There was a buzz in the air and all around smiles at the launch of The Eye: A Young Writers’ Anthology recently, which took place at BookXcess in Tropicana Gardens Mall, Petaling Jaya.
A group of 20 writers, between the ages of 12 and 16, had organised the event to launch their book, with a compilation of stories written under the Junior Writers Programme (JWP), an initiative that encourage youths in fiction writing.
The JWP is a brainchild of writer, editor and trainer Brigitte Rozario, who has run it for six years now since 2018.
The JWP consistently concludes each year with the publication of a book, channeling its royalties towards charitable causes. ‘The Eye‘ marks the sixth book launched under the JWP initiative.
Friends and family filled the bookshop, showing their support for the young writers. The writers, in turn, shared their creative writing journey and delved into the themes explored within their stories.
For 13-year-old Jeeapreet Kaur (Jeea), the notion of Artificial Intelligence (A.I) eventually overpowering humans had deeply captivated her thoughts. Thus, she chose to incorporate this idea into her story, ‘Eye in the Sky’.
“I decided to weave that concept into a scenario where a colossal eye escapes from a game into the sky. Ever since AI tools like ChatGPT emerged, I’ve pondered whether AI might eventually surpass our capabilities,” she explained.
Reflecting on the challenges encountered during her writing journey, she highlighted that crafting the storyline proved to be one of the main hurdles.
“I encountered moments of blankness while developing certain parts. Yet, gradually, ideas would take root, allowing me to resume my writing,” she shared.
Jeea added that while she wasn’t an avid gamer, she did engage in games that contained elements of horror. She mentioned that this experience significantly aided her in crafting her story.
Garet Kim Kyung Jin also shares Jeea’s preoccupation with A.I turning sentient and “proving to be evil”.
Drawing inspiration from popular movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron, he crafted his story, ‘ Legacy,’ as a vibrant tale that intertwined his passion for quantum physics.
“Throughout the program, I admit to grappling with two challenges—conveying the story vividly within the word limit and meeting my personal standards. I also delved extensively into programming and all facets associated with a bionic eye for my story,” confessed Garet.
He added that learning about research techniques and addressing plot holes were key takeaways from the JWP experience.
Meanwhile, Robin Wong revealed that his short story had been influenced by a Russian classic authored by Anton Chekhov, titled ‘The Huntsman.’
Robin appreciated Chekhov’s unsettling conclusion in The Huntsman and aimed to incorporate a similar tone in his own story.
Furthermore, he paid homage to George Orwell’s ‘1984,’ a novel known for its dark conclusion, which further influenced him to craft a realistic and somewhat dark ending for his own narrative.
“I actually procrastinated in writing my story, but eventually, I dedicated numerous late nights to complete it. I ended up exceeding the word limit and had to spend an entire afternoon trimming it down. However, despite these challenges, I immensely enjoyed being part of the programme,” shared Robin, who is homeschooled.
The fan of Lord of the Rings added, “Growing up, I read a lot of older works involving flowing, grandiose prose. These books greatly influenced both me and my writing style. That’s why I consider Lord of the Rings my favorite book.”
The Eye features 20 short stories, comprising the mysterious, strange, horrific and macabre.
The book’s theme revolves around ‘the eye,’ encompassing a variety of storylines ranging from stalkers to superpowers, and even the concept of a third eye. These narratives encompass various genres, spanning from horror and supernatural to sci-fi, among others.
Explaining the theme, Rozario said, “If you read the stories, you can see that each one is different. Some of the stories are about the eye itself, while others are about spies, stalking, and even just being accepted. It was pretty much up to the writers’ creativity.”
During the launch event, 10 writers from the previous year’s JWP also presented a cheque of RM1,754.50 to Thrive Well for its community centers. This cheque represents the royalties earned from the sale of ‘Secrets & Lies,’ the JWP anthology launched the previous year.
The royalties from the sale of The Eye, priced at RM31.90, will go to Yayasan Chow Kit, a non-profit organisation for disadvantaged children and youths in the Chow Kit area of Kuala Lumpur. The Eye is now on sale at BookXcess outlets and on the bookshop’s website.
Authored by Helena Aysera Hishamuddin Hud and Shwathi Sudharshan, and edited by Ista Kyra. All images provided by Brigitte Rozario.