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I don’t particularly like going to writers’ conferences. Some have given me a boost, whereas others have drained me completely.

Yet I am all too aware that writers must do the deed – the one that involves social events and networking. So, in a last-ditch effort I convinced myself to attend the AP Writers ‘Reaching the World 2013’ conference in Bangkok. I thought to myself, if worst comes to worst, if the conference doesn’t work for me, I could spend my four days getting massages, shopping or sight-seeing.

So when I attended the first meet-up at ‘Reaching the World 2013’ conference in Bangkok, I went with low expectations. But as with any experience that is outside one’s comfort zone, I learned a few useful things.

Six mini-lessons I learned from the AP Writers Conference:

  1. Go with an open mind: With apprehension I made myself go to one of the local haunts, the WTF café. I was greeted with welcoming nods and awkward hugs. I was lulled and amused by a variety of poetry readings. There were some very interesting, stereotypical-looking poets, the kind who wore a beret, were bearded, and appeared soulful all the time. And then on the other end of the spectrum, were the regular suited, clean shaven, banker types. One of the readings was about the variety of plastic bags in Thailand. Others were about love and suffering.
  2. You learn something about yourself: The panel discussing Contemporary Fiction and Literary Theorists: Theory vs Practice was enlightening. Do creative writers need literary theory? I often ask myself this and I threw a question out there: “I’ve written 7 books in 10 years purely with grit and self-education. Do I need to go back and study literature and get a degree?” Two panelists said yes, and the other two said it’s not necessary. This much I gathered: I was on the right track as a novelist – do what works for you.
  3. You learn something about others: At the author showcase readings I had the opportunity to be shocked and surprised by some very interesting stories and poetry, some of which involved eating dead squirrels. So, with my thriller instincts tingling, I doodled ideas for my next plot on the back of the programme.
  4. There’s a lovely surprise: The ‘wow’ factor was the Welcome Dinner at the gorgeous Grand Ballroom, Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Hosted by the Governor of Bangkok, M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra, the event was memorable and luxurious. I met the Ambassador of India and many other dignitaries. Thank you very much, Sir!Mandarin Oriental Dinner
  5. Awards have evolved: At the World Readers Award announcement, Nury Vittachi revealed a forward-looking world exclusive award that draws the line at the traditional way of choosing winners. http://mrjam.typepad.com/world_readers_award/
  6. You expand your mind: At the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre where the literary festival events took place, I spent a fantastic day with panelists who spoke on topics like Shocking, Astonishing, Fascinating, Intriguing: what children and young adults love to read; Masters of Invention: how much fiction comes not from imagination but from life experience of the author; poetry slams and many more fascinating talks. I also had the opportunity to display my books at the Asia Books stall and share my work. I was amazed at the positive response and enthusiasm.

So without a doubt, I came back enriched, rather than drained, by the AP Writers ‘Reaching the World 2013’ conference. I met fascinating people, listened to authors speak about their unique experiences, and even gained a newfound appreciation for poetry.

And with all that, I still found time to get massages, shop, and sight-see – best of both worlds!

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