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THIS post was written before SPOKEN started. SPOKEN is a project I am doing with Eugene Soh, an experiment in which art, text, virtual reality and social media intersect. Learn about SPOKEN here.
To enter gallery.sg and experience SPOKEN, click here.
Here is the extremely short version: from 2002 until 2008 I was involved with a visionary virtual reality project that combined educational practices with gamemaking and multimedia. However, the spiritual captain of the project was part Disney, part Microsoft and part Sex Pistols. An unexpected death, treachery, incompetence, inexperience, bureaucratic boondoggles and more made my life “interesting”… I have pages of notes about the events and the spirit of the times. We were doing things like Youtube and Second Life before they started. The project was so close… and yet so far away. (Actually, now that mobile technology has settled down, I hope that the lessons and products of that experience can be revitalized. But that’s yet another story.)
In 2006, as a way of showcasing our technology, I entered a gamemaking hackathon. A theme was given on a Thursday morning and the next day at five the results were judged.The theme was something about healthy eating, I think. Working with my programmer in Hong Kong, we made a game in which the viewer learned about the calorie count of certain foods. The player competed with an AI character. It was fun to do.
However, what I remember most was a team that made an incredible flash game. I don’t remember if they won or not, but I do remember two guys on that team very well. George Parel and Eugene Soh were full of energy, knowledge and bursting with creative ideas.
They still are.
I’ve been lucky to work with George and Eugene on a few projects since then. In 2008 I finally had to put the educational gamemaking project on hold while I waited for a programmer and the mobile device situation to stabilize.I put more time into writing and art projects. George and Eugene (that dude from Singapore) however, have kept on doing remarkably creative things with IT, art, design and more.
Virtual reality may seem to be an artificial place, but the gallery Eugene has created fills me with memories and hope. I am honored and very thankful for I Ate Tiong Bahru to be on display in gallery.sg
Cheers, Eugene! Cheers, George!
This informal essay is my way of marking the end of a certain era in ebook history. It’s part snapshot, part reference materials, part journal.At the end of this post are notes about me, my experiences and my books.
Thanks to Doug Rolph for his insights on economics, Eric Hellman for his input and my dad for having taken care of our family by selling books.
το πνεύμα του Ιανού
After I finish writing eight books, I will begin marketing. Until then, I’ll probably study the ebook world less and hopefully do more writing, arting and engaging with Life. When it does comes time for me to contribute to the marketing conversation, I hope I have something to say. For now, I present the following notes, quotes and thoughts as a means of punctuating a phase in the development of ebooks as I have seen and experienced it.
This is an exciting time. The ebook delivery platforms are finally stable, self-publishing has proven to have great value and a number of services have recently appeared that shorten the distances between readers and authors. It seems to me that indie ebooks and ebook marketing are about to enter a new era.
This blog post makes little mention of traditional publishing. This is simply because, as much as I would like to enjoy the benefits of being a Big 5/6 author, that fruit is not now within my reach. I am however, considering joining the Author’s Guild.
Although I’ve done almost no marketing, I have studied the environments in which ebooks are created, presented, bought and sold. Some observations:
1. Except for uploading, nothing about ebooks is easy.
Writing is the anti-social social media, full of long, long hours of pressure-filled solitude. Assembling an error-free book is never simple. The social part, finding an audience, is an immense challenge. I respect all of the authors mentioned in this post for they have successfully met these challenges and more.
Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.
Based on my experiences, the work breakdown of an 88,000 word novel looks something like this: 1000 words a day (88 days) or, more likely, 500 words a day (176 days). Call it 200 days to prepare something for a proofreader. Two months for corrections, art, and ebook conversion. So, a book takes about 300 working days to finalize. About…
And then there are the thousands of actions needed to connect with readers… The title of Guy Kawasaki’s excellent book says it all: APE, meaning Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur
This document, by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, is a data-based analysis of the ebook market. Highly recommended, it covers topics important for newbies and veterans. It touches upon issues like word count, pricing, marketing and more. For instance, his research shows that the average bestseller on Smashwords is 100,000 words, and the average romance is 112,195 words. (There are more links to resources at the end of this post.)
Very few traditionally published authors became bestsellers; the same is true for ebook publishing. My goal is not to become a bestseller, but to connect with the largest possible community of people who enjoy the art of reading.
2. A great writer or a great marketer…
….or, the frustration of being caught between not doing enough writing and not doing enough marketing. A writer writes, a salesman sells.
Self-publishing does not equal self-marketing. Spending money wisely on promotion money means income and time to write. (See the links below)
Twitter, Goodreads, FB, LinkedIn and blogging? All have their advantages and disadvantages…
3. There are no independent, hugely successful ebook-only self-publishers.
Note: Two days after this post went up, I became aware of this great piece by Dana Beth Weinberg on Digital Book World. Thank you Jacqueline Church!
Amazon is huge, Apple is huge, Kobo and Smashwords are very big. Unless you are selling from your own website or the back of your car, you’re not truly independent.
OK, A bit of an attention grabber there…but the author’s need for a partnership with Amazon and ebook distributors is a dependence that cannot be overlooked. These “automatic partners” will always protect their interests first. They call the shots. Amazon is a business, not an author.
Amanda Hocking is a hugely successful author. At one point, the average daily sales figure of her self-published ebooks was 9000. Again: average DAILY book sales: nine thousand! Her success was based on hard work, technological first mover advantage and an indirect tie-in with Hollywood.
-the successful and pioneering integration of ebook readers into tablets and mobile as well as the launch of the Kindle (2007) and the iPad(2010)
-the large demographic of young women who bought readers and tablets
– the fact that, having written many books, Hocking could quickly provide a new and large market with a variety of new titles
– writing books about the paranormal when Hollywood is pushing the same cannot hurt. Twilight, the hugely successful series of movies about teen vampires began in 2008. Hocking’s first book, My Blood Approves, began selling in 2010.
E.L. James’ book phenomenon began in the fan fiction chat rooms for Twilight. The characters in Fifty Shades of Grey were originally the characters from Twilight. Could Master of the Universe, as her series was originally called, have achieved its success without an existing network of thousands of Twilight fans?
These two women made their mark upon society in two different ways. As shared, collective book-based experiences: WOW!
However, the writing is…”not terrible” or worse
I remember SF/F authors complaining (back in 2011) that their readers hadn’t switched to e-books yet, casting jealous eyes at the outsized romance audience. But as readers did move across, we saw people like David Dalglish and BV Larson breaking out, and the rest of “genre” fiction soon followed.
There are “indie success stories” about authors who “rode into town” on the backs of traditional publishing. Funded by Big 6 money these “indies” were advertised and publicized, sent on book tours and given things like business cards. Possibly, audiobooks were made. Hundreds, if not thousands, of their books were given away, many to reviewers.
As the ‘first mover’possibilities of the ebook market became clear and realistic, these authors, knighted by the Big 6 and armed with credibility and connections, rode onto a battlefield with little opposition… Undoubtedly hard work was involved, but to label them as indies brings to mind the quip about George Bush: “…was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”
There certainly are “ebook only” indies connecting with many readers and enjoying sales. I just don’t know of any. (FOUND SOMEONE: LINDSAY BUROKER Please tell me about others!
them! Somewhat related to this, are there any “ebook only” awards?
Here, authors talk about their sales experiences.
4. The ebook world evolves to reward the reader; the prepared author benefits from this.
Fan fiction. Goodreads. Ebook readers on mobile phones. The mashup between big data and metadata. Entrepreneurs with vision who see ways to connect authors and readers in a new ways.
It is an exciting time.
Ebooks: Born to Click, Part 2 of 3
visit www.blacksteps.tv for parts 2 and 3 of this post, as well as information on art, books and ebooks
To give you some background…
I’m a transnational artist/writer. Born and raised in the United States, I have lived in Japan, Hong Kong and Paris. Since 2002, my base has been Singapore. I am writing this from Bali. In the physical world, I am somewhat friendly, but am definitely not one who joins groups. I don’t really use social media.
To give you some background…
I Ate Tiong Bahru is a portrait, a lyrical documentary about a place I lived in Singapore.
IATB was self-funded. The cover is stark: just the four word title,written in black letters on a white background. The back cover is completely white. My name isn’t on it, there isn’t a photo of Tiong Bahru’s Art Deco buildings. I didn’t ask a famous person for a blurb. For the most part, The Straits Times and other Singaporean media organizations seem to be unaware of IATB.
To give you some background…
The day I “won all of the awards”, I hadn’t slept for about forty hours. I had arrived in Singapore at 9AM, which meant that I left Bali about 6AM, which meant that I was at the airport about 4 something, which meant that…
The bus stop incident is part of this. At the bus stop, I squeezed an uncooperative container of sunblock. The top shot off covering me with goo. Blobs of white sunscreen dried on my shirt and pants, most of them around my crotch.
My meal of laphet is part of this. After I dropped off my bags, I ran errands. I had to pick something up at Peninsula Plaza. In Peninsula is a food stall that serves the best laphet in Singapore. Laphet is tea leaf salad, a Burmese traditional food. I love it. I ate some, including the many little cloves of garlic. I
The unwanted books are part of this. A book shop (in Tiong Bahru, of all places) decided not to carry IATB. So I was carrying a bag full of my books that had been rejected.The plastic bag that the books were in was becoming frayed and holes were appearing.
And it began raining. I got very wet. I have forgotten to mention that my shoes needed to be replaced.
AND SUDDENLY I WAS AT AN ART OPENING. I had planned to go to the opening AFTER I’d had a nap, a shave and a shower. After I’d put on fresh clothes and bought new shoes. But, one of my errands took me very near the art space and so….
I went and I was welcomed. Not just welcomed, but treated like a celebrity! (I have never, ever wanted to be a celebrity, let me make that clear.) Attractive, intelligent women wanted to be photographed with me! Handsome, successful men looked me in the eye, shook my hand and listened to me! I was given wine and special curry puffs and a very good otah-otah!
This is what I mean by “winning awards!”
I am sharing this because the excitement was real. Genuine.I Ate Tiong Bahru, and the writing within it, had connected with people. Those people were interested in me not because of where I had gone to school, not because of my sexuality, not because of advertising or FB “likes”, not because I’d been endorsed by the media, not because I was in the right clique, not because we were in a slick art space or trendy book store etc. etc… My clothes and shoes were wet. The rain made my hair look like a mop. I resembled a homeless person(in more ways than I care to admit), but the words in my book had been perceived as having value. IATB was referred to as an “icon”!
The next day, I was at the Tiong Bahru market from 7AM to 2 PM. Then I was Booktique, from 3-7. Again, I was overwhelmed. A woman living in Tiong Bahru told me that she read the book to her son! And she wanted two more copies! I smiled and thanked her, but inside I was close to tears. Other people also came up to talk about their experiences with the book.
Another thing you should know I that I do not write to please the reader. I write to challenge the reader, albeit in a caring and thoughtful way. IATB is not” feel good nostalgia”.
So the weekend was unforgettable. No red carpets, none of the “friends” that always appear at openings and book launches, no reviews in influential media…just that indescribable feeling that occurs when a genuine, heartful connection has been made.
Sunday afternoon, Bali. Working on an extension of SPOKEN which appears on Wattpad. For that, I needed a link to a photo. So, for now, this is it. Soon this will be an essay on the challenges of promoting the phenomenon at www.gallery.sg
Have not yet rewritten the essay on the chaqllenges of self-promotion, but this just happened, which is related.
I am very pleased to present three word pieces influenced by the SPOKEN experience. Following are two works by Carla Bonollo, an Italian writer and blogger; as well a poem by Sjon, the noted Icelandic author. The following works will make their way into The Spoken Handbook and/or will become part of artworks, perhaps something like these.
I thoroughly enjoy the works which follow. Not just the ideas, rhythms and structures of the pieces, but the fact that they were submitted in a spirit of open-ended experimentation. Expressive beyond words, these pieces are…
THE FUTURE IS SPOKEN
Words in progress
Happy as Larry
Apparently the original English expression was “happy as a sandboy”. North America: plenty of clams everywhere; contented with what one’s got. Happy as a clam.
In an old dictionary (1823) the sandboy was “an urchin who hawked sand around the streets”. Was it illegal? I don’t know…later the expression became a synonym for being merry…basically Larry was happy because he had a few pints. Larry was also a reference to the Australian boxer Larry Fowley (1847-1917); oh yes that Larry, now everything is as clear as a middleweight undefeated champion. Happy as Larry (Fowley). Larry Fowley was happy, it’s a fact. For those who love Thomas Hardy and his novels, “larry” was a dialect word meaning “in a state of excitement”. The US variation with clam came from the east coast, and to be even more precise, one should say “happy as a clam at high water.”
Having said that, I’m very happy to be part of the SPOKEN PROJECT, so here are a few “larry” connections.
Larry was already in the air in 1596:
The grey-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night,
Chequering the eastern clouds with streaks of light,
And flecked darkness like a drunkard reels
From forth day’s path and Titan’s fiery wheels:
Now, ere the sun advance his burning eye,
The day to cheer and nights dank dew to dray, I must up-fill this osier cage of ours
With baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers.
(Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene III, 1059-1066)
Come, come with me, and we will make short work;
For, by your leaves, you shall not stay alone
Till holy church incorporate two in one.
Things didn’t go according to plan, but Larry was happy to play his role, Father
Laurence reappeared in a mysterious way four centuries later in a famous prog
song, Genesis’ The Cinema Show. He’s no longer Father Laurence but he’s Father
Tiresias, a blind prophet of Thebes, famous for clairvoyance and for being
transformed into a woman for seven years. This adds a new spin on
Home from work our Juliet
Clears her morning meal
She dabs her skin with pretty smells
Concealing to appeal
I will make my bed
She said, but turned to go
Can she be late for her Cinema show? Cinema Show?
Romeo locks his basement flat
And scurries up the stair
With head held high and floral tie
A weekend millionaire
I will make my bed
With her tonight, he cries
Can he fail
Armed with his chocolate surprise?
Take a little trip back with Father Tiresias
Listen to the old one speak of all he has lived through
I have crossed between the poles
For me there’s no mystery.
For us the mystery remains, Larry knows better.
What follows is Carla’s second contribution.
In the city fields
Strangers are like friends.
What haiku do you want? was a collection of 68 haikus I wrote some time ago; 17 haikus for each season, following the rhythm framed in a precise sequence of syllables, 5-7-5 (=17 syllables). The original idea was to create a game of chance on an imaginary boardgame.
Here’s a small selection for every season, inevitably adding some variations in the English version, from Italy with love.
Think of a number between 1 and 17 and select the corresponding haiku. And
Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard – A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance:
Facing obscure lands
No goals in their life
Motorcycles whizz by
Just bullyboys’ races
The past perfect is
Like the present perfect mode
A restless secret
Held inside for too long
Blooms and vanishes
Gentle cold wind outside
Whistles brief and intense sounds
They ring a bell, the same
Butterfly collector loves art
A PhD in French medieval history
Even part-time, starts NOW
I have learned the I Ching
Simply by reading and reading them
Perseverance is all
Looking at the golden sand
Nobody on the horizon
Just waves and waves
Under layers of moss and grass
A blue, rare mosaic
A red bud in the rosebush
Bows its head listlessly
A rose is a rose, is it?
I dream of going back
To places that I don’t inhabit
Any longer exactly like you
White lights crossing the sky
Bouncing quick intermittent rays
Waiting for the traffic light
Inside my heart I recognize
Voices that I hardly sing
More cautious than sorry
Snippets are dangerous
Un-solving the cryptic crossword
Not a sausage today
A sweet flute playing
A duet with a melancholic viola
The fugue is much better
Fast but not too much
A glass-house sails in the garden
Surrounded by pink stones
The bread was a rock
The Parmisan tasted like sawdust
Farewell, adios, addio, ciao.
the dental age
our world is young and still teething
front teeth grow on mountain ridges
in the corners of abandoned parliaments
incisors push out of the flesh
of bananas and window panes
canine teeth sprout from the finger tips of lakes
and from the backs of arm chairs
the molars speckling the black skin
of the western slimy salamander crush the sky
when it snows we salute
all the teeth lost by every human ever born
each morning we raise our cups
towards the teething sun
For now, this:
Bali Wave Ghost reality check…
-First draft of 100 pages(30,000 words) completed.Expected total word count is 80,000 and heaven and earth are being moved to complete BWG by January 2015.
-The SlideShare includes a request for financial assistance. To be a sponsor or a patron, simply send me an email: blacksteps () at () gmail DOt com. It is also possible to have your name/personality appear in the book. YOU CAN BE A CHARACTER IN BALI WAVE GHOST! Certainly a unique Christmas present or birthday gift…
– The SlideShare was created with haikudeck and I enjoyed working with it. However, there are two small things I would like to change, as well as add one more slide. Though I looked and looked, couldn’t see how to do this.
As I write this, on December 2, I am still pondering how to get Bali Wave Ghost out into the world. Self-publish or traditional publishing? Both have plenty of good points and challenges. I am researching agents.To prepare a presentation for an agent is a very good thing, as it forces me to focus on things besides the story itself. For example:genre. BWG is a love story, but it is also a dark comedy. It is full of history yet very contemporary. It touches upon spiritual themes, surfing, Indonesian food, environmentalism, holistic healing, drug abuse and Kerokoban prison…never a dull moment!
Related to the financial issues surrounding BWG. I did consider crowdfunding. I am all for crowdfunding, but I fully realize that for it to work a great investment in time must be made. At the moment, I am obsessed with refining the writing of BWG, aiming to complete it within the next 60 days. A crowdfunding project would make that goal difficult to reach, if not impossible.
Paul Dodd, Paul Stamets and Paul Theroux.
I have spoken to two of them. I listened to a talk by, and wrote a short story about, the other.
Scorgie’s. If Scorgie’s was in New York City, it would’ve been more CBGB than CBGBG. Unlike CBGB, Scorgie’s toilet usually flushed. Scorgies was by the river in downtown Rochester, New York.
Personal Effects probably played at Scorgies more than any other band. Paul Dodd played drums. Somehow we met and one thing led to another and now, Paul and his wife Peggi and I have been friends for over thirty years.
But, Paul’s art is the thing.
More than technique, more than style… there’s always a lot of that undefinable-whatever-it-is appearing and disappearing on his canvases.
I am very happy to present his work in SPOKEN.
Well, Paul Stamets knows about SPOKEN and he is listed as a writer, but the text associated with his name was simply copied from a Youtube video. And that’s OK.
Paul Stamets is busy saving the world and that isn’t hyperbole. The book of his that is featured in SPOKEN is Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save The World.
I did speak to him once, as I was researching the agaricus blazei Murrill mushroom for a book project. I approached him after his presentation at the 2001 Bioneers Conference.Later, his company Fungi Perfecti was extremely helpful to me . I was sourcing agaricus blazei murril extract for a medicinal company who later greatly disappointed me with their unprofessionalism.
Paul Theroux spoke at the Singapore National Library in 2005. In 2001, while I was living in Tokyo, I had, for no real reason, photocopied a number of pages from Theroux’s book entitled The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific. Those papers travelled with me to Singapore . Theroux’s talk was serendipitous and just what I needed to finish the story that began at one of the copying machines on the 10th floor of the Chofu Library. The following is extracted from Who Will Bite My Head, one of the short stories in Furikake.
“You sure you don’t want to go back? You’re 5 minutes from your hotel. It’s almost twelve.”
“No, no this is alright, this is alright. Where to next?”
“The East Coast”.
The bungalows were full of parties. Crazy kids, yelling on bikes, zoomed throuh roller skaters and joggers.
Groups around barbecues played charades or guitars or just sat dranked and talked. Offshore there was a long row of ships, their tiny lights sparkling on the
waves. We really didn’t talk much. We were totally relaxed, the night was flowing nicely and that was that.
Once, though, he said he was the same age as Dick Cheney.
Again I was lucky; the fishermen had just brought their buckets ashore. They had catfish and rays and thick green and blue fish. They remembered me and
the four of us sat at the picnic table quietly drinking beer. Rosey was writing, preparing for his talk. Every once in a while one of the white buckets thumped and splashed as a fish tried to escape.
Eventually we all made a decision: the fish and the fishermen were expected in Geylang, so Rosey and I went along ”as planned”, drinking beer in the back of the truck, surrounded by buckets of fish.
We watched the fish get sold and picked our meal– we were hungry again. More beer and we finally talked: Detroit in the Fifties, the skies of Beijing and the
Sydney Olympics. The life history of Nadia Comenichi. Why John Arbinger couldn’t make the 1984 Olympic rifle team. Rosey once sold a young Brigit Bardot a vacuum cleaner in New Orleans. Wink wink ,nudge
We strolled over to the swarms of Chinese girls. Rosey told me to keep an eye on my wallet and walked into the perfumed crowd. I eventually found him again and again he winked. “Research”, he laughed. ”I wanna know all of the latest trends in Chinese house cleaning!”
Things began winding down. Pete walked over and stood in front of me, thoughtfully rubbing his hands together. ”All right, all right. This has been much more interesting than I would have expected. Despite the
sameness of the government.”
We headed back, asking the taxi driver to go down Arab Street very slowly. Pete remembered this and that: a knife fight here, a friendly shopkeeper used to be
there, prata guy with a pony tail who was always on that corner,
In Bugis too, we went slow. Stopped across from the National Library. Slow, slow, slow: too slow for me. I was now more sleepy than drunk. It was almost
“Alright, let’s call it a night. Take this and no arguing.”
He jammed two fifties into my hand. I just nodded.
“Can I drop you off somewhere? Where do you stay?
“Um… the Mitre Hotel. Near Orchard Road.”
“The Mitre! The Mitre is still around? Let’s go! Christ, it’s been what? Thirty odd years? My god…the Mitre.”
He looked at me differently than he had before. “You know all about it, right?”
“1860, nutmeg plantation. The Japanese military headquarters. The guys from Vietnam, the offshore oil riggers. The ghosts, the gambling, the girls, the
parties.” Someone could write a book about thatplace.
The taxi driver drops us off at the bottom of the hill. The dark tunnel of trees, then the dramatic appearance of the dilapidated grand hotel. We piss in the driveway and walk up to the gate. I gently call for Uncle to let us in. He’s snoring deeply on the old couch, two meters away. Finally he wakes up and wobbles over on his bad legs. He looks at Pete, then looks at me.
“Uncle, he’s gonna help me carry something out of my room. Fifteen minutes.”
With a sleepy scowl, he limps away to get the key.
He returns, stares at the keys, then tries a few. Finally we are in.
Pete walks slowly over to the bar and runs his hand across it, then looks around the decrepit lobby. The dim bulb behind the bar gives him a saintly glow. He
could be an angelic detective poet, looking in that big old dusty space for clues or inspiration. The tinny radio plays a sad Teo Chew ballad.
”No beer!” Uncle barks.
Up the dark stairs. Another cavernous room, lit only by a single fluorescent tube on the dirty wooden floor.
Covered shapes of boxes and broken furniture are barely visible. Rosey lights a match to discover books and the rusty springs from a mattress. The flame
flickers and we see a long box the length of a man.
His match goes out. Darkness. Pete begins babbling to himself. I fumble my way to my room; fumble my way to find the wires for light. A final fumbling before
my hands make sense. The light flickers on, lighting the high ceiling covered with mold and dusty peeling paint. Ballpoint pen graffiti is written all over the
yellowed walls. A sink in the corner, ready to fall of the wall. The rotten window area is without any glass.
In the center of the small room is a miserable bed, at least fifty years old. On the bed, Nenek, my black and white cat, watches us. Pete’s eyes move from the room to the desk and he picks up the photocopies, oblivious to my
“Um… one of these days I’m going to write something based on those. It’s an experiment. Important, but really not that important. “
He begins reading:
I sometimes felt like the only person in Oceania who had wrecked his marriage, and I was reminded of that overwhelming sense of remorse I had felt that
dark night in New Zealand, when I looked though the front window of the California Fried Chicken family restaurant on Papenui Road in Merivale and I saw a happy family and I burst into tears.
“This is me,” he says, crashing onto the filthy bed. He bursts into tears like the man in the book. Nenek licks his hand. ” This is me.”
Artwork for Aliwal Street
1. Utilize the cut pieces of cardboard collected from Michael Lee’s Office Orchitect text and sculptural installation. Office Orchitect debuted at the 2011 Singapore Biennale and has since toured major art exhibitions in Asia. The cut pieces of cardboard have been carefully stored since the Singapore Biennale.
2. On each piece of cardboard, write SPOKEN and gallery.sg (The intention being to contrast the high tech info-laden digital environment of SPOKEN with an anonymous, handmade, UNIQUE invitation).
3. Submit the cards to the management of an arts facility on Aliwal Street.
4. Have a pleasant conversation with the staff, explaining that SPOKEN is actually very hi-tech and the handmade cards are meant to contrast with that. Mention that Vincent Leow, Stelarc, Morimura, Sjon and Xu Xi are participating, along with an eclectic international group of artists and writers
5. Return the next day to bring more cards. Be informed that the cards have been rejected; they cannot be displayed in the official racks used for promotional materials. The staff is not in the office and the information is relayed by a security guard.
6. Accept this situation with a smile. Do not mention that a large percentage of the slickly printed, full color materials on display in the official display racks are full of confusing English and “interesting”design sensibilities, to put it mildly. Do not touch upon the idea of censorship. Or taste. Or open-mindedness. Or diversity. Take consolation from Matisse being called an animal. Chuckle at the fact that Agnes B. is sponsoring a “Punk” show at the Substation, a show only possible because of handmade, low tech, promotional pieces/artworks. DO NOT MENTION VOICE OF PIECES TO ANYONE.
7. Impose upon the kind people at Word Forward, on the second floor of the Aliwal Arts Center to distribute the cards.
8. Offer a free signed printed copy of I Ate Tiong Bahru to the first person who gets one of the grey handwritten cards and then posts a photo of it online. Give a free ebook version of I Ate Tiong Bahru to anyone else who does this. Be happy.
Art is a business, and although I firmly believe in “art for art’s sake”, l recently began thinking about how some art projects are similar to IT start ups. One thing led to another and I soon found myself being interrogated by Jack Welch, the business leadership guru, about SPOKEN, my own art/creative writing/virtual gallery project…
(The name of Jack Welch is used respectfully and symbolically. Mr. Welch himself has not been involved with this in any way. To underscore this, NJW (Not Jack Welch) is used below.)
NJW: Alright, what’s SPOKEN’S “big aha” and how can our readers benefit from it?
SB: SPOKEN’s “big aha” is recognizing the needs of the huge number of independent artists, musicians, writers and creatives of all kinds. All of these people need exposure, yet most cannot afford the time it takes to build an audience. Social media and the possibilities for direct engagement between creators and their audience are also part of SPOKEN’s “big aha”. Your readers will benefit from reading about how SPOKEN is developing new ways to reach audiences and then using what is applicable.
NJW You got the right people?
SB: Eugene Soh, is SPOKEN’s co-producer and an artist. Not only did he build a great virtual gallery, he made an interactive game; a tribute to Ai Weiwei’s vase smashing legacy. Eugene also put a huge balloon dog in the sky over the gallery as a tribute to Jeff Koons. You can jump on it.
Plus we have an eclectic mix of contributors like Stelarc, Xu Xi, Jamie Grefe, Yasumasa Morimura, Buke and Gase, Sjon, Kembra Pfahler, Xu Xi, Lagos 2060 and more.
I have some great programmers lined up for the next version.
NJW: What’s your playing field look like?
SB: The playing field for showcasing art, music, writing and most creative endeavors now looks like this: educational institutions, cultural institutions websites and companies. There is a need for new platforms as the numbers of independents overwhelm the existing structures. Also, the idea of what art is and how it is being distributed is now being redefined because of the possibilities of digital.
SPOKEN is, perhaps the start of a new kind of art, or maybe an incubator for something that could be the next Behance or deviantart.
NJW: Threats? Problems?
SB: We are avante garde in the way we are creating and presenting art.We’re new. We must explain and demonstrate what we are doing.The biggest threat to SPOKEN is inaction: we must create dynamic documentation: ebooks, artworks, music and video. We must be more than a great exhibition complemented with great writing: we must redefine what a gallery can be in the digital age. With SPOKEN, we gather experiences and data then we disrupt.
NJW: What’s your winning move?
SB: Promoting all of the SPOKEN artists individually. If we listen to them carefully and respond well, SPOKEN will grow.
A Book Cover for To Eat Tiong Bahru
A proposal for a commissioned artwork to be crowdfunded on Avvio
I Ate Tiong Bahru, Stephen Black’s popular book about Tiong Bahru, has a sequel that’s nearly finished. It’s called To Eat Tiong Bahru. And it needs a cover.
A striking cover will allow a second fundraising campaign (for actual publishing) to begin. For now, though, the goal is to commission an artist to create an artwork. That artwork will become the cover as well as the basis for a limited edition print.
To Eat Tiong Bahru features more original research, more interviews, more creative writing and more life experiences; it will be another “must read” for anyone who enjoys great writing about the food and culture of Tiong Bahru, Singapore and Southeast Asia.
“… the anecdotal tales you have recorded jump back at me through time. It is a rare occasion when I get the opportunity to meet someone who is so dedicated to writing up the heritage of the area with stories from the street.
Donald Wyatt, resident of Tiong Bahru since 1942
“… I Ate Tiong Bahru, your exquisite ‘lyrical documentary’ on Tiong Bahru, gave me many hours of pure pleasure… I wish I’d read it before visiting the estate, and still in Singapore so I would be able to go there again. It’s in Paris that I read it, and followed all your descriptions and encounters, street by street, on my detailed map of Singapore… I loved your book.”
-M.Abreu, urban scientist
“ I Ate Tiong Bahru is a must-read for gourmets, architects, historians and just about anyone who wishes to learn more about this evolving neighborhood.”
-5 star review on Amazon
“.. reads like a travelogue, a personal story and a history book… a pleasure to read.”
To Eat Tiong Bahru, and the cover you help make, will continue the excitement of I Ate Tiong Bahru.
What will the cover be like?
Colorful! Descriptive! Charming! Thoughtful! Contemporary!
Scenes to be featured include The Tiong Bahru Market, Yong Siak Street, a typical coffee shop, architectural highlights, “Tony’s”, the Monkey God Festival and The Hungry Ghost Festival and morel. Kite flying on the roofs, a bit of the Bukit Merah Fires and other historical scenes too.
And you! (Check the rewards section.)
The money will be used for…
To create the cover artwork, three steps are necessary: creating and finding photographs, layout tests and actual creation. The cost for the artist/illustrator cannot be exactly determined at this time. Frankly, the budget means that either a fantastic artist/illustrator will work at a special rate or we can find a promising young artist/illustrator who would like exposure and a great portfolio piece. Either way, photographing, researching and testing are necessary.
Once the artwork is made the poster will be created. The feel of the cover will be light-hearted and contemporary, with a little surprise.
What happens after the goal is reached?
We start an Avvio campaign for publishing!
And, the poster will go on sale, with a portion of the profits going to the Tiong Bahru Benevolent Association. For more than thirty years, this all volunteer group has been feeding and helping the elderly and low income families in Tiong Bahru.
About Stephen Black
An artist/writer/photographer/producer, Stephen Black has been based in Asia since 1984 and has lived in Singapore since 2002. His artworks and images have been shown, published and collected around the world and he has worked with Annie Liebovitz, Kazuo Ono, Michelin three-star chefs, CNN, Cartoon Network, Fox, Fuji TV and France 2. His other books include Obama Search Words, Furikake, Bali Wave Ghost and Contact With Shadow. A fictional biography that he co-wrote featured prominently in Michael Lee’s Office Orchitect installation which premiered at the 2011 Singapore Biennale and has since been shown regionally. The co-founder of 3how, a music/theatre performance ensemble, Stephen co-produced 3how: The Riverwalk Session, a spontaneous recording session by Amith Narayan, Curtis King, Bani Haykal and award-winning vocalist Wilson Goh.
Online until February 2015 is SPOKEN, a co-production with Eugene Soh, that is a phenomenon of art, creative writing, social media and virtual reality.
Online at gallery.sg until February 2015 is SPOKEN, a project Stephen co-produced with Eugene Soh. A phenomenon of art, creative writing, social media and virtual reality, SPOKEN features contributions from Yasumasa Morimura, Stelarc, Sjon, Nhung Walsh, JUMPTHECUT, Lagos 2060, Buke and Gase, Vincent Leow, Irving Paul Pereira, Xu Xi and other dynamic creatives.
About To Eat Tiong Bahru
Like its predecessor, To Eat Tiong Bahru will skillfully merge anecdotes, historical research and loving explorations of food. The book will be a rojak of snapshots of daily life, snippets of information, essays, written portraits, short stories and food tips.
For example, the story of Singapore’s first rock and roll band, Ronnie and the Burns, will be revealed for the first time. The long vanished Chinese School is brought to life through interviews and research. Also included is Donald Wyatt’s breathtaking story on how his family outran the Japanese across Malaya to become one of the first families to live in Tiong Bahru. These and other factual essays contrast with lyrical short stories that include one about a Danish woman who fancies herself to be the Diane Arbus of Tiong Bahru, circa 1974. Other short stories feature a narcissist, the Monkey God, a very wealthy Indonesian and cats.
Why I’d like you to consider funding this project
Over four years of research, interviews and life experiences have gone into these books about Tiong Bahru. All this work was self-funded. Although the first book has been well-received, the reality of the situation is that, without your help, To Eat Tiong Bahru cannot be published. Your support of the cover/art edition is a beautiful way to support a notable independent project about Singapore, while adding to your art collection at the same time.
The first book cover symbolized the white architecture of the Estate. It was anonymous, with no information except the title. The cover was meant to be an intriguing challenge.The cover of To Eat Tiong Bahru, however, will be dynamic! Festive scenes, depictions of everyday life and private moments will make the cover artwork eye catching and informative.
$5 An original photographic postcard mailed from Tiong Bahru and signed by Stephen Black and a whole lot of thanks!
$35 A signed copy of the poster plus the postcard from Stephen Black.
$80 A customized Tiong Bahru tour of at least two hours, for one to five people
$180 Be in the cover artwork and in the poster! Your caricature will appear in a Tiong Bahru scene. Eating in the market, walking down Yong Siak, watching the Monkey God Festival parade etc.If you have a request of how you want to be pictured, let me know. However, first come, first served, so get your request in soon, lah. Great gift idea! Limited to 12
Note: I would like to thank anyone who even considers supporting this project. And, if you do think To Eat Tiong Bahru is worth supporting with your hard-earned dollars, I am extremely grateful and honored. I will do my best to make it the best reading experience possible for both Singaporeans and an international audience. Getting the cover artwork finished would be a great help. I cannot thank you enough. Sincerely, Stephen Black