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Law alumna debuts novel at local Arts Festival

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Former Warwick LLB student (2006-2009) Sharlene Teo will be speaking at the Kenilworth Arts Festival about her debut novel Ponti as part of its literary weekend. Sharlene will be appearing alongside Michael Donkor and his book Hold at the ‘New Voices in Fiction’ event on 22 September 2018 at 3pm in the Priory Theatre, Kenilworth.

We caught up with Sharlene to find out more about her book, her passion for writing and how studying law doesn’t mean only one career option.

sharlene teo

[Photo Credit: Amaal Said]

Tell us a little bit about your book? What is it about? 

Ponti is a literary novel about a failed horror movie actress named Amisa Tan, who stars in a schlocky Singaporean horror trilogy called Ponti made between the late seventies and early eighties. It is a book about monsters, disappointments, adolescence, friendships and the failure of relationships.

What inspired you to write it? 

I hadn't read a book that combined Singaporean horror movies, filmmaking, Southeast Asian mythology, tapeworms, the Sumatran haze, 2000s pop cultural references, karaoke, skincare and social media. So I set out to write it.

What will you be speaking about at the festival?

I will be in conversation with the wonderful Michael Donkor who has just released his debut novel, Hold. We will be talking about our debuts and the process of writing and publication.

How did you get into writing? sharlene book

I've always wanted to be a writer, ever since I could read. I've always tried to write. I have always kept a journal. I get my thoughts out more clearly in the written form than any other medium.

What are your plans for the future?

Come back to Warwick and do a law degree all over again. Ha-ha, just kidding! Write another novel, and another, and another, so on and so forth-and find a way to survive doing that.

You studied your LLB degree with us. How did you find the course?

The lecturers were great, patient, tried to inject humour into our compulsory modules a lot of the time. I liked the big curved lecture theatre. The course books were really heavy to lug around. I squinted at statutes, bewildered. One time my laptop died just after I'd finished a Family Law essay, without backup. It was not fun to rewrite. But seriously, I had a great time. My third year was my favourite.

Do you have any advice for students considering a law degree at Warwick? 

Look up the elective modules and see what speaks to you; be aware it's 12 hours of contact time [during my time it was], considerably more than other arts degrees! It's a lot of reading and quite intensive work. But remember to have fun, university is meant to be a time of great learning but also a lot of fun, but not too much fun.

Some of our current students may not wish to pursue a traditional legal career, as someone who chose to follow a different path, what advice would you give them? 

It's all good! I don't regret reading law; it equipped me with the ability to argue and research independently, I learnt a lot of interesting and useful facts and amusing case law along the way (probably since outdated). The degree is incredibly versatile and applicable to many different career paths, not just a traditional legal career. Ask questions, ask around, explore your options- there are many more options out there than you think, you've got to go with your gut and what drives you.

We wish Sharlene the best of luck for the festival and with her new novel. We cannot wait to see what she does next.


Sharlene Teo

Sharlene Teo was born in Singapore and lives in London. She has an LLB in Law from the University of Warwick and worked in business publishing before completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where she received the Booker Prize Foundation Scholarship and the David TK Wong Creative Writing fellowship. Her debut novel Ponti won the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writers' Award and was shortlisted for the 2018 Hearst Big Book Award.

Kenilworth Arts Festival

Kenilworth Arts Festival is 10 days of events, workshops and exhibitions, held in different venues around the historic town of Kenilworth, Warwickshire. The festival brings award-winning, internationally-acclaimed writers, musicians and visual artists to the town, provides a platform for outstanding emerging talent, and offers new arts opportunities to the local community. The 2018 festival will take place from 20th – 29th September.

Find out more about the festival and its events.

Mon 10 September 2018, 10:56 | Tags: Alumni