Writing the City

Writing the City The Arts House National Arts Council spacer British Council

Every quarter, we host a new competition on Writing the City. Sign up to our newsletter and be the first to find out about competitions and more. Our competitions are open to writers of any nationality in any location, though some prizes may be specific to Singapore.

Savour this

Chilli crab. Roti prata. Char kway teow. From fried carrot cake to curry fish head, Singapore’s lip-smackingly delicious local foods summon up the city’s diverse character  and are an essential part of our rich heritage. Writing the City invites you to pen a story or poem where a local dish plays a central part in the drama. Your recipe for success might involve a hawker centre or a local restaurant as a setting, a single ingredient as a love note or a murder weapon, or a sumptuous, spicy feast as the backdrop for a family gathering that – perhaps – goes horribly wrong. The way you interpret the theme is up to you. However, the judges will be looking out for entries that are original, well-crafted and thought-provoking, and your setting must be the modern-day city of Singapore.

Please make sure that you pay close attention to all the rules and instructions below when entering the competition.


All poetry entries must be no longer than 30 lines.

The maximum word limit is 650 words. There is no minimum word limit.

All entries must follow our Posting Guidelines, except regarding length.

The deadline for entries is 30 June 2016.

To enter:

Log in as usual at: http://writingthecity.sg/wp-login.php

Click on WRITE

Enter your text

Tick ‘Savour this’ in the competition categories on the right hand side


Click VIEW POST see your entry

Click READ to see other people’s entries listed on the WRITE / START DISCUSSION PAGE

For help, click HERE.

Good luck!


Previous Competitions

January – 8 April 2016: Shakespeare lives … in Singapore
What if Macbeth was an ambitious modern businessman, plotting takeover bids from his penthouse office in Raffles Place? What if Romeo and Juliet were modern-day schoolkids from Toa Payoh? Because 2016 marks 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare’s death, Writing the City invited you to pen a work that commemorated this anniversary. We asked for a story or poem based on any one of the Bard’s  themes or characters – but with a Singapore twist. This competition has now closed – check back here soon to find out the winners!

October-December 2015: Singapore Island of Dreams
What dreams shift and swirl around the island of Singapore? And who are the dreamers? In this competition – whose theme echoed that of Singapore Writers Festival 2015 – we asked you to write a poem or short piece of prose that attempted to answer those questions in an original way. We had some very high quality entries on dreams ranging from the wistful and nostalgic to the dark and demonic. Opening Move by Chua Xin Rong scooped the first prize - a finely crafted take on the theme. Mama by Tan Yong Quan and But You Don’t Understand by Teo Yi Han were the two runners-up. The competition was judged by Writing the City’s administrator, Melissa de Villiers.

July-September 2015: Heat City
Singapore’s heat and humidity reach their peak during the months of July and August. In response, Writing the City adjusted its RayBans, took a sip of a tall iced tea and invited  you to pen a poem or a short piece of fiction depicting this challenging feature of life in Singapore. The entries piled in … but the pieces that won did so because they were original as well as evocative and finely crafted. Leonine’s ‘Fingers’ took the top slot; Muhammed Al Hafiz Sanusi’s ‘The Hardest Thing to Do is Sleep,‘ Christine Tan’s ‘Baked Singaporean with Glaze (Serves One)‘ and Daniel Oh’s ‘Heat Stroke‘ were all joint runners-up. Congratulations to all four! This competition was judged by Writing the City’s administrator, Melissa de Villiers.

May-June 2015: Singapore Noir
How might the noir genre work when transplanted to Singapore’s shiny shores? This time, Writing the City invited you to pen a short piece of fiction in the noir style. We had a fantastic response to this competition and it was hard to narrow down a shortlist. In the end, however, Abhishek Prasad emerged as the winner with his ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight.’ Iggy Koh’s ‘In the Belly of the Beast‘ and Chloe Sasson’s ‘Time Piece‘ were the runners-up. Clarissa N G’s ‘The Bullet‘ is highly commended. This competition was judged by Writing the City’s administrator (and noir addict), Melissa de Villiers.

April 2015: Tributes to Mr Lee Kuan Yew
This month, instead of a competition, we held  a different sort of writing challenge. To mark the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, founder of modern Singapore, Writing the City invited you to pen a 300-word reflection on what this towering figure meant to you. We asked: how did Mr Lee’s vision for the country affect your personal or cultural sense of identity – perhaps even the way that you think of yourself as Singaporean? Your reflections have been published on a special micro-site here at Writing the City. Read them here.

January-March 2015: With Fresh Eyes
To mark the start of a brand new writing year, we invited you to pen a short piece of fiction or write a poem on the theme of ‘With Fresh Eyes’ – an encounter with the city of Singapore and its people where your fictional character saw something well-worn as if for the first time. Writing the City’s administrator, Melissa de Villiers was the judge. She commented: “It was a tough choice judging this particular competition as the quality of entries was exceptional. However, in the end Abigail Koh emerged as the winner with her thoughtful Playmate; Wan Phing Lim with The Infinity Pool @Marina Bay Sands and Rodrigo Dela Pena Jr with A Monk Walks Down Orchard Road were the runners up. Congratulations to all three!”

November-December 2014: The Importance of Remembering
In a special competition ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January 2015, Writing the City invited you to pen a piece on the theme of ‘The Importance of Remembering.’ We suggested that your entries could have any setting, and take place in any time period throughout history, but they should relate to the reasons we remember the Holocaust in the first place. By writing about and debating these issues and publishing them widely, it is possible to ensure that the importance of the Holocaust is not forgotten, no matter how many years pass, as memories are passed on to the next generation. Our judge Ms Liat Lazimi-Levi, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Israel in Singapore, selected 2065 by Muhammad Al Hafiz Sanusi to be the winning entry. It Could by Rodrigo Dela Pena Jr and Light a Candle by Ian Li were the runners-up. Congratulations to all three!

October-December 2014: The Prospect of Beauty
In line with the theme of 2014′s Singapore Writers’ Festival, the premier event on Singapore’s literary calendar, we invited you to pen a short piece of fiction on ‘The Prospect of Beauty.’ We received a wealth of entries about an imaginary encounter in the city-state of Singapore with something – or someone – so beautiful that you were shaken and stirred. in some cases, that encounter led to an epiphany; in other pieces, something more ambiguous happened, tainted with disappointment, ephemeral. This competition was judged by Writing the City’s administrator, Melissa de Villiers. Desmond Ong was selected as the winner for his piece As the Rain Fell; Clara Chow’s piece The Black Snowman and Clarissa N G’s piece Black Bird were our two runners-up. Congratulations to all three!

July-September 2014: Homecomings

As more Singaporeans start to live, love and work overseas, and as the island becomes home to more people born beyond these shores, what stories can we share about the unique set of ingredients that make Singapore ‘home?’ In partnership with Playback Theatre’s ‘Encounters 2014’ project, Writing the City invited you to write a short piece of fiction or poetry that conjured up the idea of richly multicultural Singapore as a place to put down roots – a place for a homecoming. Our judge Alvin Pang selected Home is a Choice by Charmaine Poh to be the winning entry; Grandmother’s Vocabulary by Joey Chin and The Rest is Memory by Ang Jing Wei were the two runners-up. Congratulations to all three, and thank you very much to Alvin.

April-June 2014: Shakespeare lives … in Singapore

2014 marks the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. To celebrate, Writing the City held a special competition themed around the work of the greatest poet and playwright in the English language. We asked writers to dive in and write a short piece of fiction or a poem inspired by any one of the Bard’s characters or works – but to make sure their setting was modern-day Singapore. We had a wonderful range of entries and the standard this time was particularly high. Playwright Eleanor Wong was our judge. Congratulations to our winner, Clarissa N G with Star Crossed, and to our two runners-up, Lynn Lim with Destiny and Edith Koh with Soon Hock’s Tale.

January-March 2014: New Beginnings
Every great historical moment was once the start of something new. This quarter, as we entered a fresh new writing year, Writing the City invited you to pen a story or a poem about a key moment in our city’s history — something that happened in the past, that’s unfolding right now, or even a moment that you imagined might burst upon us in the future. Helen Mangham from Singapore’s leading literary agency, Jacaranda, was our judge; many congratulations to our winner, Cynthia Yuen, with Postcards, and our runner-up, Julia Chin, with Underground City.

October-December 2013: Utopia/Dystopia

Gulliver’s TravelsBrave New WorldLord of the FliesNeuromancer1984. So many great works of fiction have taken the concepts of ‘utopia’ or ‘dystopia’ as their theme. Perhaps that’s not so surprising: after all, evoking futuristic visions of ideal worlds or societies gone nightmarishly wrong gives writers a chance to explore ideas like individuality and freedom, repression, the dehumanising effects of technology, nature out of balance, death and artificial life. This time, in line with Singapore Writers’ Festival 2013′s choice of ‘Utopia/Dystopia’ as a theme, Writing the City invited you to submit stories or poems that invoked a ‘utopia’ or a ‘dystopia’ of your own. Leading graphic novelist Dave Chua was the judge; congratulations to our winner, Daryl Li, with his piece Perfect, and our runner-up, Ang Jingwei, with skopzi.

July-September 2013: Gardens by the Bay

Just as the Singapore River acts as a ‘River of Life’ for our city, sustaining the people, flora and fauna that live along its banks, so is Gardens by the Bay part of a ‘River of Life’ eco-system. We asked writers to be inspired by the park’s Dragonfly Lake, perhaps letting their imaginations dive deep down to the extraordinary world that exists below the lake’s surface, a lush source of aquatic life from fish to plants. We also suggested that writers explore the Cloud Forest or Heritage Gardens, rooted – quite literally – in Singapore’s diverse history and culture. This competition was judged by Writing the City’s co-ordinator, Melissa de Villiers. Congratulations to our winner Clarissa N G with her piece Journey, and our two runners-up, Toh Wei Sheng with The Singaporean Dream and Werner Kho with Emerald in the Sea.

April-June 2013: We Love our Neighbourhoods

In collaboration with Epigram Books, Writing the City invited you to pen a story about your neighbourhood – any neighbourhood across Singapore. We suggested you take inspiration from familiar sights and sounds: the smells of freshly baked bread, or the sounds of shop shutters opening each morning. We asked you to write about any local characters that might arouse your interest: the chicken rice auntie at the corner coffee shop, or the old cobbler who sits under an umbrella, mending shoes all day… Thank you to our judge, Ng Yi-Sheng, and congratulations to our winner, Wen Jie Pek with his piece These Streets and our runners up Leonard Yip and Maxine Chen.

December 2012-March 2013: On the Road

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” ~ Jack Kerouac. Inspired by the Beat classic On the Road, Writing the City asked for stories about a journey. Writers sent in pieces of travel writing about anywhere across the globe, real or imagined, using their life experiences and imagination to build the world around their tales. Thank you to our judge, Madeleine Lee, and congratulations to our winners, Alythea Ho with her piece North Korea: Reprisals of Juche and our runners up Eston T and Genevieve Wong with Refugee and Travelweary.

October-November 2012: Musicity

Presented by the British Council, Musicity, a location-based project aims to inspire people to see the urban fabric in new ways and encourage them to explore the city musically, architecturally and experientially. Writing the City asked writers to take in the sights, scents and sounds of the city and use Musicity locations as an inspiration to write their next piece! Thank you to our judge, Eleanor Wong, and congratulations to our winners, Lynnette Toh with her piece Yin and Yang Not So Different and our runners up Lim Jia Ying and Krystalle Teh with Slice of Life and Static Silence.

September 2012: Migrant Stories

Of boat people, curry-eaters, and a hot pot of cultural stew. In line with Playback Theatre’s Encounters Project, Writing the City invited writers to tell a story from the eyes of the other. What it might be like, for instance, to arrive on these shiny shores for the first time. Thank you to our judge, Pooja Nansi, and congratulations to our winners, Idelle Yee Zi Hui with her piece Mid-autumn Festival and our runners up John Davies and Krystalle Teh with The Lucky Dutchman and Cheap Dreams. An honourable mention for Mehul Mangalvedhekar whose piece A New Beginning was selected for the Playback Theatre Encounters Exhibition.

August 2012: Happy 47

As the city turned another year older, Writing the City asked writers to look back at the city’s past and craft a story surrounding a moment in the history of this city, and explore how a city influences the characters who walk its streets and live in its homes. Thank you to our judge, Suchen Christine Lim and congratulations to our winners, Sangeetha N. with her piece If Only, and our runners up, Lim Jiaying and S.M. with Names and 3 Sad Faces at the Coffeeshop.

July 2012: Olympics and Paralympics

Like athletes of any sport, writers aspire for something greater. This month, Writing the City celebrated the shared spirit of the Olympics and Paralympics, to challenge writers to create a character that embodies that determination and perseverance in the face of adversity, against the odds. Thank you to our judge, Melissa de Villiers, and congratulations to our winners, Ang Jing Wei with his piece This Country to the Next and our runners up Lim Jia Ying and Ell with By the Sword and He Remembers.

June 2012: World Shakespeare Festival

Love poetry.
Dark comedy.
A hero with a tragic fate!
And perhaps, even a challenge to thee to rhyme.

This month’s competition challenged writers to submit a piece on the city, inspired by any one or more of the bards’ poetry and plays. Thank you to our judge, Steven Shaw, and congratulations to our winners, Rocco Hu with his piece Rear and our runners up Clarilyn Khoo and Kathleen Yu with Cesario and Memento Mori.

May 2012: City Beginnings

We invited writers to submit a piece on new beginnings; a pivotal point in a city’s history past, present or future. To delve into the city’s past: to the very beginning of something new, or project into the future where science has revolutionised the way we live. Thank you to our judge, Duncan Rose, and congratulations to our winners, Jasmine Goh with her piece Circle Line and our runners up Daniel Lee and Teo Yi Han with Year Zero and Hello There.