KEYNOTE SPEAKER : 'The trouble with telling tales: memoir and truth'
One starts a memoir either in foolhardy ignorance or a kind of dogged determination, but some questions keep cropping up. Is your life yours to tell, or does it also belong to everyone in it? Who has the right to tell, to force into words something as ephemeral and brimful as a life lived? Does one anticipate and deal with the fallout of telling ‘true’ tales – as memoirs should – not only in the family but also on a national level? Is it a free-for-all in a time of fake news and alternative facts?
Beth Yahp shares her experience of writing her ‘fictional memoir’ Eat First, Talk Later, which traces the love story of her parents in Malaysia from childhood during the Japanese Occupation to the Communist Emergency, Independence and Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trials and Reformasi movement. In it, official ‘facts’ contend with counterfactual histories and what-really-happened with what it felt like. Which is ‘true’? Is memoir, Beth wonders, open to invention: filled with stories we tell ourselves and others in order to survive?
WORKSHOP: 'Bringing the world to life'
What brings a place to life in a reader’s mind? How do we translate our experiences of real or remembered places into memorable sites a reader may step into? In this interactive writing workshop participants take an imaginary tour, do writing exercises to make things new, and share tips and tricks to bring the world to life on the page.
Beth Yahp was born in Malaysia. Her award-winning novel The Crocodile Fury was published in several languages, and she wrote the libretto for Liza Lim’s contemporary opera Moon Spirit Feasting, which won an APRA award in 2002.
Beth has edited or co-edited collections of stories and essays. Her memoir Eat First, Talk Later was published by Penguin Random House in 2015. The Red Pearl and Other Stories and a new edition of The Crocodile Fury are due out with Vagabond Press in 2017. Beth runs writing workshops and lectures in the Creative Writing program at the University of Sydney.