Category Archives: prewriting

Writing a Memoir: Hong Kong Style


Young American writer Shannon Young is writing a memoir, Hong Kong style. Her dream of being published and being in publishing should have taken her to New York. It took her to London.
There, working in publishing and starting to hone her own writing craft, she met the man who would be her husband. She agreed to move with him to Hong Kong. A month later, he’d be sent back to live in England.

All photos courtesy of Shannon Young

All photos courtesy of Shannon Young

Young, stuck alone in a foreign country, had to start from scratch again. She networked through the Hong Kong Women in Publishing Society (WiPS). She connected with Typhoon Media publishing company and interned. That perseverance led to her position as a women’s travel anthology editor for the publisher’s imprint, Signal 8 Press.

Meanwhile she kept up her own writing. She self-published a nonfiction title and is currently completing a romantic travel memoir. It, she hopes, will publish traditionally.

image of Shannon Young

Young is editing a travel anthology and writing a memoir

In this brief podcast Young shares many fine tips as a writer and editor, answering questions like these:

What makes great travel writing?

What’s the value of an author’s platform?

How do you make connections in the publishing industry?

Whether you’re writing a memoir or other travel tales, consider Young’s list of resources.

Summersdale, UK nonfiction publisher behind Love with a Chance of Drowning

Blacksmith Books, Hong Kong publisher of locally-themed nonfiction

Susan Blumberg-Kason, another American with a forthcoming romantic travel memoir

QueryShark for your query questions

Cha: An Asian Literary Forum

Asia Literary Review



Look for other writing and publishing tips from published or soon-to-be-published writers such as fiction writer Douglas Silver, travel writer Tracy Slater, poet Sandy Marchetti, and travel writer Doug Mack.

Penguin Putnam Author’s Memoir Publishing Tips


In this month’s New Writers installation, Tracy Slater offers memoir publishing tips. A fellow memoirist and nonfiction writer whom I met through SheWrites, her book The Good Shufu: A Wife in Search of a Life Between East and West is slated for release in 2014 by Penguin’s Putnam imprint.

The Good Shufu is a memoir about finding love, meaning, hope, and self in the least likely places, the places we always swore we’d never go. It’s about what we gain and lose, when we forfeit our plans, goals, and even sometimes homes for that age-old cliche, love.

Tracy’s work has also been published in CNNGo, Best Women’s Travel Writing 2008, Boston Magazine, the Boston Globe, and many Japanese publications. She earned her PhD in English and American Literature from Brandeis University and is the recipient of the PEN New England 2008 “Friend of Writers” award for her work with FourStories, a literary series in Boston, Osaka, and Tokyo that features appearances and readings from the world’s most acclaimed authors. Coming this month to the Boston area FourStories are Lauren Slater, Pagan Kennedy, and more.

Today’s takeaways:

  • insight into MediaBistro classes on queries/book proposals and writing memoirs
  • tips on how and why to get an agent
  • not getting duped in the contract
  • how unknown authors land grand book deals

 Click here to listen to Tracy’s podcast then see below for links to resources she recommends.


Visit Tracy's Blog

Visit Tracy’s Blog

Tracy concluded with these words:

“The second (piece of advice) is about the difference between crossing items off my writing ‘task’ list and making something as perfect as possible. In the past, I’d always felt like I was being efficient and successful and making progress if I met my quota of sending out a certain number of queries or finishing an article on one date and being able to move on the next.

“But what this book process has really taught me is that it’s much more important to spend time perfecting and then perfecting and then perfecting again one really important piece, and then finding the absolute perfect place to pitch it (not the most visible even but the one that most likely would want to publish your piece because it fits exactly with their readership or editorial goals) and then working over and over on the pitch until that is perfect. The ‘Motherlode’ piece I published was really short, one of the shortest I’ve ever published, but I worked incredibly hard, for about a month, on just those 800 words, and had lots of people read it and give me hard, honest feedback, and that’s I think how I made it into something worthwhile. So I guess I’d say that for me, I realized that progress should be measured in how close to perfect I can get something, and not in how many pitches I can send out in a week/month or even contacts I can make.”

Take a look at the piece that compelled the Penguin Putnam editor to request her book proposal. The soon-to-be author’s suggested resources listed in this podcast:

MediaBistro’s book proposal course

MB’s nonfiction book writing course

Publishers Marketplace

Nadine Gordimer‘s oeuvre



Learn more about Tracy through her blog.

Do you have any tips of offer on publishing memoirs?

Read about award-winning fiction writer Douglas Silver and glean some publishing tips from poetry chapbook-wielding Sandra Marchetti in previous posts of the New Writers column.


Book Suggestion for Writers– Mentor: A Memoir


Occasionally I suggest various media such as podcasts and web sites for travelers and writers, but rarely do I make book recommendations. It’s time to start.

This post is a hybrid review of Tom Grimes’ Mentor: A Memoir (Tin House Books, 2010, 242 pages). Grimes has written five novels, plays, and screenplays, and edited an anthology of Iowa Writers Workshop fiction. Mentor is the bildungsroman about his coming of age as a writer.

It starts with Grimes applying to writing schools and meeting his literary idol, Frank Conroy. Conroy accepts the 30-something, all-but-unpublished writer into the famous Iowa Writers Workshop (which seems to have lost a bit of its edge atop the US’s top-rated writing schools) Their relationship grows in parallel to Grimes publishing credentials. The mentor/mentee-ship morphs into one of friendship then takes on characteristics of that of a father/son relationship, and finally they achieve something akin to literary equality; meanwhile Grimes publishes a book, has plays staged, and gains recognition.

Read on to learn why I call it a hybrid.

Who should read it? Writers. It’s so literary writer-centric it’d be hard to conceive of anyone else liking it as much as we could.

Read it for content or writing? The former.

Flaws: Grimes sometimes goes off the rails by including too many threads, some of which seem like they’ll be major players in the first half but resolve themselves in just a few sentences toward the end.

He excerpts egregious amounts of copy from his screen/plays.

The narrative arc falls apart in the second half.

He loses his literary narrator’s voice and shifts to that of the teacher/department director (he directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Texas State University).

The gain: Writers will love the snippets of writerly advice: “Worry to maintain the power of the voice” and learning the difference between action and dramatic action.

Grimes’ honest, tense scenes of the crossing the threshold from aching to be published to having the publishing world bid on his work to having the critics reject it should taper my fellow writers’ expectations of what publishing will be like.

The author’s lamentations on the writing process from pre-writing to revising will ring true to writers. In fact they’ll feel like tokens of commiseration.

Despite its literary flaws Mentor‘s topic and a couple of rather arresting scenes made me want to point the book out to every writer I knew. Check it out at  your local library like I did.