Calling all writers and authors! Let the creative juices flow and apply now to be part of the Hong Kong Writers Circle 2022 anthology
The Hong Kong Writers Circle, established in 1991, is Hong Kong’s largest English writing organisation, supporting members across all levels and genres. It is a creative community that provides opportunities to develop their writing skills, to receive feedback on their work and take part in workshops, and network with like-minded creatives. One of the cornerstones of the organisation is the annual anthology, a collection of short stories, often mixed in with poems and non-fiction, which has a new and interesting theme each year.
The Hong Kong Writers Circle is now accepting applications for the 2022 anthology, with a submission deadline of 8 March 2022.
We are excited to be speaking to the editor of the Hong Kong Writers Circle anthology, Nathan Lauer!
Hong Kong Writers Circle 2022 anthology: Nathan Lauer, editor
Hi Nathan, Thanks so much for taking out the time to speak with us. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience?
I’m originally from the US. I’ve been writing fiction on and off, more off than on, most of my life. I moved to Hong Kong in 2014 for my wife’s job, and, like many expat spouses, found myself underemployed and had more time to devote to writing. I started submitting to literary journals and had some pieces published, which motivated me to keep at it. When I felt I was bumping my head on the limits of my skill and understanding I decided to apply for an MFA degree in fiction writing.
What is your history with the Hong Kong Writers Circle (HKWC)?
I joined the HKWC in 2015, primarily to access other writers for critique of my work. I’m not a particularly sociable person, and so I have not personally taken advantage of all of the events and meet-ups that HKWC offers. I worked as an assistant editor for the 2017 and 2021 anthologies, and then as the editor for the 2020 edition.
As the editor of the upcoming Hong Kong Writers Circle anthology for 2022, how did you decide on the theme of ‘Flux’? What inspired the use of hexagrams of the I Ching?
I inherited the theme of flux through our partnership this year with HK PolyU’s Writing Roundtable. Flux is a great theme for an academic conference, but I was afraid that, paradoxically, it would be either too restrictive or too broad for a literary anthology. On the one hand, we could choose to mirror the spirit of the Roundtable’s interpretation of flux and limit our authors to writing about the specific uncertainties of the present historical moment. Or, on the other hand, we could take ‘flux’ to mean any sort of change or uncertainty, which is essentially to say, “Your story must have a plot.”
Basing the anthology around the I Ching, The Book of Changes, links it to the Roundtable’s theme of flux while offering a middle ground between these two extremes. This also ties the anthology to an aspect of Chinese culture and history. Every editor of our anthologies has to address the question of what defines global English-language Hong Kong literature by our choice of theme and the writing we select. Does anything written by a person in Hong Kong qualify? Must it either be set in the SAR or involve characters connected to Hong Kong? Is it misguided even to refer to writing by expatriates as part of Hong Kong literature? There’s no one correct answer I’m aware of, and I’m certainly not the person to settle the question. But we contribute to that cultural conversation by the act of writing and publishing in Hong Kong.
What advice do you have for people thinking about applying for the HKWC anthology?
Do it! Submit. And fully participate in the process. Writers will receive detailed feedback on their first submitted draft from two or three editors (depending on the total number of submissions), and then again on a revised draft from three fellow writers in a critique group meeting (probably limited to video-call). One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about creative writing is that the actual writing is not the most important step. The best stories and poems are crafted through revising and rewriting. Part of the revision process is getting feedback from third-party readers.
It is extremely difficult to look objectively at one’s own work, or the work of someone we care about. You write from the contents of your mind. Your own mind is inherently interesting to you—that’s not narcissism, that’s just being a person. But it means that you will find your own writing interesting for a reason that no one else shares. Similarly, the people who love you, friends and family, are inherently interested in knowing you better through the things you write and will have insight into what you’re trying to say. Whereas a third-party reader is limited to trying to understand the words on the page and do they find them interesting or not. This is why it is so important to get feedback on your writing from someone who isn’t you and doesn’t love you.
And that brings up something else to remember: when we speak about “good writing” we’re basically saying “does this hold my interest while I’m reading it?” In creative work it’s easy to get caught up in ego and neuroticism, as if trying to write something interesting and falling short is the result of some deep personal flaw. It’s ridiculous when you think about it. (I regularly do this ridiculous thing.) If you were learning a new style of cooking would you feel embarrassment or shame if today’s dinner was too salty? Probably not. You would learn from the experience and go on cooking tomorrow. Why should a goal to get better at writing feel any different?
Any insight into what can help people stand out?
As a general rule, you should be able to look back on a story you have written and answer the following questions in a few sentences: Who does what? Why did they do it? What changed as a result? Question the value of every part of the story that doesn’t relate to your answer to these questions.
How can someone apply for the HKWC anthology?
First, you can read the full call for submission here. Then, send a proposal to [email protected]. The deadline for first drafts is 3 May 2022, by which time you must have joined as a member of the Writers Circle to be considered for the anthology, but anyone is welcome to submit a proposal by the 8 March deadline. This is a brief (usually 100-300 words) description of what you plan on writing; whatever ideas you have fleshed out: setting, character, action, etc. You don’t need to have the whole thing figured out. This needn’t be set in stone, plans change all the time and that’s fine. The editors will respond, it might be a simple thumbs-up to go ahead or possibly recommendations or observations to get you thinking. And then you write it.
A submission in May is a commitment to participate in a process of revision designed to help you produce your best work, including exchanging feedback with fellow writers. The final drafts are due 27 July 2022 and we expect to publish in October.