Posts Tagged ‘Asian Festival of Children’s Content’

I missed most of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) this year. I was tackling a strong one-month-long flu. Two courses of antibiotics later, I recovered just in time for the Scholastic Picture Book Award Ceremony. I attended a couple of sessions the following day before the air-con sent me into a coughing fit and back home. Thank God I’ve shaken off that flu bug.

I did have 3 wonderful takeaways from AFCC 2019 which had everything to do with Picture Books:

  1. Picture a Book Loot

I stocked up on my book loot at the Festival Bookstore with the most gorgeous picture books.


And an added prize to the stash? An Elephant & Piggie Bookend from Closetful of Books, the official bookstore for AFCC this year. (Okay, I prized it so I pleaded for it like a kid.)


  1. Ida, Always & Autographed

I’ll blog more about this book soon. But what I’ll say here is that this was given to me by my dear friend Hwee who scored me an autographed copy from bestselling illustrator Charles Santoso whom she cornered in the Festival Bookstore.

Elephant BookEnd.jpg


  1. Tasting Scholastic-flavored Rojak

I’m still enjoying the bookelicious aftertaste of a Scholastic-flavored win for My Grandfather’s Rojak, a joint competition submission of manuscript and storyboard from Alycia and me.


In between two pockets of time there, I managed to catch up with a few dear friends. It was a picture-full AFCC for me!


Doing a book swop with my writing buddy Pauline Loh


With my decade-old lunch kaki Hwee Goh, bestselling author of the Plano Series


With friends Elizabeth and Alycia (also my SPBA 2019 collaborator) after the Award Ceremony

Related Links:

My Grandfather’s Rojak – Tasty Treat at Scholastic Picture Book Award

Conversations in Moderation & Judging books from cover to cover





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My heart is filled with unexpected joy this evening. I had hoped but didn’t dare to expect…

My joint competition submission with my new friend Alycia Teo – My Grandfather’s Rojak – placed Top 3 at the Scholastic Picture Book Award today!

SBPA pic 4

Just before the Awards Announcement

I’m so amazed and thankful at how this whole collaboration unfolded:

This is my 4th time submitting to this competition. In the last 3 attempts, I did the natural thing and paired up with very experienced illustrators to make a joint submission. And we did it in the most efficient way – via email exchanges. Never met and never talked. I never even made the shortlist.

This time around, I had a prompting to work with a young illustrator. It was countercurrent  to my instincts. I was focused on outward credentials but on hindsight, God already saw Alycia’s inner potential.  I decided to follow God’s nudging in my heart. I contacted Alycia because I recalled her mention very fleetingly at one of the book conferences about an interest in illustrating. We didn’t really know each other and had never really spoken.

We met several times in the midst of working on this submission late last year and it marked the start of a friendship and several deep conversations about our faith stories. I learned to slow down and enjoy the joy of the process, and experienced the fresh excitement I had when working on my very 1st picture book Prince Bear & Pauper Bear. I had lost some of that wide-eyed wonder over the years as I became more results-oriented and simply driven on getting the next book out.

I’m thankful for God’s favour for a precious new friendship and an amazing book award! I see God’s fingerprints all over this collaboration.

SPBA pic 1

Receiving our 2nd Runner Up Award from Book Council Executive Director William Phuan

Thank you to Book Council and Scholastic for this awesome award and the judging panel who plowed through all the entries.

SBPA pic 2

Shortlisted candidates together with the Judging panel, Scholastic VP  & Book Council ED

SBPA pic 3

With one of the judges Naomi Kojima and Book Council Chairperson Claire Chiang

This evening was a tasty treat which kindled a rojak of delicious feelings. Now, I feel like eating rojak.

Related Link:

My Grandfather’s Rojak on Scholastic Picture Book Award Shortlist!

Conversations in Moderation & Judging books from cover to cover

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I’m very happy to share that my joint entry with Alycia Teo has been shortlisted for the Scholastic Picture Book Award 2019!

Several months back, I felt prompted to take a step out of collaborating with my usual suspects and ask Alycia to work with me on this competition submission. I have been blessed in so many ways through our collaboration – from the opportunity to work with someone young and passionate about art and life to forging a newfound friendship I would otherwise not have developed on.

Results will be announced at the upcoming Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2019 in the first week of September. Keeping fingers, toes and other curl-able body parts crossed!


More about the Scholastic Picture Book Award here.

More about the Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2019 here.


Related Links:

Help! Vote Little Godwit for POPULAR Readers’ Choice Awards 2019!

Prince Bear & Pauper Bear’s Slovakian Connection at AFCC 2017



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I’ve attended every Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) since it started, including its predecessor ACWIC (ie the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference).  Except for AFCC 2017, which I was not involved in for health reasons.

I enjoyed returning back into the book scene last week with my participation in AFCC. It was a lovely place to talk shop about books and catch up with industry friends.

But my journey with AFCC 2018 actually started several months earlier when I was invited to the judging panel for the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award 2018. It was a privilege to judge this prestigious and rich prize recognizing the best Singapore children’s book published in the last 3 years ($10,000 to the winning author/illustrator). More on that in a later blogpost.

As always, my memories of AFCC go beyond words:

1. With fellow panelists after our session How I started: A Writer’s Journey

My Writer Journey

With Rilla Melati, David Seow and our moderator Sarah Mounsey


2. Caught up with author friends who were there for their author-teacher speed-dating session.


With Hwee Goh & Pauline Loh, ex-journalists and now prolific authors


3. With educator friends after we attended the panel session Giving a Voice: Inclusivity in Singapore’s KidLit


With Donna and Dawn


4. Getting autographs from author & illustrator Satoshi Kitamura after his presentation.

Satoshi Kitamura

5. After the session Making a Mark: Iconic Children’s Characters in Singlit, which I moderated

Iconic panel

With panelists Lesley-Anne, Ruth Wan-Lau and Adeline Foo


6. At the AFCC closing dinner at Fullerton Hotel Clifford Pier with fellow judges

HABA judges

With author David Seow and Pushkin Books Editor Sarah Odedina after the awards announcement

7. A surprise encounter with dear old pal Desmond Kon, now a multi-award winning poet and amazingly prolific author

with Dez

8.  With AFCC Chairperson Claire Chiang and other industry friends

with Claire

Book Council Chairperson Claire Chiang turned up for the Council’s 50th anniversary despite her recent accident. She commanded the floor with her poise as always.


I enjoyed the conversations, moderation and judging-reading a huge box of entries.

And now, after a long break from new writing, I look forward to renewing my relationship with my first love – children’s picture books. After all, my first encounter with the published word came with my debut book Prince Bear & Pauper Bear, and with it, a picture of God’s love.

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This has been a nostalgic period where curtains have closed, torches have passed and some of us open new chapters in our lives.

Raffles Hotel, flagship of Raffles Hotels & Resorts, the company where I previous worked for a decade, recently closed for major refurbishment under its new owner.

Over 25 of us, including three of our former company’s past-presidents plus old-timers like myself, gathered for Someone’s birthday dinner-cum-reunion at Raffles Grill to bid our farewell to the grand old dame. It was an evening that harked back to my fine-dining days working in the hotel industry.



I got the waiter to take a long shot from my end


After a decade of working and growing up with the Raffles hotel group, I symbolically (and quite literally) crossed the road (Victoria Street to be exact) to Central Library, my new haunt since I found my voice as an author. 

I went from corporate suit and lobster lunches at Raffles Hotel’s Empire Cafe to sandals and cheeseburger at Hanis Cafe at the Central Library building. And I have been perfectly happy with my change in diet.

In this 10th year as an author, I bid a second farewell, on the Book Council front. Mr Rama, head honcho of our Singapore Book Council for several decades (and Founder of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content) has just retired. 

As a passionate books advocate, Mr Rama has brought the industry forward by leaps and bounds. He has also been significant in kick starting my writing life, from the time I became a winner of the Book Council’s First Time Writers Publishing Initiative 10 years back. 

So, of course, we had to catch up over kopi. Actually, kopi-kosong for him and teh siu tai & mee siam for me.


I also start a new page this month, after closing the chapter on 1 year’s cycle of antibodies infusion, on top of chemotherapy and breast cancer mastectomy & reconstructive surgery last year.

It’s a new chapter, a clean breast and a stronger stomach (flatter too…thanks to the stomach fat used for breast reconstruction). I am, figuratively speaking, a new creation in Christ! And I look forward to scribing new words with a higher purpose and heart impact.

And another kopi session with Mr Rama 😄.

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This year is the 1st time I am missing the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) since it started 7-8 years back. My official AFCC babysitters ie. my parents, are away on holiday, cruising somewhere in Europe.

Although I’m not getting my usual one full week of pure adult, book-geek conversations, I do have one major highlight from the event.

My Slovakian publisher is a speaker at AFCC this year and we had a chance to catch up over lunch yesterday. She also brought with her, hot off the press, and air-flown….Slovak copies of my books!


I managed to attend Petra’s 1st AFCC session where she shared about the Slovakian market and also read a few pages of Prince Bear & Pauper Bear in Slovak. Petra’s an ex-TV journalist, amongst many other accomplishments. She’s also an uber-cool doting mum of four kids. She brought two of them – teenagers! – along for the conference. Her son helped her through her powerpoint presentation. Her daughter took photos for her.

As I watched them, I wondered if Caleb and I will be like that in 10 years’ time. Something for me to aspire towards!

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The Slovakian editions of my two picture books Prince Bear & Pauper Bear and The Tale of Rusty Horse have just been printed!

I am eagerly looking forward to collecting my advance copies from my publisher who will be in Singapore as a speaker at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2017 next week.


Petra's daughter

My publisher’s daughter holding the advance copies of my books


I met Petra Nagyová Džerengová at AFCC a few years back when she attended a panel session that I spoke on. She had come as an invited guest. When she told me that she was the Deputy Mayor of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, I asked if she thought my books would be suitable in Slovakia. She said yes.

I did not know then that Petra (on top of being Deputy Mayor, bestselling author and proud mum of 4 kids) is also Managing Director of leading Slovakian publisher Verbarium.

Thanks to Petra, my books now have a voice in Slovakia! This is the 4th language that my Toy Titles have been published in.

(My books are now also available online at Verbarium’s website.)


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Benji, Yumi, Origami! is in the house! Literally. I’ve finally stocked some copies at home.

This picture book saw a splashy launch at Resorts World Singapore’s SEA Aquarium in end May. Then, I encountered a storm one week later with a breast cancer diagnosis and never got round to doing anything for this book.

Benji, Yumi, Origami! is a story about new perspectives and seeing beyond the imperfect.

Benji is a kid who wants to get everything perfect. When he receives an origami present, he sets out, very much by the book, following each step methodically from Page 1.


But origami is a craft that needs skill and patience, and Benji fails to fold his paper animals perfect.


Just as he reaches the point of giving up, he meets his new neighbour Yumi, who gifted him the origami set.

With Yumi’s encouragement, Benji starts to see his imperfect creations with fresh eyes.

His crumpled frog isn’t really crumpled. That’s his reflection in the water ripples.


From there, a beautiful friendship unfolds as Benji works on his new creations with new perspectives.

Benji, Yumi, Origami! is now retailing at Kinokuniya Singapore.

I’m also offering autographed copies with free delivery (within Singapore) for a limited period only! Send your orders to me through a private message.

Related Links:

Reader’s Favourite awards 5-star rating to Benji, Yumi, Origami!

Benji, Yumi, Origami makes a Splash at RWS’s Sea Aquarium Fairytale Launch

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I’m excited to share that I have signed a translation rights agreement with leading Slovakian children’s book publisher Verbarium who will publish two of my children’s picture books in Slovakia. This series comes under my self-published Mustard Seed Books imprint.

The two titles, Prince Bear & Pauper Bear and The Tale of Rusty Horse are part of my bestselling 4-picture book Toy Series which has sold over 45,000 copies to date. Slovakia will mark the first entry for my books into a European country and the 5th country to publish my Toy Series, following Singapore, Korea, China and Malaysia.

Children's Picture Book on friendship, forgiveness & second chances

Children’s Picture Book on friendship, forgiveness & second chances

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

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

Vebarium is the only publishing house in Slovakia that offers high quality children’s literature of awarded contemporary and classical authors. It aims to strengthen the diversity of high quality literary works for the young in Slovakia and to reach new audiences by introducing quality children’s literature from Asia.

Vebarium is helmed by Managing Director Petra Nagyová Džerengová, the ex-Deputy Mayor of Bratislava and still the member of city parliament and city cultural and social affaires committees. Petra is also a bestselling author for adults and children’s books in Slovakia.

Petra says, “I was an invited guest to the Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2014 in Singapore and met Emily Lim when I attended a panel that she spoke on. I found her books very appealing for our Slovakian market. We look forward to successfully launching her books in Slovakia next year and introducing our children to quality children’s literature from Singapore.”

Book Council Executive Director Mr Ramachandran accompanying Petra Nagyova Dzerengova, Deputy Mayor of Bratislava, Slovakia on her visit to Minister of State, Prime Minister's Office & Ministry of Culture, Community of Youth, Mr Sam Tan during AFCC 2014

Book Council Executive Director Mr Ramachandran accompanying Petra Nagyova Dzerengova, Deputy Mayor of Bratislava, Slovakia on her visit to Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office & Ministry of Culture, Community of Youth, Mr Sam Tan during AFCC 2014


I received Petra’s offer terms a week before my breast cancer diagnosis and worked through the contract within a few weeks. I’m thankful for my lovely literary agent Andrea who helped me get the contract work in place quickly in the midst of me signing consent forms for my mastectomy and reconstruction surgeries!

As I lift my eyes up to what’s ahead after my chemotherapy is over, I am thankful for this rainbow that brightens my horizon. I believe there are more good things to come.


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Last week, I had a fairytale book launch when Benji, Yumi, Origami! was launched at Resorts World’s S.E.A Aquarium as part of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content’s (AFCC) Japan Night.

Benji & Yumi cover (low-res)

My book was one of two titles specially published by AFCC and sponsored by Genting Singapore to celebrate 50 years of friendship between Singapore and Japan (SJ50).

The Singapore-Japan collaborative effort was to have 1 Singapore author and 1 Japanese illustrator work on one book. The other book, Monster Day on Tabletop Hill, was in turn written by 1 Japanese author and 1 Singaporean illustrator. Both books are in English-Japanese bilingual edition.

Both Books.png

I chose to write my Friendship-themed story around a Singaporean kid who becomes friends with his new Japanese neighbour after she gifts him with an origami activity book. Beyond the friendship theme, I also chose to write a story about imperfection. Benji is focused on getting his origami paper animals perfect and reaches a point of giving up when he fails to achieve that. His new friend Yumi shows him a surprising new way to view his imperfect origami creations.

This book launch evening had the makings of a swimmingly great tale:

1. The opening line 

One of the keys of writing great children’s books is the opening line of the book- it has to hook the reader.

The event was held inside Resorts World’s S.E.A Aquarium – the World’s largest aquarium and maritime museum in the world. The venue of the evening had me hook, line and sinker.


2. The story setting 

How an author sets the scene for the story makes all the difference in pulling the reader into the pages.

The setting was a 4-course sit down formal dinner right in the viewing gallery of the Aquarium’s star exhibit – a 7-8m high floor to ceiling fish tank.

My table

3. The story structure

As with all good children’s books, there has to be a beginning, middle and an end. Strong plot is key in moving the action forward. 

Menu (higher res)

The beginning of the evening kicked off with speeches from the VIPs. Book Council Chairperson Claire Chiang,  delivered an impeccable paragraph of greeting in Japanese which she had picked up only one week before. The Japanese Ambassador followed on to speak about the 50 years of friendship between Singapore and Japan.

Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Defence & Ministry of Foreign Affairs graced the event.

BookLaunches (higher res).png




The middle part of the story must have enough action to sustain the reader’s interest to the end.

We were treated to feast that whet our appetite on two levels:

– a 4-course sit down dinner, with the aquarium as our movie screen

– musical performances by a talented array of child performers.

4. Story Climax

All great stories must take the reader to a story climax.

For me, that was right after the 2nd course of the evening when the VIPs were invited on stage to touch an interactive screen.

As they did, two divers descended into full view from above with…. waterproof versions of the two books launched.

ST_20160528_NAJAPAN_2322659 (Straits Times photo of Benji, Yumi).jpgPhoto Credit: Straits Times 28 May 2016

Japan Team.png

Our collaborative teams – Illustrator Dave Liew, Translator Cathy Hirano, Me, Illustrator Kazumi Wilds, Translator Yumiko Fukumoto & Adviser Naomi Kojima

This was the moment that my heart felt so full with unspeakable joy.

Following on, Resorts World announced the launch of Asia’s richest book award. Yes, all $30,000 of it!

ST News Article

5. Satisfying Ending

Good story endings must bring things to a close in a way that leaves the reader satisfied.

Renowned Japanese singers entertained us with well-known Japanese children’s songs that my Japanese illustrator grew up with.

Soprano-soloist Lauren Yeo showed us why she’s a child prodigy.

The fairytale evening came to a close, much like the final page of a delicious children’s read.

My table (comprising myself, illustrators, translator) stayed to savor the last moments.  We took final photos, chatted and lingered to the end.

6. The Final word

My final word as the author?

I could not have written anything better than how the evening’s story had unfolded. 🙂


Meeting my illustrator Kazumi Wilds for the first time! together with translator Yumiko Fukumoto


with Claire Chiang.png

Our creative team with Book Council Chairperson Claire Chiang




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