Talk, Talk, Talk…
There are some people who enjoy spending countless time on the telephone.
Interestingly, I am not one of those people.
I rather spend quality time face to face. Now, with the digital age, the art of talking has expanded in a variety of forms and platforms; but it still remains at its essence, an exchange of words, the art of discovering someone else through what that person elects to share. Now, while I do not enjoy lengthy talking on the phone, I do like to chat. Brief, cutting to the chase exchanges where you can pack a lot of sharing into a limited timeframe.
On Sundays throughout the year, I will share some of those chats with you in a series aptly titled “Chat Me Up.”
So look forward to my interludes of conversation with aaduna folks that will hopefully brighten your day and get your week off to a grand start. And I am pleased to initiate these series of chats with Dr. Ho Cheung (Peter) Lee.
|Dr. Ho Cheung (Peter) LEE (photo provided)|
* * * * *
bill berry, jr.:
Dr. Lee thank you for taking the time to briefly chat with me, as well as for your ongoing willingness to serve as a guest contributing editor at aaduna. Let’s get started. I suspect during your doctoral studies and through your editorial and published writing career to date, you have developed a keen sense of the complexities and nuances that writers must deal with not only in Hong Kong but possibly throughout South East Asia. What is your assessment about the “health” of writing and getting work published in your part of the world?
Ho Cheung LEE (Peter), Ed.D.:
Thanks Bill for the questions. I have been going through almost a completely self-led journey in writing and publishing, that is, I did not have writing tutors, publisher/author connections or knowledge in professional writing to start with. I’d say that if English is the language of your literary work, the publishing opportunities in Hong Kong are rather limited. Ironically, students in Hong Kong do have quite a number of prestigious writing competitions to enter. And the children get their works published a lot more easily. But for adults, you simply cannot find many English language publishers around. The small successes of poetry or short story publication I have had over the years are all foreign-based. I started my own literary magazine three years ago but get very little local submissions despite the big effort I have been trying on promoting the journal locally. What I feel is, the English reading and writing market in Hong Kong is small. And our English publishing atmosphere is under-developed. So, back to your question, how’s the health condition of writing and getting work published in my part of the world? I’d say it’s not very healthy. And that’s why you don’t get to see a lot of Hong Kong writers in the market.
What you mentioned may also be the situation in other countries where English competes with a national language, as well as regional and local languages and dialects. Though I was under the impression that since English is an official language along with Chinese (as indicated in the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Official Languages Ordinance,) there would be somewhat of a robust English-based literary arena. I appreciate your timely assessment. Now, are you still maintaining your literary magazine and is there a market for works published in English (by a foreign-based entity) to be translated into Chinese?
English is certainly still one of the official languages of Hong Kong. But since her handover to China in 1997, the importance of English in my hometown has been going downhill. Therefore, as an English language teacher, I see it [as] a mission to maintain the importance of this language at the very least in my school context and through platforms I could manage to operate. BALLOONS Lit. Journal (BLJ) is one of the platforms I built up to bring quality English back to Hong Kong. It has been growing into an international magazine and has attracted very experienced artists to contribute their works. I have been expanding the readership of the magazine in Hong Kong through social media and talks whenever I have the chance to meet up with other local educators. As to the market of translated works, BLJ doesn’t publish Chinese pieces but there are a lot more publishing opportunities in Hong Kong if Chinese is the language concerned, regardless of whether it was translated from something else in the first place. In short, I’m not having a very smooth path in terms of publishing locally. But I’m still positive that when there is a will, there is a way. If people from other parts of the world can see value in my work, I’m hopeful that sooner or later, my people will too, if they haven’t already started to do so. And I do wish to inspire more and more people, especially teachers, to start writing and getting their creative work published.
At aaduna, we are presently thinking through possible avenues that we may initiate to broaden the platform that writers and artists can take advantage of to reach readerships that may not be in their current scope of attainment. But we will discuss that in a separate conversation, another time. So, let’s get back to you. I often think that adversity sparks creativity; challenges prompt us to find workable solutions, and creativity is a core essence of human existence. In your role as an English language teacher, besides teaching the intricacies of the English language, what other attributes do you seek to develop in your students and why?
Happy to hear that aaduna is planning to provide writers and artists the chance to reach more readers. How lovely! As for your question, language teachers are certainly more than instructors of a language. Personally, I have been endeavouring to cultivate in my students the spirit of exploration, curiosity, excellence, creativity, and a passion to serve. This sounds big, but if teachers don’t have this ambitious heart, there is no hope for our next generation. I find that from my part of the world, traditionally, or impressionistically, teachers are conservative and reluctant to change, though their role is to lead and shape the future! This is not quite right. I think I am not doing anything special – it’s just my job to stimulate the children in different ways to unleash their full potentials. I’m not even sure if I’ve been doing enough. But I hope that, with me being a small example, more and more teachers can get out of their safe zones and be a source of inspiration to youngsters, because we’d like our children to do the same to their children, as simple as that.
You are a master teacher and your efforts are the very foundation of developing and nurturing children who are critical thinkers and life-long learners. Now, as we bring our chat to an end, I was hoping that you share who you are…do you have siblings, hobbies, likes, dislikes….I am sure you get the idea as I try to delve into the essence of Dr. Lee. [Smile.] Tell us a little about yourself, and thank you (again) for taking the time to engage me in our brief chat.
Thanks for your kind words. I consider myself as a life-long learner as well and I do learn a lot from the children I teach. So, being a teacher, you can never stop learning! About myself, I grew up in Hong Kong and studied in Scotland, Sydney and obtained my doctoral degree back in Hong Kong. My parents are enjoying their retirement lives and I live happily with my lovely wife who is also an educator. My elder brother teaches the violin as a profession. I love music too and I composed music when I was younger. I love movies, painting, reading, writing and, of course, teaching. Poetry and publishing are surprisingly my rather recent hobbies. But through poetry, I unlock more within myself and I feel that I have more inside which I haven’t fully discovered or understood. I’m a weird mystery box and somehow I feel good being born this way. Thanks Bill for this dialogue. I wish you and aaduna all the very best!
Ho Cheung LEE (Peter), Ed.D., is the founding editor of BALLOONS Lit. Journal. His second poetry chapbook “Something Celebrative and Immortal Under Another Birdless Sky” is forthcoming from Jamii Publishing. His work (poetry, short stories or photography) has appeared in Rattle, *82 Review, Shearsman Magazine, Interpreter’s House, The Writing Disorder, The Oddville Press, and elsewhere. His poetry was shortlisted in Oxford Brookes University’s International Poetry Competition (2016), for erbacce-prize for poetry (2017) and The Proverse Poetry Prize (2017). He teaches English in Hong Kong. [www.ho-cheung.com]
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