Dave Seow has been writing children’s picture books for more than 13 years! Not only has he produced notable works like The Littlest Emperor, Monkey: The Classic Chinese Adventure Tale and the Sam, Sebbie and Di-Di-Di series, but he is also a champion for local writing. In person, he is every bit as funny and quirky as his well-known book Soup on My Fly. Author Pauline Loh, whose new book Not in the Stars (shortlisted for the Scholastic Asian Book Award) will launch at this year's Asian Festival of Chidlren's Content, catches up with him.
Pauline: When was Soup on My Fly written and what was your inspiration for this story?
Dave: This story was written back in 2005 and it was inspired by my niece’s and nephews' quest for a pet. By the way, they still don't have one.
Pauline: How do you feel now that Soup on My Fly has been made into a play? Were you involved in any part of the conceptualising of the performance (other than supplying the story)?
Dave: Soup on My Fly had been dramatised before at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) in 2012, but that was more of a storytelling/performance art piece. I was thrilled to see the preview performance of the play. Storybook Theatre and Learning Connections, who produced the piece, did ask me for feedback on the production but other than that I was not involved in any other way.
Pauline: Because of your creative streak, it is probably not so difficult for you to think up a story. But how was it, as a new author, trying to get your first ever book noticed and accepted by a publisher?
Dave: Well, it really isn’t that easy to come up with stories! A lot of people think it is. I wrote my first stories without any thought of having them published. I just wrote them to entertain my niece and nephews. As you know, kids are the most honest critics around and if they don’t like something they won’t mince their words. They can be quite brutal. Luckily for me, my niece and nephews loved the stories. Then, my family suggested that I approach an acquaintance in the publishing industry. I was lucky that I was offered a contract after that very first meeting but that was an exception, not the rule.
Pauline: Do you think you will ever run out of story ideas?
Dave: I still have a lot of ideas in my head and I always will. But whether they will be published remains to be seen. I certainly hope they will be some day.
Pauline: Which aspect of children’s book writing and publishing do you find most exciting? The dreaming of a new story, the writing, book reading to children, promoting the book, or finding new ways to interpret the published book?
Dave: I enjoy the creative process and thinking up new story ideas based on something I’ve seen or heard. It could be something silly. Hey, see, just by saying that, I’ve just thought of a character named Something Silly and he’s got a sister called Suddenly Scary. You can get ideas and inspiration from anywhere. I also enjoy school visits because you get a chance to meet your readers who always seem thrilled to meet you. But maybe that’s also because an author visit is different from the normal lessons they have.
Pauline: What advice would you give to rookies who have written their first children’s story?
Dave: Focus on your story, not on getting published. What I notice about aspiring authors, especially those who have written their first stories, tend to have an idealised concept of publishing. I always say that writing for children is no fairy tale. It’s tough, very tough, and not for the faint of heart. If you hope to be published, you require a great deal of patience. If you don’t have any, then you shouldn’t be in the business. Aspiring authors should join critique groups in order to have their stories critiqued before sending it to publishers or agents. They have to be prepared for massive rewrites. They should also expect a fair share of rejection. And if they are still passionate about writing after all that, then they may just find themselves on the road to publication.
Thanks Dave! Actually, this interview is just an excuse for me to enjoy your humour. I like Something Silly and Suddenly Scary already!