Ovidia Yu



Ovidia Yu (b. 1961, Singapore–) is an award-winning novelist, short story writer and playwright. She is the recipient of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Singapore Foundation Culture Award (1996), the National Arts Council Young Artist Award (1996) and the Singapore Youth Award (1997).1 Her plays have been performed locally and abroad.2

Early life
Yu came from a book-loving family, where her father was a doctor, while her mother was a Mathematics teacher and school choir mistress.3


Yu’s passion for literature began during her childhood.4 She read extensively and began writing during her early years at Methodist Girls’ School.5 She was writing her own sequels to short stories by the age of 10. Reading became her outlet in school when classes began to feel boring.6

Yu’s pathologist father wanted his daughter to study medicine. She complied and successfully gained admission to the medical faculty at the National University of Singapore (NUS). However, she left a few months later to take up English literature.7 Having set her heart to writing full-time, she turned down a PhD scholarship at the University of Cambridge after completing a master’s degree in literature.8

Writings
Yu’s debut play was staged when she was studying at Anglo-Chinese Junior College.9


Through collaborations with theatre groups such as TheatreWorks, The Necessary Stage, Action Theatre, Wayang-Wayang Theatre Company,10 plays written by Yu were staged for both local and international audiences.11

Yu tries to write strong characters in her plays because characters “drive the play”, and 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 Unassembled and Viva Viagra.12

Yu writes primarily during the day, between 9 am and 5 pm.13 A source of inspiration for her stories is her shopping trips, during which she walks around shopping centres and eavesdrops on conversations.14

Yu keeps a notebook in her bag and in her car, taking notes almost wherever she goes. She writes down what she thinks, her observations of life, snippets of overheard conversations, appointment notices, as well as notes to herself and others. Note-taking is a habit for her as well as a necessity. This is because she suffers from occasional black-outs and memory lapses due to epilepsy.15

Besides writing, Yu also shares her skills and experience with students by conducting creative writing workshops.16

Awards
1984:
First prize, Asiaweek Short Story Competition for “A Dream of China”.17

1985: Second prize, short play competition organised by the NUS’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Shell Group of Companies, for Dead on Cue.18
1992: Commendation Award, The Singapore Literature Prize organized by the National Book Development Council of Singapore.19
1993: Scotsman Fringe First Award, Edinburgh Fringe Festival for The Woman in a Tree on a Hill.20
1996: Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Singapore Foundation Culture Award.21
1996: National Arts Council Young Artist Award.22
1997: Singapore Youth Award (Arts and Culture).23

Family24
Husband:
Chan Shih Ping, a mathematics lecturer.
Father:
Moses Yu (Dr), a pathologist.
Mother:
First name also Ovidia, a mathematics teacher and choir mistress.

Brother: Peter Yu, a dentist.



Author

Nureza Ahmad




References
1.
Lye, J. (2000, July 15). Ovidia, you got it. The Straits Times, p. 22; Ng, E. (2009, October 13). She’s got the write stuff. The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2.
Cheah, U-H. (2001, June 2). Taking note of Ovidia. The Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3.
Sunuja, B. (1993, April 11). Hooked on books. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from Newspaper SG.
4.
Sunuja, B. (1993, April 11). Hooked on books. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from Newspaper SG.
5.
Chua, R. (1984, December 27). Pragmatic Ovidia writes to win. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6.
Ng, E. (2009, October 13). She’s got the write stuff. The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7.
Chua, R. (1984, December 27). Pragmatic Ovidia writes to win. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8.
Sunuja, B. (1993, April 11). Hooked on books. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from Newspaper SG.
9.
Ng, E. (2009, October 13). She’s got the write stuff. The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10.
Oon, C. (1999, June 28). Sit under the mango tree and watch a play. The Straits Times, p. 6; Tsang, S. (1996, November 23). How do the plays fare on the stage? The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (c2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 259, 263. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
11.
Cheah, U-H. (2001, June 2). Taking note of Ovidia. The Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12.
Cheah, U-H. (2001, June 2). Taking note of Ovidia. The Business Times, p. 18; Ng, E. (2009, October 13). She’s got the write stuff. The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13.
Long, S. (1997, February 7). I like money a lot. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14.
le Blond, R. (1997, July 2). Six young people with the X-factor. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15.
Cheah, U-H. (2001, June 2). Taking note of Ovidia. The Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16.
le Blond, R. (1997, July 2). Six young people with the X-factor. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17.
Chua, R. (1984, December 27). Pragmatic Ovidia writes to win. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18.
Lines to hook your reader. (1987, September 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19.
Koh, B. S. (1992, September 9). Lim's sweet irony. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20.
Pandian, H. (1993, September 11). Singapore play wins two awards at Edinburgh Fest. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21.
Scholarship is a step towards her dream foreign service job. (1996, March 27). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22.
Poet and composer’s shining hour. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23.
le Blond, R. (1997, July 2). Six young people with the X-factor. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24.
Sunuja, B. (1993, April 11). Hooked on books. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 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.

 

Subject
Language and literature>>Fiction
Writers
Arts>>Theatre>>Playwriting
Women dramatists--Singapore--Biography
Women authors, Singaporean
Language and literature>>Drama
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors