News & Updates

Announcing: 10th Bookworm Literary Festival, March 11-27, 2016

The clock has started on next year’s Bookworm Literary Festival — March 11-27, 2015 — which will be the 10th anniversary of BLF. It’s hard to believe we’ve come this far, but we’re not even close to being done.

If you have authors to recommend or suggestions on how we can make our 10th festival better than ever, please drop us a line in the comments or via email.

In the meantime, keep an eye on this space and across our social media platforms — on Twitter and Facebook — for more information.

Watch: Highlights from Bookworm Literary Festival 2014

Watch: Highlights from Bookworm Literary Festival 2014

You excited about this year’s Bookworm Literary Festival yet? Let the above video help.

Check out our amazing lineup of events, authors, and workshops. Read up on the highlights and events you shouldn’t overlook. Let us know if you have questions.

Download the PDF of the full program here.

literary festival writers on writing

One of the highlights of the past few weeks has been listening to voices from all over the world describe the act of writing. It’s almost as though each of them had their own unique job description. With the festival wrapping up tonight, I thought I’d share some of what I was able to scribble down during workshops and presentations I attended:

“Look at the world closely enough and it will reveal itself to you, and it will give you authority. Let the subject reveal itself to you: This is the source of an artist’s authority.”

-Eoin McNamee (Ireland)
Event: Perception and Form in the Short Story


“We don’t know, when we write. We sleepwalk…layers and layers…characters come to the surface naturally. It is not self-fiction. I am surrounded by singers. Voices sing out pain through me.”

-Dany Laferriére (Haiti/Canada)
Event: After the Revolution: How Literature Confronts Political Turmoil


“If a 50-60 year old says it, he’s a fascist. If I say it, it’s a fact.”

-Santiago Roncagliolo (Peru), explaining the younger generation’s freedom to write critically about both sides in the conflict between

My Experience at the Festival and a Chance Encounter

Me and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

‘s fair enough to argue the point that China, and Beijing in particular, is a land of contradictions. We hear about the country’s politics, it’s focus on a political system that is not quite true to its Maoist origins, we hear and read about the pollution that can often result in illness and a general feeling of malaise, but what we don’t hear about is the cultural richness and diversity of this city, and other urban areas within China. Of course China itself has a rich artistic history, as we all know, but what I found, as a foreigner working and living in this odften chaotic metropolis, is that there is a world beyond one’s preconceptions, and eventsa that cater for both the local and expat communities flourish on s regular basis. It was a friend of mine and co-worker, Ruth, who mentioned that she volunteered last year at a literary festival, and I

Ling Chen at the Bookworm Literary Festival

Ling Chen at the Bookworm Literary Festival

auth_lingchenAt last Tuesday night’s Global Science Fiction discussion, the highlight—from my particular and subjective perspective, at least—was Chinese SF writer Ling Chen. She spoke through a translator, which was itself an event within the event. Her lengthy, animated responses to the questions were rather baffling at first—after a few minutes one could scan the room and gauge everyone’s level of Chinese fluency by looking at their faces. There were a few nodding, engaged smiles, some quizzical scrunched eyebrows, and many blank stares. Having studied Chinese only a few months, I was more in the staring blankly category. But once her responses were translated—wow. She described reading “black” (I assume illegal) Soviet sci-fi magazines in an era when the whole concept of science fiction was highly stigmatized in Chinese society. Not the stigmatization of being a “geek” associated with science fiction in the West, but something deeper. Science fiction was officially denounced as pseudo science propagating inaccurate and unclear ideas. The few who read/wrote science fiction were subject to self-repression, loneliness, and

Two days with a popular historian

Two days with a popular historian

Paul HamThe assassination of a relatively minor figure, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, triggered an escalation of events that nobody really wanted or anticipated, causing World War I. Or so high school history led me to believe. I’ve been carrying this around as a “fact” for many years, and I’m sure many others who were semi-awake during high school are as well. But the answer turns out to be not nearly so simple or decided. With the 100th anniversary of WWI approaching, historians are still hotly arguing over its causes.  

Last week, as a volunteer at the Bookworm Literary Festival, I tagged along with Australian historian Paul Ham as he talked to school groups, writers, and audiences, addressing how he approaches writing about the past. He defines himself as a popular historian, an appellation sometimes spoken with condescension, though one he has come to embrace. He distinguishes himself from academic historians in terms of what he considers relevant information. In addition to sitting in

Anne Spudvilas Workshop

Anne Spudvilas Workshop Anne Spudvilas Workshop Anne Spudvilas Workshop

Thanks Chelin!

EWWC - Sophie Cooke on Style vs Content

EWWC - Sophie Cooke on Style vs Content

Style vs Content

Keynote address given by Sophie Cooke

First presented at The Bookworm International Literary Festival, Beijing

Sophie Cooke Keynote text: “Style versus Content, or: The Tao of Writing”

Ali Smith, in her wonderful speech on this topic of style versus content, proposed that we shouldn’t try to separate style from content. That the two are truly inseparable.

In my opinion – and of course everything I say here is simply my own opinion – style does. Content is. Style without content is vacant doing, meaningless activity. Content without style is unexpressed. Style is yang, content yin. They are opposites. Yet in harmony they create each other, and in the end become each other. So I agree with Ali, that it is impossible to conceive of one without the other. But it is very possible – desirable – to conceive of them as separate aspects of a whole, of writing in the sense of tao.

Why is it desirable to see these aspects separately? What does it matter, really, in a world troubled by global warming, unnecessary wars, soaring inequality, and unrestrained greed?

Cat by Anne Spudvilas

Cat by Anne Spudvilas


Unfortunately, due to illness, Mr. Haghenbeck is unable to make his event, The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo - F.G. Haghenbeck. Refunds can be claimed at the bookshop.

Also, Wang Xiaofang’s second Civil Servant’s Notebook event with the FCCC this evening has unfortunately been canceled due to unforeseen circumstances. Apologies to all who registered.


Extra, extra! New event with Wang Xiaofang (Civil Servant’s Notebook)

Good news for anyone who didn’t manage to get tickets to Wang Xiaofang’s Civil Servant’s Notebook talk! We’ve added a second event with the officialdom fiction writer. The new encore event will be will be held at the Dutch Embassy. Ticket are 65rmb and only available at the door. Please register with the FCCC ahead of time by […]

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Weird Baseball Facts

Chad Harbach’s novel The Art of Fielding is quintessentially American novel, set in the Midwest, featuring Moby Dick, campus life at a small liberal arts college and…baseball. For those who don’t know much about the sport, here are some weird facts about America’s national pastime. In one of the craziest trades in baseball, Cy Young, […]

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Excerpted: Andrej Blatnik’s You Do Understand

Andrej Blatnik’s collection of sharp, spare and occasionally absurd short stories addresses the fundamental difficulty we have in making the people we love understand what we want and need. Part parables, part fairy tales, part sketches for novels that will never be written, You Do Understand is a a guided tour of the slips, misunderstandings, and blind alleys we each […]

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Friday Reads: Volunteer Edition

Happy Friday! Today, BLF volunteers are reading: Irene Kuang - 1984 by George Orwell Sylvia - A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess Yi Tang - Stories of Ming Dynasty and Life of Pi by Yann Martel Jamie Fleishman - To Change China: Western Advisers in China by Jonathan Spence. (“It’s fascinating to read about the early history […]

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Beijing Stories Contest

Last year’s Beijing In Six Words contest produced some real gems (my favorite: Stuck in traffic. Might be late.). This year, we are back with a new short story contest, which we’re running in collaboration with The Beijinger: Beijing Stories (hashtag #BJS for you Twitter and weibo entrants.) Take a lead from from Hemingway (“For sale: baby shoes, never […]

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Excerpted: Justin Torres’ We the Animals

Justin Torres grew up in upstate New York, where his acclaimed debut novel We the Animals is set. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recent Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, he was the recipient of a Rolón Fellowship in Literature from United States Artists and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. His […]

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BLF Slang Sampler

BLF 2013 features a diverse bunch of authors. Hailing from more than twenty countries, they come from the South Africa (Sifiso Mzobe) and Sweden (Karin Tidbeck), Ireland (Paul Murray) and Slovenia(Andrej Blatnik), Haiti (Makenzy Orcel), Israel (Eshkol Nevo) and even the exotic American Midwest (Chad Harbach) They’ll bring great writing and provocative ideas, and yes, […]

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Excerpted: Karin TIdbeck’s “Cloudberry Jam”

A reviewer on calls writer Karin Tidbeck’s stories the result of “several fast-moving literary currents, national and international.” They include the dark Scandinavian folklore of her native Sweden, Jorge Luis Borges, Ursula Le Guin and American sci-fi. Her reworked fairy tales are arresting, disturbing, provocative and very good reads.  Get a taste of this exciting […]

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Friday Reads: BLF Staff Edition

Happy Friday! What better way to gear up for the weekend than to curl up with a good book. Today, the BLF staff is reading… Liz, Volunteers Coordinator: You Can’t Eat GNP: Economics as if Ecology Matters by Eric Davidson Economic growth can’t be sustained without a healthy environment. The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth […]

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Excerpted: Young Blood by Sifiso Mzobe

South African writer Sifiso Mzobe was born in Durban’s Umlazi Township, His novel Young Blood tells the story of the township through the eyes of Sipho, a “young blood” – a seventeen-year-old “caught up in a world of money, booze and greed.” It earned him a spot as one of the most promising young voices in contemporary […]

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