APWT’s Southern China Summit

The Curtain Rises — Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau


ON THE EDGE of the Pearl River, Spring mist obscures almost everything beyond the pathways around Sun Yat-Sen University campus. What lies beyond the weeping figs lining the avenues leaves room for imagination.

‘Ideas and Realities’, Asia Pacific Writers and Translators’ 2016 conference, takes place on this campus from 24-27th November. 

We spent a couple of days this Spring with Dai Fan, director of Sun Yat-Sen’s Centre for Creative Writing and APWT’s China host, mapping out venues for the November gathering and, with the help of Centre’s assistant Peng Dongmin, hotel recommendations and directions. See the hotel suggestions HERE.

We can give you a pretty good idea of what’s in store for our multi-faceted ‘Ideas and Realities’ event. And here’s an exciting news flash. Our APWT friends have offered follow-up events in Hong Kong and Macau on Sunday 27th and Monday 28th November.  Our main events, covered by the conference fee, all take place at the Sun Yat-Sen campus.

Here’s the proposed skeleton:


In the campus’s main dining hall. Jane Camens (APWT) and Dai Fan (Sun Yat-Sen University).


Thursday, 24th November, we suggest you arrive by mid afternoon to join us around 5 pm for off-campus book launches and/or readings at the Kui Yuan Café Gallery, Xuguyuan Lu, Yuexiu District. This evening will be at participants’ own expense. The cool artists’ café in an old district of the city serves inexpensive light meals and alcohol.

Friday, 25th November, Day One – a day with two keynotes, presentations and panel discussions (non academic), academic papers (in a separate hall for this new APWT conference stream), and master classes – concluding with an early Welcome Dinner on campus, hosted by Sun Yat-Sen. The conference fee covers this dinner as well as the light lunches served on Friday and Saturday.

Saturday, 26th November, Day Two: in addition to a full program of panels, workshops and, possibly, readings, in the afternoon we hold APWT’s AGM with announcements about future plans and our current status. That evening we strongly recommend joining us for an off campus feast at a quality Yunnan restaurant.

After dinner on Friday and/or Saturday, there may be an opportunity to join a local Guangzhou writers’ group (Spoken Word) for readings at an edgy café way off campus, for the adventurous. (The after dinner opportunity is not an official ‘Ideas and Realities’ activity.)

Sunday 27th November. On this third and last day in Guangzhou, we will offer additional workshops and readings at SYS campus in the morning.

Post Conference

1) Hong Kong – PM Sunday 27th November

The train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong takes two hours.

Join us outside the main conference itinerary (at your own expense) for panels on Sunday afternoon in Hong Kong. Later evening, 17:00-22:00 Hong Kong-based poets have organized for us to join them for readings at a bar in the city.
2) Macau – PM Monday 28th November

Our friends at Macau’s Script Road Literary Festival have offered to host readings at the Portuguese Bookshop. There may also be an opportunity for established authors to talk to students at the University of Macau.

The jetfoil from Hong Kong to Macau takes 70 minutes and costs around US$26 one-way. A bus from Sun Yat-Sen to the Chinese border at Macau takes two hours and costs around US$11, should anyone wish to travel straight to the former Portuguese enclave from the conference.

Let us know before 30 April if you plan to join us.

See CALL FOR PAPERS if you want to be on one of our panels or wish to join our new academic stream.

If you plan to attend any of the events in Hong Kong or Macau, or if you want to read or speak, please let us now by writing to admin@apwriters.com.

To obtain your China visa you will need to have booked your accommodation. See our recommended accommodation options HERE.

I hope to see you in Guangzhou this November. This will be the ninth and my final conference as lead organizer. Next year the APWT conference will be in Jakarta and organized by Sanaz Fotouhi, working with me on China.

Jane Camens
Executive Director, APWT


Merlinda Bobis, one of the keynote speakers at the 2014 Asia-Pacific Writers & Translators Conference, remembers what made it special for her.
NEWS FLASH (12 October, 2014) CONGRATULATIONS  Merlinda Bobis and her publisher Spinifex Press. Merlinda’s Fish-Hair Woman (Spinifex Press) has won a Philippine National Book Award in the category of Best Novel in a Foreign Language (English). Bobis is a Phillippines-born, Australia-based author and academic whose writing in Filipino and English integrates elements of the traditional culture of the Philippines with modern immigrant experiences.

In a panel on ‘What Women in Asia Write About’ at the 2014 Asia-Pacific Writers and Translators Conference, Cambodian writer and social activist Phina So tells this story: 

In the ’80s, Cambodian women published their stories by writing them by hand many times over in hundred-page notebooks, in order to produce multiple copies to rent out. These handwritten stories were popular; mostly about romance because of government oppression at that time. Sometimes the women read these stories till dawn, because they were so good; then they returned them to rent new ones, and other women rented the returned stories. Produced by hands that pushed back an oppressive regime, the stories were passed on to the next reader and the next.

Phina’s story stops me in my tracks—inspires me, moves me. How privileged we are with publishing technology at our fingertips. Then I consider why we come together at the conference: to pass on story, an involved and tender labour, a gift. Humbling for the receiver who welcomes the story with the reciprocal gift of listening. Gift-giving multiplies across different cultures and geographies, rippling the room during a panel session, a reading, a speech, over tea and pink rice-cakes or the generous lunch.

Cambodian writer and social activist, Phina So.

Cambodian writer and social activist, Phina So.

So the room expands and expands, as in a magical realist tale, gifts spilling out the door, down the stairs, to the patio of The Arts House, down Old Parliament Lane, chasing us to our hotels, even hovering over a little wicked nightcap, and on to the airport all the way to our desks at home, in whatever country or city.

This is what the 2014 Asia-Pacific Writers and Translators Conference has achieved. The gift-giving is never concluded, because wherever the storytellers have returned, we will be reading each other, writing to and with each other, writing more stories, more poems, more gifts.

So thank you to the conference organisers, the funding bodies that facilitated the events, and the participation of the writers, translators, literary industry delegates and supporters—most of all, thank you to the storytellers for taking us to moments and places we would have never visited otherwise.

The ‘multiplication’ of the conference outcomes is different for each of us. For me, it is immediately concrete in new projects and partnerships. Before the conference closes, I move to Nanyang Technological University to workshop an Intercultural Waters Teaching-Learning Project in collaboration with other conference delegates, among them Jennifer Crawford (Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University), Dinah Roma and Shirley Lua (both teaching at (De La Salle University, Manila).

Now, six universities from four countries will facilitate a space for the next generation of writers to imagine water creatively and critically across cultures. Then, Francesca Rendle-Short (RMIT) and I hatch a future creative writing partnership. Fan Dai (Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou) and I dream up creative writing collaborating with performance towards creative literacy. Mridula Nath Chakraborty (University of Western Sydney) and I conjure a book of critical essays.

And lest I forget, with the passing on of story, friendships multiply across the Asia-Pacific and beyond –
Indeed the room, this creative haven, expands and expands.

Merlinda Bobis is an award-winning Filipino-Australian writer, performer, and academic. She has published three novels, a collection of short stories, five poetry books, a monograph on creative research, and scholarly essays on creative-critical production, migration, postcolonial writing and the transnational imaginary. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Wollongong, Australia. She is working on creative-critical projects on rivers (Philippines, Canada), and on the transnational imaginary (Australia, Spain).