I arrived back in London at 5.30 in the morning on Saturday. The flight seemed uneventful. I watched a film (Ted 2 — I know, ridiculous, but so funny), had something to eat and then went to sleep. So far so good. But when I landed and turned on my phone I found I had nearly 50 worried emails about something which had happened in Paris while I was up in the air.
The events of last Friday in Paris are beyond horrific. Luckily, the people I know who might have been affected — like my son and his fiancee who were there for the weekend — were all fine. But many Parisians were not, and it seems strange writing this final update about all the excitement that happened during my trip, given the frightening state of the world. But the world is always in a frightening state, isn’t it? it seems to be more true than ever, but I’m sure previous generations felt it to be true then. My first impulse might be to hide under the covers, but then I force myself to realise that we must all continue with our lives, doing the best we can. And who knows — perhaps what little good I am doing in the world with my own social activism is even more important than ever.
So despite it all, I will write this blog, show photos of the people I met and the fun we had, but I know I’m doing it not with the jet-lagged hazy contentment that I had anticipated, but with a feeling of steely determination and anger.
So, Singapore. A place I first thought was nothing more than an overly bureaucratic mishmash of faux Asia, but I have since come to admire for its fascinating architecture, entrepreneurial spirit and peaceful diversity. After my two weeks in Cambodia, I spent 5 days in Singapore giving readings, workshops, and talks, and meeting with lots and lots of people. I spent a fantastic evening leading the Singapore Writers’ Group in a workshop on Writing about Place. I love giving this workshop and this group of talented writers did some terrific work.
WP_20151109_22_06_26_Rich-1Next came an evening talking to a book club about A Clash of Innocents. Since the publication of my second Cambodia-based novel, Out of the Ruins, I haven’t given many talks about Clash, and it was great to revisit it with new eyes and new readers.
Then, later in the week, I had the privilege of addressing a group of spirited students at Yale-NUS (National University of Singapore) with my talk on Literature for Social Change and the value of arts training. This is a personal campaign of mine to bring to light the importance of the arts in education and the transferability of skills, and this is a talk I bring with me wherever I go, trying to get as many people as possible to listen. I was thrilled to be able to add Yale-NUS to the list of universities I’ve now spoken at.
Then, in the middle of the week we held two very important events for  Writing Through. The first was an all day training session for ten new volunteers. This is the first stage in a two-stage process to becoming a Facilitator, someone who goes off to the country and leads one of our workshops. The enthusiasm and excitement of this new batch of volunteers was incredibly gratifying and reinforced to me the value of what we are doing and the fact that Writing Through has really tapped into a global concern about the need for conceptual thinking and creativity.IMG_0906
The second was our first Singapore fundraiser. Again, another presentation from me, but also a wine tasting and dessert buffet. This was the first such event to be held in Singapore for Writing Through, and it gave us an opportunity to reach out to new people and establish the foundation for an expanded support network there. IMG_0948
So all in all, a terrific, successful and productive trip for me, one where I wore all my hats — novelist, educator, social activist. Those are a lot of hats to carry on one little head, I must admit, but I am convinced more than ever, that I am doing the right thing by doggedly trying.IMG_1154