Authors Heather Diamond, Gillian Bickley, Jason Ng, and publisher Pete Spurrier share their insights on memoir writing with WiPS
By Michele Koh Morollo
Organized by the WiPS Committee, Truth & Memoir, took place on the evening of 10 December, at the Hughes Room in the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. The event generated a buzz and excitement and was well attended by members of the Hong Women in Publishing Society and a number of guests interested in memoir writing, who got the chance to mingle with the speakers and each other over drinks and canapés before and after the talk.
Heather Diamond, author of “American Aloha: Cultural Tourism and the Negotiation of Tradition” read excerpts from her work in progress – about her cross-cultural marriage to a Hongkonger – demonstrating the importance of humour in memoir.
Gillian Bickley, a poet, writer, editor, publisher, and writers’ mentor at Hong Kong Baptist University and HKU Space, discussed her research methods for “The Golden Needle” – her biography of Hong Kong pioneer educator Frederick Stewart – disclosing how much patience and tenacity is required for the task of life writing.
Jason Ng has published four non-fiction books and is presently working on the biography of Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, which will be published by Penguin. He talked about the rigours of his work process, and through reading an excerpt about his relationship with his mother, revealed the powerful way that memoir can foster intimacy between writer and reader.
Pete Spurrier, founder of Blacksmith Books has published numerous memoirs. He shared his experience with the audience and gave them tips on how to best prepare their works for submission.
Thanks go to Jo Farrell for spearheading the evening’s organization. Those who attended left with a better understanding of how to find their voice and their truth in writing, and hopefully, many will now be ready to begin telling their own life stories.
Michele Koh Morollo is a Singaporean freelance journalist, copywriter and short fiction writer who lived in Perth, Sulawesi, London, and Boston before moving to Hong Kong in 2010. She is the author of short story collections “Rotten Jellybeans”, which was published in London in 2007, and “Without: Stories of lack and longing”, which was launched at the Singapore Literary Festival in 2018. She has contributed to Singapore and Hong Kong fiction anthologies, and is the Secretary of the Hong Kong Writer’s Circle. Her short story “Smile” will be published in the 2020 issue of The Alembic, the literary journal of Providence College.
Her recent short story “Liberty Exchange” was reviewed by the South China Morning Post (SCMP) https://www.scmp.com/…/yellow-tinged-projections-hong-kongs…#
check out her blog, here: https://confoundingconditions.com/20…/…/01/liberty-exchange/
By Suzanne Andrews
WiPS inaugural ‘Informal Get-together’ was held in SoHo’s Club 71, which nestles among trees alongside a romantic French restaurant. Dressed for chilly weather and perching themselves like pretty pigeons inside the cosy little bar with its colourful walls were ladies of words, many words of course, since women do like a good chat. And a love of words, written, spoken, shared and gloriously arranged on a page like Imprint, was their common ground. It was their pride and joy and they discussed it a lot. They could discuss whatever they wanted, knowing someone would listen, since all these women were members of WiPS. And Imprint was their very own anthology. There’s nothing like a strong sense of pride to create a great deal of purpose and an excuse to socialize.
After the fright over the summer break of the potential closure of the society, it really was wonderful to have this opportunity to drink and mingle and keep it all going. WiPS has planned five main events for the next 12 months and these social nights complement the more organized affairs perfectly. Over 30 people attended the last event and a further 30 or more have registered for Truth & Memoir, which is next Tuesday, 10 December, in the FCC. Please join us if you can.
This first official social gathering is a beginning. Beginnings develop into plots and more good times, like the next monthly ‘Informal Get-together’ scheduled for 7 January. Initiated by committee member Jo Farrell, this monthly catch-up requires minimal preparation and you’ll find any effort to get there well worth it. We’d love you to join us next time!
Date: 7 January 2020, 6:30-9:30pm – same place, Basement, Club 71, 67 Hollywood Road (a small alley off Hollywood Road behind SOHO 69 – by Pak Tsz Lane Park)
CLAIRE CHAO, was born and raised in Hong Kong. Although unaware of it at the time, as a youth she continually sought connections to her parents’ Shanghai homeland. She spent a decade creating Remembering Shanghai after thirty years in luxury brand management. While researching her family stories, she uncovered an uncanny link with the grandfather she’d never met. She graduated with highest honors from Princeton University and was named to Avenue magazine’s “500 Most Influential Asian Americans” and Hong Kong Tatler’s “Who’s Who in Hong Kong.”
Winner of 17 literary awards including the 2019 Rubery Prize Book of the Year, Remembering Shanghai follows five generations from imperial China to modern-day Hong Kong. Isabel grows up in the wealthy Sun family in glamorous 1930s Shanghai. When Mao comes to power, she journeys to Hong Kong, unaware that she will never see her father again. She returns to Shanghai with her daughter Claire six decades later to confront their complex past—one they discover is filled with love and betrayal, kidnappers and concubines, glittering pleasure palaces and underworld crime bosses.
By Connie Lee
On the 30th October 2019, members and guests met at the American Club to discuss a way forward for the Society. During the evening it was announced that Suzanne Andrews had agreed to step up as our new president and that WiPS would continue!
Poor attendance at events in recent years was one factor that had put the future of WiPS in doubt. Suzanne has proposed holding just five main events over the next 12 months and requests that members try to attend at least four of the five. The first of these is “Truth and Memoir” (13 November 2019 from 6.30-9 pm) in the Hughes Room, Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Central. It is a subsidized event for current members. Between these events, Jo Farrell will coordinate a no-charge get-together for members on the first Tuesday of every month. The first will be on 3 December 2019 starting at 7 pm at Club 71, 67 Hollywood Road, Central. Just come along, buy your own drinks and bring anyone with you who might be interested in networking. Plans are also in the pipeline to form a writing critique group, and to hold workshops on publishing-related topics.
Three sub-committees have been formed and Suzanne is appealing to members to assist in these. Carol Dyer will coordinate Imprint. Jo Farrell will handle Social Media. And Suzanne herself will take care of Events. Several members have signed up to support these sub-committees, but we need more. If you can offer help, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was a fabulous evening of catching up with friends and getting to know new faces. Best of all was a renewed commitment to continue the WiPS legacy. We express our sincere gratitude to those many members who attended. Paying tribute to Sarah Merrill Mowat for the wonderful work she has done for WiPS during her presidency, Suzanne presented Sarah with a bouquet of flowers as a token of the Society’s appreciation.