News

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The Transformative Power of Fiction

By Andy Lowe

 

Fiction can be a powerful healer, and on 22 November 2022 twenty members and friends of WiPS joined an interview with our international guest, bibliotherapist Ella Berthoud who co-authored The Novel Cure, and moderator, Bhakti Mathur, to learn what bibliotherapy is and how fiction can help us cure life’s ailments.

Neuroscientists suggest that reading for six minutes a day is as beneficial as one hour of meditation. During reading our heart rate stills and our brain waves change and, in short, we de-stress. By implication then, bibliotherapy can play an important role in mental health. We heard fascinating examples of this, such as the WW2 doctors who recommended Jane Austin to soldiers suffering from shellshock. Since good, well-written, fiction can be immersive it offers its reader an opportunity for catharsis, reflection, perspective-taking, or escape – all of which can be healing.

Bibliotherapists work to understand their client’s reading preferences and life circumstances then write “prescriptions” recommending three of four specific books for them to read. Prescriptions are dependent on the unique needs, tastes and preferred choices of each client, and writing them is an evolving, artful and intuitive process. Having said that, three common ailments that Ella encounters and her related recommended reads are: Motherhood (becoming a mother for the first time): The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt; Retirement: The Enigma of Arrival by V.S. Naipaul; and Bereavement: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.

Ella finished her talk by offering recommendations on how to increase reading, which included listening to audio books (while multi-tasking); creating a “reading nook”; reading aloud with someone you live with (i.e. adult to adult); creating a reading-aloud reading group; and joining a book club. Although bibliotherapy sessions are typically one-on-one, Ella advised that group sessions are also gaining in popularity in social services settings.

November 24th, 2022|

WiPS Newsletter: October 2022

As we approach the end of 2022, WiPS can look back on a successful year’s programme of events, following the experimental and highly enjoyable Imprint launch. Since then, at least two WiPS gatherings have been offered each month (five involving overseas authors/speakers), albeit that we were obliged to hold them by Zoom. But even that, we hope, we will shortly be able to change. We thank members for their support in what, despite the growing optimism, has been a difficult year in Hong Kong.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Readers and Writers Unite!
Our Book Club and Writing Workshops both kicked off in the Spring of 2022 and their members have been meeting diligently over Zoom every month since. However, many of our regular attendees haven’t yet met each other in person. That will now change with our first combined dinner for both groups taking place at the Hong Kong Yacht Club on November 9, 2022. Spots are limited so if you belong to one of these groups, RSVP on the WhatsApp chat to either Gillian or Rinkoo. We can’t wait to meet you all beyond our computer screens!

Can Fiction Help Us Heal?
We have lined up an exciting event as a finale to 2022! Joining us from the UK on November 22, Ella Berthoud, co-author of The Novel Cure will be speaking to WiPS member (and newly certified bibliotherapist) Bhakti Mathur about how books can heal us. Described as “the art of prescribing fiction for life’s ailments”, bibliotherapy is an ancient discipline steeped in the belief that reading the right book at the right time can change your life. Join us as we learn more about bibliotherapy and its use for anything from abandonment to zestlessness. Event details to be mailed out soon! For more information on bibliotherapy, please see Ella’s website: http://www.ellaberthoud.com/bibliotherapy/.

Welcoming in the New Year!
Our first event of 2023 will be an in-person social gathering for members on Thursday, January 12, ahead of the Lunar New Year, in Dada Lounge + Bar, Tsim Sha Tsui. This is the venue where WiPS held its last in-person gathering in December 2021 and all who attended will vouch for it being an interesting, elegant and convivial spot for networking and catching up. Exact details will be announced later. Following this, we are planning a speaker event for February, while an Imprint launch at the FCC is scheduled for March. Social distancing rules will dictate what form these two events take.

RECENT EVENTS

Book Club by Gillian Kew
WiPS Book Club continues to be an enjoyable, monthly event where we all get together to discuss our chosen book and decide whether it passes muster. Great literature is a bonus, as is a stonking good read, but effective prose, variety, something new, and perhaps a little excitement, are all part and parcel of an acceptable read.

Our September book, China Blonde by Nicole Webb, presented the unusual challenge of focusing on a subject that many of us thought we knew, and one that some members were tempted to dismiss. However, free copies for some and Nicole’s agreement to join our session as our first author guest tempted members to take part and to be surprised. Nicole was open to our questions and comments, answering fully and with good grace. Our lively and fun-filled discussion helped us all to a greater appreciation of the book and the many challenges first-time authors face. It was a worthwhile experience, emboldening us to ask more authors to join us in the future. We do hope that you will, too!

Writing Workshops by Rinkoo Ramchandani
The writing workshop will enter its eighth month in November, during which period we’ve experienced both lightning rounds of feedback to nine writers in two hours, and we’ve also spent the same amount of time poring over just three stories. Regardless of the number of monthly submissions, the feedback is consistently incisive and supportive. And our committed workshoppers have agreed not to break for the holidays, so whether you’re a first-timer or a published writer, feel free to join us for a trial session on our upcoming dates:  November 4 or December 2, 2022 from 3-5pm HK time.

Creative Writing Masterclasses
WiPS had the great good fortune in September and October to welcome back Dr Sherryl Clark to Hong Kong, this time by Zoom. Sherryl had run popular workshops several years ago in Hong Kong for WiPS with a colleague from Victoria University in Melbourne where they both taught. Now as the renowned, award-winning author of more than 70 titles in a range of genres, Sherryl offered us masterclasses in fiction on “Creating Deeper Characters”  and “Using Story Structure for Stronger Novels”. Both two-hour sessions were very well attended, made easier by being recorded and available to follow in any time zone for seven days, and were extremely well received. We look forward to having Sherryl offer us more masterclasses in 2023.

AND FINALLY…

Membership renewal
We would like to advise members that membership renewal notices for 2023 will be sent out in mid-November. We hope you will all wish to continue to support WiPS by remaining in and contributing to the group. Subscription fees will stay the same and are due by the end of December 2022.

Going high tech
The public can now send any enquiries to WiPS via WhatsApp: +852 9231 1724.

Imprint issue 20
Stuck for a gift for those last-minute casual Christmas invitations? Copies of Imprint 20 can make the ideal present. Discounted for members. Contact Polly at wipshk@gmail.com for details.

With our best wishes
Your WiPS Committee

October 22nd, 2022|

Creative Writing Masterclasses II

Using Story Structure for Stronger Novels

By Lesley Hobbs

I am at first-draft stage of my debut novel and have recently been feeling dissatisfied as to the course of my protagonist’s journey. I have lost the proverbial plot so to speak! I was therefore hoping that Sherryl Clark’s two-hour Masterclass on “Using story structure for stronger novels” would get my thinking and writing back on track. I wasn’t disappointed.

Sherryl’s key message was that a story is about movement. The writer’s job is to get from point A to point B (through all the various highs, lows, pitfalls, fortune reversals of the protagonist(s) etc.) whilst keeping the reader interested/engaged/committed/hooked whatever the outcome/ending. Her point was that without structure, the writer could be left with a lot of words which don’t have flow or direction, i.e. the story may end up/become either rambling or episodic.

Sherryl provided us with a very comprehensive set of slides in which she referenced and highlighted some well-known story structure models including the “Hero’s Journey” and variations on “The Three-Act Structure”. She suggested that we have on hand a copy of the structure diagram which we felt worked best for us. She also listed the textbooks on structure which she used in her classes and/or for her own writing. In addition to reading books on structure, she recommended that we watch films and analyse them.

The main thing she advised us do though was get back to writing the words on the page. As someone who is still at first-draft stage, I appreciated her point that if we felt structure was holding us back then we should save it for our second draft, and just make sure the key points of structure are in the final version!

October 18th, 2022|

Creative Writing Masterclasses I

Portraying the DNA of Fictional People

By Irenee Chan

Sherryl Clark’s Masterclass on Creating Deeper Characters was incredibly detailed and insightful. I had been struggling with character development in my stories and when I found out about this class, I was eager to sign up to learn more on how to create memorable and in-depth characters. I had done character interviews before, but I learned so much more from Sherryl’s guidance and explanation through each question and aspect of a character interview, and why we would want to dig into those areas in a character’s past. Understanding the “why” really helped me to see the importance and value of doing the exercise.

Creating a timeline for a character was something new to me and I had never done it previously, but I can see how this would be helpful for fleshing out a character from beginning to end to recognize how an event in the past might affect current behaviour and personality. The Free Writing activity she suggested was also a great strategy to help us get started in character building and allow the creative juices to start flowing without worrying about editing.

Although a lot of the content related to adult novel writing, Sherryl also provided ways to adapt and apply the process and skills for short stories and children’s books during the Q&A session. I thoroughly enjoyed the session and learned so much that I am excited to start writing again! I look forward to attending the next masterclass.

September 19th, 2022|

Writing Workshops

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.

August 8th, 2022|

WiPS Newsletter: August 2022

Dear Members!

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
Suzanne

BOOK CLUB
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/].

WRITING WORKSHOPS
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/].

AUTHOR/PUBLISHER EVENT
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.

FUTURE EVENTS
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

August 8th, 2022|
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