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Melissa Sim
Monday, Jul 14, 2014

Showbiz

A Singapore literature fest in New York

The Straits Times | Melissa Sim | Monday, Jul 14, 2014

New Yorkers will hear from 10 Singapore-based writers, including Cyril Wong, as well as six US-based ones such as Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan.

This October, 16 Singaporean writers will share their works with an American audience at the inaugural Singapore Literature Festival in New York.

The three-day event from Oct 10 to 12 will involve readings and discussions at independent bookstores as well as the 92nd Street Y, a premier literary destination and cultural centre in the city.

The festival is an independent effort organised by New York-based Singaporeans, who are raising funds through corporate donations and a Kickstarter campaign.

The campaign, launched on Thursday last week, has already raised more than 70 per cent of the US$6,000 (S$7,450) target. This will help pay for photography and videography during the event and increase the honorarium for each of the writers involved.

The entire event is expected to cost US$16,000 and organisers say the writers are "willing to make up the difference, even if it means crashing on someone's couch".

Six of the featured writers are based in the US while 10 are flying over to New York with the help of travel grants from Singapore's National Arts Council.

Teacher and poet Jee Leong Koh, 44, one of the festival's co-chairs, says: "The Kickstarter is not just a way to raise funds but also raise awareness. We want to make it a grassroots event - a community festival."

The idea for the festival was first tossed around in 2011 when Mr Koh met his co-chair Paul Rozario- Falcone, 43, at The Arts House in Singapore. Mr Koh was doing a reading of his book Seven Studies For A Self Portrait, while Mr Rozario- Falcone was an arts administrator there.

Last year, the two met again in New York and seriously started to plan the event.

Says Mr Koh: "We both believe in Singapore literature. We're convinced of its uniqueness and maturity."

Mr Rozario-Falcone, who now works as an editor and writer, adds: "There are New Yorkers who are definitely interested in Singapore literature and curious to find out who these writers are."

New Yorkers will hear from Singapore-based writers such as internationally published poet Alvin Pang and playwright Verena Tay, who also edits the well-received Balik Kampung anthologies published by Math Paper Press.

The US-based Singaporean voices include Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, editor of dark crime anthology Singapore Noir, published earlier this year by Monsoon Books in Singapore and Akashic Books in the US.

Festival organisers hope to attract close to 1,000 participants. In the run-up to the festival, the team has been arranging readings every second Saturday of the month to encourage more literary exchange between Singaporeans and Americans.

Author Tay, 48, says she is looking forward to the event and is willing to go even if she has to pay some of her costs. "Why not, if it means bringing our writing over to New York?" she says.

"There are New Yorkers who are definitely interested in Singapore literature and curious to find out who these writers are." Mr Paul Rozario-Falcone (left), co-chairman of the Singapore Literature Festival. He is reading a non-fiction piece as fellow co-chairman Jee Leong Koh listens


This article was first published on July 12, 2014.
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