Here I am for another post -- as I promised before -- and I'm going to break down the details of the event I attended last month during my trip to Ubud.

Before I have my own version of itinerary during the event, I'm going to quote the event description straight from the official website.

Held annually in Ubud, Bali’s artistic and cultural heartland, the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival has become Southeast Asia’s largest and most renowned cultural and literary event.

The mission of Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is to create a world class festival that celebrates extraordinary stories and amplifies brave voices; tackles global issues and big ideas.

We are proud of our continuing success in bringing Indonesian and international writers together on a world stage and creating a space for conversation and connection across cultural divides.

The next Festival will be held October 28 – November 1, 2015, and will celebrate the theme 17,000 Islands of Imagination. The theme is also that chosen by the Frankfurt Book Fair (to be held mid-October) for this year’s Guest of Honour Nation, Indonesia. The Festival has elected to present a united front in order to best showcase the rich literature and arts of the country to the world.

The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is the major annual project of the not-for-profit foundation, the Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati. It was first conceived of by Janet DeNeefe, co-founder of the Foundation, as a healing project in response to the first Bali bombing.

The event also gave the chance for people to experience being a volunteer. I, unfortunately, gave up the chance even before I sent the application, simply because of my own schedule was impossible to adjust according to the event timetable. I was supposed to arrive a day before the event and, of course, return a day after it. I couldn't say goodbye too early to my leave-of-absence quota.

On 22 July 2015, the lineup started to be revealed and I began to read each session carefully. Why? Because you'd have four sessions at the same time and I have no skill to multiply myself to attend all of them. This, people, took a skill of decision making for sure as there were so many interesting topics.

The main venues are divided into four venues: Joglo @ Taman Baca, Taman Baca, Indus, and Neka. I even made an excel file to write down all the topics, venues, time, and speakers. It's really helpful for me as I could see the bigger picture of each day's schedule.

As quoted from the website, 2015 programs include:

  • Main program
The Main Program spans October 29 – November 1, and includes panel discussions, talks and in-conversations at our four Main Program venues; NEKA, Indus Restaurant, Taman Baca and Joglo @ Taman Baca. The sessions generally start at 9:00am and run until 5:00pm daily with 15 minute breaks between each, 20+ per day, 85+ total.

*) I bought a 4-Day pass for this. I will write down the details of the topics I attended along with my own notes.

  • Special events
Special Events include languid literary lunches, cocktail soirees with your favourite authors, bike tours and more, and are held in venues across Ubud.

*) I didn't attend any of these. For your information, all of them (excluding Late Night Laughs) would cost you a special price as well, starting from IDR 150,000 to IDR 1,800,000.

  • Workshops
Whether you want to improve your prose or skill-up in self-publishing, our Workshop series featuring the brightest from the UWRF Program is for you.

*) I didn't attend any of these as well. The ticket for each workshop depends on your nationality. As an Indonesia, the price started from IDR 85,000 to IDR 250,000.

  • Others
Including Cultural Workshops, Arts Program, Film Program, Children's Program, Youth Program, Book Launches, Fringe Events, The Kitchen, Festival Club @ Bar Luna, and Free Events.

There are several changes on the schedule as the festival was banned from discussing about 1965 massacre. You can read the details here.

I think I should start with the breakdown now. Bear with this a-little-bit-longer-than-usual post. Here is how I will share it: I will write it according to my schedule, I will put the topic description as given by the UWRF official website, and then I'll write down my opinion or keynotes -- most of them will be in points.

Please note that I only share the topics that I attended. For other details, please refer to UWRF official website.

Here we go.


[Wednesday, 28 October 2015]

There's only one program that I attended on 28 October and it's included as Arts Program.

Don Quixote. 8PM - 10PM. Betelnut.

This multi-layered performance brings to the stage Goenawan Mohamad’s poetic homage to Cervantes’ story of Don Quixote, four centuries after the second volume was published. Goenawan’s words are brought to life through voice, live original music, visual and sand art; a symphony of creativity exploring the very essence of being human.

Supported by Embajada de España and Aula Cervantes.

I didn't pick a good seat for this event. The performers were in the center, reciting the poems, delivering a story for the audience and my view was blocked since I was a little bit too far from the stage.

I would recommend this for everyone who loves poetry but if you're not into it, I'm sure you will feel bored as this performance needs your interest to feel the emotions.

[Thursday, 29 October 2015]

The event officially started with Welcome Keynote.

  • Welcome Dance. 9AM. NEKA. A traditional Balinese dance.
  • Festival Welcome. 9:15 AM. NEKA. Festival Founder & Director Janet DeNeefe opens the 2015 UWRF.
  • Keynote with Endy Bayuni. 9:30 AM. NEKA. Senior journalist and editor at The Jakarta Post commenced UWRF with his keynote address.
  • Keynote with Mpho Tutu. 9:45 AM. NEKA. The second keynote of the Festival was delivered by the daughter of Nobel Peace Prize-winning, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Mpho Tutu struck the audience with a very strong question at the beginning of her keynote: "Is the world a safer place today?"

She asked, "What if 9/11 followed by introspection rather than war? What if reconciliation?". And she asked, "What if we focus on 'why' and not 'who'?". The whole venue was in silence as we listened to her words. True that I might have heard or read something similar before but, yes, her charisma took us in instance.

She said that forgiveness is the seed that nourishes the dove of peace.  As if the opening was not strong enough, she closed it with a powerful statement as well.

"Nobody wants to live in fear."


Writing on the Road. 10AM - 12PM. Left Bank.
Featuring Ficky Yusrini.

If you have wanderlust in your blood this travel writing session is for you. Not only will you be equipped with the best approach to capture people and place, you’ll learn how to apply it to fiction, too.

I got a really beautiful and ellegant notebook from Collins Notebook here! 

So, as the topic has told you, this is a youth program for writers who love to travel and, of course, write. I don't really put myself as a traveller but it's nice to know more details about travel writing. You never know if you will be one, don't you? *cross fingers*

Apparently being a travel writing means efficiency, data accuracy, and being friendly to locals. Just like reporters, every travel writer should remember as much details as possible. Lately, it's been said, that writing a travel journal with a storytelling style is getting popular as well but, yes, the most well-known and easiest style is travel blogging.

What did I get from this session? I know that I don't fit in as a travel writer category. Simply because I don't really take the details of every place I visit as I just take general notes around. Then again, who knows, right?

"The hardest challenge for a writer is to keep the self-discipline. Don't depend on your mood."
- Ficky Yusrini 

The previous session ended a little bit earlier so I rushed to have a quick sneak peek for Every Day is for The Thief, featuring Teju Cole. I like his speaking style (how can I even explain this?). He's straight forward and definitely knows how to keep audience with him during the session. Unfortunately I just arrived around 10-15 minutes before it ended and the venue was so crowded.

I didn't take any notes but I remembered him saying, "I like to begin with the familiar unfamiliar". Speaking about nice oxymoron here.

I also sat down for 15 minutes during Am I Making Sense?, a topic with all female writers as panelists. Each of them also read out loud selected parts of their writings. This topic brought the encouraging message from female writers, about being confident and remind self that we can do what we need to do.

Taking my time to walk around the area, found a Gramedia spot to buy the selected book which also appeared during Frankfurt Book Fair, found another at Indus by Periplus, I finally set down for my next fixed schedule.


The Writer's Room.  1PM - 2PM. Taman Baca.
Featuring Clementine Ford, Gunawan Tri Atmodjo, Deddy Arsya, Liam Pieper.
Chaired by Brigid Delaney.

A room of one’s own might be elusive, but what about a desk? Where best unleashes the muse, bedroom, treehouse, co-working space? Online or offline? Solo or surrounded? These writers give the skinny on getting into the zone.

During this session, a statement that I agree on was mentioned: in Indonesia, being a writer can't be a job for living.

The panelists talked about a 'room' to write; not specifically a place. They talked about the ideal condition to write and the best answer, from my opinion, is "for me to enjoy it and for me to like it".

Here are several quotes I really like from the program:
  • I write because I'm not good in doing anything else.
  • The ideal writing room? The room is inside my head, where the idea comes from.
  • "How is it going?" is a horrible question for anyone who's trying to write a book. 
  • As a writer, our job is to think.
  • Writing is like a running tap. Don't be afraid to write 'garbage'. When you have started, you'll find the good.


Why Write? 2:15 PM - 3:30 PM. Indus.
Featuring Amanda Curtin, Mireile Juchau, Okky Madasari, Nam Le.
Chaired by Rebecca Harkins-Cross

What sparks our creative impulse? Is it to record history, to imagine, to escape? Or purely out of necessity? These writers explore what drives them to put pen to paper, and how they keep at it every day.

"I will write for you the things that matter and I will try to write them all."
- Amanda Curtin

It's the best statement I noted during this session. The topic hit me hard about how writing actually could change the world. Not entirely the whole world, but definitely a change. This is not mentioned during the topic but I thought about J.K. Rowling. I mean, isn't her magical world a proof that a writing can bring a change? Or it's not legit enough?


What The World Wants. 3:45 PM - 5PM. Taman Baca.
Featuring Barbara Epler, Rukun Advani, Toby Eady.
Chaired by Tory Loudon.

Aspiring or emerging writer? Tick. Want to expand your book’s readership? Tick. Learn from blue chip editors and agents from the UK, US and India as to what they’re seeking in pieces that are picked up for global translation.

The panelist who received my interest the most is Barbara Epler, the president and publisher of New Directions Publishing House. This session discussed about writing globally so it made sense that I was so curious about her opinion, right?

Because the whole world is a market, not just one language.

I couldn't agree more with the statement about how important translation is. It can 'kill' a book; a mediocre translation can be a disaster. I found it's a true fact as I began reading the original version of novels several years ago; sometimes the translation doesn't do justice for the original.

Note that I used 'sometimes'. Harry Potter series in Indonesian are awesome. Listiana Srisanti (Rest in Peace) did a brilliant work.


Pecha Kucha. 8:30 PM - 11:30 PM. Betelnut.
Featuring Kylie Boltin, Zohab Khan, Peter Van Dongen, Antoine Cassar, Ee'da Sahida Ibrahim, Hyeonseo Lee.

Pecha Kucha means fast furious fun, as brave Festival artists step onto the stage to share things they love in the 20×20 format: 20 images, each for 20 seconds. This worldwide phenomenon again comes to Ubud; be prepared to uncover the unexpected.

1. Interactive Storyline by Kylie Boltin
2. Chasing Dreams by Zohan Zee Khan
3. Borders and Passports by Antoine Cassar
4. Rampokan - Bali by Peter van Dongen
5. Transcending Whiteness by Ee'da Sahida Ibrahim
6. North Korea's Orwellian Nightmare by Hyeonseo Lee

Do you know that Pecha Kucha is the Japanese term for 'chit-chat'? Do you know that the person only has 6 minutes and 40 seconds to do their presentation? Do you know how awesome this event is?

I just found out about this and I found it's fascinating. Zohab Khan pulled all my attention with his presentation of "Imagine". He is the current Australian Poetry Slam Champion and his high energy performance is absolutely stunning. He is born for poetry and I'm not going to talk about him here because he has the spotlight in later session.

The last presentation by Hyeonseo Lee also gained interests from all audience as she talked about North Korea, the country where she escaped from years ago. I attended her session on the last day so I think I'll give away the details later as well.

All of all, Pecha Kucha is interesting and I don't think everyone can do that. It might seem easy but, really, I bet it's not. 20 images and you need to present them as one interesting, continuing story.


So, that's all for Day 1.

I know. I sounded like I was going to write only one post for the details of UWRF event but, you see, it's too long already.

Plus it will be nice to have more posts before the year ends, no?

Oh, right, you can also read about the first day in UWRF official blog here.

See you guys in the post for Day 2!


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