On Inspiration and Hope: A Conversation with Emerging Writers Nanda Winar Sagita & Cicilia Oday

Following the recent announcement of the 2024 Emerging Writers Program selection results, we would like to once again shine a spotlight on the selected writers. Ten writers were chosen from a total of 449 entries from all across the country, making it through the rigorous pre-curation and curation process by three Indonesian writers, Dee Lestari, Faisal Oddang, and Putu Juli Sastrawan.

We spoke with Nanda Winar Sagita (Nanda) and Cicilia Oday (Cicilia), two of the ten selected writers, about the books and authors that inspire them, how they feel being part of this year’s festival, and their hopes and aspirations for the future.

You both write short stories and novels. Is there a particular story or book that inspired each of you to become writers?

Nanda: If I had to pick one book, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner remains the book that inspires me the most to write. Emerging amidst the wave of stream of consciousness genre, Faulkner managed to create an original storytelling style that I am sure will remain iconic forever, and of course, I learned a lot from that work.

Cicilia: When I first started learning to write (although I'm still learning now), I read all genres of fiction without being picky. That's why the first book that inspired me to write was the Twilight Saga, then To Kill a Mockingbird. Over time, I have become a bit more selective when it comes to picking books and writers.

As writers, if you were given the chance to meet a famous author, dead or alive, who would you want to meet?

Nanda: Among Indonesian writers, I wish to meet are Eka Kurniawan, Dea Anugrah, and A.S. Laksana. When it comes to foreign writers, William Faulkner, Yukio Mishima, and Salman Rushdie are definitely on my list.

Cicilia: If there were a time machine, I would like to meet Alice Munro—who just died a few months ago. But since we don’t have a time machine, I would love to meet Haruki Murakami.

You both were selected as Emerging Writers at our 2024 Festival. How do you both feel about this?

Nanda: I feel like I'm one of the ten luckiest people out of hundreds of writers who sent in their work. It almost feels exactly like being in the top three in class when I was in school: happy and proud!

Cicilia: Surprised, happy, grateful. I'm sure any writer would at some point hope for the same opportunity.

How do you both think the Emerging Writers Program will impact or change your journey as writers?

Nanda: I believe that UWRF will offer countless new experiences and resources that I have never had before. The knowledge that I gain from the program will be a milestone that will help me improve as a writer.

Cicilia: Meeting fellow writers and publishers is certainly one factor that can change our journey as writers. But most of all, I hope that through the Emerging Writers program, we will be given the opportunity to be heard through our work.

You both will be flying from Aceh and North Sulawesi to take part at the 2024 Festival. What are you most looking forward to in the festival?

Nanda: Meeting with writers from different generations and backgrounds will indeed be very exciting!

Cicilia: All of it, especially the panels that will feature Bora Chung and Ayu Utami (both are my idols).

Aside from taking part in the 2024 Festival in Ubud, Nanda, Cicilia, and the other eight Emerging Writers will receive a series of writing workshops from the Festival, and their works will be published in an anthology and translated into English. This would not be possible without the help of our generous patrons in our community-building Emerging Writers Patron Program.

Do you have any message to the patrons or potential patrons of the program?

Nanda: Please carry on supporting the world of writing wherever you are… it is through writing that we can create history!

Cicilia: What you are doing is truly amazing, even noble, because not everyone is willing to become a patron even if they have to capability to. Your support means a lot to us personally, to the literacy ecosystem, and the art scene at large.


Cicilia Oday, born in Kotamobagu, North Sulawesi, has had her short stories featured in various newspapers and magazines. Her novel Keluarga Lego was published by Kakatua in 2021, while her short story collection Kucing Setan yang Merasakan Cinta was published by Pustaka Merahitam in 2022. Her writing also appeared in the anthology Dari Timur, which was curated by the Makassar International Writers Festival (MIWF) team. Cicilia completed her studies at Unika De La Salle Manado's Faculty of Law and is now a mother of two.

Nanda Winar Sagita is a writer from Takengon, Central Aceh, Aceh. He is predominantly known for his short stories and essays, which have been published in various well-known media such as Tempo, Jawa Pos, Mojok, Tirto, and others. Apart from writing, Nanda works as a history teacher at a local state school in Takengon. He is also the editor of the translation of Master & Margarita by Mikail Bulgakov, published by Mizan in 2023.

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