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Publishers with a Purpose: An Exclusive Interview 

Both Ms Catherine Khoo and Ms Hidayah Amin share a common purposeful trait to bring meaning to children’s lives. In this exclusive interview,  both publishers share their journey and how they bring inclusion to reading experiences and create writing opportunities for children.

Can you share us how you get into the publishing business?I spent a lot of time working as an editor for major publishing companies. Everyone was affected by the economic crisis in the late 1990s, and I lost my job. When I took over Janus Education, I launched a scheme to encourage children to write books. Since many publishers were not keen to publish books written by children, I started Experience and Experiments in 2005. During these years, I published children’s books, Young Readers’ Club publications, and Young Authors’ Club books.

What inspires you to become an author?

It is my passion to share my story and inspire others through my writing. My latest imprint, Wicked Witty Women, has touched people’s hearts and that motivates me to keep writing.

Which is your favourite published work so far and why?
The Asia’s Lost Legend series offers young readers the opportunity to learn Asian values through the use of cultural tales. By reading these books, children can gain a deeper understanding of social values.

Can you share us about the Young Reader Club and its objectives?

The Young Reader Club (YRC) magazine was incepted in 2010 to host excellent stories by 10 to 14-year-olds. YRC supports emerging writers and connects young authors with audiences across nationalities, lifestyles, and cultures.

What is your advice for today’s generation of writers?

The best advice I can give young writers is to explore storytelling and get started writing. Every person possesses a story that they wish to tell, and if you don’t tell it, you won’t start writing.

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What are you looking forward to as a newly elected member of CLASS’s Board of Directors?It would be exciting to learn more about CLASS as an organization and use my position on the Board of Directors to advocate for respecting copyrighted works and encouraging female authors & publishers to be part of the member’s network.

As a publisher & consultant, you founded Helang Books in 2013. Can you share with us the background of Helang Books?  It all started with my first written manuscript called ‘Gedung Kuning: Memories of a Malay Childhood’ in 2010. I realis  e there were very few published books on Singapore’s Malay history in English. I approached several publishers but did not receive the response I was hoping for. I decided to partner with Singapore Heritage Society to publish the first book. That
was how Helang Books arrived in the publishing scene. All of my books are inspired by real life situations and influenced by social issues.

Can you tell us about the publications available at Helang Books?
Most of the publications at Helang Books are non-fiction and based on factual stories. As an author, I wanted to deliver the book narratives rooted in historical and social elements. Furthermore, I would like to promote awareness and education about Singapore’s Malay customs and traditions.

I also conceived an idea of publishing inclusive books incorporating Braille and tactile pictures when I realised the lack of reading resource for the visually impaired children. The first project was to convert ‘The Mango Tree’ book to enable visually impaired children to read. Our inclusive book ‘Si Ma Guang and the Giant Jar’ was selected for the 2017 IBBY Selection of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities. Since then, we have been developing children’s books to teach underprivileged and physically and intellectually challenged children to help them learn about Singapore’s social and security issues as well as building their self-esteem.

What is the importance of reading books to today’s generation?

Reading delivers sensory imagination through its unique experience. In Singapore, I am glad that there is an emphasis on programmes and initiatives that motivate people to read. When you read a book, it helps to shape your knowledge, instil creativity, and develop your skills.

As an accomplished writer, you also won NUS Singapore History Prize for your book on Kampong Gelam. Can you share the significance of the book?

Kampong Gelam book is based on my experience growing up in the neighbourhood I was born in. As I wrote it, I wanted to emphasize the historical significance of Kampung Gelam to readers. I did not expect to be shortlisted or win the NUS Singapore History Prize. The award brings prominence to Kampong Gelam’s book and encourages people to learn more about the neighbourhood’s history and untold stories.

Photo credit: NUS

 

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