WOMAN AT WORK offers an opportunity for current members to share your creative journeys, introduce your work or your businesses, and in doing so inspire others. Please contact us for submission details.
Woman at Work: MAUREEN SY TAI
Maureen is a writer who spent over twenty years wordsmithing in her legal and corporate finance roles before throwing in the towel to focus on her creative writing. Since 2019, Maureen has published creative works in literary magazines such as Cha, Mekong Review, and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW) as well as Imprint, WiPS’ anthology. She has also been shortlisted in several international competitions, most recently for flash fiction in the UK’s Bridport Prize 2021.
However, Maureen’s ultimate dream is to write for children. Having published children’s short stories with Oxford University Press and Marshall Cavendish, she is currently working on her first middle-grade novel set in her home country, Malaysia. Maureen also finds it rewarding and inspiring to work with young people, having recently started giving school talks and workshops in Hong Kong, her home for the last 14 years.
One of Maureen’s biggest regrets is that she didn’t become a librarian as she can’t think of a better way to spend her days than reading. In between parenting, thinking up stories, and writing, she makes up for lost time by reading with her children and reviewing books that they fall in love with on www.storiesthatstaywithus.com. A lifelong supporter of children’s causes and literacy, Maureen also volunteers regularly with various charities and social organizations including Rebooked HK and Bring Me A Book. She enjoys social media – in small doses – and her amateur photography, fountain pen collection and musings can be found on Twitter and Instagram @maureen_sy_tai.
Woman at Work: ROBYN FLEMMING
Robyn Flemming is an author and freelance copyeditor based in Australia. She lived in Hong Kong from 1986 to 1993. With Polly Yu, she was a founding member of HKWiPS and the Society’s first president. She has freelanced for over 35 years and has clients in Australia, Asia, the Middle East and North America.
For the past six years, Robyn has been writing a memoir about her roller-coaster life, including her years in Hong Kong and the first half of the decade she roamed the world as an “editor without borders” / digital nomad (2010–2020).
Skinful: A Memoir of Addiction will be published in Australia and New Zealand in January 2022 by Brio Books. (Pre-orders are available @ https://www.bookdepository.com/Skinful-Robyn-Flemming/9781922598479.)
Skinful is structured around four turning points. Each of these was an opportunity to ask: Who am I? What life do I want to live? We all emerge into adulthood bent out of shape to a lesser or greater degree by our experiences as children. The rest of our life’s story is the result of our own doing, as Professor Joseph Campbell has said. We can change course at any time. Whatever has us in its grip, it’s never too late to make a new path to a different future. Each one of us can take a hero’s journey.
Now that all the hard work of writing her book – and editing it down from a 130,000-word beast to a tightly paced 80,000 words – is done, Robyn is enjoying this next stage of the publishing process: promotion and publicity in the lead-up to launch.
Woman at Work: BHAKTI MATHUR
Bhakti Mathur grew up in Delhi, India, and with a graduate degree in economics and a postgraduate degree in finance from Delhi University pursued a career in banking for 22 years. In 2000, she and her husband moved to Hong Kong, which she now calls home and where both her children were born.
In 2010, unable to find a picture book on Holi, the Indian festival of colours, for her young sons, she decided to write one herself. This started the “Amma Tell Me” series, a collection of children’s picture books about Hindu festivals and mythology with 13 published titles.
She received an MFA in creative writing from Hong Kong University in 2017, then had her two course manuscripts published by Penguin India as Amma Take Me to the Golden Temple and Amma Take Me to Tirupati. These began the “Amma Take Me” series, exploring different faiths through their important places of worship. The series has four published titles.
Bhakti has conducted story-telling sessions and reading and writing workshops at schools and literary festivals in Hong Kong, Singapore and India. She freelances as a journalist and writes features on culture, health and fitness for the South China Morning Post.
Bhakti also loves hiking and running – she ran the New York Marathon in 2017 – and is currently studying yoga through the Iyengar Yoga in Depth programme. An avid reader, when not writing or chasing after her young boys, Bhakti is happiest curled up with a book in one hand and a hot cup of chai in the other.
Woman at Work: ELSIE SZE
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Elsie graduated from HKU, majoring in English, and taught at King’s College, Hong Kong, before leaving for her master’s programme at the University of Toronto, Canada. Her husband’s studies and work took them to Columbus, Ohio, then Chicago where she acquired a master’s degree in library science. Raising their three sons in Chicago, Elsie balanced her role as homemaker with a career as a librarian. In 1987, the family moved back to Toronto where Elsie worked with the Toronto Public Library. At the same time, she took creative writing courses at Toronto’s Humber School for Writers. Her first novel Hui Gui, about China and Hong Kong in the 20th century, was nominated for ForeWord Magazine’s Best Fiction Award, 2005.
Elsie’s extensive travels with her husband for his work have taken her to exotic places. These she used as locations for her subsequent novels. Heart of the Buddha, set in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, was published by Greenleaf Publishing, Texas, in 2009, and nominated for ForeWord Magazine’s Best Multicultural Fiction Award. Elsie won the inaugural Saphira Prize for her manuscript “Ghost Cave: a novel of Sarawak”, published by WiPS in 2014. All three published novels are distributed worldwide.
Since 2015, Elsie and her husband have made California their home. Her latest novel, “Sea Fever”, a mystery thriller set in Kazakhstan, Central Asia, is the product of much travel and research in that post-Soviet republic. It is looking for a publisher at this time.
Woman at Work: RINKOO RAMCHANDANI
At age 23, Rinkoo worked briefly for the now defunct Asiaweek magazine, where she received her first byline. Shortly after the publication of her book review of Memoirs of a Geisha, she accepted a job offer from a corporate giant, and like a reliable Gen Xer, she followed the money for the next 22 years.
While sourcing and supply chain served her well throughout her career, in her mid-40s, she decided it was time to pursue a rather different purpose. Rinkoo is now an executive coach and leadership facilitator. At around the same time, she also came home to her writing.
Rinkoo received her MFA (Dist.) from HKU in 2017, and was a recipient of The HKU MFA Threshold Fellowship in 2020 during the course of which she completed her manuscript, Losing Yashoda, a tribute to the life and loss of her beloved mother who died in 2012, and her father whose death followed shortly thereafter.
Recently, Rinkoo was requested to develop a workshop for a global company on the therapeutic benefits of writing. Excited by the prospect of combining corporate training with writing, Rinkoo created a workshop that was very well received, resulting in an invitation to repeat it.
In between coaching clients and delivering workshops, Rinkoo writes personal essays and short stories, and is a volunteer editor for the SPCA. Someday, she will share Losing Yashoda with the rest of the world, but not just yet. She also maintains a blog about personal development and leadership at http://www.unlockedcoaching.com/category/blog/.
Woman at Work: VICTORIA ELIZABETH EGAN
Vici Egan is a Canadian who has been teaching overseas since 1983. Her first job was in a bush village in Nigeria, with no electricity or running water. She loved the challenging experience, which involved, at one point, teaching 80 kids in both a half-built building, where they literally climbed the walls, and her garage, where they brought their own rocks to sit on.
Vici has also taught in Mexico, Turkey, Cuba, England, Greece, Canada, Singapore, Beijing and Manila. She arrived in Hong Kong in 2005 and taught at South Island School until ESF’s enforced retirement programme kicked in. Not feeling quite ready to leave Hong Kong, Vici chose to stay and give free-lancing a go: supply teaching, tutoring and proofreading/editing. Of course, this was not the best year (which turned into two!) to stay in one of the most expensive cities in the world, without a steady income. But who could’ve ever predicted the year we’ve had!
Luckily though, a new adventure awaits in July at the Canadian International School in Bangalore.
Vici has completed her travelogue manuscript and is seeking a publisher. It documents some of her many travel stories, as well as frequent near-death experiences, relayed with humour. She is a regular contributor to Imprint and has had several stories published in newspapers and magazines. Vici is grateful to WiPS for the friendships made, the good times had, and the knowledge gleaned at many of the workshops and events attended over the years.