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.
Elizabeth Vongsaravanh is a Hungarian artist who has lived in Laos for more than two decades. She received a degree in English studies in Hungary after spending two years in Canada out of spite for not getting accepted into art school.
She kick-started her artistic journey after settling into her new home in Laos, adapting quickly to the unfamiliar environment, culture and traditions, which are manifested and reflected in her pieces. Her works of art, poetry and design are the result of attention to detail both metaphysical and the experimental in a world of her own making. Her artistic expression is a mixed media of emotion, experience and self-examination.
Stunned by the intricate beauty of hand-woven textiles and silk in Laos, Elizabeth opened Fusion Gallery in 2003. She created her first designs to honour her mother and to define herself, and as she did so, like-minded travellers discovered her shop and connected with pieces that made them feel beautiful.
In 2009, a venture of passion had her open a bar in Luang Prabang, which is now not only the town’s oldest bar, but to her great pride is listed among the world’s best bars. She believes that everything is personal and that there is always a little magic, even in the darkest of times.
Her poetry has been shared with many over the years, and her books of poems, “My Mekong Secret” and “Hours of Strange”, will be soon available at her cherished cocktail bar in Luang Prabang, Icon Klub.
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.
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/.
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.
After a career in the UK, which included the civil service, Macmillan Publishers and KPMG, Sarah relocated to Hong Kong in 1992. She worked initially as a copywriter and proofreader for an electronics firm manufacturing BT telephones (writing the manuals and testing the phones). This was followed by an assortment of freelance jobs including with Ink Publishing working on Oasis Hong Kong Airline in-flight magazine, a hugely enjoyable experience as it involved writing about food and entertainment in business class. With the closure of Oasis, Sarah completed a teaching qualification which led to a bizarre NET teacher experience on day one when a range of coloured chalks and a duster were included with the manual!
For many years now, Sarah has worked at HKUST, first as a research assistant working with MBA students and co-editing a couple of research papers included in Global Electronic Commerce: Theory and Case Studies (MIT Press, 1999). When that contract ended, a chance meeting at a WiPS event led to a successful application for a communication tutor position in the School of Engineering, where she remains.
Sarah’s main focus is with UG and PG students, as well as editing papers for faculty. Students typically take IELTS and TOEFL exams in their final year at HKUST and preparation for these also falls within her job specification. Additionally, she assists with improving interview skills, and this year, having become familiar with Zoom, is more easily able to liaise with students and offer various courses.
Joining WiPS has provided Sarah with a wonderful connection to her earlier publishing experience at Macmillan as well as friendships and shared interests.
Hong Kong born and raised Ritu Hemnani, is an author, teacher, TEDx speaker and voice actor. From a young age, Ritu was a passionate stage performer and writer, winning poetry competitions from entries scribbled on the top deck of a moving bus! After qualifying as an English and Drama high school teacher, Ritu worked in the UK before returning to Hong Kong in 1997, to work at KGV School, whilst voice acting for educational toys.
Ritu published her first children’s book in 2017, Gope and Meera – A Migration Story, which seeks to foster awareness and empathy for migrants in our communities. Ritu promotes inclusiveness and diversity in her writing and story-telling presentations to schools across Hong Kong. Her stories feature in the South China Morning Post, Asian Literary Review and Reader’s Digest.
Ritu was selected to speak at the TEDxTinhauwomen event, Bold and Brilliant, in 2019. Her talk, An Inheritance Worth Sharing, is a reflection on the gift of resilience she claims from her rich heritage.
Ritu is a writing ambassador for the Home of Loving Faithfulness, which serves the disabled community of Hong Kong. Ritu also serves on the judging committee for the annual Kids4Kids My Story Creation, writing competition and KGV’s Evening of Music and Dance, which she co-founded in 1999. Ritu is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is working on her first novel.