Raman says that despite the successes of our overseas published authors :
... these successes are just here and there. Sporadic. Intermittent. There's no pattern to suggest that things are different now. In any case, these are writers who live overseas (most of the time and make occasional visits to our shores to press skin with local readers to promote their books or to have face-time with their families), and are published there. Not here.Eric points to the need to put in place the right building blocks if you want publishing locally to thrive :
You need writers, literary agents, good editors and publishers and a reading public. When local works don't sell, publishers don't invest. After all, publishing is about ringgit and sen. About the bottom line. It's not about charity. Or, heaven forbid, the art of writing and the message delivered.(I wrote on this here.)
He points to the fact that although he receives manuscripts, few of them are of publishable quality. Most local publishers want almost-ready-to-print scripts and just don't have the resources to work with a writer closely on rewriting, so that the authors themselves must learn to self-edit and/or employ the services of a freelance editor.
Raman talks about how :
There are thousands of stories that tell us who we are as Malaysians ... They need to be told. They need to be written. But we don't have enough writers. We don't have enough people writing. We need stories about ourselves. Our history.and how his approach is not to find new writing but to nurture a group of writers and bring them up to publishable standard, as he did with the three authors of News from Home.
I must say that overall, I found the article more negative than it needed to be. There is plenty wrong, plenty that isn't happening yet, but I believe that things are improving, albeit slowly, and both Eric and Raman (among others) are playing a very necessary part in all that.
And despite what Raman says (I think he's unfairly dismissive) one of the biggest shots in the arm our local writing community has had is seeing other Malaysians doing so well on the international stage.
These authors too are major encouragers of local writers, sharing their thoughts about writing through articles for magazines and blog posts, and taking part in local writer events including Readings@Seksan. Perhaps the most important contribution they've made is to show Malaysian writers "Look this is possible" ... and of course they set the standard.
Nope, I won't be pessimistic yet.