How will language evolve in the future, and how can we harness its potential in creating a better, more inclusive community for everyone? These are some of the salient issues to be addressed at the Singapore Writers Festival 2019.

The 22nd edition of the festival, organised by the National Arts Council, returns in November with the theme A Language of Our Own. The exciting line-up of literary events will feature a host of influential writers from both Singapore and overseas and will be held from November 1 to 10 at the Civic District.



This year’s edition will examine the role of languages in the formation of identities and communities in a world that is equally globalised and fractured. The theme invites authors and the audience to reflect on what they might consider when talking about different types of languages and how languages have both the power to create a sense of belonging and to also cause displacement.

Newly installed festival director, Pooja Nansi, says: “We hope to spark conversations around the importance of language in the formation of our sense of self and community, and in turn, how language can foster a more inclusive society in a culturally and linguistically diverse Singapore.”

Here are some of the highlights and picks for the festival.


1. Roxane Gay from the USA, author of The New York Times best-selling essay collection Bad Feminist



Festival Gala: Language and The Body

Date: November 10, Sun 4.00 PM – 5.30 PM, The Arts House, Chamber


Roxane Gay: Understanding Identity through Pop Culture

Date: November 10, Sun 11.00 AM – 12.00 PM, Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall, Victoria Theatre


In a Tiny Room with Roxane Gay

Date: November 9, Sat 6.30 PM – 7.30 PM, The Old Man


She will be speaking at the Festival Gala about Language and The Body alongside Singaporean playwright Joel Tan and Canadian novelist Kagiso Leseho Molope. She will also present a lecture on Identity and Pop Culture, and participating in the In A Tiny Room series.

2. Marlon James from Jamaica, author and winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize



From @1843mag: “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” is the first volume of a grand fantasy trilogy set in west Africa. Its hero, Tracker, is trying to find a child who vanished before the novel opens; but who the child is and why he’s missing, no one will say. The long-awaited new work by Marlon James – his first since winning the Man Booker prize in 2015 with “A Brief History of Seven Killings” – is on an epic, imaginative scale. Drawing on legend, history and mythology, “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” takes Afrofuturism to a new level. To read more about the book, as well as other recent releases, hit @1843mag and follow the link in the bio. Image: @markseliger #novels #books #marlonjames #afrofuturism #goodreads

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Date: November 3, 11am – 12.30pm, Victoria Theatre


He’ll be delivering the Festival Prologue, as well as participating in the In a Tiny Room series where festivalgoers can interact with renowned authors in the intimate setting of The Old Man – a Hemingway inspired bar.


3. American-born Korean Min Jin Lee, author of Free Food for Millionaires and Pachinko



Date: November 9, 4pm – 5pm, Victoria Theatre

She will be speaking at An Hour With: Min Jin Lee on her novel, Pachinko, about the intricacies of being a perceived outsider and the power of fiction in bridging cultures.


4. Novelist Pico Iyer, best known for his travel writing 



Date: November 2, 11am – 12.30pm, The Arts House, Chamber

He’ll be speaking at Beyond Borders, Beyond Words and Untold Stories of Places, Join him in the SWF Book Club too, a conversation inviting festival writers to talk about books that changed their thoughts about language.


5. The Festival Debate



Date: November 6, 8.30 PM – 10.00 PM, The Arts House, Chamber


An all-female line-up chaired by Ashley Fifty to discuss if men’s involvement in feminism helps or hurts the cause. 


6. SWF Roundtables



Date: November 2, 5pm – 6pm, The Arts House, Play Debn


Audiences and writers can connect in an informal conversation to examine a variety of issues surrounding craft and processes. Expect prominent names across genres, such as translator, Shelly Bryant, novelist Suchen Christine Lim, film critic John Lui and poet and former festival director Yeow Kai Chai.


7. Festival Gala



Date: November 10, 2pm – 3pm, The Arts House, Chamber


Featuring acclaimed writers and well-known figures such as Roxane Gay, Joel Tan and Kagiso Lesego Molope, the Gala seeks to bridge speakers and audiences together in trending topics.


8. SWF Youth Fringe 


Date: November 10, 11am – 12pm, National Gallery Singapore, Rooftop Studio 1


Discussing topics and genres that youth are interested in such as Young Adult (YA) fiction, K-drama, zine-making, memes and text-speak as a language. It will be headlined by Nicola Yoon, a New York Times-bestselling author.


9. Multi-media exhibition by Brian Gothong Tan titled Rex Shelley: The Gentle Observer



Question: is this the ugliest book design you’ve ever seen? I just wonder who at the publishing house was like, oh yes, let’s get some dark teal in there with that magenta and yellow, that will be perfect. This was my first read for Singapore and it was not amazing. It didn’t know whether it wanted to be a spy novel or a collection of anecdotes about the Eurasian community in Singapore. Still, it was an interesting introduction to one of Singapore’s subcultures, and I’m looking forward to the next book on my list. #singapore #readingtheworld #internationalliterature #bookstagram #booksbooksbooks #uglybook #colorclash #embroiderythread #bookloversunite #worldliterature #travelbybook #worldofbooks #rexshelley #horriblebookcovers #readersofinstagram #readersofig #bookblog #bookblogging #bookreview #bookbloggersofig #asianliterature #whatiread #booklover #booksofig

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Date: November 1-10, 10am – 10pm, The Arts House


Inspired by his seminal work, The Shrimp People will be installed, to honour Rex Shelley as its Literary Pioneer this year. Come experience a multi-media installation that explores Rex Shelley – both the man and the writer and his contributions to Singapore’s literary landscape.


10. Series of panels and talks


Date: November 2, 6.30pm – 7pm, The Arts House, SWF Pop Stage


Profiling Southeast Asian writers and their works. In addition, the indigenous language and culture of Sarawak will be showcased in an intriguing performance by Nading Rhapsody, an avant-garde ethnic Bornean ensemble.


11. A bilingual Wayang Kulit performance by Unggun Creative 



Date: November 9, 9pm – 10pm, The Arts House, SWF Pop Stage


A creative retelling of traditional Malay folklore with a contemporary twist.


Ticketing details are available at and