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Jaipur Literature Festival 2015: First Speakers Announced

by Helena Kriel, Spalding MFA Faculty, Playwriting and Screenwriting.

Okay writers, students, journeymen and women, adventurers and vagabonds, the “Passage to India” international field trip is happening!

In case you haven’t already heard we are going on an international field trip to India where we will be taking in the Jaipur Literature Festival and then venturing beyond for ten days of creative adventure.

I attended the Jaipur Literature Festival a few years ago and thought: students need to experience this. In a circus-like atmosphere, in an old heritage palace, now hotel, 200 writers from all over the world gather for a five day literary fiesta. Four events happen simultaneously in tents decorated with balloons and streamers. In the trees green parrots shriek, in the sky flags fly, January being kite festival in Jaipur. And at night there are weddings in the streets, big, Hollywood type sets decorate large blocks and grooms ride through the streets on elephants or stallions.

At the Diggi Palace, where the festival takes place, writers from all genres and all possible countries in the world entertain, illuminate and share what it is to be this odd thing: a writer! One sits, listens, converses with others, drinks masala tea between events and feels full of… the world. And what it can offer. Sena said once that literature has become, must be, global.

I thought: Okay, got to get something together so that students have the opportunity to actually do this.

Each year the line up of top literary names changes and I wanted to give some breaking news. The first line up of writers for the Jaipur Literature festival have been announced. The line up looks exciting.

Nobel Prize laureate V.S.Naipaul who has published more than 30 books has confirmed he will be attending. All fans of “Eat Pray Love” will be pleased to hear that Elizabeth Gilbert is speaking. Eleanor Catton, 2013 Man Booker award winner for “The Luminaries”, is one of the speakers.

Paul Theroux who has published numerous works of fiction (most famously The Mosquito Coast which became a movie starring Harrison Ford) will be on stage. Damon Galgut award winning South African playwright will be there.

Hanif Kureishi, included on the list of the 50 best British writers, will be coming. Akhil Sharma winner of the 2001 PEN/Hemingway award will be taking the stage. Poet Simon Armitage whose new play The Last Days of Troy re-imagines the Iliad with a new ending and renowned writer of historical non-fiction Tom Holland will both be featured.

This is just the beginning of a list of writers that will number more than 160 in what is called by Tina Brown of the New York Times as “The greatest literary show on earth.”

The trip is shaping up.

Writers, students, journey people and adventurers are already on board.

I am your guide. I have been to India ten times and I know how that crazy, colorful place can fuel imagination. We are going to hear it, see it, taste it, touch it. And then write about it. It will not just be the Taj Mahal at sunset – but special ways of seeing the Taj at sunset and being at the Taj to fuel imagination, to look for material to begin a story. We will be at the Taj as visitors and spies and come back to the hotel with lots to share.

Our conversations are going to be about being writers, about what is easy and what is difficult, about what you think your strengths are and your weaknesses. It is going to be open and honest because if not then, when?

We will be collecting material and images and overheard dialogue. I am going to suggest exercises to begin to warm up those areas of your craft that you find challenging. If you sit in the chair and it all feels dull, or black and white or blurred, it’s time to cut lose, catch that plane, do something you might not necessarily have imagined and go in search of a colorful world. Go global.

Early bird registration ends Aug 31st. The trip is filling up. If you want to be part of the Literature Festival (with chefs cooking your meals and world music at night and invites to all the parties) if a camel safari and the Taj Mahal, if bathing elephants and being a guest at a wedding, if the blue city of Jodhpur calls, if being in the company of a teacher and fellow writers appeals, then check it out.

Get out of the chair and into the world. It’s that time. Because, why not?


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