Panellists Clare Stearns, Sarah Brennan and Lindsay Varty provide insights into how they navigated around obstacles on the road to success

By Heather Diamond


This enjoyable and entertaining event, held at the FCC on 20 February 2020, showed that although our three panelists work in very different genres, their experiences have been similar. Clare Stearns runs a theatre company and writes plays based on the hidden histories of women. Her upcoming play, Mussolini’s Mistresses, opens in Hong Kong in early March. Sarah Brennan is the author and publisher of 16 children’s books with the best-selling Chinese Calendar Tales as well as other popular books. She is now writing children’s books about Chinese history. Lindsay Varty is a former professional rugby player and a writer whose recently published coffee table book, Sunset Survivors, is filled with photographs and interviews of Hong Kong’s vanishing traditional tradespeople.

In answer to questions posed by moderators Suzanne Andrews and Leslie Hobbs, all said they started with more inspiration than information, but they gathered momentum, wisdom and expertise by reaching out to others and building a network of professional connections. They all admitted they had made mistakes along the way, unrealistic expectations and deadlines being among the most common.

Lindsay, the youngest member of the panel, talked about the challenges of family expectations and self-doubt. Sarah discussed overcoming the stigma of self-publication and the need for accuracy, even in children’s books. She stressed that critical scrutiny is unavoidable if you are an outsider writing about someone else’s culture and history. Clare emphasized the need to get past awe of the literary canon and create room for yourself. They agreed that writers have to learn to stop self-censoring and benefit from learning to listen to feedback.

Writers and aspiring writers who attended went away rewarded, feeling less alone with the challenges of creative work and a lot more inspired to persevere in the process.

We thank all members who supported this event, despite the coronavirus, to provide a great turnout, and the FCC for looking after us so well with delicious individual small eats and a good bar.