Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Announcing a New National Short Story Prize

I also have to post this really exciting news from Eric Forbes :
MPH Group of Companies has collaborated with Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd as our main sponsor and the Malay Mail as our official media partner to create a national short story prize in support of the arts and to encourage Malaysian writers to showcase their literary talents. The Prize is also supported by the Reader's Digest, Seventeen Malaysia, Discovery Channel Magazine, The British Council, the National Library of Malaysia and the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage.

We aim to promote the following objectives through the administering of the Prize:

* To encourage reading and writing in the English language;
* To recognise new writers and give them increased confidence to pursue writing as a career;
* To make more widely known the work of rising literary talents;
* To encourage more people to write about their lives in Malaysia; and
* To highlight a diversity of cultures, voices and viewpoints.

We hope that the creation and administration of a short story competition with substantial prizes, courtesy of Alliance Bank, will help foster talented Malaysian writers to move on to publishing books of their own. It is also a platform to encourage Malaysians to write about their lives in Malaysia, overcoming ethnic, linguistic and cultural differences through the common language of English.

Two categories
The competition is divided into two categories: adults and teens. There is no specific theme for the adults category; for teens, the theme is 'Staying and Leaving.' The Prize is open to Malaysian nationals and residents only. The word count for the adults category is from 2,500 to 7,000 words and 2,000 to 4,000 for the teens category. Stories must be previously unpublished and each writer is only allowed to submit a maximum of two entries.

MPH as administrators of the Prize will select a longlist from the entries received, from which the judges will select a shortlist of six stories. The winner of the adult category will receive RM5,000 cash, a laptop and magazine subscriptions; the other five shortlisted entries will each receive a laptop and magazine subscriptions. The winner of the teens category will receive RM2,000 cash, a subnotebook and magazine subscriptions; the other five shortlisted entries will each receive a subnotebook and magazine subscriptions.

Entry forms
Entry forms are available at all MPH outlets and in MPH Quill and can be downloaded from mphonline.com. The competition is free for MRC members and Alliance Bank cardholders; otherwise, a minimum purchase of RM10 from any MPH bookstores is required. Entries are to be sent by post to MPH Group (M) Sdn Bhd or dropped off at collection boxes in selected MPH outlets. Emailed entries are not accepted.

For full terms and conditions, please log on to: mphonline.com

For other information, please contact:

Ms. Kuah Sze Mei
MPH Group (M) Sdn Bhd
Lot 1, 1st Floor, Bangunan TH
No. 5, Jalan Bersatu, Section 13/4
Petaling Jaya, Selangor
E: szemei@mph.com.my
T: 03-7960 7334

Mr. Eric Forbes
MPH Group Publishing Sdn Bhd
E: mphpublishing@mph.com.my
T: 03-7960 7334
Haha! I can hear you cheering from here!


Amir said...

Good news indeed! But it's not Malaysia's first, surely. It's not even Malaysia's first in English.

bibliobibuli said...

i changed my heading and yes you could be right. there probably have been others in malay though i am not sure what they were. please do tell us.

i am a bit worried about this receipt business - what about the writers who are living outside the country?? i think that is a bump that will need to be ironed out!!

also i think "resident" needs to e defined as it can't just be folks with their PR in hand

Juria said...

Where on mphonline.com exactly? Can't find it! :(

Janet said...

Hi Juria,
Unfortunately the information isn't yet available on mphonline--this is just a pre-event announcement we thought we'd send out so people can have a little headstart in working on their stories.

The submission date officially starts on 27th October. By that time, the entry forms and other information would be available.

If you have specific questions, please write to mphpublishing@mph.com.my

Janet Tay

MPH Publishing

Jordan said...

I'm wondering about the definition of 'resident' too.

Juria said...

Thank you Janet!

Janet said...

Hi Jordan,
We'll be putting up more details later, but just to clarify for now, 'resident' simply means anyone who lives or has a permanent address in Malaysia. I don't think we'd be asking anyone to show their work permit or documentation on PR status! We'll be including this question in our FAQ since it seems to be rather ambiguous.

Janet Tay

Jordan said...

That's great to hear! Thanks so much for the clarification, Janet.

fauzan said...

Salam... i have posted this post on blog. Thanks you for sharing

Geets said...

If submission were to start 27 Oct, when would the closing date be?

Kak Teh said...

ya, am wondering about resident too. For Malaysians not residing in Malaysia how?

Aravin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

It's already been stated there's no specific theme!!!!!!!

Read it properly!!! Read it many times if you have problems comprehending it!!!! Don't be shy to use a dictionary if you don't understand the sentence "There is no specific theme for the adults' category..."

GUO SHAO-HUA said...

i think the requirements are a tad ridiculous. minimum purchase of RM10? why?

and email entries not acceptable? why?

most major literary journals, contests, etc accept electronic submissions. in this day and age, you don't want to kill more trees than necessary, or waste fuel going to the post office or MPH entry box.

i hope MPH can clarify.


bibliobibuli said...

guo - like it costs so much for
a stamp for your short story LOL!

the RM10 rule seems strange to me and i think we mustn't disqualify peeps who live outside the country like kak teh. i am sure though that we can all send a RM10 till receipt to friends who need 'em! (sorry janet for already thinking subversively)

Maxsterism said...

I'd like to add another question to the list: The teenage category is for writers aged between 12 to 20 years old while the adult category is for people aged 21 and above? Just wanted to know. Thanks!

Chet said...

I thought the teenage years are thirteen to nineteen?

Eliza said...

It's a wonderful initiative and am glad the corporate sector is taking an interest. The prizes are lovely and which writer wouldn't benefit from a new laptop? Thanks for the alert, Sharon.

Anonymous said...

Cool ... as for the RM10 rule, why not, buying books is good mah, though reading them after buying is even better ...
As for saving trees, I somehow don't see the judges (whoever they be) reading the submissions on a computer screen. They'd probably print it out anyway so net loss to environment is probably minuscule.
As for excluding Malaysians overseas, why not? (even though I'm overseas at the moment myself) Or why do? I can think of arguments both ways myself ..

Janet said...

Jen--I couldn't have put it better myself. As for clarification on 'resident'--the terms and conditions/rules of the Prize refer to Malaysian nationals and residents, i.e., you're either a Malaysian citizen or you live in Malaysia. We're trying to include more people rather than less, so as long as you're a Malaysian citizen, it's fine, but we also didn't want to exclude people who live in Malaysia because they too would have experienced Malaysian life etc. So really, the eligibility is more inclusive than exclusive in nature.

I hope things will be clearer once the entry form (with a huge chunk of terms & conditions/rules) is up. Will leave a comment on this blog once it's up, for the benefit of anyone interested.

Also--teens category refers to those aged between 13 and 17. 18 and above would be the adults category. Again, all this will be in the entry form.

Anonymous said...

"i think the requirements are a tad ridiculous. minimum purchase of RM10? why?"

Because it's a marketing exercise, that's why. That's fairly obvious, isn't it? despite all the incredible BS about wanting to encourage reading and writing, what they really want to do is increase sales. If they really wanted to encourage reading and writing they'd establish a local Booker. A 10 million (or even 1 million) prize would definitely do that.

"They'd probably print it out anyway so net loss to environment is probably minuscule."

So based on that, I can throw rubbish on the street (or in the ocean,) since one food wrapper only results in a "small net loss to environment", right ? :)

Anonymous said...

First of all, despite all the sniping that's going on, let's congratulate MPH and the backers for having the will to set up the prize. It's not easy setting up something like this, and overseeing it to the end.

Secondly, if people don't like the rules of submission, DON'T submit anything.

Thirdly, since it's so hard to print out your own short story and mail it to MPH, I reckon everyone should ask them to come to your house/office/lovenest and pick it up. If they plot out the route of everyone's venues with a GPS, they'd reduce the enviromental impact by collecting all of it in one trip. Perhaps they can subcontract it out to the Old Newspaper man and get him to pick up your manuscript along with your old newspaper. Jsut make sure your manuscript is properly identified, or he may junk it with the newspapers as well.

Fourthly: so this is a marketing exercise...And the MAN Booker isn't? What is the MAN for anyway?

- Poppadumdum

Anonymous said...

"It's not easy setting up something like this, and overseeing it to the end."

It IS easy. I could do it myself with a blog posting.

The MAN Booker doesn't claim all sorts of silly things. I don't know what the MAN is for. If it's advertising it's very subtle.

I'm not saying they should pick it up (that's silly anyway for all the reasons you mentioned,) just that they should accept email entries.

"Secondly, if people don't like the rules of submission, DON'T submit anything."

Are you saying that if you don't like something you should just keep quiet about it? close one eye right ? :)

Madcap Machinist said...

"If they plot out the route of everyone's venues with a GPS, they'd reduce the enviromental impact by collecting all of it in one trip."

Atcherly no need for GPS. A map will do!

Anonymous said...

Honey, close both eyes if that'd help. :-)

- Poppadumdum

Anonymous said...

i'm thinking of having a lovenest myself.

the nest part is easy but unfortunately and sadly the love part is quite beyond me.

and yes...apart from that loony idea of needing rm10 receipt i think this prize is really great. congratulations to all involved...

ah pong

X said...

Yup, if they straight up offered the money for it, it would be an incredible idea, and that would probably be proof that they genuinely wanted to encourage writers.

As it stands, though, it's a little more than a marketing exercise from them. For those who are still wondering, the mechanics of the contest are very simple -- you make money from the purchases, a little of which you give out as prizes. It's not very much different from me selling something for Rm10, and saying that buying it entitles you to enter a writing contest.

Suppose they get 50,000 entries (it does seem a lot doesn't it, but contests usually draw at least that many entries, I don't know why that is) that means a half million gross profit for them. It's no skin off their back then to give out Rm10,000 or so as prizes.

Madcap Machinist said...

Oh come on, a lot of contests have entry fees. And note that the RM10 purchase is not even a fee per se -- it proves that YOU support MPH.

I have a red card. It's free for me.

That said, I hope the laptops will be Macbook Pros.

Anonymous said...

50,000 entries??...this is not a milo spot the ball contest la woi!

they'd be lucky to get 5 really good entries (with may be 120 rubbish).

so forget that stupid rm10 receipt. this is embarrasing.

ah pong

X said...

Yes it's a fee. A fee doesn't have to be money. Buying something from a store isn't necessarily proof of support. The point is, why is this multi-million dollar company doing something that I can do in my house? why aren't they giving the money away? it's not wrong to have a writing contest, but why have all the sanctimonious BS? "we're having a writing contest. Buy this, and you can enter. You have to write a 7000-word story."

That's it. Why have all this laughable crap, why assume all your customers are stupid enough to fall for it?

"I have a red card. It's free for me."

Right. They can make and give away tens of thousands of ringgit worth of red cards, but they won't spend 10K on a writing contest.

MacBook Pros? I won't hold my breath I think :)

X said...

Ah Pong -

You'd think so wouldn't you? I always thought that. My experience (from doing software for tabulating and analyzing contest entries) is that you will get a lot of entries, at least tens of thousands. A lot of them would be invalid, some would be written, some would be really short, some would be really long, some would be in Malay. Most will be crap. Out of the tens of thousands you will find maybe ten worth reading. All will have bought something though, so they won't lose even if most of them are ineligible.

They can't forget the Rm10 receipt because, well then what would be the point of the contest? :)

Madcap Machinist said...

X you're not making any sense.

If you purchase something from a store, you are supporting it and the people who work for it. What's the big deal? Instead of buying a magazine at the corner shop, buy one at MPH and you get a receipt. I really don't see my local Kiddies Store having a writing contest anytime soon...

It's a contest, not a giveaway. They're a business not a charity. They can't give away something for nothing: what will the shareholders think?

And the red cards (MRC membership) are not free (it's been so long ago I don't remember how much for), but I've gotten my money's worth back and more from free Quills and book discounts.

Anonymous said...

MPH is very smart. By putting up the RM10 fee, it separates the whingers from the real writers. While the whingers are wasting time here moaning about the rules, the real writers are writing/finishing/polishing their works for submission.

Those sneaky MPH people!!!

Madcap Machinist said...

anon@5.42: quite right, the real writers would have just spent 10 bucks on pen and paper to do it.

X said...

"If you purchase something from a store, you are supporting it and the people who work for it."

Only as a side effect. If I purchase something from a store, it's because I want the product, not because I want to support the store or enter a contest.

"Instead of buying a magazine at the corner shop, buy one at MPH and you get a receipt."

Except that the corner store is at the corner, and MPH is many miles away.

Anonymous said...

Wow, really, RM50,000 entries? You mean there's so much profit to be made? Cool!

I wonder why MPH never thought of this before. I wonder why not more companies think of it?

Seems easy money, right?

All you need is some suckers to read 50,000 entries - but as most of them will be crap that shld be easy enough, just read the first few lines and then feel free to bin them! - and then choose a few of the less crap ones to win!


Now that the secret's out I guess we'll be drowning in writing contests.

- Roti Canai

X said...

madcap -

So someone who uses a laptop is not a real writer? :)

"They can't give away something for nothing: what will the shareholders think?"

Indeed :)

Chet -

He who has the gold makes the rules apparently. It's their contest, I suppose they can say teens are 50 if they want.

Madcap Machinist said...

"Only as a side effect. If I purchase something from a store, it's because I want the product, not because I want to support the store or enter a contest."

Motive should not be confused with effect. If you are giving them a profit, then you are supporting them. But let's just drop this point...

"Except that the corner store is at the corner, and MPH is many miles away."

Now that is a valid complaint. Suppose you can always open an account at Alliance Bank :)

X said...

Roti -

They don't need to read all of it. Most will be crap, they'll scan the first few lines, if it's dead, it's dead. Given that most will be dead, they'll eventually whittle it down to a very small list (maybe ten or so) which they will actually read and award the prizes for.

Madcap Machinist said...

"So someone who uses a laptop is not a real writer? :)"

I never said that. :)

X said...

"Motive should not be confused with effect. If you are giving them a profit, then you are supporting them."

I suppose it depends on why you patronize a particular store.

"I never said that. :)"

"the real writers would have just spent 10 bucks on pen and paper to do it."

This seems to imply that anyone who doesn't spend ten bucks on pen and paper isn't a real writer :)

Oh btw,

"MPH Group of Companies, Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd, The Malay Mail, Reader's Digest, Seventeen Malaysia, Discovery Channel Magazine, The British Council, the National Library of Malaysia and the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage"

Together they must be worth what, a few hundred million? and the publicity from this exercise is worth what, a million? and what's the prize money again? and on top of that you have to actually buy something.

There have got to be better terms :P

Yusuf said...

Good news indeed.

However I am a little concerned about the term resident.

Personally I consider myself to be a resident of Malaysia - I've been here over 4 years and have no intent of going elsewhere, built a house etc.

But I do not have residency status but exist on a spouse visa.

Can I apply?

Madcap Machinist said...

"This seems to imply that anyone who doesn't spend ten bucks on pen and paper isn't a real writer :)"

It would seem that way, wouldn't it? But it's certainly not what I think. :)

I'd say a real writer doesn't need a laptop. But then why would they join this contest? :)

Yusuf said...

What is a 'real' writer? What is an unreal writer?
Why wouldn't a 'real writer' enter the contest, do let us know please.

amused fifteen-year-old said...

leave it to malaysians to find something to argue about in the rules & regulations of a writing contest. :)

i think this is a good idea, nonetheless. i would have thought it would be more about the quality of the stories rather than the authors themselves.

if the best story happens to be one written by a malaysian overseas, or someone who lives in malaysia but is not by legal definition a malaysian, you can't tell me everyone is going to gasp and exclaim, "BUT HE/SHE'S NOT A 'REAL' MALAYSIAN! TAK IKUT PERATURAN! BATAL!"

we're not that kiasu.


right? :s

Madcap Machinist said...

yusuf -- I meant if real writers don't need laptops why would they join a contest to win laptops. I'm just being flippant; think nothing of it.

(Of course, you can also see... real writers won't argue about prizes. They do it for the props)

oh the real writer thing -- ask anon@5.42, he started it!

Anonymous said...

Madcap, you pointing finger at me? You pointing at me? :-)))


Madcap Machinist said...

anon: yes yes you!

Anonymous said...

Aargh, you have smelly fingers! Where have you pulled them out from?? Don't touch me! Don't touch me!! :-)))

Madcap Machinist said...

anon I don't think you really want to know..... :))

bibliobibuli said...

yusuf you can enter. no problem! resident means you live here. and you do. (i was talking to my mph friends tonight and the idea is this is as open a competition as possible)

Anonymous said...

Since no one's said it, Let me do so: Thank you MPH, and all the people and organisations behind this prize. I wish you every success and glory. Regardless of what your reasons for setting up this prize are, I'm sure you'll do your best to separate the wheat from the chaff, and find the best stories.

- Poppadumdum

Janet said...

Please note that the entry form for the short story competition can now be downloaded at this link:


Anonymous said...

free for alliance bank members and mph members = more than a million people

x is mistaken, running this contest at that scale is not easy

and the mph red cards are not given free

i will be surprised if it cost less than rm100k to execute the entire project

Anonymous said...

50,000 entries?

assuming 1% of them are quality writers

where are these 500 writers?

where are their books?

i think more likely 500 entries


Anonymous said...

a paperback fiction cost rm35

spending rm10 in 6 months is not that unreasonable after all

i read about the prizes, 12 laptops in total to be won!

Anonymous said...

Where did you read about it? it's STILL not on the website.

Anonymous said...

it is already up la

you can find it here


and the entry form here


try and see

GUO SHAO-HUA said...

i've just read the rules and terms. firstly, who are the judges? i think MPH should give at least an indication of the background of these judges, etc, if they don't want to reveal their identities, for obvious reasons. like, are they professional writers, published authors, academics?

and secondly, it doesn't expressly say if the copyright of the work remains with the author. just that the author is free to publish it anywhere else. and what does "adapt" mean? i can understand "edit" and "abridge", but "adapt"?

Anonymous said...

Who do people think SHOULD be the judges? Gui Shao-Hua? Any suggestions. Obviously no one shld expect international names like Salman Rushdie to be on the team, but if you had to pick from locak writers , academics etc, who would you choose? And what do you think qualifies someone to be a judge for this sort of contest?

Anonymous said...

I think Siti Nurhaliza should be a judge because she's always talking about herself in the third person, as though she's a character in a story, so she'd be highly qualified to judge others' stories...("Pagi tadi Siti pergi ke KLCC, tapi Siti tak dapat beg LV Siti suka...") :-)

Sad, isn't it, that bitching about the rules of a writing contest has generated more comments than for the posting for "42 Writers Protest Detention Without Trial"

I'm guilty of this too! Ah well...


GUO SHAO-HUA said...

why is asking for clarification on the rules being equated with bitching?

are my questions not valid? if not, why?

did i ask for the names of the judges? did i, at any time, say the judges have to be "international"?

Anonymous said...

"did i ask for the names of the judges? did i, at any time, say the judges have to be "international?" said guo shao-hua.

No he didn't, but then no one had said he did. Anonymous was just commenting generally that no one would expect internationally acclaimed authors to judge this contest.

I thought he/she posed an interesting enough question.

I mean, at least it allows us to move away from talking abt the rules and regulations while still discussing this contest.

- Roti Canai

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Eric. Sorry you don't get a lot of good words for the good things you do.

Anonymous said...

I thought I'd have a look at the comments about this blog post and was surprised at what a lot of time seems to have been wasted on petty griping.

There is one person in particular who sounds like an obnoxious ass.

But I suppose it's better than NO comments at all?

It would probably be best if the organisers ignore this blog post and the comments, and just concentrate on the entries.

You can't please everyone and some people will find fault with everything. Life would be meaningless to these losers otherwise.

It seems to be the way now to complain constantly. I suppose it saves people the bother of actually doing anything.

But who knows - perhaps those who have made the ugliest noises in the "comments" page will soon be submitting deathless prose that will knock the socks off Mr Eric Forbes. That would be refreshing!

Good luck to all the writers who intend to send it entries.

- Penelope

GUO SHAO-HUA said...

typical Malaysian attitude, isn't this?

don't question anything, just follow the rules. otherwise it's just "bitching" and "petty griping." and all those who ask any questions are "losers" and "obnoxious asses."

this is what our sorry education system has turned us into. don't ask questions. ignore what you don't like to hear.

again i ask, how are my questions not valid?

so far no one has answered this, countered my questions point by point. all people like Penelope ever does is resort to name-calling and assume a high and mighty righteous position.

if you want to criticise me, point out why my questions should not be asked. don't be an obnoxious ass yourself.

so far, no one from MPH has bothered to answer me either. copyright has been a subject of endless discussion even on this blog, and that's why i brought up the thing about "adapt", etc.

i seriously doubt most of the people complaining about my questions have read the entire rules and regulations themselves.

Anonymous said...

Hahahah, Guo Shao-Hua is getting all hot and bothered, how sexy!

Daphne said...

To answer Guo Shao-Hua's question about adaptation of a story. As far as I know, this refers to changing how a story is presented without actually altering its content (subject matter, characters, themes etc).

For example,a novel that is turned into a stageplay is said to be adapted for the stage. The point of view may be changed from one character's to another's. Sometimes, the setting (place and time) might be altered.

How exactly a short story might be adapted would, I imagine, depend on the story itself as well as the editor's approach towards it.

Hope this helps.

bibliobibuli said...

anon at 6.14 is right. eric and janet don't get much thanks for what they do. they really are fighting a corner to encourage local writing and encourage an interest in books and this comes from the heart. they do it from within a big organisation because ... how else would they have the resources? i must also say thanks to datuk ng, CEO of MPH, for listening to them and giving them the space.

a writing community grows because individuals care and make an effort, and these guys are right up there.

Anonymous said...

yes, the effort should be commended, of course. yet also, when you want to do it, do it well and do it properly.

but there's a mentality here that if someone's doing a thankless job, then we should just accept whatever is dished out and be grateful for it. but to really build on things and improve, we need to collectively look at things objectively, and ask the right questions. that's how things can be improved.

what MPH is doing is only the first step. the first step is always important, and to go to the next level, we need to improve on what needs to be fixed.

such an effort like this writing competition will definitely be open to criticism of one kind of another. the organisers need to take things constructively, if they're seriously going at it for the long term.

look at Amir's Matahari Books for example. it's done very nicely. there's always room for improvement, of course, but the whole effort is well thought-out. Matahari's books actually stand out among other local publications. you might not see it now, but i predict Matahari Books is a far more important effort than anyone thinks right now. it sets an example of how to go forward, and definitely others will, or HAVE TO, follow.

so where does MPH want to take the writing competiton? it states its objectives clearly, but what direction does it hope to go?

for instance, i know one established author who is dead set on participating in this competition. is this going the way of the old NST short story contests, where K.S. Maniam kept winning? or should it be an "amateurs" competition, so that new voices can be heard, and the judges are not pressured to give the top prizes to more polished work from established writers?


X said...

Directly quoted from the entry form :

"4.2 In the event that an official MPH-Alliance Bank Short Story
Prize Anthology containing the shortlisted entries is
published the author or publisher will be deemed to have
granted the rights for such publication and distribution..."

You will never see a sen in royalty from this.

"6.7 The Prize Committee reserves the right to cancel this
competition at any stage, if deemed necessary in its opinion,
and if circumstances arise outside of its control."

This means exactly that, they can just cancel it at any stage if they feel like it. They can, for instance, cancel it at the last stage, and still have the right to publish every manuscript they receive.

"6.8 The Prize Committee reserves the right to refuse entry to the
Prize for any reason at its absolute discretion."

We won't let you enter because we don't like you :)

"6.9 The entrant agrees to obtain MPH's prior written consent not
to be unreasonably withheld before taking on any of its own
press or publicity activity relating to their involvement in the Prize."

This means you need to get written permission from MPH before you mention that you are taking part in it.

So much for free speech then, eh ? :P

Anyway just a reminder, if you're entering don't blog about it without the express written permission of MPH, otherwise you might find yourself disqualified :)

Anonymous said...

Who says Malaysians don't read? They love reading rules and regulations! I wonder why.