Singapore Writers’ Festival 2009

Last weekend, Nanzo and I attended the final weekend of the 13th biennial Singapore Writers’ Festival, where I got to ineptly interview a few wonderful writers and Nanzo got to pimp out her faux pro-photography skills.
The event was so well organized, it was scary, particularly after Jakarta’s insanity, of which I am becoming increasingly tolerant… We got excellent treatment from the public relations team, with front row seats at all the events we attended and even scabbed a couple of meals.
Let me share a few of the highlights, via Nanzo’s photos…

This is John Ajvide Lindqvist, a Swedish novelist who wrote Let the Right One In, which is about a boy who falls in love with his vampire next-door neighbour (and absolutely nothing like Twilight).
He used to be a stand-up comedian and a magician, which was quite apparent in his charisma and confidence.
I really enjoyed talking to him, even though I was so unbelievably tired(too much writing and attempts to keep up with gymming) and kept forgetting what I wanted to say (not looking forward to listening to the recording!!)… I may have also given him the inspiration for his next novel… watch this space…

The next person I got to interview was Chart Korbjitti, one of Thailand’s most respected and well-known authors… it was especially cool because I got to study two of his novels (No Way Out and The Judgment) during my BA, and I feel like actually getting to interview him is great continuity between my academic studies and current journalistic aspirations.
He had an interpreter so our conversation wasn’t quite as organic as with the others, but he seemed like a lovely person, very laidback yet forthright.
I got a bit annoyed during his “Meet with the author” sesh tho because several of the attendants kept asking him what he thought of expat writing and about him trying to challenge expat writers’ portrayal of Thailand as this tawdry place of sex and drugs… he answered he didn’t think much about it, but they just kept at it, like dogs with a bone.
I also got to meet Mohammed Hanif, Pakistani BBC journalist and writer of the Man Booker-prize longlisted A Case of Exploding Mangoes.
I was quite worried because I didn’t manage to finish his novel (after a Saturday of 12 hours of interviews, seminars, discussion etc I felt all booked-out!) and I know nothing about Pakistani politics (whereas with Lindqist and Korbjitti I could rely a little on my horror/vampires/SEA trivia)… but our chat was fun anyway, he was very frank and seemed genuinely interested in both me and Nanzo as people… then again he is a journalist too!
I didn’t get to interview NEIL GAIMAN (pictured here with girlfriend Amanda Palmer) individually, instead got to attend a mini press session, which to be honest, I was quite alright with, as its so hard to know what to ask someone that’s been asked so many things… he really is a literary rock star, and pretty much dominated the event.
I am really glad I got to see him in person… and I don’t think everything I’ve read by him (which is a mere smidgen of his ma-hu-sive body of work) is that brilliant, but there a few of his stories I’ve really taken to heart, especially those in the Smoke & Mirrors collection.
In person, he is a constant storyteller, full of anecdotes and a warm view on life… I think I’m going to be quoting him for weeks to come because he just said so much that was interesting! (And I listened to him for about 3 hrs in total!)
This is just a small amount of the people lining up for his final signing last Sunday… there were at least 900, but I suspect could have even been more than 1000.
He was very kind and patient to submit himself to that signing… from experience I know not all authors would (yes YOU Salman Rushdie)… and more than that, remain cheerful and attentive to each individual fan throughout, ensuring each got their Moment.
Which is, after all, what signings are all about – the brief one-on-one between artist and fan. That’s what you really treasure, why you’re willing to line up for so long – the signed memento is just a receipt.

I needed some photos to illustrate the SWF write up so we accosted a costumed Gaiman fan in the queue, she was meant to be Dream/Sandgirl from the Sandman comics (which I haven’t read). The Gaiman fans were dressed cooler (or simply weirder) the day before, which was fittingly also Halloween.
The beautiful Arts House at night – really, the ideal venue. It used to be Singapore’s parliament house, which added a sense of history to the whole event.
All in all, a very full-on, but inspiring weekend – and for me, a tantalizing sample of what it would be like to be a full time freelance journalist, getting to fly into places for a few days and to interrogate loads of fascinating people. Getting to talk to writers also made me more determined to focus more on fiction. This is definitely the kind of work I want to do.

One thought on “Singapore Writers’ Festival 2009

  1. Vamps, literature, Gaiman, NANZO, S'pore, Hallowe'en… sounds like the perfect weekend 🙂

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