I’ve been a hermit lately, but today I want to talk about an event I was recently invited to, one which featured one of my favorite Singaporean authors, Suchen Christine Lim.
You’ve heard from her on this blog before (here and here). I’ve learned much from her workshops, her novels, and the wisdom she has shared with me during the occasional encounters in the past few years.
This was a new literary arts initiative organized by the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS), called Twilight Tales.
Even with an audience of about forty, it felt like an intimate affair, because the venue was someone’s home, one of Singapore’s ‘elite’ as Mr. R Ramachandran, the affable Executive Director of NBDCS, jokingly put it.
Suchen took over, and despite having admired her for years now, I felt in her thrall as if for the first time when she began to read from her latest novel: The River’s Song.
She’s pixyish in build and demeanor– vibrant, kind, wise. But when she reads, she transforms into an oracle, who demands your entire attention and wouldn’t settle for less. She seems to grow taller, her voice alternately rings with conviction and rage, and then caresses with softness and laughter. I enjoyed this part of Twilight Tales very much indeed– and would have loved it if she kept reading the entire evening. The audience chorused with her, and clapped their hands off.
She answered questions from the floor, and the moderator, Jane Wong Yeang Chui. The questions from the audience ranged from the usual queries like how many of her stories are true to life, where does she find inspiration from, how does she get inside the head of a character. Though Suchen must have fielded these kind of questions ad nauseam, she answered with grace and playful humor, and even responded to someone who asked her if she felt ‘lonely’ as a writer!
Jane Wong asked interesting questions, for instance, the role of a writer in creating (alternative) history (I long for the times when history was still written by crazy professors and not by committee, was Suchen’s candid response) and whether the author felt the need for self-censorship (I make sure I get my facts right, Suchen said).
From his earlier experiences heading the National Library of Singapore, Mr. R Ramachandran spoke briefly about the initiatives by Lee Kuan Yew, the recently deceased and much-revered first prime minister of Singapore.
“Without LKY’s support and vision, libraries in Singapore would’nt have developed this far – to be one of the best in the world. LKY opened the first Branch Library in Singapore, the Queenstown Library in 1969. He believed in the significance of libraries at a time when no head of state of a developing country gave it any importance. I’m proud to say that I’ve served our PM a couple of times when he came to the library to borrow books. Today, if he’d walked into this room he would’ve been very proud to see so many of you here to listen to an author. In those days it was difficult to have even a couple of people attend a literary evening.”
The evening continued. Author copies were signed, snacks were eaten and wine was drunk– authors, aspiring writers, book lovers and Book Council officials exchanged cards and smiles.
All in all, a lovely literary evening. I left, quite eager to attend the next edition, which I’m told would be held in July. The only question: how do they plan to top Suchen Christine Lim’s act?
Have you been to a literary event recently? Ever listened to a beloved author read? Does the author have the same voice as the book when you read it yourself? Does the Literary or Book Council in your country support literary events like this one?
If you live in Singapore, have you been to Twilight Tales? What sort of literary event do you like the most?
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I am not sure if this kind of an event is something I’ll enjoy. I have this egoistic mind that feels the story is best told in my mind. But once I have read a book I guess it would be interesting to hear the authors version at least. Moreover not sure if such events happen in India.
Hi- I am a member of The NT Writer’s Center and I recall the best fun I had were at the events they held. Wild Words is the most memorable- and I got up once to read one of my poems for the first time! It was harder than I originally thought because it was so exposing. It’s different when one shares their work, and it also depends on the environment and the people at the event. Hence; what one is willing/ remembers/ and so on. I always find myself remembering what I could have said… 🙂 Enjoyed your post!
Many years ago, I saw Isabel Allende read. I almost cried. She was so extremely kind. I have heard others: Gloria Steinem, Marianne Williamson, Sara Paretsky, and more. It is always interesting to hear authors in person to find out who they ‘really’ are!
What a fun event. I’ve never been to one of these in a home, but often in libraries. They are always eye-opening, to hear first-hand the author’s motivation and meaning. Thanks for sharing this.
from one hermit to another… 🙂 no, I live in Brighton, U.K. mostly it is better to stay home 😉
but now I shall book some more dates in my diary 🙂
Reblogged this on Crazy Pasta Child.
Such an interesting mix of things on your blog. I greatly enjoyed this post! Something thats close to my heart as a writer 🙂
Hello Damyanti and I apologise for my enforced absence. My blog and blogging has over the last year been an incidental thing in my writing life. No competitions, no visits and very few posts.
This is a wonderful post and your excitement seeps out between the lines, so I’m pleased for you and hope you get to many more events like it.
In answer to your posed questions I’m afraid my responses are, no, no, no, and no. There are probably occasions when I could travel and stay overnight for such an event but I’m hardly likely to do such a thing.
My self-imposed wriitng workload and support of others keeps me too busy. I did allow myself an overnight stay and visit to a publishing house recently, but apart from making copious notes about the process it proved one thing for certain – I will not be using them.
Keep up the good work my friend.
Very well written, I enjoyed reading this article.
I’ve never been to such an event but I must say, your reflection of it makes me want to get out there and do it.
Wow, what an evening it would be if Tahar Ben Jelloun (my favourite Moroccan/French author) were to read his latest novel a few feet away from me!
Thank for visiting my site and I’m very proud to meet some people like you. I love. Reading too and my favorites novelist are Steve Berry, James Rolling , Dan Brown ,Paolo Cuhelo , and the best among them is Sidney Shieldon.Good a Luck and a Thank you very much.
Interesting post. I haven’t attended one of these events, but would like to.
i havent seen my favourite authors yet, but i hope its as wonderful as you describe when i do
No, I have not been to one of those events yet, but maybe one day!
I live in northern Canada. I have a small publishing company (www.goldrockpress.com) and I teach and mentor new authors. I am always amazed when I hear them read their work for the first time. It makes all the difference in the world to hear the author reading their work. The writing literally comes alive. Even though we are a small community, we try to have author readings once per month.
Reblogged this on BOOK CHAT and commented:
My blogging friend Damyanti at Damyanti Writes sheds some light on the benefits of attending a literary event after attending an event that featured one of her favorite Singaporean author, Suchen Christine Lim.
I’ve been to a few, but I’ve never been to one like this. It sounds like a thrilling time to listen to an author read their work as they interpret it. I need to seek out this type of event. Hugs, my friend.
Reblogged this on oshriradhekrishnabole.
I have been to a couple small events here in my town, but nothing major like this seems to be. I will have to check my Lit council!
Sounds like a lovely and inspiring evening! I have never attended an event like that, but after your glowing review, I’m thinking maybe I should seek them out.
Cynthia, I’m not much of an event-attender either– but I do go when I can. I’m usually pretty lost in my own world and not very aware of everything that goes on.
Same here. For me the first step is finding out about events such as this, then try to go to them. I do feel out of touch, but I suppose I can check with bookstores to see if they regularly host things like this.
This month, since it’s National Poetry Month, I’ve been to numerous events (including my own poetry chapbook launch)! It is not every excellent poet or writer that can do justice to their own work when reading it out loud. I’m lucky to live in a city where literary events take place every day!
Shery, congratulations on your launch! I so agree with you on the ability to read work– not everyone can do it. Some authors sound wimpy compared to their really strong voices on paper.
I enjoy Singapore author Eric Alagan. I enjoyed your description of selected ones attending
Never heard of him, Ian– will look him up.
That’s awesome that you got to be there in person! We don’t get a lot of special author events in our town – you have to drive a bit to find one.
Alex, we do have a fair number of literary events here, and also a writer’s festival. Singapore is such a small place, and everything is accessible.