I belong to a Children's Book Writers' Club and we meet once a month to read and critique each other's work. We always meet on the last Thursday of the month at the same time and place.
I've only been a member of this club for about six months and I was introduced to the club by Eleanor, who is an old friend of mine.
Apart from giving constructive criticsms, members of the Club also act as a support group and try to help each other get our works published. Hyacinth has already found a publisher (SASBADI) and her series of books for young adults should be out soon!
August 30, 2007: Gwen presented a story about a child's birthday party and a clown who had brought rabbits with him to entertain the children. Hyacinth liked it but I thought that Gwen should make the relationship between the children/characters clearer. Gwen said that she wrote from a child's point of view.
The members also gave their comments about a folktale I rewrote called Manohra. Hyacinth thought that the ending was too abrupt, as if I wanted to end the story as quickly as possible! Eleanor agreed with Hyacinth and commented that Manohra changed her mind and accepted the prince back too easily after she had decided to leave him. I had to admit that they were right as I had left out the seven years of hardship the prince had to go through to win her back!
I also announced that Kim's book "Ah Fu, the Rickshaw Coolie", published by MPH, is already out in bookstores. Interested readers can refer to her blog choongkweekim.blogspot.com/ for more information regarding this book.
July 27, 2007: All of us were present except for Eleanor. Gwen presented a story about a child who was not happy with the present his grandfather had bought him. However certain events proved how useful the present was. We all liked the story.
The group also critiqued my story "The Sister", which was based on a Korean folktale. Judy didn't like it and said there was nothing she could take from the story as it was too depressing! Hyacinth liked it however and said it was characteristic of Asian folktales which often have sad endings. Gwen asked if the story was about a werewolf and Hyacinth siad it was about a werefox (a nine-tailed fox demon, actually!)
Other comments: Gwen said that pollen (like fish) is always singular! She also pointed out that landowner has a different meaning from landlord (a landowner works his own land, a landlord rents out his land to others). Judy said that the expression "at the end of her tether" is too obscure for today's children and I should change it to something simpler e.g. "at a loss"!
I had a lot of corrections to do!
June 17, 2007. The group met at Rumah Ku and was joined by John Lee from Sasbadi and S.K. Maniam, a noted Malaysian writer. John Lee briefed us about the kind of stories Sasbadi is looking for: books for young adults focusing on social problems. Not exactly our cup of tea as the club members write stories for younger children, while I write stories for young adults based on folktales.
Judy asked S.K. Maniam if he wrote books for children as well. According to him, even novels for adults requires one to be able to write with a child's voice as there are many characters in a book.
When the gentlemen left, the group reviewed a story by Gwen about an excitable child. Everyone liked it but suggested that the ending needed to be jazzed-up a bit. Eleanor presented her story (in rhyming verses) about elephant poachers in Borneo. We suggested a more plausible ending for the story. We were fascinated by the fact that elephants ate durians by swallowing the entire fruit!
The group also reveiwed my story, "Bawang Putih And Bawang Merah". Most of the group had heard of the story before in one form or other.