Come join the All In! Young Writers’ Seminar 2010. For writers in the new media.

Students from junior college, polytechnic and university.

This seminar will provide an insight into:

  • How the Internet and web technologies have evolved and are evolving
  • How has the traditional publishing value chain been affected by IT and the new media
  • Writing in the larger context of Digital Media
  • How to keep up to date with new developments
  • Future trends like e-books, e-readers, interactive and multimedia content
  • Responsible blogging

20 Feb 2010 (Sat), 9.30am to 6.00pm

The Arts House
1 Old Parliament Lane

We just need you to register before coming.


Ways to register

1. Register online by visiting www.bookcouncil.sg
2. Complete the registration form and fax it to (65) 6742 9466
(Please download details and registration form HERE)

Toad Rage
by Morris Gleitzmann

Morris Gleitzman is an Australian writer whose books cater mainly to children eight to twelve years old. His writings, though humorous, have dealt with serious issues such as death and AIDS. This story focuses on the issue of hatred through the adventures of a young cane toad, Limpy. It also illustrates the political side of human nature, which is one sad explanation as to why the good or the diligent are sometimes overlooked.

Toads are being killed intentionally by vehicles zooming along the highway each day. Limpy wonders why humans detest toads so much, but his family has no idea. They boil it down to “that’s the way it’s always been”. Such an answer, however, is unsatisfactory and Limpy decides to find out the truth from humans themselves. He learns that the only way to them is to make a daunting journey up north to the gas station where they congregate. Leaving behind the love of his parents and sister, Charm, he undertakes the task on foot.

Upon reaching his destination, Limpy sees other animals and is surprised at how affectionately they are treated by humans. That same treatment however, does not extend to him. He decides that humans will only treat toads well if they become popular, just like the platypus, kookaburra and the echidna. These animals are loved so much that humans even dress up to look like them and make stuffed toys in their likeness. He gets the idea of being a mascot and decides to latch on to a truck heading south, where the Olympic Games are taking place.

Limpy’s quest for popularity is not without its dangers. He gets harassed by teenagers, security guards and even dogs. But some good things too happen along the way. Prey become pals: fruit flies tell him about opportunities at the Olympic Games and a mosquito shows him the way to the stadium. He also gets the surprise companionship of his cousin Goliath, who gets accidentally stuck in the same truck that Limpy is on. Although he does get the coveted mascot role, Limpy finds unexpected stardom through his friendship with an Olympic athlete. His euphoria, however, is short-lived as he realizes that being in the limelight around humans has its own disadvantages.

Limpy’s quest for an answer does not end with this book. He continues his search for how to live in harmony with humans in sequels such as Toad Heaven and the most recent, Toad Surprise

Toad Rage won the Young Australian Best Book Award (Older Readers) in 2001.

P.S – Just a little general knowledge about cane toads: They were first introduced into Australia from Hawaii in 1935 in the hope that they would prey on cane beetles, which were pests to sugar cane plantations. What happened instead was an over-multiplication of cane toads which in turn became a problem to the ecosystem. Cane toads can squirt out a poisonous milky substance when threatened and even its skin is lethal when ingested by most predators.

Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach was first published in 1961. As in many of his books, this story contains characters who, because of their dominant position, are able to subjugate or ill-treat the child. Such a trend in Roald Dahl’s plots is not surprising if one gets to know of the author’s own unhappy experience with British schooling.

This particular story is about how a miserable little boy gains peace and freedom with the help some unusual friends and a peach.

James loses his parents when he is four years old and since then, has to live with two very mean aunts.
When he is seven, a mysterious old man appears in the garden and promises James that he could get rid of his misery forever. He produces a paper bag full of “crocodile tongues”, gives James instructions on what to do with them and then disappearing just as mysteriously. In his haste to rush back into the house, James trips and falls down. The contents of the paper bag spill out, sink into the soil and completely disappear. In the next instance, James and his aunts are filled with amazement when they notice that their once barren peach tree has suddenly borne a fruit. The fruit swells up until it is “almost as big as a house”. James aunts decide to make a profitable venture out of the peach tree by allowing the public into the garden to view the giant fruit.

The next night James is sent out to clean up the garden after all the visitors have left. He discovers a hole in the peach, big enough to climb through, which he does. Thus starts his adventure. He finds the most unlikely of friends there, insects as big as himself. With them, James gets to experience two things which he never did in the three years with his aunts – laughter and the ocean. The giant peach takes them on a voyage from one country to another, first by land, then by sea and finally through the air. James adventure brings out in him strengths that was never apparent before – intelligence and courage.

This book is listed in the American Library Association’s “The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books” and it has been criticised for reasons such as crude expression (the use of the word “ass”), being too scary (James’ oppressive life and the way his aunts died) and containing a racist remark (“I’d rather be fried alive and eaten by a Mexican”). Also, some of the poetry that the Centipede composes may seem crass. But to me, these are issues that parents can discuss with the children and set right what is acceptable and what’s not. Such gliches aside, the book is just great fun, made even more so by the creative twist given to the characters of the insects.

The book was made into a film in 1996 and won Best Animated Feature Film at the French Annecy International Animated Film Festival. The film was also nominated for the Academy Awards.

1Shut up…and just observe. No interviews. Just observe. What do you see? How does it sound? Is it sweet? Is it foul? Is it smooth? Is it moving? Boring?

We are endowed with five basic senses – smell, sight, taste, hear, and touch. These senses, which we use to carry out our daily mundane routines, are writers’ bestfriends, too. If we use them more consciously, we see more action, more life, more movement, more voices in the things, faces, and places that we daily look at and find no expression at all.

“Honing Your Observation Skills” (HYOS) is one of the activities I have enjoyed in my Feature Writing subject when I studied Journalism at the University of San Jose-Recoletos (Cebu City, Philippines) few years ago. Thanks to my mentor Maylaine T. Cerna who introduced this to my class.

It was fun to have my fellow writers here at Writers Coffee Lounge do the same activity. We stationed ourselves in our chosen places (home, kopi tiam, etc) to do this exercise. Below are some of our outputs for the first HYOS activity shared to the group last 15 May 2009. We decided to do this again and for the second round, we will focus on observing a character, a person.

7th Floor
by Aurelia L. Castro

Kopi tiam
By Angeline Koh

Coffee shop complaint
By Cecilia Mahendran

(Honing your observations skills assignment by Aurelia L. Castro.)

Buildings that look like boxes. Columns and rows of tinted glass windows that stare like lifeless eyes. A slow movement of vehicles coming in and out the parking lot. A few people passing by and a cat or two strolling around the well-swept path – these are the usual sights from my window at the 7th floor in my flat.

The 15-storey home buildings before me look so still. They seem to have stood there for years. Their walls’ weak and fainting colours of yellow, pink, and maroon tell me they are old and have lost their smell long time ago. Their gray-white coloured air-conditioning units are like uniform badges attached to their chests.

It’s quiet and slow, boring and almost deserted in the daytime. Cars and motorcycles are neatly parked, some almost kissing each other, on their numbered spots. Even the clothes hung on some of the windows look tame and calm. The trees are orderly arranged as well. Their leaves gently flip with the occasional soft blow of wind.

The sight of the sky takes only about a quarter from the whole screen view in my window. Yet it’s the one that seems to command life to this rather nostalgic and perhaps unappreciated place. It creates movement as it breaks from darkness to gray in the morning, to orange when it’s shone by the sun, to blue, till it turns slowly back to gray, then to darkness again. At six in the evening, it is still bright and dominant.

As the sky begins to cool down and welcome the stars and moon at night (which are usually overshadowed and unseen because of the city’s bright light), the lamp posts at the parking area start to light up. The darker the sky goes, the more light comes out from everywhere – cars, buildings, and streetlights. The windows that were like lifeless eyes finally blink and smile at night.

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