The Singapore Classics book launch is part of the featured Singapore Writers Festival event, “Revisiting Singapore’s Literary Heritage”. This talk features Dr Philip Holden as moderator and distinguished guests, Robert Yeo and Andrew Koh. They will be discussing all five books in the SG Classics series among other topics.

Date: Saturday, 29th October 2011
Time: 1.30 to 3pm (Book sale & signing from 1.30pm, talk from 2pm)
Venue: The Salon, 1st floor, National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road Singapore 178897
RSVP: An informal RSVP is requested to ruth@epigrambooks.sg.

As this is a featured event of SWF, a Festival Pass ($15) must be purchased via SISTIC or at the Festival Pavilion to attend.

During the event, you’ll also get a chance to take home these iconic novels. Books and limited edition book sets will be sold at the special launch prices of $16 and $78 respectively.

Only 200 box sets total are available for sale (100 sets at the special launch price) and they are individually numbered. To order your box set for pick up at the book launch, please email ruth@epigrambooks.sg. Box sets are also available in major bookstores for $79.90 each. As you can see from the photos below, the set will make a dashing addition to any library.