The Asian Writer Festival

More than a hundred writers gathered at The Asian Writer Festival in October to mark the ten-year anniversary of the online magazine The Asian Writer.

The Festival took place at the Wesley Conference Centre in Euston and was sponsored by ALCS, The Literary Consultancy (TLC) and Arvon. Speakers included established writer, Gautam Malkani; Not the Booker 2017 winner, Winnie M Li; and rising star novelist, Deepa Anappara.

In his keynote address, best-selling crime novelist, Vaseem Khan said that literary genius is a myth and that writers can learn the art of good writing through practice. He set out his five commandments for writing success: overcoming self-doubt, writing every day, knowing thyself, perfecting the pitch and putting the diversity debate into perspective.

He drew on his experience of having seven novels rejected before landing a four book deal with Hodder. “In the end, you have to write something you believe in, even if no one else does,” he said.

Panel discussions held throughout the day explored: writing rules and whether writers should break them (yes, was the general consensus); the role agents play in the publishing process;  and whether genre fiction is the best route to commercial success.

Those keen to take their writing to the next level found inspiration and helpful advice at masterclasses on short story writing and ‘finding your voice’. Selected writers also participated in one-to-one sessions with agents Jonathan Ruppin and Jamilah Ahmed who offered critical feedback on their manuscripts.

The day closed with readings from this year’s SI Leeds Prize shortlist, the only prize set up to champion the work of Black and Asian women writers.

As Festival organiser and editor of The Asian Writer, I believe that the Festival offers a unique insight into the experiences of Asian writers, as they remain largely underrepresented across the publishing industry and at literary festivals up and down the country. The spirit of the day is very much about community and offering a space where writers can be comfortable in their own skins. Often attendees come with all sorts of expectations, but go away with a feeling of being supported and cared for.

Written by Farhana Shaikh, Editor of The Asian Writer, an online magazine which champions British and South Asian literature