10 July 2013
Literary Hong Kong
Hong Kong-based writer and editor Mio Debnam, author of the award-winning KidsGo series
Last year, a travel series for children called KidsGo won a prestigious Parent’s Choice award. The seal, given by the Parents’ Choice Foundation, an internationally recognised United States-based non-profit group, highlights quality media for children. The series, published by local publisher Haven Books, was conceived and written by Hong Kong-based writer and editor Mio Debnam.
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Hong Kong State of Mind, a collection of essays about daily life in Hong Kong, is in its third print run
“It’s easier to get your first publishing credits in a place like Hong Kong because people are more open and approachable,” says Ms Debnam, whose first work was published after it was passed on by her writing group instructor to the Asia Literary Review.
Some of the world's leading writers will take part in public forums at the 2013 HKTDC Hong Kong Book Fair, 17-23 July
Most local publishers, though, cater only to non-fiction or poetry, leaving a large number of writers looking for overseas publishing deals, says SCC Overton, a member and editor at the Hong Kong Writers’ Circle. The Writers’ Circle offers writers a route to publication through its own anthology, which is sold locally, as well as access to critiques, workshops and events.
SCC Overton, member and editor of the Hong Kong Writers’ Circle
Former banker Philip Kim considered self-publishing until his work was picked up by Penguin China
“He had read my book and knew someone at Penguin China,” Mr Kim said. “They indicated to him that they wanted something with my book’s content, so I sent the manuscript to them in Beijing and forgot about it.” Weeks later, the author received a call from the publisher, who expressed interest. His book was released in March and is available in Greater China and in other Asian markets.
Philip Kim’s first novel, Nothing Gained, is an Asian financial thriller
The backing of a large publisher has helped garner more publicity for his book, he says. There is bigger incentive for a large publisher to push new releases, because its investment is often larger than a small press could muster. Mr Kim has done a number of radio and newspaper interviews, and each is linked to Penguin China’s Facebook page. Macmillan and HarperCollins are other international publishers working in Asian markets.
There is a well-regarded support network including the Writers’ Circle, Women in Publishing, and for children’s writers, the Hong Kong branch of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, of which Mio Debnam is a regional adviser. Two Masters of Fine Arts in writing, at the City University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong, have been launched in the last four years.
Writers groups can play an important role in a writer’s development. Mr Kim, who attended critique sessions with the Writers' Circle, says he gained valuable feedback. Writers he worked with were of a high standard, according to Mr Kim, helping him with his manuscript.
“It seems to me that writing needs to be very directed and purposeful these days, says the Writer Circle’s SCC Overton. “I think that even as we see the barriers to publishing break down, readers have little time for hack work – anything that is old-fashioned or clichéd or poorly researched.”
The size of the pool in Hong Kong may be small, but talent, dedication and resources are all part of the territory.
Author Jason Y Ng will take part in the panel “Hong Kong Culture,“ 18 July, at the HKTDC Hong Kong Book Fair.