Record 235 submissions for the Singapore Literature Prize 2016

Amanda Lee Koe, winner of the Singapore Literature Prize for Best English Fiction in 2014.
Amanda Lee Koe, winner of the Singapore Literature Prize for Best English Fiction in 2014.PHOTO: ST FILE

The number of entries for the $10,000 Singapore Literature Prize has reached a new high in its 25-year history.

This year, the biennial prize - which is given to published works - drew 235 entries by the end of the submission date of Jan 8. In 2014, there were 182 submissions. It is given out by the National Book Development Council of Singapore and supported by the National Arts Council.

The 182 submissions in 2014 were about triple the 57 entries in 2012 but, the likely cause of the leap, says the council, was the increase in the number of categories from four to 12, encompassing three genres - fiction, poetry, and non-fiction - and Singapore's four official languages.

Asked about possible reasons for the flood of submissions this year, Mr R Ramachandran, the book council's executive director, says: "The writing scene in Singapore is certainly improving, thanks to the large number of literary programmes organised by various players in the literary landscape, from government agencies, to individual authors, to language associations."

One such programme is the Singapore Writers Festival, which has drawn crowds - nearly 20,000 last year - "indicative of the increased interest in writing".

He adds: "The significant support given to writers last year as part of the SG50 celebrations was another factor that contributed to the increased number of publications."

"There is no dearth of writers and stories in Singapore, and with continuing wide-ranging support from the different organisations, the number of publications will continue to grow and be robust."

For this run, submissions were up in nearly all the categories, with the English non-fiction, Chinese fiction, Chinese non-fiction, Malay poetry and Tamil fiction categories seeing the steepest rise.

The number of entries in English came tops again: 95, the same as 2014. Works in Chinese this time around saw a significant bump, from 30 to 56, and works in Tamil were up from 32 to 54. There were 30 Malay-language entires submitted, up from 25 in 2014.

Genre-wise, fiction came first with 98 entries, up from 79 the last time around, while works of poetry dipped from 60 to 59. Non-fiction was the biggest leap: almost doubling from 43 to 78 this year.

The shortlist will be announced in mid-May, and winners revealed at a gala dinner slated for July 14.

The winner for each category will receive a cash prize of $10,000 and opportunities to promote their work both here and abroad.

Previous Singapore Literature Prize winners include veteran Malay poet Johar Buang and newcomer Amanda Lee Koe, whose debut, Ministry Of Moral Panic, bagged the prize in the English fiction category in 2014.