Friday, 28 March 2014

Women of Letters

Is the art of letter writing dying?  Australians Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire don’t think so. In homage to letter writing, they founded the literary salon Women of Letters, which invites women to write in with their own letters: love letters; letters to love itself; letters of revenge; of hope; of political anger; of reportage; whatever women feel moved to write about, addressed to whomever they wish.  They have a few brave male correspondents too, some of them writing to the women who’ve changed their lives.

Of course, letter writing no longer means simply putting pen to paper, it can just as easily mean tapping at a keyboard, and then pressing send on an e-mail. Women of Letters embraces the technological changes that have themselves changed letter writing.

Last year, Women of Letters ran a tour in Indonesia. This year, the salon is teaming up with the Ubud Writers and Readers’ Festival (UWRF) in an initiative called From page to homepage: letter writing goes digital. 

Here, Marieke and Michaela write you a letter explaining how you can participate, even if you can’t make it to Ubud, either now or for the Festival, which will take place in October.  For those of you who have an Asian language as your mother tongue, please note that the language of Women of Letters is English. 

Dear readers of Asian Books Blog,

We've curated Women of Letters events in Australia and all over the world to focus on the value of letter writing and reviving the lost art of written correspondence. 

Now you can share your letters from Asia with the Women of Letters online letter writing platform on the UWRF website.  
Building on the momentum of previous workshops and events held in Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Ubud – which included lit-world luminaries like Anne Summers, Lionel Shriver, Ayu Utami and musician Clare Bowditch – our innovative letter writing portal encourages entries via snail mail, digital upload, video or soundbyte submission. Each month we will explore a different theme, the first being A Letter to a Wish.  
It’s easy to do – here’s a simple guide to get you started: 
Point your mouse in the direction of
Head to the About section, click on the Women of Letters button.
Browse the selection of letters already posted, or else submit your own digital version. This can include a postcard image of where you are, and can be personalised with different handwriting styles and letter design. Opt to go public or stay anonymous – it’s up to you. 
You can also link to a Soundcloud file or a YouTube video (like an audio/video book, but letter form). Try and ensure these are no longer than 5-10mins. 
Finally, for those who want to keep it completely old-school, letters can be sent by post to the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival - the address is on the website - who will then scan and upload the letter for you. This is also a great option if you have a story to share, but no access to a computer or internet connection. 
We hope you will use this platform to explore your creative side while connecting with other women writers.

We're so proud that what began as a slightly mad idea to single-handedly revive the lost art of correspondence has spread so far across the world. It's our wish that you will use this beautiful platform to continue sharing your stories and your letters

We look forward to reading your letters,

Warm regards, Michaela McGuire & Marieke Hardy, Women of Letters 

Women of Letters  is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia International Cultural Council, an initiative of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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.