Mini-residency public events

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Step write this way – Ysabelle Ceung speaks to three City University creative writing tutors on the written word ahead of the MFA course’s mini-residency 

As Doris Lessing once said: “There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.” However, there are ways to unlock the James Joyce within and the place to do that is at the world’s first Asia-specific English language creative writing course. City University unveiled its niche low residency MFA programme in 2010 and has consistently invited a coterie of established authors from around the globe to mentor the students or participate in the programmes. Pulitzer Prize winner Adam Rae recently dropped by, and a whole slew of international writers fly in for the autumn’s mini-residency in November. We coerce three tutors into imparting pearls of wisdom on writing, ahead of these events…

Luis H Francia

Philippines-raised Francia is the author of semiautobiographical novel Eye of the Fish: A Personal Achipelago. Also a journalist and creative non-fiction writer, he has penned articles for the Village Voice and Asiaweek

His words of wisdom: “Writing is the storm before the calm. The writer, if he weathers it, arrives at a port in a vessel he has created. He then checks his craft, plugs the leaks, makes necessary repairs, and, unassailed by reason, sets out once more, seeking another even more dangerous storm.”

James Scudamore

UK writer James Scudamore has penned three novels, scooping the Somerset Maugham prize for his debut The Amnesia Clinic. His latest book, Wreaking, launches in Hong Kong during the mini-residency. 

On writing, he says: “There shouldn’t be any choice in the matter: it should be an imperative, an irritant, an irresistible itch. Don’t be precious about waiting for ‘the right time’: just get on with it. It’s a job. Get ideas down as soon as they arrive, don’t throw anything away, and make sure your own notes will make sense to you later on. (Bruce Chatwin used to go as far as numbering the pages of his notebooks and writing himself an index.) Don’t write cynically, for some perceived ‘market’ – write something you can’t not write. Something only you can write. Something that addresses the uncertainty and ambiguity and beauty of life.”

Xu Xi 

Xu Xi is the founder of the MFA course and author of several novels, including Habit of a Foreign Sky, which was shortlisted for the 2007 Man Asia Literary Prize. Her latest short story collection, Access Thirteen Tales, is published by Signal 8 Press. 

Her advice: “To be a writer, you have to write. No ifs, ands or buts. To allow excuses such as ‘I have writer’s block’ means you maybe don’t really need to be a writer after all or don’t need to write that particular piece or maybe are not ready to write that piece. A writer should read as much as possible of everything that interests her/him until she/he figures out what reading really matters to her/him. For young writers, the more they read the better off they’ll be, because remaining open to a broad range of writing will help them figure out what kind of writer they really want to be.”

Mini-residency public events City University Run Run Shaw Bldg, 6.45pm, free. Applications for 2014 MFA courses open in mid-Nov; www.english.cityu.edu.hk/mfa.

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