Hong Kong Young Writers Awards 2012
As the literary scene grows and rapidly flourishes in Hong Kong, so does its young talent base. And there is a wealth of junior authors in the city who are putting pen to paper and winning prizes for their perseverance. The cream of the up-and-coming crop has just been celebrated at the Hong Kong Young Writers Awards 2012 final, held in the Wei Hing Theatre at City University on April 23. It was the third year of the competition which showcases young writers’ talents and creativity in fiction, non-fiction, poetry and cover art, and ‘aims to encourage and recognise excellence in English writing among students of various age groups, diverse backgrounds and different learning abilities’. More than 64 schools have participated in the contest from across Hong Kong and China, with more than 400 innovative entries – this year, based on the theme of New Tales of the Yangtze River. Winners were chosen in 15 categories – but only one lucky student was named The Hong Kong Young Writer of the Year – and Louise Choi was there to congratulate him…
Thomas Fung looks a bit shell-shocked. At the age of 17, the St Joseph’s College pupil has just been named The Hong Kong Young Writer of the Year. Yet, according to all sources, he deserves the accolade. A shy smile on his face shows he is genuinely surprised – but he also has a humble glow and hints at the inspiration behind his winning essay. And it’s something most teenage boys can agree on when it comes to the biggest mysteries in life. Girls. Writing a love story about a girl was like pouring his heart out…
How do you feel about winning?
Frankly, I was genuinely surprised! I didn’t really think much about the competition after I submitted my piece. When I won the group award I was really surprised – and then when I won the overall prize, well, I guess you could say I was euphoric! I just jumped up from the crowd and waved my arms about!
Tell us about your winning piece – what is it about?
My essay is called The Paper Boats – basically a very simple love story. It’s about a young boy and a girl in a very primitive village near the Yangtze River. One of the most symbolic things about the story is that they pass down paper boats along the river and in the end the boy has the leave to another village, but they end up still in contact because they’d pass down paper boats to remember each other by.
What was your inspiration for the story?
To be honest I was thinking of a specific person when I was writing about the girl… describing her features. Let’s just keep it at that…
What was your support like?
My parents are really supportive of me, just like any parents I guess. They tell everyone what a good writer I am. My teachers are pretty supportive as well – they give me opportunities to write in competitions and school magazines. I guess I’ve had a lot of opportunities – and I’m pretty grateful.
What is your favourite book? Do you have any author you look up to?
I would say that my favourite book is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. It’s one of the funniest and most unique books I’ve ever read. There are a lot of ideas and techniques that I use from his books. His work is quite unusual but I enjoy the books. Another writer is actually Nury Vittachi (who was one of the judges, pictured with Thomas. See our interview with him in our online books sections from April 25, and in Time Out Hong Kong magazine issue 103 this week).
Now that you’ve written this, do you think you’ll write more?
I guess this is a real boost of confidence for me! I think I’ll continue writing. There are plenty of opportunities to write. I have a job in my school as the publisher of our school magazine. I could start to do more work from there – and maybe be able to inspire my classmates as well.
Do you have a particular mentor who inspires you?
My parents. They’re really supportive of my work. Sometimes I’m just not confident in my work but they’re always the first ones to tell me that I shouldn’t give up. I shouldn’t look down on my own stuff.
Who do you ask to look over your work for comments and criticisms?
Most of the time I’m pretty shy about my work! The times I do, I give to my parents or my brother to read. My brother is a really good writer too – he has actually published a book before: a children’s book for charity. He’s 20 now. One of the games I do with my brother is that we make up stories together. We say different lines and then we continue from each other’s stories and we make up pretty funny and ludicrous tales!
What sort of things do you think you’ll write next? This love story was pretty specific…
I guess this story I just had to… let it out. Let’s just keep it at that. There was inspiration, based on true stories, I guess. Well I hope everyone enjoys it!
What was the process of writing the story like? Did it take you long?
Well, once I get an idea for a story, it pretty much just flows out of my mind. I was researching on the web about the Yangtze River and some of its legends. There was one about Kongling Shoal, a bunch of rocks – and the funny thing about those rocks is that if ships manoeuvre to avoid crashing then they will hit the rocks but if they go directly at them the current makes them go through them without crashing. Basically, if you avoid the rocks, you crash into them! So I thought this is a bit like girls. That’s what my parents told me! If you try to approach them and be too forward they’re going to push you back. But if you just stay cool… they’ll come to you!