Sunday, April 13, 2008

New Award for Local Authors

A new award for local authors is announced in Starmag today by Malini Dias. Sponsored by Popular Bookstores and Star Publications (M) Bhd, it is to be called The Star-Popular Readers Choice Awards.

The shortlist for the award is based on titles which proved the most popular in Popular and Harris Bookshops last year. Readers will get a choice to vote for their favourites by filling in the forms which will appear in Starmag's and StarTwo's book pages over the coming weeks.

The top authors in the two categories will each receive RM1,000 and a trophy; authors of the second and third most popular book titles in both categories will each receive RM300 cash and certificates of recognition. There are also book vouchers to be won by those who send in the forms.

Here's the list. I've added links to relevant posts on this blog.

Non-fiction
  • Honk! If You’re Malaysian by Lydia Teh
  • I Am Muslim by Dina Zaman
  • The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time by Ooi Kee Beng
  • In Good Faith: Articles, Essays, and Interviews by Zaid Ibrahim
  • As I Was Passing by Adibah Amin
  • The Unmaking of Malaysia: An Insider’s Reminiscences of Umno, Razak, and Mahathir by Ahmad Mustapha Hassan
  • Tanah Tujuh by Antares
  • From Small-Town Boy to World Class Surgeon by Mangai Balasegaram
  • Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things by Amir Muhammad
  • The Sky is Crazy by Yvonne Lee
  • Fiction
  • Confessions of an Old Boy: The Dato’ Hamid Adventures by Kam Raslan
  • Mamasan by Khoo Kheng-Hor
  • The Red Cheong Sam by Ralph Modder
  • This End of the Rainbow by Adibah Amin
  • 44 Cemetery Road: The Best of Tunku Halim by Tunku Halim
  • Sweetheart from Hell by Lim May-Zhee
  • The Boy Who Talks to Ghosts by Benny & Alice Wong
  • Silverfish New Writing 6 edited by Dipika Mukherjee
  • Long Road to Merdeka by Kamarul Zaman Kamarulzaman
  • Nine Lives by Teoh Choon Ean
  • There are several books here I've read in part but not written about. Several more I've glanced at in the bookshop, but given a limited budget I haven't bought. (The canny publisher slips the litblogger a free review copy!!) I may start to fill in some of those gaps now.

    But congrats to all those nominated and I hope that this very useful initiative gives local authors and publishers a much needed boost.

    The great thing about any literary award, is of course the discussion it creates, and so it's open season in the comments to this post.

    What do you think of the books nominated? How many have you read?

    46 comments:

    Anonymous said...

    this is an amazing opportunity! i just wish that the competition organizers hadn't left the process of deciding the winners to the public... i hope this will reward good writing and not turn out to be some mere popularity contest .

    bibliobibuli said...

    as well it could! can you imagine folks on this list getting all their friends to buy up copies of the star? hope they don't resort to that!

    it would be better as a properly judged contest (or maybe this could be combined with public voting).

    an online vote would have perhaps been better too with just one vote being counted from each computer IP. wonder why multiple postal votes are being allowed as this will squew the results?

    Anonymous said...

    "can you imagine folks on this list getting all their friends to buy up copies of the star?"

    That's what The Star hopes to achieve by running this contest :) it IS a popularity contest. It's a method of increasing sales for The Star. How else are they going to pay for the prizes :)

    Literature is dead.

    Anonymous said...

    "wonder why multiple postal votes are being allowed as this will squew the results?"

    It's because they are not interested in the results. They're interested in the money :) more votes = more copies of "The Star" = more money for them. That's why :)

    bibliobibuli said...

    anon 1 - i know popular is sponsoring the prizes ...

    Anonymous said...

    This award totally lacks credibility from the onset. How can you judge a literary prize in this way? I could weep for such a good opportunity for our local authors lost.

    Thanks for highlighting this Sharon.

    RW

    Chet said...

    The local authors are already winners for being on Popular's bestsellers' list, fiction or non-fiction. It means their books have sold well, more than other local books not on the lists. To win this popularity award is just icing on the cake.

    kam raslan said...

    I don't think it's totally fair to say that it lacks all credibility. I've never been nominated for any prize before and I'm thrilled to bits.

    It only lacks credibility if one imagines that this would be the only literary award ever. But there's nothing to stop somebody else coming up with a prize that is judged by judges on any given criteria (i.e. first time writer, science fiction, different languages, etc). There could also be an online poll, or whatever. If there were many different ways to judge books then it would be a good thing for book reading, writing and selling. And an award based purely on popularity is just as valid as any other criteria.

    In Malaysia we have become used to the idea of monopoly but we should have a multiplicity of ideas.

    If you vote for me then I'll bring electricity to your neighborhood and education to your children. If you don't vote for me then I'm afraid that only Johor and East Malaysia will have literature for the next five years. As for the postal votes, I'll ask if we can follow the Zimbabwe method.

    (By the way Sharon, I've been trying to email you but it keeps bouncing back)

    bibliobibuli said...

    chet - agree completely

    kam - well done, sir!

    email is no sharonbakar@yahoo.com because streamyx couldn't fix my email problems

    CatR. said...

    While it may not lack credibility, I think there is an incredible lack of incentives for writers to write in Malaysia. Most writers I know aspire for something like the Booker. It would be nice if we had something along the same line on a local level, perhaps open even to self-published books, plays, or poetry. It would be an incredible incentive for local writers.

    Anonymous said...

    Kam Raslan is incredible :)

    LOL that was classic :)

    Anyway Kam, how do you have a muliplicity of ideas when people don't have "ideas" at all ?

    BTW there's a nice full-pager on the romance book phenomenon in the NST.. I daresay you're leading the local papers now, they take all their story ideas from you :)

    Dina was in, and Raman as well :)

    bibliobibuli said...

    catr - how would you (ideally) like to see such an award run?

    Anonymous said...

    Actually they shouldn't call it an award they should call it a popularity contest which is what it is. It's like "American Idol" except with books. Any local author that values credibility should refuse nomination on principle. It would make a powerful statement if the winner refused the award :)

    bibliobibuli said...

    you're leading the local papers now, they take all their story ideas from you :)

    no lah. i blogged the piece today because of the nst article. and the previous post in response to mills and boon's 100th anniversary which was written up in the guardian.

    but actually it does give me a little thrill when i can be ahead of the newspapers with stories. print journalism is so clunky!

    Chet said...

    >> It's like "American Idol" except with books.

    Except without judges to give their opinions. I can see Sharon as one of the judges. Who else? Eric Forbes. And Raman, too.

    Eric: Hey, check this out. Nice story, but you know what? The plot is a bit iffy in some parts.

    Sharon: Love the book cover design. And choice of typeface.

    Raman: I thought that was a ghastly attempt at imitating A Samad Said. Totally lacking in originality.

    >> Any local author that values credibility should refuse nomination on principle. It would make a powerful statement if the winner refused the award :)

    Or send a representative to receive the award. Like what Marlon Brando did when he won for The Godfather.

    bibliobibuli said...

    wouldn't want to judge, chet. too many personal friends on the list y'know ... which is really the problem with the smallness of the writing community here.

    Chet said...

    That's why you limited your comments to the book cover design and choice of typeface.

    bibliobibuli said...

    *lol* thanks chet. if i jusged on that basis i'd give the fiction prize to "the red cheongsam" - love the really retro cover

    Lydia Teh said...

    Like Kam, I'm thrilled. When I received the news, I couldn't sleep! At that time, I didn't know what the prize money was but it didn't matter. As Chet said, we're winners just by being on the list. With the publicity, hopefully book sales will be boosted. There's nothing wrong with calling this popularity contest an award, after all they did qualify it as "readers choice."

    Popular/Star did great. Why should popularity contests be limited to the entertainment scene? The book industry can do with an injection of fun and having its profile raised. We don't have any local awards for books and this is a very good start. Who knows this will be a precursor to our very own Booker or Orange.

    bibliobibuli said...

    well done, lydia. very happy for you.

    it is indeed a very good start ...

    Anonymous said...

    "It only lacks credibility if one imagines that this would be the only literary award ever"

    There is I'm afraid. It's called feasibility.

    "It only lacks credibility if one imagines that this would be the only literary award ever."

    It will be, because here companies don't do stuff unless there's a big fat profit involved in it.

    Yup a very good start, but you know what, this isn't a reader's choice award. If it was a reader's choice award, all the Malay fiction stuff would have won hands down.

    And I really have to question their choices. I haven't the figures for YF's "I'm not sick" but I know she made 250K so it can't have done too badly. Why wasn't she nominated ?

    "Why should popularity contests be limited to the entertainment scene?"

    Because they're entertainment, not literature. Literature is for edification. You don't award prizes for pop fiction. It would be like awarding a prize for romance novels or Sophie Kinsella or DragonLance. They're nice and fun to read, but ultimately disposable.

    "The book industry"

    Yup, everything that is wrong with literature can be distilled down to these three words, "the book industry." It's an industry now, so many tons of writer-machines churning out so many novels for so much profit, royalty so many percent, so many pages filled with so many words.

    Whatever happened to writing because you had to, writing because you enjoyed writing, writing because you had something to say and had to say it ?

    Whatever happened to truth and beauty ?

    "Who knows this will be a precursor to our very own Booker or Orange."

    The Booker and Orange have nothing to do with this. They're seriously higbrow fiction. How are we going to have our McEwans and Murakamis if we keep giving prizes for stuff like this ?

    If I had money I'd start a proper book award. But I don't, so "the book industry" will continue to award their best performers.

    Anonymous said...

    aww ... come on peeps ...

    Personally, I'm pretty impressed already that the list of books drawn up was fairly credible (in my opinion anyway)

    As for it being a popularity contest / whatever ... what's the point of writing if nobody reads (and hopefully likes) what you write? Personally I think all awards are sort of popularity contests anyway, the only difference is in who determines 'popularity'.


    -Jen

    bibliobibuli said...

    the anon before jen - unless there's a big fat profit involved in it most literary awards are sponsored by organizations wanting to gain publicity and enhance their image - think of the booker (sponsored by man plc), the orange (sponsored by a mobile telephone network), the IMPAC dublin prize (sponsored by 'the World's Leading Specialists in
    Management Productivity Improvement').

    can one make a big fat profit from sales of local books? - haha, i doubt it. plus most of the people who are interested in these books have bought them before the award is announced.

    popular is clearly interested in sending out the message that they too are interested is supporting local authors and local publications, and this i think is a very good thing. mph has already very successfully sent out the message by supporting author events and through quill magazine. i know that they want to encourage locally published authors to let popular sell their books - in the past many have overlooked the bookstore.

    i think the books are those published in 2007 (although yvonne lee's book is older)

    was yvonne fong's book sold through popular? i know she sold the book mainly through her events and by mail-order

    it would be interesting to have a malay language award as well

    but actually why should there only be one award in a country? other organisations could set up their own literary award with a different angle

    Chet said...

    I've seen Yvonne Foong's book at MPH.

    bibliobibuli said...

    and what about popular? she may not have sold many copies through the shops ...

    Chet said...

    Now that you mentioned it, maybe at Popular, too. I'm going there in a while and will keep an eye out for it. I need to get some yellow dry highlight markers.

    Lydia Teh said...

    These are the best selling books in 2007, though not necessarily published in that year as can be evidenced by the inclusion of Yvonne Lee's book.

    Yvonne Foong made RM250K from her book? I'm happy for her if she did, but I doubt the accuracy of that figure. I don't know how many copies she sold, but as pointed out earlier, most of them could be sold through channels other than Popular.

    CatR. said...

    Wow, it hasn't really begun and it's already creating a buzz!

    Sharon: as for a local Booker -- I'm not sure how people select prizewinners, but simply aping their format would be the best.

    If not, something ala Boh Cameronian is sufficient for Malaysian writers: a bunch of critics to make the judging panel, and a very generous sponsor for the prizes.

    bibliobibuli said...

    lydia - i doubt the figure too but know yvonne raised money for her medical fees by doing a whole host of things inc selling her t-shirts.

    catr. - yes, controversy already so things are working as they should! i'd like it to work with the big sponsor and the judging panel and the glitzy event and a big wodge of money for the winners who could then go away and write for a year without worry

    Chet said...

    We may not have a large enough body of published writers in Malaysia to make it feasible for a literary award the size of a Booker or Orange.

    Actually, what we need is a literary prize to encourage both published and unpublished writers. Something along the lines of the David T K Wong Fellowship managed by the University of East Anglia's Faculty of Arts & Humanities (formerly knonwn as School of English & Amerian Studies).

    The prize would be open to both published and unpublished writers who have to submit an outline of a writing project they would like to work on if they have the time and space. The prize is this time and space for the winner to complete the proposed writing project.

    In the case of the David T K Wong Fellowship, the prize included a year living and working on campus at UEA, and money to the tune of ₤25,000.

    The end result would be a published work added to the growing body of Malaysian literature.

    Such a prize, I think, would be incentive for unpublished writers, too, who might otherwise feel left out by an award aimed only at published writers.

    Anonymous said...

    I think it doesn't matter if the award is meant to be literary or for popular books.

    Everything is chicken and egg. Which comes first? The egg or the chicken? It other words, in order to develop the local writing industry, we can't just promote literary work (esp. not in M'sia, where the reading culture is still low)and neither promoting pop fiction. The deal is to strike a balance...and I think the award is a good start. Obviously, half the titles nominated are lacking in literary values but if you only promote literary work, the local writing scene will always be lack sure.

    To sustain the industry, you will need the readers' support and that means books get sold and not just gathering dust on the shelves. Give the readers something more interesting first and once they are more open and aware of local works could also be equally good as the rest of the world, maybe we can have award fully judged on literary value.

    Congratulations to all the nominated authors. By being on the list, you're already winners. I wish one of my fav book, "A Backpack & a Bit of Luck" is in the list. But again, there's always next year.

    p/s: I read the article from Star twice...Popular never claim it's literary award.

    bibliobibuli said...

    chet - that sounds good! i'd like to see local authors given sponsorship to do writing courses or being mentored overseas by other authors or being given residencies.

    i feel particularly sad that talented writers from here have been offered places abroad and have had difficulty finding funding (or have had to give up the dream)

    there needs to be money made available for this, and for more locally run courses and workshops

    anon - i used the term "literary" meaning books in general. and you are quite right, the word doesn't appear in the article. much too scary!

    Yusuf/Martin said...

    Firstly WHO chose the list.
    Secondly by what and whose criteria.

    My comment - these are writing but I have reservations about calling any of them literary and certainly not literature.

    Nice idea, but writing standards need to be raised - will this list do that? Honestly!

    Lydia Teh said...

    yusuf/martin, your answers are in last Sunday's Starmag. Who says anything about calling these books literary?

    Anonymous said...

    It's interesting that ppl keep categorising books as literature, literary etc. The fact is that there are many genres and many writers with varied writing styles. what one person calls literature, another might call muck. What one thinks is rubbish may two hundred years down the line be considered a classic. It's just really subjective and, at the end, comes down to an individual choice. Some of us may say we recognise good writing (i know i certainly do that pretty often- the Da Vinci Code i found to be pretty bad writing with a relatively ok plot) but that doesn't mean a thing really, because different writing appeals to different people. The fact is, so called 'literary fiction' picks and chooses where it likes, choosing i might add through all genres, kidnapping works from those genres to stay within it's own category, a category which if one were truthful is merely a name, a restriction on the writers whose works are so kidnapped. Yes, there are some aspects of a work that scream out 'well written', 'literary' etc but much of what we call literary stems from our own far from impartial views, from our own time in this century, from the easy dismissal of writing popular to the masses, and above all the themes and ideas we consider 'important' in our own mind. Give me romances and Enid Blyton, Shakespeare and Dragonlance, the Illiad and self-help books, fairytales and biographies, 'rubbish' and 'beauty'. I want it all.

    Whitearrow

    Anonymous said...

    yusuf/martin: READ STARMAG last sunday-Nobody claimed it's literature award. It's a award to recognised the local authors EFFORRTS. Also, the list comes from Popular 2007 Local Bestsellers.

    whitearrow: Well done! I just saw Popular voting/ contest form in Star Two today and they have this 20% discount cut-out coupon for all the 20 books! until..err..let me check...8/6/2008.

    bibliobibuli said...

    we're splitting semantic hairs here and it doesn't really help. i mentioned "literary" as awards of this nature are referred to generally and often generically as "literary awards".

    let's just refer then to this as a "book award" like the nibbies

    everyone happy?

    nice words whitearrow!

    don't agree with you yusof/ martin that there isn't "literature" on the list. but we can debate this on saturday when you come along to read at seksan's (hmmm how literary do you think your writing is? you're publsihed in snw7 but don't consider snw6 literature?)

    Anonymous said...

    Maybe it would be a "literary award" if merit rather than popularity were being measured?

    Anonymous said...

    Whew! So many comments flying back and forth! Sharon you have unleashed a tornado!
    Firstly, may I congratulate all those authors whose books are on that list. So what if it is a popularity contest? At least it means that readers out there liked what you wrote and have read it.As a local author myself, I would rather have a book that people would want to read, than some high-brow 'literary' book that nobody can identify with.
    I don't think we should quarrel about semantics- popular fiction does not always equate with poor quality writing, and many literary novels are just plain boring!

    Anonymous said...

    "what's the point of writing if nobody reads (and hopefully likes) what you write?"

    See there you go. What's the point of breathing if no one sees you doing it ?

    You write because you're a writer. If you're a writer, you write like you breathe. You write because you have to write. That's why you write. Or at least that's why people used to write. But not any more I think.

    Writers were artists once, but now they're just manufacturers. The idea and concept of writing has changed a lot through the years.

    "literary awards are sponsored by organizations wanting to gain publicity and enhance their image - think of the booker (sponsored by man plc), the orange (sponsored by a mobile telephone network), the IMPAC dublin prize (sponsored by 'the World's Leading Specialists in
    Management Productivity Improvement')"

    I suppose the difference lies in where the emphasis is. The "readers choice award" is a thinly disguised marketing ploy, and the Booker/Orange is a sponsored award with proper nomination and judging and all that.

    Anonymous said...

    "
    "what's the point of writing if nobody reads (and hopefully likes) what you write?"

    See there you go. What's the point of breathing if no one sees you doing it ?
    "

    That's a faulty analogy. The point of breathing is to take in air to live. Whether people see you breathing or not, you still want to live, don't you?

    The point of writing is to express your ideas to - somebody - hopefully somebody other than yourself. Otherwise you're giving life to your words just to see them die. Why bother putting them on a medium as permanent as paper? If the act of writing itself is so precious, why have a "save" button on the computer? After all, the less you save, the more you can write! (although with current hard disk sizes I guess that's not a constraint anymore) (I exclude hereby diary writing, navel gazing and healing - as in feeling venting - writing).

    Just because something is pretty, doesn't mean it shouldn't a purpose.

    -Jen

    Amir said...

    Last night, I became a DJ here in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires.

    I felt quite popular!

    Then I had to buy my own damn drink.

    Anonymous said...

    "The point of breathing is to take in air to live. Whether people see you breathing or not, you still want to live, don't you?"

    Exactly. You don't stop breathing because no one sees you breathe, or no one cares whether you breathe or not. But if no one pays you any attention (or money) you stop writing. Right ? that's what you're implying.

    "The point of writing is to express your ideas to - somebody - hopefully somebody other than yourself."

    Isn't the point of writing to make money ? let me ask you a question, if you made no money at all from writing, would you write as much ? are you in this for the money and/or attention ? or do you write because you enjoy it ?

    And why do you exclude diary writing ? People write in diaries that no one reads. What's the point of keeping a diary then ? remember Anne Frank ? that was writing. You can still feel her innocence after all these years. "In spite of all this, I still think people are good at heart."

    "giving life to your words just to see them die"

    There was once a sculptor who spent years on a sculpture. Then one day he set fire to it. People always said what a waste that was, but it made a powerful statement. In fact it made a lot of statements.

    People are funny that way. I run for fun. Some people are paid to run. Some people run for attention, they enjoy gaining attention from people when they run.

    But I run for nothing. I just like to run. I don't care if no one sees me run, I'm not paid to run, I don't care whether anyone sees me run, does that mean I shouldn't run ?

    No one thinks that way any more. Apparently there should be a purpose for writing. Writing for fun, for nothing and no one, is absolutely unthinkable in this day and age.

    Anonymous said...

    "Isn't the point of writing to make money ? let me ask you a question, if you made no money at all from writing, would you write as much ? are you in this for the money and/or attention ? or do you write because you enjoy it ?"

    Hehe ... I don't write much except in replies to blog posts, and I sure don't get paid for it :)

    Anyway, you're right. People 'should' write for fun. But the post here is about prizes for published writing. So, the writers' motivations here are a bit different, no? I exclude diary writing because it's personal writing and not necessarily meant to be published and to compete for prizes. As for Anne Frank's diary ... well I for one wouldn't like to have my diary published. Too many incriminating details. But I digress ...

    I guess what I was trying to say, in my long ago post (and you can see now from the murkiness of my expressions why I don't get paid to write) is that if you are writing for an audience, as all published writers (I think) are, then ideally your writing should affect somebody. If you're writing for the art of writing, as so many published writers claim to, well it's not quite such great art if it's not appreciated is it (although of course here we can go off into another whole branch of argument as to what constitutes art and you can call me uncultured and I can call you snob and we can call everyone else awfully rude names).

    Anyway, long story short, I did not mean to attack writing for fun. Go ahead and write for fun by all means. I do it myself plenty often. Like right now. But I don't expect to win a prize for my fun.

    And do you have a name for the sculptor? Otherwise you're using fiction to bolster your argument. :)

    Antares said...

    Gee... wish I had so many commenters on MY blog! But where was I when this debate triggered by the Star-Popular Readers Choice Awards began? A whole month ago.... guess I haven't poked my nose in here for a bit! Found it googling for the results which were supposedly announced in The Star on May 24th... have no idea if I won anything... sure could use some prize money! I have no pride when it comes to winning contests. Five years ago I got a 34" TV, a night's stay in a luxury hotel suite,and tickets to a New Year's Eve dinner show - courtesy of Vincent Tan - just for answering three obvious questions! The TV still works.

    bibliobibuli said...

    the winner is actually being announced this p.m., antares. i am supposed to go along but laziness might win out.

    whether you win or not - well done!