Literary Festivals

A blog dedicated to news, reviews and thoughts on literary festivals around the world. Book Festivals, Readers Festivals, Writers Festivals, Literary Festivals, the names and forms are diverse. Disclosure: I served on the Steering Committee of the Singapore Writers Festival 2005. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 31, 2005

lineup announced for 5th National Book Festival, USA

Included are John Irving, Tom Wolfe and Jonathan Safran Foer, Buzz Aldrin, the presidential biographer David McCullough, E. L. Doctorow, Tom Clancy and Sandra Brown. R. W. Apple Jr., Thomas L. Friedman and David Brooks from the New York Times will appear as well. Festival is on September 4th. Johnny Apple is scheduled to be in Singapore at the Singapore Writers Festival on August 30th, so that is some kind of travelling!

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Friday, July 29, 2005

New South Wales Premier and Arts Minister will be missed by arts administrators - including Caro Llewellyn of Sydney Writers Fest

According to articlein the Sydney Morning Herald. Gosh, all this praise sounds distinctly unlike most of the ways I hear Australians talk about their politicians...

Promoting local versus foreign writers - an opinion from Australia

Australia's Books Alive! promotional program has attracted at least one critic, the head of the Australian Society of Authors, Jeremy Fisher.

Fisher says the initiative is spending taxpayers' money to promote overseas writers. 'If it's being funded by money from the Australia Council, then I'd see it as being something which ought to be encouraging the sales and reading of Australian books,' he says.

'The funding was given first in 2001 as part of the Book Industry Assistance Package to assist the Australian publishing industry. Is France promoting the reading of American books in their country? Is the UK or the US promoting the reading of Australian books in their country?

'The answer in all cases is no.'

Apparently some 30 of the authors promoted in the Books Alive program are Australian, with 20 foreigners, including several who are already selling extremely well (like Singapore Writers Festival guest Alexander McCall Smith).

From an industry perspective I would have to say that book importers and bookshops are important elements in the local ecosystem, and that imported books are crucial to the local literary scene. I don't see a problem in promoting them! But perhaps the choice of foreign writers to promote can be more nuanced.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

the Beeb wants you - to be a Booker pundit

Says the venerable Beeb::

"Could you read 20 books in 28 days? Would you like to take part in a new BBC Four programme?
We’re looking for six enthusiastic, energetic and dedicated people to take part in this book marathon for a programme called Bookered Out. You don’t have to be a book worm or a literature buff to take part. Novice readers are more than welcome!

But you have to read every book in the longlist...and probably you have to live in the UK. [courtesy of Literary Saloon]

Writers Festival Guests Behaving Badly...

Drinking up the artworks and all... See this in the Guardian.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Jeanette Winterson had a good time at the FLIP Festival

She is a fan of Festivals in general, and makes the point that

It is a little bit strange that reading, which is the most solitary and private of acts, should translate into the gospel tent euphoria of the festival. This has happened because people love to be read to, as they did when they were kids; because they are curious to meet the writers who interest them; and most of all, because they are curious to meet each other. Reader’s groups and dedicated websites are about securing the connections that books suggest. All art is about connection, and in a world that often comes to us in bewildering fragments, the connections that art offers are increasingly necessary.

But she particularly liked FLIP. Among the highlights:

Translations were done in four languages simultaneously, and the tents were packed all day and all night for a fantastic programme that included day-long stories for children. This is not elitist. This is not some rarefied high art — this is art for everyone, and it works.

published in Egypt - from the Al-Ahram Weekly

Moorish Girl and Literary Saloon both pointed me to this excellent summary of books recently published in Arabic. Actually it is just part of a larger Cairo Review of Books, which is a monthly publication of Al-Ahram Weekly, edited by Mona Anis.

Now this is a writers' meeting... between North & South Korea

See this article from the INSIDE JoongAng Daily (courtesy of Literary Saloon). According to the article, the writers "also pledged to cooperate regardless of ideology, religion and birthplace. As for the unification process, they believed unification should first be achieved in the literary world."

Actually not a process the literary world is particularly good at - unification...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Salman Rushdie in Brazil

Courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor. Rushdie's new book, Shalimar the Clown, was launched at the Paraty Literary Festival, in Portuguese, before being published in English. It looks like it was quite a party. It sounds like quite the book...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Tennessee tussles over the Southern Festival of Books

Interesting article on the funding and political tussles over the Southern Festival of Books. Some 10% of the National Endowment of the Humanities' annual grant to the state of Tennessee is used for the Festival, and so there is considerable pressure to increase the contribution of civic funds, as well as funds generated from the event. The organizers have the option of moving to different cities, and this the funding element is key in this equation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Writers and book reviews...

A fine article from the The Observer... We are thinking of a panel on the subject for Singapore Writers Festival. The review culture isn't that great in Singapore, with a paucity of outlets for reviews in any case. But perhaps discussing the author reactions could helped stiffen everyone's resolve to read and write (and publish!) more reviews.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Forward Prize Shortlist is out - see the different news stories at Google News

Since 1992 they've been giving these awards, for best collection, best first collection and best single poem.

he shortlists are best collection: The Good Neighbour, by John Burnside; Legion, by David Harsent; A Shorter Life, by Alan Jenkins; Woods etc, by Alice Oswald; and Stolen Love Behaviour, by John Stammers.

Best first collection: Intimates, by Helen Farish; To a Fault, by Nick Laird; Lucky Day, by Richard Price; Scattering Eva, by James Sheard; and Marabou, by Jane Yeh.

Best single poem: Passages, by Sarah Maguire; 99 Poems, by Stephen Knight; Liverpool Disappears for a Billionth of a Second, by Paul Farley; Buffalo Calf, by Katherine Pierpont; and Seventy Years a Showman, by Peter Scupham.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

David Hare on the art of lecturing

Our writers should read this - on how delivering good lectures is itself a literary art. Published in the Guardian.

OK, one article on HP6: "My Long Dark Night with Harry"

I post it for what it says about the various sorts of literary events that went with the launch. I think literary festivals still have lots of room to innovate new sorts of events that involve audiences in different ways.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Immigration Problem for Zimbabwaean Writer - threatens to pull out of Edinburgh festival

The headline is "African poet to pull out of book festival" and it tells of Chenjerai Hove, a Zimbabwaen poet turned away from the UK by immigration officials. His leverage was to threaten to pull out of Edinburgh Festival, later in the year, to which he has also been invited. The Festival is supporting him in his appeal:

Hove is billed as one of the major speakers at August’s Edinburgh International Book Festival and organisers have expressed concern over his possible decision to pull out.

Festival director Catherine Lockerbie said: “We invited Chenjerai to talk as part of the Imprisoned Writers series firstly because he is a writer of great merit and secondly because he is a perfect example of someone who has been persecuted by the state because of words.

“If he were prevented from coming it would be an extraordinary irony because the series, and indeed the whole of the festival, is about promoting freedom of expression and of the imagination.”

The importance of writing contests in the literary ecosystem

According to this article in the Chicago Tribune "$9.8 million in prize money was awarded in literary contests last year in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, an increase of more than $900,000 from the previous year. The beneficiaries of all that money were 1,071 writers, up from 904 in 2003. And 152 books were published as a result of the contests, a jump from 121 the year before." The source cited is Kevin Larimer of Poets & Writers magazine. Our writing festival in Singapore works closely with the leading short story contest. Contests and festivals should be seen as part of the same larger system, offering diversity but reinforcing each other as well.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Writers make good bloggers, but does blogging affect good writing?

A meditation by Tom Dolby in the San Francisco Chronicle. One poet tells him "Blogging will ruin your life" and he tends to believe it.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Rushdie uses Flip Brazil Festival for global launch of his latest book

The FLIP Festival in Parati, Brazil, which opens over the weekend, is certainly making waves. This launch is an interesting development, because Rushdie's book is being made available in Portuguese before it is published officially in English. This must have required some major coordination by Rushdie and/or his agent.

This report from Reuters.
We learn that the Festival was started by Liz Calder, one of the founders of Bloomsbury Press...

Friday, July 08, 2005

Kiriyama Book Prize - 2005 Winners

Again, I'm a little slow on the uptake, just caught this announcement of the Kiriyama Book Prize - 2005 Winners. Maps for Lost Lovers, by Nadeem Aslam, published in the UK by Fabers and US by Knopf, and Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta, published in India by Penguin, UK by Review and in the US by Knopf. The latter has been on my 'to-read' list for some time.

Stripped Books - Neil Gaiman at the Nebula Awards

Sorry just saw this wonderful report-in-comics of Neil Gaiman's speech at the 2005 Nebula Awards. One of the points he makes, a meme that has been going around, is that "today's contemporary fiction is yesterday's near-future sci-fi (only slightly weirder and with no obligation to be convincing or consistent)." Think Cloud Atlas.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

SA Afolabi of Nigeria wins 'African Booker',

This from the Guardian . His book of short stories, A Life Elsewhere, is due to be published this year in the UK by Jonathan Cape. A novel, Goodbye Lucille, scheduled for publication in 2007.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Simon Clews is leaving Melbourne Festival?

This is what we hear on the grapevine. Not yet confirmed.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Locus Awards Winners

Awards from the scifi and fantasy source, Locus Online News

Some results include:

# The Baroque Cycle: The Confusion; The System of the World, Neal Stephenson (Morrow)

# Iron Council, China Miéville (Del Rey)

# Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)

Other winners include Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman (who I just had lunch with today in Singapore!)

Friday, July 01, 2005

Interview with Karen Mountney, Children's Programme Director at Edinburgh Festival

On the British Council's website. Did you know that the children's programme is as big as the adults'? Events are not just for kids (or for toddlers, parents and young adults), but includes things like Picture Book Masterclasses for illustrators.

The story behind the Port Eliot Lit Festival - and meditations on the festival phenom generally

James Flint covers the UK summer festival scene for the Telegraph with discussions of two festivals, Glastonbury music festival and the Port Eliot Lit Festival, which Peregrine St Germans runs in Port Eliot, his ancestral seat in Cornwall. It sounds a marvelous festival, and this year's edition features Martin Parr, Louis de Bernieres, Gavin Turk, Ekow Eshun Michael Howells, Richard Benson, James Cauty Michael Eavis, Lily Fraser, Tom Baxter, Mick Brown, Toby Litt, Geoff Dyer, Louis Eliot, Huge Advance, Simon Munnery, Aisle 16, Francis Upritchard, Hari Kunzru and others.