Okay then. Some of my personal highlights of the Ubud Writers Festival 2008.
Biggest Thrill :
Sorry for drifting to the far shores of groupiedom but Vikram Seth is one of my very favourite authors of all time and meeting him was magic.
Sessions I Enjoyed Most :
I like best the sessions where authors talk about their creative process and their path to publication and came away most inspired from the session with Australian authors Carrie Tiffany and Alexis Wright. Wright won the Miles Franklin with Carpentaria and Carrie Tiffany was shortlisted for the Orange Prize with Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living.
I also very much enjoyed the panel Crime : Fact and Fiction with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil author John Berendt (for me, another of the stars of Ubud) , Shamini Flint, Liz Porter (whose book about forensic science I wrote about here), and Hilary Bonney author of The Society Murders about a famous Melbourne murder case. (I found this a fascinating read.)
And if I came to Ubud in love with Vikram Seth I went away besotted with Mexican magical realist Alberto Ruy Sanchez (who will be here in KL next week - and hopefully prepared to do a reading for us.)
What Made Me Proudest :
Malaysian authors were right there in the spotlight and did us all proud. I very much enjoyed the panel Malaysians Making History which featured Preeta, Chiew-Siah and the usually reclusive Faisal Tehrani.
Seeing the Ubud edition of MPH's Quill magazine in everyone's hands with three of my articles inside and tons of other good stuff and hearing from folks that they had enjoyed the interviews.
That Janet de Neefe acknowledged me in the credits in the programme, along with Eric Forbes. My part is small - blogging the festival, providing the contacts of writers at this end - so I was very touched that she'd thought of me.
Other Things I'm Happy About :
Learning about authors and books which have thus far slipped under my radar. Making lots of contacts. Authors saying yes, they'd love to drop by KL and meet readers here.
Meeting my Balinese blogfriend SapiMalas who is as much a bookaholic as I am.
Having time to network informally and look at ways we can coordinate with friends in other countries.
Most Surreal Moment :
Helping Vikram Seth weigh the Balinese gong he'd bought to send home!
Best Event not on the Official Programme :
I thank Karim Razlan for organising a magical nasi lemak dinner in his garden, under the stars for writers and Malaysian friends. (And I got to sit next to Vikram Seth!!!!).
I also loved the post-festival writers' lunch at John Hardy's place - one the world's most prominent jewellers has his "factory" in the Balinese padi fields and his showroom is a bamboo cathedral with a stream running through. Now that was another lovely balinese nasi campur and it's just a shame I could afford to buy a few samples.
Biggest Disappointments :
Several authors couldn't make it. I had so wanted to meet Indra Sinha and had even planned to interview him for Off the Edge. Aravind Adiga of course had bigger fish to fry. Nigerian short story writer and Jesuit priest Uwem Akpan had visa problems. Lisa St Aubin de Teran was a no show too. Sad sad.
Thing that Made me Most Grumpy :
Seeing all the lovely books on sale and only being able to buy a few because I couldn't carry more back, they were so expensive anyway compared with prices in Malaysia.
Getting a really bad cold and feeling like **** for much of the festival. Leaving my camera in a taxi.
Person I'd Like to Strangle :The journalist from a pan-Asian newspaper who picked up and then dropped a copy of Quill and was overheard saying sniffily that he didn't read magazines produced by Malaysians.
(More on individual sessions later.)