Goh Sin Tub Creative Writing Competition Winner: Isaac Lim

The prize ceremony for this year’s Goh Sin Tub Creative Writing Competition was held on 1 June. Dr Sylvia Goh was the guest-of-honour for the event, and she presented prizes to the winners. In the first of a two-part series, we speak to some of the winners of the Competition. Here we talk to Isaac Lim who won Second Prize for his play Whither Are We Going.

© NUS Eng Lit | Photography by Lionel Lin
Isaac Lim with guest-of-honour Dr Sylvia Goh

Q: Could you tell us what your play is about and what inspired its writing?

Whither Are We Going, put simply, is about identity. As much as I hate to say this, it involves globalization, and the millenials’ concept of language and their questioning of national identity and meritocracy. Sneaked within are two ambiguous relationships that never quite work out, and some sort of political commentary on Singapore and our neighbors.

Through this work, I hope to raise the issues of who we are as Singaporeans, our identity, and if we as a nation are perhaps too competitive (which is not for our own good). It questions Singaporean millenials’ position in the diverse world we live in today.


Q: You are currently also part of the undergraduate program in theatre in NUS. Does your academic studies in theatre have any influence on your creative writing?

I’ve actually just completed my BA (Hons) in Theatre Studies here at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in NUS, and the four years have taught me so much about theatre and performance. I am glad that I’ve been provoked to think of issues in very different ways, and am allowed to see things from various perspectives and angles.

There are two modules which I consider to have a big impact on my writing today–firstly “Introduction to Playwriting” and thereafter “Advanced Playwriting,” both of which are taught by Ms Faith Ng. The two modules exposed me to various play genres, and challenged me to attempt writing works that I would never have tried before. It is in these two modules that I learned playwriting skills. I also met a great group of classmates who are unselfish in sharing ideas and opinions as we do peer reading and reviews in each class session.

Another module that influenced me is “Singapore English Language Theatre,” taught by Dr Robin Loon. The module offers a comprehensive survey of the vast collection of original works churned out by Singaporean or Singapore-based playwrights over the years. The intensive course tasked us to read and understand the history of local theatre development, and opened my eyes to the fantastic world of Singapore literature. It aspired me to want to be part of the scene in the near future and to add to its library of creative texts.


Q: Could you share some of your thoughts on the theatre scene in Singapore today? What are some of your hopes for Singapore theatre?

I believe that the theatre scene is burgeoning even more today than a decade ago. More people are willing to be audiences to support original local works. The next three months alone, we get to see at least five local theatre-related festivals, from Peer Pleasure, a festival for school drama groups, to the Twenty-Something Theatre Festival which serves as a platform for young emerging writers. We also have the Singapore International Festival of Arts, which attracts a vast regional and international audience.

I myself watch a rather broad range of theatre shows, from headline productions to fresh, independent works. I am especially intrigued by the works of Chong Tze Chien, especially writings like Pan Island Expressway (1998) and Charged (2010). I am also inclined to favoring works by Natalie Hennedige whom I have had the pleasure of working with; Hennedige directed me in my Play Production module. Hennedige’s works are bold and provocative, and focus much on the craft of storytelling among other things.

The past year has been a good one for me as I “venture” into the professional theatre scene in Singapore. Post-graduation, I am open to working freelance as a theatre practitioner, and believe there are many more things to be learned. There is space for growth in the Singapore theatre scene, as emerging writers, actors and directors are slowly taking to the stage. My hope is that there will be more funding from the authorities to push for a more vibrant arts scene and that theatre can reach out to more audiences because there are many stories waiting to be told. Theatre always provides food for thought, and is always targeted at the masses. If Singaporeans do not support Singapore theatre, who will?


Q: What are your future plans? Are there further plays or productions in the pipeline?

I am currently looking for work opportunities, including teaching theatre and drama to young children. As mentioned earlier, I am also very ready to be a freelance theatre practitioner in Singapore. If there are opportunities for further studies in the near future, I would like to do research and learn about directing and dramaturgy.

This prize has been a great encouragement to me. I hope to further develop this piece–Whither Are We Going?–through the National Arts Council-Mentor Access Project. My aim is to complete the work into a full-length piece, and perhaps have it staged within the next 2 years.

With the prize money, I also seek to start a collaboration with my peers to put up the work on stage. Currently, Between Consciousness, an earlier play of mine, is being worked on and I am seeking people who have interest to come together to develop the writing into a stage production.


Alumnus Prasatt Arumugam Treks the Pacific Crest Trail in Support of the Children’s Cancer Foundation



Come July, Prasatt Arumugam, a former English Literature major who graduated in January 2016, will be embarking on an immense expedition that will be a first for Singapore. He will trek the entirety of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which stretches 4,280km from Canada to Mexico, in a bid to be the first Singaporean to thru-hike the PCT. This arduous journey which takes more than 5 months to complete is a true test of the mind and body. It demands walking for 10 hours a day, with a backpack that can weigh up to 20kg, through a distance equivalent to walking from Singapore to China. He will also have to battle challenging terrain such as icy mountain passes and parched deserts. It is no wonder that more people have reached the summit of Mt Everest than completed the trail.

Credit: Christopher Parwani
Credit: Christopher Parwani

But for Prasatt, this endeavor is fueled by a cause larger than himself. This campaign is dedicated to the brave children whom he volunteers with at the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF). His journey with CCF began after his aunt passed away from cancer. She was like a mother to him and her loss was a particularly hard blow for him. This eventually prompted Prasatt to want to reach out to others suffering from cancer like his aunt did. Combined with his love for children, CCF became the logical choice.


Prasatt currently volunteers as a play personnel at the CCF Playroom in the National University Hospital. He engages in distraction play therapy, to help take the minds of the children off the pain and discomfort of treatments and check-ups. This allows them not to associate the hospital as merely a place of sadness and pain, but also as a place where they can meet friends and do things they love.  In his time there, he has met many young ones afflicted with cancer. Despite their youth, they face their immense battle with cancer with such courage and grace that Prasatt feels they deserve every possible chance of success in their fight. This is why he has decided to embark on TrekInvicta – a social initiative in support of CCF.

Through his own arduous journey, he aims to present a tangible parallel to the struggles that these children of CCF face on their long road to recovery. In doing so, he hopes to draw greater awareness to their cause and raise $26,660 – $10 for every mile – for CCF to continue its good work. 100% of all gross proceeds will go to CCF and donations above $50 are eligible for a 2.5x tax deduction. The funds raised are put to good use. According to CCF’s 2014 Annual Report, about 92% of CCF’s funds are channeled directly to aid its beneficiaries in the form of programs such as financial assistance, casework and counselling, and CCF’s learning centre, Place for Academic Learning and Support (PALS).

Prasatt hopes that readers of this blogpost can lend their support to these children to let them know that they are not alone in their fight. You can contribute to the campaign by heading to http://tinyurl.com/give2trekinvicta. No amount is too small, and every dollar makes a difference in the lives of these children! To learn more about the campaign, please head to http://trekinvicta.com. Should you require any further information, Prasatt can be contacted at trekinvicta@gmail.com. Let us stand together with one of our own to stand in solidarity with children afflicted with cancer.