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Friday, September 10, 2004

If I were Singaporean.....

An award that comes at the write time

Help is on hand for aspiring young writers who want to concentrate on their craft, thanks to a $60,000 fellowship that was launched yesterday
By Ng Hui Hui

WANTED: a full-time writer. The deal: a one-year contract. Monthly salary: $4,000. Bonus: $6,000. Pre-requisite: Must have published works before.

The National University of Singapore's (NUS) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and The Arts House are investing $60,000 in a fellowship programme to spur the development of Singapore's creative writing scene.

Out of the total sum, $54,000 will be set aside as remuneration for the successful applicant and the remaining $6,000 for administration and marketing expenses. Besides working on the creative piece during the one-year period, the fellow also has to plan and conduct public programmes according to the proposal he or she submitted during the application process.

'We cannot stress enough the importance of the fellow's responsibilities, not only to his art but also to the community at large,' said Mr Phan Ming Yen, director of artistic development for The Arts House.

This is the first such initiative in Singapore.

The Singapore Literature Prize, one of the existing literary awards, offers lump sums of $10,000, $5,000 and $1,000 to the three best entries in four languages. But none of the prizes offers a fellowship attachment.

Writer Meira Chand, one of the judges on the selection panel, says: 'I think such an initiative is long overdue. Young emerging writers need a programme like this where they can commit themselves fully to writing without worrying about anything else, especially finances.'
As the fellowship is dedicated to nurturing emerging writers, an applicant's first published work should not be more than seven years old.

The appointed fellow, who must be a Singaporean or permanent resident, has to complete a English creative work in any writing genre.

The Arts House and NUS will then look to publishing the completed work or staging the play. Copyright belongs to the writer.

'As this is a first for us, we're starting only with one award and focusing on English works,' says associate professor John Richardson, the vice-dean of the faculty. 'We hope to make it an annual award and expand its scope to include works from other languages, too.'

Proposals with detailed ideas for public arts programmes must be submitted together with portfolios. There are no pre-determined criteria for the nature or number of programmes except that they should aim to engage other aspiring writers in critical discussions and stimulate their interest in writing.

The applicants' portfolios and proposals will be assessed by a six-member panel comprising Ms Chand, Mr Phan, associate professors Richardson and Robbie Goh, publisher Goh Eck Kheng and Ms Mary Loh, director of audience development of The Arts House.

Application forms can be obtained from The Arts House. Closing date: Sept 30. For enquiries, call 6332-6900 or e-mail


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