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Intern Blog: Everyone Needs Literary Festivals

by Jean Yu

I was once a quiet reader in bed. My Kindle in the dark was more wondrous than exploring amongst the bustling crowds of a book fair.

When we read a book, we see a world in miniature – that’s why I enjoy reading. Charles Dickens and David Copperfield shall always be my favourites. I read Charlotte Brontë, felt Jane’s dread and sorrow when she said, “Gentle reader, you may never feel what I then felt!” Lady of the Camellias was so beautifully written with a heart-breaking ending.

You see, I’m not a real ‘modern’ reader who keeps her to-read list updated.

It was great to have some nice, calm bedtime readings. I know this sounds antisocial, but yes, I was like that! It was not until I moved here to Melbourne that I first physically participated in real literary events, and I must admit that they were so different to what I thought. They were so much fun! More importantly, I learnt about many amazing contemporary writers and read their brilliant stories. Alice Munro’s Dear Life is one book that I enjoyed reading so much.

I find attending a writers festival or a literary festival can be a very personal, intimate and emotional experience. At the same time, it brings more opportunities for me to see how big the literary world actually is, and how fast it is evolving. In the last few years, such festivals have been emerging in cities around the world, and they are not just about selling books, but largely about literary ideals, writers, festival-goers and contemporary life. As MWF’s mission states, it’s ‘for everyone who reads’. There are heaps of interesting things going on at writers festivals: workshops, symposiums, masterclasses, and many other programs beyond expectation. I’d like to believe that, literary festivals are ‘hotbeds’ of inspiration and creation, for stabilizing anxious minds and bringing hope to our societies. So bye bye kindle. I’m embracing this beautiful journey of self-revelation and discovery.

Here is my ‘to-go’ list of worldwide literary festivals that I believe are exemplary, affective and intellectually stimulating:

Bangkok International Book Fair
Beijing International Book Fair
Berlin International Literature Festival
Bologna Children’s Book Fair
Buenos Aires International Book Fair
Cambridge Literary Festival
Deckle Edge Literary Festival
Eye of the Storm Writers Festival
Hay Festival
Hong Kong Book Fair
Miami Book Fair
New Delhi World Book Fair
Open Book Cape Town Festival
San Miguel Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival
Scone Writers Festival
Sharjah International Book Fair
St. Petersburg International Book Fair
Sydney Writers’ Festival
Taipei International Book exhibition
The Great Lakes Writers Festival
Ubud Writers & Readers Festival
Unicorn Writers Conference
World Voices Festival of International Literature
Writers at Woody Point
ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival

Find out more about Jean here.

Jean was born in 1993 in Shanghai, China. She is interning at Melbourne Writers Festival and will soon be a graduate of the MA Arts and Cultural Management at the University of Melbourne with emerging professional experience in the field of communication, marketing and fundraising in visual art and museums.