For some time now, my mind has been wrapped up in love stories. I have been living and breathing moments of tenderness:
the pale thighs of a virgin ingénue posing for an artist
a gay man baking thumbprint cookies as an offering to an old flame
a domestic helper with a golden umbrella sheltering a construction worker on Sunset Way
a man missing in space for 104 years remembering his wife through her archived chicken rice
a son deceiving his father about his mother’s absence in order to keep him sane.
The twelve-month road to publication for Singapore Love Stories began in late 2015. The idea for a Singapore-based anthology of love stories had been bandied around for a while: I had read and enjoyed two other love anthologies set in Australia and Penang, and felt the Little Red Dot and its eclectic mix of writers would bring out unique perspectives on this universal theme.
I invited a number of established and emerging Singapore-based writers whose novels and/or short fiction I had read and admired to submit synopses or works-in-progress. I planned to take the idea to the speed dating-style pitch rounds of the 2015 Singapore Publishing Symposium so contributors had to work to a tight timeframe.
At the symposium, Monsoon Books was really enthusiastic about the idea. Monsoon seemed a perfect fit for this anthology as a local publishing house that supports local and foreign writers. They had dabbled in anthologies with similar themes in the past and felt there was enough cross-over appeal between literary and commercial fiction readers to take a risk on this.
I discussed possible editors with the publisher and it made sense to use somone on the ground here rather than Monsoon’s regular US-based fiction editor. Verena Tay was among the contributors and, having edited nine fiction anthologies and written short story collections and plays, is well-known in the literary community. It turned out to be the right choice as her keen eye honed in on any inaccuracies relating to geography and a range of cultural nuances. If a writer depicted the view from a bridge over the Singapore River, Verena could verify or correct that view instantaneously.
The initial jubilation at securing a publisher and an editor was followed by a period of radio silence as Monsoon Books considered funding options, including grants and crowd-funding. It was decided that as the majority of Singapore Love Stories contributors are Singaporean and permanent residents we were eligible to apply for an NAC Grant. We submitted the uncorrected full manuscript in April 2016 with author names and bios redacted from the submissions to ensure the independent evaluation panel was not swayed by high-profile names. In July, Monsoon Books was awarded a ‘Presentation & Participation Grant’ covering 50% of production costs.
Verena did a great job at arranging the manuscript in a way that gels the many perspectives on love. The moods vary from gritty or gentle to comic or thought-provoking. I was delighted to collaborate with such a diverse team of writers known for different genres: crime, speculative fiction, sci-fi, literary fiction and magic realism from a range of nationalities and backgrounds.
Some authors explored new territory with their love story and others capitalised on their strengths. Many established, award-winning and award-nominated authors such as Jon Gresham, Alice Clark-Platts and Clarissa N. Goenawan contributed to this anthology and it is my hope that this collection will introduce readers to their work if they do not know them already.
There are other contributors whose literary careers I have every reason to believe are about to take off, and I am thrilled they were able to fit this project in ahead of their novels and personal short story collections being published in the near future. The brave, fresh and quirky perspectives of the emerging writers adds to the potent mix. May Singapore Love Stories whet their appetite for future literary offerings.
Singapore Love Stories is available on Kindle and hardcopies will hit bookshops during this year’s Singapore Writers Festival.