I was delighted to have been invited by the Singapore National Arts Council (NAC) to speak at the Singapore Writers Festival 2023, alongside three other London-based literary agents, as part of the NAC’s inaugural International Visitors Programme.

The Singapore Writers Festival is a highly anticipated event in Southeast Asia’s cultural calendar, where award-winning authors, publishers and partners from around the world taking part. The likes of Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Carol Ann Duffy, Neil Gaiman, as well as Singapore-based literary talents such as Balli Kaur Jaswal and Jesse Q. Sutanto have participated in current and past festivals.

It was fascinating learning more about the Singaporean literary landscape from the National Arts Council, the Singapore Book Council and Sing Lit Station at a Literary Arts roundtable. What I found most interesting is that while there are several publishing houses and hugely ambitious writers in Singapore, there aren’t many local literary agencies, which allowed us to exchange meaningful ideas about how to connect authors with agents, and vice versa.

It was inspiring to hear about NAC’s ambitions for Singapore’s literary arts, and I was especially impressed by the grants that they offer for the publication and translation of Singaporean-authored literary works, which is so important in a country like Singapore that is as ethnically diverse as it is multi-lingual.

I had the opportunity to share more on how Singaporean and Southeast Asian writers could approach agents in a panel discussion called Navigating International Markets: A Dialogue with Agents. Alongside agents from the Wylie Agency and Johnson & Alcock, I talked through the value of having an agent to support and champion an author’s career, and the ways in which an agent works in their best interest throughout their journey to publication. The audience asked meaningful questions about the nature of our work, and it was hugely gratifying to see how ambitious local writers were about getting their books published globally. We later had an opportunity to attend a networking session with authors, where I met lots of talented writers.

Throughout the week, the NAC took us to local restaurants where we tried Singaporean and Peranakan food. I thought Peranakan cuisine in particular was a great parallel to Singapore’s writing scene – rich, multicultural and completely unique.

I had a wonderful time at the Singapore Writers Festival. It was a joy meeting passionate writers from the Southeast Asian region, and it has galvanised me to represent even more authors from around the world!