Post-The Pigeonhole Meetup Thoughts…

It was a fantastic meetup at the Pigeonhole. Creative people of all sorts – writers, artists, bloggers, photographers, editors and academics – turned up and talked about the literary and arts scene in Singapore. It was a great opportunity to meet up with like-minded people, especially Louise and Pooja who co-hosted the event.

One of the topics was the literary scene in Singapore. The overall consensus was that it was still growing within a whole plethora of limitations. Writing in Singapore seems stuck on either poetry, “misery lit”, horror or assessment books. Perhaps, it’s high time to include other kinds of writing – like genre fiction, webfiction etc etc. I am writing this post after reading a short letter to the forum page (of the Straits Times) and I think a purposeful examination of how we should encourage writers is overdue. We need to encourage writers. But how are we going to do so? Many of the initiatives by the government seem targeted at the elite or the privileged. Likewise, many aspiring writers meet a wall when it comes to finding avenues – be it publishing, editing or finding the right mentor(s). I want to stress that many give up simply because of the obstacles.

The meetup also reinforced the need for a space for writers and arts/literary people. We all need to meet at a common place and to voice our concerns/brickbats/suggestions. A bimonthly meetup, anyone? πŸ˜‰

I know that there are lists of publishers and “venues” to go to – but such knowledge should be made obvious. Otherwise, many people will end up groping in the dark. So, a list as I type…

1. The National Arts Council: The paperwork and red tape is hideous.
2. Singapore Book Council: Good lists of publishers and publishing houses.
3. The Singapore Writers’ Centre.
4. The Singapore Writers’ Festival.

1. Quartery Literary Review Singapore.
2. Ceriph.
3. Two Trees Pte Ltd.

1. Bimonthly Meetups at the Pigeonhole???

My list is not exhaustive, but I hope it will help aspiring Singaporean authors out there!

18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sgliterature
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 10:45:50

    Was nice meeting you all there! I’m curious, which writers and which books in Singapore would you classify as “misery lit”?


    • jolantru
      Jul 02, 2011 @ 00:30:19

      Okay, this is my personal POV regarding misery lit… but Catherine Lim is one.

      Not sure if I should classify postcolonial lit under misery lit as well.


      • Nicholas Liu
        Jul 05, 2011 @ 04:42:37

        How could you possibly? It’s not as if poco fiction has a single unified sentiment to it.

        For that matter, since “misery fiction” is determined by the narrative arc of a story + the way emotive content is used, surely what genre fiction (presumably including the genres of SF/F/H, mystery/crime, YA and romance) can be “misery lit” in addition–these aren’t “other kinds of writing”, really. Any fiction can be or not be “misery lit”. (For that matter, any fiction can be or not be “webfiction”, so that’s not “other kinds of writing” either.)

        I think it’s odd that despite the alleged dominance of “misery lit”, the only example you can name is Catherine Lim. . . . Granted, Lim does take up a lot of fiction oxygen, but she’s not the only local writer currently publishing, is she?

      • jolantru
        Jul 05, 2011 @ 06:37:55

        What is poco fiction?

        EDIT: poco=postcolonial.

      • jolantru
        Jul 05, 2011 @ 06:40:37

        Likewise, who do you think are ‘misery lit’ writers? Can you name a few?


      • Nicholas Liu
        Jul 05, 2011 @ 06:48:31

        To be honest, I cannot think of any local writers or works, offhand, that fit the bill. I can think of a number that don’t: Simon Tay, Wena Poon, Dave Chua, O Thiam Chin, Tan Hwee Hwee. (Note: These aren’t necessary writers I like, just writers who are manifestly–IMO–not producing “misery lit”.)

        The fact that I can’t name any local writers of “misery lit” is only to be expected given that I *don’t agree* that the label fits the fiction that dominates local publishing. As for non-fiction, which I understand the term originally applied to, I really couldn’t say.

      • jolantru
        Jul 05, 2011 @ 08:14:00

        I think this adage applies: we agree to disagree. Perhaps the term ‘misery lit’ doesn’t apply to most Singaporean literature. πŸ™‚

        I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule to categorize what’s misery lit or not. (Academics can wax lyrical on this…)

        What do you feel about Singaporean literature? Is there a definitive pattern? What motifs do you see?

      • Nicholas Liu
        Jul 05, 2011 @ 22:48:50

        Well, since you’ve conceded that maybe it isn’t the case that most local fiction is “misery lit”, perhaps we aren’t really disagreeing anyway? πŸ˜‰ We don’t have to get “academic” about it–“misery lit” isn’t a term with any academic currency anyway. I’m fine with a fast and loose definition such as that offered by wiki. Theirs is in fact the definition I’m using when I say I don’t think the term describes the majority of writing published here. I also submit that, if you do think it an accurate description, you should be be able to name more local practitioners of the sub-genre than just Catherine Lim.

        As to your second para, I don’t think it’s possible to generalise. People are doing all kinds of different things. I hope they’ll continue to do so.

  2. sgliterature
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 06:25:17

    Aren’t they different genres? Are there any other particular post-1965 writers whose works you’d consider to be misery lit? I’m confused, because I’ve only recently heard this term applied to Singapore literature.


  3. Lea Rebecca
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 03:31:48

    Other (pan-Asian) venues that I can think of include Mascara (Australia) and Cha (Hong Kong). Ethos and firstfruits also seem to be publishers on a roll lately!

    Just throwing this out there, but: What would you define as webfiction? How do you think webfiction can be built?


    • jolantru
      Jul 04, 2011 @ 06:21:29

      I would define web fiction as original fiction posted online/on the web.


      • Lea Rebecca
        Jul 04, 2011 @ 09:39:48

        Does this include collaboratives/’zines like my darling Journal Watermark, or do you mean independently, self-published content like Smashwords and your OPM website? If the latter, I think the biggest challenge for now is marketing or making actual $ from it… although I believe it works, especially when people link to it, like Sarah Diemer’s Dark Wife which was making the rounds on Tumblr, or your own #wolfynovel when you capitalise on Twitter and social networks.

      • jolantru
        Jul 04, 2011 @ 16:34:37

        I meant independently, self-published content on websites – like web series/serial fiction. I also included crowdfunded fiction as well.

      • jolantru
        Jul 04, 2011 @ 16:42:15

        Journal Watermark looks great. πŸ™‚

        I think web fiction is growing and people are posting original fiction online, not only the crowdfunded web serials/stories. Zines are a great venue to find good fiction.

  4. notabilia
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 10:26:09

    We are definitely planning bimonthly meetups! In fact, the Pigeonhole has already agreed to host us next time. Stay tuned for a late August date.


  5. sgliterature
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 06:40:08

    Poco = post-colonial.

    Why are you not sure if the term ‘misery lit’ has to be applied to local poetry/poets? Do they all write the same way?


    • jolantru
      Jul 05, 2011 @ 06:44:14

      I am typing quickly as I have a tutorial coming up in a few minutes…

      I don’t think local poets write the same way. But they might follow similar tropes. But then again, as I have said, this is my POV.


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