Taking Chances at the 2012 National Public Speaking Competition

The 2012 National Public Speaking Competition organised by the Public Speaking Academy that took place on 11 August 2012 saw the first prize in the Secondary Category go to our own Rachel Chew of O1.

The topic Rachel shared was on taking chances, her passion for theatre, working with words, her bold decision to enroll in SOTA and her rewarding experience thus far.

Congratulations Rachel!

Want to guess what I did just now? I spent the morning creating a soundscape for the production of “The Crucible”. What did that consist of? I was trying to find the right sound for the background of a scene in order to get an audience to believe that they were sitting in the middle of a village in Salem Massachusetts in the 17th Century.

How did I end up doing that on a Saturday morning when I could have been studying for my exams?

A few years ago, I took a chance.

I made an amazing decision to go to SOTA. Everyone thought that I would go to a more mainstream school but I chose instead to go to a school that no one knew a lot about.

I chose to study theater.

Now I had no training in theater before. I barely knew anything about the subject but I loved words and I loved working with words and so I chose to do something that would allow me to work with the things that I loved.

I did not know what I was stepping into. It was completely foreign and it carried through to my first class when we sat around staring at each other wondering what we had gotten ourselves into.

Flash forward three years and I am standing here telling you that what I did was a good thing.

Not taking theater or coming to SOTA of course, but taking chances.

What is so good about taking chances?

Taking chances gives you more to explore and opens up new worlds that you have never imagined. It gives you a whole new world to discover. It does not matter if that world turns out to be one crazy rollercoaster that makes you puke, it is the experience that matters.

You take this rollercoaster and no matter whether you like it or not, you have gone on it and it is not something that you are going to forget anytime soon. Let’s say you do puke. Most people would see that as a failure, a sign of weakness, showing how you could not stomach it. But I see that as a sign of you having pushed your boundaries and finding out what you are capable of doing.

Taking chances also allows you to find out more about yourself. Most people see this in the opportunities that taking chances gives you, the endless possibilities that are out there. But I believe that taking chances and failing lets you learn just as much, if not more, about who you are than succeeding does.

Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” One rarely faces failure unless one steps out of their comfort zone and takes a chance.

Finally, the very act of taking a chance changes you as a person. Taking a chance is liberating. It requires you to take a step into a cupboard, follow a giant bearded man with a magical umbrella, and walk into a witch’s cottage. It is not where you eventually end up but the path that you have chosen. We feel that life lacks choices because we think that life has only one pathway. But we are really just walking through life with blinders on the sides of our faces. It is when you take a chance and rip those blinders off that you realise life is not limited by your lack of choices but your fear of the world around us. Taking chances liberates us from ourselves. We no longer have to care about our own fears, prejudices, mind-sets; it opens up worlds of possibilities, and endless directions we can run towards.

This is not to say that taking chances is easy, it is not. Taking a chance means you also have to deal with the consequences, the opinions of people around you.

When I made the decision to go to SOTA, pretty much everyone I talked to thought I was crazy. My mentality? I might be crazy but I am happy. So go out there, and take your chance.


What the Dickens! – Dickens 2012

‘Lor bless her dear heart, when she has lived as long as I have, sir, and had thirteen children of her own, and all on ’em dead except two, and them in the wurkus with me, she’ll know better than to take on in that way, bless her dear heart! Think what it is to be a mother, there’s a dear young lamb do.’

Apparently this consolatory perspective of a mother’s prospects failed in producing its due effect. The patient shook her head,
and stretched out her hand towards the child.

The surgeon deposited it in her arms. She imprinted her cold white lips passionately on its forehead; passed her hands over her face; gazed wildly round; shuddered; fell back–and died. They chafed her breast, hands, and temples; but the blood had stopped forever. They talked of hope and comfort. They had been strangers too long.

‘It’s all over, Mrs. Thingummy!’ said the surgeon at last.

‘Ah, poor dear, so it is!’ said the nurse, picking up the cork of the green bottle, which had fallen out on the pillow, as she stooped to take up the child. ‘Poor dear!’

‘You needn’t mind sending up to me, if the child cries, nurse,’ said the surgeon, putting on his gloves with great deliberation. ‘It’s very likely it WILL be troublesome. Give it a little gruel if it is.’ He put on his hat, and, pausing by the bed-side on his way to the door, added, ‘She was a good-looking girl, too; where did she come from?’

‘She was brought here last night,’ replied the old woman, ‘by the overseer’s order. She was found lying in the street. She had walked some distance, for her shoes were worn to pieces; but where she came from, or where she was going to, nobody knows.’

The surgeon leaned over the body, and raised the left hand. ‘The old story,’ he said, shaking his head: ‘no wedding-ring, I see. Ah! Good-night!’

If you had guess that the above extract is from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, you are right! Although first published about two centuries ago, the works of Charles Dickens remain enduring and still resonates with us today.

This year marks the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens and this literary celebration, although organised by the Charles Dickens Museum in London, will also be held in many countries around the world in the year long event referred to as Dickens 2012.

From the Dickens 2012 About Page:

Dickens 2012 is an international celebration of the life and work of Charles Dickens to mark the bicentenary of his birth, which falls on 7 February 2012. Institutions and organisations from all over the world are partners of Dickens 2012 and work together to deliver a programme of events and activities to commemorate this very special anniversary.

Although a writer from the Victorian era, Dickens’s work transcends his time, language and culture. He remains a massive contemporary influence throughout the world and his writings continue to inspire film, TV, art, literature, artists and academia. Dickens 2012 sees a rich and diverse programme of events taking place in the run up and throughout the whole of 2012.

In Singapore, the Dickens 2012 events will be held at the Arts House from 7 February 2012 featuring the Launch Event, the Dickens 2012 Film Festival and the Dickens 2012 Literary Talk.

Click here for more details.

Finally, whether you are the uninitiated or an aficionado, you will find this write up on High Browse Online by NLB a useful guide to Dickens.

Story Challenge 2012

Story Challenge 2012

Story Challenge is an original improvisational storytelling competition created in The Theatre Practice and supported by NLB and the Speak Good English Movement. The competition is open to both English and Mandarin speaking participants.

Registration & Participation

1. Registration Deadline: 3rd February 2012
2. All participants are required to register through their respective schools.
3. Individual competition is only limited to the registered participant.
4. Group competition allows for a team of 4 participants, whereby any 3 participants may be chosen to compete at any given time.
5. Each school may send a maximum of 2 Individual & 2 Team entries per Language Category.
6. Age restrictions: Primary school: 7 to 12 years old only; Secondary school: Sec 1 to 5 only (no Senior High level)
7. Registration Fees: $15 per Individual entry; $35 per Team entry.
8. Once an entry has been registered, no further changes in participants’ details will be entertained.
9. Should a Category have insufficient entries, the Organiser reserves the right to withdraw that Category from the competition,

Click here for online registration. For more information, download the Challenge Guide here.


Singapore Writer’s Festival

The Singapore Writer’s Festival in Singapore takes fresh approaches each time. The most memorable Festival I attended was in 2009 when author of rock-star proportions, Neil Gaiman, was featured. Tickets to attend his sessions were free, but in very limited supply due to the overwhelming number of fans in Singapore. Fortunately, I managed to get my tickets by waiting patiently in line at the Arts House and also, gleefully managed to have my copy of The Graveyard Book signed by the said author after the session. The personalised illustration drawn by Neil Gaiman was an unexpected bonus. A tad morbid, but totally apt!

Meeting Neil Gaiman 43 - Autograph Session

Meeting Neil Gaiman 48 - Autograph Session

The Singapore Writer’s Festival of 2011 took on a quite a different approach, but awe inspiring nonetheless. The designated venues of SMU and the surrounding areas of SAM, National Museum and even SOTA, made the Festival more centrally located and much more visible than the Arts House. The many different locations also means that more panel and speaker sessions could be held. Some sessions were packed to the brim while others were cozier and more intimate.

Having the opportunity to meet the erudite persons responsible for succulent reads and larger-than-life characters can be really very enlightening as they shed light on what inspires them and their process of writing. Although many write about fantastical situations, they are really discussing what makes us human and our common needs that make us less different from each other than we think we are.

A common trait that was evident among the many authors and poets at the sessions I attended was a very grounded sense of reality, humility and sincerity. Even the brightest of writers have struggles, deadlines and the need to be disciplined in their craft. Their resounding response to the frequently asked question of how to be a (better) writer / poet / graphic artist is to keep trying. This is a clarion call for me to pick up my pen to continue writing, reading and exploring.

SWF 48 - Today's Highlights

SWF 8 SWF 4 - UnderWriter's Table

Here are some other points of interest that were shared at the Singapore Writer’s Festival 2011 –  I do hope I paraphrased them accurately.

Panel: Because Poetry Matters!

Marc Daniel Nair, Chris Mooney-Singh, Cheran

  • In its brevity and ability to be orally passed down, Poetry has an endurance and ability to seek readership across time.
  • Poetry challenges you to be a human being.
  • Poetry may be economic, however the words are not to be glossed over, but are meant to make us stop and ponder.
  • Poetry is a witness to history.
  • Poetry pushes words further than they ought to go.

Panel: Loti Gone Case in Wonderland

Troy Chin, Sonny Liew, Dave Chua

  • When beginning a graphic novel, think about your story. The story is very important. The drawing is the easy part.
  • You cannot fake the reader.
  • The reader will know if you have enthusiasm.
  • What message do you want to get out?

Meet the Author: Joe Haldeman

Moderated by Terence Chua

  • In the modern day when technology is catching up with imagination, Science Fiction is less about external discovery and more of internal discovery. However, Science Fiction still requires some form of grounding in science.
  • Science Fantasy should be distinguished from Science Fiction.

Panel: Revisiting Singapore’s Literary Heritage

Robert Yeo, Andrew Koh, Philip Holden

  • There is still a preference for non-Singaporean Literature. Bookshops do not tend to prominently display Singapore Literature.
  • The literary curriculum is not bold enough. Contentious and sensitive issues are studied in non-Singaporean books but are more muted in local literature, making it seem boring.
  • Teachers need to raise the Singaporean Canon to the status of the Western Canon.

At the 2011 Singapore Writers Festival, it was announced that the event will take place annually from now instead of every two years. So please do make use of such opportunities to engage with the writers themselves, local and international, because essentially, they write for you.

Heartland Haiku – Poetry Writing Competition

Words Go Round, the annual Singapore Writers Festival’s programme for schools comes around again with a interesting line up of events. One such event that you can take part now is Heartland Haiku – a poetry writing competition that deals with what you love most about the Singapore you know.

Heartland Haiku

You still have about a month to get your creative juices flowing and submit your entry online at this link.

Closing date is 10 February 2012.

All the best!

Singapore Writer’s Festival 2011

Singapore’s Writer’s Festival (SWF) is back! The wide ranging line up takes place between 22nd October (Saturday) and 30 October (Sunday) – a fabulous way to unwind from the End of Year Examinations and rejuvenate your creative juices.

SWF each year takes on a different character. This year, the broad areas that might interest you could be programmes that are ‘Off The Page,‘ ‘In Conversation With’ and ‘Panel Discussions.’

Besides having SWF events taking place in the vicinity of SOTA, we are privileged to begin the festival on 22 October with an exclusive session with Sir Andrew Motion (UK’s Poet Laureate from 1999 to 2009) at SOTA for a time of sharing of his latest works and his writing process with our IB students.

Later on in the day also on 22 October, our very own Mr Ishak Latiff will share the stage with Putu Wijaya in sharing his insight into the realities and high-points for creative writers living and writing in Indonesia and Singapore. He will also be speaking about his motivation and his view of the future of writing in Singapore and Indonesia. This session will take place at the Glass Hall, Singapore Art Museum from 5 – 6pm. 

Another ‘In Conversation With’ event I’m looking forward to is the session with Minfong Ho and Suchen Christine Lim. Our Year 1 students have had an enriching time studying The Clay Marble by Minfong Ho as well as gaining a better understanding of the historical context of Cambodia under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. At this SWF event, Minfong Ho and Suchen Christine Lim will speak on “Mothers and Daughters: On Writing and Remembering”. This session that takes place on 30 October at the Glass House, Singapore Art Museum from 5 – 6pm will focus on A Daughter Remembers published posthumously by Minfong Ho’s own mother, Li Lienfung.

Other intriguing areas of interest that this year’s SWF sharpens its focus on are women writers, travel writers, food writers, and even song writers!

So be sure to check out the delicious spread of quality programmes laid out at our doorstep. Some events are individually ticketed, however the majority of them are free or only require the unlimited all-access festival pass available at sistic for $15.

The closing debate on 30 October is definitely not to be missed.

“This House Would Trade English for Singlish

Venue: The Salon, National Museum of Singapore

Moderator: Eleanor Wong

Curated by: Gwee Li Sui

The well-acclaimed SWF Closing Debate is back! This time, the two teams of mystery speakers will debate on the motion: “This House would trade English for Singlish.” Singlish, Singapore’s colloquial English, has always provoked much controversy in a country torn between its commitment to a global and a national identity. Now who will make the most kilat (polished) argument for or against it? Who will conversely kena whack jialat-jialat (get trounced) for talking too much rubbish? Hopefully, all of them! Join us for a session of side-splitting, nose-bloodied, rowdy fun that will bring this festival to its irreverent close!

A Date with Mr Ishak Bin Abdul Latiff

Books by Ishak Bin Abdul Latiff

Mr Ishak Bin Abdul Latiff is the author of three highly successful collections of short stories written in Malay. “Saga”, his first book, won the Malay Literary Prize in 2007 while his second book “Rona” has been selected as one of the books for Read Singapore 2011. His third book “HP” is his most ambitious to date: 5 stories that are all inter-related. Since he started writing while doing his `A’ levels, Mr Ishak has won awards for his writing, notably the Best Theatre Script in the Malay Youth Theatre Festival in 1983 and the First Prize in the Golden Point Award Competition 2001 in the Malay Short Story category.

Mr Ishak shares, “My journey towards becoming a writer wasn’t smooth-sailing at all. I faced many problems especially being a Malay Language writer in Singapore. I wondered if I would have readers for my books and whether I could sell my books. There were problems getting publishers…”

Interested in becoming a local writer? Do come join us at the Library’s Cool Stuff Zone.


18 May 2011, Wednesday, 1pm – 1.30pm

19 May 2011, Thursday, 1.45pm – 2.15pm (Repeated Session)

Visiting Poet Miriam Nash

Miriam Nash is a poet, workshop leader and coordinator of creative writing projects. Originally from the UK, she has performed and taught poetry in London, Chicago and Singapore, featuring at venues including the Esplanade, the Arts House, Blu Jaz, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the Poetry Café and Young Chicago Authors. In 2010, she coordinated England’s first national youth poetry slam project, WORDCUP2010, bringing students from across the country together to share and compete with their own poetry, in the run up to the football world cup. Her first poetry book will be released this year by flipped eye publishing. For more, visit www.miriamnash.com


Miriam Nash will be visiting SOTA and sharing her poetry with us.

Please take this special opportunity to meet and interact with her.

Event : Library Talk on Poetry (Friday), 2 Sessions

Date: 8 April 2011 (Friday) Term 2 Week 3

Session1 – 1.00pm to 1.30pm
Session 2 – 1.45pm to 2.15pm

Book Club: The Poetry of Teng Qian Xi

Each month, a member of the Faculty of Literature in English will host a book club in the library.

This programme will be launched with a session with Ms Teng Qian Xi.


Ms Teng will be talking about how she started writing and reading a few poems from her poetry collection. She will be discussing the influence of her teachers, music, visual art, social expectations and Singapore’s colonial past on these poems. There will be dead composers, morning assemblies, donkey-riding immortals and lots of birds.



4 March, 2011, Friday



1pm to 1.30pm and repeated at 1.45pm – 2.15pm


Do have a quick bite and join in the fun with us.

See you there.


The views and opinions expressed on this website does not represent those of the School of the Arts, Singapore.
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