His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn recently designated Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana to grace the 2012 Southeast Asian Writers (SEA Write) awards presentation ceremony and gala dinner in the Royal Ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok.
The Awards Gala was the culmination of not only the usual five-day SEA Write Week full of activities including lunches, receptions and poetry readings at Bangkok Bank, Bank of Thailand and Suan Pakkad Palace, respectively, but also the two-day "Reaching the World" writers and translators summit, organised by Asia-Pacific Writers based in Australia, in collaboration with Chulalongkorn University and the SEA Write Award.
This first of its kind forum, which took place a few days earlier at Chulalongkorn University, brought participants from over 20 countries, some of whom joined the SEA Write Awards Gala. There they had the opportunity to rub shoulders with high level members of the diplomatic corps, past Thai awardees, members of the PEN Club of Thailand and Writers' Association of Thailand, and other leading literary figures and enthusiasts.
Apart from Thailand, this year's SEA Write awardees from Asean comprised outstanding literary champions from Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
After a reception in the Author's Lounge, guests were ushered into the ballroom to await the arrival of Princess Sirivannavari. On hand to welcome her were members of the committee and sponsors including Thai Airways International, Bangkok Bank, TAT, Bank of Thailand, Thai Beverage, the Chumbhot-Pantip Foundation, the SCG Foundation, the Rex Morgan Foundation, World Travel Service and Siam Winery.
After photos with the awardees, the princess joined the head table in the ballroom. The dinner was followed by the awards presentation and speeches by each awardee.
The highlight of the evening was the humourous keynote address by renowned geologist-turned-writer, British author Simon Winchester, who described his own road to becoming a well-known journalist and writer after his dreams of joining the navy were aborted when he discovered he was colour-blind. He took up geology because he thought "travelling the world, wearing shorts and hitting rocks" was the next best thing to being in the navy. During this time, he polished his writing skills by having his work critiqued long distance by a writer called James Morris, who turned out to be transgender. He received a huge round of applause and compliments from the audience, some of whom even commented that his address was one of the best in many years.
His lasting words of wisdom for inspiring writers were: "Never lose the sense of wonder. You will, as a writer, meet all sorts of people. You'll see terrible things. You'll see wonderful things. Never become jaded. Never become weary."
And as a tip for those who asked him how to become a writer, he added _ based on his own experience _ "Study geology and make friends with a transgender."