Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Caleb turns five! In a blink of an eye, my baby ran into boyhood.

IMG_8252

If I can characterize what 4 years old had been in the past year, it’s been all been super-related stuff:

  1. Super-big Emotions

As authors of children’s picture books, we often give our characters big emotions and big voices that grab the reader. Being stay-home mum to Caleb has given me the front row seat that reality is truer than fiction.

I’ve witnessed my highly expressive kid switch from angry to happy to sad, all in the space of a few page turns of a picture book.

A super-bookish friend, Suzanne, recommended an excellent series on emotions written by Cornelia Maude Spelman (publisher Albert Whitman) which I have read to Caleb numerous times -mostly toggling between the two titles When I Feel Angry and When I Feel Sad.

When I had read them to Caleb till ad nauseam end of last year, Caleb looked at me and said, “Now read When I Feel Superheroey!

“They haven’t written that book,” I mused.

“Then just write it!” He told me.

“Right,” I said, making a mental note that Caleb will also benefit from seeing himself in the book When I Feel Dictatory.

2. Super-glue: extra strength, extra sticky

When Caleb was three, I saw how he “fought” for independence in many things with his “I will do it” pronouncements.

But as he started approaching five, he seemed to change his mind to “You do for me”.

Although I keep hearing from his teachers about how independent he is, I’ve been getting quite the opposite from him.

He’s become super-sticky and glued himself to me lots, as though he is suddenly afraid to grow up.

I may have over-prepared him for all the “big boy” things he gets to do for himself when he turns five. He’s been excitedly counting down the months and days to his birthday. Then two weeks before his birthday, he suddenly said,” I’m not ready (to be five).”

It was a reminder to me to slow the pace and allow him time to grow in independence from me at less super-speed.

3. Superheroes & Light Sabers

At 3 years old, it was about puzzles, blocks and board games. 4 years old can be summed up in Superheroes and Star Wars pretend play.

Caleb sped through 4 years old as Spidey, The Flash, Ironman and then in the last four months as Luke Skywalker.

“Mummy, see I run so fast, like Flash. Can you see me?” He sped off from one end of our home to the next and then back in a flash.

“Wow, what was that? I only saw a flash…you’re too fast for my eyes,” I would say.

“Look mummy, I show you.” He does Drama Demo take 52.

“Pretend this is Superman running.” He does a slow-mo jog on the spot.

“I’m faster than Superman. Now, watch me.” He speeds off, faster than a speeding bullet.

“Wow, you are faster than Superman,” I exclaim.

“I told you so,” he said smugly.

 

Shortly after I took Caleb for a haircut, he stood in front of his room mirror and exclaimed,” I look fantastic!”

“Er…yes, you look very good with your new haircut,” I said, wondering why the sudden vain streak that was so unlike him.

“No, I mean I look like Mr Fantastic!”

Ahh…a superhero…that’s more like it.

 

Since encountering Stars Wars mid last year, Caleb has now turned into Luke Skywalker, crossing lightsabers with my dad, whom he pronounced as Darth Vader.

Then recently, he had a change of perspective. As we walked into the house, he ran up to my dad and said, “Kong Kong, you are not Darth Vader anymore. You are Yoda!”

Clearly amused at being upgraded, my dad said, “Oh, I’m now the good guy. How come I am Yoda now?”

Without a moment’s pause, Caleb quipped, “You are old. You are good. And you have brains!”

 

4. Super-Wordy 

I like to think Caleb has inherited my love for wordplay and a loving use of them.

When I was little (and Caleb did not know my backstories…so it has to be genetic), I used to tell my dad my own bedtime story when he put me to sleep. “Once upon a time, a very very very long time ago, a million zillion years ago, very very very long ago…”

I never finished the beginning of my story because I would be asleep by then.

I was thus very amused to discover that Caleb has an innate love for repeating words too.

During the few times I tried to catch snatches of time to type an email or update some story I was writing, he would take over my laptop to type his favourite sentence, umpteen times over.

IMG_8280 (6).JPG

If my laptop wasn’t available to him, he would write it on my printer paper (and he uses nothing less than my autograph pen). If not, he would text me the same love messages. image2

When I was away in Australia for a writer’s festival last year and at the Littworld residential conference, he inundated me with repeated love text messages.

image3

As if his “really really” wasn’t close enough to my “very very”, he also showed a fondness for big numbers like me when I was young. If I thought zillion was the biggest number when I was little, I realize now I am sorely wrong when he made his biggest pronouncement to me.

“Mummy, I love you mer-billion, ker-zillion, ber-thrillion times!”

I think that really really really goes further than a certain book I used to read to him where Big Nutbrown Hare tells Little Nutbrown hare that he “loves him to the moon and back” :).

IMG_6741

CALEB SUPERHERO ALREADY 4 YEARS OLD I LOVE YOU MUMMY

 

 

Hop hop hooray! I’m delighted to receive news that my picture book Tibby the Tiger Bunny will be heading to India sometime in the near future. Epigram Books has licensed out the rights for the Tamil translation for both Singapore and India.

Seeing a book published is a thrill. Getting it in translation is a double delight :). 

Children's picture book on fitting in, identity and self-esteem

Children’s picture book on fitting in, identity and self-esteem

And since three is better than two, my Tibby book 3 manuscript has also just gotten the green light to proceed! So, I’ll hop along as I look forward to seeing this new book out later this year. 

I’m delighted to be selected as Writer-in-Residence at Gardens by the Bay this year, thanks to the National Arts Council Gardens Residency Initiative.

In this Residency, I will be working on a new children’s book manuscript.

I’ve frequented Gardens by the Bay many times with Caleb since his toddler days. My most recent memories involve chasing after him and staying eagle-eyed as he takes off in increasing speed.

I’m sure I will take in more of the Gardens’ beauty and serenity when I am taking it in a more leisurely pace…like after I drop Caleb in kindergarten! 

I’m looking forward to starting this Residency soon as I know it is going to be walks in the park.

_jcr_content.renderimage.pageimage.740.416[1]

Photo credit: Gardens By The Bay

2016 has started on a very exciting note…and drama-filled page!

First off, Esplanade will be staging the theatre adaptation of my picture book Bunny Finds The Right Stuff for the preschool audience! The show will debut as the first children’s show at the newly renovated children’s theatre at the Esplanade.

Bunny Finds the Right Stuff is the 4th book in my Toy Series and has won the IPPY Silver Medal, Writer’s Digest Honorable Mention (Self-Published Awards) and was shortlisted for the inaugural Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award. It has also been translated and published in China and Korea, and also Malaysia.

 

bunny Esplanade flyer (front)

bunny Esplanade flyer (back)

You can book tickets online with Esplanade!

2015 has been an unusual writing year for me. Partly because there hasn’t been much writing.

With Singapore’s 50th birthday, I wanted to do something out of routine to contribute to the SG50 celebrations.

Having generally taken a hiatus from giving school talks since Caleb was born (too tired), I also told myself that I was ready to give a few talks this year if they came about.

It’s funny how when I purposed these things in my heart (and not out loud to anyone), all these things and more happened, making 2015 very much a sabbatical writing year but one filled with lots of community involvement.

1. Little Red Dots & SG50
I was approached by St James Church Kindergarten last year on a book project  idea that they had for SG50.

It was a preschool publication (an audience I am passionate about) and it required publishing skills – both right down my alley. So, I said yes. My pro-bono SG50 project spanned close to 1 year. The Little Red Dots anthology was launched in time for  National Day.

Little Red Dots (front cover)

Little Red Dots, which featured 8 selected entries by SJCK students, parents and siblings, went out to all 1,600 Singapore preschools. The SG50 Little Red Dots Collection (of 29 stories) were distributed to all 1,200 SJCK students.

Little Red Dots Collection (front cover)

2. This piggy went to school
As though someone had heard my thoughts at the beginning of the year, I started receiving a steady stream of invitations to speak in schools throughout the year.

All in, I gave about 23 talks at 16 schools and at the library. Not counting the conferences and overseas school talks. My talk to the Sec 4 graduating class, at my alma mater MGS, was particularly nostalgic for me as I shared my dreams and aspirations of my graduating year.

MGS photo then & then

3. Everything is AWESOME!
I was invited to speak at Western Australia’s AWESOME Arts Festival in October this year. It was a productive trip, where I gave 13 talks in four schools including one public reading at the State Library, over 5 days.

It was also a retreat of sorts for me – my childcare leave -where I left Caleb at home with my parents.

Ben laughed at what I brought back from Perth. Paper plates, cups and napkins from Target store for Caleb’s upcoming very-boy birthday party. It appears that the Force was strong way back in October and I simply did not have the strength to resist.

Star Wars partyware

4. Drafting beyond Expectations
This year started out with huge expectations on the writing front. Perhaps too much because I ended up writing little, with other commitments taking my time and attention.

And of the little of writing, I went through a great leveling down in my expectations. A 500-word picture book manuscript that I thought would be a breeze to write turned out to be the most difficult that I have ever written. It was even harder than The Tale of Rusty Horse, the pivotal manuscript that convicted me to write full time and not return to corporate work.

10 months and 17 drafts later, the fate of these 500 words remains to be seen. After all that has happened this year, I am learning to wait for things to happen in their time.

5. Of Pandas and Pangolins
There was some cheer on the writing front, with two stories I wrote last year getting published this year. Although the newspapers reported how Jia Jia had a false pregnancy this year, fiction took a different spin with Jia Jia giving birth in my third book on Singapore’s most famous Foreign Residents. The giant pandas welcome Baby Panda in The New Face at River Safari.

KKJJ Bk 3 cover (hi-res)

Wildlife Reserves also published Why did the Pangolin cross the Road?, based on the true story of a pangolin that they rehabilitated. This received the support of the Lee Kuan Yew Bilingualism Fund.

Pangolin front cover

6. Littworld of words & the Word
2015 is also the year that the Littworld World Conference of Christian publishing was held in Singapore for the first time since its inception 30 years ago.

Littworld Host Committee

Littworld Host Committee

Being on the Host Committee, I was involved in the details leading up to the conference. I must confess I did not give much thought on what to expect as a participant at the conference because we were caught up with planning details.

Let’s just say that for everything that I overset my expectations on and which did not happen in the first 10 months of 2015, the week of Littworld made up for it in very unexpected ways.

Several things happened, some directly from Littworld. Two other things, unrelated to Littworld, came through the email at the start of Littworld week.

One of which relates to a new picture book project. Energized with renewed perspective and a spurt of inspiration, I wrote my fastest written draft manuscript. Whilst it still needs polishing, I did not have the angst and struggles with my earlier manuscript.

Write LahThe other good things that came out of that week are in various stages of discussions so I’ll just leave it at that.

As I look towards 2016, I approach it with an air of expectancy of what God, Author of my life, has in store for me. But this time, I do so, remembering to delete the sense of entitlement.

 

One month back, I spoke to a group of about 50 schoolgirls, as part of Youth Leader’s inaugural SG50 Female Leaders Media Academy programme, which aims to nurture our girls through the stories and experiences of female leaders.

As an author, I don’t fit in with the corporate mould of this programme, which matches a selection of top students with corporate organizations. So, I was surprised when I was invited to be part of Youth Leader’s inaugural batch of female leaders to share my personal story.

On 8 November, I met with the 10 teams of students (numbering about 50) selected to be mentored by female corporate leaders who work within an organisation. The girls, 13-17 years old, came from about 10 schools and colleges, and were selected nationally from school media clubs as well as based on academic results and leadership positions.

SG50 Female Leaders

I shared my personal journey of how I went from losing my voice during my corporate life to finding a new voice in this chapter as an author. This was followed by a question and answer session with all the girls, town hall style, as well as additional questions from each group after.

 

During the session, the girls asked me a whole host of questions.

Some were writer-specific:

– Which is the least favorite book you have written?
Okay, my answer was strictly for that room only :).

– Which is the most difficult story you have written?

– How do you start writing your stories? What is your writing process?

– What inspires you?

 

Many touched on deep life issues:

– How did you find your voice as an author? What advice do you have to those of us trying to find our voices?

– What do you think is important to succeed?

– If you could live your life again, what would you do differently?

– Now that you have accomplished all these things, what else are you looking to achieve?

– Are you still angry with the people who were mean to you when you couldn’t speak?

– Did you ever think of taking your life (during your lowest moments)?

It was a definite “No” to that. At my lowest point, it felt like the end of the world but definitely not something to end my life over.

– How did you pick yourself up from your lowest point?

– What is your life mantra?

I told them that I don’t have a life mantra but I do have a life verse:

John 10:10 “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy but I (Jesus) came so that you may have life and live it to the full.”

Youth’s Leader Founder Kenny Nai then gave the 10 teams a couple of weeks to write up digital stories based on their takeaways from my sharing. More on that in a later post.

I am glad that I met with the girls and had a glimpse into how deeply they think about life issues.

We ended just in time for me to pick up my little superhero from preschool. He took me on a very different turn in conversation as he yakked on about Jedi masters and light sabres.

May the Force of Goodness and Life be with our younger generation always.

Batman Caleb

Today, I did a book reading of Bunny Finds The Right Stuff to a group of foster children.

NIE Foster Kids1

Reading to the children

As part of their NIE module GESL (Group Endeavours in Service Learning), a group of trainee teachers had developed their “Literacy Opens Doors” initiative for disadvantaged foster children, in connection with the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

With the NIE trainee teachers behind this Initiative

With the NIE trainee teachers behind this Initiative

Their NIE lecturer Dr Myra Garces-Bacsal had given them a list of books by local authors. I was thrilled when I received an email from the trainee teachers that they had selected The Tale of Rusty Horse and Bunny Finds the Right Stuff to read and develop activities around for the children for this week long programme, along with an invitation to do a reading to the children.

With Myra

With Myra

Since Christmas is coming, I thought I would gift every child a copy of Bunny Finds The Right Stuff after my reading.

I was in turn gifted a lovely crafted Thank You box by these highly creative and passionate cohort of teachers.

My Thank You Box

My Thank You Box

...which opens up to 8 flaps of Thank You notes!

…which opens up to 8 flaps of Thank You notes!

I wasn’t planning to participate in any more events this year end, after what has been a hectic several months. But I am glad I did and ended my book events calendar this year with the right stuff.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 651 other followers