The final day of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival wrapped up with the resounding question: ‘What’s Next?’ Four days of discussion built into an excited, energetic atmosphere where people were inspired to push themselves and the world to take action in writing, politics, art or all of the above.
Author Nam Le and Kylie Boltin talked with Sam Cooney about their revolutionary collaboration with Matt Huynh, turning Nam’s novel The Boat into an interactive graphic novel. This is only the beginning, as Nam said, because the next generation will be even better at using technologies and programming and designing ways to take writing to the next level. It’s possible to say a lot through infographics, video games and other sound and visual media that is engaged with more deeply than in just the written word.
Sunday’s panels speculated on the diversity of current news and storytelling formats, including a session on the resurgence of longform writing in the world.
“There is always that classical battle for space and in print media space is limited,” says Seno Gumira Ajidarma, “but on a website space is [not] limited so there is the chance for a renaissance.” However this renaissance online is based on how comfortable a reader is to using that medium. Online longform is also a good place for young writers who, in Michaela McGuire’s experience, have more chance with publications that not only publish a rotating roster of experienced journalists in the print format but are also willing to commission new writers for online.
The online reading community is also a place where writers can have an international fanbase, leading to their books being translated into many other languages. Indonesian writing superstar Eka Kurniawan, while speaking to Barbara Epler, said he was surprised to have sold so well overseas and now be called ‘the voice of Indonesia’. He had been writing for two years before getting his book published in Bahasa in 2002, since then he has been translated into 15 languages and become a well-known name in international circles and one of the most watched at this years festival.
It’s important to talk about the past and take action but Christina Lamb emphasised the need to understand the place and culture we are entering every time we decide to get involved. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon carried on this sentiment of morality saying, “we have a moral obligation to nurture imagining what it’s like to be someone else.”
But there is always hope, concluded Mpho Tutu at the final session of the day, “I am a prisoner of hope. I do not deny that evil exists. But I believe good will overcome.”