Thursday 12 May 2016

Women in Publishing Hong Kong by Sarah Merrill Mowat

Women in Publishing (WiPS) is an international organisation working to promote the status of women working in publishing and related trades by helping them to develop their careers. Sarah Merrill Mowat is vice president of the Hong Kong chapter, and also coordinator of Imprint, HK WiPS’ annual anthology of members’ writing.  Here Sarah talks about the advantages of joining WiPS, and the latest issue of Imprint, which was published in April.

I joined WiPS Hong Kong not long after moving to the city about thirteen years ago. Having worked in the publishing industry in the UK and hoping to shift my focus to writing, it seemed a natural place to find like-minded people. I was not an active member until our children had grown a bit and I found the time to undertake an MFA in writing at Hong Kong University. In the beginning, I simply attended the occasional meeting and submitted to Imprint. My involvement with WiPS has grown as I have got to know other members better. Apart from my own writing, my work for WiPS is the most rewarding that I do, as it connects me with women of all ages in a range of professions, some who have been in Hong Kong for as little as six months, and others who were born here.  

WiPS Hong Kong was started in 1990. As in other chapters, continued education, idea-sharing, networking and mentoring are critical to our mission. Our membership comprises women from many countries, with the city of Hong Kong providing the thread that connects us. Our members are writers, authors, editors, journalists, teachers, linguists, proofreaders, translators, typesetters, musicologists, film producers, academics, artists, illustrators and entrepreneurs. Some are seasoned professionals, willing to share their experience of the publishing industry with the membership, others are new to the industry. Operating on the belief that knowledge is power and that a group can maximise an individual’s potential, WiPS is proud to lay claim to such expertise among its members and to facilitate its exchange.

In its early days, WiPS functioned largely as a networking support group where members enlisted the skills of other members to complete projects, advised each other of job opportunities and exchanged information on rates for freelance work. Since then we have met regularly, mostly at the Foreign Correspondents Club on Lower Albert Road, to explore a wide range of topics from travel writing, to self-employment tax issues, to legal and copyright matters, to the art of interviewing and writing profiles, to how to self-publish, the value of good blogging, and the use of social media in book marketing. From time-to-time, we also offer professional development courses: our next is a computer lab workshop on publishing eBooks.

Of course, we also publish Imprint. For fifteen years it has been a place for members to showcase their talents, and editorial and production meetings enable members to gather outside of our monthly events. From the start, we chose to make Imprint as inclusive as possible, open to English-speakers of all nationalities and wide-ranging in its categories. The publication process also provides a useful training platform from which to gain experience of the various aspects of book publishing. 

Imprint mirrors the changing dynamics of WiPS as a whole. While our connection to Hong Kong unites us as an organisation, the voices of members convey a range of experience that spans the globe. Many who leave Hong Kong stay connected with WiPS through Imprint, bringing us their tales, both real and imagined, from places this year as diverse as Vientiane, San Francisco, Edmonton, Melbourne and Utrecht. Despite our far-flung backgrounds, there is a certain solidarity found on the anthology's pages. Imprint provides a place where we can come together and share our story, each piece representing one of the many and varied narratives of women, whatever their place of birth, or wherever circumstance has sent them. 

This year's Imprint is as engaging as ever, its pages filled with fiction, essays, poetry, artwork and photography; all the creation of our membership.  The cover is the happy combination of photographs from one member, and the graphic design skills of another, with text input from two or three more. The anthology also includes the winning piece from our short story competition for young writers which is open to secondary students - boys as well as girls - throughout Hong Kong. Also in its fifteenth year, the student writing competition has been a part of Imprint since its inception, reflecting our commitment to encourage aspiring local writers. 

You can order Imprint directly from WiPS via email on wipshk@gmail.comMembership of WiPS Hong Kong is open to women with an interest in publishing or writing. More information about becoming a member or attending one of our monthly meetings can be found here. Follow us on Facebook here.

Our next event is the eBook workshop in May – it will include uploading the latest edition of Imprint to usher it into the digital age. In June, Leta Hong Fincher will talk about her book Leftover Women, which describes social problems faced by women in China who are not married by age 30. 

The submission deadline for Imprint 16, is 30 September. Submissions are accepted only from members of WiPS. All genres are considered. For more information, click here

If you are in Hong Kong, WiPS looks forward to sharing its members’ work with you through Imprint, and to welcoming you to a future event.