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Four acclaimed writers call NTU home

09 July 2013 Nanyang Technological University

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will welcome four renowned authors as the University’s writers-in-residence from next month.

Singaporean writer and poet Yong Shu Hoong, distinguished British author Romesh Gunesekera, and Singapore-born Australian poet Boey Kim Cheng, will begin their residency this August, while Singapore novelist Balli Kaur Jaswal, will commence her stint in January 2014.

During their period as writers-in-residence at NTU, the four wordsmiths will devote much of their time to their own writing projects. They will also be deeply involved with NTU’s creative writing programme and other projects on campus, including reading manuscripts and consulting with students and the public, giving readings and lectures, and leading workshops.

Associate Professor Neil Murphy, Associate Dean (Undergraduate Education) at NTU's College of Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences, and Head of the Division of English, which hosts the residency, said, “The selection of writers who we have invited to join us this year demonstrates our commitment to both nurture local writing and to expose our students to some of the best international writers. Our students will benefit greatly from this exposure. The prospect of being home to four exciting writers again emphasises the growing international status of our creative writing programme and our ongoing fruitful collaboration with the National Arts Council of Singapore. These are exciting times for our young student-writers, many of whom will form the next generation of writers.”

For Yong Shu Hoong, who is currently working on short stories inspired by a recent trip to Cambodia, and several other projects, this residency comes at an opportune time. He said, "The residency would accord me with the time and space required for writing my stories. It will also give me an added sense of purpose, schedule and discipline that I need to achieve my goals.”

“Teaching is a two-way street, so I do expect to learn much about writing from discussions with NTU students and critiquing their works. Hopefully, the diverse population of NTU students could also serve as a source of inspiration for some new stories that I plan to write during the residency," he added.

A computer scientist by training, Yong is an award-winning Singaporean poet who has published four collections of poetry to date: Isaac (1997) Isaac Revisited (2001), dowhile (2002), and Frottage (2005) which won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2006. A strong advocate of literature, Yong founded and organised subtTEXT, a series of monthly literary readings which ran from 2001 to 2008, and which is now held on an ad-hoc basis. Together with Enoch Ng, he set up mediaexodus, a company that coordinates and organises the National Arts Council’s Mentor Access Project, Singapore’s most established writing mentorship programme today. He is also a mentor for the Creative Arts Programme run by the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) Gifted Education Branch. In the past decade, Yong has also been actively promoting Singapore literature at readings and literary festivals in Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Australia, England, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and the United States of America.

Sri Lanka-born writer Romesh Gunesekera, who is moving here from London, has held writing residencies in Singapore, Hong Kong and Denmark. In 2004, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, joining an elite group of literary luminaries such as the late Chinua Achebe, Antonia Fraser, Doris Lessing, and JK Rowling. Both a poet and writer of fiction, Gunesekera’s first collection of short stories Monkfish Moon brought him public and critical acclaim in 1992. Reef (1994), his first novel, won the Yorkshire Post’s Best First Work Award and was shortlisted for both the Booker Prize for Fiction and the Guardian Fiction Prize. In 2005, he was awarded the Sri Lanka Ranjana Award, one of the country’s most distinguished state awards and one usually reserved for the highest dignitaries.

The NTU residency will be a homecoming for poet Boey Kim Cheng, who was born and schooled in Singapore, before he left to pursue further studies abroad, including the International Writing Programme at the University of Iowa. Widely regarded as one of the most promising Singapore poets to emerge in the 1990s, Boey received the National Arts Council Young Artist Award in 1996. Three of his works, Somewhere-bound, Another Place and Days of No Name have won awards.

Singapore author Balli Jaswal wrote her first novel Inheritance, after she won the David TK Wong Fellowship at the University of East Anglia in 2007. The book traverses Singapore’s history from 1970 to 1990 through the eyes of a Sikh family. The globe-trotting author grew up in Singapore, Japan, Russia and the Philippines, and attended university in the United States and Australia.

Sharing her thoughts on the residency, she said, “The NTU residency appealed to me for a number of reasons. As an emerging writer, I want the time to concentrate on new projects without the distractions and demands of my full-time job. The NTU residency provides a generous opportunity for me to dedicate time to my second novel. I’ve also always wanted to be more involved in Singapore’s creative writing scene, particularly at the tertiary level.

“The teaching aspect of the residency will allow me to play the role of a mentor, and participate in ongoing conversations with emerging undergraduate writers,” added the novelist, who served as a mentor for MOE’s Creative Arts Programme, before she spent the last few years teaching in Australia.

The Singapore Writing Residencies were established in 2011 by NTU and the National Arts Council to enable award-winning writers from Singapore and the globe to write and teach, while inspiring young and emerging creative writers.

The programme, which is now into its third year, is the first of its kind in Singapore that enables authors to devote time to a major writing project, while helping aspiring writers develop their craft. Writers may specialise in any literary genre including poetry, fiction, playwriting, creative non-fiction, or multimedia writing.

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