As the Rabbit hops away and we “enter the Dragon”, 2024 promises to be a year of strength, luck and yes, creativity. We welcome the only mythical creature in the Chinese zodiac and embrace its qualities of fiery passion and power as we channel these attributes into literary and visual artistic pursuits. We wish our WiPS community a very Happy New Year and a prosperous Year of the Dragon. We look forward to seeing you at one or all our upcoming events.
Launch of Imprint 22: Women’s Voices Thursday, 7 March 2024, 7pm It gives us great pleasure to announce that we will be back to launch another issue of our annual anthology Imprint as a part of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival in March. Members and non-members are invited to gather at the historic Foreign Correspondents’ Club for a celebration of home grown literary and artistic talent. Please mark your diaries – Imprint 22: Women’s Voices, Thursday, 7 March 2024 at the FCC.
Book the Bookbinding Workshop Writers never seem to have enough notebooks! Whether you’re jotting down great story ideas in them or just doodling, everyone needs one more notebook. So, why not make one yourself? Rachel PSmith of Senseless Art will walk you through the craft of binding a book in just a couple of hours. The workshop will take place in early April and has limited space. More information to follow soon.
WiPS Meets Hong Kong Stories Everyone has a story to tell, even if we don’t always have the opportunity to deliver it in front of a live audience. Here’s your chance to share your story with the world, or at least with a group of friends at the Fringe Club. WiPS is collaborating with Hong Kong Stories, a group dedicated to the art of storytelling in Hong Kong, to bring you Spring Ahead in May. Again, details to follow.
Writing Workshop While we took a break for the festive season in January, we’re back on 1 February with a new time! Based on member feedback, we will offer the Writing Workshop on a weekday evening to cater to those working traditional office hours. While the new time is on a trial basis, we’re thrilled to see the Writing Workshop at maximum capacity each month, and we’re confident that this trend will continue in 2024!
Book Club After also taking a month off for the festive season, we’re kicking off the new year with a runaway hit from 2023: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (adapted by Apple TV into a miniseries). And then we’re onto something more serious on Monday, 26 February with Killingly by Katharine Beutner. Join us for a lively discussion on these and many more books in 2024!
Hidden & Haunted British-born, Hong Kong-based interior designer, aromatherapist, amateur photographer and urban explorer, Sacha Yasumoto, has visited and photographed over 500 abandoned buildings in Hong Kong alone. Around 350 of these have been used to create her visually stunning coffee table book Loved then Abandoned 愛逝終棄. On 26 October, WiPS committee member Lesley Hobbs sat down with Sacha to talk about her urban exploring adventures and the self-publishing journey she undertook. Sacha’s many derring-do stories made it hard to keep the conversation and Q&A under the allotted 90 minutes. Her adventures involved climbing out of broken windows, falling through floors, exploring a convicted felon’s forfeited mansion and discovering the owner of an apparently abandoned house was very much alive and well.
Sue Dockstader Visits Town Former WiPS president Sue Dockstader caught up with WiPS friends inearly November on her first trip back to Hong Kong in nearly 20 years. She writes: Chatting over tea in the FCC we reminisced about the excitement of working on the first Imprint in 2002 and talked about the challenges of keeping an organization going through Covid and beyond. The inspiration and knowledge WiPS gave me have been invaluable as I’ve navigated the world of non-profit communications in the U.S. and they continue to motivate me as I dive into writing fiction. Keep it up WiPS! I am so glad to reconnect.
Festive Dinner WiPS annual festive-season celebration was held in the Verandah at the FCC in late November. Hong Kong-based members were joined by members from the U.S. and Macau for an excellent three-course meal and engaging conversation, so animated it drowned out the Christmas carols! This seasonally atmospheric literary ladies’ evening concluded with a Secret Santa Book Swap and what felt like a game of musical chairs as members progressed seats to converse with others at the table.
WiPS Hosts Elise Hu Elise Hu is a Los Angeles-based journalist, podcaster and author. Flawless: Lessons in Looks and Culturefrom the K-Beauty Capital is her first book and takes a deep but accessible dive into the South Korean beauty industry. WiPS had the honour of hosting Elise’s first international book event, on 23 December 2023, at the FCC. We thank WiPS member and award-winning author Dr Stephanie Han for connecting Elise with WiPS in early November. Lookism, Hallyu, the technological gaze and skull reshaping were just some of the concepts that Elise described, emphasizing that her book is as much about technology as about beauty. K-Beauty’s rules may be at the extreme and unforgiving end of the vanity scale, but social media platforms and AI tools are undoubtedly having a huge impact on all aspects of our lives.
New Year Meetup In mild mid-January weather, a group of WiPS members met for an evening of companionship and conversation at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club in Causeway Bay. We sat outside the main deck’s bar and discussed a range of topics, big and small, from the serious to the hilarious, and everything in between – including literary. Around us, laser lights disco-danced across skyscrapers and rainbow illuminations winked at us from Kowloon, bouncing their reflections off the harbour waves below. Tucking into in a selection of delicious cocktail snacks, washed down with mocktails, cocktails and wine, we agreed the biggest treat was enjoying a simple evening of camaraderie, laughter, warmth and connection with fellow WiPS members.
New Members A warm welcome to our seven new members who have joined since November 2023: Genevieve Hilton, Liz Keyon, Jessica Mizzi, Lucy Parris, Fiona So, Genevieve White and Sacha Yasumoto, and to Jane Houng who returns after five years.
On 18 January 2024 a group of WiPS members met for an evening of companionship and conversation at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club in Causeway Bay. In almost balmy New Year weather we made ourselves comfortable on the cushioned sofas outside the main deck’s bar.
Topics of discussion ranged from big to small, from serious to hilarious, and everything in between. We shared personal anecdotes, jokes and opinions on various global, cultural and literary affairs. So free-flowing was the conversation that it wasn’t until later that we really began to appreciate the picture-perfect views that surrounded us on all sides: laser lights disco-danced across skyscrapers behind and the rainbow-shimmer of lights from the Kowloon peninsula winked at us, bouncing their reflections off the gentle harbour waves below. The stunning Aqua Luna junk, with her plump red sails fully trimmed, proudly cruised up and down showcasing our vibrant Hong Kong harbour at its beautiful best.
Although the night freshened, and the conversation was nourishment for the soul, this was not an evening designed around physical fitness. We nibbled delicious carb-loaded cocktail snacks of prawn toast, smashed samosas with yummy toppings, and nut and chocolate temptations, washing them all down with mocktails, cocktails and wine. Pure indulgence! However, the biggest treat was enjoying a simple evening of camaraderie, laughter, warmth and connection with fellow WiPS members.
A few thanks are in order:
To returning member Jane Houng for telling us about her new book “Under Lion Rock” and charity Becky’s Button. Please visit https://beckysbutton.org/ to learn more about this worthwhile cause for vulnerable women and support however you can.
Elise Hu is a Los Angeles-based journalist, podcaster and author. Between 2015 and 2018 she was the first Seoul Bureau Chief of broadcast media group NPR. In May 2023, she published her first book, Flawless: Lessons in Looks and Culture from the K-Beauty Capital, which took a deep but accessible dive into the South Korean beauty industry. Elise then spent a whirlwind six months travelling the USA attending book signings, author events and speaking engagements.
WiPS had the honour of hosting Elise’s first international book event (sold-out!) at the FCC on 23 December 2023. We owe a debt of gratitude to long-standing WiPS member and award-winning author Dr Stephanie Han for connecting Elise with WiPS in early November. Stephanie somehow knew that Elise and WiPS would make in-person event magic happen despite the short lead time. The last Saturday before Christmas was Elise’s only available date during a 72-hour whistlestop tour of Hong Kong. Bookazine ensured that a carton of Elise’s books cleared Hong Kong customs well before the event, and Elise herself arrived in the Hughes Room just in time for the first course and in interview-ready mode.
Lookism, Hallyu, the technological gaze and skull reshaping were just some of the concepts that Elise’s audience got to digest along with the cheesecake. Isn’t photoshopping your ID card considered illegal? Apparently not because we should all want to eliminate freckles even for government-issued documents.
Elise emphasizes that her book is as much about technology as about beauty. And not just female beauty. K-Beauty’s rules may be at the extreme and unforgiving end of the vanity scale, but social media platforms and AI tools are having a huge impact on all aspects of our lives, and we are all guilty of self-policing and narcissistic behaviour when it comes to our “appearance”.
“Counting down to our Festive Dinner!” read the WhatsApp group photo caption. Excitement was clearly in the air as WiPS members readied to gather again to celebrate the festive season, an event made impossible during Covid. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club Verandah was the perfect setting for this large and lively group of literary ladies and their books. Green tickets in hand for drinks, Secret Santa gift in tote for swap, and off we were sent to find a seat. Conversations were merry, reunions warm, and introductions a-plenty. One could barely hear the Christmas music playing in the background. Once all had arrived, dinner was swiftly served, and announcements were made – Polly, Rinkoo and Lesley each sharing words of enthusiasm about the programme for next year’s events. Cheers!
What’s a festive dinner without musical chairs? After we’d indulged in our main course, half the table was instructed to swap seats. Every other seat was swapped with some additional swapping and re-swapping as we tried to get it right. More exchanges happened as the goodie bag was passed around, each of us selecting a beautifully wrapped treasure. Further chatting ensued as we gobbled up dessert alongside our new reads. More and more photos were taken as we yelled to the staff, “Zoom in to get the book titles!”
Let the countdown begin to a successful WiPS 2024!
Sacha Yasumoto is a British-born, Hong Kong-based interior designer, aromatherapist, amateur photographer and urban explorer. Since the start of the global pandemic, she has visited and photographed over 500 abandoned buildings in Hong Kong alone – around 350 of which helped to create her visually stunning coffee table book Loved Then Abandoned 愛逝終棄.
On 26th October, WiPS committee member Lesley Hobbs sat down with Sacha in the Sheung Wan offices of the American Women’s Association of Hong Kong (AWA) to talk about Sacha’s urban exploring (urbex) adventures and her self-publishing journey. After introductions by Lesley, Sacha showed slides from her book and explained the dos and don’ts of urbex. She had so many derring-do stories to tell that it was hard to keep the conversation and Q&A under the allotted ninety minutes. With Halloween only days away, Sacha insisted she had not been visited by a ghost in any of the abandoned buildings, but she still managed to share some spooky moments with her large audience of WiPS members and guests.
These events involved climbing out of broken windows, falling through rotting flooring, exploring a convicted felon’s forfeited mansion the day he was released, and finding out that the owner of an apparently abandoned house was very much alive and well and planning to move back into his property. He did permit Sacha to host one of her “dangerous dinners” before his home was renovated – but that’s a story for when we invite Sacha back to talk about her next book!
Who would have thought that all the trespassing we might have done as children would not only get turned in to an art form but end up with its own 24k+ member Facebook page.
The slightly cooler weather brings with it the sight of roasted chestnut vendors in our neighbourhoods, and even hints of holly as the city prepares itself for the festive season. As we close out submissions for Imprint22, we’re looking forward to spending a little more time with you before the year’s end. So, if you’re in the mood for some backseat urban exploring with Hidden & Haunted just in time for Halloween, or you’re more in the spirit of Secret Santa, we hope you’ll join us for one or all of our events in this final quarter as we bid goodbye to 2023!
UPCOMING AND ONGOING EVENTS
Hidden & Haunted Thursday, 26 October 2023, 6.30pm Ever wondered about an abandoned building’s past life? Did its crumbling walls whisper “Come inside, take a look; please don’t forget about me.” Then we have the perfect trick or treat alternative for you. Join us at the AWA offices and be part of a derring-do journey with Hong Kong-based designer, photographer and urban explorer Sacha Yasumoto, author of Loved then Abandoned. Hear Sacha in conversation with WiPS member Lesley Hobbs discussing Hong Kong abandoned villages, crumbling Italian palaces and “dangerous dinners”. You won’t want to miss this or the nerve calming glass (or two) of wine.
WiPS Festive Dinner Wednesday, 29 November 2023, 7pm It’s October already and the city will soon be giddy with gatherings over glühwein! Before the holiday season is upon us in full force, we invite you to celebrate with fellow WiPS members, as we look back at 2023 in gratitude and forward with hope for all that 2024 is yet to bring! Please join us for an evening of merrymaking and a Secret Santa Book Swap at this year’s celebratory dinner at the FCC. Registration will open from 21 October.
Imprint 22 Launch We have a large, diverse and exciting collection of submissions for our next issue of Imprint, and editing is well under way! Please mark your calendars for a launch date in early March 2024 during the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. If anyone has missed the deadline, we will consider late submissions where space remains. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
WiPS Book Club and Writing Workshop These two regular groups remain very popular, attracting new members and active participation. Our meanderings through the chosen book each month allow us to broaden our literary horizons as we immerse ourselves in other lives, culminating in lively social discussions at the end of each month. Thismonth we are reading Leonard and Hungry Paul, by Ronan Hession.
The writing workshop goes from strength to strength, with keen participation by group members, both in submitting their work and providing invaluable constructive critique and support for other writers. All writers will find this group educative, supportive and fun. If you are interested in learning more, please visit our website and follow the links.
Villepin Gallery Guided Visit The “Anselm Kiefer: Golden Age” event in August was primarily intended as a social gathering for members and guests braving the humid Hong Kong summer. If you sought confrontational art on a major scale, then Herr Kiefer was your man from the 1960s to 1990s. “A Pandora’s box of fascist and nationalistic imagery”, which he sought to expose and force conversation about, was just one of the monikers attached to the German-born artist’s work. The “Golden Age” pieces displayed by Villepin were more upbeat. Produced from 2020 to 2022, they recall the classical peak of human civilization and the flourishing of peace and prosperity, pointing to hope for the future. The artworks provided much philosophical food for thought, and more conversation, at the Lebanese restaurant later that evening!
Poetry Workshops with Dr Sherryl Clark In her two workshop classes delivered by Zoom from New Zealand, “Making Poems: The Main Elements”, which explained the essentials of poetry writing, and “Strategies for Revising a Poem”, which focused on how to revise and perfect a poem, Dr Clark provided a thorough look at the process of poetry writing from first draft to polished final version. Dr Clark is a seasoned poet and teacher, and those who attended her classes live or through the recordings (available for 7 days after each event) benefited enormously from her wealth of experience. She was informative and full of advice, and catered both to novice and to published poets, as well to those wanting to increase their enjoyment of reading poetry. Watch out for some new and reinvigorated WiPS poets in Imprint22!
Following the workshops, Jenny Eagleton kindly offered her help to any participants whose poems were still works in progress and needed refinement before submission.
MEMBERSHIP RENEWAL We would like to advise members that membership renewal notices for 2024 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 remain the same and are due by the end of December 2023.
NEW MEMBERS A warm welcome to our five new members who have joined since August: Sarah Rigby, Holly Sykes, Natalie Wong, Sarah Huda and Michelle Tanmizi.
KAY ROSS, FORMER WiPS PRESIDENT Kay was born in Scotland and grew up in Australia, from where her adventurous spirit led her to Hong Kong in 1993. With a background in arts and tourism administration and marketing, she took on the position of “listings editor” at the SCMP, working there for six years before forming her own company as an Editor/Copywriter and Personal Development Facilitator, Tedx Speaker and Applied Improvisation Trainer. Kay led us into the millennium as WiPS President, and after stepping down, she continued to support us until her recent death on 30 September 2023. She is deeply missed and mourned by us all.