Record Number of Awards at 2016 Singapore Literature Prize Ceremony
 
Jul 14, 2016
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Singapore --(ASIA TODAY)-- Twenty-two awards (including Merit and Commendation awards) were given out to 22 authors at this year’s Singapore Literature Prize across 12 categories – which is a jump from 15 awarded to 16 authors in 2014. In 2014, the number of categories was increased from three to 12, with dedicated prizes for fiction and poetry as well as a new category for non-fiction. The SLP awards prizes in all four Singapore’s official languages, English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil.

This year’s bumper crop was due to the record number of Merit and Commendation awards. There are six Merit awards and seven Commendation awards in 2016 compared to three Merit awards and one commendation awards two years ago (2014). However, there are fewer winners this year – nine compared to 11 in 2014. The total prize money in 2016 is $107,000 which is comparable to 2014 ($106,000).

The 2016 recipients were announced tonight (Thursday 14th July) at a gala award ceremony at the Regent Hotel. Please see attachment for full list of prize-winning authors, title of their works and publisher details.

The English Poetry Prize has once again been shared, this year by two poets Mr Cyril Wong for The Lover’s Inventory and Mr Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingde for I Didn’t Know Mani Was a Conceptualist. Although their collections are very different in style and content, both are of outstanding quality. Coincidentally Mr Wong was also a Co-Winner of the SLP 2006 English Poetry Prize with Mr Yong Shu Hoong. Mr Wong joins Mr Yong Shu Hoong to have won the Prize twice – they are the only two authors writing in English across all categories to have been awarded the Prize twice.

Several of this year’s awardees have also won awards in previous years. Mr Yeng Pway Ngon is awarded the Merit award for Chinese Fiction this year. It is his fourth award; he won the SLP in the Chinese category in 2004, 2008, and 2012. Mr Yeng Pway Ngon ties with Mr Mohamed Latiff Mohamed who has also been given the SLP award four times (three wins and one Merit). They are now tied for the record for most SLP wins.

Mr Mohamed Kassim Shanavas, who received a Commendation this year for Nanavu Desam SG50, won the Tamil Fiction prize in 2014. For Mr Chia Joo Ming, this year’s Commendation for Chinese Fiction is the third time he has been awarded an SLP prize in 2006 and 2010.

Three poets shared the Malay Poetry Prize, but in this case as co-authors of one book, Tafsiran Tiga Alam. As the title of their book suggests, the poems by Mr Hamed Ismail, Ms Hartinah Ahmad, and Mr Samsudin Said offer their own unique interpretations of the world.

The Singapore Literature Prize also highlights new literary talents to watch out for: Mr Sithuraj Ponraj won the Tamil Fiction Prize for his first collection of short stories Maariligal and also scooped up a Merit award for his first poetry collection Kaatraai Kadanthaai. Another Tamil writer Mr Varadharajan AK bagged a Merit award for his poetry anthology Singapoor Naanmani Maalai as well as a Commendation for Kamban Kaattum Kanaikal, a collection of essays about the hero Raman from the Tamil epic Kamba Ramayana. 2016 marks the first time both men have won an SLP award.

Another first- time published writer to win an award is Ms Danielle Lim, Co-Winner of the English Non-Fiction Prize for The Sound of SCH: A Mental Breakdown, A Life Journey. Together with her co-Winner Mr Peh Shing Huei author of When the Party Ends, this would be the first time they entered and won the SLP.

Mr Sonny Liew has further firsts to add to the record books. Besides being a first-time winner, his The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is the first graphic novel to win the Singapore Literature Prize.

Although Mr Ahmad Azmi bin Haji Mohamed Ishak and Ms Hafiza Talib are both experienced writers, this was the first year that they had submitted books to SLP and picked up a Merit award and a Commendation respectively for their Malay Non-Fiction books Rentak Rebana and Sekolahku Tinggal Kenangan.

Higher Profile for Shortlisted and Winning Titles
The organisers of the SLP, the National Book Development Council of Singapore (The Book Council) welcomed MPH Bookstores as the Official SLP 2016 Bookstore in May this year. With this new partnership, all the shortlisted SLP titles in all four languages are available to the public under one roof for the first time in SLP history. MPH Bookstores have been carrying the shortlisted titles since mid-May 2016 and will continue to carry them until October 2017.

Promoting SLP Titles and Authors
The Book Council, have been working closely with MPH Bookstores, publishers, National Library Board (NLB), National Heritage Board (NHB), and other organisations to actively promote the shortlisted authors and their works to the public via public events as well as mainstream media such as radio, TV, newspapers and magazines. Efforts to raise awareness of the prize and to support local writers with marketing activities and public appearances will continue for the rest of 2016 and well into 2017 and will include: meet the authors events at MPH stores and a variety of other venues, writing workshops for both for the general public and local schools and SLP author appearances at overseas literary festivals.

Ms Claire Chiang says, “Since 2014, the Book Council has been working hard to boost the recognition of shortlisted and winning authors beyond the award announcement, with author talks and school events throughout the year and numerous other programmes to promote the winners. We are making headway and raising awareness of SLP and our many talented authors at home and abroad but there is still much more to do. I hope that with the support of the literary community and the local media the Book Council will be able to bring the SLP and its winning and shortlisted authors to an even wider audience in the coming year.”
Chief Operating Officer of MPH Bookstores Mr A. Rahim Awang says, “The Book Council does a wonderful job of promoting the literary arts and supporting the publishing industry in Singapore. The Singapore Literature Prize is definitely one of the jewels in their crown. The SLP awards provide a platform for authors in all four of Singapore’s official languages to showcase their works. The events, publicity and other support which the Book Council organises for the SLP shortlisted and winning authors enable them to reach far wider audiences than they might otherwise, by making Singaporeans aware of the wealth and variety of home-grown literary talent our little island has to offer.”

Says Foo Peiying, spokesperson for publisher Ethos Books, “Sometimes there are books which we, as publishers, love and believe in but which unfortunately fall into the periphery of our reader's worlds. The Singapore Literature Prize is a wonderful spotlight which the Book Council uses to bring those books back into the reader's line of sight, and presents an opportunity for us to engage in deeper conversations with them about these books we love.”

The SLP also has an active community of nearly 1,500 followers on Facebook at  http://www.facebook.com/SingaporeLiteraturePrize/, and recently launched their Instagram page in June this year at www.instagram.com/sglitprize.

What the authors think
“I never expected to see my collection of Tamil poems on the shelves in MPH. The Book Council has done a great job this year supporting all the authors. There are very few opportunities for Tamil and Malay authors to market their books in Singapore so the Book Council’s efforts in organising events for authors to meet the public is much appreciated.” Mr Saba Muthunatarajan, shortlisted for Tamil Poetry.

“It has been good to see all the SLP Shortlisted books displayed in MPH; I think that has helped to raise the competition’s profile. The panel discussion I took part in was really well-attended and afterwards I was surprised when I was asked to read from my book for a video for the SLP Facebook page. I had not realised the Book Council are doing so much work to support the authors.” Lee Hui Min, shortlisted for Chinese Non-Fiction.

“The Book Council is doing a great job of promoting the SLP authors. I had a lovely time as part of the panel at an event at the National Library which had a really big turnout. As a poet I don’t usually get to do such things. People bought books and a couple asked me to sign copies of my book; it was fun.” Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingde, Co-Winner for English Poetry.

“The event on the 26th of May at MPH Robinson that I attended went smoothly. Mr Zafar Anjum did a good job of moderating the discussion which was in English but featured four shortlisted Non-Fiction writers in Singapore’s official four languages (Malay, Tamil, Chinese and English). We were able to share our experience and opinions on our works and styles — which were all quite different — with the audience and answer their questions.” Hafiza Talib, Commendation recipient for Non-Fiction Malay.

“I found the Book Council’s author events well organised. As a forum they offer a good opportunity for discussion and exchange. A writer’s world is usually removed from the reader’s, but both are the necessary halves of the complete act of creation. An occasion like this affords each a glimpse into the other’s world, offers each to the other a fresh view, another interpretation. For instance, I was asked about what made me write about the diaspora in some of my stories, and this allowed me to share how germination comes about for myself. Such events cannot help but promote an understanding of writing and its arcane processes.” Ms Leonora Liow, shortlisted for English Fiction.

“I’m thankful for being able to reach out to more readers through the SLP events and panel discussions. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of support we authors received from the Book Council such as media interviews and public events which had a higher turnout than I had expected. I hope we can have more of these events in the future.” Danielle Lim, Co-Winner of the English Non-Fiction Prize.

"Being shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize has been a waking Merlion dream: it is a big affirmation of my writing that I feel like a lion roaring, but there's also a tugging, half-fishy feeling of inadequacy in the face of such an honour. This is a spur for me to get better." Mr Eric Tinsay Valles, shortlisted for English Poetry

For more information, please contact:

John Battersby
PR Consultant
Bridges M&C Pte Ltd
HP: 9754 1092
Email: john@bridges-comms.com

Nanny Eliana
PR Consultant
Bridges M&C Pte Ltd
HP: 9450 0599
Email: nan@bridges-comms.com

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