“Imprint 16”, edited by Carol Dyer

Hong Kong Women in Publishing is an organization that promotes the status of women working in publishing and related fields and publishes an annual anthology of members’ writing and artwork. Imprint 16 is the latest volume in the series.

Carol Dyer has edited and project-managed Imprint for over ten years, and she has again fulfilled those functions for Imprint 16, backed by a team of her fellow WiPS members, including the co-coordinator Sarah Merrill Mowat.

Imprint 16, Carol Dyer (ed) (Hong Kong Women in Publishing Society, April 2017)
Imprint 16, Carol Dyer (ed) (Hong Kong Women in Publishing Society, April 2017)

Imprint 16 features the work of 43 writers and artists, and also a members’ directory, which will be useful if you’re looking for an editor or a book designer in Hong Kong. Many WiPS members are expat, which gives the whole anthology an international feel.

The gallery section of artworks includes reproductions of paintings, photographs and graphic design. The written contributions include short stories, poetry, travel essays, and general essays.

Clare Hollingworth was a legendary journalist who famously scooped the news of Wehrmacht tanks rolling into Poland, and then spent her working life reporting on war and conflict around the globe. In 1981 she moved to Hong Kong, to research a book on Mao; she never left. She died in January, aged 105. She was a patron of Hong Kong WiPS for over 20 years. Imprint 16 includes both a moving short piece memorializing her, from Cathy Hilborn Feng, and an extract from the obituary published by the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club. The extract from the obituary provides a fascinating glimpse of an extraordinary life.

At the other end of the age scale, Geraldine Cheung was born in 2002, and she is currently in Year 10 of high school.  Each year WiPS runs a short story competition for young writers. This year the competition’s theme was “Labyrinth” and Geraldine won with her short story, Six Feet Under, set in the Paris catacombs. Three friends set off to explore the catacombs with a guide, leaving the reader to wonder: will the guide lose his charges?  Will the friends get lost?

Paris is not the only far-flung destination visited in the pages of Imprint 16. The travel-writing includes pieces on Ethiopia from Canadian Vici Egan, and on Elk Island National Park, in Canada, from Elsie Sze, who grew up in Hong Kong, but now lives in California.

The poetry also reflects a tendency amongst WiPS members to roam. Poems include those contemplating an old man on Andorra—Company, by Gillian Bickley; a funeral pyre by the Ganges—Varanasi by Bhakti Mathur; and memories of South Africa—Once upon a day in Pretoria, by Celia Claase.

The short stories have diverse settings, and often are about neither Hong Kong, nor the expat author’s original home. For example, New Yorker Anne Hilty has written a short story exploring the centuries-old free-diving tradition of Jeju Island, South Korea, and Luisa Ternau, whose nationality is not given, but who studied first in Italy, and then in London, so is presumably European, has contributed a story about a woman buying an Ichimatsu doll in Kyoto.

But some of the most interesting contributions, from both expats and Hong Kong natives, are about Hong Kong. One of the most arresting images in the gallery section is a photo of a bricked-up window in Sheung Shui, in the New Territories, taken by Jennifer Eagleton, accompanied by the explanatory line: “Too often we look out of false windows instead of windows of possibility.” Jennifer Eagleton has also contributed a piece “written ‘in the style of’ Sir Thomas More’s Utopia to reflect the semi-dystopia of Hong Kong.” It wittily mocks business and working life, the urge to shop, and politics.

Meanwhile, in an essay that should be required reading for anyone interested in globalization, Gabriella Zanzanaini asks Where are you really from? For her, it’s a complicated question: “My passport is Italian, but I have a ‘return to village’ China card and a Hong Kong permanent ID card.” Gabriella is “La Cinese” or “Gabri” to her Italian friends, “Ella”, to her Italian family, “Ying Ying” to her Chinese family, and Gabi to everyone else. She is quizzed by airport security about where she is from. She looks Uzbeck, or she looks Burmese. But so what? Her piece concludes:


So next time you ask someone where they are from, don’t ask them ‘but where are you reeeaaally from’, when you are not satisfied with the answer. Pause and look inside yourself and ask why you feel the need to elaborate. And hopefully one step at a time, we will all realize that we are all, from everywhere.


We are all from everywhere could be the motto for Imprint 16, an anthology where cultures meet, just as they do in Hong Kong, and with multiple perspectives and view-points, just as there are in the city itself.

Rosie Milne runs Asian Books Blog twitter@asianbooksblog. She lives in Singapore.