Saturday, April 12, 2014

Introducing the Expat Women in Asia Anthology

More than a year ago, 86 female writers who are or have been expatriates in East Asia submitted personal stories for inclusion in an anthology of creative non-fiction from Signal 8 Press. I had the good fortune to read these stories of displacement, love, and adventure and to select 26 for publication in the collection.

How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia will be available in paperback and e-book formats on 10 June 2014. You can follow the Facebook page here.

Now, I'm proud to introduce the 26 writers whose words made me laugh, cry, and think a little deeper about the expat experience:

Neha Mehta
Barbara Craven
India Harris
Saffron Marchant
Coco Richter

I was honored to be able to work with these writers on their beautiful stories. I hope you'll take a look at their blogs and books.

Next, I'll unveil the cover design and share a few kind words about the anthology from some advance readers.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Life, Links, and Literary Death Match

Photo by Nicole Kong
 Hello! This blog is overdue for an update, and I have quite a few things to share. Actually, there are a couple of extra big news items and some pretty awesome books I want to tell you about, so I'm going to spread them over a few posts.

First: life. I still like Hong Kong. I love being married. My writing is taking on a life of its own. There are now three writing groups in my life: Tuesday meet-ups at Holly Brown for writing-with-company, once a month reading-wine-food salons, and most recently a critique-and-polish group that is helping me get through serious revisions of my post-apocalyptic series-in-progress. I'm so grateful to live in a city with so much writing energy all over the place.

Second: links. Recently I had a chance to participate in a podcast interview on Snipits of Time called Creative Habits. It's about my writing habits and inspirations and includes the story of how I got the idea for SEABOUND. Next up is the recap of the recent Women in Publishing Society event of the year: the IMPRINT Launch. The event demonstrated the literary energy that seems to be gathering steam around Hong Kong. We had the added pleasure of launching the novel that won the inaugural Saphira Prize: Ghost Cave: a novel of Sarawak by Elsie Sze. I helped manage the publication of this novel and formatted the ebook (part of why I haven't had time for blogging), and it was exciting to celebrate its official release. I had the opportunity to interview the lovely author when she came to Hong Kong, and you can watch the video here.

Third: Literary Death Match! The third episode of Literary Death Match in Hong Kong took place a few weeks ago, and I was one of the competitors! I read a true story about my family in Arizona and a certain pet boa constrictor. It was lots of fun, and the judges said some really nice things. The highlight was when the one and only Nury Vittachi looked straight at me and said, "Shannon, you're a real writer." In the final round, we played a game where we had to guess the famous novel based on one-star Amazon reviews. My husband and I teamed up to claim the victory! Here's the recap from the LDM blog.

In my next post there will be some exciting stuff about the expat women anthology, and then I'll post my big news!

What are you guys excited about lately? Any reports of growing literary enthusiasm in your town?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Canadian Bookspotting

I'm back in HK after spending the Chinese New Year holiday in Canada. I've learned to ski, more or less successfully. It was scarier than I thought it would be. I don't mind speed in roller coasters and airplanes; you always know that someone is in control. In skiing, you are the person controlling your movements, but you also have to give up a certain degree of control to go faster. It was hard. By the end of the trip I was handling the blue slopes and having fun, but I also learned a thing or two about my limits.

I've also been reminded what it's like to be around bitterly cold weather. Some days it was -20 degrees Celsius up on the mountain! I got acquainted with a few choice coffee shops in Whistler Village on the coldest days.

Interestingly, I didn't see that many people reading books in Whistler, but they also weren't playing on their phones like everyone does in HK. For the most part, people in the cafes chatted with each other and read the paper. It was kinda sweet.

The airport was a different story, however. Here's my bookspotting tally for Vancouver International:

-a woman reading a Sandra Brown novel
-a man reading a John Grisham novel (I think it was The Testament)
-a woman reading Rushdie's Midnight's Children
-a kid reading a Kindle in a bright orange plastic cover
-two Chinese women reading Chinese paperbacks (waiting for the HK flight, naturally)
-a Chinese man reading a Chinese hardback

I also read a lot on this holiday. I got through Dust by Hugh Howey (awesome), The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (memorable, intriguing), Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis (surprisingly good), and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (one of the books I spot most often in HK, incidentally). I also started Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver and it's every bit as good as you'd expect. She's a master.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be interviewed on the Artist Think blog as a Creative Spirit. I talk a bit about my writing projects, inspirations, and how I define creativity, just in case you're interested :).

What did you do for Chinese New Year? What are people reading in your towns and airports lately?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Bookspotting, BRB

This week I spotted a kid reading a Chinese edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (with the US cover). I spotted two people sporting textbooks, one on economics and one on theoretical something something (their hand was covering part of the title). Yesterday, a man carried a paperback by Leon Uris through Central. This morning on the train, a woman was reading Sinful in Satin by Madeline Hunter, which looked like pretty spicy reading for 7:30 am.

Tonight I'm heading off to Canada for the Chinese New Year holiday. The impending 13-hour flight has given me the perfect opportunity to load up my Kindle with Hugh Howey's Dust. Do you plan your airplane reading for weeks in advance? Or is that just me...

Anyway, I'm looking forward to snow, fresh air and central heating in Canada. Hopefully I'll have many hours of fireside hot chocolate reading to report when I return. Gung Hei Fat Choy!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bookspotting and Listening

I'll have an unusually large number of projects "out" over the next few weeks. I'm preparing some work to read with my critique groups and I have a few pieces of writing on submission with various editors. It's a little nerve-wracking to have so many people reading, considering, and judging my writing at the same time. Whether I'm looking for feedback to improve or answers about whether or not my work is good enough to publish, I plan to do a lot of listening. I have a tendency to become super focused on plans and goals. However, I also need to listen to the advice and outside perspectives of others and adjust my plans accordingly. Do you ever get so focused on your goals that you forget to listen and be flexible? Do you have any advice for someone who kinda likes to do things her own way?

In bookspotting news, I've spotted the same woman on three different mornings reading Walking Home from Mongolia by Rob Lilwall. I spotted a kid reading The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford on his way up an escalator in Central. Another young boy was reading what looked like a Harry Potter book, but I couldn't tell for sure. Yesterday, I spotted a man reading the same Kindle I have (grey 3rd generation keyboard). This morning, a woman on the train was reading Diana: Her Last Love by Kate Snell. 

I just started The Wives: The Women Behind Russia's Literary Giants by Alexandra Popoff. If you haven't heard the story of Anna and Fyodor Dostoevsky, you need to start Googling ASAP...or buy this book. I first heard their story from my Dostoevsky professor and it remains one of the most memorable things I learned in college.

What are people reading in your town lately? How about you?

Friday, January 3, 2014

27 Things

This seems like a good time to take stock. 2013 was a busy year, filled with some big moments. I want to reflect on a few of those moments and look ahead to the coming year. Here are 13 things I did in 2013 and 14 things I'm planning for 2014. 

In 2013...
1. I got married!
2. I paid off my student debt, which was nearly $70,000 when I graduated in 2009.
3. I moved out of the single apartment on Hollywood Road I had lived in for three years and made my first home with my husband.
4. I flew home to Arizona for a visit at Chinese New Year and completely surprised my family.
5. I got my scuba diving certification and dove in Hawaii on our honeymoon.
6. I self-published a novel, The Art of Escalator Jumping, in front of a live audience.
7. I won Nanowrimo for the second year in a row.
8. I had three articles and an interview published on Modern Love Long Distance.
9. I had a piece published in Imprint, the anthology of the Hong Kong Women in Publishing Society, and joined the Society's leadership committee.
10. I compiled and edited an anthology of writing by expat women in Asia (and signed my first book deal for it).
11. I published two short e-books under a secret pen name and wrote a third (to be published soon). The books are selling slowly but steadily with almost no promotion.
12. I wrote and edited A LOT. Big projects included first drafts of two books in my post-apocalyptic series-in-progress and revisions of three other manuscripts (Seabound, Escalator Jumping, and my very first manuscript, that as-yet-unpublished Hong Kong travel memoir).
13. I read A LOT. Highlights included the final Wheel of Time book (I almost saved a bullet point just for this one), Wool (and the prequel Shift) by Hugh Howey, Torn by Justin Lee, The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling, and Country Driving by Peter Hessler.

I don't make New Year's resolutions, but I have big plans for 2014...

1. Launch the expat women in Asia anthology (with the help of the amazing contributors)
2. Finish polishing Seabound, book 1 in my post-apocalyptic adventure series
3. Write and revise the second draft of Seaswept (book 2)
4. Write the rough draft of book 3 in the Seabound series
5. Write the second draft of the Seabound prequel, Burnt Sea
6. Polish and submit essay/e-book about paying off student debt
7. Publish third secret pen name e-book
8. Write and publish fourth secret pen name e-book and publish a 4-book compilation
9. Submit my Hong Kong travel memoir to traditional publishers
10. Choose a new pen name to use for Seabound and distinguish my SFF writing from my creative non-fiction/Hong Kong/expat-related work as Shannon Young
11. Begin publishing my Seabound series (publishing path TBD)
12. Build up savings now that I am debt free
13. Learn to ski (we're heading to Canada at Chinese New Year)
14. Decide how to proceed with A Kindle in Hong Kong. I've been posting less frequently than ever this year. I like using Bookspotting posts as status updates of sorts, but I'm way behind on reviews. Part of the reason for this is that I've been reading fewer Hong Kong/literary/travel/memoir-related books lately. I've been binging on sci-fi, fantasy, and post-apocalyptic fiction--and loving it. I'm not sure whether I should review everything I read or only review the books that are most relevant to the original audience of this blog. I intend to continue writing, blogging, and tweeting as Shannon Young, but I'm going to launch a new website and pen name for Seabound. Basically, I'm mulling over how best to separate out my interests/projects--or whether I need to separate them at all. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments (and suggestions for pen names!). 

What are your plans for 2014? What was the best thing you did in 2013?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Calling for student debt stories

I mentioned in my last post that I was on the verge of paying off my student loans. On December 3rd, I completed the transfer. I'm officially debt free.

I'm currently writing a piece about paying off student loans early (graduation was less than five years ago). Did you know that the average student debt per person in the US is now $29,400?

At the moment, the piece I'm working on has my story and my strategies for getting out of debt. I'd like to include anecdotes from other people who have paid off their student debt or are still in the process. If you're interested in sharing your story, please let me know at I'm mostly looking for Americans or people who went to US schools for this piece.

Here are some questions to give you an idea of the kind of information I'm seeking. Feel free to answer these questions directly, only answer some, or just drop me a few lines about your own student debt situation. You will remain anonymous unless you explicitly give me permission to quote you.

1) How did you decide to take on student loans? Did you feel you had any other options?

2) Approximately how much did you borrow? (Again, this is totally optional and anonymous if you want to share. I'm going to include all of my own numbers.)

3) What is your current debt status? If you're in repayment, does your debt feel manageable? If you've already paid off your debt, how did you do it and how long did it take?

4) What's the biggest sacrifice or most extreme measure you've had to take in order to make your student loan payments?

5) Was it worth it? This is the $70,000 question for me, one I'm planning to answer in my student debt piece.

Thanks in advance for your stories!
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