I flew back from Bali on Tuesday, my head full of new ideas, my suitcase full of new books and my imagination fired. The Ubud Writers’ Festival was serious fun. Every day I met new and intriguing writers – there is such a huge world of books that I want to explore. I would love to spend a whole year doing nothing but reading – there’s a lot to catch up on.
Authors from India, England, Turkey, Egypt, China, Singapore and the Philippines, to name a but a few of the countries, attended the Ubud Festival. I spoke on a couple of panels including one called ‘Through the Looking Glass”, along with two other children’s writers; Singaporean author, Jin Pyn, and E.B. Maranan, a prolific Flilipino author who writes for readers of all ages. Jin Pyn’s first book ‘The Elephant and the Tree‘ has a strong environmental theme. E.B. Maranan has written several books in a ”contemporary folk lore” style, merging modern ideas about the world with ancient myth. I’ve only just begun to discover the rich world of Asian myth and folklore.
Earlier this year I attended the Children’s Literature Association of India’s first conference and met another well-known Filipino children’s writer, Christine Bellen. I loved her bilingual retellings of the stories of Lola Basyang. Lola Basyang was a Filipino grandmother who told traditional legends to children. Her stories were originally written down by a famous Filipino writer called Severino Reyes. In Christine’s re-tellings, the text is in both English and Tagalog, one of the langagues of the Philippines, so everyone can access these great legends about cowardly princes and man-eating giants.
These are classic myths that transcend cultural boundaries and yet you can’t buy them in Australia. It’s only since travelling through Asia over the past two years that I’ve started to realise how many good stories we are missing out on because of the way the world book market works. One of the most fiery speakers at the Ubud festival was another Filipino writer and folklorist, Rosario Cruz Lucero. You can’t buy her books in Australia either but I did manage to get a hold of several of her titles at the festival bookshop. Hopefully, events like the Ubud festival will help change the way our stories travel through the world. There’s a great festival coming up in Sri Lanka in January, in the old walled fort town of Galle. They have an incredible line-up of world authors and the setting for the is pretty spectacular. If I could only write fast enough to get all the books I’m working on finsished before Christmas, I’d love to check it out.