At first, author Dipika Mukherjee didn’t expect her essay, Paet Puja: How Malaysian-Bengalis Worship the Stomach, would be shortlisted after the The Fay Khoo Award for Food+Drink Writing 2018 committee informed her that her entry had been longlisted.
“I may not even make it to the shortlist but this essay, I hope, will leave something for Malaysian Bengalee Association children long after I am gone, something that will give them a sense of roots and community greater than themselves, from which they spring… I have been writing about the Malaysian-Bengali community for decades, especially the strong women, as I believe that good art illuminates our shared humanity, no matter where we are,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
Her riveting essay was not only shortlisted – it cinched the winning title for the award last year under the "Reportage" category. Options senior writer Petrina Fernandez, who submitted her story With a Cherry on Top, was also shortlisted for the same category.
A tribute to the life and achievements of writer, food critic, publisher and radio/TV personality Fay Khoo, who died in April 2017 after a battle with lung cancer, the award serves as a dedication and passion to the craft, while recognising the up-and-coming voices in food and drink writing.
However, a small change has been introduced this year.
The award has done away with formal categories, and it will be selecting only the best three entries instead. There will be a longlist of 15 entries, which will be whittled down to a shortlist of six. The judges assessing this year’s submissions are chief judge John Brunton (The Guardian contributor for food and travel), award director Bettina Chua Abdullah and Melissa De Silva, author of Others is not a Race.
Entry for the 2019 competition opens today and will close on September 15. Participants, who are allowed a maximum of three entries, are required to send their submissions to Hikayat, the nexus of art, literature and culture in Penang. Open to citizens and residents of ASEAN countries aged 16 and older at the time of the closing date, the award will announce the winners at the 9th George Town Literary Festival, which will be held from Novemebr 21 to 24 in Penang. The three will each receive RM1,500 cash and book vouchers worth RM500.
Entries for the award must be submitted in English, and all writing must fall into the categories of "Personal Narrative", "Reportage" or "Creative Non-Fiction" and be within 2,000-word limit. They must be saved in Word format, and emailed to [email protected].
Award director Bettina Chua Abdullah mentioned that the award has received favourable response since its initiation, hence the decision to “widen the parameters to include more types of writing” and “present awards to the best entries, regardless of category”.
The publication of the first The Fay Khoo Award for Food+Drink Writing anthology will also be released, featuring selected entries from the longlists of 2017 and 2018. Selections from the 2019 award longlist will be included in the anthology, which will be released at the George Town Literary Festival in November.