From Bridgerton to true crime at Singapore Writers Festival

(Clockwise from left) Bridgerton author Julia Quinn, US Poet laureate Billy Collins and The Perfect Nanny's Leila Slimani are in the line-up for this year's festival.
(Clockwise from left) Bridgerton author Julia Quinn, US Poet laureate Billy Collins and The Perfect Nanny's Leila Slimani are in the line-up for this year's festival.PHOTOS: COURTESY OF THE SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL, BILL HAYES

SINGAPORE - Pining for the next season of steamy Netflix drama Bridgerton? Slake your thirst at the Singapore Writers Festival (SWF), the headliners of which include the Regency romance series' author Julia Quinn.

The 24th edition of the annual festival will feature more than 140 programmes, both in person and online, from Nov 5 to 14.

Other notable authors announced at a Zoom press conference on Tuesday (Sept 28) include two-term United States Poet laureate Billy Collins; Elizabeth Gilbert, the bestselling author of the 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love; and French-Moroccan author Leila Slimani, who won the Prix Goncourt for her novel The Perfect Nanny (2016).

Also speaking at the festival are Hugo Award-winning science-fiction writer Becky Chambers; Sarah Koenig, the co-creator of hit investigative journalism podcast Serial; and video game writer Rhianna Pratchett, daughter of the late fantasy legend Terry Pratchett.

This year's theme is Guilty Pleasures. Festival director Pooja Nansi, 39, said that during the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic, many have turned to familiar comforts.

"For me, it was copious amounts of reality TV, which wasn't great, but it was oddly comforting to just watch something that didn't require my brain to switch on and was about other people's much more dramatic lives.

"So it got me thinking about the things that we're watching and reading and consuming that are bringing us lots of comfort, but we may not necessarily feel belong in the literary sphere. I think it's no secret that I believe the literary sphere is for all of us and that everyone's loves belong there."

Previously announced festival headliners include horror writer R. L. Stine, television host Tan France and poet Ocean Vuong.

This is the second SWF Nansi has had to helm in a pandemic. Last year's edition was entirely digital. "The team and I often joke that it feels like throwing a party in the apocalypse," she quipped.

"But we were just so tired of talking about Covid and I was very clear that I didn't want a festival that was belabouring pain, because there's a lot of pain happening right now. So the question was, can we just be radical and have a festival that's about joy in a time like this?"

While most of the international headliners will be appearing virtually, there will also be hybrid events ranging from Youth Fringe programme How You Like That: Unpacking K-Pop to Singapore Crimes, a true-crime tour based on the Straits Times Press book Guilty As Charged.

For lonely hearts, there are the events Thirst Trap Poetry and Speed Hating, which is like speed dating except people connect through their literary pet peeves.

This year's festival pioneer is Mrs Hedwig Anuar, the first Singaporean director of the National Library, who is considered the founder of the Republic's modern library system. She will be the subject of SWF's first playground-themed exhibition for all ages at the National Library Plaza.

The festival is presented by Arts House Limited and commissioned by the National Arts Council, which was previously the organiser.

Singapore Writers Festival 2021

When: Nov 5 to 14

Admission: Early-bird festival passes till Sept 30 - $28 for all programmes including international headliners; $16 for selected programmes excluding international headliners. Normal festival passes at $35 and $20 respectively from Oct 1. Select experiential programmes will be ticketed separately. Tickets at this website.

Info: Singapore Writers Festival website

  • Additional reporting by Ong Sor Fern