Sunday 12 February 2012

Alamak! I’m up against Nicole Seah at Young Writers Media Festival

It’s my first time. So please be gentle.

I e-mailed the person I will be doing it with, fellow New Paper columnist Neil Humphreys, for guidance.

He wrote back: “Don’t worry about it. Do these all the time.”

I’m glad at least one of us has done something like this before. He reminded me that a third person will be there to make things easier.

As if it isn’t awkward enough that I’m a virgin at this, it’s going to be a threesome at a hotel with two other guys I’ve never met before.

And people will be paying to watch us do it.

And my parents thought I wouldn’t amount to anything.

Yes, my participation in next weekend’s All In! Young Writers Media Festival at Rendezvous Hotel has been confirmed. My picture is in the festival booklet and everything. So they’re stuck with me.

“Targeting aspiring/emerging young writers and tertiary students who have interest in writing and the literary arts”, the event is organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore, but those in the know just call it The Book Council, which sounds hipper and requires remarkably fewer keystrokes.

Since 2009, the annual event was known as the All In! Young Writers Seminar and lasted only one day. But this year, it has levelled up from seminar to media festival and is on both Saturday and Sunday.

According to an e-mail I received from The Book Council, “the two-day event will bring together established practitioners in their respective fields to discuss interesting current topics and also educate and inspire these young writers”.

Hey, I’m an “established practitioner”! I want that engraved on my tombstone, along with “Earned three stars on all Angry Birds Rio levels”.

So how did a joker like me get involved in something as well-meaning as this?

According to that same e-mail, it was another fellow New Paper columnist who recommended me - Sylvia Toh Paik Choo.

My guess is that the Book Council asked her first and she fobbed it off on me.

So I wasn’t the first choice. I’m just a second-string substitute. Was Mr Brown unavailable?

To quote the great Smokey Robinson: “Now there's some sad things known to man, but ain't too much sadder than the tears of a clown.” (No copyright infringement intended.)

My only consolation is that the festival booklet said there will be a lunch-time special featuring a “stunning lunch buffet”. Did you read that? “Stunning”. The lunch buffet will stun you. I want to be stunned by my food.

The “stunning lunch buffet” alone should be worth the festival registration fee of $30 for a two-day pass and $20 for a one-day pass, which I don’t have to pay, I hope. The things I do for free food.

I believe I don’t have to pay because I’m part of a one-hour panel on Saturday with Neil Humphreys called “Pun intended or unintended - should everyone attempt humour in writing?”.

The third wheel in our threesome is moderator Desmond Kon.

I have never met both these men. I’ve seen Neil around but have never spoken to him even though we both write for the same paper.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid our threesome will be upstaged by another panel at the festival held concurrently in another hotel ballroom.

That panel is called “Using new media to reach and engage the community”.

And you know who will be at that panel?

Ms Nicole Seah. Yes, that Nicole Seah.

How can two not-so-young guys like Neil and me hope to compete with the Opposition Sweetheart of General Election 2011?

Maybe I can talk Neil into wearing some make-up.

And you know who else will be at that panel with Ms Seah?

Mr Yee Jenn Jong, the new Workers' Party treasurer, who last week replaced Hougang MP Yaw Shin Leong.

The latter is dogged by allegations of an affair with another married party member.

If I could, I would skip my own panel and attend the other panel just to grill Mr Yee for some gossip. (And perhaps check out what Ms Seah is wearing.)

Maybe you should do the same. Anything is better than watching me pop my cherry.

- Published in The New Paper, 12 February 2012