Young adult story wins book prize

  • Lifestyle
  • Monday, 20 Jan 2014

Winning writers: Calistro Prize 2013 winner Chris Lin (centre) with merit award recipients Lee Su Ann (left) and Michele Chia.

It took lecturer five nights and a day to write award-winning story.

“WE are all story-telling creatures in nature – even the simplest text message is deemed to convey a story to someone it’s intended for. It’s my sincere, fervent hope that more people would read, write and support the works of Malaysian writers,” said Chris Lin, 48, winner of the Calistro Prize 2013 Awards, held yesterday at the Kuala Lumpur Library to honour Malaysia’s fiction writers for children and young adults.

Established in 2012, the annual writing competition is open to all Malaysians, including those residing abroad. The call for entries for 2013 was from March to September, and works were judged on creativity, storyline and writing style.

Lin, a lecturer at TAR University College, said he was totally “blown away” by the unexpected win, confessing that he wasn’t even aware of this Calistro Prize competition when it first started.

“I happened to be flipping through the papers one day and that’s when I spotted the call for entries. My story was in fact written in quite a hurry – I used five nights and one whole day to hit the keys.

“As I was busy with paper marking and lecture classes, I could only start writing at night. But as I wrote on, the characters in my story guided the flow, basically ‘telling’ me what to do next, so I was really surprised by my own ending.

“More than anything, this win is a great impetus for me to keep on writing,” said Lin, whose story entitled Colour Crescendo will be published next year.

The story is about a 16-year-old visually-challenged girl whose divorced mother falls in love with the eye doctor treating the girl, and they are planning to move to Britian. The girl doesn’t want to move, though, and neither does her grandmother.

“Without wanting to give away the plot, there are a lot of twists and hidden secrets and things aren’t what they seem on the surface. Hopefully, by making the story a little complex, it will challenge the young readers who have become more mature in their choice reading materials these days.”

For his effort, Lin received RM8,000 in cash, a medal and a certificate. The prize shortlisted four other writers: Lee Su Ann, Michele Chia – both of whom are runner-up recipients of the merit award – and Bathmaloshanee Muniandy and Ninot Aziz.

Lee, a freelance medical writer, said her story entitled Game World is a mirror of how children today are preoccupied with playing computer games and with their iPads. The storyline weaves in moral lessons like the importance of spending time with your family, and how children of the past generation used to play traditional games that could be enjoyed together with friends and family.“I was toying with a few story ideas before deciding on this one, because it has a distinct Malaysian flavour,” says the 36-year-old, who says she has been writing fiction since she was 16 years old.

Chia, the other merit award recipient, says her story deals with how a Form Three student is assigned by her English teacher to write a secondary school journal. However, the girl’s rebellious streak causes her to cast aside the journal writing and instead begin a quest to write her last will and testament – as indicated in Chia’s attention-grabbing title for the story: The Last Will And Testament Of Melody Law: A High School Journal.

Calistro Prize committee chief coordinator Khaw Choon Ean says they received 24 submissions this year, of rather high standards.

“The shortlisted five had good ideas and use of language. We had narrowed the scope this year to strictly young adult English novels, compared to our debut competition which we opened to different languages and different genres.

“We realised that this young adult category isn’t well-developed among Malaysian writers, so this was a way of encouraging more writers to explore this area,” said Khaw.

Also present at the awards was Dr David Kirkham, founder and director of Britain-based management consultancy Calistro Consultants Ltd and sponsor of the Calistro Prize. The event also hosted the launches of several books, including the 2012 Prize winner’s book, and events such as author readings and book-related workshops.

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