Wednesday 27 October 2021


It's that time of the year again — November — my birthday month and also the fantabulous Singapore Writers' Festival extravaganza (5th -14th November), where conversations, readings and provocations happen all around my favourite subject — books and writing.  Festival director Pooja Nansi and her amazing team have once again put together a programme to make a reader salivate — this year's festival promises to cover poetry, music, historical fiction, food, K-pop, Malay mysticism, scary ghosts, female desire, crime, what it takes to write wattpad fiction, in multiple languages, and all centered around the theme "Guilty Pleasures." 

With so many programmes to titillate the mind and stimulate the eyes and ears, here are some unmissable events I'm particularly looking forward to (in no particular order, but with an eye towards diversity):

Keynote Commission: Obit: The Art of Being by Rizman Putra.  One of four artist commissions to explore the theme from various angles, 'Obit' promises to be an artistic offering that explores the beloved Malay expression 'obit' which signifies a sense of style swinging from bold to gaudy, offbeat to campy. Yes, please! 

Literary Pioneer Exhibition: Hedwig Anuar is being celebrated this year. Anuar is the first National Library director and a champion of children's literature. Several youth events are planned around the exhibition, from storytelling to conversations.

Seeking Guilty Pleasure: meeting the author Julia Quinn (of Bridgerton fame).  Nuff said, really. 

Up your game in fashion styling: watch the pre-recorded Darling, You're Fabulous with Tan France, one of the stars of Queer Eye, host of Queer Icons podcast, and Youtube viral series, Dressing Funny. 

For the Poetry Aficionado: In Conversation with Ocean Vuong. Tania De Rozario will be in conversation with Vietnamese-American poet Ocean Vuong, author of poetry collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds, Burnings and the upcoming Time Is A Mother as well as the novel On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

Scifi/Fantasy: Look no further than to Futurism and Mysticism: The Evolution of Malay Speculative Fiction in Singapore with Nazry Bahrawi, Nuraliah Norasid, and nor, moderated by Nabilah Said

What are friends for: It is a truth universally acknowledged that friendship, in narrative treatment, plays second fiddle to the grand romance, but at SWF, Daryl Qiyin Yam will be in conversation with Naomi Ishiguro to foreground the place friendship has in our hearts.

Looking for super heroines? With the popularity of the Marvel franchise, and creation of new superheroes in films like Shang-Chi and Black Panther, check out Ms Marvel, created by G. Willow Wilson, who will be in conversation with Chong Lingying in A Superhero For Generation Why

A foodie? Check out this panel featuring chefs and cookbook authors Pamelia Chia, Shamsydar Ani, and Sarah Huang Benjamin in From Wet Market to Table. 

Guided Audio Tour of Tekka Market. Tekka Food Steps. Eat and walk at the same time. This is a self-guided tour through the halls of Tekka Market while listening to stories about Little India. A Brown Voices Production. 

K-culture fix: How You Like That: Unpacking K-Pop: Clara Chow, Prasanthi Ram and Liew Kai Khiun will be in conversation, moderated by Zamiya Akbar, dissecting the slick moves of your favourite idol groups, from BTS to Exo. Interesting panel that has no K-pop expert as far as I can see. 

Women, Desire and Freedom: Meira Chand, Constance Singam, and Ovidia Yu will be chatting with Dana Lam about age and sexiness hopefully. Dana Lam is a stand-up comedienne who has also written erotica. I bet this will be wonderfully funny.

Diehard Short Story fans can look forward to Souvankham Thammavongsa (author of How to Pronounce Knife) in conversation with Khuê Phạm, author of memoir We New Germans in A Walk In My Shoes, a conversation about SEA diasporas, moderated by Melissa De Silva

Deep literary conversation: Amanda Lee Koe, author of Delayed Rays of A Star and Ministry of Moral Panic, in conversation with Akwaeke Emezi, Nigerian Igbo and Tamil author of Freshwater and The Death of Vivek Oji

Chinese Programmes: Meeting the Author Yan Geling. Moderated by Lim Fong Wei. Yan Geling's novels have been adapted for film and directed by Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige and Joan Chen. She has published over 40 books, been translated into 19 languages, and won over 30 literary and film awards. 

Neglected Artforms: 从流行到文化:传统艺术的未来 (Vanishing Trades): Panelists to include Wang Lei, Su Zhangkai and Caroline Chia, and will explore the vanishing arts of getai, Teochew opera and Chinese puppetry. 

See you there at one or more events! I will try to report on some of these enlightening conversations.


*. Tickets are on sale now at Sistic. The events are at various venues, from The Arts House to National Library, Malay Heritage Centre to The Fabulous Baker Boy, so please refer to the SWF official programme guide for more detailed information as to times and venue. Note: not all events are live in-venue.