The fest started in 2003 and has since grown into a major English–language literary event covering "the best in fiction, literary non-fiction, journalism, the arts, poetry, and more". There's also talks and workshops on visual story telling, design and architecture, children's stories, blogging, and the elements of poetry.
Typically the festival happens in March, but with Glamour Bar closed, and renovations at Glam happening at the time, it just wasn't possible. In August, Michelle Garnaut -- founder and CEO of M Restaurant Group -- and the fest's other organizers decided to push the event to November. This one is scaled-back compared to previous years, but that has its benefits as well.
"This year, it is going back, in many ways, to being more intimate," says Michelle.
The talks are limited to around 100 people each to keep that close-knit atmosphere and allow attendees an opportunity to actually meet the speakers. That's not possible at larger international literary festivals where thousands of people attend each session.
When I asked Michelle about her motivations for organizing literary festivals in Shanghai, she said, "For me, a restaurant is a part of a community. At the time there were no venues for any cultural events... When we opened in Shanghai, we were the only restaurant on The Bund for five years... There wasn't any community base of events happening."
That's also the reason why the talks cover such a wide range of subjects given by speakers from all over the world. Michelle believes it's more interesting to attend talks given by people you've never heard of. "One of the nice things is the surprises...of the things that you don't know," she says.
In addition to trying out new authors, Michelle recommends checking out the talks given by poet Musa Okwonga, Edward Larson, and Robyn Davidson as well as the workshops.
The Shanghai International Literary Festival goes from October 31 to November 8. Tickets are 75rmb per session, and that includes a drink. The Literary Lunches and workshops are 120rmb, and children's and student tickets are 35rmb. For more info and a complete schedule, check their website.
They've also got a Halloween party at Glam on Saturday evening, so expect some literary heads in the mix at that one.