A guest speaker last June at the Creative Arts Programme
(CAP) - an in-camp hothouse for local literary talent -
I asked my audience of secondary and JC students what would
most motivate them to keep writing as working adults.
no dearth of closet writers: merely a shortage
of channels for them to come to light
was the first answer.
win awards'', was the quick second.
youthful idealism, no?
these are some of our best and brightest - as apt to scale
the heights of investment banking as pen the Next Great
spoilt for choice, really.
in a society that values visible achievement, why expend
their talents where it's unlikely to be noticed, or be added
waste time'' is the cardinal principle they're obeying here.
all, even their seniors cleave to the hard calculus of cost-benefit.
of my prolific literary colleagues - credible, award-winning
writers, mind you - admit in private that they used the
Singapore Literature Prize (now defunct) as an incentive
to spin out words to a regular deadline.
that awards are still a great way to get artists to crank
up their creative juices. So, why can't we have more of
only big-time literary award we have left is the National
Arts Council- (NAC) and SPH-backed Golden Point Award, for
which entries closed last Friday.
year, the organisers received 400 submissions in the English
short-story section alone.
the first time this year, the Golden Point is open to poetry,
and it's been flooded with entries.
good folks at NAC are still counting the chads on this one.
no dearth of literary interest in Singapore - merely a shortage
of channels for our closet scribblers to come to light.
be fair, it's not only the mercenary impulse at work here.
an established culture of critique and review, awards are
just about the only way to get one's work noticed, appraised
like it or not, the busy reading public relies on awards
to tell them which are the must-reads.
literary capitals bank on a plethora of high-profile awards
to sustain public interest in the book business.
are open - at least in theory - to an international field.
why not develop our own classy literary award, and invite
entries from all over the region or the world?
yet, get a few international names as judges in order to
raise the bar and the level of interest.
make it big enough and you might even attract some real
literary foreign talent into our little cosmopolis.
let's first demonstrate that we appreciate quality when
we see it. And never mind if it ruffles a few feathers.
winning and giving world-class awards are what it takes
to put us on the literary world map, fine. Our own folks
are up to it: Singaporean Teng Qian Xi, now 18, was the
first overseas winner of the British Poetry Society's Simon
Elvin Young Poet Award last year.
some of our veterans have either won, judged or organised
international awards such as the South-East Asian Write
award and the Commonwealth Book Prize.
that's why, when this year's CAP participants tell me they're
only waiting for an award to write for, I'll tell them:
Why not go start one?