I recently conducted a workshop on children’s book writing at Littworld, the World Christian Publishing Conference, in early November.

I wondered how best to structure this workshop to cater to a diverse group of participants from a multitude of countries where English may not be their first language and a few might need simultaneous translations too.

In the end, I boiled my presentation down to 9 writing truths which I expanded on with lots of picture book examples (and lots of pictures to transcend potential language differences).

As I was preparing for this, I was reminded that we should write for a greater purpose, which became my 4th Fruit of Spirited Writing ie. Don’t try to write bestsellers, write Hope-sellers.

My 9 Fruits of Spirited Children’s Book Writing:

1st Fruit – Less “Tell-Tale”

2nd Fruit – Strong Beginning

3rd Fruit – Hopeful Ending

4th Fruit – Greater Purpose

5th Fruit – Memorable Characters

6th Fruit – Character Wisdom & Grace

7th Fruit – Clarity in Conflict & Resolution

8th Fruit – Faith in Reader

9th Fruit – Truthful Voice

Littworld workshop

I was very heartened by the feedback I received after the workshop.

A writer from Africa shared that, midway through the workshop, she suddenly came to clarity on an issue that had subconsciously impeded her writing.

A writer from the U.S. said that this was her favourite workshop of the conference and she was now inspired to try her hand at writing children’s books.

An Indonesian friend, an aspiring writer, shared that she found the workshop lively and joyful. She also found all the accompanying pictures helpful to her understanding.

I was happy that the 9 fruits aided these workshop participants in digesting some key writing truths!


I recently had the pleasure of being on the judging panel for Flash Fiction Contest 2015 (Primary School category) together with lecturer and Gathering Books’ Founder Myra Garces Bacsal and Asia Storytelling Network’s Founder Rosemarie Somaiah ie. two dynamos in the literary scene here.

I’m glad to have been part of this excellent initiative by National Library Board and was very impressed with the shortlisted entries that came to us judges. Rosemarie, Myra and I came to a quick unanimous consensus on the three winning entries for their strength of story and voice:

Primary Category

1st Prize “It was Raining”  by Lien Cai Hui       

2nd Prize “Colour the Rain”  by Celeste Chong Hao Yee

3rd Prize “The Third Shot” by Tee Ying Xin

The winning entries can be read here.

NLB Flash Fiction

Congratulations to the winners who were honoured at the awards ceremony over the weekend and the 800 or so entries that came in for all categories in this Flash Fiction Contest.

I am heartened that we have in our midst a new generation who will wield mighty pens and fertile imaginations beyond being just known as a tuition nation!

Yesterday, the Pangolin crossed many roads from the zoo to arrive at my home!

(Well, technically, the postman drove through many roads with the Pangolin …but I write children’s books so I take childlike liberty with my language.)

Pangolin front cover

My latest book for the Wildlife Reserves Group is out and I just received my author copies. Yay!

Why did the Pangolin Cross the Road? is a bilingual picture book inspired by the true story of Anggun the pangolin that was injured in a accident near the Singapore Zoo. It is my 5th book sponsored by the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism. The first four books were published by Seed Institute/Singapore National Cooperative Federation.

So why did the pangolin cross the road? Get your copy from the Wildlife Reserves shops to find out!
Pangolin back cover

On 31 October, I had the pleasure of being on the Singapore Writers’ Festival children’s books panel together with Book Council’s Deputy Director Kenneth Quek, author Adeline Foo. Denise Tan, co-founder of Closetful of Books, moderated our panel in a lively sharing of our favourite books.

When there were zero people at our talk 10 minutes prior, I joked that we could talk to each other. But when we got on stage, the room miraculously filled up!


We three panelists were supposed to pick four favourite books each and Denise would decide the final 10 books, which would be gifted in a set to one lucky member of the audience.

I picked four books in the picture books and middle grade category. Adeline picked four Young Adult books. True to his calling as a books advocate, Book Council’s Kenneth had so many favorite books that he ran through an entire list!


Kenneth also displayed a hidden talent as a storyteller when he did two impromptu book readings of David Seow’s If I were a Blue Kangaroo and Sarah Mounsey’s Purple Paw Prints. Now I know who to call when I need help with storytelling :).

I’ll get down to listing my absolute 10 favourite books when I have more time over the next few weeks and am not reading Star Wars readers to my Jedi son. The Force is strong with my little one.
(Thanks to David Seow for all four photos!)

I had the privilege to have been one of the contributors in Light for the Writer’s Soul – 100 Devotions by Global Christian Writers, recently launched at Littworld 2015, the world conference of Christian Publishing held in Singapore last week.

Children's Picture Book on friendship, sacrifice and self-acceptance

Children’s Picture Book on friendship, sacrifice and self-acceptance

My devotional article “Struggle with the Word” (under the Theme “Inspiration”) was about how I wrote my second picture book The Tale of Rusty Horse when I was at the crossroads at the end of a gap year where I was in between jobs. I grappled with whether I should continue trudging forward in writing children’s books (through the tough Singapore publishing market) or beg my ex-bosses for a job and return back to my seemingly glamorous life in the luxury hotel industry.

At that time, I struggled to find the ending to my Rusty Horse manuscript, only to realise that I had turned into Rusty Horse, the old rocking horse who was concerned about crowd approval. When I decided to stop galloping in circles of self-doubt and stay true to that nudging that was in my heart to write, I made peace with Rusty, the dark horse, and completed his story. As if in divine encouragement, The Tale of Rusty Horse won the Moonbeam Gold Medal and was singled out for special mention in the Awards announcement. Many readers have since shared how this book resonated deepest because they felt Rusty’s struggles.

MAI Devotional

I’ve been flipping through this Devotional book over the past few days and of those I have read to date, a few devotionals jumped out at me:

A Writer in Wonderland by Ivanova Nono Fotso from Cameroon (under the “Trust” theme)

“…Some people say to me, “You write for children? It’s a good start. Keep working, you will soon be able to write for adults.”
They don’t hear the little girl in me chuckling. She knows she will always be ready to dance, skip and wonder…

Jesus said,” Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14)

I too have received similar comments in the past where people have not taken children’s book writing as a real vocation and dismissed it as child’s play. But like Rusty Horse, I have since galloped forward, refusing to be stumbled by crowd opinion.

Clinging to the Dream by Doris Hoover from U.S. (under the “Perseverance” theme)

“…God planted a dream in my heart, the dream of writing devotions about the messages of God through nature…(But the editors) Their rejections slapped my spirit. Like the tree’s roots, my heart hung exposed and vulnerable. I questioned my ability to achieve my dream…Then I understood: as long as I cling to my dream, it will survive.”

For us writers, writing is like a dream, but in the words of my author friend David Seow, “Writing children’s books is no fairy tale.” It is something we need God’s strength to cling on to even when we feel dry and depleted at times.

Writing and Waiting by Marlene Legaspi-Munar of Philippines (under the “Patience” theme)

“…Waiting is part of the writer’s life – waiting for the big idea, waiting for a manuscript to be accepted, waiting for the first book to be published, waiting for a wounded ego to recover from rejection…”

I’m grateful to Media Associates International and Armour Publishing who co-published this book for launch at Littworld 2015. This book of 100 devotional articles by 80 contributing writers from 27 countries, each in 400-word portions, will serve as a writing friend inspiring and encouraging me, when I need a word for my down-days in writing.

And so, I like to encourage 1 person in the creative arts person with a FREE giveaway of 1 copy of this book!

Just tell me:

(1) What area of creative arts you are in?


(2) Why you think this book will be helpful to you?

Leave your comment on this blog or Facebook (if you are linked to my Facebook post) by Sat 21 November to qualify. Since I am sponsoring the book, I will decide on the prize winner (haha…the benefits of sponsorship) :).

  • Only for those living in Asia for postage reasons!

2015 has been a break from routine for me. It’s been a year marked by “stop” and “wait” where personal writing is concerned and “be patient” and “do” where it involves community.

This past week of being part of Littworld 2015 (the world conference of international Christian Publishing) has personally been my peak moment this year on many fronts:

1) Being on Host Committee

This year, Singapore became the Host Venue for Littworld for the very first time since the triennial conference’s inception 30 years back.

Littworld2015 Host CommI was one of five on the Host Committee who helped organized this residential conference with the MAI Head Office in U.S., which made the fruition of the conference especially meaningful for me.

It was also my first time at Littworld, having been pulled in by MAI Chairman Bernice Lee just before the final decision of Singapore as Host Country.

2) The Numbers of Significance

This year’s Littworld has been especially significant given the numbers involved:

Media Associates International (MAI) celebrates its 30th year

MAI Europe celebrates her 25th

MAI Asia celebrates her 10th

And Singapore, as Host, celebrates SG50 -our country’s 50th year of independence.

Littworld 2015 also saw its largest number of participants ever, with 278 participants from 51 countries. It was literally a meeting of “every tongue and every tribe”. Write Lah


For the first time, I met delegates from countries where I did not know people. I sat next to a lady from Lebanon on the first day, had side-splitting laughs over fertilized eggs (from birds, that is) with two Russian delegates (long story), walked with a new friend from Ethiopia during our mid-week outing at Gardens by the Bay. Not to mention MAI Africa Chairman Wambura who mischievously asked me repeatedly to adopt her so she could stay on in Singapore because she loves the place.

For me, it was eye-opening, worldview-enlarging and perspective-orientating to participate in a conference where we all came in with the posture of humility to learn from one another and the reminder that no one is above another.

3) Finding My Voice

I was invited to be one of the Plenary Speakers for the conference and my given topic was “Finding My Voice” – my personal journey of how I lost my voice physically and found it again in writing books for children.

Finding My Voice Plenary

One thought nagged at me as I stepped up to the podium to speak on Tuesday: Would participants living in places facing persecution, injustice and oppression be able to relate to someone in Singapore who struggled with a voice problem?

As that doubt and concern crept into my mind, it translated into literal fear and trembling in my voice. For the first 5 minutes when I started speaking, I struggled to control my voice. It was almost as if some of that strange quirky voice disorder had seized my vocal chord muscles again and I had trouble getting my words out.

It was a long 5 minutes of awkwardness for me but I decided to laugh it off. I polled the audience on how many write and publish for children. A show of hands indicated not so many. So I asked if anyone in the audience used to be children. That brought unanimous chuckles. And I was ready to take captive that shaky voice and share my personal story.

My Plenary

My doubts were assuaged when numerous people came up to me after my Plenary to share their reactions. A senior editor with a major U.S. Publishing House came up and said, “I don’t know if you could see (from stage) but we laughed and cried with you.”

Someone working in missions in Africa told me that I inspired him with my story.

I was humbled and reminded of how our personal stories can help us connect with each other even when our circumstances are so different.

On a footnote, I was thrilled that all my books at the conference’s pop-up Book Gallery sold out and I had to drive home late night to replenish my stock.

4) What’s a publishing conference without book launches?

I was very privileged to have contributed articles to two books that were launched at Littworld 2015.

Twelve StrandsTwelve Strands- Journey with Asian Authors – was launched by MAI and Graceworks. This edition is an “update” to the edition published 15 years ago of an earlier generation of writers. In this new edition, I am featured as one of 12 Asian authors whose writing journeys will be used by MAI in its writers’ training workshops in the region.

MAI Devotional

Light for the Writer’s Soul – 100 Devotions by Global Christian Writers was launched by MAI and Armour Publishing.

In the lead-up to Littworld 2015, MAI had a call for submissions from Christian writers around the world. Winning entries were included alongside those of us invited to submit short devotional articles. 21 of us contributors were present at Littworld during the book launch by Armour Publishing.

I’m excited to see my first ever published devotional article and look forward to reading my fellow writers’ challenges and epiphanies in their writing journeys. More on both books later along with FREE book giveaways! Akan dating (ie. soon to come)…

5) MAI Founding Father’s Devotion

Bob Reekie, founding father of MAI, gave a short devotional message on the 3rd morning of the conference on the conference theme “Reaching Your Reader”.


His key message was on how important it is to listen to our reader and he challenged  Christian writers and publishers to effectively  “show, don’t tell”.

The Golden Rule of writing applies to Christian writing too? I found it heartening to hear that from MAI’s Father.

I was chuffed (okay, more than that…I was ecstatic!) when he singled out my writing in his message. He quoted from my Finding My Voice book which was excerpted in Twelve Strands to illustrate his point about listening to our readers:

“…As I talked less and listened more, I discovered everyone has problems. Everyone struggles with issues in their lives…”

On the final morning of the conference, MAI’s Father came up to me and affirmed me in my writing. I was tongue-tied and could’t quite string my reply together. But that’s fine…I’ll just blame that on an unexplained momentary loss of voice. :)

5) Sober Keynotes

There were sobering moments in the conference where we were reminded of the harsh realities in other parts of the world. A delegate from Northern Nigeria asked us to pray for his country to find the resolve to deal with the tragedies back home. The extremist group Boko Haram has been on a campaign of violence through suicide attacks and bombings in the region to create an Islamic Caliphate in the North-East. They have destroyed towns, were reported to have abducted 219 school girls and also killed many Christians in the area.

A delegate from Lebanon shared about how Syrians were turning up at their doorsteps – many families and orphans seeking refuge. This week’s Straits Times featured a similar news story of a fatherless generation displaced from war and fighting in their countries. For her and her fellow Lebanese, it was truly a call and challenge of responding to “love your neighbour”.

6) Heavenly Choir

I’ve seen and heard Africans singing on television and their reputation for being musical. But at Littworld, I literally had the front row seat to that, being at the table in front of the stage when the African delegation sang at the closing dinner. Hearing an African choir sing live is like hearing a melody that is out of this world.

If music can unite people, an African choir singing can move the heart and stir the recesses of the soul. They truly have God’s gift of music and rhythm.

Our recording will not do justice to how powerful and harmonious their vocals are but better a glimpse than none…

More to come on Littworld as I “download” and process my takeaways from what has been an intensely packed week of plenaries and workshops on top of Host Committee duties.

freeAdmissionThis coming Saturday 31 October, I will be speaking on the Singapore Writer’s Festival panel “10 Books Your Family Should Read” at the Asian Civilisations Museum at 10.30am together with Kenneth Quek (Book Council), Adeline Foo (author) and session moderator Denise Tan (Closetful of Books). I had a hard time narrowing down my favorites for this session and ended up with a mix of picture books and middle grade books. Our session will be one of the free events offered by SWF.

141124LittWorldRev1200x1200Following that, it’s onto Littworld 2015 for one week. Littworld is an international Christian publishing training conference which is being held in Singapore for the first time since its inception 30 years back. It’s a residential conference so I’ll be away from home for a week.

I’ll be speaking at a plenary session “Finding My Voice” – about how I lost my voice to a rare disorder and found it in writing children’s books. I’ll also be conducting the writing workshop “The 9 Fruits of Spirited Children’s Book Writing” as well as giving one-on-one consultations on two evenings to aspiring children’s book authors.

Being on the Host committee, I’ve also been involved in something of everything else over the past year leading up to the conference.

Now…back to finishing up final preparations, writing love notes for my preschooler (for the week I am MIA) and packing my bags for Littworld.


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