Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Leaving Beijing

Thursday 13th March

There are moments when you wonder how you got here, like this. If ask myself this when I attend events and find myself standing talking or sitting on stage with famous writers.

I guess a large section of my personality is the budding writer, still trying to work out how to get published, so when I sat on a panel in Hong Kong with Colin Thubron a few days ago, it made me a little giddy. There have been more of these moments here in Beijing: bumbing into Arundati Roy and Hari Kunzru; being asked to moderate Brian Keenan (Justin - do you mind chatting with Brian on stage in Suzhou?) - Do i mind?! Hell no!

And then I interviewed bestselling Chinese author, Jiang Rong, about his book Wolf Totem. What do I know about China? I feel, but then I talk to other people, or read other books and it's only then that I realise that I know alot about China. And a lot more than other people who claim to know everything. No names mentioned. ;-)

It's also been nice to come back to Beijing and wander around the place with no destination other than lunch or tea. I don't like much of the new Beijing, but I've been taking lots of notes, and I see a lot of stories around me. I have just starting writing short stories, a form which has either alluded me or puzzled me before. I find it hard, I guess to start a story and then close the window on it without exploring the characters at novel length.

But I'm getting the hang of it now, I think: short stories are like little snapshots of a life or a moment, or in the words of Madelien Thien, when I asked her about her short stories, they're 'little universes all of their own'. This of course is the other great thing about lit fests - you get to hang out with other writers, and suddenly - after spending most of your life in an office, alone except for your imagination - you're not isolated. It must be how the puddle duck feels when suddenly the urge to migrate comes upon him and he seeks out all his fellow ducks and they gather in one vast flock to wing south - and I'm winging to Chengdu tomorrow.

This blog was originally written March 13th, but this blog site is banned in China.

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