2013 / Josh Inman / Ubud Writers & Readers Festival

Surviving Ubud’s Writers & Readers Festival: One Man’s Journey

— JC Inman

With my clothes all washed, but suitcases still on the bedroom floor, I take time to reflect on this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF), glass of wine in hand.

Writers festivals are a bit like a coin jar: you’re never quite sure of how much gold you’re gunna come away with, and I think that comes down to many factors of your approach. For a writer, a festival is complex melange of business, holiday and personal development. For those who seek approved certification, structured lessons, lunches with publishers or concrete contracts, they will probably find themselves disappointed with festival aspects—cocktails, open collars and casual attitudes.

Those who seek to getaway, find themselves with a structured list of times and venues, and unmissable opportunities that crowd their mindscape.

I best heard a festival described as a spiritual gas station; you pack a location with thousands of like-minded people, each walking their own Hajj towards that one literary goal. A festival is a great place to refuel, re-spark and ask for directions before striking out again.

Ubud may not be Mecca, but you could see it as a Tibetan village—high up in the Himalayas, where you sit at the feet of those who walked before you to Shangri-La.

There were workshops on niche writing (travel, environment, food etc…) and even events for honing your culinary skills—cooking, cultural classes, art events, street parties, book launches, talks with cartoonists, create-your-own camera instructional…and it was all in Ubud—a tropical, spiritual paradise.

For those readers wishing to attend next year’s festival, here are a few survival tips:

  • Be flexible — a multi-stream/multi-venue festival will have some programming clashes. Don’t stick to a rigid schedule; with so many awesome events you can literally walk into any venue and be blown away, so it pays to be curious.
  • Stay local — the road from Denpasar to Ubud is a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam for the festival.
  • Eat everywhere — leave the hotel and grab some street foot.
  • Get an Indonesian phone sim card — have a mobile phone that can get wifi AND act as a hot spot. Ubud has wifi in most places making social media communication free and easy. However, in the more popular venues the volume of traffic can grind connection speed down. I noticed this in the Betelnut, where a lot of the youth culture events were held.
  • Get in early and grab your seats — particularly those near open windows. The combo of tropical heat, humidity and a thousand tourists can be quite noticeable.
  • Bring business cards — and talk to the person you are sitting next to. Everyone there is somebody of interest.
  • Give yourself at least an extra day for sightseeing — the UWRF is jam packed from 10am til late, and there is plenty to see on the outskirts.
  • Book online for ticketed events before leaving home — a lot were sold out the day I arrived.

Before I say goodbye and pour myself another drink, let me say this, writers’ festivals are a coin jar, but with the UWRF you’re guaranteed a fist full of dollars.

I left the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival with my tank full, windscreen washed and tyres inflated; reinvigorated for the next rocky stretch on the road to Literary Shangri-La.

JC Inman is a poet and co-host of the Canberra Poetry Slam. You can follow him on Twitter @JC_WHO_ART or Facebook

2 thoughts on “Surviving Ubud’s Writers & Readers Festival: One Man’s Journey

  1. Pingback: Self-publishing in zines. And a farewell. | CAPITAL LETTERS

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