Archive for the ‘Writer’s Block’ Category

For 5 Saturdays over January and early February this year, I ran a memoir essay writing workshop at Central Library, organised by National Library Board. After Finding My Voice with my own memoir and several recent personal narrative essays, I was happy to guide aspiring writers to write that burning story in their hearts.

I took 17 participants through the process of developing the one-important story that they wanted to craft, and then guided them in shaping their personal essays. As many wrote their stories of their personal journeys for the first time, I was privileged to have been privy to very deep sharing by participants over the weeks of the workshops. Many wrote about their families and others about significant life-changing moments.

It’s been an intensive few weeks for me as I discovered that I am an OCD editor who nudges willing newbie writers repeatedly in courting the write relationship with their readers. We wrapped up the final workshop session with everyone reaching the finish line this last Saturday, just in time to switch gears for Chinese New Year celebrations!



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Over the weekend, I ran my second Writer in the Gardens workshop at Gardens by the Bay. I took 20 families on a walk through a lesser known part of the Gardens to soak in the ambience and let our imagination wander with story ideas. With so much happening, I didn’t do a headcount and forgot the group photo but with parents and kids, I think we ended up with a sizeable group of about 50 people.

I was pleasantly surprised by a few friends from the past who showed up for the workshop. Two were my secondary schoolmates who brought their daughters for the workshop.

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With my secondary schoolmates and & daughters (Photo credit: Eleanor Kor)

An ex-colleague whom I have not seen in years came with her son. And a new friend I recently got to know in the past 6 months brought her daughter.

After setting the tone for the workshop with a short powerpoint (in the aircon of Canonball Room), we headed out at 5pm, which was a lovely time for a walk through the Gardens.

We stopped at 3 locations, where I asked the children to create a villain character at the Petrified Wood (at Location 1), draw magical creatures at the Understory/Mushroom Dome (at Location 2) and imagine what sort of magic created the Web of Life creatures (at Location 3).

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Photo credit (Ong Puay See)

Photo credit (Ong Puay See)



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 Photo credit (Ong Puay See)

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I hope the children took away ideas and new perspectives about finding stories in the Gardens and places all around us. Meanwhile, I also have homework to do as I hunker down to work on my Residency manuscript inspired by the Gardens!  

A blogger mum (Angie of Growing Hearts 123) brought her kids and wrote a lovely comprehensive review of the workshop here. Thank you Angie!

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My 2nd (and last) Writer-in-the-Gardens Workshop is now open for registration!

This time, I will take a group of children (and parents) on a walk to selected spots in Gardens by the Bay where we will explore story settings and imagine magical characters. Award-winning illustrator Patrick Yee will also take children through an accompanying craft.

See details on registration for this free workshop – places are limited! Link for registration:  http://bit.ly/WriterintheGardens

EDM Workshop 2

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Today, I ran a pop-up mini-writing workshop for a group of homeschoolers. This was organized by singer-songwriter & homeschool mum Dawn Fung, who singlehandedly had over 8 kids nicely seated down at Old Chang Kee, with their pens and notebooks out, when I arrived. I take my hat off to this multi-hatted lady. (Actually, I would take my wig off too, but I’m not brave enough yet!)

So over, fishballs and curry puffs, I shared with the children about the inspiration behind how I started writing and took them through the Classic Story Structure, which is the structure I used for my 4 Toy Titles and 3 Tibby Titles.

In a nutshell, the Main Character has a problem, tries to solve the problem 3 times but fails (using the rule of 3), eventually arrives at a solution (which is the story climax) and the story ends with the Story Problem resolved. And on that note, I left the children to think up their stories based on this Classic Story Structure.




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Over the past week, I was in a country in Southeast Asia with another trainer Marlene conducting writing workshops for aspiring Christian writers.

I’ve given overseas talks before. But this was my first time running full-day workshops and I went with some concerns on how things would go.

I ended up receiving training as much as I did training and took away a few thoughts from the experience:

  1. From Empire Café to Hanis Café to further roads

When I first left my past life working for a luxury hotel company and became a writer, I literally and figuratively crossed over from Raffles Hotel’s Empire Cafe (my department’s lunch hangout) to the National Library’s Hanis Cafe outlet (across the road) for my meals.

I spent many good afternoons at Hanis Cafe after my morning visits to the library’s children’s section. And yes, I liked my S$4 beef burger as much as the S$35 lobster noodles from across the road.

Last week, I made another crossover in my training workshops overseas. I was reminded of how blessed we are in Singapore in terms of infrastructure and meeting facilities, all of which I sometimes take for granted.


  1. Don’t Rush, Be Patient Lah

Being the typical Singaporean, I thought we should pack in as much as possible into our workshop programme. And over the months prior, I worked on shaping the programme together with fellow trainer, Marlene, an accomplished author and editor from the Philippines.

We learnt very quickly that we needed to leave space for reading time, translation time and much more personal one-on-one consultation time with the participants.

In “slowing” down, we in fact gained much more in the training as we allowed key writing principles to sink in and percolate like a good brew of tea. If we had gone “fast food” style and stuffed everyone with content, I think they would have gotten little nutritional value due to indigestion.

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3. Found in translation 

I started the first morning by getting the participants to spark ideas in English since most of them could speak English. I was disappointed when we did not get as much out of it.

Then in the afternoon, we decided to have them share childhood stories in their local language (with simultaneous translation). It opened a wealth of heartfelt stories which provide excellent material for children’s picture books and also gave me deeper insights into each participant.

I had mistakenly thought I would be lost in translation. Instead, I had inadvertently limited the participants because they were able to share much more in their native language.

Many ideas and much encouragement was found in translation.

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3. The Write way with personal stories  

Once we got to the tipping point of our workshops, Marlene and I found our greatest encouragement from the participants’ personal stories.

At the end of 4 full days of training, most participants wrote 1 personal testimony, 1 devotional article and 1 children’s picture book manuscript (inspired by their childhood) for their first time.

I wasn’t planning to write but I ended up working on 1 devotional piece too and it brought forth an old forgotten memory from childhood. (More on that later)

Finally, my biggest takeaway?

I could do all the planning in the world (and I should), but I needed to leave room for God to work beyond my pre-conceived notions and expectations.

On the final two days, we re-jigged our programme to allow space for the participants to write, time to translate, time for us trainers to give detailed one-on-one critiques and finally to hear out everyone’s stories.

We came away richer for that and thankful for God’s mercies through it all.


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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!


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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!

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