Singapore Writers Festival 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hello friends :-)

For the past two weekends, I've been going for the Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) and it has been such an enriching experience. To give a brief background, the SWF is a literary event that took place from 1-10 November this year basically to allow readers to meet the people behind the books and personally for me, apart from that, I"ve been exposed to a whole array of fresh new ideas and thoughts that will probably keep me thinking for some time afterwards. 

I bought the Festival pass for $15 which allowed me to go for most, if not all of the panels. The workshops were separately ticketed but that's fine - I don't think I would have liked to write within 3 hours in such an environment. This whole atmosphere was really quite exciting because the entire Festival district (Singapore Management University, Singapore Art Museum, National Museum Singapore etc) was situated quite close to each other and yet it wasn't so near that you wouldn't get a chance to explore Singapore a little bit. So in between jumping from one panel to another, I managed to go on a little adventure and I think one of Singapore's gems would be our museums :-) 

I would have liked to spend the full two weekends at the festival, but the first weekend fell before my Higher Chinese O levels so I decided to just sacrifice one day of studying on 3 November, instead of two days. I will not be touching on the content of the panels in this post unless it's really relevant, but I think some of the themes I've learnt and heard from all these experienced speakers will eventually resurface sooner or later in my next few blog posts. 

This was how my first day at the Festival went - 3 Nov! 

Got up bright and early to attend a 10am panel at the Binary Pavilion at SMU titled "You Can Write Too!" It featured speakers Vernetta Lopez (some of you might know her as the local DJ), Jerrold Yam, Claire Chiang and Rodney Ee. I suppose what brought them together in this panel was that they all have another, more prominent and stable job apart from solely being a writer, which is pretty cool as that meant writing was something they did out of interest. 

Immediately afterwards, we attended an In Conversation with psychologist Oliver James on happiness at 11.30am. I didn't really feel for or agree with the ideas that were presented in this particular panel though, so I zoned out halfway. Then we met up with some of the Boings who were also at SWF - Sherm, Sarah and Swan (I realized I'm always with the 'S' people).

There was a short break in between, probably to allow people to grab lunch so we did, with some cake and coffee too at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf :-) 

Chocolate works for anything!

So does anything caramel! (although everytime I drink this Caramel Ice Blended coffee, I feel a bit strange because of how I used it in my 'Of Two Girls' story)

There was still a bit of time afterwards because they gave a 2 hours break between the panels for lunch so Sarah and I decided to explore the Singapore Art Museum a little since we were both heading to a panel there at 2.30pm. I thought it was nice that the Singapore Biennale 2013 is also ongoing and having several exhibitions there so the museum was bustling with activity as well. 

This art installation outside SAM is one of my favourites - it was entitled "We Don't Fall" if I remember correctly and basically it used life sized 不倒翁s to depict how Vietnamese people from all walks of life persist and basically, won't fall :-) 

Who knew that SAM was the old SJI? It's quite a beautifully designed building though. 

Sarah and Sam (-; She looks mildly unhappy with him. 

We then headed for the panel I was most looking forward to in the entire Singapore Writers Festival line-up! It was one called "Two, Three or Four Stars" featuring food writers Wong Ah Yoke, KF Seetoh and Miss Tam Chiak. I personally read Wong Ah Yoke's Straits Times' Sunday Lifestyle restaurant review column and have been following him for quite a while now and I am familiar with KF Seetoh's name as well, watching his appearances on TV. I didn't exactly know Miss Tam Chiak, a food blogger, before this panel but it was really entertaining all the same.

One of the jobs I hope to have when I grow up is to write about food and lifestyle related topics, so I was quite interested to hear from these food writers themselves on how the process is like and I was really drawn in by them. The panel was hilarious because of their personalities and I truly enjoyed it.

Managed to take a photograph with them at the end of the panel! :-) 

After that, we didn't have any panels we were interested in during the 4-5pm slot so we headed to the National Museum of Singapore and checked out the surrounding exhibits there.

Heh heh 

There was a little hut built in the middle of nowhere featuring really antique looking items. 

Following our little exploring stint, I met Swan and we went for a Meet-The-Author panel and the author in question is Tom Plate, an American political journalist who has written books about several Asian leaders like Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysia's Mahathir. It was quite refreshing because he offered a perspective to these leaders that people don't focus on that much and according to him, he feels that these powerful leaders are all extremely hands-on about their policies and action taken in the country, unlike many other leaders from the Western countries, which was eye-opening. 

From 7-8pm, I attended my last panel of the day titled "Heartland Tales" with speakers and writers Oh Yong Hwee, Lee Jing-Jing and Felix Cheong and their books basically draw inspiration from heartland themes and are usually set in HDB flats. I was really quite lethargic by then but it was an enriching panel nonetheless. 

It was funny because after the panel which was in the Glass Hall at SAM, we realized that the museum has already closed - the shutters were pulled down and there weren't any museum staff around. Yes, we were essentially locked in the museum and some people were making remarks as to how we could all spend "a night in the museum", which drew laughter from all of us. There was also this huge finger - an artpiece - where we were all gathered around but it was more exciting than scary. The SWF staff led us out through a back door of the SAM and that was nice. 

That concludes my first day spent at the Festival! 

I think it's really amazing how the SWF was able to bring people from all walks of life who are interested in the same topic together and I can say that I've truly enriched myself a great deal through the hours I spent there. No regrets at all and I'm definitely going again next year! I feel like more young people should attend it - there were mostly adults everywhere but many of the topics are quite relevant and suitable for the young as well. The adrenaline you feel jumping from panel to panel and soaking yourself in fairly intellectual (but understandable) discussion is quite an experience. 

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