4 November, 2015
What's On HK

Women That Write – The Hong Kong Literary Fest!

4 November, 2015

We Chat To Five Female Authors at The Hong Kong Literary Festival

Back for its fifteenth year, the Hong Kong Literary Festival is calling all you book worms out of your holes! Welcome and join over thirty international writers – novelists, poets, historians, scholars, journalists and playwrights – in a ten-day long festival featuring various events with the world’s most prominent literary figures.

The festival is happening now and will last until 8 November. You’re invited to join in on topical conversations and discussions ranging from “Culture and Coding” to “Cross-Cultural Love”. Check out the calendar of events here and make sure you catch some of the fascinating discussions before it’s over!

Sassy is especially excited about this year’s special feminine focus. We talked to some of the festival’s female writers about their favourite books, kick-ass feminine characters and how to get writing! See what Dame Margaret Drabble, Leta Hong Fincher, PP Wong, Sonia Wong and Anna Smaill have to say.

Meet the Authors!

Margaret-Drabble-BW-credit-Ruth-Corney-300x300Dame Margaret Drabble, The Pure Gold Baby (2013) – “You should read my book ‘The Pure Gold Baby’ if you’re looking for a story of friendship and motherhood, a portrait of women in England through 40 years, and some interesting thoughts on child-rearing then and now.”

Drabble is a prominent English novelist, biographer and critic. Many of her works focus on themes relating to girls and women’s development with regards to love, marriage and motherhood. Drabble has written over 18 novels since the publication of her debut novel, A Summer Bird Cage (1936), and is known-most for The Millstone (1965) and her many short-stories.

Who is your favourite female book character/heroine and why?
Maggie Tulliver, in George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, because she is vulnerable and warm-hearted and clever, but makes some disastrous and indeed fatal mistakes. Also I identified with her because she was known as Maggie, like me.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors and writers?
Get on with it! Don’t make excuses! Be bold!

Secure a seat at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on 7 November, “An Evening with Dame Margaret Drabble,” where she will discuss her long, over fifty-year career, which has been filled with success and a fair share of dramatics.

When: 7 November, 7 – 9pm.
Where: Main Lounge, The Helena May, 35 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong
How much: $12,000. To secure tickets, contact [email protected].

Drabble will also be bookending the festival with a discussion about her collection of short-stories A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman (2011) which she wrote over a 40-year period about the lives and passions of every day people.

When: 8 November, 11.30 am – 1pm.
Where: Wang Gungwu Theater, Graduate House, Hong Kong University, Pok Fu Lam Road, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong
How much: $250

leta-hong-fincher-hong-kong-literary-festLeta Hong Fincher, Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China (2014) – 
“You should read my book ‘Leftover Women’ if you’re looking for outrage, inspiration and evidence that staying single may make you happier than getting married.”

You’ve probably heard Fincher’s name thrown around quite a bit in the news since the publication of the critically acclaimed book, Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China. Leftover Women tackles the Chinese state media head-on by discussing the far-reaching consequences of the propagation of the derogatory term “leftover” women. “Leftover” women are typically professional, educated urban women who do not necessarily prioritise marriage or childbearing. Fincher’s book has received heaps of praise since its publication in 2014, including being named one of the top 5 China books of 2014 by the Asia Society’s ChinaFile.

If you had to take one book to a desert island, what would it be?
The complete poems of Emily Dickinson. I would get bored with any work of fiction on a desert island after reading it about five times, but I could read Emily Dickinson’s poetry over and over and it would feed my soul for a lifetime.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors and writers?
Bring a pen and paper with you at all times so you can jot down thoughts whenever they occur to you. My father gave me this advice years ago and I still do it today. You never know when a great idea will suddenly come to you and if you don’t write it down immediately, you might forget it.

Connect with Fincher on LinkedIn and Twitter or in-person at the Festival!

When: 2 November, 6.30 pm – 7.30 pm.
Where: Fringe Club, Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
How much: $135

pp-wong-hk-literary-festPP Wong, The Life of a Banana (2014) – You should read my book ‘The Life of a Banana’ if you’re looking for a dysfunctional Chinese family, intriguing twists and a grumpy African Spur Thighed tortoise.

Wong’s debut novel, The Life of a Banana, which explores race-relations in London through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl, has been met with great success after being long-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2015. Wong, a novelist and freelance writer, is dedicated to giving a voice to East and South East Asian writers through the website www.bananawriters.com.

What book would you recommend all young women to read?
It would be a tie between To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin.

Who is your favourite female book character/heroine and why?
I adore the feisty, redhead Anne from Anne of Green Gables. She started out as an underdog – an orphan who nobody wanted. But then she evolved into a strong, resilient woman who was unashamed about achieving her dreams despite what anyone told her. The novel was published at 1908 – a time in Canada where women could not vote and were encouraged to stay at home and forgo further education. Through the character of Anne, the author was telling young girls they could be anything they wanted to be and to not give up.

Wong will be joined by Adrien Bosc, Rebecca Swift and Mike Meyer for a panel discussion and Q&A on “How to Get Published” for all you aspiring writers out there! 

When: 6 November, 8.30 – 10pm.
Where: Fringe Club, Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
How much: $150

Sonia-Wong-Photo-Credit-Moment-Hung3-715x301Sonia Wong, Unseemingly Lasting (2015) – You should read my book ‘Unseemingly Lasting’ (my first and only solo work!) if you’re looking for honesty, pain and mumble.‎

Sonia founded the local Hong Kong group ‘Reel Women Hong Kong’ in 2013, which aims to promote women in film and gender equality. This inspiring group is giving more visibility to female film-makers in our city with special screenings and workshops. Reel Women Hong Kong also hosted the women’s film festival earlier this year, and along with this, Sonia also writes poetry, short fiction and creates art. She’s recently published her first solo collection of bilingual poetry, ‘Unseemingly Lasting’, and is also a PhD student at Lingnan University focusing on sexual subjectivity, lesbianism and pornography.

If you had to take one book to a desert island, what would it be?
Leung Man-tao’s “ātma-grāha”. It’s a book that helps me reflect. If not, I would just have to make sure I have paper and pen ready so I can be productive I guess. No distraction on a desert island, perfect for writing! ‎

What book would you recommend all young women to read?‎
In fact, this is an extremely difficult question! It would be hard to pick one book, but I would recommend books by Hong Kong female writer Wong Bik Wan together with the works of Chinese writers Eileen Chang and XiaoHong. This mix should equip any young woman with enough sophistication and strength to take on the world. ‎

Poetry lovers will have loved Sonia’s discussion with fellow poets Luke Kennard and Tammy Ho at the ‘Short Works and Big Ideas Part 2’ on 31 October, in which they discussed the place of poetry and short fiction in contemporary writing.

anna-smaill-hk-literary-festAnna Smaill, The Chimes (2015) – You should read my book ‘The Chimes’ if you’re looking for an aurally and emotionally complex future London.

Anna Smaill is a breakthrough writer from New Zealand whose recently published novel ‘The Chimes’ has been long listed by the Man Book Prize 2015 and is noted as ‘one to watch’ this year. With an MA in Creative Writing, an MA in English Literature and a book of poetry listed as one of the Best Books of 2006 by the New Zealand Listener, she’s certainly an exciting author to keep an eye on. Her debut novel The Chimes is set in a dystopian London and promises an original, intriguing journey…

What book would you recommend all young women to read?

A book I’d recommend that all young women read is The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston. I found it in the school library by chance when I was 14, and it blew my ideas about writing and being a woman wide open.

Who is your favourite female book character/heroine and why?
I have always loved Dorothea Brook from George Eliot’s Middlemarch. She’s idealistic and brilliant and highminded, but she doesn’t know herself as well as she thinks. She remains the most compelling and human character I’ve ever encountered.

Anna kicked of the Hong Kong Literary Festival with a lunch at KEE Club on 31 October to discuss ‘The Chimes’, and recently took part in the discussion ‘Strange and Surreal: Experimenting In Fiction’ with local author Nicolette Wong on 1 November.


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