The 23rd edition of the annual literary festival returns with an impressive line-up of literary heavyweights and immersive programmes. Here, we round up five highlights that would thrill audiences of all kinds

The anchor festival in Singapore's literary calendar returns this year to bring writers and audiences from all walks of life together, to share stories and conversations rooted in the theme of intimacy in a time of distancing. Eager festival-goers will be able to hear from 10 international heavyweights from the literary field grace the event—a record-breaking number in festival history—as well as experience a series of participatory and immersive experiences, aside from traditional panels at the multilingual festival. 

(Related: 5 Local Writers To Look Out For At Singapore Writers Festival 2019)

1. A Call Away

What Among the exciting festival line-up is A Call Away—a participatory work that begins the minute your phone rings. Prior to the phone call, guests have to schedule a session with organisers Artwave Studio and will receive a package of items that is unique to their experience. Once engaged on the line, they will have to follow the instructions mentioned on the phone. Not only will guests be invited to soak in an amalgamation of sounds that pepper the stories shared throughout, but they will also find pockets of time for self-reflection inspired by said narrative. The experience seeks to engage all five senses. It will also last for about 20- to 30-min long, leaving guests feeling refreshed and recharged after. 

When October 30 to Nov 8

2. Margaret Atwood

What You may recognise her for her novels Oryx and Crake and The Handmaid's Tale—the latter now adapted into a television series—Canadian literary titan Margaret Atwood is a household name and best known for her genre-defying works. Having published more than 50 volumes of poetry, children's literature, fiction and non-fiction novels that span topics of women's rights to climate disasters, she will speak with local novelist Balli Kaur Jaswal at this year's festival to discuss the power of a writer engaging with critical conversations and the ways it can inspire regardless of where we are placed in history. The session will be conducted live in English and is scheduled to include a Q&A session at the end. 

When November 3

3. Night Spin 182.7

What Tune into Night Spin 182.7 every evening—the radio station of this year's festival produced by The Arts House. To date, the programme line-up boasts a series of podcasts featuring American poet Ryan Van Winkle among others, and radio plays by theatre practitioner and lecturer Edith Podesta, Second Breakfast Company and actor Grace Kalaiselvi. Collectively they delve into a myriad of stories including those centred around the supernatural and mystical, romantic love poems and sessions on astrology, as well as conversations with homegrown musical talents Sam Rui and Gentle Bones. 

When October 30 to November 8 

4. Art Spiegelman: Serious Laughter

What American cartoonist Art Spiegalman, the force behind the Pulitzer-winning graphic novel Maus, will give his two cents on how comics can be used as an effective medium to address societal concerns. Prior to this, Spiegalman had been a contributing artist to The New Yorker for nearly a decade. Audiences tuning in will be watching a pre-recorded session with a live Q&A to follow with Spiegalman on November 6, 10pm. 

When Screening on October 31 | Live Q&A session on November 6, 10pm

5. SWF Youth Fringe

What The second edition of the SWF Youth Fringe returns with three programmes that each discuss the topics that have gripped the youth of today. First is a session with best-selling young adult (YA) fiction author Cassandra Clare—best known for her series The Mortal Instruments—where she will share about her literary inspirations and writing ventures in hopes of encouraging young literary talents in the crowd. Following that, she will be joined by two YA novelists Anittha Thanabalan and Roshani Chokshi at A (Teenage) Love Affair where they will discuss the realistic representations of romance in the YA genre. Lastly, Spill the Tea is a conversation about the public's relationship with celebrities and why audiences find themselves invested in the personal lives of these public figures. Helmed by an anthropologist of internet cultures Crystal Abidin and media personalities Brenda Tan and Yeo Tze Hern (better known as his moniker, Yeolo), the three will engage in this hour-long discussion live. 

When November 1, 3 and 8 respectively

The Singapore Writers Festival takes place from October 30 to November 8 

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