Deborah Levy, Sophie Hannah, Ken Liu to speak at Singapore Writers Festival

(From left) SP Somtow, Heather McGregor and Deborah Levy.
(From left) SP Somtow, Heather McGregor and Deborah Levy. PHOTOS: SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL

The Singapore Writers Festival features a record 242 Singaporean voices this year and returns to the Empress Place area including The Arts House after a few years at the Singapore Management University green.

Held from Oct 30 to Nov 8, it is the first under a new festival director, poet Yeow Kai Chai and themed Island Of Dreams.

The festival will continue its popular writing workshops and its SWF Lecture series featuring authors such as 2012 Booker nominee Deborah Levy this year. It also strikes a new musical note with speakers such as Kiwi singer-songwriter Hollie Fullbrook of award-winning band Tiny Ruins and Thai speculative fiction writer and music composer SP Somtow, whose opera Snow Dragon was performed in Bangkok in July.

New marquee events include a musical collaboration with the Esplanade - Theatres On The Bay, featuring local 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 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."

The festival features 89 international names including Levy, mystery writer Sophie Hannah, who was chosen to write the new Hercule Poirot novel The Monogram Murders by the estate of Agatha Christie, and American Chinese author Ken Liu, whose novel The Grace Of Kings was released by Simon & Schuster earlier this year.

On the non-fiction side, the festival is bringing in journalist Heather McGregor, who used to write the Mrs Moneypenny column for Financial Times Weekend. She will give her take on whether women can have it all, at home and at work, in a lecture on Nov 7.

Multi-disciplinary 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.

Revisiting the books makes him want to pick up the pen again, says the composer-guitarist who has self-released more than 130 solo albums in the past two decades.

"I've not read my works for a long time. I've been trying to go back to writing for the longest time but haven't been able to, too waylaid by music and living."

Entry to his reading and other panels is covered by the $20 festival pass. Separate tickets are needed for workshops and events such as the SWF lecture on Nov 1 by Levy on What Dreams Reveal About Our Secrets And Desires at the Victoria Theatre. A playwright who has written for the well-established Royal Shakespeare Company, she came to the attention of fiction lovers with a bang in 2012 when her short print-on-demand novel Swimming Upstream was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, the same year her short story Black Vodka was nominated for the BBC International Short Story Award.

akshitan@sph.com.sg

The Singapore Writers Festival: Island Of Dreams runs from Oct 30 to Nov 8.

For more details go to singaporewritersfestival.com