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The journey to realising the All In! Young Writers Festival

21 Feb 2017 [Events, Literacy, Literature]

For someone with a teaching background, it was challenging to make the transition from academia to project management. I was grateful that my media background came in handy when I joined NBDCS, and especially when I was tasked to manage the All In! Young Writers Festival, immediately after its run in 2014.

Inarguably, it was daunting to manage a festival of such scale and reach, largely because I knew only a few contacts within the industry and among practitioners at that time, given that my previous work involved mostly talking to parents, teaching creative writing to young children, and auditing pre-schools. That, and running a children’s magazine.

To start planning, I was advised to follow a template, which had seminars, panel discussions and plenary sessions on Day 1, and workshops on Day 2. The upstart in me wanted to rebel and demanded to be heard, but mastery never came from bullish temperament, and so I decided to follow the directors’ advice to replicate what has already been proven effective in recent editions of the festival.

Managing All In! was de javú for me.

In 2012, I replaced my boss in a panel with NY author Fran Lebowitz at All In! held at Rendezvous Hotel. Two years later, I was project-managing the very same festival. Although more anecdotal than providential, it was interesting to be at both sides of the proverbial All In! fence at some point of my involvement with it. As a speaker, I observed how the festival was run from an outsider’s point of view, and now as its manager, I’ve taken those observations and used them to hopefully improve All In!, one edition at a time.

After being run for some time at another venue, I heard that the [email protected] then was well on its way to reopening its branch at Orchard Gateway mall along Somerset Road. I realised that if I could not explore too much on programming, it would be interesting to play around with logistics for the festival.


After discussions with the [email protected], All In! 2015 welcomed a few firsts:

  • An international speaker from Bangkok, who flew in and out on the same day;
  • Public fringe activities were conducted in communal areas of the library;
  • Free publicity courtesy of [email protected]’s video wall and the glass wall panels that separated the rooms from the rest of the library;
  • Tote bags were supported by Orchard Gateway and a few of its tenants, and
  • Modestly better ticket sales than previous years, with lesser complimentary tickets given out.

Although organising the festival at a new venue provided some challenges, All In! 2015 proved that the festival had massive potential and had left a lasting mark on its target audience.

By 2016, All In! took a bigger leap and introduced other innovations in both programming and logistics:

  • It introduced new untapped genres like game writing, music and academic writing;
  • It increased concurrent sessions to 3, from the previous 2 sessions, since it had more rooms to use;
  • It introduced student-panellists and moderators, which proved to be popular among delegates;
  • It actively involved more students not just as delegates, but as student-journalists, photographers, videographers and social media writers; and,

All In! produced three programme segments on music, essays and films, with support from the National Youth Council, as well as a masterclass for older learners under then the Media Development Authority.

This year, I am both anxious and excited that All In! is moving to *SCAPE as its new venue!

​Both a space and a statement in itself, I feel that being housed there will prove to be pivotal for the festival, both in delivery and in programming potential.

This year’s run has a few firsts as well:

  • Seven films directed and/or produced by 13-25 year-old students will be screened as part of a film exhibition supported by the National Youth Council;
  • Close to 20 sessions, masterclasses and workshops at All In! 2017 are parked programmes by partners such as Puttnam School of Film (LaSalle), Singapore Writers Festival, BananaMana Films, Kobo Rakuten and many others, enriching programming even more;
  • A conference is parked within the conference, through a partnership with AIESEC Singapore, a youth-led organisation whose history and ideals of social change through youth empowerment is a refreshing welcome to All In!; and
  • A book of insightful essays from YOUTHspeak 2016 will be launched, and is All In!’s first festival publications

The festival is also celebrating its 10th anniversary next year, and although it has the history to boot, what I like about it is how fresh it still feels even after a decade of bringing industry and young writers together, to interact and learn from each other’s experience.

I can only wonder what the future holds for the festival. Regardless of whether I’d still be around to see it celebrate its 25th year or beyond, I am grateful that I was given such a fun project to work on.

See you all at the All In! Young Writers Festival 2017!  Don't forget to check out the full programme line-up at

- Carlo Venson Peña ([email protected]

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A Peek Into the Life of an Awards Manager

14 Feb 2017 [Awards]

I have been with the Book Council for nearly three years, and have been running the awards programmes since then. It’s been a pretty wild ride, especially in my first year when I was thrown in the deep end and made to run the newly-expanded Singapore Literature Prize as soon as I joined.

“Awards Management” is a weird sort of job description that can’t really be trained for. It combines logistics, event planning and management, creative design, public relations, publishing, sponsorship canvassing, website design, marketing, project management, coding, and even occasionally being a personal assistant in a strange mix that no one ever truly understands until they actually do it. I attended an awards management conference last year, full of awards programme managers from around the world.  We were asked to raise our hands if we had trained for the job we now had, and not a single hand went up. We were asked to raise our hands if we had actively sought the job of “awards management”, and again, not a single hand went up. We had all started in one of the jobs listed at the beginning of this paragraph, and then fallen into awards management by complete accident.

The most important thing I’ve learned about awards management is that there are a lot of moving pieces that need to be kept moving at the right times, turning them on and off as required. Missing a step may not stop the machine in its tracks, but it will likely make a horrifyingly loud and embarrassing sound that everyone will notice (*koff* Oscars *koff*).

The Book Council’s newest award, the AFCC Asian Children’s Book Award by Genting Singapore, is similar to the Book Council’s other awards in terms of how it’s run and managed, but quite different in terms of scope and scale. We have two other awards that are Asia-wide (the Scholastic Asian Book Award and the Scholastic Picture Book Award), but this is the first Asia-wide award for published work. Our partner for this award, Genting Singapore, has been great at helping the Book Council get the word out across Asia (marketing!). And this showed in the record-breaking number of submissions we received: 245 entries from 25 countries, ranging from Indonesia, Japan, Korea, and Singapore in the east, through Bangladesh, India, and Russia, all the way to Cyprus, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey in the west.

This is what six copies of 245 titles look like when all stacked up next to an increasingly chubby Awards Manager.

These books were mailed to our five incredibly capable judges (who you will get to meet in April, when they announce their shortlist) in ten very large cartons (logistics!). They will read every book and collectively decide which book they think is best deserving of the prize for best Asian picture book. The winners will receive SG$30,000: SG$10,000 for the writer(s), SG$10,000 for the illustrator(s), and SG$10,000 for the translator(s). In the case where no official translation exists, the SG$10,000 translator prize will instead converted into a grant for the publisher to publish a translation of the winning book.

Translation is something that’s very important to the Book Council, and we are always looking for ways to promote it. Asia is a very large and very varied place, with a multitude of languages, and the only way to share those stories with others is to translate them into languages others may understand. If we can understand each other’s stories, maybe we can understand each other a little better too.

The shortlist will be announced on 20 April, and the winner will be announced at Indonesia Night of this year’s Asian Festival of Children’s Content (event planning and management!), at which point I can breathe a little easier.

For a short time, anyway. I’ll soon have to start the process for the next slate of awards for the following year (project management!).

- Adan Jimenez ([email protected]

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Food, fantasy, and Indonesia…

24 Jan 2017 [Art, Children’s, Events]

Last year, as part of the festivities for NBDCS' literary festival for children's books, the Asian Festival of Children's Content, we brought back our popular online illustration contest, the afccSKETCH, to encourage both budding and established illustrators from around the world to submit creative and original artworks.

To our (happy) surprise, we received overwhelming response and enthusiasm from many talents from around the world! In 2016, we garnered 102 submissions from 90 participants from 16 countries, including Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, India, Canada, Malaysia, China, and Croatia. The quality of the artworks were high, and evidently, our Facebook followers thought so, too, with many of them sharing and 'liking' each of the illustrations. 

This year, we're bringing afccSKETCH back, again. If you're keen, all you need to do is submit an original illustration revolving around one or all of these 3 keywords: food, fantasy, and Indonesia. Winners of both the Judges' Choice and Voters' choice will win a pass to this year's AFCC 2017's Writers and Illustrators Conference (worth SGD350 each). 

For rules and guidelines on afccSKETCH 2017, please click here
To view last year's submissions, click here.

Some of the beautiful artworks we received last year for afccSKETCH 2016.

Remember, the deadline is 15 March 2017! We look forward to receiving your wonderful artworks :) 

- Mabel Lee ([email protected]

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