Today, I’m excited to speak to Ruth Wan, previously Managing Editor of Epigram Books and now Managing Editor of Armour Publishing. Ruth has been instrumental in the editing and also conceptualizing Singapore’s most successful Middle Grade Series.
Managing Editor, Armour Publishing
1. How long have been working as an editor? Tell us briefly what led to this career?
Ruth: I have been working as an editor for just under a decade. Honestly, my ‘career’ started by accident. I was taking a break from a Civil Service job to focus on raising my kids. During that time, my friend in one of the big publishing houses looked at me and said, “Hey, I think you can freelance edit, right?” And that was the beginning of my ‘career’. After freelancing for a while, I eventually moved into a publishing house.
2. Name us a couple children’s books which you have edited. What did those books mean to you?
Ruth: I was the editor for Adeline Foo’s “The Diary of Amos Lee” books one to three. I was also the editor for A.J. Low’s “Sherlock Sam” books one to three, and I edited all of Monica Lim and Lesley-Anne Tan’s Danger Dan books.
Sherlock Sam Middle Grade Series
I loved “The Diary of Amos Lee” series because it was my first exposure to local children’s book writing. It was an eye-opening experience working with Adeline Foo and I learnt so much about the children’s book market through that.
With “Sherlock Sam”, the books are very dear to me because I came up with the concept for Sherlock Sam and even gave the character his name! My nephew is Samuel, and I thought the alliteration was cool—I presented the idea of “Sherlock Sam” to my boss, he loved it, and the name stuck! Of course, A.J. Low have made “Sherlock Sam” very much their own.
The same thing happened with “Danger Dan”. The idea also came from me, but it was Monica and Lesley-Anne who really fleshed out the concept. I feel a real sense of pride when my Primary One son asks me to buy all the books in the series, and laughs out loud at all the jokes. I think my “coolness” factor has also gone up several notches in the eyes of my two boys when they found out that I get to read all these cool books that they love way before anyone else does, before it gets printed! That’s way cool, to them.
Danger Dan Middle Grade Series (source: Hedgehog Comms)
3. What’s your favourite book from childhood? Why?
Ruth: I really liked The Phantom Tollbooth, The Twits, and Haroun’s Sea of Stories. They were just fantastic stories. So bizarre and magical!
4. What are your first words of advice for aspiring children’s book writers in our Asia region?
Ruth: Write something saleable, please. It does no one any favours if you pour your heart and soul into something that people don’t want to read. No matter how well-written, it won’t sell if it won’t sell.
5. Is Armour Publishing actively open to children’s book manuscripts at this stage?
Ruth: Armour is launching a series of readers for the preschool and lower-primary school market. These would be books for 3-6 year olds, or 6-9 year olds.
Any particular genres/requirements you are looking for?
I’m always on the lookout for stories that are about Singapore. My children went through preschool reading something called the Oxford Reading Tree. It was a series of books developed in the UK and the main characters were Biff, Chip and Kipper! What totally foreign-sounding names. The books showed kids with blond hair and so on. I just think that our kids should be reading local stories with illustrations showing local landscapes. After all, Singapore is a great place to raise kids—there’s so much to do and it’s all so fun! If our preschool and primary school books can reflect that spirit more, that would be great!
Caleb edits the menu (at 2 years)
Mummum: Ruth, thanks for your no-holds-barred editorial armoury of truth and words of advice for us writers! Always good to hear it straight from the Editor’s mouth. Look forward to more exciting books benefiting from your editorial eye. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword. :)