Inaugural Beijing Capital M Literary Festival: Great First Effort

man the times have changed!!! A few years ago, China was considered cultural wasteland as far as foreign literature went! heck, it was difficult enough to buy foreign books, much less have an opportunity to sit down with authors and discuss their inspiration/work/whatever…
My oh my!! we’ve come a long way. The Bookworm literary festival set things in motion and set the standard, a high one that is. Now, we’ve got the new kid on the block: The Capital M literary Festival with their inaugural edition.

I got lucky enough to get tickets early on for a few sessions that caught my eye right away:
A New Sexual Revolution in China: A look at what “sex in the city” means to modern Chinese. With Zhang Lijia.
Food of the Silk Road: Food writer Jen Lin Liu talks about her journey spent discovering the foods of the Silk Road. Photographer Craig Simons will also display his works.
Out of the Ordinary: Comic book writer Marjorie M. Liu of X-23 and Dark Wolverine discusses warrior women, shape-shifting men and how her day job as an attorney fits into it all.
Illustrating Women: female illustrator/writers discuss the graphic novel

The overall impression is a positive one!

– The first session i attended was pretty much full but that tends to be the case when dealing with a topic that is sensitive/controversial. Other sessions were not that popular by the look of things with only 2 paid participants showing up for Marjorie Liu’s “out of the ordinary” talk on a Saturday afternoon. There is no debating the quality of the speakers that Capital M invited as they were all quite prominent writers/experts in IMHO but I must say i was extremely surprised at the low turnout. I honestly expected some of those sessions to be sold out early! The saturday session had even received tons of extra push on the Beijinger with headlines such as “Every Nerd’s Dream” alas.. looking at the bright side, i enjoyed the intimate aspect of the talks.

– The price for most sessions was RMB65 which included a glass of wine/coffee/whatever that alone runs you about that price at Capital M so in terms of Value, this was pretty much ACE.

– Moderating what good! I particularly enjoyed David Moser and Jeremy Goldkorn handling those duties. They seemed at ease, interested and were able to steer the conversations and talks to interesting horizons.

– The staff at Capital M is really fantastically service oriented!

now, unto the spots that need improving for the next edition

Ticket availability: They were difficult to get. mypiao.com is not as effective or reliable as some other retailers/distributors. I ordered my tickets online but was sent a spreadsheet that we kept emailing back and forth with their representative because of mis-communication. I almost said “to hell with it”. Saying that “tickets exclusively available through mypiao” was also a big mistake. A few persons I spoke to were under the impression that they couldn’t just show up and get a ticket at the door.

– Timing: get the word out early! no one even knew Capital M was doing a literary festival until the week before it started. heck, tickets were not available until 3 days before it started. In contrast, the Bookworm had tons of their events sold out weeks before their first session.

I enjoyed the sessions and liked how open they were. A big surprise was the Silk Road one which felt a bit disappointing. That one would have greatly benefited from a good moderator that could have kept things from getting a bit dull. Not to take anything away from the speakers, but we expected a lot more conversation dealing with “writing about food” but then again, that could also have been an audience problem. Big props to Marjorie Liu for being all she was advertised and more… as an author, she’s incredibly talented! As a person, she’s as sweet as they come!

In a city that routinely sees 3 music festivals held at the same time, is there enough demand for 2 literary festivals to go head to head? The jury is out on that one but then again, why not? I look forward to the next edition… this one might have changed my life!

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