Ovidia Yu

Ovidia Yu (b. 1961, Singapore -), an award-winning female novelist, short-story writer and playwright. She is the recipient of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Singapore Foundation Culture Award (1996), the National Arts Council (NAC) Young Artist Award (1996) and the Singapore Youth Award (1997). Her plays have been peformed locally and abroad.

Early life
Ovidia Yu (b. 1961, Singapore -) had a middle-class upbringing. Her father was a doctor while her mother a teacher and school choir mistress. Her passion for literature began when she was a child. She read extensively and began writing while in Methodist Girls' School. Upon reading books, she found characters that she liked and continued writing stories for those characters. Thus by the age of ten, she was writing her own sequels to short stories. Reading became her outlet in school when classes began to get boring, and to the library she would escape.

Yu's physician father wanted his daughter to become a doctor. She complied by successfully gaining admission to the medical faculty in National University of Singapore (NUS). However, she left a few months after to take up English Literature. A career in the liberal arts did not materialise. She quit her job as a university tutor, side-stepped the chance to do a PHD in Cambridge after completing her masters degree, and set her heart at writing full-time.

Her writings
Yu's debut play was staged while she was in Anglo-Chinese Junior College and she has not looked back since. She has worked with various theatre groups; TheatreWorks, The Necessary Stage, Action Theatre, Arts and Acts, Music & Movement, WOW International and Wayang-Wayang Theatre Company. Both local and international audience, in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Glasgow and Edinburgh, have had the opportunity to watch her plays.

An unusual source of inspiration for her stories is her shopping trips where she walks around shopping centers and eavesdrops on conversations. She writes primarily during the day, between 9 am and 5 pm. She has a habit of taking notes almost wherever she goes, writing down what she thinks, her observations of life, snippets of overheard conversations, appointment notices, notes to herself and notes to other people. She keeps a notebook in her bag and in her car. Note-taking is something of a necessity for her. This is because she suffers from occasional black-outs and memory lapses due to her epilepsy.

She tries to write strong characters in her plays because characters "drive the play", and then are "put in situations". Some of her best known plays are: Playing Around, The Women in a Tree on a Hill, Haunted, Breast Issues, Three Fat Virgins Unassambled and Viva Viagra.

Writing for her is a form of communication with whoever is listening, reading, or watching her story, whether they are Singaporean or not. Yu also shares her craft with students through creative writing workshops.

: Admitted to the National University of Singapore (NUS) medical faculty
1980 : Left the medical faculty
1980 : Admitted to NUS Department of English Language & Literature, subsequently graduated (MA English)
1987 : First play staged professionally, Dead on Cue, by The Necessary Stage.

: First prize, Asiaweek Short Story Competition, for A Dream of China.
1985 : Second prize, Ministry of Community Development Short Story Competition
1993 : Scotsman Fringe First Award, Edinburgh Fringe Festival for The Woman in a Tree on a Hill
1994 : Highly Commended, National Book Council Development of Singapore (NBDCS) Drama
1996 : Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Singapore Foundation Award for outstanding contribution to the development of arts
1996 : National Arts Council (NAC) Young Artist Award for Drama and Fiction
1997 : Singapore Youth Award (Arts and Culture)

Plays (year first staged)
: Dead on Cue
1988 : Round and Round the Dining Table
1988 : Face Values
1989 : Family Affairs
1990 : Mistress
1990 : Cupboards
1991 : Imagine
1991 : Ja
1992 : Three Fat Virgins
1992 : Wife and Mother
1993 : Be the Food of Love
1994 : Six Lonely Oysters
1995 : Three Fat Virgins Unassembled
1995 : The Land of a Thousand Dreams
1995 : Hokkien Mee
1996 : Playing Mothers
1996 : Every Day Brings its Miracles
1997 : Breast Issues
1999 : Viva Viagra
1999 : Haunted
2002 : Lovebites II (Love in a time of recession and newater)

: Miss Moorthy Investigates
1990 : Mistress and Other Creative Takeoffs
1993 : The Mouse Marathon

: Guiding in Singapore: A Chronology of Guide Events 1917-1990

Father: Dr Moses Yu, one time civil servant and lieutenant-colonel of the Singapore Armed Forces.
Brother: One, younger brother

Nureza Ahmad

Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore Literature (Vol. 4, pp. 173-177). Singapore: Ethos books.
(Call no.: SING 809.895957)

Helmi Yusof (1999, August 2). Scary? Dont make me laugh. The Straits Times.

Le Blond, R. (1997, July 2). Singapore Youth Awards- Six young people with the X-factor. The Straits Times.

Long, S. (1997, February 7). I like money a lot. The Straits Times.

Ong, S.F. (1997, November 11). Play keeps abreast of a potential killer. The Straits Times.

Oon, C. (1999, June 28). Sit under the mango tree and watch a play. The Straits Times.

Poet and composers shining hour. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times.

Scholarship is a step towards her dream foreign service job. (1996, March 27). The Straits Times.

Ovidia knows what she wants out of life. (1990, February 23). Asiaweek, 45.

A persistent passion. (1984, December 21). Asiaweek, 77.

Further Readings
Suhaila Sulaiman (2002, December 2). Lovebites is more like lovenibbles. The Straits Times

Taking note of Ovidia. (2001, June 2). The Business Times.

National Book Development Council of Singapore. (2004, June 3). Singapore Book Prizes. Retrieved July 20, 2004, from www.nbdcs.org.sg/Sing_NBDCS.htm  

Singaporetheatre.com. (c1997-2005). Ovidia Yu. Retrieved June 3, 2004, from www.singaporetheatre.com/theatreworkers_profile/playwrights/ovidia.html

University Scholars Programme, National University of Singapore. (c2003-2004). Ovidia Yu. Retrieved July 20, 2004, from www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/global/global2ay01_02/creative2002.doc

National Book Development Council of Singapore. (2004, June 3). Ovidia Yu. Retrieved July 20, 2004, from www.nbdcs.org.sg/Writers/YuOvidia.htm 

The information in this article is valid as at 2004 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Language and literature>>Fiction
Women dramatists--Singapore--Biography
Women authors, Singaporean
Language and literature>>Drama

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