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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