The Writing Duo - Monica Lim and Lesley-Anne Tan

This is a monthly post on 'Inspiring Individual'. Every 2nd week of the month I will post on individual who has crossed our path & how we were inspired by him/her.

Jan - The Music Conductor, Adrian Tan
Feb - Investor, Entrepreneur, Author, Success Coach - Ismail Gafoor
Mar - 儿子的华文老师 - 颜清碹老师
Apr - Man of God - Rev. (Dr.) Prabhudas Koshy
May - 新加坡教育界的杰出华人 - 张美香校长
Jun - Trading Master, My Mentor - Robin Ho
Jul - Top-tier Remiser & Stock Trainer, Collin Seow
Aug - Face-to-Face with Janet Doman
Sep - An Extraordinary Mother, Pamela Lim
Oct - My Career Mentor - Patrick Hoe

There are a few parenting blogs which I follow very closely.  Monica's is 1 of them.  I love her honest sharing on those educational topics & her travel log.  When she published her 1st book: The Good, The Bad & The PSLE, I didn't wait long to grab a copy & read it.  I even wrote a book review on it! The little boy who saw that I was so engrossed with this book also wanted to have his hands on.  He did an audio review of the book too!

Not too long after, Monica announced the birth of another book.  This time, it was a co-authorship with her daughter.  & in January this year, the 1st book of Danger Dan series hit the shelves.  Of course, this mummy here quickly got hold of the book for AJ to read.  The boy loves it!

Monica was very kind to publish AJ's note in her blog post here

Eventually, there was the 2nd, & the 3rd & now the 4th.  AJ has read them all!  & I also shamelessly submitted AJ's short review to the publisher & it appeared on Danger Dan's 4th book.

That's me! That's me! AJ was elated to see his review being published!

Naturally, I am curious how Monica instils the love of writing in her daughter.  If only I could rub off 50% of this to AJ!  & for Lesley-Anne to write 4 books in a year while coping with her busy life in Junior College (JC), on top of the numerous talks she has to give, I'm totally hats off.  So I asked them both:

1) When & how did you conceive the idea to co-author with Lesley-Anne? What was her initial response?

Mid last year, Epigram Books was looking for someone to write a children’s series. Lesley-Anne wanted to try out for it & Epigram Books was quite open to the idea but they were worried that she wouldn’t be able to juggle writing & school. So we decided to try out as a mother-daughter duo. It was an open pitch, meaning that other interested writers could try out for it. So we sent in a proposal with sample chapters & details on the proposed plot & characters. I guess Epigram Books must have liked ours as we were offered the contract.

2) How did you instil the love of writing in her?

This is a tough question that I get asked a lot. I wonder if parents are looking for a formula so that if they apply steps 1 to 5, then they will groom a writer! In reality, things are seldom that straightforward. Personally, I feel that while you can definitely nurture the love & skills for writing, hard wiring also plays a part, in the same way that not everyone will have the inclination to become an athlete or musician. I say this through my own personal experience from raising 2 very different kids. I read to both of them from the time they were babies, I exposed them to a wide range of books. Yet, only Lesley-Anne showed a deep interest in books, whereas Andre was always more interested in running around outdoors, no matter how much I coaxed.

I think a love of writing has to stem from a love of words & this is something Lesley-Anne displayed from a young age. Quite funnily enough though, when she was in lower primary, she wasn’t interested in fiction. She veered towards science books & poetry (which I found odd since I never really enjoyed poetry!)

The key to encouraging writing is to first encourage reading, which I did. Many parents try to force their own book choices on their kids, which I don’t quite agree with. It’s okay to introduce books you think is good but ultimately, the reading habit can only be nurtured if the child enjoys it. So let your child take the lead & read what he or she loves.

From there, Lesley-Anne pretty much charted her own reading journey & I found that she had a very intuitive grasp of the nuances of words & being able to read between the lines. As she grew older, I encouraged her to grow her reading repertoire. Taking Literature in school definitely helps a great deal as the subject teaches her how to look at texts in depth & understand the literary devices authors use to express themselves.

So as a parent, my role is simply as facilitator. Lesley-Anne has developed her own style of writing & her book preferences are not always the same as mine. She appreciates poetic narratives & the subtle shades of meaning whereas I’m more the “get to the point already!” kind of reader.

3) Life as a JC student is tough. How does Lesley-Anne manage her school work, Course Curriculum Activities (CCA), Danger Dan writing & attending media events (especially those overseas)? Is there still time for leisure? ;P

We always joke that Lesley-Anne is a full-time student with a full-time job (actually, that’s not a joke!) When we went to the Hong Kong International Young Readers Festival, she missed 2 days of school & came back to find a whopping stack of homework waiting for her.

No 2 ways about it – it’s tough. School ends at 4pm on most days & during CCA days, she comes home after 9pm, exhausted. Then there are assignments to complete & exams to study for. Time management is key & she knows her can’t afford to have any pockets of time being wasted. She does her homework during free periods in school, reads in the MRT & catches up on sleep in the bus. As parents, we help by providing logistics support, eg. driving her to school talks. I handle all the administrative stuff for the books eg. coordinating media interviews & organising school talks, which I try to arrange during her free periods or non-core lessons like PE. As you can imagine, she doesn’t get much leisure time. If she does, it often goes towards sleep!

In other words, being a teen writer may sound glamorous but it’s a lot of hard work. Fortunately, Lesley-Anne finds it all fulfilling so she’s willing to make the sacrifice.

4) There is so much attention on her, now that she co-authors the Danger Dan series with you, how is she coping with this emotionally (ego, pride, stares by others, criticism from friends in school, etc)?

I think the “fame” bit is over-estimated, haha! Lesley-Anne has never been recognised in public, so no stares that we’re aware of. Apart from a few of her friends buying her books out of support, they don’t really talk about her book-writing. In school, she’s just another ordinary JC student, which suits her fine as she’s a very private person.

Lesley-Anne adds that if she shows any signs of being big-headed, Mummy will be the first one to knock some sense into her!

5) What is your plan for her (or her plan) going forward?

It has been a whirlwind year for Lesley-Anne – starting JC & launching 4 books. I don’t want to put additional pressure on her as next year will be even tougher with her ‘A’ levels coming up.

Lesley-Anne says she is enjoying school tremendously & wants to savour every bit of it. She is trying to take things 1 step at a time & will consider every opportunity that comes her way.

Monica & Lesley-Anne

PS: The books of the 2 writers are now available at a 20% discount.  If you haven't gotten any Christmas presents for your loved ones, why not consider this? Kindly click on this link to bring you to the offer details.


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