SINGAPORE – Housewife Tamilselvi Rajarajan, 52, was heartbroken when her friend, a migrant worker in Singapore, struggled to stay stuck in a dormitory during the pandemic.
Her angst became the starting point for Window, which won first prize in the Tamil short story category at the 15th Golden Point Awards, a creative writing competition for poetry and short stories in Singapore’s four official languages.
A total of 39 winners were announced at the awards ceremony held at The Arts House on Saturday, December 11. Ms. Goh Swee Chen, President of the National Arts Council, presented the awards.
This year’s competition attracted nearly 2,000 entries, the highest number since its inception in 1993 by the NAC. The organizing committee reported an increase in submissions in all categories. Only writers who, at the time of application, have not yet published a solo work in the genre in which they are competing are permitted to submit nominations for the awards.
First-time winner Ms. Rajarajan says: âI’ve always had an interest in writing, but never really pursued it. But when my kids got older I had more time to write and used it as a creative outlet.
She says she would probably use her prize money to publish her writings. First prize winners receive $ 7,000 in cash, in addition to a certificate and trophy. There are cash prizes for other winners.
Ms. Divya Govindarajan’s short story, Handwriting, won first prize in the News in English category. Written from a third-person perspective, the story revolves around the things people inherit and how they help shape their identities.
The 35-year-old supply chain professional says handwriting is her first story. Through the pandemic, she believes people have come to identify a sixth stage of grief in addition to denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance: meaning.
The protagonist of the story deals with the death of his father crossing different worlds, represented in the language of dreams. Along the way, she discovers the meaning and how it changed her.
Writer Clara Chow, who was on the jury, hailed the story as having a “gracious economy that accomplished more than a few longer pieces.”
Ms. Govindarajan says: âThis story came to me almost as a creative birth: my water broke and I have to write.
She hopes to use the prize money to attend creative writing workshops and start a writing practice.
The first prize in the English Poetry category went to Mr. Jerome Lim’s poetic sequence – Hot Wheel Summer, I’m Still Fifteen Doing Online Career Quizzes, Breakfast At Bone Beach, Anthropogenic and Plan For Stupid Hot Days.
The 27-year-old high school literature teacher is also the editor of poetry.sg, an online archive of poetry and criticism from Singapore.
Mr. Lim says his poem streak was “born out of a growing need to assert one’s capacity for compassion.”
In his work, empathy is interrupted by violence, war and climate change, which he believes reflect the contemporary challenges of today’s world.
His poems for the Golden Point Award are his first works since attending the Melbourne Writers’ Festival in 2019.
He plans to use his cash prize to buy gifts to motivate the students in his fourth grade class. He also hopes to help raise funds for the non-profit literary association Sing Lit Station to support the local literary scene and invest in his own writing practice through workshops and poetry classes.
First Prize Winners
English: Divya Govindarajan, for handwriting
Chinese: Lee Tong Gee, for Gone Missing
Malaysian: Ratna Damayanti Mohamed Taha, for Oar In Hand, Boat In Water
Tamil: Tamilselvi Rajarajan, for window
French: Jerome Lim, for Hot Wheel Summer and other poems
Chinese: Lin Yijun, for Spawn and other poems
Malay: R. Azmann A. Rahman, for The Raving Of Tales and other poems
Tamil: Venkatalakshmi Gopalakrishnan (Banu Suresh), for Joy Of Sickness And Grief Of Recovery and other poems