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Monday, October 27, 2008

Shamini Flint: Writing for a better world

booksI salute those people who reach their hands to help others, especially Asians. Asians are really nice race and they really need improvements. The mind-setting should be changed. Hope one day all the Nations on Asia can be prosperous like those of

Eclectic writer-cum-entrepreneur Shamini Flint likes to discuss environmental issues and the need for Asian children to read more about Asia.

In 2004, Shamini set up the Singapore-based Sunbear Publishing Co. "to fill a niche in the Southeast Asian book market". Since then, 70,000 of her books have been sold to date.

Her prolific writings can be grouped under three genres: picture books for children aged five years and up, which includes the Sasha series of 13 books set in Singapore and other cities of Asia; tales of endangered animals and adventure novels for children aged nine and up; and crime fiction for adults.

The common backdrop in all of these different genres is, of course, different landscapes of contemporary Southeast Asia.

"I'm fascinated by modern Asia," said Flint on the sidelines of the recent Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Ubud, Bali.

While writing both child fiction and adult crime fiction, Flint interweaves her plots with Asian travel scenes, educating readers on cultural sites and environmental issues.

She definitely eludes being stereotyped as a "child fiction" writer or as a "crime fiction" writer.

As a writer, she has a noble aim -- "to make the world a better place".

Her "agenda driven" children books are written "to open children's eyes to environmental issues".

In line with her writer's agenda, she launched her novel for pre-teens and teens at the Ubud Festival. The novel, titled Seeds of Time, presents a combination of a fantasy expedition into the jungles of Borneo coupled with two children's quest to save the world and endangered animals.

Flint has scored a publishing deal with UK based publisher Little Brown. According to this deal, her crime novels previously published in Singapore would be available worldwide in 2009 under the new crime series title, Inspector Singh Investigates. The books are set in Bali, Malaysia and Singapore.

This publishing deal will push her higher up, internationally, in her book sales chart in the coming years.

The history of how Flint started her writing and publishing career begins, surprisingly, with her motherhood.

Cambridge-educated Flint, a Malaysian national-Singapore resident, worked as a corporate lawyer until her daughter was born.

As her daughter grew up, she started looking for English books relating to her preschoolers' interests and trips to local cultural sites.

She did not find any in local bookstores, so she started writing them herself. She "filled the niche".

Flint and her readers are part of the growing modern day generation who read more books about local context, scenarios and problems in the English language.

Steering clearly away from fairy-tale conventions of Cinderella, and the magic symbolism of The Little Mermaid, which preschoolers' and primary school kids find hard to understand, Flint's Sasha series centers around the realism of a mother-daughter trip to Asian nature spots, cities and cultural centers.

Sasha visits The Botanical Gardens, her first book in 2003, is a picture book with colorful illustrations, large font and simple sentences, narrating how a little girl marvels at what she sees, touches and feels, while the mother "persona" plays the educative role of explaining the wonders of the gardens and nature.

As the Sasha series grew in popularity, with books about Sasha's visit to the Zoo and Sentosa Island, the CEO of the Singapore National Museum approached Flint about writing the book Sasha visits the National Museum.

The Sasha series now includes stories of Sasha's visits to other Asian cities, including Bali, Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur.

Singapore's Ministry of Education has recently expressed an interest to include Turtle Takes A Trip, one of her Endangered Animals series, as part of the national elementary school syllabus.

All her books in the Endangered Animals series are written in rhyming couplets, using simple words; and her verses could well become part of modern day children's rhymes and recitals.

The prose of her crime fiction is evocative of dramatic suspense and thrills of murder investigations.

Where other stay-at-home mothers have struggled to develop a profession or become self-employed in areas of educational interest to children, Flint has succeeded in writing for her daughter, and other children.

Mothers to her are demographically the most significant group. Her one-off treatise-style book titled, How to Win a Nobel Prize: A Stay-at-Home Mum's Guide, presents a step-by-step guide on how mothers can actively address global issues on environment and education, and indeed win a Nobel Prize.

A new generation writer and entrepreneur with a self-proclaimed passion "to make the world a better place", Flint is certainly doing Southeast Asia proud.


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