Daren Shiau

Daren Shiau Vee Lung (b. 1971, Singapore–) is a writer, lawyer and an environmental activist. He won the Singapore Literature Prize Commendation Award in 1998 for his debut novel, Heartland. Shiau also received the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award in 2002.1 In addition to his literary career, Shiau is a partner with the law firm, Allen and Gledhill. Over the last two decades, he has held appointments in the Films Appeal Committee of the Board of Film Censors, the boards of the Singapore Environment Council and the National Parks Board, as well as the supervisory panel of the former Ministry of Community Development’s Feedback Unit.2

Early life
Shiau was educated at Raffles Institution, and subsequently studied the humanities at Raffles Junior College as a Public Service Commission Humanities Scholar.3 During his college days he won annual literary prizes, and was chosen to take a special paper on metaphysical poetry for the General Certificate of Education (GCE) A Level examination.4 He went on to read law at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and graduated on the Dean’s List in 1996. Shiau started writing during his varsity days, and won the top prize at the NUS Literary Society Competition 1993/1994.5

Literary accomplishments
In 1998, Shiau won the Singapore Literature Prize Commendation Award for his debut novel, Heartland.6 As part of the award, the work was published by SNP Editions the following year.7 The novel, which took three years to complete, explores the paradox of rootedness and rootlessness in Singapore through the coming-of-age story of a Singaporean boy.

The novel was well received and has since been used in an introductory course on Singapore and postcolonial literature at the National Institute of Education.9 It was also selected as a prescribed text for the GCE O- and N-Level examinations for 2007.10 Singapore’s flagship daily newspaper The Straits Times selected Heartland as one of their top 10 reads for 1999.11 A print-to-screen adaptation of Heartland aired on MediaCorp’s Okto channel in 2015 as part of a series of tribute productions to mark Singapore’s 50th birthday. The telemovie, Heartland: Rites of Passage, was part of a trio of film adaptations centering on life in the HDB heartland.12

In 2000, Shiau published his first collection of poems, Peninsular: Archipelagos and Other Islands, which examines the relationship between time, space and national identity in Singapore.13 For his literary talent, The Arts Magazine hailed Shiau as “among the most exciting of the post-1965 generation of writers”.14

Shiau has been invited to speak or read at various international conferences and reading tours. These include the China Institute in America (New York), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge), Victorian Writers Centre and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.15 He was also a visiting writer at the University of California, Berkeley in 2003.16 His works have been translated into other languages including Mandarin and Italian, and also adapted for recitals and media art performances.17 Shiau served as a writing mentor for the Ministry of Education’s Creative Arts Programme Mentorship Scheme and for the National Arts Council’s Mentor Access Project.18

Other activities
Shiau was a Fulbright scholar, and an alumnus of the East-West Centre in Honolulu, Hawaii.19 An active environmentalist, he led the successful Water for Somalia project with the group, Against the Violation of Earth. He also served as chairman of the Youth Environmental Network of Singapore, council member of the National Youth Council,20 member of the Singapore Environment Council, which reviews the Singapore Green Plan, and is a recognised international expert on environmental law.21

Interests and inspirations
Shiau sees himself first and foremost as a poet. He enjoys the works of Milan Kundera, Albert Camus, Haruki Murakami, J. M. Coetzee and Wislawa Szymborska, and draws the inspiration for his works from film and music.22

  Green Leaf Award, Ministry of the Environment23

1998: Singapore Literature Prize Commendation Award (Fiction), for Heartland
1999: The Straits Times 10 Best Books of the Year, for Heartland

2000: Outstanding Young Person of Singapore Award24
2000: Singapore Youth Award (Community Work)25
2001: Commonwealth Youth Program Asia Award for Excellence in Youth Work26
2002: Young Artist Award, National Arts Council
2003: Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation Award27
2005: NAC Golden Point Award Short Story, English Category, second prize28
2005: Elephant & Coral Writing Competition, first prize29
2007: Elephant & Coral Writing Competition, first prize30
2016: Public Service Medal (Pingat Bakti Masyarakat)31


1999: Heartland32
2000: Peninsular: Archipelagos and Other Islands33

2011: Coast: A Mono-titular Anthology of Singapore Writing35


 Communication and the Environment: Influencing Social Attitudes Towards Being Green36

Wife: Christine Lee37


Gracie Lee

1. “About Young Artist Award,” National Arts Council, accessed 29 September 2016.
2. ”Daren Shiau,” Allen & Gledhill, accessed 30 September 2016; “Daren V. L. Shiau — Biography and Brief Introduction,” Postcolonialweb.org., accessed 29 September 2016; “Board of Directors,” Crest Secondary School, accessed 30 September 2016.
3. Kamalarajan Chettiar, “A Lawyer and a Leader – Caring for the Community and Environment,” Law Gazette 1 (March 2001).
4. “Programmes,” Singapore Book Council, 4 November 2015.
5. Samuel Lee, “Critical Introduction: Daren Shiau,” Poetry.sg, 4 November 2015.
6. “Singapore Literature Prize 1998,” Singapore Book Council, accessed 30 September 2016.
7. “A Bumper Crop of 4 Winners,” Straits Times, 28 November 1998, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Dave Chua, “Daren’s Theme Is Rooted in Rootlessness,” Straits Times, 12 October 2002, 18; Darren Shiau, “Heartland Didn’t Turn Out to Be Gone Case,” Straits Times, 12 October 2002, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Kristina Tom, “Bookends,” Straits Times, 30 October 2005, 26; Tessa Wong, “Reprint Brings Hope to Writers,” Straits Times, 12 January 2002, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Maria Almenoar, “Revised Literature Syllabus to Get More Students on Board,” Straits Times, 22 July 2006, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Ong Sor Fern, “A Geek Hero to See the Era Out,” Straits Times, 1 January 2000, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Akshita Nanda, “Poem of HDB Life Inspires Telemovie,” Straits Times, 20 March 2015, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Felix Cheong, “A Flock of Words in Sure Hands,” Straits Times, 17 June 2000, 20. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Leong Liew Geok, ed, “Daren Shiau,” iLiterary Singapore: A Directory of Contemporary Writing in Singapore (Singapore: National Arts Council, 2011), 44. (Call no. RSING 809.895957 LIT)
15. Postcolonialweb.org, “Daren V. L. Shiau.”
16. Stephanie Yap, “Long-Time Green Activist,” Straits Times, 1 March 2009, 64. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Postcolonialweb.org, “Daren V. L. Shiau.”
18. National Arts Council, “New Initiatives for Mentorship Programme to Nurture Emerging Writer,” press release, 2008; Postcolonialweb.org, “Daren V. L. Shiau.”
19. Postcolonialweb.org, “Daren V. L. Shiau.”
20. Sunitha Chalam, “Daren Shiau: A Chairman’s Yen for the ‘Green’ Cause,” Straits Times, 3 May 1996, 9 (From NewspaperSG); Chettiar, “Lawyer and a Leader.”
21. Peter Wicks, “Emergent Voices in Singaporean Fiction in English,” Asian Profile 32, no. 1 (2004), 31–40 (Call no. RSING 950.05 AP); National Parks Board, Annual Report 2003–2004 (Singapore: National Parks Board, 2004), 3.
22. “Daren V. L. Shiau: Literary and Cultural Influences upon His Work,” Postcolonialweb.org, accessed 29 September 2016.
23. “Two NUS Students Win Awards in New Youth Category,” Straits Times, 8 November 1993, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
24. Joy Frances, “Optimistic Living,” Today, 19 June 2001, 23. (From NewspaperSG)
25. “Outstanding Youths Get Prestigious Awards,” Straits Times, 3 July 2000, 31. (From NewspaperSG)
26. Rebecca Lee, “Man with Strong Views on Issues,” Straits Times, 6 November 2004, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
27. Postcolonialweb.org, “Daren V. L. Shiau.”
28. “Golden Point Award,” National Arts Council, accessed 9 December 2016.
29. Kristina Tom, “Inspiration for Poem Springs Up in a Cab,” Straits Times, 4 August 2005, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
30. Adeline Chia, “Creative Instinct,” Straits Times, 9 December 2007, 71. (From NewspaperSG)
31. “National Day Awards 2016,” Prime Minister’s Office, accessed 30 Noveber 2018.
32. Daren V. L. Shiau, Heartland (Singapore: Raffles, 1999). (Call no. RSING S823 SHI)
33. Daren V. L. Shiau, Peninsular: Archipelagos and Other Islands (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2000). (Call no. RSING S821 SHI)
34. Daren Shiau, Velouria (Singapore: Firstfruits Publications, 2007). (Call no. RSING S823 SHI)
35. Daren Shiau and Wei Fen Lee, ed., Coast: A MonoTtitular Anthology of Singapore Writing Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2011). (Call no. RSING S820.8 COA)
36. Daren V. L Shiau, Communication and the Environment: Influencing Social Attitudes Towards Being Green (Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, 2000). (Call no. RSING 363.70525 SHI)
37. Chettiar, “Lawyer and a Leader.”

The information in this article is valid as at 30 November 2018 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.

Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Shiau, Daren V. L.--Biography
Authors, Singaporean--Biography