#2098 | Attack the ropes


Attack the ropes, people, the exact words I’m hearing as I pen this blogpost. Here I am sitting at 2:22am at my dining table, in front of the new pot plant my mum bought, in between items on my to-do list. There’s the new Netflix original, GLOW, playing in the background. So far it’s pretty good, and I do want to watch it, but at this point in my life, the only way I can justify watching new television is really by doubling up the time by also doing other stuff, like my makeup, skincare, hair masks, and light work, the kind that you do when you’re really tired.

Right now at the top of my agenda is the acknowledgements page. The thank you speech, the grand bow out that only my supervisor and two other people will read, the thing that is small but seems significant regardless. I wrote: What a journey, and then stopped. There seem to be no words. You would think that after a two year wrestle with ideas and words there would be no lack of them to pad out the end, but you would think wrong.

Again, it is 2:22am. Actually, now it’s 2:28. I’m thinking of all the things I want to do with my life and also thinking of my submission and also thinking of sleep. I’m still awake because I spent the last two hours vegetating and only realised that I was zoning out because my cat jumped up and sat on my lap. I was thinking of shoelaces, the one thing that realises and seems determined to publicly prove that I’m still half kid and not nearly ready to be an adult. I prefer zips because they are straightforward. Also on my mind was a certain night in LA where I discovered anew the joys of supermarket peanut butter. I did a hair mask tonight also, so I guess I was not completely useless.

I miss reading, but I’ve been a bit too tired to read lately. This is not a complaint, it’s just a kind of.. realisation. There is a point where you get so tired you brain stutters, and you can feel it constantly doing double takes. At that point words kind of glaze over. I read Hunger a couple of weeks ago and followed the news that surrounded it quite closely. Im still in the middle of the new Joyce Carol Oates book that is a monster of a book, mad long, heavy as a brick, and beautiful but also occasionally gratuitous. I guess thats kind of why I’ve been watching more TV, it just seems more forgiving right now. I finished season two of the Flash which is now on Netflix and i felt like Grant Gustin and I were meant to be, also, streamed Okja, and had mixed feelings about it. Its possibly because I have been studying the arc and technicalities of scriptwriting recently that I find myself mega critical of everything I see onscreen, but then I also wrestle with the knowledge that the director was trying to do something good. How far do good intentions go to cover up a messy script? I mean, it worked with Wonder Woman. I don’t have an answer, I was just throwing a question out into the great blue.

Alright. It’s 2:41 now. That’s nineteen minutes of rambling you just read. Actually less, I got distracted in the middle and watched a bit of the GLOW episode playing, and then went to get some water, and pet my cat, etcetera. Time to sleep. It’s funny because today I said I would turn in early.


#2095 | June


I cannot believe half the year has gone by already.

June is traditionally peak season for commercial work, so try as I did to take on less projects in favour of my thesis writing, still I found myself straddling the two. And it seems the entire world decided to get married in June. And so June was essentially: camera work, paper work, research, champagne, amazement. Not a bad way to live, though I do miss this little thing called sleep.. No, I kid. June has been a happy month thus far, a lot of wonder, a lot of challenges and hard work, and a whole lot of celebration and breakthroughs. And for that I am thankful.


#2093 | Five ways to read more daily


Hey guys,

So, as a follow up to my previous post, I thought I’d address one of the questions that’s been coming in quite a bit – the question of how I incorporate reading into my day to day life. Actually, this question has been coming in a lot, ever since my 2016 year-end wrap post (The Year of Learning) where I detailed each book I read in 2016, almost all along the lines of: I want to read more, but I have no time..

Well, newsflash guys. No one has more time than another person. We all make time.

Anyway, I thought I’d once and for all detail the ways that I incorporate reading into my life. This post is for those of you who already want to read more and just dont know how, so please don’t leave comments saying like “oh but i could be watching tv” or “but what if I want to sleep more” because that’s not the point ok, the point is that you WANT TO READ MORE. Okay? Okay.

Here goes.

1. Read during your transitionary hours.


I count transitory hours as hours you spend not actually doing your work or social life or whatever, but time spent transiting from one stage to the other. So Home to Work. Work to Dinner. Dinner to Home. Etcetera. I have said this several times on different platforms, but I might as well say it here too. One major pet peeve of mine is realising how much time I’ve wasted on trains, buses, so on and so forth, just mindlessly flipping through Facebook or instagram, looking at dumb articles I don’t care about or that will never affect my life in any way. We spend an insane amount of time on social media as a generation, and while I love my platforms and the way they help me stay updated on my friends’ lives and so on, there is such a thing as spending too much time on it. I honestly don’t care about half the videos I watch on my social feeds, about this fish that did this amazing thing or that turkey that couldnt stop walking in a circle. And then you look up and you’ve reached your train stop and an hour has gone by. A whole hour!

Instead, start carrying books around with you. Read on trains, buses, taxis, whatever. Assuming your commute to work is a healthy forty minutes, that’s forty minutes of solid reading per day. Don’t look at your phone for those forty minutes, the world will go on fine without you, it wont fall apart, especially not at freaking 8am in the morning.

This is also one of the major reasons why I very much like taking the train back at night, especially on nights I’m so tired I’m tempted to cab home (I mean, cmon, with all the Uber and Grab price wars, it’s getting seriously tempting…). I really like my transitory reading times, and the fact that I can read in a well lit train all the way home is really a huge plus for me, especially when I’m in the middle of a super good book and want all the time I can get to read it!


2. Keep books at your workplace.

I always have three or four books at my office space because I might want something to read when I’m having lunch. To be fair, this is because I usually have lunch at my desk, it’s a freelancer thing. When youre paying rent for your desk you dont really want to go out and take nice lunch breaks because ITS HUSTLE TIME BABY. And it’s usually a quick lunch – so usually I either eat at my desk or go to the roof with my takeout, and get in one or two chapters there.

Another thing that I find happens, is that sometimes I get really mentally tired at my desk when I’ve been working on a project for too long. So sometimes I give myself twenty minute breaks in between to refresh my mind by reading a chapter of a book, and after that when I go back to my work I find that taking my mind completely away from the project and coming back to it later renders me fresher and able to see it more objectively!

3. Be flexible with your reading habits.


By this I mean, be open to reading not just paper bound books, but books in different forms. I know it’s not always feasible to carry a book around with you when youre carrying too many things that day or if you just dont have space in your bag, so then just read it off your phone!

I have a kindle fire tablet that I bought from Amazon during a black friday sale for like fifty bucks two years ago, and I use that cos it’s insanely tiny and essentially a portable library at my fingertips. But even then, sometimes I ditch the tablet for my phone’s kindle app, because it syncs my books across in the cloud, and I can pick up from the exact page I left off in my phone! This, of course, requires that you either procure free copies of books online, or purchase them from the Amazon e-bookstore, but I find that e-books tend to be cheaper and go on sale frequently, so why not?

Another app that I find very useful is the Overdrive app that I discovered last year. As you can tell, I am all about the app life. But seriously, though, Overdrive is awesome. It’s a library app in your phone where you can “borrow” titles from your neighbourhood library and read them for free on your phone or desktop app. So because I am a member of the National Library (i think every Singaporean is, automatically?) and also NTU’s library, I can just search for titles that I want to read from their electronic book repository, and loan them out into my phone. Then, just like normal library books, after a certain number of days they just expire and you have to return them or renew the loan. It’s insane! We are living in the future!


And when I said be flexible with your reading habits, I didn’t just mean learning to transition between paper and e-books. Audio books are also a great option. I have friends who listen to audio books when they drive, or when they go to the gym. I mean, it’s a great way of consuming content when you don’t necessarily have your hands or eyes free to hold and read a book. You can borrow audiobooks from Overdrive, mentioned above, or purchase them from Audible (first book free). For shorter reads, you can even listen to them on youtube. I super love listening to Neil Gaiman’s short stories on youtube, because he frequently reads his own stories so you dont just get some random voice. And I also really enjoyed listening to the War of the Worlds radio drama – it’s so realistic that when it was played in the UK back in 1938, people rioted and panicked because they honestly thought aliens had invaded. Haha!

I mean, of course you’ll personally prefer one form over the other. I personally love reading hard copy books, nothing quite beats the experience of the turned page for me. But I’m not violently opposed to the other two forms – at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me how I’ve read it, just that I have.

4. Get short stories delivered directly to your email inbox


So maybe you want to read more, but dont have the stamina for full novels, or maybe don’t want to commit to purchasing entire books (though you really should). That’s fine too. Many of my favourite pieces of literature come in the form of short stories or poems, which I read online for free. These are easily digestible, low commitment, and you can also read them anywhere as long as you have an internet connection – on your phone, at your workplace, while waiting for your friends to show up for dinner, while queueing for lunch, etcetera.

One of my favourite tips for easily reading more is signing up for the Library of America’s free Story of the Week email service. It’s not super widely publicised, but you can sign up at this link, and they will email you a free short story every single week! And they’re good stories too, all of which have been published in reputable places, and most of which I’ve enjoyed. And as workaholic singaporeans, we are already so used to checking and reading our emails all the time, that this is really the perfect fit for us.

Other ways of getting stories delivered to you is to sign up for the newsletters of really great fiction magazine sites. My favourites are Catapult Magazine, which has a fantastic fiction repertoire, The New Yorker’s Fiction Magazine, The New York Times Modern Love Column, the Two Serious Ladies tumblr blog, and for very short fiction (under a thousand words) – I like Wigleaf.

5. Commit to a bedtime routine with books


Ok fine, this is me reading a book at a party, but you get the idea

This is as simple as it sounds – it’s just carving out time to read. You know how some people schedule in time for exercise and treat it like any other appointment? Do the same for books. If you know you want to read more, then make an effort and commitment to doing it!

Personally, for me this takes the form of an hour’s ‘no electronics’ reading time before bed each night. This started because I read somewhere that looking at any sort of electronic screen an hour before you go to bed affects your quality of sleep + how easily you fall asleep, and I seriously love my sleep. So I started making an effort to take an hour before bed each night to read. I keep a line of books by my bed head, and change those books every month or so, so there’s always new stuff on hand to read. How do I have so many books to change around, you ask? Well, I buy them – either at bookstores, online at bookdepository.com (free worldwide shipping!), or at those pop up fairs. More than half the books I’ve bought were like five bucks and below; I am not opposed to buying somebody’s cast offs, to me that just means that someone else had the chance to love them too. And I get a lot of books as gifts, people have just taken to buying me books on my birthday and on other occasions because everyone knows I read and I’d like to think people get excited about sharing their favorite reads with another person too 🙂

Now, of course, realistically, I am not able to do this every night. Some nights I am too damned tired. Some nights I get home late after going out with friends and all I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep. Some nights my brain will no longer function to absorb words (please remember, after all, that my day to day work when I’m not filming involves nonstop reading and writing, essentially), and so I’d rather watch a bedtime movie instead. And some nights I can only manage half an hour, not one full one.

But I think the point is that I have mentally committed to my hourly bedtime routine, and so more often than not, I do. And the hour of reading I get before bed adds up so fast, before I know it, I’ve gotten through two, three books a week, and am ever the better for it.


I also never travel without a book. But as travel is not a daily thing, I’m not including it in this list of daily habits for reading.

So yes. Hope some of these are useful to you – I mean, I think they are super solid tips, so boo to you if you dont think so! Hahahahaha. But yeah like I said at the start of this post, i expect that I’m preaching to the converted lah. This post is really for people who love to read and want to read more, or who want to start reading more even though they are not habitual readers, and so I think if you adopt even one or two out of the five tips above you’ll find that your reading capacity will expand exponentially. 🙂

Ta, guys. That’s it, for now. All the best with your reading resolutions – I’m off, now, to keep up with mine. x


PS. I wrote a piece talking about ten of my recommendations for the Changi Airport site: Now Boarding, here!

#2092 | #JemmaRecommends live in Changi Airport Times Bookstores


Hey guys,

So this is something that’s been in the works for ages now, and something that’s very close to my heart. A year ago, after I was named as the Changi Airport social media ambassador, I pitched a passion project to Changi Airport Group that revolved around my two big loves – reading and travelling. I’m someone who travels a lot, both for work and leisure, and it is both a blessing and a privilege. Much of who I am today has been influenced both by the places I’ve been to (hence: the cultures I’ve been exposed to, the conversations with people halfway across the world that help shape my understanding that there is no one way to see a subject) and by the books I’ve read (for who’s first trip wasn’t through the mesmerising turn of the page?).

The one big thing both books and travel have in common is the ability to afford us perspective and subsequently, empathy, for the world that extends beyond the confines of our individual being. This empathy is ever more crucial in today’s world – a world that is quick to condemn and point fingers, a world that is quick to dismiss another person as wrong and thus, erase everything they are trying to say as irrelevant. No. If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt, growing up, it’s that the black and white of our childhood rarely remains so clearly demarcated. There is a heck load of grey, and there are two sides to any given issue – often, more than two. In a world that has become so far extreme, it is a good thing to learn that two opposing ideals can co-exist and each be valid and justified without completely erasing the other. It helps us see people who are different from us as an individual, not a statistic. This thing? It is called balance. And it is a balance that springs up from empathy.

And so with this in mind, the project pitched to Changi Airport and their tenant, Times Bookstores, had one clear goal – to recommend books to readers, browsers, and travellers that would bring them places, not just physically, but in terms of perspective and ideas. Thus the #jemmarecommends shelf was born (a play on Changi’s existing Changi Recommends service).


With my Jemma Recommends shelf in one of the Times Travel stores in Changi Airport

The airport made perfect sense for this collaboration – airports have always been a place of transit, a place where we long to go somewhere new, find out new things about ourselves and the world, and I wanted my little shelf to reflect that same sentiment as well. Changi Airport, in particular, has always been one to push boundaries and outdo itself – I mean, what other airport in the world has drawn such love from their local community that entire families go to the airport as a family outing for dinner or to play? I myself grew up at the airport, long before I started to travel, spending hours each weekend studying in their cafes or public areas – in fact, one of my earliest childhood memories involve my parents taking me there as a treat to watch planes take off and have Swensens ice cream. The point is, Singaporeans love Changi Airport, and it is not a love that is taken for granted – the Changi of my childhood and the Changi of my now is so vastly different, it is often hard to imagine how it can improve further from here on. But it does, and continually impresses us.


The point of bringing that up wasnt to debate the varied joys of Changi’s many innovations (sunflower garden?? Raindrop installation?? Butterfly garden??) but to illustrate the kind of spirit Changi has always espoused – one that is always changing, innovating, and cementing its place as a leader in the travel industry. It is equal parts my project pitch and that spirit that allowed for the birth of this collaboration. I will tell you first hand that it is incredibly difficult to pitch new ideas that have not been tried and tested by other markets to any big brand, especially multi billion dollar corporations like so. People like to err on the safe side, and as a freelancer, I am perpetually trying to convince my clients to try new things. If you don’t try new things, I argue, you’re always going to be following behind other brands. It is an argument that has had moderate success. But Changi’s ethos of perpetual innovation has allowed for this collaboration to happen, because they could understand the benefits of trying something that had no quantifiable precedence, and it is a hopeful sign to me that this will pave the way for more meaningful collaborations in time to come 🙂


My shelf in one of the Relay stores, part of the TIMES family

As you all know, books have been my life since I was sentient, and I really hope to bring the joy of reading to all of you – not just joy, but new ideas, world views, and a better understanding of privilege and empathy. After multiple rounds of curation and discussion with Changi and Times Bookstores, we soft-launched our travel shelf at the end of last year, with ten books segregated by long and short haul flight recommendations. The ten books were books that not only inspired me, but that I deem culturally significant, and at a very basic level, are ten damned good books purely in terms of writing, style, and storytelling. Times Bookstores has been an invaluable part of this process, not just in the obvious way of being the bookstore involved in the collaboration, but also in helping me understand so much about how the publishing industry works, and being available for me to bounce ideas off for curation. Which brings me to the next part..

Earlier this year, Times proposed a new element to phase two of our collaboration – stickering the books with our #JemmaRecommends label. This not only allows us to recommend more books than one shelf can hold, it’s also a really nice way for people to immediately identify the recommended titles around the stores in Changi.


The stickers are designed by my talented friend Warren Tey, who is kind of like a superstar in the graphic design world ◡̈

Now, obviously logistics dictate that we can’t sticker every book that I recommend because then firstly we will not have enough stickers and secondly what if people want to buy books that dont have stickers on them? So what we did was sticker selected titles from within my recommended list (trust me, that list goes on and on and on…) in each Times Travel/Relay bookstore, and so the recommended books vary from bookstore to bookstore but they’re all still good reads. So the next time you’re in Changi airport, try to spot the stickered titles in each store! 🙂 And the shelves are still live in one bookstore per terminal, which you can visit if you’d like to see a bigger selection of recommendations.


As you can tell, I’m very proud of my shelf..

I have also been extremely heartened by the response to the shelf so far. Besides the news coverage we’ve received, I’m perpetually getting little dings on my phone notifying me that a new person has visited the shelf and uploaded a picture of it on instagram stories or snapchat, and people have been emailing me about the book recommendations, taking it upon themselves to either recommend me more books or giving me their reviews of the books i’ve recommended. It’s been amazing.

So thank you, guys.

Made by 🌟Collage🌟Untitled

And thank you, Changi Airport and Times.

To the rest of you – we will be continually updating the recommended list of books (honestly, i dont think I’ve gone through so many books so quickly in my life… so, so many) and as always, I welcome your suggestions. And one more thing – if you enjoy the books, if you like the idea of these collaborations – please buy the books. Collaborations like these are difficult to implement and even more difficult to justify because they are not traditional campaigns which are sales driven or meant to highlight a particular marketing imperative. I think it is obvious that this is a passion project on all ends – but we have come to a point, I believe, where collaborations with social media personalities need to go beyond just telling you what the best lipstick to buy is (though girl, we all know we love our lipsticks). And many people are happy to stay with the existing mode of collaborations, which makes it very difficult to push the boundaries towards collaborations which may not be the most sales-driven, but weigh in heavily on being more meaningful. So when you purchase a book from the collaboration, what youre signalling to everyone is that you support the messaging and idea behind the entire collaborations. I think it is as good a time as any to clarify that I dont earn a cent from this collaboration – that all the time and effort put in curating, reading, curating, promoting the books collaboration is purely of my own volition. But if you would like to see more collaborations of this kind, not just from me but throughout the industry, you enable the industry taking a small step in this direction by buying the books. You enable it by creating chatter around the collaboration, by always showing me and people around you that you are interested in seeing content like this. And you force everyone – brands, influencers, the industry – to step it up.

Thanks again guys, for reading, generally, and then specifically here. I’ll see you at the turn of the page. x


#2090 | Places my words have been


Me and my biggest fan

Hey hey guys,

In the way of life updates, I gave two interviews recently and they both came out over the last week! So I thought I should put it here because people say nice things about me in the interviews, and I love compliments. HAHAHA.

My interview with Alvinology here


My interview with Marketing Interactive here

But in random musings and observations – all my media snippets of late have been using the same picture of me at Singapore Fashion Week two years ago, which is a sure sign that I really need to either 1. take better pictures or 2. go for yoga more regularly, because I’m pretty sure that photo is the last time my chin was relatively sharp. I SAID RELATIVELY! RELATIVELY TO NOW! Don’t go nuts on me u crazies.

Yah ok so that’s all I really had to say. Bye bye.