The Bland Taste of Brand's Essence

Traditionally, around this time of the year, we would order Brand's Essence of Chicken as giveaways.  They have a fantastic range, with options to choose the essence with added ingredients like American Ginseng, Cordycep, Lycium, Tangkwei and Vitamin B Complex.  For corporate giveaways, we generally go for the basic one, taken by many to strengthen to body and help relieve fatique.
B=Brands Essence of Chicken

This year, however, the first batch of Brand's Essence of Chicken we received (Batch: November 2013) taste diluted, prompting us to halt further orders to clarify the issue with Brand's Customer Service.  They assure us that the extraction method and nutritional values remains the same, and in fact, there were feedback that some people might not like the taste of chicken and actually wanted a blander taste.

If this is the case, it may be better for Brand's to market this lesser-taste form under a sub-category, because our first impression was that the whole stuff was being diluted somehow, somewhere in the manufacturing process.  Whereas before, we were able to add warm water to the original version and still enjoy it, now it already tasted quite close to plain water straight out from the bottle.  Individual taste preference aside, when we wish for chicken soup or broth, we prefer it with the taste of chicken, as that is part of the appreciation process.  It is small consolation to be told that the chicken essence remains as nutritious as before.  While we appreciate its lower cholesterol values as compared to chicken broth which can be oilier even when skin is removed, we aren't ready for tasteless chicken soup when the word 'chicken soup' itself conjures anticipation of good taste with its aroma providing a sense of comfort.

For those who appreciated a brander form of Brand's Essence of Chicken, though, here is an extract from their website -

Quality Chickens from Temperature-Controlled, Contamination-Free Farms
All BRAND’S® Essence of Chicken products are made with chickens supplied by leading poultry suppliers, reared in a pollution-free, temperature-controlled, and safely enclosed farm closely monitored by computers. Unlike traditional open chicken farms, these chickens are not exposed to other aviary animals, eliminating the risk of contamination.

Each chicken is inspected by a government veterinarian to ensure that it is healthy before it is processed in the GMP, ISO 9001 QMS, HACCP and Halal certified slaughterhouse. Chickens are then rigorously inspected by state-accredited veterinarians before a final check by a BRAND’S® quality assurance personnel to ensure the highest quality and hygiene before it is processed in BRAND’S® factory.






Pineapple Cake - Sunny Hill remains tops

At a recent inaugural fair held in Singapore, 13 vendors offering Taiwanese pastries, fine quality tea and tea ware were showcased. The stalls were selected from an award list to fly in from Taiwan.

Since we often have overseas visitors asking for gift recommendations, we went down to check it out.

We zoomed in on pineapple cakes, an all-season favorite, and tried the sampling from two stalls but couldn’t make any purchases as the pineapple paste tastes unnatural. Many brands of pineapple cakes use a mixture of winter melon and pineapple for its fillings, claiming that a proper mix creates a filling that tastes the best.

For the discerning, nothing but authentic pineapple filling would do.

At one corner was a pineapple cake vendor with a colorful display of pineapple cake boxes and packages. The sales personnel, polished in FAQs, handled questions like “How does your brand compare with Sunny Hill’s?” with alacrity, assuring that only the best ingredients are used; and “Why aren’t you offering samples?” claiming that when exposed to air, the pineapple cake becomes dry and hard, and customers may think that’s how it really is.

In place of samples, brochures depicting the freshness of the pineapple cakes were offered.

Usually, we don’t buy unfamiliar brands based on trust. In fact, two customers walked off upon finding out that there was no samples. But this fair was backed by reputable agencies, and the price they (dare to) charge was quite close to that of well-reputed brands.

So we swiped the credit card and what follows was an experience that left us perplexed and bewildered.

Tricks or Treats.. our testers’ comments on brand "X"

Tester 1:
"Taste horrid. Quick, give me the KFC Portugese tart! I need to override the lousy taste in my mouth!"

1. Chao-tar (Burnt) Pineapple cake
Overbaked crust

Tester 2:
" Burnt crust.”
"Oh my goodness, where's the pineapple? It's mostly dough! And the dough is too flaky."

2. 1st bite=less filling
Stingy filling

Tester 3:
"Stingy filling."
"Did they use the pineapple juice to make other product? No taste of pineapple!”
"Worse than Mr. Bean's pineapple tart (S$6.80 for 6 pieces)."

3. Pineapple cake.. this is one sad puppy.
More crust plied away before this much filling revealed

Tester 4:
"Poorest dough of all pineapple tarts ever tasted!"

In a nutshell (pineapple shell in this case), this stuff was close to inedible.

4. Pineapple Cake shown in brochure
In the brochure, generous filling

The crust on the next 3 tested looks less dark and patchy but still has the dried up taste that makes one cringe.

Whoever does the stuffing was quite stingy about it, unlike what the brochure shows.

Some variance in taste is understandable but who loves over-baked, burnt-out stuff?

We are not sure what happens here.

The company claims strict QC control. So if it is not an issue with this batch, did we just encounter a version of food fraud, where food items are misrepresent?

The contents certainly doesn’t match up with the ad at all.

The organizer hastened to assure that this is not the case – the brand did well in the Taiwan market.

All we know is it’d be a PR disaster if we had purchase this in bulk (as we almost did) and give it out as corporate gifts without first testing it for ourselves. For tourists, there is nothing more inconvenient than to cart heavy stuff in their luggage only to find the treat was one big disappointment.


So what would we recommend for corporates gifts, celebrative goodies, and edibles for tourists to bring home?

Taking into account that this is not a definitive survey, but an opinion piece where we were asked to share our experience, and that so far, we have only managed to sample 5 brands of Taiwan pineapple cakes, in terms of authenticity, Sunny Hill is the only one that meets the hallmark of what constitutes a good pineapple cake. For pineapple tarts, we like the “golf-ball” ones from LE Café. If packaging image matters, Sunny Hill may be more suitable.

Sunny Hills pineapple cakes - what’s notable?

♠  Nantou’s indigenous pineapples
We like the chewable moist chunks and fibre (good for health) in the texture of the filling.

♠  New Zealand butter
Light buttery flavor that doesn’t overwhelm.

♠  Japanese gourmet flour
For superior taste and texture.

♠  Plump-yolked eggs
Adds rich flavor to the crust.

♠  No preservatives or artificial flavorings
The taste of the pineapple may change slightly according to seasons, which is how it should be when the filling is not covered up by artificial processes.

♠  Not overly sweet
Fructose, saccharin, sugar - the less the better.

♠  Big
Each brick-shaped cake is equivalent to 2 – 3 pineapple tarts.  This certainly helps to ward off hunger for times when we get so busy we go without meals.

♠  Generous pineapple filling
Many bakeries underfill, resulting in an all pastry taste.

♠  Actual pineapples used for the filling
Not mixed with candied winter melon.

♠  Halal-certified
Good as multi-national corporate gifts.

♠  Quality Control
To maintain quality, pineapple cakes are made in Taiwan and airflown here. The shelf life (best consume in less than a month) is printed on each box.

♠  Location
It isn't any brand that can meet the criteria to qualify for a Raffles Hotel address, which is an assurance of sorts.  If the inside has turned foul for some reason like our recent encounters, we are sure Sunny Hill would take ownership of the issue.

♠  Individually wrapped
Mess-free and convenient to carry around as ready snack.

♠  Packaging
The packaging is minimalist and elegant, with the cakes placed in an recyclable gift box.  Currently, it comes with a calico bag.
1. Sunny Hill Pineapple Delivery rs
2. Sunny Hill Package rs
3. Sunny Hill Pineapple Cake Package rs
4. Sunny Hill Pineapple Cake Package rs
5. Sunny Hill Pineapple Cake Calico Bag rs
6. Sunny Hill Pineapple Cake box rs
7. Sunny Hill Pineapple Cake Fresh Bake rs
8. Sunny Hill Pineapple Cake rs
9. Sunny Hill Pineapple Cake rs
10. Sunny Hill Pineapple Cake rs

Serving Suggestions

A tip from Lee, SunnyHills at Raffles Hotel --
Put into mini oven for 2-3 minutes, and it will be crumbly outside and warm pineapple fillings – almost as though it was just baked.

In some countries, the weather tends to turn things cold and hard, so this method works well.

ColdTake it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for that extra decadence.

Eat it as is
Served with hot or cold tea.

We used to make our own pineapple tarts from Sarawak pineapple and the freshest ingredients, because it’s not easy to find pineapple tarts / cakes with the right combo of pastry and filling that pleases the palate. But it’s a labor of love if you want to do it well – 3-4 hours’ careful tending to yield just a hundred small tarts.

So to have Sunny Hill right in Singapore is a really convenient alternative, and in a readily presentable form, for serving to guests or as gifts.

Side-by-side Comparison

We prefer Sunny Hill's 50g to the competitor's 40g which makes the overall crust ratio too dominant.

Note the different in weight, per packet
Note the different in weight, per packet

Sunny Hill on the left, another brand on the right..
12. Sunny Hill Pineapple Cake Left rs
13. Sunny Hill Pineapple Cake Left BEAUTY&THEBEAST rs
14. Sunny Hill Pineapple Cake Left rs

The pineapple cake industry is highly competitive, with many brands jumping on board with new innovations like playful shape designs or fillings that have added cranberries, longans, and other fruits, or flavored with red wine, mocha, or green tea, etc.

Till today, the ones made by Sunny Hill remains tops on the craving scale. Lee, SunnyHills at Raffles Hotel, shares some insights:

“Sunny Hill created the rectangular ‘brick shape’ and is the first to use only Taiwan’s native pineapples which are non-GM and organically grown. Now we have many look-alikes and some even use exactly the same wordings and descriptions. As they say, being copied is the best type of flattery..”

“Until now we have not changed the ingredients, except that costs have been going up. In fact, we are looking to use even better ingredients; our master baker is constantly trying to make it better.”

Comments from our testers?

No comments.. All the Sunny Hills pineapple cakes were gobbled down too fast to capture comments.
A box of 10 was gone in minutes.
The second box of 10, rationed for the next day, was gone within hours.

One fussy eater who dislikes pastry stuff rejected the Sunny Hill pineapple cake. Nevertheless, we left it on his workstation. He ended up asking for more.

CONTACT SunnyHills 微热山丘:

SunnyHills at Raffles Hotel
328 North Bridge Road
#03-05 Raffles Hotel Arcade
Singapore 188719
Tel / SMS: 65-85229605
Fax: 65-67928211
Order Details:

Shanghai, China
SunnyHills on The Bund
2F, Y.W.C.A. Building, No. 133
Yuanmingyuan Road
Shanghai 200002
Tel: 86-21-62363316
Fax: 86-21-62363301

Taipei, TaiwanSunnyHills at The Park
No. 1, Aly. 4, Ln. 36, Sec. 5
Minsheng East Road
Taipei 105
Tel: 886-2-27600508
Fax: 886-2-27600509

Nantou, TaiwanSunnyHills Courtyard
No. 2, Ln. 1100, Bagua Road
Nantou City
Nantou County 540
Tel: 886-49-2292767
Fax: 886-49-2291500
16. Sunny Hill Logo

Anime Festival Asia (AFA) 2013

Date:  08 - 10 November 2013
Venue:  Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre
Organizers:  Dentsu | Sozo

The 2013 edition of Anime Festival Asia, held at the newly renovated Suntec Singapore, attracts fans of all things anime.  This is also one of the few occasions where members of the public get to witness the legions of cosplayers with admiring followers and photographers trooping around.

As it turns out, cosplaying can also attract consternation when it crosses path with those who misinterpret the characters some cosplayers choose to pose as.

In the spirit of cosplaying, a cosplayer dressed herself up in the battle gear outfit of the character Ryuko Matoi, from the popular anime series Kill la Kill.

Kill la Kill character Ryuko Matoi
Kill la Kill character Ryuko Matoi

Unfortunately, that particular character act was apparently too much for a conservative lady, who caused a commotion when she raise the alarm by calling the police.

In observing the scene, the girl was actually still within the confines of what would normally be deemed acceptable as a cosplay area; the cut of her dressing concedes a lesser degree of exposure and she was posing just for the event.  Everyone was just having fun, aww..

AFA Little Girl Coplayer
AFA Little Cosplayer
Anime Festival Asia
Anime Festival Asia
Anime Fesival Asia
Anime Festival Asia

Overall, it was an event that brought a lot of joy to the young and young-at-heart.  Full of fun vibes and energy.

We thoroughly enjoyed the festival!

Book Signing @ Singapore Writers Festival

Event:  Book Signing @ Singapore Writers Festival
Date:  09 November 2013
Venue:  Singapore Management University (SMU)
Organizer:  National Arts Council, Singapore

Brisk sales of books during this book-signing session..

1. Singapore Writers Festival Authors Signing

The line for books to be signed by Carol Ann Duffy was long, but orderly.  She is the first female British poet laureate in the position's 341-year history.  Her works, addressing issues such as oppression, gender and violence, are popular in schools.
2. Carol Ann Duffy

Author Peter James, known for his best selling mystery books..
4. Peter James Bestsellers
3. Lucy Hawkings, Peter James
5. Lucy Hawkings, Singapore Writers Festival 3

Lucy Hawkings' book series on display..
8. Lucy Hawkings, Singapore Writers Festival 6
6. Lucy Hawkings, Singapore Writers Festival 2
7. Lucy Hawkings, Singapore Writers Festival 1

Lucy Hawkings @ Singapore Writers Festival

Event:  Meet The Author - Lucy Hawkings
Date:  09 November 2013
Venues:  Glass Hall, Singapore Art Museum (SAM)
Organizer:  National Arts Council, Singapore

Lucy Hawkings shares the impact her physicist father, Stephen Hawking, has, on her literary path, and touches on the new book that she is working on.

Moderated by: Sarah Meisch

Lucy Hawkings, Singapore Writers Festival 1
Lucy Hawkings, Singapore Writers Festival 2
Lucy Hawkings, Singapore Writers Festival 3

The Event was held at the Glass House, Singapore Art Museum.

Lucy Hawkings, Singapore Writers Festival 5
Lucy Hawkings, Singapore Writers Festival 4

Dementia, by Haresh Sharma

Event:  Read & Play @ Singapore Writers Festival
Date:  09 November 2013
Venues:  Singapore Management University (SMU)
Organizer:  National Arts Council, Singapore

Dementia, when it strikes, affects the life and lifestyle of the sufferer and those around him/her.

Haresh Sharma puts his perspective of this affliction in full play, in his book Don't Forget to Remember Me.
1. Haresh Sharma, Don't Forget to Remember Me 1
2. Haresh Sharma, Don't Forget to Remember Me 2

Asia for Animals (AFA) Conference 2014

Date:  13 - 14 January 2014
Venue:  Furama RiverFront Hotel
Organizer:  Asia For Animals Coalition
Hosted by:  ACRES (Animal Concerns Research & Education Society)
AFA Asia for Animals CoalitionACRES

In 2014, Singapore will be hosting this biennial conference once again.  It was held previously in Manila, Hong Kong, Singapore, Chennai, Bali, and China.

The theme of AFA 2013 is "Confronting Cruelty".

The Asia for Animals (AFA) Coalition is composed of 13 well-known and respected animal welfare organisations:-

◘  ACRES - Animal Concerns Research & Education Society
◘  Animal People
◘  Blue Cross of India, Madras
◘  SPCA - Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
◘  IFAW - International Fund for Animal Welfare
◘  PAWS - The Philippine Animal Welfare Society
◘  Humane Society International
◘  Animals Asia - Until the cruelty ends
◘  Earth Island Institute
◘  WSPA - World Society for the Protection of Animals
◘  International Animal Rescue
◘  RSCPA - Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
◘  Animal Guardians

All have a shared focus on the welfare of animals in Asia.


Some headlines from the AFA website --

Sacrifice at Gadhimai Festival
Asia for Animals is deeply concerned about the forthcoming Gadhimai Festival due to take place in Nepal in 2014, the festival will see the slaughter of many hundreds of thousands of animals.

Dolphins in travelling circuses, Indonesia
In February 2013 amid mounting public pressure, including a letter from the AfA coalition, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan announced that he would end the use of dolphins for entertainment in travelling circuses.

Good News for macaques in Jakarta - UPDATE!!
On 20th October 2013 the Governor of Jakarta announced an end to the use of macaques in street performances

Elephant calves continue to suffer in China
Three calves imported into China in November 2012 are still languishing in miserable conditions inside Chinese zoos. The health of these 3 calves remains a major cause for concern.

Circus Operation in Xiamen
AFA have been alerted to the development of an international circus operation in Xiamen, China. The welfare of captive wild animals used in circuses is severely compromised by their training, performances

Dolphins in captivity: Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore
The Asia for Animals coalition members are saddened to hear that the 25 dolphins have been shipped to Singapore despite the efforts of Earth Island Institute (EII), Philippine Animal Welfare Society (AFA coalition member ), and CARA Welfare Philippines to block this move in the Philippine courts.

Neglect and suffering at Surabaya Zoo, Indonesia
AFA is shocked and appalled to learn of the appalling conditions for animals at Surabaya Zoo, Indonesia.

Hachimantai Bear Park
In May 2012, two workers at the Hachimantai Bear Park in Northern Akita Prefecture, Japan were killed when a number of bears escaped from their enclosure.

Singapore Writers Festival 2013

Date:  01 - 10 November 2013
Venues:  Various
•  Singapore Management University (SMU)
•  National Museum of Singapore (NMS)
•  Singapore Art Museum (SAM)
•  The Arts House (TAH)
•  National Library (NLB)
Organizer:  National Arts Council, Singapore

Over 70 international writers and 120 Singaporean and locally based authors are expected at this annual festival.  66 titles will be launched.

This festival is not merely a gathering of writers.  It is also a chance for readers to get to meet authors and to learn from the many literary discussions presented.

The SWF Ticket and Information counter Is located at:-
•  The Festival Pavilion, Campus Green, Singapore Management University.
•  Online booking
•  Telephone hotline 6348-5555
Concessions and discounts are applicable to NSFs, students, senior citizens and Passion Card members. Visit the ticketing websites for more information.
Be amongst the first few to exchange your SISTIC ticket for a Festival Pass at the SWF Information Counter and receive an Aesop gift pack. While stocks last!

Literary Meals Ticket contact:-
•  Online booking
•  The Arts House Box Office

The S$15 Festival Pass gives you access to:-
•  Panel Discussions
•  Meet the Author
•  In Conversation With
•  Ream to Reel
•  Special Festival Pass Events
•  SWF Fringe
Festival Pass holders are entitled to a 25% discount on all other SWF SISTIC ticketed events and 15% on Literary Meals.

Other Ticketed Events from S$15 per Event:-
•  SWF Lectures
•  Workshops
•  SWF Publishing Symposium
•  Writing Your Novel: To the End and Beyond
•  Literary Meals
•  Literary Walks
Festival Pass holders are entitled to a 25% discount on all other SWF SISTIC ticketed events and 15% on Literary Meals.

Free Events:-
•  Brand New Books
•  Little Lit!
•  Off the Page

For a full list of ticketing and programme details:-

Below is a short extract from the multitude of activities listed in the SWF Programme Booklet:-

Panel: Singlish in Sing Lit
Featuring: Colin Goh, Joshua Ip, Faith Ng
Moderated by: Angelia Poon
Sat, 2 Nov | 4pm – 5pm
Binary Pavilion, Campus Green, SMU

Authenticity – that’s why writers use the local patois in their writing. Find out how Singapore writers deploy Singlish and how readers and audiences have responded. Very fun one – must come, okay?

Panel: Get into your Discomfort Zone
Featuring: Katie Hickman, Wena Poon, Madeleine Lee
Moderated by: Yeoh Siew Hoon
Sat, 2 Nov | 4pm – 5pm
The Salon, NMS
While on the road, writers often look back at home with fresh eyes, even as they experience the wonders and adventures of a new world. This panel discusses the great literature that has been created on the roads eventually taken.

Panel: Asian Women Write Back!
Featuring: Lakshmi Narayan, Ameena Hussein, Ovidia Yu
Moderated by: Cheong Suk Wai
Sat, 2 Nov | 5.30pm – 6.30pm
The Salon, NMS
Discover how these writers reimagine the world through their literature. How have women writers captured the evolving roles of women, articulating their anxieties and triumphs?

Panel: The Writer in a Country’s Intellectual Life
Featuring: Alvin Pang, Dina Zaman, Kim Young-ha, Ma Jian
Moderated by: Kwok Kian Woon
Sat, 2 Nov | 5.30pm – 6.30pm
Binary Pavilion, Campus Green, SMU
The writer has so many potential guises, whether as journalist, novelist, social commentator or poet. These writers discuss what matters most to them and what they feel are meaningful reader responses, as they chronicle and reimagine the life around them.

Literary Walk with Rosemary Lim
Sat, 2 Nov | 5.30pm – 7.30pm
Meeting point: Outside tcc@SMU
Meander through the fiction, non-fiction and fantasy of Singapore with award-winning writer Rosemary Lim. You will follow in the footsteps of Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham, and explore locations that inspired Rex Shelley and Edwin Thumboo. Discover Singapore as muse to novelists, playwrights and poets as you travel in time from colonial days to the present day through words and imagination. Begins at SMU and ends at Raffles Place. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. Umbrella and water bottle strongly recommended.
[This session is repeated on Sat 9 Nov.]

Ream to Reel: Singapore Dreaming
Featuring: Colin Goh
Moderated by: Tan Kheng Hua
Sat, 2 Nov | 6pm – 8.30pm
Moving Image Gallery, SAM @ 8Q
Director: Colin Goh, Woo Yen Yen | Cast: Richard Low, Alice Lim, Dick Su, Yeo Yann Yann, Lim Yu Beng, Serene Chen| 2006 | 105min | Singapore | Rating: PG | In English, Mandarin, Chinese dialects, with English subtitles
The husband-and-wife team of Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen presents ‘Singapore Dreaming’, a poignant yet darkly humorous story about a typical Singaporean family coming to grips with their aspirations.
SWF Featured Author Colin Goh will be present for a post-film dialogue.

Panel: Post-Halloween Special: Totems and Talismans
Featuring: Yangsze Choo, Otto Fong, Tunku Halim
Moderated by: Carolyn Camoens
Sat, 2 Nov | 7pm – 8pm
Glass Hall, SAM
Whether it is an evocative tale of a spirit marriage, a haunted handphone or an evil ghost child, the dark side and other-world have always intrigued. Find out how creative writers engage – and scare – their readers and audiences.

Brand New Books: In the Middle of the Future: Tom Plate on Asia by Tom Plate
Sat, 2 Nov | 7pm – 8pm
Festival Pavilion, Campus Green, SMU
For almost two decades, the columns of journalist Tom Plate have been featured in leading newspapers of the world, focusing entirely on one gigantic subject: the dynamic rise of Asia.  Now, for the first time, the heat of these columns have been compiled into a substantial anthology, annotated with personal comments by the author, who has also penned the bestselling Giants of Asia book series.
[Supported by the United States Embassy, Singapore.]

Off the Page: CERIPH #6
Sat, 2 Nov | 7pm – 8pm
Big Steps, School of Information Systems, SMU
Local literary magazine, Ceriph – known for promoting a refreshing selection of emerging writers from Singapore – will unveil the latest issue with a poetry and prose reading. This issue highlights the poetic form and its potential for "local uses" – with Singlish or without, rooted in familiar spaces or flung far into space. These exciting new works continue to critically question and celebrate the idiosyncrasies,

Panel: In the Penumbra of Meanings
Featuring: Yeow Kai Chai, Madeleine Lee, Cathy Park Hong, Kirpal Singh
Moderated by: Leong Liew Geok
Sat, 2 Nov | 7pm – 8pm
Binary Pavilion, Campus Green, SMU
Poetry can be frustratingly opaque. Yet, when unlocked or read thoughtfully, it yields wisdom and pleasure. This panel of critically acclaimed poets explores how the best verse can obscure and hide secrets, yet illuminate.
[Supported by the United States Embassy, Singapore.]

Panel: Money is the Root of all Creation
Featuring: Colin Goh, Bani Haykal, Wena Poon
Moderated by: Stephen McCarty
Sun, 3 Nov | 10am – 11am
Glass Hall, SAM
Funding and patronage are critical for the creation of good works, so say many artists. Or not? This panel discusses the market for art, the myth of the starving artist and the adventures of crowd-funding.

Panel: You Can Write Too!
Featuring: Vernetta Lopez, Jerrold Yam, Rodney Ee, Claire Chiang
Moderated by: Philip Jeyaretnam
Sun, 3 Nov | 10am – 11am
Binary Pavilion, Campus Green, SMU
New voices on the writing scene tell us more about their creative process – and what it took to get their first book out. Expect tell-all autobiography, honest poetry and more!

Panel: Lost at SEA?
Featuring: Putu Oka Sukanta, Isa Kamari, Bernice Chauly, Wong Yoon Wah
Moderated by: Kirpal Singh
Sun, 3 Nov | 12pm – 1pm
Seminar Rooms, NMS
In global literature, the literary output from Southeast Asia is relatively less well-known, perhaps because of its multiple languages and diverse readerships. What more can be done to bring the best of the region’s stories to a broader audience?

Panel: Two, Three or Four Stars?
Featuring: Wong Ah Yoke, KF Seetoh, Miss Tam Chiak
Moderated by: Aun Koh
Sun, 3 Nov | 2.30pm – 3.30pm
Glass Hall, SAM
How do food reviewers master an interesting voice to draw in readers? Join this panel of food writers and discover what cliches to cut when writing about food, glorious food. They also describe the vocabulary and accompanying visuals that best stimulate interest… and salivary glands.

Workshop: The Elements of Novel Writing
Instructor: Ryan Gattis
Sun, 3 Nov | 2.30pm – 5.30pm
Seminar Room 2-1, School of Information Systems, SMU
Reams of drafts but no manuscript in sight? American author Ryan Gattis breaks down the techniques of the novel into essential elements of storytelling and demystifies the form. Learn to apply these same essentials to your own work through discussions, exercises as well as a feedback session. Participants are required to submit a three-page manuscript and a one-page synopsis beforehand. More details will be made available in the confirmation email upon purchase.

Workshop: Die-Die Must DIY: Essential Tips for Today’s Content Creators
Instructor: Colin Goh
Sun, 3 Nov | 2.30pm – 5.30pm
Seminar Room 2-2, School of Information Systems, SMU
Write blockbuster. Find publisher. Wait for royalties and movie deal. If that’s your game plan, be prepared for some very, very bad news, but also some excellent reasons to be hopeful. Award-winning filmmaker and popular author Colin Goh draws on his experience in filmmaking, writing, website creation and the production of his acclaimed multi-platform comic, Dim Sum Warriors, to dispense essential advice for all content creators today.

Alternate Realities
Featuring: Dean Francis Alfar, G Willow Wilson, Jason Erik Lundberg
Moderated by: Rajeev Patke
Sun, 3 Nov | 4pm – 5pm
Glass Hall, SAM
Life on this planet doesn’t seem to be panning out – is it time to build a new reality? Three speculative fiction writers discuss if it is easier to create stories or to live in the worlds they have created. Whose world would you like to be a part of?

Panel: My First Novel
Featuring: Woon Tai Ho, Sunil Nair, Barbara Ismail, Ameena Hussein
Moderated by: Sangeetha Madhavan
Sun, 3 Nov | 4pm – 5pm
Seminar Rooms, NMS
How hard was it to get started on that manuscript and find the stamina to race to the finishing line? New novelists talk about their processes – from creation to publication – while they read excerpts from their debut novels.

Meet the Author: Tom Plate
Moderated by: Parag Khanna
Nov 3, Sun | 5.30pm – 6.30pm
Glass Hall, SAM
This award-winning journalist has met and engaged in in-depth interviews with all the Asian grandmasters – from Ban Ki Moon to Mahathir Mohamad and Lee Kuan Yew. Discover how he draws their stories out to create riveting character portraits and his opinion on whether successful Asian leaders share common traits.
[Supported by the United States Embassy, Singapore.]

Workshop: The Road Goes Ever On: Foundations in Writing Epic Fantasy
Instructors: Tracy and Laura Hickman
Sat, 9 Nov | 10am – 1pm
Seminar Room 3-1, School of Information Systems, SMU
Bestselling writing couple Tracy and Laura Hickman take you on a journey ‘behind the curtain’ of writing fantasy that connects with and inspires the reader. From the foundations of Joseph Cambell’s monomyth through integration of characters and plot and into the underlying epic structure itself, the Hickmans explore the elements of meaning, modern mythos and narrative, showing you the tools to polish your own writing along the way. An entertaining and informative voyage into the foundations of story for writers of all genres from age 14 and up.
[Supported by the United States Embassy, Singapore.]

Meet the Author: Lucy Hawking
Moderated by: Sarah Meisch
Sat, 9 Nov | 2.30pm – 3.30pm
Glass Hall, SAM
A simple query from grandson to grandfather about falling into a black hole leads to a bestselling narrative. Join Lucy Hawking as she shares how her physicist father, Stephen Hawking, has had great bearing on her literary career and her own path as a writer with a distinctive voice.

Self-Published… So What?
Featuring: Eliza Teoh, Don Bosco, Shamini Flint
Moderated by: Victor Tan
Sat, 9 Nov | 2.30pm – 3.30pm
Switch, NTUC Trade Union House
In today’s complex publishing world, self-publishing can be a viable, even rewarding, adventure. Writers talk about how they keep their readers hooked, share favourite passages from their books and possibly dispense a trade secret or two.

Panel: An Inspector Calls
Featuring: Ed Lin, Stephen Leather, He Jiahong
Moderated by: Richard Lord
Sat, 9 Nov | 4pm – 5pm
Glass Hall, SAM
Indefatigable inspectors battle criminal minds and crack a range of bewildering cases. How do writers create compelling, pacey narratives? Learn from the best – it would be criminal to miss this panel!
[Supported by the United States Embassy, Singapore.]

Been There, Done That
Featuring: Lee Siew Hua, Rodney Ee, Hu Wei, Sim Siong Chye
Moderated by: Pamela Ho
Sat, 9 Nov | 5.30pm – 6.30pm
Binary Pavilion, Campus Green, SMU
Bitten by the travel bug but chained to your desk? You can find an outlet for your wanderlust. Live vicariously through the eyes – and pens – of these globetrotting adventurers who have crossed experiences like tasting rotten shark meat, tango-ing on the streets of Buenos Aires and stargazing on Lake Tekapo, off their bucket lists.

Panel: Criminal Minds
Featuring: Peter James, Lucy Hawking, Ed Lin
Moderated by: Jayapriya Vasudevan
Sat, 9 Nov | 5.30pm – 6.30pm
Glass Hall, SAM
Is the crime novel maligned, especially when pegged against more "serious" literary fiction? Genre debates aside, what do crime novels tell us about the community and larger world we live in? Writers attempt to shed light on these questions.
[Supported by the United States Embassy, Singapore.]

My Favourite Short Stories
Featuring: Robert Yeo, Richard Lord, Yeow Kai Chai
Moderated by: Wai Yin Pryke
Sat, 9 Nov | 5.30pm – 6.30pm
Switch, NTUC Trade Union House
Join this insightful discussion on the literary form, which has found new energy in recent years. Writers and editors talk about how they use the short form to distil experience and how anthologies come together.

Panel: The Role of the Journalist in Society
Featuring: Michael Vatikiotis, Susan Long, Tavleen Singh
Moderated by: PN Balji
Sat, 9 Nov | 7pm – 8pm
The Salon, NMS
With the noisy, polyphonic nature of social media, has the journalist become less relevant? Or do we, more than ever, need the journalist to help us filter out the distracting static to present new insights based on interviews and rigorous research?
[Supported by The Arts Bridge.]

Panel: Hearts of Darkness
Featuring: Stephen Leather, Tracy Hickman, Christian Jungersen
Moderated by: Yeoh Siew Hoon
Sat, 9 Nov | 7pm – 8pm
Binary Pavilion, Campus Green, SMU
Presented by StarHub
What is evil? Is it a simple binary, easily distinguished from good? Three different writers discuss how they portray their characters’ dark sides, whether evil is innate, and what makes for a morally justified response to wicked intentions and actions.
[Supported by the Royal Danish Embassy and the United States Embassy, Singapore.]

Panel: Secrets and Lies
Featuring: Kirsten Tranter, Zhang Yueran, He Jiahong, Lydia Kwa
Moderated by: Barrie Sherwood
Sun, 10 Nov | 10am – 11am
The Salon, NMS
"Old sins cast long shadows," so the saying goes. Writers offer their unique take on how murky secrets from the past can resurface in surprising ways.

Panel: Torchbearers and Groundbreakers
Featuring: Salma, Cyril Wong, David Musgrave
Moderated by: Koh Buck Song
Sun, 10 Nov | 10am – 11am
Seminar Rooms, NMS
The best poetry moves the heart and stirs the intellect. While these outspoken poets read their poems aloud, you get to also discover how they pen their irrepressible, fearless and taboo-shattering verse.

Brand New Books: Extraordinary Losers #3 by Jessica Alejandro | Robozonic #5: Dragonfly Rescue by Caline Tan | Mountain of Fire by Radhika Puri | Ellie Belly #6: Mousey Mayhem by Eliza Teoh
Sun, 10 Nov | 10am – 11am
Festival Pavilion, Campus Green, SMU
Bubbly Books presents four exciting new books by four Singapore authors. What makes a children’s book character appealing? The authors will reveal why their characters are all flawed and how imperfection appeals to the sympathies of children. This book launch will include a presentation by each author, followed by puzzles, games and drawing activities with prizes to be won.

Panel: Writing to Forget, Writing to Remember
Featuring: Constance Singam, Robert Yeo, Boey Kim Cheng
Moderated by: Gene Tan
Sun, 10 Nov | 5.30pm – 6.30pm
Glass Hall, SAM
Memoirs, and often fiction, are based on real lives, with the act of writing becoming a wilful remembering and recreation of the past. But does writing also help writers let go and reach a point of reconciliation?

Journey to the Soul Mountain
29 Oct – Tue, 12 Nov
Societe Generale Gallery, Alliance Française de Singapour
Alliance Française de Singapour presents the exhibition ‘Journey to the Soul Mountain’ by Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian, which features 50 black-and-white photography taken in 1987 while he was writing the novel Soul Mountain, based on his journey in rural China, which has become one of today’s most acclaimed contemporary literature classics.