Now in its third year, our exchange program with the Bali Emerging Writers’ Festival sees two Australian writers go to Bali and two Indonesian writers come to Melbourne for our Festival. There are many lessons to be learnt, relationships to forge and cultural ties to be strengthened. Australian writer, Lou Heinrich (Adelaide) and Omar Sakr (Sydney) are both over there at the moment, and joining us in Melbourne in May will be Ni Made Purmada Sari and M. Aan Mansyur. Here’s a short Q&A with M. Aan Mansyur.
Tell us about your writing style. What are your influences, passions and the messages that you try to convey in your work?
I write poems and prose. In every piece I write, I’m trying to say different things in different ways. I often think that writing is how I discover things, rather than an exercise in telling readers things I already know.
What are some of the challenges you face in the writing process, and what tips would you give to aspiring writers to overcome these?
I’m a lazy writer. I like to spend my time reading books instead of writing. I also can’t write in crowded places unlike other writers, although I live in library which is quite packed with visitors. I try to allocate two to three hours daily at early dawn while everyone else is still asleep, to read books I admire and recommendations from my favorite authors. This is how I learn and a solution to my laziness. Reading books is good, they make me feel haunted and keep me awake so I ended up writing.
What are you most looking forward to in your exchange at the Emerging Writers Festival Australia?
Honestly, I don’t have anything planned in advance. I like to learn new things whenever I’m on the road, such as visiting book and coffee shops. I’m expecting surprises since it’s my first time visiting Australia. Meeting new people, making friends, and learning from them. I would also like to see how literature communities and artists there work on events.
If you could meet one Australian author, who would it be?
At the end of 2014, I read two books by Australian authors; People of the Book (Geraldine Brooks) and True History of the Kelly Gang (Peter Carey). I like their works and read their previous novels. However, I don’t really wish to meet them. I honestly don’t like meeting authors that I like. I often worry that if we met, it would destroy the image that I’ve built about their world.
If possible I would very much love to meet Courtney Barnett. Lately I keep hearing her songs and I’m in love with them (the songs).
What have you been reading lately?
I recently finished Etgar Keret’s compilation of short stories, The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God & Other Stories. I read it together with re-reading Teju Cole’s novel, Open City. I like the way he writes and I’m expecting to learn more from him. At the moment I just start reading Clarice Lispector’s book, The Hour of the Star. I also read three poems compilation by Wislawa Szymborska, since I’m working with a friend in Poland to translate it to Bahasa Indonesia.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My latest poetry books, Melihat Api Bekerja got published this month. I worked on it for more than a year with a visual artist in Jakarta. I wrote fifty four poems and he reinterpreted them through paintings. We have published the artworks in the form of book and have had an art exhibition.
Next month a novel I wrote goes to print. Although it was previously published in 2007, I rewrote it. Right now in the midst of my packed schedule, I’m also preparing Makassar International Writers Festival, where I work as a curator.
This year’s Bali Emerging Writers’ Festival runs from Apr 24 – Apr 26.