By Nicholas Joshua Lee
The local community of playwrights, poets and novelists has always paled in comparison to bigger and more lucrative brothers like the engineering and biochemical sciences. Other than that, the small but surely growing group of logophiles and linguists remains exclusive and relatively unknown.
The newest addition to this group arrives in the form of a recent Ngee Ann Polytechnic Mass Communication (MCM) graduate Lavanya Kannathass, whose middle names include young, bold and passionate.
The 21-year-old’s currently busing herself with various little projects, including producing a play, relief teaching and assembling a video for the United Nations Development Fund for Women Singapore. She does this while awaiting her term at the University of Queensland, Australia, where she will take a degree in Creative and Professional Writing come February 2010.
After getting her degree, the cheery Singaporean hopes to make her way back to local shores and achieve her “big dream”. She enthuses, “I want to have a space somewhere, where people can come by and write or paint and do whatever they want, to express themselves, maybe I’ll call the place ‘Blank’.”
“I want to do this because a lot of people have so much in them but they lack a platform to be heard and express themselves,” she adds.
Apart from taking up odd jobs to finance her dreams, Lavanya is avidly working on improving her craft to become a better writer. She recently submitted 10 poems for the annual Golden Point Award competition that is sponsored by Singapore Press Holdings and the National Arts Council.
One of the pieces Lavanya sent in for the competition was a project for one of her final-year modules in MCM, Book Writing and Publishing.
“I really enjoyed this module, it was very experimental and it gives you a lot of freedom to express yourself. It is very good if you’re an independent person,” she says.
But the bulk of Lavanya’s learning came from her lecturer, Mr Desmond Kon, who showed her in timely fashion that she really wanted to be a creative writer.
“Most important, there was someone there to guide you, someone to give constructive comments, know what you’re talking about, is open to interpretation and is not judgemental,” she says respectfully.
Mr Kon, who conducted the class through online discussions as he was away in the University of Notre Dame in America, joins the ranks of Chilean writer Pablo Neruda, British novelist Jeanette Winterson and American poet Khalil Gibran in influencing Lavanya’s ideal style of writing.
Ideals and ideas aside, aspiring writers like Lavanya are inevitably faced with the question of the Singaporean reality: How do you earn the money?
“My parents were pretty apprehensive because poetry and prose is something that you can’t see the tangible effects of. But in the end, they still want me to do what I really want to,” she responds with a smile.
“I decided, rather than doing something that would satisfy me in monetary terms, I rather do something that will make me happy,” she says in a reassuring fashion.