Posts Tagged ‘Asian Festival of Children’s Content’

Over the weekend, my collaborator/illustrator Nic and I gave a book talk on Zoom in connection with the launch of Marky Polo in Tokyo, as part of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC).

Although I’ve given many talks over the years as an author (and still with fear and trembling), I was especially having butterflies in my stomach over this.

I’m Zoom-averse, but with Covid19 and Stay-Home Heightened Alert measures in Singapore, AFCC had pivoted fully digital this year. Could my voice carry? Would I be able to build rapport with attendees on this distant medium? How many people were even going to sign up for this on a Sunday afternoon? (We had a turnout of 47 attendees!)

I had the same newbie jitters as with my very first book Prince Bear & Pauper Bear. And I did the same thing I did 14 years back when I first started out. I sent out SOS invites to friends to attend this book launch event to support me.

And I am so grateful for the many friendly faces who zoomed in to support me on a Sunday afternoon:

  • Writing circle friends – Dave Seow, Low Ying Ping, Lianne Ong, Sophia Huang, Melanie Lee, Chua Hong Koon & Ruth Wan (my publisher and books mama-san)
  • My illustrator/collaborator for Benji, Yumi, Orgami! – Kazumi Wilds – zoomed in from Japan
  • Caleb’s Kindy mate’s mum & educator – Shirley Foo  
  • Friend and books advocate – Delia and her daughter Faith
  • My writing workshop attendee turned dear friend – Elizabeth Lim (who prayed for me)
  • Kindy mum turned one of my closest friends – Arlene (who helped with photography)
  • Bosom buddies from school – Elain (who prayed for me), Tania (who also helped with photography) and Karen (who took a break from moving house to zoom in)
  • University lecturer Emily H and her daughter who zoomed in from Paris, where she’s doing her Uni studies.
  • And not forgetting dream moderator and one of my dearest friends Hwee Goh, who ran the programme like how she anchored her Channel News Asia programmes in the past.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few names and faces as I was trying to focus on talking!

Since Hwee is so good at squeezing back-stories out of me, she asked me to share this backstory of attendees Emily H and her daughter Ashley who zoomed in from Paris, where she’s doing a double degree in Political Science.

Ashley first wrote to me in second half of 2020, asking me if I could be guest speaker to her lecturer mum’s graduating class of pre-school educators via Zoom. I was intrigued by a daughter speaking for her mum. But given my love for Zoom, I said “No, thank you.”

Ashley persisted and I finally agreed, after I was so heartened by her backstory. Ashley was 8 years old when she came across my first book Prince Bear & Pauper Bear with her mum.

“I remember the book bringing me to tears when I first read it, and my mom and I have held fond memories over reading it together, which is why it has meant a lot to me even now (12 years later). She’s actually re-reading your book to me as I’m typing out this message…I understand where you’re coming from and hear your concerns regarding the lack of a mic. However, my mom asked me to try asking you whether you would be comfortable with making a brief appearance and speaking for a short while (whatever duration you’re comfortable with)? She really feels that you would be able to add value to the class, especially since your stories are extremely multifaceted and nuanced (case in point: During the recent reading I told you about, my mum asked my dad and me what we thought the moral of the story for Prince Bear & Pauper Bear was. I responded the moral was that there is enough room for love for two, and that we shouldn’t see love as something that is inherently selfish or competitive. My dad, on the other hand, shared that he felt the biggest takeaway was that one does not need to be born rich to be happy. My mum’s views on the same question were that we should always be kind to others, even if they may have wronged us in the past. This really just shows how much depth your stories have!). 

Aww…sniff sob…this is what an author needs to be uplifted from time to time.

I didn’t spam all my friends to attend, like my besties Gail and Jing Siew – simply because they have shown up for my book events for more than 10 years now, from helping with book readings, book sales and more. They even undertook my book readings when I had to bail out for chemotherapy and then again when I busted my eardrum when my mum was terminally ill.

And there have been many more old and new friends who have supported me through the years – Janette, Joanne, Vanissa, Wee Leng, Wendy, Suzanne, Pauline, Maggie…and many more.

All I can say is that it takes a village to raise a local children’s book author… because it’s a steep climb when you are surrounded by corporate ladders and mountains of assessment books to overcome.

I am thankful for my village.  

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I have been spending more time with my sewing machine these past few months than my laptop, so I’m seriously lagging in my writing updates.

I had the pleasure of moderating the opening session of the recent Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2020. (I confess I had no idea it was the opening session until we did the dry run a few days before the event, otherwise I may have chickened out.)

Our esteemed panel comprised:

  • Bijal Vachharajani, senior editor at Pratham Books and a journalist with over 19 years of experience in writing, communication, and education for sustainable development.
  • Dr Junko Yokota, Director of the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books and Professor Emeritus at National Louis University (Chicago). 
  • Camilla Reid, one of the three original founders of Nosy Crow, which has become UK’s 13th largest children’s books publisher, since entering the scene 10 years ago.

Panelists shared thoughtful insights and covered a whole range of children’s literature written during challenging times, from issues around Covid19, racism, immigration, amongst others.

My key takeaways from this enlightening panel discussion?

  • Kids need books which can help develop their ‘toolbox’ ie universal set of skills, to offer them protection, inspiration and entertainment through trying times.
  • Kids need book security that can instill joy and wonder in our world, to make them smile, laugh, dream and love.
  • Kids need to discover and understand what is going on around our world, but not to be educated and preached to.
  • Kids need stories that they can relate to, identify with, explore sad and scary situations and have these stories end with hope.

I had the opportunity to share our local industry’s response to Covid19 through two projects:

  • Sew Sow Good Stuff SG, an initiative which I started with artisan Wong Chiao Lin and her illustrator daughter in response to Covid19. Our fundraising project is for non-profit Child at Street 11, which provides quality childcare to under-resourced families. Sew Sow Good Stuff SG was launched the night before AFCC started. Thanks to friends and supporters, we sold out our stuff toy-book-postcards Good Stuff giftsets within two days. (Find out more about Sew Sow Good Stuff SG at our Facebook Page).
  • A Book of Hugs, a collection of short stories, poems and artful pictures to give our young ones a hug before they take on the world. Written by 43 authors and illustrators in Singapore, this fundraising project is the brainchild of author Leila Boukarim, illustrator Dave Liew and Closetful of Books bookseller Denise Tan. The book is now out and available for purchase at Closetful of Books’ online store.

And the punchline that summed up our panel session for me came from speaker Bijal Vachharajani – “These books are a much needed hug right now.”

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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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