From their vantage point at the front of the room, five SAS juniors surveyed the wave of attendees – kids, teens, parents, teachers – entering the warmly lit Visitor Briefing Room of the National Library. The event was scheduled to start at 2 p.m., but they already had a full house.
As the crowd began to quiet down, moderator Clara Fong stood up. “Hey guys! Welcome to our panel discussion. We are Parallel Ink, an online literary arts magazine. Just to get to know you guys a little better, has anyone here published their work before?”
A few hands went up.
“And who wants to get their work published?”
More hands. Shy smiles. Self-conscious laughter from the back row.
Not every teenager has the confidence or know-how to talk publishing and editing with an audience of strangers. As senior staff members of the e-zine Parallel Ink, however, these student panelists were uniquely qualified to share their experiences.
In March, the Singapore Book Council hosted their annual ALL IN! Writers’ Festival, a two-day “gathering for aspiring writers” to learn from a “wide array of writing mentors and industry professionals” – SAS students among them.
But for Parallel Ink, the journey began in January when editor-in-chief Jamie Uy received a Facebook message from Carlo, one of the organizers for ALL IN!. He invited them to be a “media partner” for the conference. After meeting with him, Jamie and managing editor Vincent Tantra secured an even better opportunity – one of the open slots in the schedule would be reserved for an exclusive PI panel.
Next came a flurry of email exchanges and two-hour Skype calls between PI staff members to establish what they were doing. To their surprise, Jamie and Vincent found there were relatively few guidelines: the planning was almost completely left to them.
So every Friday for four to five weeks leading up to the event, the panelists met after school to work on their script, camping out in the quietest places they could find – like the ‘secret’ Archive Room in the Khoo Teck Puat library.
“How it worked was everyone came with their idea of a script, and we would read each other a script and simulate our panel during our meetings,” Seo Young explained. “We would receive feedback from other people and with that, we just kept on tweaking and tweaking our scripts until we all thought it was perfect and that the flow was good. It was just a constant process of feedback and editing, feedback and editing.”
On March 12, 2016, their hard work culminated in an hour-long session where Jamie, Seo Young, Ingrid, Justine and Clara took turns sharing their insights as editors and creative directors of PI. Even though he was at IASAS Badminton Exchange, managing editor Vincent Tantra made an appearance in a video recording played at the the panel.
What surprised them was the incredible turnout.
“We didn’t advertise it a lot, and I wasn’t expecting so many people,” Jamie admitted. “I know some SAS people came to support us, but I didn’t expect that many local kids to actually come to our panel.”
In fact, the room was so full that latecomers had to sit on the floor. She added, “I remember we had this moment when we were sitting in the opening keynote, and in front of us we saw people who had starred our panel on the schedule!”
The response to their discussion was even more heartwarming for the panelists. As Seo Young recalled, the highlight of the experience was seeing “specific individuals – the twinkles in their eyes, they were so into listening to us – just seeing these inspired young writers, people who are younger than us, taking notes in their notebooks…It felt like what we were saying really mattered.”
“It was so surreal,” Jamie agreed.
After the discussion, several attendees approached them. One girl, Eva, “came up to us with her mom and she was super excited about possibly joining Parallel Ink.” A few others asked how they could submit their work to the magazine. The PI team was thrilled.
All in all, the panel was a success – enough to get them re-invited to the ALL IN! Writers’ Festival in 2017. But for now, having established new contacts in the Singapore writing community, the staff is turning their attention to other projects and collaborations. And as they continue with outreach, one thing’s for certain: Parallel Ink’s audience will only grow from here.