Q&A: EDITOR & WRITER JOCELYN LAU

Published on 27 March 2018

This experienced editor, who is also an author and publisher, offers words of wisdom on writing and book publishing.

By: Melanie Lee

Since 1999, Jocelyn Lau has edited everything from academic publications to fiction at various publishing companies. She is also a graduate of the Denver Publishing Institute, and set up publishing outfit Kucinta Books with her husband in 2014. On top of all this, Lau has written three poetry books and recently launched a collection of micro-fiction titled “The Life of Pinky”, which revolves around her family’s imaginary miniature horse. She tells The A List how she does it all.

First things first, could you tell us what’s considered good editing?

Great editing starts from great writing. It’s kind of like enhancing a photograph – if an image is good, just a bit of enhancement would really make it stand out. Great editing doesn’t change the style, the voice, and the meaning of the work at all. It’s a finetuning service so that the text can be the best it can be. Usually, the writer is too close to his or her work and can’t really see what can be improved upon.

As an editor, what do you think is the best way to work with a writer during the editing process?

There needs to be discussion between editor and writer. A lot of writers, especially first-time writers, can get precious about their work and understandably so. This is why chemistry needs to be established. Once that works, there’s the next stage, which is to edit a sample chapter to establish some sort of understanding of the way things would work moving ahead. This stage is really important. A writer should feel comfortable with an editor.

Why did you set up Kucinta Books?

A few years ago, my husband and I wanted to do an illustrated book on Singapore’s Swimming Pools and set up Kucinta Books. But beyond this, the company represented a fulfillment of a fantasy to produce our own books.

It’s just me and my husband so we set a realistic target of publishing 1-2 of our “own” titles every year. We don’t have a grand plan on what books we want to publish, but we generally lean towards well-produced illustrated books relating to memories and family activities. The other part of our business involves editorial, writing and translation services.

How did you get into authoring your own books?

When my son was a baby, he had to be fed around the clock and could drink milk for up to an hour each time. While I was physically tired, mentally I was craving stimulation. My mind felt unoccupied. I started scribbling down haikus as that was all I could handle at that point in time. My first book was “Hello, Baby” published by Math Paper Press.

Can you tell us more about your latest work, “The Life of Pinky”?

In the early days of our marriage, we had this couple thing about an imaginary pink horse who talked to us. Even my son, as he grew older, caught on to the idea of Pinky and even added his own Pegasus to our household. These stories are about our day-to-day interactions at home with these imaginary friends.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

If you want to write, it means that you have something to say. A lot of people say they want to write, but they end up holding this off for years. Just write that draft out now. It’s only then you’ll get to see what can be done with it. If you find your ideas are all over the place, think of a theme to collect your thoughts together.

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