Eager readers peppered senior writer Wong Kim Hoh with questions about his craft at the inaugural The Straits Times Book Club at the National Library Board headquarters yesterday.
More than 200 people attended the opening of the rebranded book club, where Mr Wong discussed his latest book Big Hearts, Big Dreams, a compilation of inspiring stories about the 2015 and 2016 ST Singaporean of the Year nominees.
He also talked with ST executive editor Sumiko Tan, who was the event's facilitator, about the tricks of the trade of a journalist. Audience members wanted to know how Mr Wong, 56, finds the inspirational interviewees for his weekly It Changed My Life column and gets them to tell their tales.
Mr Wong, who has had a grown man burst into tears just seven minutes into an interview, said: "I've interviewed all sorts of people from colourful backgrounds, some of them doing things that are not very legal. I don't judge.
"I'm really interested in what they have to say."
Asked about the reluctance of Singaporeans to be interviewed, given the fear of washing one's dirty linen in public, he said: "It doesn't always have to be dirty. Your linen could have a lot of textures, so why not let people feel the textures for themselves?"
He also opened up about his childhood in Kuala Lumpur, where he grew up in a rough neighbourhood, befriended gangsters and could not read until he was in Primary 2 because his family could not afford to send him to kindergarten.
The ST Book Club, which takes over the newspaper's non-fiction book club The Big Read Meet, runs every last Wednesday of the month, with a new slate of ST journalists moderating sessions on new titles.The next session on April 25 will focus on Lee's Lieutenants, a re-issued book on founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and the Old Guard. It will feature its authors, Dr Kevin Tan and Dr Lam Peng Er, in conversation with ST head of training and development Lydia Lim. Readers can register at str.sg/oq5g.