Bookworm International Literary Festival

Ten must-see events at this year's fest

1. Best for creative types

Comic Books Workshop
Learn how to create personalities on paper using comic-strip format with author and artist Sally Kindberg, who’s currently working on her fourth Bloomsbury comic book. Kindberg promises to teach budding students how to use speech bubbles, frames, visual puns and – most importantly – reduce complex stories to a punchy form. A ‘starter’ frame will get you drawing. And who knows? You might get a best-selling film franchise out of it. Spider-Man had to come from somewhere, after all.

The Hutong, 4pm March 17; 280RMB
Also try
Memoir Workshop on March 18 (The Hutong, 4pm; 280RMB) with Tim Clare, author of the darkly funny We Can’t All Be Astronauts. It’s the perfect chance to kick-start that China memoir.

2. Best for news hounds

The Economist Panel
This year saw the launch of The Economist’s China section. Here’s your chance to grill those who cover this growing cultural and economic superpower. Join The Economist’s China contributors James Miles, Ted Plafker and Gady Epstein (ex-Forbes Beijing bureau chief) as they discuss reporting in China – from censorship and crackdowns to why it’s one of the biggest stories of our time. Not to be missed.

The Bookworm, 2pm March 10; 100RMB
Also try
Committing Journalism on March 21 (The Bookworm, 1pm; 100RMB). This annual favourite always sells out fast. The Guardian’s Tania Branigan, The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos, Caixin’s Cao Haili and Mary Kay Magistad (PRI’s The World) discuss the highs and lows of covering the Middle Kingdom.

3. Best for foreign-fiction fans

Friendly Fire with AB Yehoshua
Israeli author AB Yehoshua has courted controversy after claiming ‘a full Jewish life could only be had in the Jewish state’ and Jews outside Israel were only ‘playing with Judaism’. Yehoshua talks about his latest novel, Friendly Fire (2008), in which a widower is haunted by his son’s death on the West Bank. This talk promises to raise hard questions about the meaning of Judaism and the Middle East problem.

The Bookworm, 6pm March 10; 80RMB
Also try
Snow White and Russian Red with Dorota Maslowska on March 21 (The Bookworm, 8pm; 65RMB). Whizzkid Maslowska details gritty tales of the urban badlands in post-Communist Poland. An important new voice.

4. Best for foodies

Spicy, Sweet, Bitter, Salty, Sour
Beijing is a foodie’s paradise, chronicled by bloggers, food writers and cookbook creators. With the restaurant scene coming on leaps and bounds, many key figures within the industry are now embracing efforts to build a farm-to-table system and support safe, local and seasonal organic farming.

Chaired by Time Out Beijing’s food editor, Lillian Chou, each of our panelists – including multi-Time Out Food Award winning chef Max Levy; cheese-maker and founder of Le Fromager de Pékin, Liu Yang; and Therese Rose (aka Zhang Zhimin), organic farmer and founder of God’s Grace Garden – will take us through their experiences of being involved with the local organic food movement.

With this year’s Time Out Food Awards including a Best Sustainability award, the resurrection of Slow Food Beijing and recent food scandals in China, this discussion has never been more relevant.

The Bookworm, 6pm March 12; 65RMB
Also try
Food from Fiction on March 18 (The Hutong, 11am; 420RMB, price includes book). If tasting the forbidden fruits of Narnia seems impossible, think again. In this special event, The Hutong chefs guide you through recipes from Jane Brocket’s Turkish Delight & Treasure Hunts: Delightful Treats and Games from Classic Children’s Books. A chance to bring your favourite food from fiction to life.

5. Best for film fanatics

Electric Shadows: May Your Pen Grace the Screen
Electric Shadows, Time Out and The Bookworm have teamed up to bring you a new competition:‘May Your Pen Grace the Screen’. Competing filmmakers used Australian slam-poet Luka Lesson’s titular poem as a starting point to create a film under ten minutes in length. Join the panel – The Bookworm International Literary Festival (BLF) director Kadi Hughes, Electric Shadows founder Vicky Mohieddeen and Time Out Beijing film editor Wang Ge – to judge the results and witness Luka recite his poem live.

The Bookworm, 10pm March 14; 50RMB.
Also try
Wolves Unleashed: How to Train Wolves for Film on March 11 (The Bookworm, 6pm; 65RMB). Join animal trainer Andrew Simpson as he gives tips on harnessing a pack of bloodthirsty carnivores into fuzzy film stars. He’ll talk about his work on the upcoming screen adaptation of Jiang Rong’s bestselling Cultural Revolution novel Wolf Totem.

6. Best for Chinese literature lovers

China in Ten Words with Yu Hua
Yu Hua (Brothers; To Live) is one of China’s best-loved authors. The Beijing-based Yu introduces his controversial new book of essays, each organised around a single word – ‘People’, ‘Reading’, ‘Copycat’ – elucidating China’s constantly shifting landscape, and mixing memoir with hard-hitting fact. An insightful look at China’s past and present from a writer’s perspective.

The Bookworm, 8pm March 14; 100RMB.
Also try
From Banished! to Screwed with Han Dong on March 17 (The Bookworm, midday; 65RMB). Han Dong’s Banished! was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. Here, the author and poet discusses his latest, Metamorphosis of an Educated Youth (partly translated under the title Screwed), about a student sent to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution.

7. Best for history enthusiasts

Tiger Head, Snake Tails: China Today by Jonathan Fenby
Jonathan Fenby, former editor of The Observer and South China Morning Post, is one of the best historians writing on China today. In Tiger Head, Snake Tails (hot off the press in March) Fenby asks if China will rule the world – or crash and burn. A perfect opportunity to see why Fenby approaches this conundrum with caution.

The Bookworm, midday March 10; 80RMB.
Also try
Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes: The Tangshan Earthquake and the Death of Mao’s China with James Palmer on March 11 (The Bookworm, midday; 65RMB). Time Out’s ‘Slice of Life’ columnist tackles the fateful summer of 1976, when Mao lay dying as one of the world’s most devastating earthquakes hit the city of Tangshan, killing hundreds of thousands.

8. Best for comedy fans

Death Drive: a performance by Tim Clare
Good comedy in Beijing is thin on the ground. In his painfully honest stand-up show ‘Death Drive’, British poet and author Tim Clare describes his life when down and out – and the moment his father staged a double-suicide attempt to shock him out of his misery. Described as a ‘heartfelt and wildly entertaining hour’, the show received four stars in Edinburgh’s The List when it played at the Edinburgh International Festival last year. Grab your sides and laugh while you can: who knows when the next clown will come to town?

The Bookworm, 8pm March 19; 80RMB.
Also try
Please Resist Me: a performance by Luka Lesson on March 11 (The Bookworm, 8pm; 80RMB). Luka Lesson, the 2011 Australian National Poetry Slam champion, offers Beijingers a chance to see poetry as it should be performed.

9. Best for sports nuts

They Think It’s All Over: sports writing with Alan Bissett, Rowan Simons and Peter Simpson
Think sports writing and your mind might wander to the back pages of your favourite newspaper. This panel sets out to prove it can take many forms, from memoir to fiction to reporting. Join sports reporter Peter Simpson with authors Alan Bissett (Pack Men) and Rowan Simons (Bamboo Goalposts) as they travel from pitch to page.

The Bookworm, 6pm March 12; 80RMB.
Also try
Pack Men: Football, Brotherhood and Beer with Alan Bissett on March 20 (The Bookworm, 8pm; 65RMB). If you still can’t get enough of the beautiful game, listen to Scot Alan Bissett discuss Pack Men, a comic novel about the chaos that fanatical fans can cause.

10. Best for amateur sleuths

The Day is Dark: Scandinavian crime writing with Yrsa Siguroardóttir
We all love a bit of Nordic crime drama. If you’ve already devoured Stieg Larsson and are gagging for more, here’s a chance to discover best-selling Icelandic crime writer Yrsa Siguroardóttir. Her latest, The Day is Dark, is set in the hinterlands of Greenland as two Icelanders disappear on a scientific expedition.
The Bookworm, 8pm March 18; 65RMB.
Also try
Knifepoint: Chinese spy thrillers with Mai Jia on March 14 (The Bookworm, 6pm; 80RMB). Get to know one of China’s most celebrated spy novelists. Mai’s work has both won the prestigious Mao Dun Literature Prize and been adapted for film and TV. Knifepoint, his latest, pits a CCP spy against a Kuomintang undercover agent.

BLF tickets are available now from The Bookworm
The festival runs from 9-23 March. See for details.