Sota writes a new chapter with literary arts

Pupils in Sota's literary arts programme, like Ashley Tan (left) and Rachel Pary, will focus on writing original works instead of just analysing texts by other authors. They will be taught to write poetry, prose and plays and their creative texts.
Pupils in Sota's literary arts programme, like Ashley Tan (left) and Rachel Pary, will focus on writing original works instead of just analysing texts by other authors. They will be taught to write poetry, prose and plays and their creative texts.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

First batch of 20 PSLE graduands accepted for school's new discipline which starts next year

The School of the Arts Singapore (Sota) hopes to train a new generation of storytellers, to join its dancers, musicians, artists and actors.

Literary arts has been added to the school's other four art forms - dance, music, theatre and visual arts.

And already it has picked a group of 20 Primary School Leaving Examination graduands for the discipline starting next year. Sota, Singapore's first and only pre-tertiary arts school, had received 38 applicants for the programme, which will teach students to write poetry, prose and plays and their creative texts.

The literary arts programme will be led by Mr Ivan Ang, a writer and former General Paper teacher who has published short stories, essays and poems. Others in the team include Mr Laremy Lee, the school's subject head for literature who has written theatrical plays, and local writer Colin Cheong, who won the Singapore Literature Prize in 1996 for his novel Tangerine.

AS THE PLOT THICKENS...

When I write, I can make anything happen.... I can make my characters have their own traits.

It's like controlling a tiny little world that is just for myself.

ASHLEY TAN, a former St Anthony's Primary School pupil and aspiring novelist

Sota vice-principal Amy Khoo said the literary arts is an area that Singapore is looking to grow in, and Sota hopes to be part of this national push for more local writers.

She added that it was the "right time to expand the options for Sota students", after the school has built up its capabilities in the other art forms.

Literature is already a compulsory subject for students at Sota, but those who take literary arts will focus on writing original works instead of just analysing texts by other authors.

"In our school's short history, we have an active writing community. Our students do playwriting, they write scripts for film and theatre too," said Ms Khoo.

Literary arts students will be exposed to writing genres including fiction and non-fiction, film and stage screenplays, as well as journalistic writing.

They will attend writing workshops and masterclasses, and have a chance to create individual or collaborative works.

Ms Khoo said: "Whether they become professional writers or creative professionals, we believe this will enrich them.

"Our focus is building on their talents and helping them see things from a different lens."

A total of 800 to 1,000 primary-school-leaving pupils vie for Sota's 200 places each year.

The school, which opened in 2008, offers a six-year integrated arts and academic curriculum leading to an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma.

One of the students joining the programme is former Methodist Girls' School pupil Rachel Pary, who likes writing both fiction and non-fiction. "Ever since I was young, I've been interested in writing," said the 12-year-old who hopes to be a lawyer and enjoys reading books from classics such as Little Women to nature magazine National Geographic.

"As a lawyer, you'll need to come up with arguments and express yourself in a succinct way."

Joining her in the programme is Ashley Tan, 12, whose first taste of writing stories was in Primary 3 when she and a friend wrote a horror story, inspired by her favourite book series, Mr Midnight.

Ashley, a former St Anthony's Primary School pupil who hopes to be a novelist, said: "When I write, I can make anything happen.... I can make my characters have their own traits. It's like controlling a tiny little world that is just for myself."

Ms Khoo said that Sota is "quite happy with the interest shown" in the programme, and it will be holding a creative writing competition this month for the first time for Primary 5 pupils.

The contest is part of Sota's efforts to identify talent and give pupils a chance to explore their interests in writing. Selected finalists will attend a workshop with Sota teachers in March next year.

Application for next year's literary arts programme is closed, but pupils interested in joining it can apply from next year. Those interested should have strong English writing skills and have explored writing in primary school.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 06, 2015, with the headline 'Sota writes a new chapter with literary arts'. Print Edition | Subscribe