If you are an avid reader, odds are you have a few favourite books. And while you may have read them from cover to cover a few dozen (or hundred!) times, how often do you think about the author who brought the story to life?
Wouldn’t it be cool to see your favourite authors in person, or be able to ask what inspired their writing? And wouldn’t it be nice if you could tell them how much you enjoyed their work – or scold them for killing off your favourite character?
Putting readers face-to-face with authors is one reason the month-long MYWriters Fest 2016 is happening.
From Oct 1, there will be book launches, author meet-and-greet sessions and publishing- and writing-related workshops held at different venues around the country.
“We’re aiming to create awareness of and exposure for the local writing scene. People who attend can be introduced to local authors who they haven’t heard of before and can buy their books.
“It’s focused on building up local writing,” says Gina Yap Lai Yoong, fest organiser and Malaysian Writer’s Society president, at a recent interview.
The event is being held in conjunction with the second anniversary of the Malaysian Writers Society, a registered body that provides a platform and community for writers hailing from Malaysia and which spans genres, languages, mediums, functions and experience levels.
According to Yap, the first festival, in 2015, attracted a lot of positive responses and this prompted the society to do it again this year.
“People were very sceptical about it when we first started. Most festivals are usually for three or four days, and here we are doing it on every weekend and public holiday in the month!” Yap says with a laugh.
“So this year, when people asked if we were doing it again, we decided to make it an annual thing. On every weekend and public holiday every October, there will be a writer’s event somewhere in the country!”
MYWriters Fest 2016 kicks off with several book launches at Kedai Fixi in Jaya Shopping Mall in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. So far, events have been planned for venues in Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Malacca, Pahang, Penang and Selangor. These include a Poets Day at The Flame, Subang Jaya, Selangor, on Oct 23, and a MYWriters Teh Tarik session at Suria Mall, Kota Kinabalu, on Oct 29. For a full list of events, visit facebook.com/malaysianwriterssociety.
According to Yap, about 40 authors have signed up for the festival so far, including well-known names like Heidi Shamsuddin, Tunku Halim, Tutu Dutta, Birsilah Bakar and Lim Lay Koon.
Yap also urges local authors to participate in the meet and greet sessions: by paying a minimal fee to cover costs (RM30 per venue) they will have the invaluable opportunity to interact directly with readers and sell their books or e-books.
It’s still not too late to participate, and authors can do so by filling in the form at the Malaysian Writers Society Facebook page (facebook.com/malaysianwriterssociety).
“A lot of people have this perception that once they finish their book, it's done, they don’t have to do anything else. They assume people will know about their books. But nowadays, marketing is all about personal relationships,” Yap says.
“These sessions help heighten a writer’s profile. They’re very helpful for self-published writers who have less chance to sell their books.
“And the interactions between the writers and readers are always interesting. Writers get to understand their readers better, and get to know what they like and don’t like. And some of them sell more books there!”
All writers who participate in these sessions will gain free access to the MYWriters Fest 2016 Finale, which will take place at Berjaya Times Square, Kuala Lumpur, on Oct 30. The highlight of this event is a lucky draw, with books worth more than RM1,000 up for grabs.
The public can also take part in the lucky draw; to do so, first get hold of one of the MYWriters Fest 2016 postcards that will be available at any of the festival’s venues; then get your postcard stamped every time you visit any of the events – three stamps qualify you for the Lucky Draw.
“Last year, we were very happy when one of the readers won. There was this couple who had never met any writers before who stumbled upon us in a shopping mall. And after that, they started to attend every single one of our events. They would ride a motorcycle to the venues every weekend,” Yap recalls.
“And then they came to our finale, and they won the grand prize! They wanted to cry, and we wanted to cry with them too! It’s things like this that make the festival worthwhile.”
Yap also suggests that aspiring authors try out the various workshops and talks which will cover a variety of subjects (most of these sessions charge a minimal fee, RM30, to cover venue costs).
“We intentionally lined up local authors for these training sessions. A lot of workshops are held in Malaysia to teach you how to write or, say, discuss copyright with speakers from the United States or the UK. But sometimes, in a multicultural and multilingual country such as ours, their information might not apply 100% to us,” Yap says.
“We have talks on copyright in Malaysia, how you go about it in a local context.
“We also have stuff on publishing contracts and how to do readings in public. Here, you read to a multicultural crowd instead of an English or Malay crowd. So there has to be a way to do it.
“These are all practical sessions that can really help local writers.”
For more information on MYWriters Fest 2016, visit the Malaysian Writers Society Facebook page at facebook.com/malaysianwriterssociety.