Monday, December 18, 2017

Popular Readers' Choice Awards 2017

This is the third consecutive year Danger Dan has been nominated in the Popular Readers' Choice Awards. In fact, this year, two of our books were among the 10 nominees in the English (Children) category - #3 Danger Dan & Gadget Girl: The Gruesome Garden and Secrets of Singapore: National Museum.

I guess third time's a charm because we nabbed not one, but two prizes! Secrets of Singapore: National Museum was second place in the English (Children) category. 

In addition, it also won the Citibank SMRT Card Book Cover Award in the same category. For this prize, credit goes to our illustrator Elvin Ching and Epigram Books designer Lydia Wong.   

Group photo of all the winners
What a lovely Christmas gift. A heartfelt thank you to all our readers and supporters who voted! Keep reading, ya?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Book launch of Danger Dan & Gadget Girl #5 The Robot Revolution

If you're free this Saturday 9 December 2pm, why not come on down to Epigram Books? Lesley-Anne and I will be launching Danger Dan & Gadget Girl #5 The Robot Revolution with games and activities for kids (mums and dads also welcome!)

We will share our thoughts behind the series and also have a book signing session. Epigram Books' yearly pop-up sale promises lots of generous discounts, freebies and even free wrapping service for all books bought, so great time to do your Christmas shopping!


Monday, November 13, 2017

Writing adventures of all kinds

It's the Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) fortnight and I've been all booked up (hur hur).

Lesley-Anne and I conducted our workshop Writing Adventures with Danger Dan and Gadget Girl on 4 November. It's always an honour to be part of SWF and 'twas doubly exciting for us when we found out that our workshop was sold out.

In every workshop, we inevitably have at least one of these types of kids:
  1.  The one whose mouth moves faster than his brain
  2. The one who's eager to show how much he knows
  3. The quiet one who will barely open his mouth but come up with the most amazing ideas on paper 
  4. The one whose wit and creativity make us laugh
Spotted at the Festival bookstore

Last Friday, SWF organised a thank you dinner for participants at Swissotel the Stamford. Lesley-Anne is in the midst of finals so I attended it solo 😢 Like an insecure child, I prefer attending such social gatherings with her so it wouldn't be completely up to me to fill in awkward silences. Authors in general are some of the biggest introverts in the arts universe. Later that evening, as one author rose to leave the dinner early, another asked, "Are you going clubbing?" The first author replied, "No, I'm turning in". That was before 8pm. We are so not party animals.

As it turned out, I met some lovely authors from other countries. I did the Singaporean thing by sharing with them where to find the best chilli crab (Jumbo, of course) and by speaking Singlish (they were fascinated by this).

Seated on my left was Young Adult fiction author Eliot Schrefer from New York. It was only when I came home and checked out his bio that I realised he's a New York Times bestselling author and two-time finalist for the National Book Award 😲.

He's very friendly and I felt right at home chatting with him. I was lamenting to him how Secrets of Singapore sell better than all our other fiction books because it's deemed "educational". He then shared conspiratorially that his best selling work is none of his fiction books but Hack the SAT (a book which gives tips on how to boost your SAT scores) 😂.

The writer seated on my right was Vietnamese poet and author Nha Thuyen. She's also incredibly accomplished, having written and translated several books in different genres. I feel so inadequate to be in the presence of such literary masters.

Nha Thuyen is super warm and effervescent - she's such a bundle of energy. At the end of the evening, she gave me a great bear hug and told me to look her up if I ever visited Hanoi. What a sweetheart.

Anyway, talking about authors naturally leads me to talking about books, namely this one:

That's right - #5 The Robot Revolution, the final chapter of the Danger Dan and Gadget Girl series, is finally out! If you want to know what it's about, this is the blurb:

Danger Dan is going out with a bang! Within an action-packed storyline, we've injected what we hope is a positive message to all kids to love themselves for who they are, warts and all. 
Dedication page
The book should be in bookstores real soon or you can buy it online from Epigram Books. Christmas will be here before we know it - I hope you will all buy a copy or two as Christmas prezzies. Better still, get the whole series!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Holiday activity - learn our secret of writing wacky stories!

Singapore Writers Festival has come around again and this year, Lesley-Anne and I will be conducting a writing workshop Writing Adventures with Danger Dan and Gadget Girl on Saturday, 4 November, 11.30am-1pm.

Our workshops are usually organised by schools and enterprising parents - we don't conduct public workshops. So if you would like your kid to learn how to come up with ideas for original stories, this is your chance! We promise it will be fun - this isn't one of those tedious "how to write better composition" workshops that kids tend to associate with work. Lots of fun games and a great holiday activity (not I ownself say one lah, as said by past participants 😉)

Only $10 per participant, limited seats. Get your tickets from the link above. Suitable for kids aged 9-14.

UPDATE: I've just been informed that tickets to this session are sold out.

And on a celebratory note, the rights to first Danger Dan series has been bought by a Turkish publisher! The books have been translated into Turkish and the publisher even produced a gorgeous boxed set with an accompanying quiz book and stickers! WAH!

Can't read Turkish but am assuming they translated all our jokes perfectly. Thrilled beyond words that kids in Turkey will be reading about Danger Dan 😍

Monday, October 16, 2017

Andre's sweet taste of progress

This is a belated post, seeing as we just returned from Japan and all...check out my travel blog!

Ok, it's actually been two weeks but I have been trying to physically recover from the trip. According to my tracker, I walked a total of 54.5 km on my Japan trip - an average of 9 km a day. May not sound like much to some of you, but for a usually sedentary person, that's a heck of a lot. During the trip, I'd ignored the protests from my hips, knees and back, and simply popped Neurofen to beat them into submission.

We will soldier on! Right after this break...
Then I returned home and paid the price. They refused to be silenced any more and I ached in places I never thought was possible to ache. The ache has since somewhat dulled (though not completely dissipated). Never have I felt my age so much.

Lesson: never listen to all those folks who tell you they will wait until they retire to travel. You may have the time then but you will be limited by your body. Well, unless you're like the sturdy Japanese - there I was at Fushimi-Inari shrine, panting and groaning after the first two sections, while wizened 70-year-old locals were steadily forging ahead with their tong kat. Power!

Fushimi-Inari shrine in Kyoto
On the plus side, all that walking negated the massive over-consumption of calories accumulated during the trip. Quite to my delight, when I weighed myself back home, I found that I'd LOST weight and more importantly, gained muscle. As a friend said, this is the best weight-loss plan ever!

But I digress - this post is actually about Andre. We'd planned the trip on the last week of September to coincide with Lesley-Anne's one-week break and Andre's mid-year holidays. That's right, Andre has already completed one semester of poly. Where did the time go?

The update is that poly has absolutely been the right choice for him (so far). It's pretty intensive, with assignments and projects every week - Andre says it feels like he's been at poly forever. However, he finds the work meaningful and enjoys his lessons, which is a huge incentive for learning. He's also done some nifty stuff, like going on a trip to visit Fullerton Hotel. He's been up to the Presidential Suite which he says has a baby grand piano and bullet proof windows. Fascinating!

He has also become fast friends with a few male classmates, who are all different ages as they traversed different pathways to reach this point. They hang out together, which is great. Since one of them is Muslim, they can only eat together at Halal eateries. Andre told me most indignantly, "There are so few Halal dining choices! It's only fast food or expensive restaurants." 😆 It's probably an odd complaint from a Chinese Christian boy but I love that Andre's friends come from diverse backgrounds and cultures - goes a long way in nurturing understanding and empathy.

During the trip, Andre's mid-year results were released online, but he refused to check it until the very last day as he was afraid they would be bad. In the end, his fear was needless as he achieved a GPA of 3.82! Four As and two B+s. What a lovely surprise and validation that he had indeed, chosen the right path.

That was also the perfect present for his birthday, which was the day after we returned from Japan. Andre has simple needs and doesn't ask for much so as a gift, we just upgraded his data plan. He's mighty pleased with this as he had been surviving on 100mb per month for many years. (Yes, it's possible! Lesley-Anne still does!) Well, now he has 2GB a month which is a windfall in comparison.

Grandma wanted to get him something else and asked him to look out for a present in Japan. You might think: boy and gadget-crazy Japan is a no-brainer, right? Nope. Andre's favourite dog breed is the Shiba Inu, which is a Japanese breed. We saw a Shiba Inu in Kyoto - it's adorable.

So Andre decided Grandma's gift to him would be a maintenance-friendly version:

Simple celebration and strawberry shortcake for the newly minted 17-year-old. 

A happy child is a blessing like no other, and Andre has blessed us greatly with his big heart cocooned within an easy-going nature and an infectiously fun-loving personality. A very joyous birthday to you, my ray of sunshine! 🌞🌈

And here's a series of pictures of Ah Boy with chopstick action in Japan.

By the way, this next photo pretty much sums up the commencement of all our meals in Japan. "Can I eat now?" "Wait, let me take a photo!" "Hurry up!" "Wait lah!" "I'm starving!"
Oh deer!

Monday, September 25, 2017

In the food capital of Japan


I'm on a week-long holiday with the family in Kyoto and Osaka. It's primarily a food trip, to satisfy our gastronomic cravings (plus some sights lah). Follow our adventures in the land of sushi and geishas on my travel blog. The first two posts are already up and I will try to blog when I can.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Closing the chapter on Danger Dan and Gadget Girl

Advertisement first! Lesley-Anne and I will be at Popular Bookstore @ Jurong Point this coming Saturday 2-3pm with the team from Sherlock Sam (AJ Low). That's right - 2-in-1! If you're free, do pop by with your kids. There will be games and prizes to be won, and we will answer any burning questions you might have about the Danger Dan books. We will also be happy to autograph any Danger Dan books you might have, so bring them along!

Second announcement: Epigram Books is holding a contest on Facebook for the very last book of the Danger Dan and Gadget Girl series: #5 The Robot Revolution, due out end of this year. If your kids love the series and want to see their name in print, get them to write a short praise blurb or review of the series (samples can be found on the first page of every Danger Dan and Gadget Girl book, but don't copy - be original please!)

If selected, the blurb will be printed in the book and you will receive a FREE copy of the book!

Just follow these steps to enter the contest:
1) Go to Epigram Books Facebook page. Like the post and Epigram Books
2) Take a photo of: your praise blurb of the series followed by your name (no need for surname!), age, school.
3) Post it on your FB page (or your parents’ page)
4) Tag Epigram Books and Danger Dan in your post
5) Hashtag #ddggpraise

Deadline: 24 September 2017

Talking about #5 The Robot Revolution, I'm feeling very sentimental. This is the last book in Lesley-Anne and my second fiction series, and it's safe to say that the Danger Dan escapades will end here. Now that Lesley-Anne is in university, she simply doesn't have time to write any more, at least not at the level of investment that a fiction series demands. We also think that Danger Dan has run his course and were very pleased with the way his story will culminate in this last book. As they say, best to go out with a bang!

Who knew, when we started the adventures of Danger Dan more than three years ago, that this spiky haired boy would end up dominating so much of our time and energy. Sometimes, he's just downright exasperating. (I have been known to argue with my own character while writing, to the amusement of Lesley-Anne.) Quite true to character, I have to say.

Writing children's fiction has been a incredible learning journey for me personally. It has forced me to work my creative muscle in a way that I was not accustomed to. Kids are the harshest critics and we knew we had to be extra funny, extra original, extra innovative, to capture their imagination. Seeing the characters brought to life by the illustrator was an especially gratifying part of the publishing process.

Elvin Ching, illustrator
Book cover options for #5 The Robot Revolution
But the most rewarding part of all is when kids come up to us clutching their Danger Dan books, talking excitedly about the characters.

Even as we close the pages on the fiction series (don't 😢😢, we will still continue with Secrets of Singapore, the non-fiction series!), I hope that the Danger Dan books will entertain kids for many more cohorts to come. 

If ever I had any doubts about this endeavour, this is the part that puts my mind at ease: to have given kids something to enjoy, something to laugh about. To me that's the absolute best part about being a children's book writer.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Exploring the world with Yale-NUS

In mid-August, Lesley-Anne moved back into Yale-NUS to start her sophomore (second) year. I can't wrap my head around the fact that her freshman year came and went just like that.

Even though I'm tempted, I won't repost pics of all the wonderful facilities because I'd already done so in this post about Yale-NUS. Well, except this pic of the dining hall area, which we didn't get to see the last time. There is even a live station which serves special dishes like laksa and noodle soup.  Don't you think it looks like a hotel buffet dining room? 😲

What I wanted to share in this post is the overseas opportunities that Yale-NUS offers. When Lesley-Anne was applying to universities, Yale-NUS was top of the list for local unis partly because of this. If she couldn't study in an overseas environment, this was the next best option.

In her freshman year alone, she went on three overseas trips. The first was as part of the freshman orientation to Kuching.

Sorry, the photos are limited - I have a daughter who doesn't understand why we need to have a look at every rock she sees or where she stays (instead, she sent us random photos of cute cats and a donkey 😑). 

She also had the opportunity to go to Taiwan with Yale-NUS badminton team, as I'd written about here.

However, the most significant trip for freshmen in Yale-NUS is the Week 7 trip. Called Learning Across Boundaries, this is a flagship programme to encourage students to take their learning into real world situations beyond the classroom. Students in the past have gone to far-flung places like South Africa to learn about wildlife reserves, Huizhou, China to study agricultural villages, London to study art, and so on.

For Lesley-Anne's Week 7 programme, she was fortunate enough to be selected to go to Tangier, Morocco; Ceuta, Spain; and Gilbraltar, UK, which are geographically close by but with very different cultures. It was to study national identity in contested spaces under Global Affairs.

These three cities are considered contested spaces because they geographically close by, yet belong to three different countries. Gibraltar is next to Spain but it's a English colony. Tangier and Ceuta are right next to each other - you cross the border on foot. In Tangier, she stayed in the Medina which is the historic part of the country. This is where you find lots of traditional markets with strong Arab and Islamic influences.

The Rock of Gibraltar
Since Tangier is right next to Ceuta, so you would expect Ceuta to follow the Arab heritage. Yet, the minute you cross the border from Tangier to Ceuta, you suddenly feel like you are in modern Europe. You'll find people walking dogs, whereas in Tangier, there are many cats. This raises the question: do people identify with cultures geographically or politically? I thought it was a fascinating topic.

When in Tangier, eat couscous
Week 7 is not just an excuse to have an overseas holiday, though. A lot of work is expected. During the trip, Lesley-Anne had to complete 10 short write-ups PER DAY of each of the places visited. At the end of the trip, the students had to submit a final essay of about 1,500 words, due the night they returned home. Most of them were feverishly typing up their papers on the plane ride back.

Not everyone goes overseas for Week 7. Some, especially international students, may choose to do their project locally or nearer home, like in Malaysia. But for those who value overseas experiences, it really is a fantastic opportunity. During the summer holidays, Lesley-Anne had to intern with her scholarship organisation but she had friends who successfully applied for summer school at Yale, US and other places. Of course, these trips are not free but I understand that many of the students apply for financial aid and subsidies. You may also apply for semesters at overseas universities, if you so prefer.

In short, if you're looking for lots of overseas opportunities in a local university, I think it's hard to do better than Yale-NUS.  

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