Cartoonist Art Spiegelman and sci-fi trailblazer Liu Cixin topline Singapore Writers Fest

American cartoonist Art Spiegelman will be part of this year's digital-based Singapore Writers Festival. Photo: Enno Kapitza/Agentur Focus

Malaysian visual artist Arif Rafhan, British writer Zadie Smith, The Mortal Instruments author Cassandra Clare, legendary American cartoonist Art Spiegelman and award-winning science fiction author Liu Cixin are among the literary names that will be part of the upcoming Singapore Writers Festival (SWF).

The programme also includes two Pulitzer Prize-winning poets from the United States - Sharon Olds and Tracy K. Smith.

Organised by Singapore's National Arts Council (NAC), this year’s programme line-up is inspired by the theme of "Intimacy" and brings together international writers, thinkers and other literary participants in a celebration of stories and intercultural dialogue.

Running from Oct 30 to Nov 8, this is the first time the festival will be presented in a digital format.

“The future is now. As the leading literary festival in the region, we are always looking for ways to engage with language and literature to create exciting experiences that bring about conversations and connect our audiences," says festival director Pooja Nansi.

"This digital direction marks a turning point for us, where we had to experiment with new formats and innovate closely with the local literary community. We are thrilled to offer our audiences this strong mix of online and offline touchpoints, and are excited to see how digitalisation can bring about greater convenience to festival goers who will be able to attend a wider range of programmes, ” she adds.

In a time of quarantine and social distancing, the festival’s theme of Intimacy will no doubt encourage thought-provoking discussions. What does intimacy mean during a pandemic, and how do restrictions change the way we interact with each other?

“We are taking the leap into the digital realm in order to explore the complexities of the human condition during these unprecedented times. Through the festival’s programming and ground-up initiatives, we hope to spark conversations at home and abroad about what intimacy means to us in this new normal. We invite everyone to witness the power of literature in capturing this shared human need," elaborates Pooja.

Playing on the theme of intimacy, the public can assume the role of a confidante in experiential digital encounter "Connections" which features five seniors who are first time writers that capture the intimacies of life in short monologues filmed from their homes. There is also an interactive microsite "Sit With Me" with stories exploring mental states and illness in aural and visual forms.

SWF also features voices from the community in the form of 20 innovative commissions in digital literary formats. This includes interactive psychological horror game Play This Story: The Book Of Red Shadows, which takes place over email; and hands-on experience A Call Away, where participants are guided through an intimate phone call when unpacking their activity package.

The festival has segments that are specially curated with children and youths in mind, such as conversation session "A (Teenage) Love Affair" that will touch on topics like the portrayal of romantic relationships in stories.

There will be workshops for writers and the general public, panels, talks as well as podcasts and vodcasts.

With a Digital Festival Pass, audiences can participate and interact with authors through over 100 programmes. These digital festival passes are available at S$20 (RM60) now via Sistic Live.

More information here.

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