Elle UK’s “20 Power Players” 2018 list features S’porean among Hollywood stars, technopreneurs

Sharlene Teo is a promising writer who won a *reallly* prestigious UK literary award last year.

Martino Tan | January 11, 2018 @ 11:35 am

Most Singaporeans would have heard of Elle, the world’s best-selling fashion magazine.

So it’s pretty cool to see the UK’s edition of Elle featuring a fellow Singaporean, Sharlene Teo Wen-Ning in their 2018 global power player list:

Screenshot from article

Teo was listed alongside Hollywood movie stars, upcoming models, technopreneurs, influential change-makers and fashion designers.

And her reaction?

So who is Sharlene Teo?

Screenshot from Elle UK article.

Teo, 29, is the first-ever winner of the Deborah Rogers writers’ award, a £10,000 prize that supports authors as they finish their first book, back in 2016.

That’s a cool S$19,650, not bad at all.

Simi Deborah Rogers writers’ award?

The award was set up in 2014 to honour the British literary agent who once represented greats like Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro and Ian McEwan.

And what did she win this award for?

An upcoming novel — set in Singapore, no less! — she’s working on called Ponti. And to get an idea of how impressive Teo’s achievement is, her book was selected from a crazy 885 entries.

This is the publisher’s description of Ponti:

“Ponti opens in 2003 and introduces three women: sixteen-year-old Szu; her mother Amisa, a once beautiful actress; and Circe, Szu’s unlikely friend and confidant.

Seventeen years later, Circe is struggling through a divorce in fraught and ever-changing Singapore when a project comes up at work: a remake of the cult seventies horror film series ‘Ponti’, the very project that defined Amisa’s short-lived film career.

Suddenly Circe is knocked off balance: by memories of the two women she once knew, by guilt, and by a past that is threatening her conscience.”

And how did they know her novel was going to be so good?

One of the people who managed to read her unfinished manuscript was none other than McEwan, featured by The Times as one of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”, called Teo’s unfinished novel “a remarkable first novel in the making”.

And here’s what the Man Booker Prize (a huge deal in global writing circles lah, hor) winner said about her book:

“With brilliant descriptive power and human warmth, Sharlene Wen-Ning Teo summons the darker currents of modernity — environmental degradation, the suffocating allure of the sparkling modern city and its cataracts of commodities and corrupted language… Against this, her characters glow with life and humour and minutely observed desperation. I read this extract longing for more.” — The Guardian, May 2016

The Chair of the judges also said that it was a unanimous decision for them to pick Teo’s book. Fierce.

So when’ll it be out?

April 19, 2018.

Picador, a UK publisher that publishes international writing in paperback, acquired the rights to publish Teo’s book last year.

If you’re a book buff, you’ll know some of Picador‘s authors, who include Jonathan Franzen, Michael Chabon, Angela Carter, and Salman Rushdie.

And the publisher sounded excited, after winning no less than a seven-way auction.

The Senior Editor of Picador said:

“From the moment I began Ponti it had me enthralled. Sharlene is so good on the convolutions of teenage loyalty, on the emotional complexity of being an almost-adult, and that tension is in the novel’s atmosphere too – sticky, sweaty, dank – the smog of Singapore and the heavy heated press of classrooms…

I’m delighted that Picador will be the publisher to get this book into the hand of readers everywhere, and I can’t wait to work with Sharlene.”

What is Teo doing now?

Writing, hopefully?

But she’s also doing a PhD in creative and critical writing (she’s into her second year now) at the University of East Anglia.

What else do we know about Teo?

She studied at Methodist Girls’ School and Anglo-Chinese Junior College.

According to The Straits Times, Teo first went to the UK in 2006 to read law at the University of Warwick.

She also told ST that she intends to work at finishing Ponti as well as her PhD thesis, and she hopes to “get a job teaching creative writing, be it in London, Singapore or elsewhere in the world”.

With such a bright future in the literary scene, Teo is still thinking about getting a job.

So Singaporean.

Top photo from Sharlene Teo’s Facebook page.

About Martino Tan

Martino’s parents named him after an Italian priest, Vatican's 1st ambassador to S’pore. He's inspired by the lives of Robert Kennedy & Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the words of George Orwell & William F. Buckley Jr., & the music of the Beatles.

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