By Finder blogger: Andrea McKenna
“Same sky we sleep under,” says one character in the newly published book, Singapore Love Stories, an anthology of short stories written by a group of Singapore-based authors.
The overwhelming theme of love permeates the poignant and even tantalizing stories, all of which were influenced by the Singapore life, from Singapore Airlines stewardesses to expats to a gardener, and representing all races and all walks of life here in this city.
Truly, we are all one and the book’s goal achieves the balance of showing people of different backgrounds struggling with what love means to them:
– The gardener from India worries about his shame from a factory accident back home, while working tirelessly to provide for his family—including a pregnant wife. This opportunity is worth more than his dignity in some ways. However, as he admires the loving bond of a white family, he gets scolded for staring. Knowing his side of the story is heartbreaking.
– The Singapore Airlines flight attendant ponders a decision to marry an older African-American adulterer while going back and forth, literally, with a list of pros and cons about how her mother and aunts will react. What will she choose?
– A half-American, half-Singaporean girl experiences the shame of being “too fat.” She describes her life at work feeling second-rate among thinner and more popular local girls. Feeling taken advantage of in her job, her friendships and even her family manifests in her relationship with food and often her restriction of it. But she finds solace in one particular Singaporean delight – kaya toast.
Many people think they will bang out a book while they are not working and on expat assignment, but let’s look for a moment at what that’s really like.
I spoke with one of the authors and organizers of Singapore Love Stories, Raelee Chapman, an Australian Mom and fiction writer living here in Singapore:
“This project was a collaboration I just conceived and compiled the anthology,” she says, “but many people helped get it off the ground, in terms of helping with the initial proposal to pitch to publishers, critiquing, editing, proof-reading, funding and marketing.”
She notes that doing collaboration was more palatable to work on versus a solo project due to the immense amount of time it takes to write a book.
For one, this collection of love stories are the culmination of a tremendous amount of time and effort.
Chapman picked the writers based on who she knew and how their work would fit into the theme. There was no submission process, so it was important who you know – a true reality in the publishing world. Connections can make all the difference!
Chapman’s story was influenced by a real story she heard about in Singapore. She says the theme of her particular love story focused on how fast things can change here in Singapore:
“In many respects, this story focuses a lot on fragility. The fragility of birds eggs in a nest, the fragility of a fresh-off-the-plane worker, the fragility of a sleep-deprived nursing mother of a newborn.”
The love theme was an easy one to choose, she says: “I love literary love stories and truly believe there are always new love stories to be told! I’ve read and enjoyed other location-specific love anthologies set in Australia and Penang, and wanted to see how the theme of love collided with a Singapore setting.”
Contributing writer Vanessa Deza Hangad, who has contributed to three Singapore Writers Group anthologies about Singapore life, says her background gave her some interesting perspective for a Singapore-based love story.
She was born in the Philippines but immigrated to the United States as a child, and moved to Singapore four years ago.
“Living in Southeast Asia again has helped me reconnect to sensorial details that were not as easily accessible to me when I was writing in San Francisco,” she says. “Singapore has reawakened my memories, again mostly of the senses, which then translates to how I approach creating a character.”
For example, she says the heat in Singapore and the immense discomfort of one who is unaccustomed to it is something that you have to experience yourself before being able to accurately write about it.
“When I wrote the character of Eunice, I thought about my own struggle of trying to adjust to the climate here. I extrapolated this physical unease into a search for relief, and how this young person attempts to find comfort and a sense of belonging.”
I can tell you from my personal experience that writing a book is not an easy task.
None of the authors I spoke to really dove into what it takes, but really, it’s not a light task that you do “for fun.” It takes commitment, time and effort, including planning, organizing as well as having dedicated writing time.
A long-standing rule for writers is “butt in chair.” You have to sit down and write, not just talk about writing.
Kudos for these Singapore-based writers for getting it done!
To meet the authors, check out the book’s launch at the Singapore Writers Festival on Saturday, November 12 at The Arts House (Gallery II) event from 1-2 pm.
About Andrea McKenna
Andrea McKenna Brankin is journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.