8 people to look out for at the Singapore Writers Festival

A star-studded line-up featuring (from left) Frederik Obermaier, Evan Puschak, Lionel Shriver and Hanya Yanagihara will be in town for this year's Singapore Writers Festival.
A star-studded line-up featuring (from left) Frederik Obermaier, Evan Puschak, Lionel Shriver and Hanya Yanagihara will be in town for this year's Singapore Writers Festival. PHOTO: FREDERIK OBERMAIER, EVAN PUSCHAK, SARAH LEE, MAN BOOKER

SINGAPORE - A star-studded line-up will be in town for this year's Singapore Writers Festival and they are not shying away from taking on tough issues confronting the world - from terrorism to sexual abuse.

The festival, from Nov 4 to 13, will host almost 330 personalities, including novelists, poets, musicians and critics.

Here are some names to keep an eye out for:

1. Frederik Obermaier 


Frederik Obermaier. PHOTO: FREDERIK OBERMAIER

He and Bastian Obermayer, his colleague at German's leading daily Süddeutsche Zeitungfrom, were at the heart of the Panama Papers revelation. The 11.5 million documents leaked from the database of Panamian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca illustrated how the rich and powerful could exploit secretive offshore tax regimes for their own gain. Among the names thrown up were Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who resigned from from his post as prime minister of Iceland, Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt's former president.

What he will be up to at the SWF:

Obermaier will tackle issues such as personal privacy, public accountability and transparency in the Internet Age in his lecture Privacy Versus Surveillance: What The Panama Papers Mean For Everyone In The 21st Century.

Where: Victoria Theatre

When: Nov 12, 4pm

Admission: $25 from Sistic

He will discuss the changing face of journalism on the panel The World In The Age Of Digital Journalism, alongside Nisid Hajari, Asia editor of Bloomberg View. This session will be moderated by former Straits Times journalist Peh Shing Huei.

Where: The Arts House, Play Den

When: Nov 12, 10am

Admission: Festival pass event. Get the $20 festival pass off Sistic.

2. Lionel Shriver 


Author Lionel Shriver. PHOTO: SARAH LEE

The American author is known for her dark takes on contemporary issues. Her 2003 novel We Need To Talk About Kevin, about a fictional school massacre, was adapted into a film starring Tilda Swinton, and her latest book, The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, looks at an America grappling with a catastrophic economic collapse. The characteristically frank Shriver touched a nerve at the Brisbane Writers Festival in September when she argued in a speech that sensitivities over cultural appropriation muzzled writers of fiction.

What she will be up to at the SWF:

Melding Fact And Fiction, her masterclass on writing fiction based on real-world issues, is sold out.

Shriver will also speak on her latest book, The Mandibles, and its eerie plausibility in today's turbulent world in a lecture, An Unflinching Eye Into Truth.

Where: National Gallery Singapore, Auditorium

When: Nov 13, 11.30am

Admission: $20 from Sistic

3. Gosho Aoyama 


Japanese manga creator Gosho Aoyama. PHOTO: SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL

Manga fans, rejoice. The Japanese artist behind the beloved Detective Conan series is bound for Singapore. The series began its weekly run in Shonen Sunday, a weekly manga magazine, in 1994 and is still one of Japan's leading comics two decades on, with 90 volumes out and a long-running anime series that is going strong.

What he will be up to at the SWF:

Aoyama opens up about his struggles, his successes and how Detective Conan came to be in his talk, Creating Detective Conan: The Life And Works Of Gosho Aoyama.

Where: The Arts House, Chamber

When: Nov 12, 5.30pm

Admission: Festival pass event. Get the $20 festival pass from Sistic.

Comic heavyweights come together in Two Comic Icons: Gosho Aoyama Meets Sonny Liew, which will see Aoyama and Singapore's Sonny Liew - who is behind graphic novel The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye - speak on topics ranging from artistic integrity to the pressure of putting out best-selling works.

Where: The Arts House, Chamber

When: Nov 13, 2.30pm

Admission: Festival pass event. Get the $20 festival pass off Sistic.

4. Hanya Yanagihara 


Hawaiian-born writer Hanya Yanagihara. PHOTO: MAN BOOKER 

The American author, who in her books boldly confronts thorny topics - from self-harm to childhood abuse - had the literary world sitting up and paying attention with her second novel, A Little Life. The book, which made the shortlist of the 2015 Man Booker Prize, deals with the lingering scars of sexual abuse.

Yanagihara made her debut with her 2013 novel The People In The Trees, an unsettling tale of abuse and power that follows a Nobel Prize-winning scientist convicted of paedophilia.

What she will be up to at the SWF:

Yanagihara will speak on her choice of tough subject matters, why her books so far have focused on men, and how to summon empathy for all characters - even the loathsome ones - in Hanya Yanagihara: Creating Lives Less Ordinary.

Where: The Arts House, Chamber

When: Nov 11, 8.30pm

Admission: Festival pass event. Get the $20 festival pass off Sistic.

5. Eka Kurniawan 


Indonesia writer Eka Kurniawan. PHOTO: SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL

He made literary history this year as the first Indonesian author nominated for the Man Booker International Prize for his novel Man Tiger, which was first published in Bahasa Indonesia in 2004 and translated into English last year. The tale - a mix of myth and murder-mystery -starts with a man, who believes a female tiger spirit has taken up residence in his body, killing his neighbour by gnawing through his jugular.

His other English offering, Beauty Is A Wound - published in Bahasa Indonesia in 2002 and translated into English last year as well - explores fraught events in his country's history, including the communist massacres in the 1960s that left more than 500,000 dead.

What he will be up to at the SWF:

Catch him at Eka Kurniawan, Man Tiger Of Asia to learn more about his life and works.

Where: Asian Civilisations Museum, Ngee Ann Auditorium

When: Nov 13, 4pm

Admission: Festival pass event. Get the $20 festival pass from Sistic.

He will be part of the panel, The Allure Of The Otherworldly, with British authors Andrew Michael Hurley and Joanne Harris.

Where: The Arts House, Chamber

When: Nov 12, 11.30am

Admission: Festival pass event. Get the $20 festival pass from Sistic.

Kurniawan will also share his thoughts during a panel on The Rise Of South-east Asian Speculative Fiction, alongside Singapore's Krishna Udayasankar and Ng Yi-sheng.

Where: The Arts House, Play Den

When: Nov 12, 2.30pm

Admission: Festival pass event. Get the $20 festival pass from Sistic.

The third panel he is involved in is Bahasa In The Archipelago: A Language Imperilled. Along with Zul Fikri Zamir from Malaysia and Singapore's Azhar Ibrahim, an academic of the Malay language, he will discuss how Bahasa has evolved over time.

Where: The Arts House, Chamber

When: Nov 13, 10am

Admission: Festival pass event. Get the $20 festival pass off Sistic.

6. Joanne Harris

Best known for her award-winning novel Chocolat, the British writer's works range from a fantasy novel based on Norse mythology to French cookbooks. Chocolat, her 1999 novel that follows a young single motherwho opens a chocolaterie, made its leap onto the big screen in 2000, with a cast of big names such as Johnny Depp and Judi Dench. In 2012, Harris was inducted into the Millionaire's Club, an exclusive list of authors such as Jodi Picoult and J K Rowling, whose books have sold more than a million copies.

What she will be up to at the SWF:

Besides sitting on the panel The Allure Of The Otherworldly, Harris will also be part of Writing As Moral Compass, with American author Timothy O' Grady.

Where: The Arts House, Chamber

When: Nov 12, 4pm

Admission: Festival pass event. Get the $20 festival pass off Sistic.

Her workshop, Joanne Harris' 10 Ways To Improve Your Dialogue In Fiction, is sold out.

7. Evan Puschak 


Evan Puschak. PHOTO: EVAN PUSCHAK

You might know him from YouTube. Puschak is the creator and producer of popular Web series The Nerdwriter. First launched in 2011, his videos take on a diverse array of topics, from art and culture (The Serial: From Dickens To Star Wars, anyone?) to the upcoming US elections (think videos like How To Fact-Check Donald Trump In Real Time).

What he will be up to at the SWF:

In the SWF Classroom Series talk, Unravelling The US Presidential Election, he will speak about the complexities of the looming election and what it means for Singapore and the rest of the world.

Where: The Arts House, Play Den

When: Nov 12, 7pm

Admission: Festival pass event. Get the $20 festival pass off Sistic.

Another talk he will give is Love, Actually?, delving into the term love and how it is used.

Where: National Gallery Singapore, Auditorium

When: Nov 13, 4pm

Admission: Festival pass event. Get the $20 festival pass off Sistic.

Puschak will also be on the panel of Children Born In The 1980s: Emerging Adulthood Or Extended Adolescence, alongside Nigeria-born author Helen Oyeyemi, and Singapore's Pooja Nansi and Ann Ang.

Where: Asian Civilisations Museum, Ngee Ann Auditorium

When: Nov 13, 11.30am

Admission: Festival pass event. Get the $20 festival pass off Sistic.

8. Lyn Gardner 


Lyn Gardner. PHOTO:  LYN GARDNER

Mark your calendars, theatre-makers and theatre-lovers: Gardner, the renowned theatre critic of Britian's The Guardian, will be in town. She also writes children's books - which also express her love for performance. In her Olivia series, she writes about a young girl and her friends at a stage school.

What she will be up to at the SWF:

In the SWF Classroom Series talk, Theatre Casting: Diversify Or Die, she will discuss why diversity is necessary for the survival of the theatre scene.

Where: The Arts House, Play Den

When: Nov 5, 2.30pm

Admission: Festival pass event. Get the $20 festival pass off Sistic.