1) How does (re)writing folktales for your children and the greater globe compare to your other writing experiences?
First, let me say that I am a very new author. I had only one other book published, a YA
Steampunk – The Ghost Engine, before I wrote The Girl Who Became a Goddess. So I
When I wrote my first novel, I relied on years of storytelling experience as well as my
previous career as an analyst/programmer. I put myself into the role of my protagonist,
asking myself how Berd would have felt as a young woman growing up in the Industrial
Age, when women had yet to obtain equality. I hope I would have made the same
decisions as she. But what I wrote was fiction. Although I put my heart into my book, I
could ‘hide’ behind the story.
Writing The Girl Who Became a Goddess was different as I was writing for my children.
While I wanted them to know the world I had come from, I didn’t want them to see an
idealized version of Singapore.
I was determined from the start to write the truth.
Truth is a cleansing experience.
Living in Australia, so far away from the childhood trauma, it was easy to ‘forget’ what
had happened. Writing my folktales, I was forced to relive the pain, and ask difficult
questions of myself. I didn’t realise until I started writing the folktales, how it was that I
had heard so many stories.
2) 2) I loved when you took the readers a step back to explain your view of folktales. What inspired you to include these sections?
Singapore is a dot on the equator. When I left Singapore there were just over 3 million of
us. I know people who think Singapore is in China.
I am proud to be Singaporean. When my first son was little, I had plans for him to learn
His answer: Mum, I am Australian.
Right now, my children aren’t interested in Singapore or their Mum’s culture, much. But
one day, hopefully they will be, and I might not be around to explain. These explanations
are for them.
3) Many of my students will eventually move to another country. What advice would you give them as they spread across the world?
I started the habit of giving my Year 12 students each a photo frame. I’d say to them, “Remember
this year. One day you might look back and realise this is your happiest year. You have no
responsibilities. The world is out there for you to conquer. Take a photo of yourself and put it
inside. Treasure your memories of what you have now.
“Fight for your dreams. And know I believe in you. You can do anything.”
(Year 12 is the final Year of High School in Australia)
4) What is the one food you have to eat when you visit Singapore?
Char Kway Teow.
The best was at Lau Pasat but that has moved. Singaporeans always joke and say, “See how that
hawker is wiping his forehead, he is actually flinging his sweat into the noodles and that is what
makes them so tasty.”
But seriously, just one?
There’re prawn noodles, laksa, nasi goreng, chicken rice, durian, cendol, ice kacang, nasi berani,
chee cheong fun…
And of course, you need to know where to go to find the best tasting dish.
5) In your reflection, you mention the loss of hawker stalls and the abundance of people finding education overseas. How do you feel about Singapore’s changing environment?
Pride and sadness.
Pride that my homeland has accomplished so much.
Sadness, because every time I return, some place, some thing or some person will have gone.
There are still many hawker stalls around, but thanks to urbanisation, the old ones are mostly
moved away or gone completely.
I am Singaporean so it is in my makeup to love food.
But I am also a teacher, and a strong advocate for education, whatever that may be. All I want is to
see my students achieve their own dreams. It’s all any teacher could want.