Record 242 Singaporean voices at writers' test

The Singapore Writers Festival strikes a different chord under its new director, with more events this year involving literary crossovers with music, theatre, film and visual art.

The programme will run from Oct 30 to Nov 8 and feature a record 242 Singaporean voices.

It will return to the Empress Place area, including The Arts House, after a few years at the Singapore Management University green.

The line-up of 300 events includes old favourites such as the popular SWF lecture series.

Speakers this time include 2012 Booker nominee Deborah Levy (Swimming Home), Harvard philosopher Michael Sandal and former Financial Times Weekend columnist Heather McGregor (Mrs Moneypenny).

There will also be workshops on writing and publishing - one featuring best-selling writer Justin Cronin, who won a Hemingway Foundation/Pen Award in 2002 with his debut Mary And O'Neil, before moving to the best-selling horror series The Passage.

New marquee events at the festival include a musical collaboration with the Esplanade - Theatres On The Bay, Dimensions And Demons, featuring home-grown writers and musicians in a Nov 5 performance, as well as a 12-hour overnight performance of word, music and art titled What I Love About You Is Your Attitude Problem. It is curated by Huzir Sulaiman and presented by Checkpoint Theatre.

There will also be pop-up performances during the festival by local musical groups such as The Lorong Boys and Wobology.

Festival director Yeow Kai Chai says his idea was to "demystify writing and make it democratic".

"We love the lectures, but they are very traditional, with one speaker talking to a group of people. So we have more cross-disciplinary collaborations."

Multi-hyphenate speakers this year range from Kiwi singer-songwriter Hollie Fullbrook of award-winning band Tiny Ruins to Thai speculative fiction writer and music composer S.P. Somtow (Vampire Junction, 1984), whose opera Snow Dragon was performed in Bangkok in July.

Somtow will be on a panel with another noted ethnic Asian writer of speculative fiction, American- Chinese author and translator Ken Liu, whose novel The Grace Of Kings was released by Simon & Schuster earlier this year.

Also featured is British-Chinese author P.P. Wong, who was partly schooled in Singapore and whose debut novel The Life Of A Banana was longlisted for the Bailey Women's Fiction Prize this year. "At SWF, I will be sharing my writing process and how I enjoy pushing myself as a writer by dealing with dark topics such as death, grief and mental illness," says the 33-year-old, who is working on her second novel.

Multidisciplinary artists from Singapore include performance poet and writer Pooja Nansi, as well as musician-novelist- playwright Kelvin Tan.

Tan, 51, says it is the first time he has been invited to a local writers festival and will read from his 1992 novel, All Broken Up And Dancing, about coming of age in Singapore, as well as the avant-garde The Nethe(r); R.

The $20 festival pass covers entry to his reading and other panels, such as a talk by best-selling mystery writer Sophie Hannah, who was chosen by Agatha Christie's estate to write the new Hercule Poirot novel The Monogram Murders, released last year.

Separate tickets are needed for workshops and events such as Levy's SWF lecture What Dreams Reveal About Our Secrets And Desires on Nov 1 at the Victoria Theatre.

The Singapore Writers Festival: Island Of Dreams runs from Oct 30 to Nov 8. For more information, go to

This article was first published on September 23, 2015.
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