Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bookspotting: Week 82

This is your brain when revising fiction.
This week's bookspotting was limited. I've spent more than my usual amount of time in cafes over the last several days, but I've been existing in a revision fog. There is a local writing competition whose deadline is September 30th. I'm using it as motivation to finish my first long work of fiction (currently weighing in at 42,000 words). I finished the first draft before the summer holidays, and now I'm trying to fight it in to shape in time to submit it to the judges. As my first novel (I'm more of a creative non-fiction gal), I'm not expecting to make it very far in the competition, but I really do want to complete the piece. Unfortunately, the middle has been a big, soggy mess and I've had to rewrite the first chapter about 20 twenty times in the last week. (Mom, this is why you haven't heard from me lately. Sorry!) With any luck, I'll learn enough to try another novel when NaNoWriMo season rolls around again...

I did spot one Kindle in the Pure restaurant. A Chinese girl on the MTR was reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and yesterday I spotted a young man reading a comic book on the train. Beyond that, my eyes have been on my computer screen and my Kindle this week. Speaking of which, what do you all think of the new Paperwhite Kindles? If they had a Paperwhite with the keyboard option, I'd upgrade. Alas, I'll be sticking with my trusty 2nd generation white Kindle for the time being.

Are you working on a project that is frustrating right now? What have you been reading lately? Have you spotted any books?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

WILD by Cheryl Strayed


After the death of her mother, a young woman hikes the Pacific Crest Trail alone in search of healing.


The latest travel memoir everyone's talking about follows the 1995 journey of a young woman who feels like she has lost everything. Her mother dies after a shockingly brief battle with cancer, and in the aftermath Cheryl's young marriage crumbles, she makes a series of terrible choices, and her siblings scatter. Left raw and lonely after her divorce, Cheryl sets out to hike from the bottom of California to the top of Oregon alone. Along the way, she tests her body to its very limits and finds peace and healing in the wilderness. She has a self-destructive streak which I found very frustrating, but she is brutally honest about her shortcomings.

Cheryl meets other hikers along the way, but the trail is new and empty enough that she sometimes travels for days entirely alone. She encounters everything from desert heat to snow to lack of water to ill-fitting shoes. The book is full of lyrical descriptions of the emotions Cheryl experiences through these hardships, but not enough about the beautiful, wild parts of the West. I read this book while in Oregon this summer, and it did make me want to wander around in the woods outside my grandparents' house, but it did not make me want to take a trip like Cheryl's.

Cheryl's journey is interspersed with vivid flashbacks, making this more a story of grief than of hiking. On one hand, I appreciated the powerful, personal nature of this story. However, the moments when she stopped to consider some vista and revisit a scene from her past seemed contrived at times. It was apparent that this story was written many years after the journey, and a lot of the actual moments had to be recreated. Even so, the emotions were very real. The prose delved into each feeling, unafraid to linger on the pain, guilt and hope.



$12.99 for the Kindle edition


How do you feel about memoirs that are written long after the experience vs. when the memories are still fresh? Do you think perspective and depth are more valuable than raw immediacy?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bookspotting at The Book Attic

Last night I attended an event at The Book Attic, a lovely used bookstore up a little back staircase in Soho. Owner and booklover Jennifer Li spoke about how she manages the shop, which has garnered attention from the likes of The New York Times and CNN.

The Book Attic has an orderly, computerized system, distinguishing it from the cluttered cacophony of Flow (the other used bookstore in Soho). Jennifer's loyal customer's donate almost-new books in exchange for store credit, and her patrons recognize her passion for bringing English books to Hong Kong. She acknowledged that it can be difficult for a bookshop to survive, especially in a place where many people do not read anymore, but she was full of good stories about the people who come through her doors.

I spotted a few readers this week, including three people with Chinese books. A man in the grocery store was carrying a copy of The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Leaders by Richard McGregor. A woman on the train this morning was reading Pigeon English. I spotted a girl in the lounge of my gym with a huge book (we're talking 7th-Harry-Potter huge) beside her on the table.

What are people reading in your town this week? Do you have a favorite used bookshop?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Expat Women in Asia: Call for Submissions

Dear Friends,
I have an exciting new project in the works and I need your help! I will be the editor for a new anthology of creative non-fiction and memoir by expatriate women in Asia, and I'm looking for contributors. The anthology will be published by Signal 8 Press in the spring of 2014. Many of you are writers, many of you are women, and many of you live in Asia. Please take a look at the information and consider submitting to the collection (or sending it on to your writing friends).

Expat Women in Asia: Call for Submissions

We are seeking contributions from expatriate women in East Asia for a new anthology from Signal 8 Press in Hong Kong. This collection will feature the writing of women who are currently expatriates or who previously lived in an East Asian country. For the purposes of this anthology, we construe East Asia to include Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and the ASEAN countries. All submissions should be creative non-fiction and/or travel memoir pieces that speak to the expat experience in modern East Asia. Potential topics include travel, work, relationships, gender roles, safety, family, and repatriation. We are looking for stories with a strong and personal narrative arc, not just travel guides or descriptions of the places you’ve lived. We hope to make this anthology as inclusive as possible, as well, and we welcome submissions from women from different parts of the world.

Contributions should be between approximately 2000 and 5000 words in length. Each writer will receive two copies of the completed anthology and a percentage of the royalties to be determined by the final number of contributors. Please send all submissions, with a brief paragraph about the author, to shannon [at] typhoon-media [dot] com. Submissions should be in Microsoft Word, .doc or .docx format, and in a standard font. The deadline for submissions is 28 February 2013. This title will be released in paperback and e-book formats in the spring of 2014.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bookspotting: Week 80

I spent this weekend in various coffee shops finishing the second draft of my first novel. It's more of a novella, really, but my deadline is September 30th, so I've been working pretty furiously. Saturday was gloomy, but Sunday was a beautiful sunny day. I set up shop on the back patio of the new Starbucks on Queen's Road. Surrounded by skyscrapers, it's one of the few coffee shops in Central where you can sit outside and enjoy the weather. On the patio, I spotted a couple of Filipino women having a Bible study and a separate group studying a Jehovah's Witness text. There were three Western women reading on the terrace. One had Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins; one had a book by an author whose last name is Koch (there are quite a few Kochs on Amazon); one was taking notes in The Universal Journal. When I got off the MTR this morning I saw someone carrying a Lee Child novel. I spotted four Chinese books this week, one of which had a bright yellow cover. How about you? What are people reading in your town this week?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012



A young girl must deal with the repercussions when her beautiful, terrible mother murders her lover.


Astrid and Ingrid Magnussen are not like other people, at least that's what Ingrid teaches her daughter. She is a magnetic, sometimes ethereal poet who glides through life with cold elegance. Astrid worships her mother and watches her wield power over men who mean nothing to her. When an unremarkable man loves and then leaves her, Astrid watches Ingrid plot and carry out a crime that is both dispassionate and desperate. She finds herself in the foster care system, shuffled between households, mothers and worlds, constantly in thrall to her mother's dangerous influence.

WHITE OLEANDER is viciously lyrical, exploring the pain of growing up in the foster system through unapologetic poetry. I read this novel before summer started, but the descriptions of Ingrid's cold, psychological power have stayed with me. The novel is set in southern California and explores the dry, unglamorous parts of the region with desolate honesty. Some might find the prose overdone, but I appreciated the way the author lingered over the descriptions and images, allowing them to sink and settle.

The language is what makes this novel worth reading, but the characters are also complex, flawed and fascinating. It is not a happy novel, but the relationships and people are fiercely vivid. I'm currently working on a novel, and I've learned a lot from Janet Fitch's model while developing my characters. Ingrid is an extreme character, and the author is not afraid to make her powerful, dangerous and beautiful. I have a tendency to make everyone pretty reasonable, but reading WHITE OLEANDER has challenged me to stretch beyond that and work on creating characters who are truly memorable.


Janet Fitch's blog


$9.99 for the Kindle edition


What character has stuck with you the longest after reading their story? What book did you remember for the language rather than the plot?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bookspotting: Week 79

This week I spotted two different young men carrying Game of Thrones books, one in front of the bar where I sometimes attend a weekly poetry night and one on the MTR. On Sunday I was in the Mandarin Oriental for some afternoon cake and spotted a young boy with The Adventures of Hugo Cabret. Later, on the MTR, I spotted a man reading an English thesaurus. He wasn't taking notes or anything, just reading. That might be a first for me. I counted four Chinese books this week, not including my adventures in the new Eslite bookstore.

What are people reading in your town this week?
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