A few years back, I gave myself a mission to introduce my youngest maternal cousin (who didn’t like reading at all) to local authors and fun stories. I started with Sherlock Sam, then DimSum Warriors. And as she takes her PSLE this year, I was scouring the market for something she could enjoy, and relate to as a person who is about to go on a few changes in her life.
Enter Mount E.M.I.L.Y.
Set at Mount Emily Girls’ School, the series zooms in on best friends Patsy and Elena. In a spot of adventure, the girls find themselves transported almost three decades into the past, and trapped in the bodies of their mothers. Do they find their way home? Or do they end up losing their identities and friendship?
The book presents a fast-paced adventure, egging you to turn each page to satiate your desire to know what happens to these two girls next. As a story reader (a.k.a. A person who reads for the story rather than the language), this appeases me. At the same time, I know my cousin can go through this without getting bored with overly descriptive exposition.
At the same time, it tugs at the heartstrings, with Patsy’s inner struggles in the face of her longtime best friend. Issues like the questioning of keeping their friendship with two separate and often-clashing personalities - with Elena being the popular one, often expecting Patsy to be available and committed 24/7, but often ignoring Patsy for her other friends once the former presents herself to be less than enthusiastic. These are common issues teenagers face and it was comforting to know that the characters were not all just smiles and giggles.
But before I leave you, there has to be a shoutout to the various references Low managed to slip into the story - pay phones, the old Bras Basah Complex, and of course (and most importantly), A&W. I’d go back in time just to have my Coney Dog and Curly Fries at the A&W Ang Mo Kio branch, so I’d understand why at least one of them would want to stay in 1987 for a while.
The entire series spans Patsy and Elena’s lives in Mount Emily Girls’ School - with each book for each year that they were in Secondary School. Will Patsy and Elena stay best friends and graduate together? Start with Mount E.M.I.L.Y. and find out!
The Mount EMILY series is written by Low Ying Ping and published by Epigram Books. You can find out more about the series here.
Today, on "Writing Challenge on Jo's Blog", we'll make this dialogue short and sweet.
The Mission: Write a dialogue-only piece with the theme Starlight and an acoustic guitar and You just don't get it.
The Added Challenge: Let's see if I can write this in 15 minutes.
Cradled Cats and Tarnished Spoons
"Here it is, sweetheart, the beauty herself."
"Say, where did you find out about the Starlight? This was recommendation-only."
"My father was in the music industry."
"A comrade, then?"
"Perhaps I've heard of him?"
"Alright then, tell you what, I'll take five hundred off the asking price, and throw in the trimming kit for free."
"For the strings?"
"The wood. 25 years old and still growing, you'd think the trimming will have you give up this work of art quickly but once you hear her sing, you'll know it's all worth it."
"Sounds like something you'd do for your kids."
"Pah! Never had the time nor the style to have them."
"You never had kids?"
"Them screaming buggers who have no appreciation for anything but to ask you for money? Not my thing."
"If you want, you can hold on to it while I get you the case."
"That wouldn't be necessary."
"Huh? You kids need to take care of these things!"
"You still don't recognize me?"
"So this was what took you away from us. This should be easy."
"...and the cat's in the cradle and a silver spoon... Silver spoon? As if."
And with three minutes to spare! Thanks for reading guys, tuned in for next month's writing challenge!
When I was paired with Elvin to work on Unstable Foundations, I was really impressed with his work as a designer and with big labels like Marvel. What I was more impressed with was what a joy it was to work with him. Also known as Zero-Point-Five (his Facebook), here’s a look at the artist behind our (and my) first work of partnership in comics.
P/S - I told him to say whatever he needed to say for this interview, given how the both of us have worked together quite a bit for this project.
Congratulations on the launch of Unstable Foundations! We both know that you were recommended to draw for this comic - what was is about the story that drew you to it?
Thank you, I’m happy with another milestone achieved! Funnily enough, I wanted to work on this story because it’s not something I usually do. I’m more familiar with the superhero genre and Unstable Foundations was more of a drama with a historical background and I was interested in doing something different.
How is this different or similar to the previous projects you’ve worked on?
I’m used to the flashier and more action-packed comics of the superhero genre, so when it came to my quieter comics, those were my own stories and it was faster to make decisions on how to tell them. With Unstable Foundations, it was about interpreting the writer’s vision, and knowing how I could add to that vision. I loved the collaboration. It allowed me to question: How could I add to it? How do I respect the author’s perspective and put my own sensibility into it as well? I’d like to think that to some positive extent, the final work was nothing either of us expected and it’s a good thing we has some level of surprising ourselves in spite of being the creators.
What would you say was the main challenge with Unstable Foundation and why?
I think the main challenge for me was time (haha). Not that there wasn’t enough time given to finish the work, but I had a terrible schedule when it started and there were areas where I wish I had more time to explore and improve upon with the comic's writer. That being said, I’m still very proud of the final work. I think we worked on it as best as we could and still pulled off a great story in spite of the obstacles.
We’ve seen your illustrations, comics, and designs in various comics, webpages, and artbooks - is there a particular type of art you find yourself being drawn to?
I’m drawn to anything with a graphic edge… I know that sounds generic so I guess to be specific, the kind of art that really grabs me usually goes from one extreme of minimalism to the other of highly-detailed drawings. It’s all technical but I’m obsessed with silhouettes and tiny details at the same time. So you can see from my illustrations that my focus is usually on a strong shape with intricacy within. I find drawing details very interesting, it really feels like I’m building a little world from scratch. Other than the technical aspect, it’s usually whether the style suits the story that it’s telling. Stories that are personal to me will usually make me attracted to the art.
And who are your influences on them?
Mike Mignola and Leinel Yu for their strong graphic silhouettes and details. There are simply too many artists that inspire me because I love many genres of comics. Adrian Tomine is another writer/artist that I feel I will be influenced by soon.
How has working with comic writers worked for you so far?
Pretty great! Honestly, I still feel like my education is at its infancy but thus far, I’ve been really lucky to be able to work with writers who are highly cooperative and trust me with what I do. I’m looking forward to working with more writers.
What are some tips you have for freelancers or artists working with writers or other creatives?
I would say choose your projects wisely. If it’s a comic, it’s for the long haul so you need to identify with the aspect of the project that attracts you. It sounds silly but you’ll be amazed at how many times I walk into a project without thinking and regretted it later. Haha… If there’s nothing to work with, be it a good writer, a story you’re interested in offering a visual opinion on, or anything something to fuel your interest for the duration of the project, then you’re going to end up with a painful process. And if it’s just for the money, it’s not worth it.
Aside from that, be professional and communicate always. It can seem tiring or minor, but checking with your team member on any concerns or brilliant ideas as often as possible really makes the project smoother. You have to remember it’s a collaboration.
You have fewer than 30 words to promote anything you want - go!
Check out Unstable Foundations now! Haha… Seriously, check it out and give us your thoughts. We would love to hear them. And check out the other titles of COSH studios too!
And finally, any clue on what’s next for you?
Not for the long haul yet… but I’ve been thinking of cleaning up my house, it’s a mess…
… and after that, work on a long overdue personal comic project of mine haha.. Can’t really talk much about it except that it’s a fantasy story and there’s going to be lots of bloodshed (cue dramatic music). Other than that, keep my cats fed.
Drawing on his experiences in film, storyboarding, and cinematic art, Elvin has had work featured in Liquid City (Image Comics) and the comic book miniseries The Drift. You can find his work on Instagram (@elvching) and Facebook (Elvin Ching a.k.a. Zeropointfive)
Unstable Foundations can be found in any major bookstore in Singapore. To find out more about Elvin and the amazing work he does, click here. For more information on COSH Studios and the other comics they’ve published, click here.
When I sit down with a book by Wena, I’m sure that I’ll end up with a bunch of laughs.
My first encounter with “The Adventures of Snow Fox & Sword Girl” was during a performance reading by the author, Wena Poon, herself. Intrigued, I bought the book (together with her other novels out by that time), excited by the prospect of a story rich with adventures and swordfighting.
I was not disappointed.
If there’s one thing I love about Wena’s writing, it’s that it’s bound to entertain.
The first novel of her Hoshimaruhon series (loosely translated to “The Book of the Star Ball”), Snow Fox & Sword Girl introduces us to the Jing and Noh Empires, where the masked Emperor Taliesin of Jing tries to bring the constant war between Jing and Noh to an end with the help of his bodyguard and childhood friend, Sei Shonagon - the best but also the most mysterious swordswoman in all of Jing.
It’s not difficult to like Wena’s storytelling, especially if you’re in to know what happens next. Set up like the liberetto of an opera, each Episode represents a Chapter happening in the midst of the story’s chaotic worlds (physical or spiritual). Wena combines contemporary language with mythical tales to paint a vivid landscape that serves as the background to the hilarious banter between our two main characters.
Be prepared to see the sounds of swords clashing, bells sounding, and waves crashing throughout the voyage. Laugh at (or with) the antics of the young Emperor and his reactions to his dear Sei-kun, with dialogue that wouldn’t feel out of place in an Adults-only Disney Animation Party.
That being said, I’m grateful for my retained fundamental Simple Mandarin reading skills in this book. If anything, the Episode titles and their umm… “Mandarin translation” will set you up for a journey filled with laughs, smiles, tears, and most definitely, adventure.
So now, if you’d excuse me, 我正在修生, 别烦我. (Or translated on Wena’s terms: Self-Cultivation).
For more information on Wena or the Hoshimaruhon, click here.
It’s finally done!
A bit of background - A couple of years back, some veteran comic artists decided to bring in a group of comic artists and writers of various backgrounds to create comics inspired by local heritage. I was partnered with the amazing Elvin Ching, and we both created a comic named, Unstable Foundations - an urban fiction piece about two cousins and one of them testing their brother-sister relationship over the possible map to Yamashita’s Gold, rumoured (at best) to be where the National Gallery of Singapore sits today.
Elv was a total sweetheart to work with, so it gives us great pleasure to give all of you a preview of what this comic has in store:
Our launch happened last week, so stay tuned for my post on the launch and for more tidbits into this collaboration.
Kicking off one of the busiest months on my calendar with a Noir writing challenge. When I got the prompts for this - I immediately went to a piece the Tiger saved for me and decided to enhance it a little more.
Prompts: The Photographer, The Other View
The Perfect Opportunity
The door clicks. The bell rings. You ignore the roar of the teenage wave crashing into the café. Picking at your pastry, you keep the corner of your eye across the road – you waited for the predator.
His wife came to your office when you were closing early.
“Are you Inspector Vass?” she asked.
“Call me ‘Tania’,” you said. You hadn’t heard ‘Inspector’ in a long time.
“How may I help you?” you asked.
“My husband…” she started, and you knew. Contrary to popular belief, there were many uses for people like us in Singapore – background checks, surveillance, missing people – and domestic cases were the necessary evil PIs had to take for survival.
She went on about the messages on his phone, the pictures he did not bother hiding, and the unfamiliar clothes he did not bother explaining anymore. He is influential, she repeated.
“He will leave me destitute if he wants to,” she said. You comforted her, and went through what she brought for you. You skimmed through his schedule, his license plate, and took a long, hard look at his photograph.
He appears. You take care not to look up too eagerly. Surveying, you watch him swagger on the opposite side. Hyenas had no need for appearances, they just hunt, bite, and snatch. With a face and name like that, you don’t need to check your photos to know this was the one.
“Dr. Shaun Tan,” your supervisor said.
That name etched itself as deep as his alleged actions were long. You scoffed at his plea when you opened his file.
“We were in love,” he claimed then.
The professor was caught with his A-Star student and pants down. With nothing to go on then, you snooped around. You spoke – to the university, to his colleagues, to the IT dude, to the girl’s friends, to the girl.
“I don’t see the fuss,” the girl had said, “And we’re not together anymore, please don’t bother me.”
You ignore the messages buzzing in your pocket, your eyes glued as he approaches his prey. You fish your phone out in case it was new information. Nothing. You sneer.
When you got that anonymous tip, you jumped.
‘I can’t say who I am,’ the message said then, ‘But I have something that can help you. I saw something. I hope this helps.’
The letter from Mr. Anonymous made it to court, but it also signed your permanent resignation from civil service. Your source came into question, and Tan countersued for evidence fabrication. You swore seeing a smirk at the corner of his mouth in court. And when you surrendered your badge, news of Tan’s IT serviceman’s death came in. Fell off a bridge after a night of drinking, they said. You knew better.
His prey looks no older than the one you questioned before. Predators hardly change their tastes. However, hands gripping elbows do not speak excitement - she knows she is prey. Regardless, he approaches her, you start snapping.
She backs away, a bruised gazelle. He charges forward, jaws wide, she steps, her face turned away to not show the tears. You click, click, and click. The intervals between each push reducing. You glare - hunting is meant to be swift.
When he reaches for her, you know what will come next. You slip your camera into your pocket, and your ankles are primed for action. Adrenaline courses through your veins as he sinks his claws. She screams. No one reacts.
You remember promising yourself that you would never run head-first into a situation like this the moment they took your badge. You slink out of your seat and sprint, horns pointed and forward.
Some promises are meant to be broken.
Got you, you son of a bitch.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece, and stay tuned for more pieces from writing challenges in the upcoming months!
Web comics have presented a new platform for many comic artists looking for an avenue to express themselves. Whether or not they see the Internet as a place of serious business and opportunity, or just want to use it to communicate and share their stories with friends near and far, you cannot deny that many of these web comics are great as a quick read, or a nice story on-the-go.
I met Fishball (not her real name) in real life during last year’s Illustration Arts Festival. Putting aside the fact that the Tiger already knew her personally, we were booth neighbours during the event. Previously, I had only seen snippets of her work turning up on my Facebook feed, but I can now say that my heart jumps with that bit of excitement whenever I see a LINE WebToon notification for her web comic, My Giant Nerd Boyfriend.
Here’s a glimpse into what she had to say when we met:
Congratulations on hitting over 100 strips on WebToons! How does it feel producing the comic strips now as opposed to when you first started with this series?
Thank you! When I started drawing My Giant Nerd Boyfriend (MGNB) strips, I drew them solely at my own pace, though I tried to update as frequently as possible (which was once per week). Now I have to churn out three entries per week, which is quite daunting at times!
And has your process changed so far?
Quite drastically, I would say! I used to draw whenever a particularly funny idea came to me, but nowadays, I jot down any ideas that comes to mind in a sketchbook that I bring everywhere, so that whenever I'm short on ideas, I could refer to them for inspiration.
To date, we’ve seen strips that depict your day-to-day lives, a particular event, character “backstories” (like when you have an entire strip dedicated to introducing us to your brother or mother), how did you end up managing these strips and requests?
I would say instead of just solely boyfriend-girlfriend interactions in my strips, readers would like a small break from couple strips and have something different for a change. Since my comic strips focus on relationships in general, I think these odd few strips of my brother and my mom (and friends too!) offer something different for readers to relate to, and I'm glad that they enjoy them as much as my usual couple strips! Special occasions, requests, and events could also spice up the strips a little, because let's face it, if MGNB is completely about me and my boyfriend doing couple things together, it's going to get boring real fast.
And which kind of stories are your favourite to tell?
These slice-of-life strips are my favorite type of stories to tell! Although I would love to try a different genre some time :)
How have your readers been to you? I’m sure there have been a crazy variety of them.
Oh yes they do come in all shapes and sizes! They have been really kind to me, not to mention very enthusiastic! Sometimes they even gave me ideas for my strips, which I am really grateful for.
That being said, I know both you and your boyfriend have been asked the craziest questions at events, what has been the weirdest question so far?
"Are your boobs really that sharp?" - GUYS! It's just my way of depicting my lack of boobs, really!
Okay, many of us know the story behind how the strips came about, but I think many of us would really want to know - how many outtakes were/are there?
Plenty! Sometimes I could hit a specific tone in my strips quite easily, at other times I struggle to convey what I really want on paper... which results into a lot of different takes of a single panel. Sometimes I scrap the entire idea and start a new strip because I don't know how to properly conclude a strip. It could take me from four hours to finish up a strip, to a day just mulling on the execution/conclusion of a particular scene.
Any tips to give to people who are on WebToons or considering posting their work on WebToons?
DO IT. WORRY LATER. Also once you have fans, do listen to what they have to say about your work!
And finally, I think some of us will be interested in this - What is the status of the Pikachu t-shirts in your closet?
They are steadily growing in numbers, you can be sure of that :D
A height difference of 30cm and above might seem adorable to some, but it usually causes a lot of minor inconveniences. Follow Fishball as she navigates the Malaysian life with her 199cm-tall, geeky boyfriend.
Fishball is a freelance artist based in Malaysia. She lives with her (literally) huge boyfriend, and really likes her banana leaf rice drowned in a pool of dahl. You can check out her comic, "My Giant Nerd Boyfriend", on her WebToons page.
Once again, I hope you've enjoyed this interview. Stay tuned for more features and indie works coming your way!
Note: Before I start, this is an improved version of a repost, so if you find this review familiar, it’s because I had more things to say since the last review after this reread.
Author: Wayne Ree & Anna AB
According to Wayne, this collection of stories was put together while he and Anna were travelling and got inspired by the many prompts they encountered. And with each prompt, both authors present their own interpretations.
To be honest, I took a look at the prompts and immediately asked (at least in my head) – Where did you guys travel to?! But exclamations aside, both writers had stories written according to prompts, Graffiti, Time Travel, Frustration, Day Off, Smoke, Sacrifice, and Last Days.
And while each story was constructed according to its theme, aspects of the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Thriller genres permeated through their words. Each story was a fine balance between reality we can relate to and the what ifs of life should our parallels be different.
The writing in both authors was impeccable. Words flowed, conveying sincere stories that provoke thought, reflect society, and above all, entertain. While I did get lost in some of the shorts, being distracted by the details in exposition and losing the story halfway, the straightforward execution had me back on track.
My favourites from the both of them include Where I End and You Begin by Anna and Admin by Wayne.
Admin sets a twisted idea in a scene we all know too well. Marrying bureaucracy and the lure of the dark, this story had me laughing from the start, especially when the idea of sections and forms came into play in the middle of a summoning. With the familiar faces and voices of office drones, it is difficult not to laugh at how this could be if we lived in a world of Lovecraft instead.
Where I End and You Begin was one of those stories which had me increase the width of my smile as I read along, only to have me go, “YES!!!” with a fist pump by the end. The idea is not new, but it gives me a whole lot of relief when a story about time travel speaks about its paradox and leaves no loopholes. The writing here is emotional, tight, and enjoyable, and I hope you will have your mind blown at the end too.
BONUS NOTE: Mr Memphis, one of Wayne’s stories in the book, has been turned into a comic (stay tuned to this blog to find out more about it!), thanks to the greatness of Benjamin Chee. A twist on a western, you’ll be twisting again once you flip through the pages of this 30+ page doujin.
Now, it has been about two years since Wayne and Anna released Prompt to the world. As they only printed about 55 copies, the book’s now sold out, but you can get more information here.
Another year, another issue of Pulp Toast/ Roti Bakar. While we’re still operating on a closed list, we’re incredibly excited to announce our theme for this year:
And with a new website (www.pulptoast.com), you can be sure that there will be more updates there, on our facebook page (/pulptoast), and social media.
I’m incredibly excited to work with the team once again, and I definitely look forward to reading the stories to come in for this issue.
Catch a glimpse of our previous issues here.
Hope you enjoyed the story I did for the writing challenge last month. This month, I’ll be trying to dive into poetry (again). Here’s something I came up with with the prompts: Memories, and The Reason It Isn’t There (~50 lines).
My Answers to your Questions
I never see you,
Yet your questions are legion.
You sit, satisfied,
Stomach filled with the free
Food that you can always cook
Better, you know best, anyway.
After all, what is rice,
When it’s salt that is needed?
After all, what is wisdom,
When it’s status that’s all important?
Years past, three hundred and sixty-five
At a time, a cycle we continue
Out of ritual, out of tradition,
A moment in the sea
Of ties forged and old wombs.
And you ask, smirking.
While I answer, a telepathic
Wave at the front
Your face, but one you will
Blood of brotherhood
Water of the Womb.
So in your effort,
Filling your gossip
Rolodex of noise…
“What are you doing now?”
“Something I care about.”
“Why not <this>? There’s no money in…”
“And obviously, you don’t.”
“What have you been eating?!”
“Food. What have you not?”
“Why did your mother let you get this fat?”
“Why did yours let you get this rude?”
“Your partner is not your type!”
“Clearly, they’re not yours either.”
“When is it your turn?”
“After you’re done with the snacks, thanks.”
“Why do you care so much?
Those people are not your family.”
“As are your intentions,
Those, not out of integrity and concern.”
“Can’t I just ask questions?!”
But if you cared,
I’ll answer proper.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece, and stay tuned for more pieces from writing challenges in the upcoming months!
My adventures with in urban speculative fiction.