Reflections on Writers Workshop

Reflections on Writers Workshop

Recently I attended a Writers Workshop in Singapore. Writers workshopping – as distinct from shopping – in Singapore! Here’s our monthly (w)rap!

When & where do you ever get the chance to share ideas & writing advice with up to 150 published authors ranging from Pakistani to Indonesian, all gathered in one place over four days?

Where & when? At the Asia Pacific Writers & Translators Association conference, held earlier this month (July 2014) in Singapore. So much sparkling writing talent in one conference room in The Arts House (the original Parliamentary Chamber on the banks of the river … )Singapore's first parliament

I was stoked! Not an ambling-about, general public writers festival, not a cool, critical, competitive academic conference. Just a bunch of writers who love coming together with one focus – using words to bridge cultures, which was the theme of this year’s meeting.

And to think that another version of the conference will be held in October next year in the Philippines, and somewhere else the year after that … the world of Asia Pacific will be my oyster!

Who did I meet? Well the list is so long I’ll have to curb my enthusiasm here and mention just a few:

* Mani Rao, a poet living between Hyderabad & Bangalore & studying at Duke University, who’s written a contemporary language poem translation of the Bhagavad Gita – phenomenal! Here’s a taste:

‘& birth to death is the obvious part
the middle part

your true beginning & end
is hidden
so what

the truth is
so awesome that

some visualize it
some talk about it
some hear about it

all awed
none the wiser’

* Then there was Judith Buckrich from Melbourne, an extraordinary raconteur given the right audience, who has a memoir coming out at the end of the year.

* Helen Burns from northern NSW is writing a creative travel narrative about her search for a woman poet who lived in South India twelve hundred years ago …

* Jayanthi Manoj, a poet and short story writer from Trichy in India, also gave creative writing tips …

* Shreekumar and Geeta Varma form a symbiotic husband and wife team from Chennai. He’s an author, playwright, newspaper columnist and poet, while Geeta studies and writes poetry behind-the-scenes …

* Victor Marsh assisted a young guru in satsangs for eleven years, which he wrote about in a memoir The Boy in the Yellow Dress, and has published a critical biography of Christopher Isherwood, focussing on his relationship with his guru, a swami of the Ramakrishna Order …

* Indonesia’s Okky Madasari is a brave writer who tackles subjects such as corruption and freedom of the individual …

* Singapore’s extraordinarily stylish novelist Suchen Christine Lim gave a stirring speech condemning the NBL’s withdrawal of children’s library books considered dangerous to the morals of children, the NBL later reviewing the decision …

* Also from Singapore, poet Felix Cheong loves punning …

* Filipino-Australian writer currently with the University of Wollongong, Merlinda Bobis, offers a dramatic full voice performance with any reading she gives, to acclaim …

* Dipika Mukherjee is a novelist with an incisive personality who was long-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize. She’s a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association and has taught on several continents …

* Agnes S. L. Lam, a retired professor from the University of Hong Kong, read an exquisite poem from her latest anthology A pond in the sky (2013) …

* Ilaria Benini heads up a video production company based in Yangon and works with local and international writers …

* Dai Fan writes in both Chinese and English – her most recent novel is Butterfly Lovers – as well as heading up the Center for Creative Writing at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou …

Where do I stop?

* Let’s not forget the incomparable Linda Jaivin, who is the most rigorous and also entertaining Chinese & Western scholar I’ve ever met and admired, someone to watch, listen to and be in awe of … she gives so much of herself.

Many thanks to the untiring efforts all year round of Jane Camens, Executive Director of AP Writers, in order to have everything running as smoothly as it did – with a little help from her husband, Ian, a skilful iPad photographer and Leonard Cohen sing-alike.

I think I’ve come down to earth gently after the Singapore glee but not before giving OMG (Our Memoir Group) in Sydney a pep talk on the glorious writing horizons they might aspire to – and reach!

Membership of AP Writers is free for published authors, and the annual conference fee is pint-sized, so watch out for next year’s kick-up-your-heels event.

For now, some candid shots inside and outside the conference, including a quick visit to Little India, easily accessed via the metro.
Writers workshop panelBookshop at Writers workshop
Linda Jaivin speaking at Writers Workshop Singaporeattendees at writers workshop Singaporeby river in singaporeriverside Singapore
joseph conradgandhi singaporesiva's consort temple singaporetemple flowers little india singapore

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