Oct 12 2011

It’s a wrap: The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2011

I’m still in the post-festival glow of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2011 so thought I could wring out one more post about how great it was.

Balinese dancers and future novelists at the UWRF. Photo courtesy of Chris Gosfield.

I had, as I hope my posts conveyed, an excellent time. I’d never been to a writers’ conference or festival before so the entire experience was a new one, and far exceeded my expectations. My favourite part of the festival was the opportunity to meet so many like-minded souls — both readers and writers. It was rare to have a conversation with anyone and have them not turn out to be incredibly interesting (and if they weren’t, I could always fall back on talking about myself).

I’ll admit that as a non-Australian, I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the writers featured at the event where Aussies skewed heavily. This was wonderful in its own way, though, because I came home with a long list of previously-unknown books that I plan to read in the coming months. I’ll also admit that I didn’t know who Paul Kelly was, apart from the fact that Sam told me I really should listen to his stuff. Nevertheless, I knew to be impressed when he sat at my table and later, bought us a round of drinks [ed: name-dropper!].

Some of my particular favourites were: getting to see Agustinus Wibowo’s amazing photographs, making filthy jokes with DBC Pierre, getting writing advice from Meg Mundell, being inspired to read poetry by Jaya Savige, hearing James Oseland, the editor-in-chief of Saveur, talk about food, finding a soul mate in Benjamin Law and hearing Trinity, Indonesia’s leading travel writer, talk about her experiences at nude beaches.

But mostly, just being around a group of sharp, literary people was a pleasure and an inspiration.

Here are a few tips for 2012:

* Sign up for workshops and special events early. By the opening of the festival, most were already sold out.

* Book your Ubud accommodation early. Although there’s lot of accommodation in town, you’ll be happy to have that out of the way.

* Read the featured writers’ books! I wish I had known I was going a little sooner, because I would have done a lot more reading, and had a lot more to talk about at the festival.

* Don’t think too much about punctuation in the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival title. This is a recipe for head-wrecking.

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