By Sarah Tooth
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to have been invited to attend the 2014 Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Conference in Singapore in July by Jane Camens. Jane is a tireless supporter of writers and writing, who has built the APWT organisation to support strong literary networks in our region.
Over recent years, I have attended more than my fair share of writers festivals, conferences, readings, events and workshops. The APWT was one of the most exciting gatherings of its kind, and one of the most useful professional development activities I have undertaken in many years.
The panel sessions were great – a diverse range of writers addressing industry and craft topics: writing fiction, poetry and non-fiction, translation and translatability, how do writers earn a living, what does the changing literary landscape mean for writers globally, the politics and economics of writing, genres, markets, marketing and more. And the professional information that I gained from these sessions from a global perspective was amazingly valuable.
Even better were the daily readings – some of the most extraordinary I’ve ever attended – with a breath and range of voices from emerging to well established voices, those written in English and those in translation, non fiction, poetry, short stories, fiction. These readings introduced me to so many brilliant writers from India, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia and more, people I should have already known but didn’t, people I am so enriched by knowing now.
The conference was set against the backdrop of the National Library of Singapore’s recent decision to withdraw and pulp several children’s books depicting non traditional and same sex families elevated to keynote status the crucial debates raging around censorship (both externally and self-imposed), long a focal point for writers in our region, but rarely addressed in Australia. At a time when issues of what we can write and read about are becoming increasing important in Australia as well, these conversations between writers from around the region are incredibly important and would be very difficult to maintain without this brilliant organisation.
However, a real highlight for me was the spirit of the conference. Never have I attended a gathering that was so incredibly collegiate – egos were set aside and writers talked and shared intensely. Real international networks are being built – writers rushed to buy each other’s books, attend each other’s workshops and sessions, listened intently to the readings, engaged really deeply with each other’s work. On a professional level, the presence of so many industry representatives – from agents to literary journals and publishers – meant that deals were also done, translators secured, and new markets opened up for writers. The conference is also an incredible opportunity for writers to build their profile in the most rapidly growing English language markets in the world.
You can find the history, aims and activities of the APWT here but my advice to all Australian writers is to join now. It’s free for published writers, and you will have instant access to an amazingly broad and diverse community. The 2015 conference is in a Manila, a country with strong literary traditions and a writing community that Australians should be a part of. I hope to see you there!