The girl is tap tap tapping her leg whilst the man is reading out his graphic sex scene involving bobbing breasts and excited members. I am biting down on my bottom lip trying so hard not to laugh that I think I might give myself an oral piercing.

We are in a workshop on writing for young adults. I’m just the volunteer on the door but this is far more entertainment than I bargained for. I am kind of qualified for the workshop because I write young adult fiction. I’ve even written a sex scene – though my agent made me take it out of my last book because apparently it’s all about the denial these days. Damn Edward Cullen.

The poor girl tapping her foot has a curtain of hair cascading in front of her face emo style. During the introductions she announced that she wanted to kill herself a few years before and is now seeking her purpose. Everyone claps enthusiastically.

She is sitting next to a girl in a preppy Indonesian school uniform. She must be about sixteen but she looks about six , with her shiny shoes and shiny hair complete with red ribbon.

The workshop leader asks if she would like to read aloud what she’s just written. She shakes her head terrified and mute.  I wonder if she’s written some hard core torture porn.

The girl next to her – an Australian who teaches sexuality through yoga – happily volunteers to read aloud what she has written.

This is so much fun I’m thinking as I watch the people in the room read out their work, alternatively squirm, give academic nods, tap their feet and look nonplussed. There are lots of ‘compelling’s afterwards and mutterings of ‘so brave.’

Then an Indonesian man in his fifties, a biology teacher, reads aloud a story he has written about a girl wondering if the boy she loves who is a science nerd will be good in bed. At least I think it’s about that. It’s kind of hard to tell. After he has finished he asks if it is ok to fictionalize yourself.

The man next to him spends fifteen minutes introducing himself but all I hear are the words peace and love. Peace and love. Peace and love. There is so much peace and love inside him he is about to erupt with it. I glance around for the Kleenex incase he actually does.

There are some amazing writers in the group too – people who write something in five minutes which I end up thinking about for days after. Writers that make me wonder how on earth I got a publishing deal whilst these people didn’t.

It also reveals to me the chasm of cultural difference between the Balinese and Westerners when it comes to talking about sex and swearing (things I do all the time). We have no modesty on our side of the fence. Having said that the writing that is shared is from our side of the fence is, for the most part, phenomenal.

The whole workshop has sparked an idea for my next novel. A year in Ubud. Kind of like a year in Provence Jilly Cooper style. Because truly, you couldn’t make this stuff up. Every day I’m filling up whole notepads with hilarious things overheard in cafes and bars and on the school run. Yesterday I had a conversation with a new friend who drinks her own wee. The day before I had a conversation with my other friend about gravitational systems for colonic irrigation.

I’m telling you, you couldn’t make this shit up.




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