Monday, October 31, 2011

Bookspotting: Week 40

I have to be honest, I didn't do very much bookspotting this week because I was completely absorbed by The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I almost missed my stop on the MTR a few times, and I wasn't paying much attention to the readers around me. It's a magical book, which I'll be reviewing later this week. I did see a teenage boy reading The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan and I'm pretty sure it's the same boy I saw reading a Percy Jackson book last week. I saw two different people reading Chinese books in KFC, and I noticed a western woman reading a dog-eared novel on the train, though I couldn't see the title.

What are people reading in your town this week. What are you reading right now?

Thursday, October 27, 2011



MFA holders and professional writers write about how you don't actually need an MFA to learn how to write.

I've been learning everything I can about writing over the last year. My English degree was all about reading and analyzing literature and writing academic essays. I have only recently felt the compulsion to write in my own time. I mentioned earlier this week that I am thinking about doing an MFA, but since I'm still paying for that first degree I probably won't do it this year. This book reinforced my sense that I can do things that are equivalent to an MFA without actually being enrolled in a program. The authors say to read carefully, write a lot, and join a critique group, all things I am doing already. They outline the benefits of an MFA (a writing community, feedback, access to publishing contacts and stellar faculty) but do not believe it is a necessary investment.

The book is divided into five sections (fiction, personal essays and memoir, magazine writing, poetry and script-writing). I skimmed the poetry and script sections, which offered interesting things to think about but were not as relevant to me. The fiction section focused on the short story form. There were writing exercises and helpful reminders about character building, plot and tension. The author outlined the different types of conflict and how to craft each one. I am writing creative non-fiction, but the components of a good fiction story are just as important to practice for my narrative. The memoir section analyzed effective personal essays and described how to express your honest voice in an engaging way. It addressed scene-building, dialogue, and how to tell the truth when crafting a memoir.

I think this book would be most useful for someone who has been intentionally practicing the craft of writing for a little while. I recently finished the second draft of a travel memoir about my first year in Hong Kong, and I scrutinized my work based on the advice in this book. It was encouraging to find that I am already doing many of the things they suggest intuitively, and for that I credit my voracious reading habit. It helped me figure out some of the things I need to do better (dialogue, for example) and I will go back and reread various sections of the book as I continue to revise. ON WRITING by Stephen King is still the best writing book out there for beginners, but this book is a good tool for those who want to take their work to the next level.


The New York Writers Workshop


$8.99  for the Kindle edition


What do you think about MFAs? Do you have one? Do you consider it a good investment? How do you learn to write?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Walking Tour: City University of Hong Kong

This weekend I attended a reading at City University of Hong Kong that was part of the MFA program. I am thinking about applying for the program (with an emphasis in creative non-fiction), though I am not yet sure an MFA is the direction I want to take. While I was there, I took the opportunity to make a walking tour of the university campus. I had never been there before, so consider this an exploratory tour. The campus is located in Kowloon Tong, right next to the Festival Walk shopping mall, which is where our tour begins.

I entered the university through the shopping mall.

There was a long corridor filled with students.

The walls sang the praises of the university, and I was able to do some bookspotting too.

I emerged from the tunnel to see the main building.

There was a gently sloping walk to the doors, bordered by covered sidewalks.

Groups of students were promoting something and calling to passersby.

The buildings itself looked nice and modern.

I went through the front doors.

The lobby had a big mural...

...on each side.

There were escalators rising into the building.

Directly in front of me I found the library...

....and to my right I found the bookshop.

I took the escalator up to the next floor.

I found myself in a busy student union. It was cool to be around college students again.

There was some sort of design event, and the place was filled with teams showing off their strange vehicles.

I kept walking and saw students studying intently on the other side of the hall.

I passed a small office at the end of a hall littered with advertisements for events...

...and discovered another set of escalators.

There was a map here, clarifying that I had just walked the length of Academic Building 1.

I left the building...

...and saw some shaded walkways leading to the smaller surrounding buildings.

I noticed a big construction site, which I assume will be part of the university.

I walked through the breezeway beneath the Amenities Building in front of me.

I found events posters and information typical of a university campus.

When I emerged from the breezeway on the other side of the Amenities Building I found the pool.

It looked impressive, and it was backed by a nice bank of trees.

The side of the next building was open to the hazy sky.

I walked along the edge of the pool to Academic Building 2, where my event would take place.

When I left the event a little later I saw a poster that made me want to be a student again.

Thanks for joining me on this tour of City University of Hong Kong. I was an outsider on this tour, and if you know more about the university feel free to share in the comments. Come back next week for another Hong Kong walking tour. There will be fish.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bookspotting: Week 39

This week I spotted two different teenagers reading Percy Jackson books, the first on the MTR and the second in a bookstore cafe. I saw a young man reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett and a woman reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. I spotted a man on the train looking very dapper in white spats, white jeans and a white vest. He was reading a sky blue hardcover book that matched his sky blue shirt. I went to the big Pacific Coffee Co in Festival Walk on Sunday afternoon where I saw dozens of university students pouring over textbooks. One girl was taking a break from her work to read a book by Donna Leon. I discovered that the cafe has a set of bookshelves filled with novels for patrons to read. 

On Friday I attended a reading at City University for their MFA program. The readers were Michael Meyer, author of The Last Days of Old Beijing (which I am currently reading on my Kindle) and Ouyang Yu, author of 59 books of poetry, prose and essays. Each author brought copies of their books and several of the MFA students had copies too. It was nice to be around students and I explored the university for this week's walking tour, coming on Wednesday.

What are people reading in your town this week?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen


Pride and Prejudice... but with zombies.


I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. I enjoy reworkings of classic tales, but in this case I felt that the execution was not as good as it could have been. The core of the problem was that, despite there being a zomie infestation to counter, the zombies didn't add any real tension to the plot. I found I was more interested in watching how the relationships between the characters developed than in seeing how they fought the undead. The additions to the story were clever and funny at times, but they didn't impress me the way I hoped they would.

The zombie presence is already an established fact when the story begins. All five of the Bennet girls trained to fight zombies in China and are "skilled in the deadly arts." They have no trouble vanquishing the unmentionables who lurch out of the woods and attack carriages every once in a while. I think the book would have been more interesting if the zombie infestation was new, or if they had to learn the fighting skills on their own or if there were some weaknesses to overcome. Instead, Elizabeth simply cuts down zombies when she sees them, Jane kills zombies, but is as nice as ever, and Kitty and Lydia are just as silly despite their intensive training.

The author does a nice job of maintaining Austen's voice as much as possible. Almost all of the original words are still in the story, and the additions fit in seamlessly. Her story is as compelling as ever, and it is fun to read it with fresh eyes. There's a hilarious set of discussion questions at the end that left me with a better impression of the book as a whole. I appreciated the humor and irreverence, but this is a book that I probably wouldn't bother to read again.


Seth Grahame-Smith's website


I paid $0.99 for the Kindle edition


What is your favorite retelling of a classic (book or movie)?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Walking Tour: Lan Kwai Fong

This week's Wednesday Walking Tour is a celebration of my new camera. I loved my old one, but it was nearly five years old and not very good at taking night photos. Point-and-shoot cameras are just so much better at taking pictures in the dark these days. Last night I took my shiny new Canon Ixus out for a spin. This tour goes straight through nightlife central: Lan Kwai Fong.  

Start out at the Fringe Club, a cool arts venue on one corner of a five road intersection (Glenealy, Ice House Street, Wyndham, D'Aguilar).

Cross Wyndham Street...

....then take the left fork down D'Aguilar Street.

You'll get your first look at busy bar central. LKF is the place to go after work in Central. It's popular with visitors to HK, and in my opinion it is less seedy than Wan Chai (and also more expensive).

When you reach the new Hard Rock Cafe on your left...

...Lan Kwai Fong will be on your right.

Look straight along D'Aguilar at the cool brick wall rising above the street...

...but then turn right and walk down into LKF.

You'll find nightclubs and pubs...

...alongside restaurants and cafes.

LKF is active even on Tuesday nights.

I wasn't the only person taking pictures. The mural hides a building that is being demolished.

There are some shops in LKF too, though they were closed when I walked by.

There are colorful posters to hide unsightly buildings.

LKF is often decorated for something, in this case Halloween.

The street is shaped like an L, so you'll have to turn left around the corner of the demolition site.

Keep walking downhill.

On your right is the Lan Kwai Fong building, home to miscellaneous businesses, clubs, and a 7 Eleven.

There's a row of shops outside that was just closing up for the night. I can't believe how well the lights turned out in the pictures!

When you reach the corner take a peek past the mural at the demolition site. This is all that remains of California Tower.

You've reached D'Aguilar Street again. It bends at the brick wall, and forms a square with Lan Kwai Fong. When most people refer to LKF they mean the whole square.

There's often an event or band being promoted in the street.

And there are always people outside the bars enjoying the weather.

Walk to your right down D'Aguilar Street.

You'll pass a few smaller streets with bars and businesses.

Take one last look up at the busy clubbing area before... reach the corner with Wellington Street...

...where you can jump in a taxi to head home for the night.

I hope you enjoyed this night time walking tour. Now that I have this new camera I'll have to show you around the night markets. Come back next week for another Hong Kong walking tour!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...