Our Guide To SWF 2011
Posted on 18 October, 2011
Unlike the performing arts, the literary arts can be somewhat of a solitary affair. The written word can bring you to new places, wonderful worlds and fascinating people, but it’s all in the space of your, well, imagination. So the fun thing about a writers’ festival is getting to meet the authors. Coming face-to-face with those who have filled pages with rich stories, piqued curiousities with novel thoughts, or poetic musings. The Singapore Writers’ Festival this year is taking this exchange head on (their theme is the prickly word, “Transaction’), with masterclasses, panel discussions, heck even a literary meal with your favourite author.
There are gems to be found in the festival but we found the website hard to navigate, and hard to choose from the buffet of options. Here are our picks for the festival. There’s something for everyone, whether you are interested in ivory tower discourse, or just you know, want to write literary food porn.
Inquisitive, intrigued and interested in sociopolitical phenomena, the involved intellectual will find himself at home at the festival. Don’t expect small talk at panel discussions, lectures and debates. The topics are well suited to the taste buds of our know-it-all kopitiam ah-pek or worldly taxi uncle—all for an artistic stimulation of the involved intellectual’s prefrontal cortex at this year’s SWF.
Panel Discussions. 90 panel discussions, most addressing serious themes, form the intellectual backbone of the festival. Amongst them is an intense post-GE2011 discussion of the role that the literary plays in public affairs in Politics and Society: Is the Pen Always Mightier and a dialogue on the buzzword “Language”, as writers and academics alike wax lyrical about our state of multilingualism in Mining Singapore’s Lingusitic Diversity: Multiligual Yet Mute?
SWF Lecture Series. Author of Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics Steven Levitt will grace Singaporean soil at SOTA’s Concert Hall to give us a crash course of re-writing history with the aid of statistics.
SWF Closing Debate. On the long-time favorite topic that touches the heart of all who call themselves Singaporean. The festival will end with a debate—the motion is wry and may open to a floor of cheers, or jeers: This House will trade English for Singlish.
The Literary Noob
Always wanted to be published but don’t know where or how to start? Start here. SWF is THE platform for the literary noob. Boasting a range of meaningful activities and workshops for the budding writer, the festival is a great opportunity to catch agents, editors and publishers all in one swoop. Put on your noobibombastic-hats and learn from the best—after all, we were all once noobs.
Literary Masterclasses. Learn to write specific genres so out-of-this-world with Award-winning Joe Haldeman in The Fundamentals of Writing Science Fiction or engage in a two-hour storyteller apprenticeship with comedy improviser Roger Jenkins in Making Up Stories Workshop.
Publishing Symposium. Find out how to get your work out there from industry experts—publishers, agents, authors—and explore new modes of publishing such as the e-book and audiovisual adaptations of the written word. What stands out? Check out How to Get Noticed by a Commissioning Editor. The Publishing Symposium is a two-day long affair.
Meet the Author. The best way to learn? Ask those who have tried and tested the waters before you, those who have been there, done that. These are hour-long sessions for discovering and rediscovering the written word. Amongst a star-studded list of writers, meet renowned Indonesian author Putu Wijaya and award-winning Vikas Swarup, author of Q&A, the novel behind Slumdog Millionaire.
Share meals alongside amiable authors, engage in readings that reveal wonders of the world, and receive music that enriches every bit of the soul. Don’t say we said it, but this SWF is not for the proles.
Musee D’orsay Readings. World-famous impressionist works from Musee D’orsay will add a classy, Parisan touch to the festival. Curated by poet Aaron lee, the readings held at the National Museum for two nights only, will juxtapose writing, poetry and artwork in an elegant setting. Love your Claude Monet? This hoity-toity event is one of our favorites.
Literary Tours. Experience the heritage of Singapore literature in the History Gallery through dramatized readings by famous Singaporean writers in the tour Voyage: A Literary Journey Through Singapore’s History.
Literary Meals. Get up close and personal with your literary idols. For $60, you can dine with your favorite authors at The Art House. Here’s a chance to meet the distinguished poet and writer, Andrew Motion; author of Q&A, Vikas Swarup or food memoir writer, Cheryl Tan just to name a few. We here at Muse have a few burning questions. Like, we want to know if the authors prefer asparagus to corn.
Borne of the love for black and whites, the beloved world of Hitchcock, and the Hollywood Classic to that of the contemporary arthouse, cinephiles too, have a place in this year’s festival. Carry a pen or a pair of specs (but definitely wear your best hipster pants) because SWF’s has allocated the cinephile events that encourage both writing and viewing of film. Everyone will be there so trust us when we say: you would WANT to look good.
Screenwriting Masterclasses. Wish you were schooled in the science of screenwriting? You can be now! Attend a Screenwriting 101 where Lee Shinho will share tips on building feature-films. Seminar-style. Do not forget though, that Halloween is upon us! And what better way to begin than penning your own horror experience. All you need is two hours with Ryan Ong in an SMU seminar room.
Screenwriter Events. A body of international films will be presented to showcase how literary texts are transformed into on-screen adaptations. Look forward to five films: four-fifths Asian, none Singaporean, but all poetic. Catch Shanghai Traid (1995), Armour—Legende (2006), Last Life In the Universe (2003), The Chaser (2008) and Wonder Boys (2000) with the Festival Pass!
SWF Lecture Series. Meet Bi Feiyu, award-winning fiction author who co-wrote the screenplay of Shanghai Traid. We say, take a chance, come, and listen to winner of the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize. Ask him how it feels like to be a writer of both screenlays and novels or how was it working with the famed Zhang Yimou. Its not everyday you get to quiz someone famous, you know.
For once, you don’t have to leave your children with the grandparents’ to enjoy a complete literary experience. The festival is reaching to children, children book authors, and all who have a passion for children. Recall the moment when we realized our love for books— there were days on end where we mulled over the infinitival possibility enclosed in a single shell of words. Educational, flamboyant and fun, the festival is a place to bring the kids.
Panel discussions. Cultivating an art of reading early gives a head start to developing intelligence, good writing and personal management. Drawing Out Reluctant Readers features children and young adult authors who shall help ‘awake your inner child’ based on their experiences.
Little Lit! These are free events for our little bookworms. Enjoy a musical journey with The Little Bird / Mum’s Bouquet Of Love, fairytales in Where Are You Going, Little Red Riding Hood, classics at the Book Lovers’ Tea Party, folktales in Folktales with Rosemarie Somaiah and experience the importance of family ties Poor Man’s Wealth this season.
The ticketing system is probably as complicated as the website itself. In a nut, events at the festival can be classified into three categories.
• The festival pass ($15) gives you entry to meet the author sessions, panel discussions, Musee D’orsay readings and screenwriter events.
• Separate ticketed events include SWF lectures, workshops, the publishing symposium as well as literary meals and tours.
• Free events include Little Lit, the closing debate and Brand New Books, a platform for authors to launch new books.
By Huishan Aprilene Goh and Cheryl Chew
Illustrations by Jessie Chew