Writers at the Festival

With the theme of SAYANG – a Malay word that connotes love and adoration, as well as loss and pity – the 2016 Singapore Writers Festival promises a potent mix of emotions. SWAG asked six writers what they’re most looking forward to this year, and got answers as diverse as the festival itself. 

Cyril Wong is a Singaporean poet and fictionist of much renown. Most recent on a long list of acclaimed publications is The Lover’s Inventory (Math Paper Press). He says:

I’ll be talking about the concept of loneliness with novelists Sara Baume from Ireland and Risa Wataya from Japan. As a confessional poet, I’m nothing without my loneliness. Loneliness fills me with both dread and love for the world around me, so I’m looking forward not only to talking about this dimension of solitude in relation to writing, but also to how writers from other countries define loneliness in their work (if at all); whether they view loneliness as either deplorable or as a source of reflection and inspiration. Catch this panel on 5th November, 10am, The Arts House (Blue Room).

Rosie Milne is the Singapore-based author of historical fiction novel Olivia and Sophia (Monsoon Books). She also runs the Asian Books Blog. She says:

I’m looking forward to moseying round the Festival bookshop, since it will carry books by all the attending authors. I know I’ll find books by authors I’d never have discovered were it not for the Festival, exciting authors from all over Asia, with fresh and interesting things to say. I’ll particularly look out for books translated from Asian languages, since they are often hard to find. I hope I get to hear Lionel Shriver and Hanya Yanagihara, too, although I’m already a fan of each of them so I’d read their novels with or without the prodding of the Festival.

Elaine Chiew is a Malaysian-born global citizen and fiction writer, whose short story anthology Cooked Up: Food Fiction From Around The World (New Internationalist) launched in 2015:

Now that I’m a little more settled into Singapore life, I’m looking forward to a diverse interplay of cross-genre literary blends such as the performance of Kojima Keitaney-Love whose oeuvre features song, oral narrative and spoken word, as well as critical literary issues such as the role of the literary critic today and panels that explore regional identity and culture e.g. What Makes A Story Singaporean featuring Simon Tay and Philip Holden. I’m also looking forward to hearing Helen Oyeyemi, Joanne Harris on a panel on Writing as a Moral Compass, and will be signing books at the launch of Singapore Love Stories (Monsoon Books) as one of the anthology writers. Come say hello!

Born and raised on the Little Red Dot, David Seow is author of 39 illustrated children’s books – and counting. Of this year’s Festival, he says:

At this year’s writers festival, I’m looking forward to sessions by best-selling authors, Jacqueline Harvey and Gareth P Jones. I’ll be participating in the East -West Express: A Reading Series with them on Nov, 5 from 5:30 to 6:30pm. I’m also looking forward to the sessions with AJ Low and Adeline Foo. On Nov 12, I’ll be giving a talk for kids about how to turn people you know into picture book characters in my session on my Sam, Sebbie and Di-Di-Di series of books.

Clarissa Geonawan, a Singaporean writer, won the 2015 Bath Novel Award for her novel Rainbirds, which is due to be published in 2018 (Soho Press). She tell us:

I’m looking forward to seeing Eka Kurniawan (a prolific Indonesian writer), Hiromi Kawakami (I enjoyed her novels, especially The Briefcase), and Gosho Aoyama (I’ve been reading Detective Conan since primary school!).  The literary tours to local publisher offices and Malam Lawak Sastera (Literary Comedy Night) look interesting. Also, I contributed a short story for the ‘Singapore Love Stories’ anthology, which is going to be launched during this year’s SWF. 

Carlo Pena is from the Singapore Book Council, and also organises the All In! Young Writers Festival. His Singapore Writers Festival highlights:

I like that SWF features local writers in programming that promotes the growing local writing scene. I look forward to seeing more content churning out of SWF for Singaporean readers to consume, and hopefully, this creates an impetus for people to be excited enough to go out and buy Singapore Literature across genres.

To find out more about the Singapore Writers Festival, including full programming and ticketing information, visit the official Singapore Writers Festival Website.

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