Why write: Georgetown Literary Festival 2016 為何而寫:喬治市文學節2016

很慚愧的說今年其實是我第一次參加喬治市文學節,雖然身為檳城人⋯⋯過去幾年都有事剛好不在國內,這次終於碰上了。對喬治市文學節的節目安排不是很熟悉,大多數都是主題論壇分享,對大部分作家也不太熟悉,結果就選了兩個付費的作家工作坊去參加,還真的是獲益不淺!

最近終於完成了博士班申請,想著等待中這幾個月應該要怎麼花,其中一個想做的就是認真寫作-但因為疏忽已久,有時候下筆時有諸多困難與阻擾。剛好今天的兩個工作坊都無意間提醒我思考為什麼要寫作這件事。

早上的工作坊是黎紫書的微型小說談。曾寫過微型小說,因為是A水準高級中文文學的考題之一,但記得每次寫的時候都非常痛苦,像是硬擠出來套進去一樣。黎紫書擅長寫微型小說,因此也成功點破我對微型小說的迷思-它不是一個讓你把小說縮寫的體制,而是你要怎麼樣在有限的字數裡去表達一件符合長度並有意義的事。她把微型小說形容成小盒子,面對小空間,你不應該是把所有東西都對對疊疊的折進去,而是選擇最珍貴的收進去,像是一顆鑽石,或一粒珍珠⋯⋯所以寫微型小說應該有寫詩那簡潔有力的態度,但寫的確是像小說一樣的題材,寫人,寫人性。另外她也分享了寫作對她而言是創新,是創作;所以即使寫了多年,她也不停止尋找新的敘述方式,而這才是讓她快樂並有成就感的事。

下午的工作坊是黃裕邦的政治詩談。因為出席的人不多,因此分享的機會很充裕。喜歡他介紹的幾首美國詩,關乎黑人歧視與女性被性侵的題材,且都有非常鮮明的個人色彩與風格,很有趣。工作坊中他請我們寫一首詩,關於自身受歧視或邊緣化的體驗。我其實很不習慣在眾人面前掏心掏肺,在自己的文字中亦是,但分享了自己粗糙的詩後,忽然整個人都輕了哈哈。我們在彼此面前把十五分鐘裡寫出來的詩讀出來,並互相講評,這樣的氛圍真的很難得,是我這個文學節得到最大的收穫。對這位詩人而言,我可以感受到他寫作是為了給弱勢群體一把聲音,去觸碰那些人們不敢也不願意正視的問題,去質問這個社會潛規則中的病態。

回到自己,那我為什麼寫?如果我有寫作的能力,我是否應該讓文字更充滿意義,而不是讓它成為濫情或呻吟的工具?我若尊重並珍惜文字的神聖性,我是不是應該更認真的看待駕馭文字的這份任務?希望在2017年來臨之前,我能夠找到屬於自己寫作的意義。

Georgetown Literary Festival, 2016Georgetown Literary Festival, 2016

I am a little ashamed to say that this is my first time attending my hometown’s Georgetown Literary Festival since its inception in 2011. Time and again I have had other commitments that lead me out of Penang, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself this year. I was not too much a fan of all the forums and panel discussions, so I actually paid for two workshops and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of both of them, as I had only heard about both of the hosting authors in passing!

A side note about my current state: I have finally completed all my graduate school applications and I have been wondering what I should do with my time while waiting. I thought of spending time to write seriously, but it has been a long while since I’ve done that so…inertia. Coincidentally, both sessions today provoked me in different ways, to think about why one should write.

I attended Li Zi Shu’s(黎紫書)flash fiction workshop in the morning. She is a prominent name in the Malaysian Chinese literary scene – though I have yet to read any of her works, I really liked that she allowed us to read a selection of her mini novels during her workshop. Most of the attendees were her book fans, and I could see why. Her writing has a very quiet and clean tone, yet they pierce through you silently with the twists and turns at the end of every piece. You learn to expect the unexpected in her work, and that keeps readers wanting for more.

More than that, I loved her analogies about flash fiction. In contrast to poetry and long novels, flash fiction is like the step child that has never been featured in the spotlight. Yet the genre’s length forces you to consider the economies of language, and most importantly, is there meaning to the words you put on paper? In the Chinese world, flash fictions are confined to 2000 word lengths. That kind of limitation pushes the writer to be more deliberate in the way he/she writes, like poetry.

Li compares flash fiction to a tiny box – we don’t give up when we are given a tiny space, but rather, we should consider what is worth putting in the tiny box. Perhaps a sparkly diamond, or a shiny pearl? And this leads me to ponder about writing too. Why do I write? Is there meaning beyond the works I produce, to the way I exist? For Li, she writes to create, and to push boundaries of creativity. None of her flash fictions are written in the same form and structure, and she is constantly looking to reinvent herself. That, to her is the reason she writes.

I attended Nicholas Wong’s poetry workshop in the afternoon. There were only a handful of us, so it was a really intimate session. We shared metaphors, attempted to write our own poetry, and even critiqued on each other’s works. We were asked to write about an experience where we felt marginalised, and I have to say it felt raw yet liberating to talk about something that is so private and personal. Aside from the heart pouring session, Wong also introduced some really interesting poems from black and female poets that I will definitely prescribe to my students if I have the chance to. For him, it felt like writing was a way to give the weak ones a voice. If I could write, why not write to shed light on the broken, the struggling and the neglected?

During the session I was pretty doubtful of my own piece, but I was told to throw form and figure out of the window. I guess for my first step, I should definitely try to let go of all the expectations and guidelines I have learnt and dive into it. Yet, I want to be mindful about what I intent to produce – and hopefully not end up whining about life or waxing romantic just for the sake of it (again…haha). Needless to say I left the festival feeling very encouraged, but I hope the organizers would look into shaking up the programme a bit next year! I was looking forward to meet Tash Aw and Amanda Lee Koe but they did not have individual sessions. Don’t know if I will be around for GTLF2017 but I will definitely try to make myself available this time!

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