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 and her mother was a mathematics teacher and school choir mistress.3


Yu’s passion for literature began in her childhood.She read extensively and began writing at Methodist Girls’ School.5 When she was 10, she was writing her own sequels to short stories. 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.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 In 1990, Yu attended the University of Iowa’s acclaimed International Writing Programme.9

Writings

Yu’s debut play was staged when she was studying at Anglo-Chinese Junior College.10


Through collaborations with theatre groups such as TheatreWorks, The Necessary Stage, Action Theatre, Wayang-Wayang Theatre Company,11 plays written by Yu were staged for both local and international audiences.12 She has written over 30 plays.13 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, Viva Viagra and Hitting (On) Women. Described as “Singapore’s first truly feminist writer” by academic K. K. Seet, her plays delve into the changing roles and identities of Singaporeans, particularly issues relating to the marginalisation of women.14

In the earlier part of her career, Yu wrote primarily during the day, between 9 am and 5 pm.15 A source of inspiration for her stories is her shopping trips, during which she walked around shopping centres and eavesdrops on conversations.16 Yu kept a notebook in her bag and in her car, taking notes almost wherever she goes. She wrote down her thoughts and observations, 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 suffered from occasional black-outs and memory lapses due to epilepsy.17 Besides writing, Yu has also shared her skills and experience with students by conducting creative writing workshops.18

After turning 50, Yu left her corporate life and focused on writing fiction. Yu made a name for herself internationally with overseas publishers. In 2012, her children’s book The Mudskipper was published by Scholastic India. In 2013, Yu’s first book of “Auntie Lee’s” series of mysteries about a nosy Peranakan cook was published by Harper Collins’ imprint William Morrow in the United States and later, in Britain. The mystery novel became a hit and three more books in the series follow suit.19 Yu continued her success as a mystery novelist with her 2017 historical mystery novelThe Frangipani Tree Mystery.20

Awards
1984:
 First prize, Asiaweek Short Story Competition for “A Dream of China”.21

1985: Second prize, short play competition organised by the NUS’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Shell Group of Companies, forDead on Cue.22
1992: Commendation Award, The Singapore Literature Prize organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore.23
1993: Scotsman Fringe First Award, Edinburgh Fringe Festival for The Woman in a Tree on a Hill.24
1996: Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Singapore Foundation Culture Award.25
1996: National Arts Council Young Artist Award.26
1997: Singapore Youth Award (Arts and Culture).27

Family
28

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 itThe Straits Times, p. 22; Ng, E. (2009, October 13). She’s got the write stuffThe Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

2. Cheah, U-H. (2001, June 2). Taking note of OvidiaThe Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

3. Sunuja, B. (1993, April 11). Hooked on booksThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from Newspaper SG.

4. Sunuja, B. (1993, April 11). Hooked on booksThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from Newspaper SG.

5. Chua, R. (1984, December 27). Pragmatic Ovidia writes to winThe Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

6. Ng, E. (2009, October 13). She’s got the write stuffThe Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

7. Chua, R. (1984, December 27). Pragmatic Ovidia writes to winThe Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

8. Sunuja, B. (1993, April 11). Hooked on booksThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from Newspaper SG.

9. The University of Iowa. (2018). Writers from Singapore. Retrieved 2018, November 26 from University of Iowa’s International Writing Programme website: https://iwp.uiowa.edu/residency/participants-by-region/Singapore

10. Ng, E. (2009, October 13). She’s got the write stuffThe Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

11. Oon, C. (1999, June 28). Sit under the mango tree and watch a playThe 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)

12. Cheah, U-H. (2001, June 2). Taking note of OvidiaThe Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

13. Harper Collins Publishers. (2018). Ovidia Yu. Retrieved from Harper Collins Publishers website. Retrieved 29 November 2018 https://www.harpercollins.com/author/cr-107711/ovidia-yu/; Yu, O. (2011). Ovidia Yu: Eight Plays, (title page). Singapore: Epigram Books. Call no.: RSING S822 YU.

14. Cheah, U-H. (2001, June 2). Taking note of OvidiaThe Business Times, p. 18; Ng, E. (2009, October 13). She’s got the write stuffThe Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Seet, K. K. (2011). “A female counter-canon: Ovidia Yu and the politics of gender.” in Ovidia Yu: Eight Plays, (pp. xi, xiii). Singapore: Epigram Books. Call no.: RSING S822 YU.

15. Long, S. (1997, February 7). I like money a lotThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

16. le Blond, R. (1997, July 2). Six young people with the X-factorThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

17. Cheah, U-H. (2001, June 2). Taking note of OvidiaThe Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

18. le Blond, R. (1997, July 2). Six young people with the X-factorThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

19. Nanda, A. (2013, October 9). Ovidia Yu’s fresh change for fame at 52. The Straits Times.; Peranakan page-turners. (2017, January 17). The Straits Times.; Ho, O. (2017, January 17). Local books going global. The Straits Times.; Nanda, A. (2015, February 3). Singapore stories go global. The Straits Times.; Heller, B. (2014, September 28). Required reading. New York Post.  Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

20. Helmi Yusof. (2017, December 30). Delightful Whodunit. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB eResources; Harper Collins Publishers. (2018). Ovidia Yu. Retrieved 2018, November 29 from Harper Collins Publishers website: https://www.harpercollins.com/author/cr-107711/ovidia-yu/

21. Chua, R. (1984, December 27). Pragmatic Ovidia writes to winThe Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

22. Lines to hook your reader. (1987, September 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

23. Koh, B. S. (1992, September 9). Lim's sweet ironyThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG

24. Pandian, H. (1993, September 11). Singapore play wins two awards at Edinburgh FestThe Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

25. Scholarship is a step towards her dream foreign service job. (1996, March 27). The Straits Times, p. 22Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

26. Poet and composer’s shining hour. (1996, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

27. le Blond, R. (1997, July 2). Six young people with the X-factorThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG

28. Sunuja, B. (1993, April 11). Hooked on booksThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.




The information in this article is valid as at 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.



 

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