Writers, readers all abuzz

Writers, readers all abuzz

Books flew off the shelves and book deals were inked at this year's Singapore Writers Festival, which ended on Sunday.

It was a banner year in terms of attendance. Some 3,000 Festival Passes were sold, according to organisers, which is a significant increase from the roughly 2,300 sold at last year's festival.

The $15 tickets granted access to most of the 200 events over the 10-day programme, which featured 200 authors.

Even separately ticketed events sold out, with 260 people attending workshops, such as one on writing fantasy conducted by Tracy and Laura Hickman, creators of the Dragonlance books, and one on researching historical fiction by heritage buff Kevin Tan.

Some 1,050 people paid $15 to $20 each to attend lectures given by visiting writers such as Nobel Literature Prize laureate Gao Xingjian, British philosopher A.C. Grayling and China-born Jung Chang, author of the best-selling memoir of the Cultural Revolution, Wild Swans.

Festival director Paul Tan, 42, said he was delighted by the turnout, even as more workshops and lectures had been added this year, in accordance with feedback.

"At the end of the day, this is a festival of ideas and a festival for readers. It is gratifying when we succeed in connecting with these readers."

Headline events accessed by the Festival Pass were over-subscribed. Doors to the Binary Pavilion tent on the Singapore Management University green had to be left open to accommodate around 300 fans keen to hear Britain's poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy over the weekend. This led poet Alvin Pang, 41, to call for a larger venue next year. "Carol Ann Duffy could easily have filled venues twice the size," he said, adding that it would also be nice to have a small "green room" just for writers to meet and talk in between sessions.

It was also standing-room only at a panel featuring Gao, Chinese writer Guo Xiaolu and Singaporean poet-playwright Alfian Sa'at on Sunday as well as at the closing debate later that evening, which was free entry.

The irreverent comic battle between local literary lights was a highlight for many and this year's theme, This House Computes That Singaporeans Are Illiterate Robots, was defended by writers Shamini Flint and Gwee Li Sui and publisher Edmund Wee. Heritage expert Kevin Tan, actress Oniatta Effendi and street-food specialist K.F. Seetoh put forward opposing arguments, while playwright Eleanor Wong moderated.

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