by Jim Harrington
I learned about the National Schools Literature Festival a few months ago and contacted them for further information. Below Sharon Quek, the media and communications contact for the group, provides responses. Pictures from the event can be viewed on their Facebook page. More information can be found on the NSLF website.
FFC: What is the National Schools Literature Festival? Where did the idea come from? What is its purpose? When did it begin?
Sharon Quek: The National Schools Literature Festival is a ground-up initiative developed by Literature teachers in Singapore who want to encourage the study of Literature as an essential subject in the national curriculum. It started in 2004 when a group of Singapore Literature teachers came together to organise competitions at the national level, in which students could participate to sharpen their skills in critical reading, debate and dramatisation. The festival allows teachers and students to network with their peers, jointly build their understanding and interpretations of the Literature texts they are studying, and deepen their understanding of and love for Literature.
FFC: There are six sessions listed in the programme. Do students participate in each one, or do they get to choose?
SQ: Students can participate in any of the six events (Debates on Unseen Texts, Set Text Debates, Poetry Slam, Book Trailer, Book Parade and Flash Fiction). To allow more schools to have the opportunity of participating in the festival, the organising committee has requested each school to send a maximum of two teams (one each for lower secondary and upper secondary) per event.
FFC: The list of participants includes 80 schools. How many children from each school participate? How are they chosen?
SQ: An average of about 20 students from each of the 76 schools participated in the festival this year. The selection of student participants is left to the schools. In the last seven years, the number of student participants has been in the range of 1,000 to 1,500.
FFC: One section is for flash fiction. Why flash?
SQ: Flash Fiction is a new event organised to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the National Schools Literature Festival this year. The event seeks to encourage students to write in a succinct and original manner that will engage the interest of readers.
FFC: Stories must be exactly 200 words. Why 200?
SQ: 200 words is an appropriate length for students to include sufficient details in a story while sustaining the attention of any reader. The organisers hope that the word limit will also challenge students to think carefully about their choice of words.
FFC: What else should we know about the festival?
SQ: Ten winning flash fiction stories were selected by a review committee. These were subsequently published in notebooks that were given to every participant at the festival.
Currently, the festival caters to secondary school students in Singapore. We hope to expand the festival to include primary school students in the future to promote a love of reading and Literature among the younger students too.
FFC: Thank you, Sharon, for responding to my questions, and thanks to all the teachers who organize and participate in this wonderful effort to bring literature to their students.
Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. His stories have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Liquid Imagination, Ink Sweat and Tears, Near to the Knuckle, Flashes in the Dark, and others. He serves as the Managing Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles. Jim’s Six Questions For . . . blog provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read more of his stories at http://jpharrington.blogspot.com.