Strip club visits part of his writing process

Local author Felix Cheong (left) with ST assistant sports editor Rohit Brijnath at The Straits Times Book Club yesterday. Cheong's latest work is a children's picture book titled Use Your Head.
Local author Felix Cheong (left) with ST assistant sports editor Rohit Brijnath at The Straits Times Book Club yesterday. Cheong's latest work is a children's picture book titled Use Your Head.PHOTO: LIN ZHAOWEI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Author Felix Cheong shares how to beat writer's block at fifth edition of ST Book Club

One of the more unusual places that Singaporean poet and author Felix Cheong has written in is a Brisbane strip club called Showgirls.

He would order a flat white and scribble there all afternoon, while the girls twirled onstage, took their clothes off and teased him about his writing. From them, he learnt the art of putting on masks and how to take on personae in dramatic monologues.

He shared these moments of a writer's life at the fifth edition of The Straits Times Book Club, where he spoke with ST assistant sports editor Rohit Brijnath.

About 130 people attended the session at the National Library headquarters' programme zone yesterday.

Cheong, 52, often writes in busy places such as kopitiams - "silence scares me, because I can't hear the ideas bouncing off life"- and even on his phone while riding the bus.

His advice for beating writer's block? "Vomit first, clean up later. If you don't vomit, there's nothing to clean up."

The part-time lecturer has published 12 books, including poetry collection Temptation, And Other Poems (1998), as well as the popular humour series Singapore Siu Dai. His next poetry collection, B-Sides And Backslides 1986-2018, will be out next month.

His latest work is a children's picture book, Use Your Head. Illustrated by Natassya Diana Siregar, it is the tale of a boy who tumbles into a whimsical world of flamingos and hot-air balloons. It is told in rhyming couplets and accompanied by join-the-dot drawings for children to fill in.

It took him nearly a year to write - "longer than it takes to make a child," he quipped. He finds writing for children even harder than writing for adults as one must use simplistic language without talking down to the reader.

Filipino writer Marvin Einstein Mejaro, 33, said he found the session informative. "It's a very effective format, pitched to engage an audience that does not, as a majority, write."

The rebranded book club takes over ST's non-fiction book club The Big Read Meet and runs every last Wednesday of the month.

The next session on Aug 29 will feature Banyan Tree Holdings founding chairman Ho Kwon Ping, who will speak with ST associate editor Ravi Velloor about Asking Why, a collection of Mr Ho's speeches and writings. Readers can register at str.sg/oAXE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2018, with the headline 'Strip club visits part of his writing process'. Print Edition | Subscribe