Monday, April 15, 2013

China, Part 2

I think the best part of being at a writer's festival is the chance to meet other creative people. I was lucky enough to meet some fantastic authors and festival organisers while at the Bookworm International Literary Festival, some very well known and others less so. Being at karaoke with a group of these people was a surreal experience.

Here are some of the great writers I met in Beijing.

Justin Torres

Justin is a novelist and short story writer from upstate New York. He is one of the most entertaining interviewees I have seen, simultaneously humble and revelling in the attention. His debut novel, We The Animals, is a gripping story of growing up.

When I saw Justin being interviewed in Beijing, he was asked a question about poetry. He claimed to be terrible at writing poetry and recommended Natalie Diaz, a recommendation I followed up and encourage you to do also.

Despite his denial, I think Justin's work is full of poetry. Take the opening lines from We The Animals:
We wanted more. We knocked the butt ends of our forks against the table, tapped our spoons against our empty bowls; we were hungry. We wanted more volume, more riots. We turned up the knob on the TV until our ears ached with the shouts of angry men. We wanted more music on the radio; we wanted beats, we wanted rock. We wanted muscles on our skinny arms. We had bird bones, hollow and light, and we wanted more density, more weight. We were six snatching hands, six stomping feet; we were brothers, boys, three little kings locked in a feud for more.
 I wish I could write more poetry like that piece of prose.

You can find links to We Are Animals and other work by Justin on his website.

Karin Tidbeck

Karin (here and here) is a Swedish short story writer and poet. She is a distinctive writer for two reasons: she works with speculative fiction and writes in both English and Swedish. She has work published in fantasy/sci-fi journals such as Weird Tales and Weird Fiction Review.

I didn't get to meet Karin, but heard her speak at a panel on short stories. I immediately read her collection of stories titled Jagannath, an eclectic mix of tales that deal with common human themes in uncommon environments. There are steampunk airships, fairies and personified plants. I was particularly delighted and inspired by the mixture of the familiar with the fantastic.

You can read an excerpt from Jagannath here.

Andrej Blatnik

Andrej is a Slovenian writer and critic. He specialises in very short stories - nano fiction, although I didn't hear him use that term. He writes in Slovenian but has had his work translated into many languages.

His latest collection of stories is titled You Do Understand It is packed with compact hits, each tale as tight and complete as possible. I found it very inspiring, each story containing a whole picture but only enough narrative to make you think. Like a good poem.

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