Sunday, April 26, 2015

A little high a little low – my experience at the A&K Lit fest.

I thought I was late… in fact I was… maybe by a minute or two.
I rushed to The Western Province Aesthetic centre where the A&K lit fest was held with great Anticipation. I did not even want to miss a minute of the session titled “Undoing the Stigma of Broken English” which was bound to be intriguing. I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw one of the panelist standing near the entrane chatting casually with some friends. “Thank Goodness for Sri Lankan time” I said to my self as I went to say hello only to realise that the session had been advanced to 10.30 from12 p.m without my knowledge. What a kick in the nuts.
But then as someone wise said “Every dark cloud has a silver lining”
In this case it meant I was now free to witness Shehan Karunathilaka and Dileepa Abeysekera talking about “A writers Creative process”. There was an over lap of these sessions before and I was torn between deciding if I should leave half way of one program to view the entirety of the other or vice versa.
Guess now I had one less problem to deal with.
I had never been to The Asethetic Centre before. In fact many people had even not heard of this place till they thought of attending the A&K lit fest. Anyway the halls were large and airconditioned with comfy seating. I ensconed my self in a chair found a colleague to chat with and waited for the action to begin.
Shehan started the session as Dileepa was getting late. Not only did he talk us through the writing process which he uses but also read an excerpt from his upcoming new novel the only line of which I can remember right now being “The Portugese took us from the missionary position while the Dutch gave it to us from behind…” but trust me when I tell you there was pin drop silence in the audience has he read that short piece. It was beautifuly crafted art in words. He also did another reading of a short story titled “Diaspora” which was pretty good too.
Shehan shared a few valid tips with the audience on the process he goes through when writing.
Two of them which I found really useful.
The first was to stick to a word quota every day regardless of the fact that if you are in the mood to write or not. It could be 500, 1000 or even 2000 words but you need to belt it out on a daily basis. No excuses.
The second was to read books and watch movies that you want your novel to sound like.
Oh there is a third which is to switch off all things which can take away your attention from your project when you are working and of course constant revision.
When Dileepa joined Shehan on stage we realised that it was not two random people bought together by the organisers of the event. But that both of them had teamed up to do a Sinhalese Version of the “Chinaman”
This was the first book Dileepa had developed a Sinhalese version of. “I was in a café in Switzerland and my guest who was opposite me did not know about Sri Lanka” he told the audience as he shared his motive for chosing this particular novel out of all the books by local authors out their in the market. “I pointed out to Ceylon Tea on the menu and said this is my country. But he said you are from Sri Lanka this is ceylon. And I had to go through a lenghty process to educate him that both these were one and the same.”
“It was the winning of the cricket world cup which put us on the map making the world realise that this country had something world class to offer. So when I saw this great book about cricket from a fellow advertising colleague which was winning awards all across the world I thought I should do a Sinhala version of it as there is nothing about cricket in Sinhalese literature”
I use the words “Sinhalese Version” intentionally because it is not a translation. Much to my delight I was able to buy an autographed copy at the venue. I have not dug into it yet because after seeing Shehan speak I thought of reading “The Chinaman” for the second time round. This time I bought myself the digital version and looking forward to enjoy a trip down memory lane admiring the life and times of W. G karunasena before I dig in to the Sinhala version.

This is a shaky video I have taken from my phone of Shehan reading out his short story Diaspora. Don't look at it for the picture quality but just as a means to an end to hear his words.

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