Conferences and Events Reading Ruminations

[Saturday Reads | SWF 2016] Highlights of the Singapore Writers Festival (thus far)


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

Singapore Writers Festival 2016


I am very privileged to have the opportunity to attend this year’s Festival, thanks to the National Library Board who provided facilitators and members of book clubs free tickets.


It was exciting to be simply a member of the audience this time around – and attend the sessions with my 14 year old girl.

Here are a few notable panels that we attended:


Writing From Diaspora. With authors Jon Gresham (2nd from left), Robin Hemley (farthest right), and the fabulous Catherine Torres (diplomat-novelist Filipina based in Germany). I enjoyed how the concept of diaspora in all its complexity has been untangled and discussed – we do contain multitudes within us.


Writing New Poems Using Ancient Myths by the fierce and fearless Icelandic author Gerdur Kristny. Talk about Viking Woman Poet redefining ancient myths from a female perspective. To say that I love her would be an understatement.


Atia Abawi gave an immensely powerful talk about Europe’s Migrant Crisis. I immediately bought her book “The Secret Sky” on the power of her spoken word and these compelling, heart-stopping photographs.


I have fallen deeply in love with Edwin Thumboo’s poetry. Listening to his beginnings and continuities is an absolute privilege.


My daughter and I also enjoyed the Epic International Reading Night On Love with eight authors from various parts of the world reading some of their works. Here is Icelandic Poet Gerdur Kristny reading love poems – linking verse to ice, snow, winter.


The Art of Sonny Liew whereby he talked about The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye mostly. I asked him about his collaboration with Gene Luen Yang in The Shadow Hero and it is immensely interesting to find out how Yang apparently includes thumbnails along with his text-narratives. How Sonny plays around with the story (both text and thumbnail) and infuse his own signature style and voice into the whole narrative is definitely worth listening to.


“Most works of art are fundamentally drawn from abuses of power.” Hanya Yanagihara is absolutely captivating as she speaks about the silver lining of Trump’s Presidency as a potential for the arts to flourish, which is what usually happens under a period of dictatorship.


Rise of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction with award-winning Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan (of Man Tiger fame – longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize), JY Yang, and Ng Yi-Sheng. Moderated by Editor of LONTAR Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, Jason Erik Lundberg. I loved how the panelists also gave a nod to Filipino authors who are making such noteworthy headways in developing speculative fiction in the region, particularly Dean Francis Alfar.


One of the great things about this year’s #SWF2016 is the number of outstanding diverse authors coming from various parts of the globe. Helen Oyeyemi from the UK of Boy Snow Bird, and What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours fame.


From Left to Right: Miriam Katin (graphic novelist and Holocaust survivor who wrote about her American son’s decision to move to Berlin), Indian-American poet Vijay Seshadri 2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner, Taiwanese-American Shawna Yang Ryan who won the Elliot Cades Emerging Writer Award, and Indian-Canadian dancer-author Gitanjali Kolanad. Moderator is Balli Kaur Jaswal whose “Sugarbread” was shortlisted for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize. Hands down, one of the best panels this year for the Singapore Writers Festival 2016. They talked about Dislocation and Cultural Identity in Transition.


Meanwhile, in Singapore, the Nerdwriter talked about Unravelling the US Presidential Election. I did not realize he had such a huge following here in Singapore (the Nerdwriter that is, not Trump).


We also took Peter Lerangis out for dinner last night, international best-selling author of the Seven Wonders series. I (along with local bestselling author, Adeline Foo) interviewed Peter back in 2013 when he visited Singapore to launch the first book of the Seven Wonders (at that time). He has just published the fifth and final book in the series The Legend of the Rift early this year. Peter is also our featured author here at GatheringBooks this November-December.

I am really looking forward to the last day of the Festival tomorrow. Here’s hoping I get to check in and share some of my thoughts about those sessions too.

1 comment on “[Saturday Reads | SWF 2016] Highlights of the Singapore Writers Festival (thus far)

  1. Pingback: Unflinching Portrayal of Disability in Balli Kaur Jaswal’s “Sugarbread” – Gathering Books

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