Festival Finds: Bernice Chauly

Posted: 18 September 2017 Author: sikuska

With over 150 speakers from 31 countries, this year’s UWRF lineup is a literary treasure trove of discoveries. Each week in the lead up to the Festival, we’ll speak to a writer whose work you may not yet have encountered, but who could well turn out to be your Festival favorite. For the fifth installment, we spoke to Bernice Chauly, author, poet and Founder and Director of George Town Literary Festival.

What issues and ideas are you hoping to explore during your UWRF17 sessions?

I have just written my first novel so I would like to talk about the process of writing that, along with a deeper exploration of some of the themes in the novel. I am particularly interested in issues that affect Southeast Asian nations – powerlessness, politics and the role of the novel in contemporary society. I am also keen to address the issues of being a female writer and writing about themes that can be seen as provocative or unsayable.

Who do you hope will be in the audience?

I have brought three different books to the Festival, and I feel that the UWRF has marked my literary life quite significantly, from my first appearance in 2008, until now. I look forward to audiences who may perhaps have been there ten years ago, and who will be there again this year.

What’s the most extraordinary place your career has taken you?

As I write this from my desk at my residency at the Taipei Artist Village, I express continued gratitude to all the writing residencies that have given me the time and space to think, write, and ruminate – the most extraordinary being a two-week residency in Sitka, Alaska, where I would wake up in the morning, draw the curtains, pick up a pair of binoculars and see humpback whales frolicking in the Sound. It was awe-inspiring and spurred me on to finish the first draft of my novel.

What’s the best piece of creative advice you’ve received, and what’s the best you can give?

“Read, Read, Read” – WP Kinsella.

A book will not write itself; you, and only you will have to write it.

What are you most looking forward to at UWRF17?

The UWRF always has a very diverse list of writers and poets participating, and as a festival director myself, it’s great to be able to participate in festivals where I can just be a writer, meet other writers, and not worry about logistics, or a host of other issues that plague us directors when the festival starts. I see old friends on the list and I look forward to reconnecting with them and to making new literary comrades.

Bernice Chauly is appearing in Past, Present, Future on Day 1 of the Main Program, in Half a Century of ASEAN on Day 2 of the Main Program, and in The Founders on Day 4 of the Main Program.


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