Thursday 27 March 2014

Published Today: By All Means Necessary by Elizabeth Economy and Michael Levy

In the past thirty years, China has transformed from an impoverished country where peasants comprised the largest portion of the populace to an economic power with an expanding middle class and more megacities than anywhere else on earth.  Like every other major power in modern history, China is looking outward to find the massive quantities of resources needed to maintain its economic expansion; it is now engaged in a far-flung quest around the world for fuel, ores, water, and land for farming.  Chinese traders and investors buy commodities, with consequences for economies, people, and the environment around the world. Meanwhile the Chinese military aspires to secure sea lanes, and Chinese diplomats struggle to protect the country's interests abroad.  In By All Means Necessary: how China's resource quest is changing the world  Elizabeth Economy and Michael Levi explore the unrivaled expansion of the Chinese economy and what has been required to sustain this meteoric growth.

They cover…
·      Is Chinese demand at the root of soaring global resource prices?
·      How will China’s state-controlled companies influence the commodities free market?
·      What effect does the resource quest have on Chinese foreign policy?
·      Does China’s rise as a naval power signal a plan to control global shipping routes?

Clear, authoritative, and provocative, By All Means Necessary is a sweeping account of where China's pursuit of raw materials may take the country in the coming years and what the consequences will be - not just for China, but for the whole world.

About the Authors

Elizabeth Economy is Senior Fellow and Director of Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations and author of The River Runs Black. Michael Levi is Senior Fellow and Director, Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations and author of The Power Surge.

By All Means Necessary is published by OUP, in hardback and eBook, priced in local currencies.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Alice on Self-Publishing: Hong Kong's Inkstone Books

Alice Clark-Platts writes our monthly column on self-publishing. Here she talks to Peter Gordon, who founded and runs an independent publishing house, Chameleon Press, in Hong Kong. He set up an imprint of Chameleon, Inkstone Books, to enable publication of books of niche interest, mostly from indie authors.

Peter told me that given the relatively few publishers in Hong Kong, once Chameleon was established, he was soon approached by local authors looking for a local publisher. Those authors had some interesting titles but they fell outside the focus of the larger Chameleon Press, meaning that the costs associated with marketing them could potentially outweigh the benefits of the print run.

Chameleon was the first publisher in the region to use print on demand and soon the company developed the ability to do short print runs - a service that no other business could provide in Hong Kong. Short print runs serve much the same objectives as print on demand in that they keep the upfront print costs down. The process is particularly appealing for a small market such as Hong Kong where enough copies can be printed for initial sales and marketing and then further copies can be printed from the proceeds of the first batch, as and when they are required.

Inkstone chooses the books it publishes; the work must be of a certain standard. Books published under Inkstone have the same production values as the Chameleon Press. Even for short print run books, authors are encouraged to use editors and to work to professional design standards. If a book needs to be produced in larger volumes Inkstone takes on more of the production tasks, helping with editorial and design consultation and project management.

Given its local expertise and resources, Inkstone is primarily of use to authors or organisations based in Hong Kong. As experts in the region, Inkstone’s staff can arrange distribution to book stores and assist with coordinating author events. The company is part of the fabric of Hong Kong writing life; it has worked with the Hong Kong Writers’ Circle for several years to put out their annual anthology. This local knowledge is particularly useful for books whose topics and authors are familiar to potential readers.  For example 
Mike Rowse, a Hong Kong personality who became embroiled in a local scandal, wrote up his troubles in No Minister and No, Minister: The True Story of HarbourFest. Almost all the considerable sales of this book were in Hong Kong and it well demonstrates the particular benefits of a Hong Kong-based publisher for Hong Kong-based authors.

In the world of self-publishing, success can come from unexpected quarters. In 2002 Inkstone published The Phenomenon That Was Minder, a guide to the British television series, written by Brian Hawkins. This was an example of a book Inkstone knew had commercial potential but it fell into a tricky place from a marketing perspective. The book has sold well for more than a decade and has, in fact, just been reissued as The Complete Minder.  Brian Hawkins used the success of the book to negotiate a deal with the actor from the series, George Cole, to ghost his autobiography, The World Was My Lobster.

Inkstone has shown that significant sales are possible for self-published books and for books that might be considered niche and fall outside a traditional marketing strategy. Authors should take heart from this and do their research into publishers that can support their work in a particular market. The quality of the work is obviously key, along with a rigorous editing eye and a proper layout. But the moral of the story is that your self-published short print run title could become a best seller – with the support and knowledge of a publishing house such as Inkstone Books.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Seen Elsewhere: Obituaries for Khushwant Singh

Khushwant Singh (February 2, 1915 – March 20, 2014) was an Indian novelist, lawyer, politician and journalist. He was best known for his secularism, his humour, and his love of poetry. He served as the editor of several literary and news magazines, as well as two broadsheets, through the 1970s and 1980s. He was the recipient of Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award in India.

Here are some obituaries seen elsewhere around the web.

The Hindu (India)

Aljazeera (Qatar)

Friday 21 March 2014

Published Today: Buy My Beloved Country by Lee Chiu San

Buy My Beloved Country by Lee Chiu San from Ethos Books is published today in paperback priced in local currencies.

Chinese naval vessels threaten Philippine patrol boats off the shores of the Philippines. China claims sovereignty over the Spratleys in the South China Sea. China unilaterally establishes an East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone. 

We're all used to the headlines.  And we all know too that East Asia could become a military hotspot. This is the background to Buy My Beloved Country.

What  would happen if citizens of the tiny city-state of Singapore found their island nation at the very heart of global geopolitics? What would happen if, as a pawn in the deadly serious global game, the country was made  an offer that spelled wealth for every citizen; every man, woman and child?

Lee imagines heart-wrenching discussions taking place everywhere from the coffee stalls where workers congregate, to the rarefied dining rooms of the nation’s elitist clubs. In the run-up to a referendum in which Singaporeans will have to make the hardest choice, the arguments threaten to divide families and friends.

In this chillingly plausible page-turner, journalist-turned-novelist Lee Chiu San,  examines the relationship between a country and its citizens. Are the ties that bind them purely financial or more emotionally deep-rooted? 

New and Notable

Body Boundaries is an  anthology of works by twenty‐seven women writers from  Singapore, edited by Tania De Rozario,  Zarina Muhammad, and Krishna Udayasankar, published in paperback, priced in local currencies.   

Comprising works of poetry and prose, the collection breaks down barriers between public and 
private, and personal and political, to reveal both collective and diverse experiences threaded together by identity markers of gender and geography. 

The collection is the first volume of a series by EtiquetteSG,  a multidisciplinary platform  dedicated to developing and showcasing art, writing, film and music created by women in 
Singapore.  It is published by the Literary Centre, Singapore. 

Thursday 20 March 2014

World Storytelling Day by Verena Tay

World Storytelling Day logo
Today, March 20, is World Storytelling Day, an annual celebration of the art of oral storytelling.  Here Verena Tay, a founding member of the Storytelling Association (Singapore), and a co-founder of MoonShadow Stories, a group promoting live narrative art forms, talks about oral traditions in Asia, and how you can help to keep them alive.
If you are reading this blog, you are interested in the written word, texts and stories. But how did people communicate before the invention of writing? Through the spoken word and through oral storytelling, of course.
Even though we now live in an age where there are so many forms of visual communication to take up our attention, we are still hardwired as humans to listen to stories and gain much satisfaction from the experience. Remember as a child how you felt thrilled when an older person told you a story, be it a folk tale or some family anecdote or history? And what better way to bond with friends and family as an adult than to sit down and chat and swap stories? Nothing beats that direct, heart-to-heart, one-to-one bonding that comes with sharing stories.
Oral storytelling had an honoured role in times past in all parts of the world. Often the designated storyteller was the repository of community knowledge and culture and the stories that he or she told helped to pass down that information from one generation to another.
Within Asia, some examples of storytelling transforming into a performance tradition include:
·  storytellers who told stories in Chinese teahouses, various regions of China developing distinctive styles of telling;
·  the Japanese rakugo storyteller sitting alone on a stage and entertaining audiences with comic stories;
·  wayang kulit in the Malay archipelago where the dalang told stories often based on the Ramayana with the aid of shadow puppets and a whole ensemble of musicians.
Within recent history before the age of television and the Internet, Chinese immigrants brought their love of storytellers and storytelling along within them to Singapore. Click here for a poignant photo in the online National Archives of Singapore dating from 1960 of working men gathering along the Singapore River one evening after a hard day’s work just to hear stories from a traditional storyteller. From 1938 to 1982, the famed Cantonese storyteller, Lee Dai Sor, thrilled listeners with stories over public radio on a regular basis.
Far from being an archaic art form, there has been a global revival of oral storytelling since the 1980s. This wave of interest reached Singapore during the late 1990s. Individually and as part of MoonShadow Stories, I am part of this growth of contemporary storytelling as an art form here in Singapore and have particularly promoted storytelling for adult audiences.
One of the regular activities that MoonShadow Stories conducts is celebrating World Storytelling Day in various ways since 2005. On 15 March, we carried out Dragon Tales and Monster Stories and Stories of Faith at The Singapore Arts House for World Storytelling Day 2014.
The idea of World Storytelling Day was first developed in Sweden during the early 1990s to commemorate the art form on March 20, the day of the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere and the autumn equinox in the southern hemisphere. Throughout March this year, World Storytelling Day is being celebrated in Canada, the Netherlands, Greece, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Kenya, the USA, Hawaii, Argentina, the Philippines, Croatia, Venezuela, India, Ireland, Spain, Denmark, the UK, and of course, Singapore. Click here for a programme of events worldwide.
Anyone can celebrate World Storytelling Day. You don’t need to be a professional storyteller, an arts group or a production house to do so.
So today, March 20, all you have to do for World Storytelling Day is turn to a loved one, a colleague, a family member or a friend and share a story, any story, with that person. Go on! Make that person’s day and your day as well. Just tell and have fun!