We send this out with today’s much hoped-for news that Hong Kong is relaxing its hotel “quarantine rule”. While we might have liked it removed completely, it is another step towards normality.
MESSAGE FROM SUZANNE
Hello Dear Members
It’s been an honour to have been part of our WiPS family these past three years, but now it’s time for me to step down as president. I am leaving Hong Kong in early August after being here for ten whole years. I am teary-eyed at the prospect, but now that WiPS is officially 30 years old and humming, and we have our new “rule by committee” status, I am thrilled to be able to leave the society with such a motivated and caring committee. They will ensure that WiPS remains robust and rocking, as evidenced by our Imprint 20 launch this year.
I will miss you all but won’t disappear entirely.
Big hug to everyone
By Gillian Kew
Our Book Club has now been running for four months and we have read and reviewed four books, with opinions varying from “Meah!” to “Fab!”.
We are a warm and friendly group, welcoming all opinions on our book choices and enjoying a lively, inter-book discourse via WhatsApp. During our monthly Zoom sessions, we have some great discussions about the books and the issues they raise. We don’t always agree, but where would the fun be if we did?
Holding meetings over Zoom means that anyone in a reasonably compatible time zone can take part, which is a definite and unforeseen bonus. Of course, it would be lovely to get together in a physical space as virtual gatherings do have their drawbacks. With that in mind, we are considering holding a face-to-face session in the autumn for our Hong Kong members. We will be polling you on this and we welcome everyone’s input.
Meanwhile, I think it’s fair to say that the Book Club is proving to be a popular feature of the WiPS programme.
Our August book is Old Filth by Jane Gardam. We meet via Zoom on August 20 at 4pm HK time. It’s free for members and HK$80 for non-members. You can register through our website [https://www.hkwips.com/event/book-club-august-2022/].
By Rinkoo Ramchandani
Six months on, and the writing workshop regulars are bonding over laughter as the group forms its own dynamic personality, marked by comfort and camaraderie.
We have updated the rules to expand the word limit to 2,000 but to restrict re-writes to two rounds. The diversity of the prose submissions we’ve seen speaks to the exceptional talent of the participating WiPS members.
Two of our regulars are working on novels, painstakingly submitting a chapter each month, leaving the rest of us in suspended anticipation as we wait to find out what has now happened. Other members are wistfully looking back on memorable experiences through the form of personal essays, while the rest entertain with short stories ranging from spooky to satirical. But the fun doesn’t stop there – this past week we even made up our own drinking game called “Andy, you’re on mute” with self-explanatory rules.
In between sessions, we stay connected through a WhatsApp group about upcoming deadlines and the occasional sassy meme nudging everyone to get back to their writing.
Our next workshop takes place on September 2, Friday at 3pm via Zoom (limited space). It’s free for members and HK$80 for non-members. To join us, please go to our website [https://www.hkwips.com/event/writing-workshop-september-2022/].
By Carol Dyer
John Saeki and Pete Spurrier on how to earn your stripes in Hong Kong’s publishing industry. (Moderated by Suzanne Andrews)
Publishing John Saeki’s The Last Tigers of Hong Kong (ISBN: 978-988-75546-1-5) in the Year of the Tiger was serendipitous: Covid had delayed Blacksmith Books’ earlier planned release. It was equally unintentional that WiPS held its event on the eve of the International Day of the Tiger, 29 July (shamefully, we were not aware there was one!).
But nothing was left to chance in John Saeki’s research for his fascinating book. Historical references were hard to find, which probably explains why no one else has tackled the topic, and they were painstakingly and meticulously hunted down. Drawn to his subject by the sheer contrast of Hong Kong’s image as an urban jungle and the roaming of a ferocious wild beast at its fringes, Saeki spent many months in scanning newspaper archives; trying to locate New Territory’s villagers who were old enough to have seen a tiger in the wild; and reading the tiger tales of American missionary Harry Caldwell and descriptions by biologist G.A.C. Herklots.
Then endemic in Fujian Province, the South China tiger had extended its territory. There was nothing to stop it wandering, as it did yearly, into Hong Kong to prey on domestic and wild animals – and sometimes also people. Scary as this scenario might seem, the author laconically commented that over the period of the tiger’s presence in Hong Kong (possibly until as recently as the early 1960s), humans killed far more humans than the tiger ever did!
In his turn, local publisher extraordinaire Pete Spurrier told us that non-fiction about Hong Kong (and China), historical or contemporary, sells much better than fiction by Hong Kong-based authors, whose work generally competes less well with that of international writers. Importantly, too, local publishers are less interested in the rest of the region: if you write about Singapore, then find a Singaporean publisher, or go to New York or London.
A good working relationship between author and publisher is essential (as Saeki and Spurrier had). Authors need to be confident. If they are not, they may be turned away for fear they will be unable to help the book’s public promotion. This is an essential part of marketing in the industry today. Having a social media presence is not enough: you need to be out on the road doing interviews and book signings.
While many members are away this summer and Covid restrictions still prevail in Hong Kong, it makes sense that our recurring events (Book Club and Writing Workshops) continue on Zoom: we can involve more participants. However, we intend to arrange events of a more social, face-to-face nature as soon as conditions allow (as mentioned, Book Club may well be held in person in the autumn). We are also in the process of organizing a poetry workshop to be run over a month before the end of the year and hope to have details of this soon.
Finally, we would like to express our sincere thanks to Suzanne for her dedication in sustaining and invigorating WiPS over these past three years, despite the depredations thrown at us by the pandemic. We wish her well on her return to New Zealand and for the international success of Nita’s Adventures, her book series.
With our best wishes to everyone
Your WiPS committee