The first round of a reading and writing contest was held at Taw Win Centre on January 6 and 7, with 20 candidates selected to advance to the next round later this month.
The contest, sponsored by Taw Win Family Company and aimed at promoting love of Myanmar literature, attracted 198 applicants in the 18 to 30 age group, who last year submitted essays to the organisers.
From these applicants 49 candidates were selected, each of whom was handed a copy of Daw Ma Ma Lay’s novel Thu Lo Lu (A Man Like Him) last October. They met at Taw Win Centre last week to answer questions about the book they had read.
“We asked questions related to character traits, descriptions of events, and a line of dialogue from the novel, which would prompt the candidates to think about different aspects of the story,” said U Myo Myint Nyein, one of the judges.
Others on the judging panel included writers Ma Sandar, Chit Oo Nyo and Lynn Thite Nyunt, and actress Swe Zin Htike.
“After the contest they will learn to pay close attention to historical facts in novels, to discover the meaning that lies beneath the characters’ traits and to evaluate the story after finishing the book rather than reading only for pleasure,” said U Myo Myint Nyein.
Each of the 20 finalists will be awarded K100,000, and first place will get K3 million, second place K2 million and third place K1 million.
But U Myo Myint Nyein said that for the contestants, the prize money seemed to be beside the point.
“I found that they aren’t competing to win the grand prize, but because they are excited and eager to write and discuss the novel. The candidates said they have never participated in such contests at their schools and colleges,” he said.
“Some told me that the judging panel fired questions from different angles that they never thought would be asked. They have asked us to hold such contests every year.”
Ma Wutyee Htwe, managing director of Taw Win Centre and organiser of the contest, said she wanted to “help young readers who love to read Myanmar literature, to develop their literary talents in reading and writing”.
“The prize is high because it will help the winner to be able to publish a book if they want,” she said.
Contestant Ma Shun Lae Thar said she wanted to take part because, as an avid reader, she wanted to test how well she could read and write.
“In the age of knowledge, everyone from the lower class to the higher class should read. We need more contests where everyone is included,” she said.