Bits and Pieces From Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2007


I have to let all this words, saved inside cluttered drawers in my muddled brain, comes out. Inspiration, ideas, experiences, friendship formed, soulful solitude. Some of the words I could use to illustrate what I have been lived in last weekend, within the seen and the unseen, sekala and niskala. This is the fourth Ubud Writers and Readers Festival and shame on me, my first. To my justification, I wasn’t in Bali for the last two festival. The third, I was simply a coward chicken. So I carpe diem-ed the weekend and made it to ‘one of the six best literary festival in the world’ (according to Harper’s Bazaar U.K. February 2007).

I didn’t know what to expect, being an early 20-something with crappy English grammar, unnatural coyness when faced with native English speaker and went there sole-purposely to steal brilliant ideas from brilliant brains as well as get my bought-on-the-spot “The Inheritance of Loss” book signed by the celebrity writer of this year festival, Kiran Desai. I know, I should be mortified by myself by even admit that, but hell… Anyway, I made it to “In Conversation with Kiran Desai” discussion panel on Friday afternoon. She talks about her book, her childhood, her mother influence over her works (mother happened to be one of the famous post-colonial literature writer, Anita Desai), her fame and identity. It struck me how modest she is. One could easily be a giant-headed Booker Prize winner with all the fame that follows, but definitely not her.

By any chance, perhaps The Unseen would like us to collide that day, I met a kindred spirit. Li was her name. A petite girl, face nearly covered in black wavy curtain and adorned with sweet smile. She won a competition of writing only sixteen words essay, back in Kuala Lumpur. Here is her splendid winning entry:

“So, you’re dating him now?” The envious hairdresser said, approaching, scissors gleaming in the light.

I can still remember it by heart because I was impressed and burned in envy for it. I wish I can write razor-sharp sentence like her. I was charmed by Li and I sneaked out from the festival for few hours. We talked about our lifes, made a comparative study over Kuala Lumpur and Bali, as well as exchanging lingo and talked about books. She was my first encounter of female counter-part who reads Gabriel Garcia Marquez. What can I say? I was mesmerized. We bid farewell that since weirdly, she has to fly back to K.L that Friday evening, while the whole thing just started to heat up.

I managed to woke-up early the next day after a literary hangover to joined “ In Conversation with Shashi Tharoor”. I saw him on the Friday last session, having an animated discussion with Rana Dasgupta, Cyril Wong and the insanely witty moderator, Nury Vittachi; over alternative version of modernity which described prominent cities like Paris, London, New York as established while “Singapore sucks” (direct quote from Cyril Wong). Shashi Tharoor is “the almost Secretary General of United Nation”, lost to the current one, Ban-Ki Moon (tips to remember his name in Indonesian: Bang Imoen). It was amazing how I was able to watch and hear those brilliant minds in debate and hassled one another, of course in the way only brilliant minds are able to hassle.

For Saturday, I joined a writing workshop which I found out in the spot, was intended for intermediate writer. Great. I felt the familiar sensation of lurching stomach, sweated nausea and chilling spine. What did I got myself into? I felt worsen by the time the guest lecturer as well as writer, Jill Dawson, asked each and thirteen of us to tell a bit about ourselves. There was a journalist, a recent graduate from Creative Writing College, retired old men, two ex-pat ladies who seems like a diplomat housewives, a georgeus mixed-race lady in beautiful long blue-batik dress, a French lady and a cheerful Indian gay guy. I was the worst writer in the room, no doubt about that. I said to myself, now, you are in trouble. Big one. There is no Microsoft Word to help you automatically correcting grammar mistake or thesaurus to click when I try to make myself sounds more sophisticated and smart-like.

As well as the worst English speaker (with three exception, the rest of the people were English native speakers, I also happened to be the youngest. A real blow to my already-crumbling-to-pieces confidence). I spent the rest of the workshop scribbling furiously into my book and tried to avoid being pointed to read my writing. Much like when I was in high school and I ducked as low as possible from The Mean Eyes of Chemistry Teacher. In the end, I managed to learn something from it, especially about writing character and place which I hope would someday be put into proper writing. Jill Dawson was simply a wonderful teacher.

With one of my new-found friend, we went to Dragonfly to saw book launching which in that evening was a poem anthalogy titled ‘Terra’. There were poem recital by poet from East Timor, the georgeus Laksmi Pamuntjak and we left after a poetry reading by the sensational Miles Merrill (I was lucky to saw him before in which he performed alongside a Samoan poet (Tusiata Avia), Filipino young and happened to be cute poet (Angelo Suarez) as well as an Indonesian poet).

I treated myself with a delicious bratwurst, salad and fries dinner in Naughty Nuri’s (the most famous BBQ ribs in Bali). Hang-out a bit with the football fans who kept yelling at the poor flat screen, went back to my hotel and delved myself into books. The cricket was singing loudly from the dark rice field, heighten by croaking frogs asking for rain or simply a mating partner for that night.

The last discussion panel I attended on Sunday was “Something to Say”. The room was fully packed even before the previous session was over. Gone was the chill in the air sponsored by air-con. And so the stars arrived and no wonder it was packed. There was Deepika Shetty as moderator, Shashi Tharoor, Nury Vittachi and the Bali Bule, Made Wijaya. All stars in their own right. The same thing they have in common are they all are notorious columnist (perhaps except Mr.Tharoor who doesn’t seemed like a mean, vicious columnist bullies). It was delightfully funny, whole-heartedly honest and raucous since the finale was Nury Vittachi 'fictitiously putting himself in amorous position' on Julia Suryakusuma on the coffee table! Janet de Neefe, the founder of Ubud Writers and Readers Festival was given standing ovation for her dedication and spirit.

The festival next year would bring new leadership perhaps also bigger venues since the current one (Indus and The Left Bank Lounge) simply wouldn’t be enough with growing numbers of book lovers pouring in. To close this blog, I would simply stated that the festival live up to its publication and I do really hope I would see more of Balinese people in the crowds. What happen with all of you, my Balinese men and women? None of you showed up if you were not in press or a guest speaker or in media-relation. People came as far as Europe and Australia, especially for the occasion. We live here. I would unquestionably be there next year. What about you?

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2 komentar:

bibliobibuli said...

very nice write up! one problem at these festivals is that there is always much more going on than you can get to, so it's nice to hear about the bits you missed.

isman said...

Yeah. Thanks for sharing that, eve. I missed some of the events you attended as well. I suspect the schedule was set that packed to keep us running around from venues to venues, so the effect from lack of sleep wouldn't have time to kick in.

 

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Hello! I’m Eve Tedja

I have been a professional writer for four years.


During that time, I have worked as a permanent contributor for Let’s eat! Magazine, Hello Bali, epicure, and published my articles in several other magazines like Venture, Panorama, Bravacasa, and Bali & Beyond.


Words, sentences, stories... these are my passion. I love to take new challenges in writing for various format and media. I create contents for websites, blogs, and communication materials. I’ve also worked as a copywriter, translator, coffee book editor, social media coordinator, media consultant, and even writing for a specialty coffee packaging.


Interior design, travel, environment, culinary, culture, history, and social issues are some of the themes that I have worked with in the past. I love getting involves with individuals, companies, organizations, and communities with stories to tell.


I am available for assignment worldwide. Reach me at eve(dot)tedja(at)gmail(dot)com.

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