You don’t need to be a voracious reader and intellectual to attend and appreciate the annual Singapore Writers Festival. The 10-day event, which celebrates all things literary in and around Singapore, sees its impressive 20th edition this year from 3 to 12 November, with over 290 programmes happening and more than 300 authors making their way downtown. Here’s what this writers extravaganza has to offer in 2017!


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Singaporean poet Deborah Emmanuel

A stronger representation of SingLit

Did you know that there are more than two hundred Singapore-based writers here? In fact, around 240 of them – across the genres of crime fiction, speculative fiction, sequential arts, creative non-fiction, young adult fiction and children’s fiction – will be involved in the festival as part of more than 290 programmes.

Recognisable names include O Thiam Chin, JY Yang, Jennifer Anne Champion, and Kevin Martens Wong, amongst other foreign writers based in Singapore, such as poet William Beale (Australia), novelist Jo Furniss (UK), and author Daryl Whetter.

In addition, this year’s Singapore Writers Festival will shine the spotlight on local poet Anne Lee Tzu Peng in a series of Literary Pioneer events that sees an exhibition curated using her five published works, as well as a SingLit 101 lecture on her works by literary critic Gwee Li Sui.

The first ever Tamil theme, ‘Aram’

This year’s theme Aram (pronounced ah-ruhm) is a word in Tamil, one of Singapore’s national languages, and comes after the first Malay theme Sayang last year in 2016. Taking inspiration from the ancient text Thirukkural – one of the most influential literary work in Tamil – the theme explores the complex and layered nature of good and evil, virtue and vice. Responding to the theme are two artists – visual artist Alecia Neo and writer-performer Deborah Emmanuel, who will produce a series of photographs and video, as well as write original lyrics to a song that will be performed at the festival.

International guest writers

Etgar Keret, Saidah Rastam, and Junot Diaz

If you’ve seen the hit series Thirteen Reasons Why on Netflix, you might be excited to know that the author behind the book that inspired the show, Jay Asher, will be taking part in the festival. Plus, fans of the famous Moomins comics will be able to meet Sophia Jansson, the daughter of Lars Jansson, who created the iconic series. Other headliners include Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Diaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao), X-Men writer Marjorie Liu, as well as emerging Chinese writer Lu Min, who won the prestigious Lu Xun Literary Award.

These internationally-acclaimed writers, along with many other luminaries, will be be part of SWF Stage, a series of lectures and performances, as well as SWF Class – workshops and masterclasses across a myriad of topics.

SWF3 for families

Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why

Got kids? SWF3 will feature a range of family-friendly programmes that span music, storytelling, different forms of play, and reading targeted at young children and their families. Free events include ‘In Celebration of Oddballs’ by British author Philip Ardagh as he talks about the inspiration for his bestselling series The Grunts and the Eddie Dickens trilogy, and a ‘Shape a Story with your Body!’ workshop that lets you morph into different objects and animals.

Ireland country focus, and celebrating ASEAN 50

Each edition of the Singapore Writers Festival has a Country Focus, and this time sees a contingent of eight Irish authors such as poet and editor Gerald Dawe, whose poems chronicle Irish modern history in tumultuous times; short-story writer Colin Barrett whose first book Young Skins (2013) won the Frank O’ Connor Short Story International Prize in 2014; and Lingo festival (Dublin) poetry slam champion Abby Oliviera.

Incidentally, the festival will cast a spotlight on Southeast Asian literature in commemoration of ASEAN’s 50th year, presenting authors like Filipino poet and literary critic Gemino Abad, Laotian novelist Douangdeuane Bounyavong, and Cambodia’s painter, sculptor, and graphic novelist Ing Phousera.

The 20th edition of the Singapore Writers Festival is running from 3 to 12 November 2017 at various locations around the island. Festival passes are priced at $25, while final day tickets can be purchased at $10. Tickets available via SISTIC.

Click here for the full list of programmes.