Monday, April 16, 2018

100 WRITERS _____ Murphy the dog helps you shine and make this world a better place, says new picture book author Chen Wei Teng

NOTE: This post is part of my 100 WRITERS project. More information here.

Self-publishing can be a thrilling experience. When we started Super Cool Books back in 2011, we self-published quite a few books. Mostly to invest in our own creative decisions. Two of these book projects in particular, the Sherlock Hong series and the My Blade Quest series, have since been acquired and developed further by partner publishers. The Sherlock Hong series was taken up by Marshall Cavendish in 2015, and we have four thrilling books available, with warm reviews from parents and young readers. My Blade Quest was released by Armour Publishing last year, a full series of six books with outstanding illustrations and fantastic cover designs. Wonderful reception there too. And we're still in discussions with other publishers about developing a few more self-published Super Cool Books titles.

This week, I'd like to introduce you to Chen Wei Teng, an educator in Singapore who has also self-published her first picture book, about a very special dog named Murphy. She has a real desire to use her storytelling skills to connect with students who have learning disabilities, or are under-privileged in any way. And her book has such heartwarming pictures too. Her interview has lots of insightful information for fellow authors. If you're keen to work with her, her contact info is at the end of this post.

I wish all of you happy writing! Make books that matter.

— D 


Hi, tell us about yourself and your book!
I am an educator based in Singapore. “Murphy, See How You Shine!” is my first children’s picture book (self-published). The story of Murphy touches on the themes of making meaning amidst life’s imperfections, and recognising we all have gifts within us that can help make this world a better place. It is about a blind dog named Murphy who wrestles with his inadequacies and low self-esteem. However, Murphy has an unusual skill. He is trained as a diabetic-alert dog who often comes to the rescue of his owner who has diabetes. His subsequent encounter with a young boy with diabetes made him realise how much of a gift he can be to others around him.

Murphy is meant to be a representation of children with physical disabilities, learning difficulties or simply those who have always felt different from their peers. My wish is for my readers who have met setbacks in life to come to realise that they have precious gifts within them, just like Murphy. And when they are able to embrace themselves, warts and all, they too realise they can shine and help make this world a brighter place to be in, in their own unique ways.

What inspired you to write this book?
The idea for the story took root 10 years ago when I was working as an educational therapist with the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS). Inspired by the ingenious minds of these children with dyslexia and other learning difficulties such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and dyspraxia I worked with, I was touched by my students’ capacity to thrive despite their struggles to learn.

Currently working as a Literacy Coach at NorthLight School where I work with teenagers with learning difficulties (and where I continued to be inspired by my students!), the story was borne in a bid to celebrate the lives of the students whom I encountered. Northlight School is a vocational school that takes in students who failed their PSLE. Many of these students struggle to cope with their learning difficulties and to make meaning for themselves, having come from challenging and disadvantaged family backgrounds. Unavoidably, many suffer from low self-esteem and see themselves as “failures” in life.  Yet they also long to be affirmed and recognised for who they are. They wish to tell the world that they are made of something, that they are not to be dismissed. These experiences with the students inspired me to write a story that will allow more people to understand the struggles experienced by children and teenagers who have fallen out of the mainstream, and the emotional baggage they tend to carry around.

I also hope the book can be a tool to help children in their social-emotional learning. With adults reading the book to them, my wish is for the book to offer a platform to plant seeds of conversation and start a discussion about disabilities, learning difficulties, being different and how to overcome obstacles by making meaning amidst life’s imperfections.

Another reason for writing this book is to raise funds for a school in Nepal that I am supporting (10% of the sales proceeds from the books go towards funding New Vision Academy (

What was your creative process like, as you worked with the illustrator?
I am really glad to have Hong Shin illustrate my book (who has himself just written and illustrated his 2nd children’s picture book, “The Incredible Basket” published by Epigram) as he understands very clearly the theme behind my story. He displays an innate sensitivity which is evident from his works. It helps too that he has experience working with the same group of children and youths who are the inspiration behind the story. Other than being very talented, his ability to listen well, open-mindedness and his willingness to share makes the collaboration a very enjoyable process. I love how we are able to bounce ideas off each other and build on them even though we may have different perspectives. 

How have you been promoting this book?
Because this is a self-published effort, I am learning how to be an authorpreneur (a new term I learnt!), marketing and distributing my books. There are so many areas that I envisage Murphy’s story can reach out to and I am really excited. From targeting dog shelters, dog lovers (Murphy used to stay in a dog shelter) and groups that work with dogs as service dogs, to looking into the area of special education needs and exploring the theme of inclusivity which is gaining traction in Singapore, I am looking forward to sharing Murphy’s story to lots more people. 

My book is also designed to be dyslexic-friendly, with the usage of a sans serif font (with no tails at the end of the strokes), and a bigger font size. The spacing between letters and between lines is also increased so that the story offers an easier read. I hope this reaches out to the dyslexic children and youths out there!

How has your life changed after writing this book?
Frankly speaking, as I am a homebody and my default choice of how to spend my free time is a no-brainer (home!), I now have to actively get out of my comfort zone (physically and metaphorically!), so that I won’t have books stocked up at home! It has been an exciting journey thus far, and I am grateful to Murphy, for bringing me to places and allowing me to meet many interesting people. It’s an exciting feeling to have at times, not knowing what’s waiting for me at the corner of the street. 

But most of all, I would say, this book reaffirms and strengthens what I know – that stories have a inherent ability to touch and connect people. Different things in the book speak out to different individuals, I realised, from my various story-telling sessions to the public and with my students at Northlight School. And it’s wonderful to know my story plays a small part in helping an individual reconnect himself/herself to this universe.


Where to get the book:

Kinokuniya bookstores

E-book versions:

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