Sanaz Fotouhi writes about how her background led to a dynamic vision for the future of Asia Pacific Writers & Translators.
When I was a little girl growing up in Iran, it seemed to me that everyone in the country was glued to their new colour televisions on Saturday nights watching the epic Japanese drama of Oshin, dubbed into Farsi on one of the two state television channels. Sometimes, when the electricity cut out, or when the ‘red alarm’ went off and we had to run to hide in the basement while jet planes bombed our neighbours, Oshin and her far-away land provided solace. She was the topic of conversation amongst adults, and the dream of many children. Many nights I fell asleep dreaming of living in far away places, which to me, then, were indistinguishable.
As I grew older and eventually visited many far far away lands, I learnt that Japan was very different from Hong Kong, from Indonesia and so on.
Aside from living and travelling throughout Asia, it was the literature I picked up from each country that helped me understand the culture, history, social nuances, differences and similarities. Not in my entire lifetime could I master every language to read the literatures in the original. It is only through translations that people like me have access to so many insights into different cultures.
My passion for the expression of cultural diversity through literature has pre-occupied most of my adult creative and academic life. So when I had the opportunity to work with Asia Pacific Writers and Translators (APWT) I knew I had found a home.
This long-running regional literary network and its now famous annual events are opportunities for people like me to really learn about the culture, history and unique aspects of a particular country and those in the Asia Pacific region in general. Every year, APWT brings together some 200 writers, translators, and others involved in the publishing industries. The result leads to outstanding opportunities to meet peers, exchange ideas, and perhaps gain inspiration for the production of new literary work.
APWT’s annual events are held in a different country in the Asia Pacific every year. It has had multifaceted conferences in Australia, Thailand, India, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines. This November (2016), we meet in Southern China, with the main conference at Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, and follow-on readings and panels in Hong Kong and Macau. Next year (2017), we’ll meet in May in Indonesia in conjunction with the ASEAN Literary Festival. I am taking the lead to organize our Indonesian event.
Providing Keys to Asia Pacific Literatures
APWT offers much more than an annual conference. It feeds the curiosity of people like me. My plan is that by the time everyone arrives at the annual gathering in future years they will already know something more about the literature and culture of that country. I will work towards that.
If, like me, you like to know about the literature of a country, the first question is, but where do I even start? I aim to bring you a start, to ensure that our members receive exclusive information, interviews, reviews, and other material about the key prominent writers, translators, and creative people in the specific country that we will be hosting the conference.
For example, in the next few months, you can look forward to reading lists, interviews, and other material about heavy weights of Chinese literature, and those who are going to be featured and appearing in our gathering in Guangzhou later this year. This will be an additional feature of our literary online publication LEAP+.
I will be travelling to Jakarta to attend the ASEAN and Makassar Literary festivals in May this year, and aim to come back with lists of Indonesian authors, critics, and translators, who we will continue to feature, leading up to our event in Indonesia in 2017. If you are in Jakarta for these festivals, please introduce yourself to me.
I also want to hear from you. If you would love to explore, critique, interview, or write about a certain author, piece of fiction, or any other related material related for now to China or Indonesia, I would love you to drop me a line about yourself and your interests.
APWT Short Story Competitions
As APWT seeks to foster creativity and skills development, one of my aims is to run short story competitions around the themes of the countries where we will be taking the annual event. These stories will be judged by some of the top writers and creative people from the Asia Pacific Region and Australia. This would be a great chance for emerging writers to get their stories out there.
All of this material, including selected short stories from our competitions, will be featured through our exclusive members-only magazine LEAP+. (APWT members will soon have exclusive access to an updated version of this online publication.)
Partnerships and Emerging Writers
APWT seeks to encourage and support emerging readers and writers. To this end we are building partnerships with universities and emerging writers’ groups and festivals. This ensures that we feature not only those voices that are heard already but also lesser heard narratives, those from the margins, and those with less opportunity to find platforms for their writing.
My vision is for APWT’s annual events to become one of the leading literary gatherings of Asia in the next five years. This vision will reach its potential only through your support, and enthusiasm… so that one day, when many other little girls and boys sitting today at home — perhaps in Myanmar, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Australian outback, or somewhere else in our vast Asia Pacific region — weaving stories and dreaming of writing and travelling to distant places, they will have greater opportunities and audiences to do so.
I encourage you to join us and stay with us in making this dream come true.