Thursday, October 24, 2013

When Ubud Writers Festival Turned Ten

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival celebrated it's tenth anniversary this month with a great line up of writers and events spread across large and small venues around town. I was thrilled to be invited  back a guest writer, this time taking part in two panels and one performance, as well as racing between other sessions and keeping my writing group busy with daily writing tasks.

First up for me was a performance to a packed house at the cosy Bar Luna, of songs and poems from my new book Archipelagogo. Stay tuned for launch dates in Oz!

Desak Yoni dropped in after the launch of her book (written with Sarita Newson), Renditions of My Soul, the story of a Balinese girl who dares to dream of a better life. We share the same publisher, Saritaksu Editions.

Next day I was up early to go Jalan Jalan (walking/wandering) in the rice paddies with 25 or so punters (including Jennifer Byrne, Andrew Denton and Michael Cathcart, who were spotted in the crowd) to Sari Organik restaurant where Claire Scobie, Jon Doust and I entertained the folks as they munched on their organic delights. Claire spoke of her travels in Tibet in search of a rare lily as told in Last Seen In Lhasa, and of her research travels for her latest book The Pagoda Tree. Jon Doust (his books: To The Highlands and Boy On A Wire) is a very funny man from WA and told of his risky coming of age adventures in South Africa, while I took the audience on some of my USA hitchiking rides of the 70's, (including getting a lift with the road crew of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young)when I first started writing.

There was just enough time for lunch before our next panel where Claire and I joined Tom Doig and Laura Jean Mackay in the main program, in the Left Bank for a session called Writing On The Road. It was a lively conversation wonderfully moderated by Claire, who had a set of perfect questions lined up for us to riff with. Tom's book Moron to Moron about a cycling trip in Mongolia with his best mate is a most worthwhile read as is Laura's Holiday in Cambodia.

Then as I relaxed and started session hopping in earnest I wondered as I checked in with my friends,  if indeed we were attending the same festival.  No longer the small, intimate experience of the early years, its growth has necessitated that several sessions and events run simultaneously. It becomes a 'choose your own adventure' and according to which sessions you mix and match you can have an entirely different experience to that of the people you arrived with.  Thankfully there were some prolific note takers and good story tellers amongst my group so we could swap stories, session gossip and critiques.

Goenawan Mohamed

My highlights were:
The keynote address by Goenawan Mohamed. Read it here  
The launch of a new film Jalanan, about Jakarta street musicians, by Daniel Ziv. Watch  a clip here.
Graphic Tales- pictorial literature vs comics vs graphic novels, with Michael Leunig, Eiji Han Shimizu (Japan) Barbara Yelin (Germany) and Pat Grant (Australia, one of my ex-students from UTS) Moderated by Estelle Tang.
Jalan Kejeng Street party with the Cambodian Space Project
Read more re their lead singer and song writer Srey Thy Kak here

Which ever festival adventure you chose it seemed you couldn't go wrong.Well done to Janet de Neefe and team! The dates for the next UWRF will be Oct 1-4,  2014.
See you there!