Thursday 10 December 2015

Lion City Lit: Swag

Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore. Lion City Lit explores what’s going on in the City-State, lit-wise. Here Jo Furniss introduces Swag, the new online literary magazine she's launching. Its events calendar,  which brings all relevant listings together in one convenient place, is already live, and is packed with ideas. From January, the quarterly journal will feature author interviews and new writing.

So: over to Jo…

A few months ago, I was stomping around the arts district, kicking the plinth of Raffles’ famous statue, and grumbling that I had missed a really interesting workshop with a famous author. Why do I never hear about these things? Why isn’t there a source of information, a magazine or something, which covers all the various literary events?

Raffles folded his arms and looked smug. Can’t you think of anyone, he asked, who could put together an online magazine dedicated to literary events in Singapore? Maybe someone who’s a writer and a journalist, whose children have now started school affording her more time to make something happen? Can’t you knuckle down like everyone else in this industrious city?

He had a point, even if his tone somewhat condescended to a lady. An online events calendar that incorporates all the disparate venues and groups - workshops, courses, readings, book launches, submission opportunities etc. - could benefit the writing community. While a quarterly magazine would allow me to potter about and speak to interesting people. In a former life, I worked as a radio journalist in the UK; I could even dust off my old BBC microphone and podcast my interviews.

I am a member of the Singapore Writers Group.  My fellow members were supportive of my idea, funding the new website and providing a co-founder in the form of Mickey Lin, a screenwriter who brings a contrasting voice and perspective to the proceedings. We devised a format, and together we planned the first quarterly edition for January. Another team member, Swati Joshi, took the helm of the events calendar.

The name Swag came to mind partly as a grateful nod to the Singapore Writers Group, and also because I liked the idea of literary loot: the magazine would be a curious collection of our begged, stolen and borrowed riches; each quarter, we would delve into the depths of our swag bag and see which gems shone the brightest.

The first edition is all about beginnings. As well as interviews with two very different Singapore-focused writers, we have an in-depth feature on three ways to get started in publishing. There’s a review of books with a Singaporean interest and a 2016 forecast from local publishers - hopefully, someone is looking for a novel exactly like the one I have in my bottom drawer. Or maybe the anthology in your bottom drawer.

We are also running new fiction: submissions are open to all. See the website for full details, but we’re looking to receive stories of up to 4,000 words before the end of December. Likewise, do let us know what we should cover - events and editorial. If you want to write an article, all the better.

Finally, join the mailing list via the sign up box on the site to receive events listings. We’re on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter: @swag_lit