Monday 3 November 2014

Singapore Writers Festival: New Books From Epigram

Singapore publishing house Epigram Books has launched two new titles at the Singapore Writers Festival: The Space Between the Raindrops by Justin Ker and Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me and Other Stories, a collection of short stories from one of Singapore’s most illustrious poets, Cyril Wong. Raelee Chapman reports.

The Space Between the Raindrops is a collection of forty-two pieces of flash fiction. Justin Ker said he likes the form as it condenses difficult ideas into something tight and concisely written. He added it is a great form for writers who have only an hour here or there to write – and he works full time as a doctor, so he should know!  He gathers ideas for stories on early morning runs, then returns home and jots them down; he said that not having much time is exactly what you need to distill your ideas. His flash fiction focuses on stolen moments - the space between the raindrops of his title - and he shared with the crowd his recollection of one such stolen moment, the seed of the story Open Reduction Internal Fixation. Justin was assisting in surgery to mend the hipbone of a 100-year-old woman and his colleague asked him to reach out and touch the bone. Justin asked the crowd: “Have you ever felt a 100-year-old bone? Bones are a record of all the experiences and weights we have ever borne throughout life, whether it be carrying a child or a sack of rice.”  

Cyril Wong explained the stories in Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me concern that which may lie beyond a closed door, or a shut window. He read from the title story, a moving, semi-autobiographical account of the God-awful relationship he had with his father.  The passage described the teenage protagonist being driven home from catechism class by his father; the teenager begins singing along to the radio in a loud falsetto; a boiling point is reached as the father can no longer ignore his son’s burgeoning homosexuality.

Cyril recently announced he was considering stopping writing. Thankfully, he seems to have changed his mind.  He said he will always write poetry - he likes to text himself lines throughout the day, as they come to him. He said he is always writing, always has a blank word document open  - even if it stays blank for some time the cursor sitting there blinking at him prompts him to write. However, he said he no longer feels the desire to publish, or the need to support a culture that does not support him.