WISUT PONNIMIT CARTOONIST/ILLUSTRATOR, 36
His favorite mangas: Toriyama Akira [Dragon Ball], Inoue Takehiko [Slam Dunk] and Adachi Mitsura [Rough]
Essential work: Hesheit 1+2+3 and 4+5+6, published by Typhoonbooks
Why you should care: He contributed to Katch and A Day magazines, before making his name in the motherland of manga, Japan, where he was named one of ELLE Japan’s 250 people to watch.
What drew you to be a cartoonist?
I’d always loved drawing but I wasn’t too ambitious. I never thought my dream would come true and I’d be able to draw and make a living wherever I go. In 1999, [music producer] Boyd Kosiyabong paid me for some of my artwork. From that day on, I thought, this is my life. Since then, I’ve drawn on and on.
What was your life like in Japan?
I studied at a small language school in Kobe, spending my days off working on my art to exhibit. At first, I was making these small animations in Thai, which I had to provide Japanese subtitles for. Later I ditched dialogue altogether and would just play piano to give my animations a soundtrack. Eventually, more people got to know my work.
Why did you return to Bangkok?
Over my three and a half years in Japan, I let myself become almost Japanese, just from my surroundings. I found that my work, based on my life there, started to look like other Japanese artists. I felt like I needed to distinguish myself as a Thai artist, so I came back. Thailand is awesome; there is such a variety here, people doing all kinds of jobs. In Japan, people supported my work; here, I’m kind of unknown. But It’s important to know who you are and where you come from. If everything always ended up in the right place, I might forget how lucky I am to be where I am today.
What’s your style like now?
My mangas are told through my own experiences, which means I have real messages to get across. When it comes to symbolism or plot, I have a deep well to draw inspiration from. In some of my works you’ll find things like cities in the sky, but there are reasons behind all the images and plot twists. Everything has reason.
Do you want your stories to convey a moral?
Just read and be happy; don’t worry. When I read a manga, I am relaxed. I’m freaked out by the idea that, armed just with a pencil, I could create something that someone might read and then want to kill someone. That’s not my way. One time while I was watching TV, a royal message was broadcast along the lines of “Don’t bring a useless thing into the world.” That message has stayed lodged in my memory.
What’s your favorite creation?
I am so proud of my Hesheit series [1998-2003]. It is an extraordinary work, filled with pure emotions and nothing made-up. I was able to express all of my true feelings. It turned out exactly as I had hoped and wished.
What do you think of the World Book Capital title?
It might be a good thing and encourage more people to read. Personally, I don’t think it’s too bad here. I think around half of people like to read. It’s great that we got crowned World Book Capital rather than the worst city for something.
WRITER AND EDITOR OF FINE DAE MAGAZINE, 27
Favorite books: The Stranger by Albert Camus and Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez
Essential work: Karn Mueng Rueng Surreal, published by the Thai Writer Network
Why you should care: His self-published collection of short stories won big at the SCG Indy Awards in 2011 for the twist they put on our confrontational form of politics.
What inspires you to write?
I read a lot, both non-fiction and fiction. I’m also informed by TV news and gossip. For me, writing is just the easiest way for me to reflect on things. If I had the know-how I’d make a film, but I’m more interested in writing than anything else.
How did you first get published?
I started really writing about two years ago. My first short story, “Me in the Dark,” tells of a man eating his own flesh. At first, I didn’t even think of compiling my works, but I started posting my stories to the Young Thai Blog (http://youngthai.blogspot.com/) every month. After I was recognized at the SCG Indy Awards last year, Mr. Rueangkit Rakkanchanan, the secretary of the Thai Writer Network, gathered my short stories together to be published as Karn Mueng Rueng Surreal.
Is your writing overtly political?
Not really. Although I try to apply a twisted logic to the news through my writing, I don’t directly approach topics like social class, serious politics or civil rights, even though they interest me greatly. That’s not the duty of writers like me. I like to inject dark humor into my stories. Some people call my work blank post-modernism, but that’s up to the reader to interpret. I’m proud of my literary style. I like to use satire to explain certain phenomena. In Karn Mueng Rueng Surreal, I used sarcasm and magical realism to communicate the idea that politics is all around us—we cannot run away from them.
What would you like readers to take from your writing?
I would like to be an inspiration to readers; to make them think more about their surroundings. I want to help people to read between the lines about public issues, to approach things in both a serious and amusing manner.
I’m putting together a collage-style novella, dubbed Pi Pit Ta Phan Siang, about the noise that fills our lives. There’s not yet a publication date, and the work is still incomplete. I will also have a short story included in a collection called Chai Kha Rueang San Vol. 4 by Khana Khian, for which Anusorn Tipayanon (one of Thai famous writers) is editor in chief.
What do you think of Bangkok being named World Book Capital?
I’m sure it’s with good intentions, but I haven’t seen any policy about what it’s meant to do. As far as writing and media, our country lacks diversity. And online social networking already eats into whatever media consumption we had. We can’t complain that reading levels are decreasing. It would probably be more apt if Bangkok was named World Gossip or Fashion Magazine Capital.
MUSICIAN AND POET, 36
Favorite books: Warren Buffet Speaks: Wit and Wisdom from the World’s Greatest Investor by Janet Lowe and Taj Mahal Bon Dao Ang Karn (Taj Mahal on Mars) by Tinakorn Hutangkul
Essential work: Sing Tee Yoo Nok Jai, published by Happening
Why you should care: Better known as the frontman of the band Apartmentkhunpa, Tul Waitoonkiat is taking his art to a whole new level; his poetry has even featured in an exhibition as neon lights on a wall.
How did you first get into poetry?
I started composing lyrics when I was a teenager after first hearing Pathomporn Pathomporn’s album Chao Ying Dok Mai Kub Chao Chai Hang Talae. I started keeping a notebook with all my thoughts and ideas. Then one day, it just seemed right to use all the emotions I hadn’t put into song lyrics.
How do you feel about negative feedback?
I was so proud to see my poems collated. I self-published my octameter poetry under the title 1905 2553, inspired by the 2010 military crackdown. Some people like them, some people are puzzled. They’re right to be puzzled, because when I wrote them I didn’t intend for them to be shared. It’s just feelings I had to get out. The circumstances touched me so much that I was able to compose the poems in just one day.
Poetry is often overlooked in Thai literary circles. Is it hard to get recognition?
No. Poets know in advance that the game we play is one that seldom concerns many people. As a result our tiny group is stronger and more resilient than others. Poetry isn’t simply words on a page—it can be just a powerful as the spoken word.
Who’s your favourite poet?
I think Mai Mee Ying Sao Nai Bot Kavee by Sakareya is a nice, contemporary change from traditional poetry.
What are your thoughts on the current state of reading in Thailand?
People like reading, even though the reading culture is not as entrenched as in other countries. Bangkok has one of the highest amounts of Facebook users—people cannot use it if they don’t read. Reading is not only about books. I don’t believe all the negative statistics.
What is your latest published work?
It’s a collection of poems I wrote before 1905 2553, which was compiled as part of Sing Tee Yoo Nok Jai by the Happening label and published at the beginning of the year.
What are your thoughts on Bangkok being named World Book Capital?
You would hope that it at least means that plenty of public libraries will be set up with good varieties of books and audiovisual aids. We still suffer from the lack of world-acclaimed novels translated into Thai. More budget also needs to be set aside to hold Bangkok short-story awards and support local writers by translating a select few Thai books into English each year, to raise international awareness of Thai literature. In comparison, putting ads on TV is just an expensive waste. Instead, we could use places like the BACC as hubs for encouraging more reading.
WRITER AND OWNER OF UNDERSTANDBOOKS PUBLISHING HOUSE, 29
Favorite books: GamGej by Utsana Phleungtham and The Castle by Franz Kafka
Essential work: Phon Ngan Kong Nak Kian Ta Nud Sai Phu Doi Pattana, self-published under Understandbooks (Khaojaipim)
Why you should care: The resolutely independent Worawich Suptaweesang turned his back on his engineering degree to publish under his own imprint.
Why become an author?
As an upper secondary school student, I loved to read. I would save my money to buy books: mangas, classics—whatever tales made it my way. At that time, there was a magazine named Katch, which had a column that took submissions from readers. I sent in one of my short stories and it got published. Ever since, I’ve thought becoming a writer would be an interesting path. Later on, I was admitted to an engineering program so I had to study.
What are your inspirations?
Everything has happened so suddenly. Early on, I would watch the news and keep abreast of social issues to inject into my storytelling. Maybe readers wouldn’t realize this, but I wanted them to feel the same way I did.
Why did you launch Understandbooks?
I had the idea of being a self-publisher, because I wanted to be considered for the S.E.A. Write Awards. So far I’ve put out Phon Ngan Kong Nak Kian Ta Nud Sai Phu Doi Pattana, a collection of my short stories.
Do you ever tire of writing?
Nowadays, I find it hard to get any writing done—it’s like I’m looking for a way out. My storytelling is simply not strong enough. I’m trying to read and travel more to have experiences to write about. I am always looking for something new.
What are your future plans?
Each month I write a short story for Pol La Mueang Rueang Son, a club where many writers come together to recite their works. I have a big desire to write a novel; I just need to settle on which of my stories I can expand upon. Hopefully I’ll have a novel out within a year. I’d also like to write a screenplay.
What do you think about Bangkok being named World Book Capital?
I’d like people to come together to discuss books like they do about Thailand’s Got Talent or soap operas. If the city is to truly be a World Book Capital, we must start promoting reading. The BMA could subsidize small, independent publishers to put out more informative, classic literature or translated works, so that people have more reading options.
Want a copy of Worawich’s books? We have four copies to give away. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
WRITER AND OWNER OF NOK KAO PUBLISHING HOUSE, 26
Favorite books: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and Pan Din Aeun by Kanokphong Songsamphan
Essential work: Kam Sap, self-published under Nok Khao
Why you should care: Since his youthful beginnings as part of A Team Junior learning the ropes at A Day Magazine, Katanyu Sawangsri has published an acclaimed collection of short stories, Kam Sap.
How did you get interested in literature?
After reading lots of books, it was like something struck me and I wanted to express my own stories, too. I’ve take influence from my favorite authors like Franz Kafka, Haruki Murakami and Milan Kundera. It doesn’t mean I write as well as them, but I’ve just gained ideas from them.
How did you first get published?
My first collection of short stories was Yu Kab Ku, which was compiled from a column I contributed to Happening Magazine. The editor there, Vip Burapadecha, was behind this. The stories talk about a mad person living with ordinary people, and what everyone learns from this.
Tell us about your publishing house?
After my short story “Kwam Song Jam” was published in [literary magazine] Cho Karaked, I gained the confidence to establish my own publishing house. I only really intended to put out my own books, so I could do things the way I want. I thought it might look odd if I put things out independently without a publishing title. So far I’ve released a collection of short stories called Kam Sap.
Is it hard to make a living as a writer?
Here in Thailand, only a tiny number of people read seriously. Competition is so high from other media. You really have to convince people that your book is worth reading. It’s almost as if you have to write a masterpiece. And then you’ve got to produce consistently or people will forget you. Right now, I’m just a tiny sprout in literary circles—the time is not yet right for harvesting—but I’m determined to prove myself.
These days, I work as a freelance MC for events. I’m also trying to write a romantic novel in the vein of One Day (David Nicholls’ novel, since adapted into film), but in my own style—not some kind of soap opera. Writing a novel is a big deal. I’d also like do more photography, focusing on black-and-white photographs.
What do you think of Bangkok being named World Book Capital?
It doesn’t make sense from the get-go. I haven’t seen anything about this city that makes it a World Book Capital. We just seem to announce that we want to be something, then think all we have to do is hold a few events. Before you know it, the whole thing has blown over. Reading is just not that big here.
Bangkok's governor discusses Bangkok's world book capital title