23 May 2023

Writer’s Block? Fret about it. Then ignore it!

Daphne Lee is the consulting editor at Scholastic Asia, a division of Scholastic Press, where she champions the creation of Asian content by Asians. To this end, she helped develop and is an advisor to the ongoing Scholastic Asian Book Award and Scholastic Picture Book Award, which have their home at the annual Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore. Daphne is also a writer with a particular interest in Asian folklore. She is the author of Bright Landscapes: A Short Story Collection (Laras 99); and the curator and editor of Malaysian Tales: Retold & Remixed (ZI Publications) and Remang: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales (Terrer Books). Her current works in progress are a novel and a fictionalised memoir.

Daphne was part of the Malaysian Writers and Readers Get Together event on 14 May 2023. She shares her creative experience in an interview conducted by Uthaya Sankar SB.


What was your ambition as a child?

There were a few: Artist (the sort that uses paint); vet; witch … I have a photo from a kindergarten concert in which I’m dressed as a witch: We were supposed to dress in the costumes/uniforms of our future professions! (There was also a boy dressed as ‘Tarzan’, hahaha.)


When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?

When I was three or four, I ‘wrote’ stories in my head at bedtime to help me fall asleep. I never thought about being a writer though. Even now, I wonder if I am a writer. I often feel I’m too lazy to be a writer.


Who are your favourite Malaysian authors?

My top three: Ridhwan Saidi, Sufian Abas and Shih-Li Kow.


Where do you get your ideas or information for your writings?

From life, for example, conversations I have with people, or situations in which I or others have been; and folklore, especially supernatural beliefs.


Which was your hardest book/piece to write?

Well, I have written only three books and, so far, only one (Bright Landscapes) has been published. I’ve also curated and edited two collections. Editing those collections was hard and revising my novel is hard too.


What’s your latest writing project?

I’m not good at focusing so I am revising my novel and working on a fictionalized memoir. I’m also thinking about various folktale projects.


What do you do when you are not writing or reading?

I’ve always loved watching films. At my present stage of life, I prefer watching films to reading.


Tell us about your full-time job.

I am the consulting editor for Scholastic Asia. My job involves advising on editorial matters. I read submissions; do developmental, line and copyediting for projects; and generally, work with the various departments to get books ready for publication.  


What does your family think of your writings?

They’re verbally supportive and have bought my books, including those I’ve edited, but I’m not sure how many of them have read my stuff.


How do you handle writer’s block?

Fret about it. Complain about it. Ignore it.


If one of your pieces of writing/books should be translated into Bahasa Malaysia, which one would you choose and why?

Once again, I only have one book (written by me) that has been published, but I think it’d be cool to see it in BM. It’d be interesting to see how a translator interprets the stories and whether anything new is revealed in the translations.


How do you promote/sell your books?

Mostly on social media: Instagram (@daphneleemeilin) and Twitter (@daphneleeml).


Date: 23 May 2023