SINGAPORE - A married couple has won at the same Golden Point Awards for the first time.
Mr Senthilkumar Natarajan took first place in the Tamil short story category while his wife Subha Senthilkumar topped Tamil poetry at the biennial creative writing competition. The awards were given out by National Arts Council (NAC) chairman Goh Swee Chen on Saturday (Dec 7) at the National Library.
In its 14th edition, the competition received close to 1,200 entries, the highest number since it was established in 1993 by the NAC. It recognises poetry and short stories in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.
"This is a very important moment in my life," says Ms Subha in an e-mail interview. The housewife, 40, won for her emotional poems, including A Very Long Fish Tank, and will be publishing her debut collection soon.
Her husband is the first critic of her poems, she adds. They have two daughters. "This is a journey we have embarked on together and I am very glad to be able to share this moment together."
Mr Senthilkumar, an assistant vice-president at bank Credit Suisse, credits his wife for sparking his interest in literature. She started writing poems in college and placed second for Tamil poetry in the 2015 Golden Point Awards, which he says inspired him to try his hand at short stories.
The 42-year-old started off with playful Facebook posts. His wife picked one for him to develop further into a story, which received third prize at the 2017 awards.
Mr Senthilkumar's winning story this time, Thabovanam, was inspired by the Ramakien, the Thai version of the Hindu epic Ramayana. In it, an artist from India struggles to find the equilibrium between good and bad in his paintings and receives help from a Thai woman who is influenced by the Ramakien.
This year's competition drew submissions from contestants from the ages of six to 81, with 60 per cent of submissions coming from writers aged 35 and below.
Novelist Meira Chand, who was on the panel of judges for the English short story category, says: "Looking back over my other stints as a Golden Point Award judge, I feel the shortlisted entries this year are probably the best I have seen. All the winning stories stayed in my mind long after reading and that is a good test of the quality of a piece of work."
The competition is open only to writers who, at the time of application, have yet to publish a solo work in the genre they are competing in.
First-prize winners get $4,000 in cash, as well as a $6,000 enrichment grant that can be used for programmes such as writing courses and residences. There are cash prizes for the other winners.
LIST OF WINNERS
1ST, ENGLISH: Ashish Xiangyi Kumar, for Fish
1ST, CHINESE: Liu Chang (Yu Yueyan), for Night Safari
1ST, MALAY: Mohamed Naguib Ngadnan, for Fence Merchant
1ST, TAMIL: Senthilkumar Natarajan, for Thabovanam
1ST, ENGLISH: Nathaniel Chew, for the collection Featherweight
1ST, CHINESE: Ong Siew Sze, for the collection Redhill Chek Lau: A Yearbook
1ST, MALAY: Hartinah Ahmad, for A Little Blue Flower On The KTM Railway Track and other poems
1ST, TAMIL: Subha Senthilkumar, for A Very Long Fish Tank and other poems