Epigram Books Blog

Amos Abroad Photo Contest January 02 2014

Singapore’s favourite toilet diarist is back! And this time, he’s reporting from much more far-flung locales. First stop: Taipei, Taiwan!

Take part in “The Weird and Wonderful Photo Contest” and stand a chance to win one of ten special hardcover editions of The Travel Diary of Amos Lee: Lost in Taipei and tea with the creators of Amos Lee!

Here’s how:

We can’t wait to see your photos!

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 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.

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!

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!

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

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.


Epigram Books goes to the Fair October 05 2011

When Frankfurt Book Fair representative Ms Lei Ren was in town in May, we met up to chit-chat and show her our catalogue. Imagine our delight when Frankfurt Book Fair then invited us to be a sponsored guest of their special Invitation Programme! A sponsored trip to Germany? Free air ticket and accommodation? How could we say no? Apart from the trade fair itself, we’ve been given the honour of attending special seminars and workshops for publishers and agents from around the world. Word is, we’re the first Singapore publisher to be invited for this programme. What can we say? We are truly humbled.

So, wish us luck! Our small but enthusiastic team, led by our fearless director, Edmund Wee, will be making our dazzling Frankfurt debut between 12-16 October. If you’re in the area, come visit; we’re at Hall 5.0 Stand E.987.