It seems like a foregone conclusion: how else would Singapore do a writers’ festival but with seriousness and business-like professionalism? What’s striking about the first few days of the Singapore Writers’ Festival (SWF) though is this: while business sense would dictate the selling of books in relation to the event, there’s also a clear sense here of going beyond that. And the SWF does so by showing us how literature and writing might on the one hand be celebrated as creative endeavor, and on the other assessed as end product with goals of publication and readership, always with the possibility of the text affecting change.
This is to say that each of the panels I went to were done professionally at the SWF, where moderators had read the books of the writers they were to have conversations with, where they actually become credible points of reference for a discussion with the audience. My context obviously is the Philippines, where even international conferences suffer not just because of sloppy work by local scholars, but even more so unprofessional moderators who think that hosting à la talk show is what this role calls for.
But I digress, and I only do so because of envy: much might be said after all for professionalism especially when it comes to literature and writing, particularly because by our mere existence as writers and critics we demand that it be seen as important. At the SWF, the first thing that’s equated with its importance is a clear respect for writers, which begins with reading their work beforehand.