BEAUTIFUL BALI: Jeni Caffin takes time out from her busy schedule to relax at her lush new home in Ubud, Bali.
BEAUTIFUL BALI: Jeni Caffin takes time out from her busy schedule to relax at her lush new home in Ubud, Bali.

Byron to Bali, Jeni has many hats

JENI Caffin arrived in Bali three weeks ago wearing a "hat" labelled media co-ordinator for the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival.

That hat is still in place, but there are now so many tiaras and head-dresses teetering on top that Jeni says she's barely recognisable.

Now the festival's creative producer as well, Jeni laughs when she says: "I am water - wherever there is a gap, I flow into it."

Former director of the Byron Bay Writers Festival from 2007 to 2010, Jeni is now lending her expertise and knowledge to the 8th Ubud Writers and Readers Festival to be held from October 5 to 9.

Her participation in Ubud is being sponsored by the Byron Bay Writers Festival committee.

Part of Jeni's mission is to build a bridge so that Indonesian writers can play a part in the Byron Bay festival, and Australian writers, particularly those in the Northern Rivers, can take the stage in Ubud.

Speaking from Ubud recently, Jeni said this was a cause dear to her heart.

"I believe it is essential to share contemporary Asia/Pacific writers with our audiences and also for Indonesian readers and writers to discover what is being said and thought in our part of the world," she said.

Ex-Melbournian and long-time Ubud resident Janet de Neefe is the founding director of the Ubud festival.

Jeni describes her as a "phenomenon".

"I'm used to having 27 ideas before breakfast; Janet has them before her eyes even open at dawn and I have the SMSs to prove it," she said.

"I'm privileged to be her sounding board and tuning fork for festival-related matters and, my goodness, she's feeding me well, too.

"I shall probably leave Ubud in November the size of and shape of a small keg - hurrah for sarongs!"

Describing the list of more than 100 invited writers to this year's festival as "sumptuous", Jeni said the theme of "Cultivate The Land Within" was perfect for Bali.

Some of the esteemed guests include Tariq Ali, Anita Heiss, DBC Pierre, Alex Miller, Junot Diaz, Brenda Walker, Alexander McCall Smith, Marieke Hardy and Salena Godden.

"Ubud somehow provides the most tolerant and open space for stories to unfold, set against a backdrop of staggering, beautiful venues, both natural and hand-built," Jeni said.

"I have had the joy of tearing about with Janet visiting some of the venues new to the festival.

"Yesterday one of those, Betel Nut, took my breath away, and that ain't easy.

"It's a different way of working here, a different way of being. Vive la difference."

The festival program and information, including buying tickets and travel packages, can be found at www.ubudwritersfestival.com.


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