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Posts Tagged ‘Picture book author’

I’ve received different invitations to speak at schools over the years.

But the recent one I spoke at last week came through a most unusual route.

I received a lovely email from the daughter of an educator teaching the early childhood modules at one of our universities.

 Ashley, now a 20-year old undergraduate, shared that she and her educator mum had been my fans since they came across my debut book Prince Bear & Pauper Bear in a bookstore when she was 8 years old. She invited me to speak to her mum’s class of preschool education students (many already practitioners in the early childhood education field) to mark the end of their module.

I’ve not warmed up to Zoom although I know it’s been a great platform for most through this pandemic period. Subconsciously, I feel I have to speak louder and when I do that, I end up tensing my voice muscles and struggling to speak. I’m Zoom-shy.

So, I said no.

Ashley didn’t take no for an answer. She came back with a response that left me speechless:

“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 mom 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 mom’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!).” 

How could I say no and disappoint such a bright, young girl who is clearly her mum’s biggest advocate?

I said yes.

And I ended up speaking longer than I had intended to.

And it all went well.

I came away blessed by this session and the university’s generous support of me that came out of it.

Let’s just say it was ‘sew sow good’ and the stuff that only divine favour could have timed for.

And I hope I offered some food for thought for the 75 preschool education students who zoomed with me on this session.

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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.

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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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Early this week, back from AWESOME Australia, I made an author visit to Quayside Isle Preparatory School on Sentosa Island, organised by Closetful of Books.

I did book readings to little ones ranging from toddlers to kindergarteners in three sessions.

Quayside reading

During my session with the littlest ones, a toddler fist-pumped me several times after my Tibby & Duckie reading. I think he liked the story (and also watched Disney movie Big Hero Six.)

With the kindergarteners, we talked about The Tale of Rusty Horse. A little girl told me that she was once bitten by a horse. Then she added in all seriousness, “But the horse did not eat me.”

Quayside 2

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After my visit, I soaked in the laid-back atmosphere of Sentosa Island over spicy, ‘sedap’ Laksa, then zipped back to mainland to fetch my Tiger-Bunny from school. And I continued fun conversations with my 4-year old about superheroes and flying cars as we headed for his Taekwando class for his fist pumps and flying kicks.

My Tibby & Toy Titles at Closetful of Books' Pop-Up Book Sale at Quayside against backdrop of private yachts as Sentosa Marina

My Tibby & Toy Titles at Closetful of Books’ Pop-Up Book Sale at Quayside against backdrop of private yachts as Sentosa Marina

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I had an Awesome week in Perth this week. Quite literally and literary-ly.

I was invited by Writing WA, the peak body of writing organizations in Western Australia, to participate in the AWESOME Arts Festival in an author exchange programme with Singapore’s National Arts Council.

With the AWESOME mascot at the WA State Library

With the AWESOME mascot at the WA State Library

Termed AWESOME Festival for Bright Young Things, it kicked off with a series of public events followed by school visits.

I did a book talk and reading at the State Library on the final day of AWESOME’s public events. There was a good-sized crowd which had up to 50 adults and kids at one point. I say “at one point” because at certain points, mums with toddlers had to hastily exit when their tods started crying, and their older kids had to follow in tow. As a mum who not too long ago, did just that with my then tod, I totally got it.

Awesome State Library

Over the next four days that followed, I visited four schools, where I gave a total of 12 book talks for children from kindergarten age through Grade 6.

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My two biggest takeaways from this visit were the feedback I received.

I gave a talk and did a book reading for one class where a young boy seated up front made very perceptive comments about my story and guessed very accurately what was going to happen before I turned the page. He was extremely engaged and dominated the class conversations quite a bit.

His teacher came up to me after the talk and said that she was very happy to have seen him participate that much. She shared that it was the first time that she had seen him so engaged since he recovered from his epileptic fit.

 

Awesome ThankYouCards

My other takeaway was literally a takeaway of a stack of Thank You cards from students from the first session of my first day of book talks. After the session, the class’ teacher-in-charge gave the kids time to write and draw little notes which they presented to me after I had completed my 3rd talk in the school.

What the children wrote really encouraged me:

“Dear Emily
First up, you really inspired me with your amazing little chat with us…I really like your style and I think you have done amazing work…you have taught me how to build up strength after something tough has happen to you…”

“Dear Emily
I have been inspired by your style. I think it’s cool that your books are reflected on (what’s happened in) your life.”

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“Dear Emily
Your books are amazing! I would like to wish you good luck with your voice and you spoke very clear today. Your style of writing is really inspiring to me…”

“Dear Emily
I loved listening (about) all your books, especially Prince Bear & Pauper Bear….I remember your slideshow or what you call it, I really did love it, how you did (talk about) lots of interesting facts about you, your books and your life…”

One class did a Rusty Horse activity before my visit!

One class did a Rusty Horse activity before my visit!

My other “takeaway” is something I cannot take back to Singapore. Awesomely haze-free blue skies! All I could do was breathe deeply to “take in” as much as I could of 7 days of clean air!

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All in, it was a Perth-fectly AWESOME trip!

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This coming weekend, I will be off to Western Australia for an AWESOME time, thanks to an invitation from Writing WA.

A few months back, National Arts Council contacted me to say that Writing WA had requested for me to attend their AWESOME International Arts Festival for Bright Young Things as their Singapore guest author. Was I interested?

“Awesome!”I cried and immediately burst out into the Lego Movie Song. Okay, I didn’t sing that out loud but the song is seriously stuck in my head.

I’m looking forward to my week of giving book talks and readings at the AWESOME Festival, recognised as one of the top 25 events in the world for young people.

I also hope that the blue skies and fresh air will spark some good writing moments in this hazy writing year, where  community commitments have taken priority.

Getting ready to Fly Over to Down Under for an Awesome time!

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of conducting a 90-minute workshop for over 50 educators at the Early Childhood Conference 2015, organised by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). I was pleasantly surprised to see that the moderator Irene who volunteered to assist in my session is a student from Wheelock College who attended a talk I gave to her class earlier this year. She was a great help!

I wanted to use picture books as the basis to encourage children to imagine new stories so I cobbled up my “Draw-Lots-of-Stories” technique. The educators would experience the technique first-hand and hopefully be able to do the same with their kindergarteners. First time for everything, right?

ECDA 2015 Workshop

I split participants into 10 groups and had them review 1 picture book per group. So in all, we reviewed 10 picture books with the Classic Story Structure which we broke down by character/story setting/story problem.

ECDA 2015 Worshop 2

Those 10 characters, 10 settings and 10 problems went into bags and each group drew lots for a mix-match of 1 character, 1 setting and 1 story problem. From there, each group brainstormed new story solutions. We ended up with 10 new stories from the 10 groups!

ECDA 2015 -workshop4I also had the pleasure of running into ECDA Senior Assistant Director Angela Anthony who had, a few months back, invited me to do an interview with ECDA’s Beanstalk magazine.

I also popped over to the Early Childhood Conference Exhibition where I bumped into two famous faces whom I know reasonably well since I wrote their stories.

ECDA 2015 KKJJ

At the Wildlife Reserves exhibit, Kai Kai and Jai Jai were also lounging by their tent, each with a book I wrote of them – The River Adventures of Kai Kai and Jia Jia and the recently launched The New Face at River Safari.

ECDA 2015 KKJJ2

ECDA 2015 KKJJ3

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Across from them, I was pleased to see my four picture books published by Seed Institute (in bilingual edition – The Very Big Storm, Little Otter Goes Fishing, Under the Sea, The Really Really Hot Day) featured by the Lee Kuan Yew Bilingualism Fund, alongside books by two author friends – Shekinnah Linn (Asian Spice Kids) and Evelyn Sue Wong (The Naughty Mynah).

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At the Book Council exhibit, I said hello to Carlo and Alicia who were there to share the Council’s good work.
Across from them were Denise & Kelvin of Closetful of Books with author David Seow.

Author David Seow & I with each others’ books. Then it’s not blatant self-promotion, right?

I could not resist and ended up buying three books for myself and two for Caleb (well, author David Seow bought Green Lantern for Caleb).

ECDA 2015 book loot

“What’s the PSI now?” I said out loud. Pollution Standard Index, not the Korean rapper of Gangnam Style.

“Very low,” Denise said. “It dropped to under 100.”

Singapore was hazed out to hazardous levels the past 24 hours from the illegal forest fires raging in Indonesia. In an unprecedented move, our Ministry of Education shut all schools for haze reasons yesterday for the first time ever.

I paid up for my book loot and rushed home, thinking I could take Caleb out for some outdoor fun. Alas, it hazed up again by the time I reached home.

So I cuddled up with my little superhero over Lego movie League of Justice: Battling the Legion of Doom, for an animated end to my Early Childhood immersion day.

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I had the pleasure of giving four talks at St. Joseph’s Institution International’s Book Week this week.

The School’s Book Week was on local authors as part of their SG50 focus.

As it turned out, the Elementary classes I visited, ranging from 4-7 years old were learning “Animals” and Toys” modules. Both are exactly what my stories revolve around.

SJI Book Week

So with the Prep 1 children, I did a book reading of Tibby & Duckie and talked to the children about eaglets and ducklings.

I had the children guess how Duckie could help Tibby fly before I showed them the final spread of my story:

“Use Tibby’s ears as wings”

“Put feathers on Tibby’s paws”

“Give him a glider!”

“Put Tibby on a rocket and shoot him off!”

All great ideas! I said.

“Make a basket of leaves, let him sit inside and have a few birds carry him!”

Wait, can you repeat that to the class again? I said. That girl nailed the ending exactly as I had written.

SJI Book Week

For the Grade 1 children, I focused on my four Toy Titles.

I asked the children to guess why I chose teddy bears as my main characters in two of my books.

One girl was spot-on with the answer: “Because most children will know teddy bears.”

I had my own little English lesson in how one asks questions may elicit answers on a different track.

“Was it easy or hard for Pauper Bear to help Prince Bear?” I asked.

“Easy! He just had to pull Prince Bear very hard from the puppy’s jaws.”

“Hard! He had to pull carefully because the puppy was much bigger than him. Otherwise Prince Bear might be torn apart!”

Fun new perspectives.

What I had intended to ask was whether Pauper Bear’s decision to save Prince Bear came easy or hard to him. (Note to self: Rephrase question.)

We ended the session by talking about our favourite toys, which elicited lots of hands up in the air.

“Teddy Bear!”

“Cars!”

“Helicopter toy!”

“ipad!” Okay, that was just one child and a sign of a gadget savvy generation.

“I had a Teddy Monster with one eye!”

Hey, that’s a great story idea for me, I thought.

With that, I wrapped up, said my goodbye to Closetful of Books’ Denise and Kelvin who had organised my talks at SJI International, and headed home to get my Huggy Bear ready for Kindergarten.

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking to about 20 student librarians at Blangah Rise Primary School. With Singapore’s coming National Day, the school had decided to feature one local author whom the student librarians could meet and read about.

Watching Prince Bear & Pauper Bear animation

Watching Prince Bear & Pauper Bear animation

I spent two hours with the students, who ranged from Primary 2-5, sharing my writing journey and interacting with them. As part of my visit, the school had the 20 students read at least one of my books and fill up a worksheet on me and my writing.

“What’s your interests?” was one of the questions asked.

“Reading!” I said.

“That’s why she’s a writer,” one student said to another.

“What’s your other interests besides reading?”

I was stumped. I looked at the teacher and then said, “Er…reading!”

When the children found out that I wrote the Kai Kai and Jia Jia picture book series, they were thrilled.

One burning question that one boy had (and he asked me over 10 times) was “How do you tell the difference between Kai Kai and Jia Jia?”

Yes, the River Safari’s giant pandas are definitely Singapore’s most famous foreign talent.

“Patience, my boy,” I said. “Study the pictures and I will give you the answer during Quiz time.”

When he was finally about to burst from curiosity almost an hour later, I decided to put him out of his agony.

“Look at the shape of their heads,” I said. “Kai Kai has an onion-shaped head!”

I ended the 2-hour session on the process of how I published Bunny Finds The Right Stuff.

When I left the library, I was pleased to see that they had a whole wall display of books by local authors.

Thank you, Blangah Rise, for shining the spotlight on local writing!

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This week, I had the pleasure of being the featured author for Haig Girls’ Primary School’s Literacy Week. I shared my writing journey with 1,200 students who were incredibly engaged and participative.

For the Lower Primary girls, I read my current favorite book for storytelling – Tibby & Duckie. At the point where Duckie took her first flight ever, I had the 600 girls jump to their feet and flap their wings with Duckie. It was like a mini mass dance with me, the mother duck, flapping my wings on stage.

Before I became a mum, I couldn’t imagine myself doing these things. Now, flapping like a wild duck on stage just comes naturally!

Getting ready to soar with Duckie

Getting ready to soar with Duckie

With the Upper Primary, I shared my personal story of my past life of being in the business of buying 5-star hotels to my current vocation of writing and talking to children just like them- Singapore’s future generation of leaders.

During the Question & Answer session with the Upper Primary girls, the questions came fast:
– What’s my inspiration for writing? How long does it take me to write a manuscript? How many drafts do I write for each story? Which is my favorite of my books? Do all my stories have to have happy endings? I said not necessarily so, but it must always have hope.

– How did you overcome your voice condition? A student asked. She said she could not imagine herself coping with a voice disorder. With hope and faith, I said.

I hope I left the girls with food for thought and encouragement for their spirits.

Sharing my writing journey with the girls

Sharing my writing journey with the girls

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Several girls came up to me after the talk to ask more questions. And I had a sweet finish when a girl came running from her classroom with the early hardcover editions of my Toy Titles. She pushed them into my hands for her autographs and smiled gamely when several teachers went “Aww…” and whipped out their phones to snap photos of us together.

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I got home, had some quiet downtime clearing up some non-brainer stuff, then scooted off to pick up my little future-generation-leader from kindergarten.

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