Tuesday, 14 May 2013
What does it take to become a writer here in Hong Kong?


By Irene Bennett

The 14 May WiPS event, featuring Xu Xi, did not disappoint two dozen attendees, including several newcomers. A native Hong Kong English language author and writer-in-residence at City University, Xu Xi peppered her presentation with personal experiences from her developing sense of self as a writer, through travels in Europe, to earning an MFA at UMass and publishing the first of nine books. After working for several corporations, she settled into academia as a mature leader, wielding considerable influence in the creative writing world.

She spoke mainly of writing relative to living in Hong Kong and said the following about achieving writing success here:

•    A writer should treat writing as a job, scheduling to write daily in order to improve.

•     "Will it sell here?"and ¡§What is the city story?¡¨ are questions unique to Hong Kong writers. Writers in other cities don't worry so much about the location in which they live and write.

•    Xu Xi¡¦s review of Hong Kong English literature shows the genres are predominantly popular fiction, mysteries, and poetry. Local writers should expand to other categories and settings.

      Hong Kong has multiple possibilities for reader response and critique groups. Writers Circle, Poetry Outloud or Kubrick Poetry, and Tongzhi Literary Group are examples of local organizations. There are also a few workshops or classes, overseas short courses, a growing number of online courses, as well as numerous private tutors or editorial readers available. Be sure to check references and read the works of teachers or readers before engaging and accepting anyone as a qualified and appropriate mentor.

       Competitive MFA and MA programs are prolific worldwide; HK University and City U are the only local ones. Though unnecessary for success, a degree may certify writers with some editors. Top residential programmes are worthwhile if you have the time but low residential and online programmes are designed for older or working people. Some universities have PhD programmes, which may serve researchers, but not necessarily creative writers. City U low-residency MFA has an Asian focus and covers three genres: creative non-fiction, fiction and poetry.

The talk was extremely informative and gave a terrific overview of methods and options available to take back to our writing desks.