Singapore Writer’s Festival

Well I’m back. It was a great trip but I returned with pneumonia thanks to sweating like a rapist just walking around, then stepping into aircon buses or shops and getting blast chilled with freezing air. It was a brilliant way to get the creative juices flowing again and I have hundreds of new ideas for stories, characters and dialogue. I also got to visit several historic sites from the Fall of Singapore in 1942, very moving and thought provoking. How would I have managed had I lived then? Would I have lived or died?

While in Singapore the Singapore Writer’s Festival was in full swing and I attended several events. Like writer’s festivals everywhere I felt it was more for readers and thus buyers of books than writers. Except for the fortunate writers invited to speak on panels and present seminars of course. I attended one discussing the value of literary prizes. The panel members had more literary prizes (including a Pulitzer) than I had had curry dinners and I did wonder if they would be so casual about such things were they as yet un-awarded. There is something to be said for writing for prizes as the prize circuit can be lucrative. How one does that was one of the discussion topics but nobody seemed to think you could (or should) write just to win prizes. Why not? They are another form of revenue or income a writer can earn from their work.

I quickly realised the festival didn’t have much if anything to offer those of us who publish independently or online. Not surprising given it was sponsored by book chains and publishers. So what is the value of these festivals? They can get very expensive and are often teeming with people anxious to get a result with their writing but not sure if it will happen. Maybe they are hoping to be discovered, fairy-tale like, by a benevolent publisher who instinctively recognises their latent talent. Dream on.

I moved on and went to Kuala Lumpur by coach. Observing the driving of the average local I revised my plans to rent a car for a couple of days and figured I would be better off taking it easy in KL and not trying to rip around and do and see too much. I was pretty exhausted from the heat and all the walking I had done in Singapore and felt there was little to be gained pushing myself even harder. I met a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner on the bus, ‘Singapore Sing’ who told me what ailments I had just by feeling my pulse, looking into my eyes and at my tongue. he was spot on! He gave me some great nutritional advice and the following day we met and he showed me 20 Yoga positions that should eventually do wonders for me. One of those chance meetings that perhaps wasn’t so coincidental.

I had my 51st birthday in Kuala Lumpur. A friend of mine working there on assignment took me to dinner at a Thai restaurant and then we went on to Traders Hotel 33rd floor Skybar to stare a the stunning Petronas Twin Towers, lit up and looking magnificent. I enjoyed my time in KL and was sad to have to leave the next day and begin the journey home. First to Singapore by coach, then the red-eye flight to Sydney and then straight off to my doctor. The very next day, despite the pneumonia it was back to work tutoring, lecturing and writing whatever people pay me to write. The trip, not counting presents for the wife and children, cost me about $2,500 all up, around $250  a day yet I have gleaned so much more value from those ten days it was worth every cent. I could have saved $500 by flying budget economy but those narrow seats would have been the death of me on the flight back, ill as I was. I could have saved another perhaps $100 by struggling with buses instead of the three or four times I used cabs in Singapore. Another $500 would have been saved had I shared a dormitory in a backpacker hostel instead of having a room and bathroom to myself but if I have to slum it like that at my age, I m not going! Now to turn those ten days into writing that pays!

the attachments to this post:

The panel discussing the value of literary prizes and awards, Brian Cato on the right, Michael Cunningham on the left and the moderator and a Singaporean writer and professor (filling in for a Korean writer) in the middle.
literary awards debate SWF



One Comment to “Singapore Writer’s Festival”

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