Fantastic reception for Dark Chapter!

So my novel’s been out a month, and many many thanks to all of you who came to hear me read, asked questions, bought the book, and sent so many encouraging messages about how it affected you. The feedback I’ve been getting has been really gratifying, after 3.5 years spent writing the novel and well, 9 years living the experiences that inspired it.  Your support and reception has made it all worth it. I’ve had male readers telling me the book made them cry and think very differently about what it’s like to be a woman — and I’ve also had rape survivors say they’ve never before read a book which captures that authentically the aftermath of trauma.  So thank you to all of you.

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Someone remarked Dark Chapter may be that rare novel to have received glowing reviews from publications as different as The Daily Mail and Wasafiri magazine!  Here’s what some had to say:

The Daily Mail: ‘Brave, raw and strikingly original, it is a story that will resonate for many years.’

Wasafiri: ‘Not only highly readable but also incredibly important… deeply courageous’

Publisher’s Weekly: ‘Gripping… Li does a fine job exploring how one incident can change the course of a life in this astute psychological study.’

(If you know any other publications which should be reviewing it, please do give them a nudge!)

To be honest, feedback like this kept me going through an intense June, when I had 12 events and a load of media interviews (in addition to London falling apart politically and sociologically).  Highlights in my media coverage include this piece I wrote for The Times

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and this interview with Matt Barbet on Channel 5 news

There was also a fair amount of media coverage around the Belfast Book Festival, where I returned to launch Dark Chapter in the city which is the backdrop of the book’s action (as well as the city of my rape).  I spoke on The Nolan Show, the popular radio chat show that features on pages 185-187 of my novel.  I was also on the front page of The Andersonstown News, Q Media, Belfast 89 FM, and had this lovely long interview with Novel Ideas, a literature show produced by Northern Visions Television.

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In addition to the book festival event, I also had a very meaningful lunchtime discussion group with counsellors and survivors at Nexus NI, the rape crisis centre in Belfast.  And most significant for me on a personal level: I participated in a panel discussion led by Monica McWilliams, a longtime supporter and legendary women’s rights campaigner, alongside representatives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Women’s Aid, The Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre, and Nexus — organisations which are all vital sources of support for survivors.

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It was especially poignant to sign a copy of my book for the forensic doctor who examined me after my 2008 assault, and whose warmth and kindness is portrayed in the novel as well.

In London, the US Ireland Alliance hosted an excellent reception for the book in the Seamus Heaney Library of The Bloomsbury Hotel, which was attended by both the Irish Ambassador and the Acting US Ambassador to the UK.  Click here for some great photos.

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I also had the honour of delivering the keynote speech at a symposium for the Gender and Sexualities Research Forum at City University, as well as readings at Waterstones at LSE, The Library private members club, and the truly fantastic Review bookshop in Peckham. 

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While things calm down for me in July, I’ll be taking the book on the road a bit more. I’m currently in  Newcastle speaking at the English Shared Futures conference, and I’ll be doing signings at Blackwell’s across from the Civic Centre at 1:50pm on Thursday, July 6th and WH Smith (36 Northumberland Street) at 1pm on Saturday, July 8th.  And I’m headed to Bristol and Brighton in the next few weeks!

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Longlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize

Sad to see summer winding down, but I had a good one – hope you did too!  Among other exciting news, I’m currently longlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize, which is awarded every two years to an outstanding unpublished fiction manuscript by a BAME woman writer.  (BAME is the somewhat odd acronym used in the UK for a person of color, i.e. Black or Asian)  The shortlist will be announced in late September.  Of course, my entry is the as-yet-unpublished manuscript of my debut novel Dark Chapter, which will be published next June in the UK and Ireland, and September 2017 in the US and Canada, and elsewhere! I’m currently in the midst of the final edit, and have been going through draft cover designs for the UK hardcover.  My agent will be selling rights to the finished manuscript at the Frankfurt Book Fair next month, to add to the four territories already sold.  Big thanks to all the editors who have signed on already to bring Dark Chapter to readers around the world.  This includes Lisanne Mathijssen at Harper Collins Holland, who will be publishing my book in Dutch!   

One such editor, Gunilla Sondell, is a fiction editor at Norstedts, Sweden’s oldest publishing house.  I had the pleasure of meeting Gunilla this summer when I spent a couple weeks wandering around Sweden.  I got to stay at her rustic summer cottage, went for hikes in the forest, and picked a few mushrooms. A few days later, I got on a 21-hour train ride to Swedish Lapland, where I did some more hiking north of the Arctic Circle.  Overall, it was a fantastic trip for me, and I kind of fell in love with the long days, fresh lakes, tall pine forests, and impressive mushrooms of Sweden in the summer. I’ll definitely be heading back.

A selfie with Gunilla, my Swedish editor, and my haul of freshly -picked chanterelles

A selfie with Gunilla, my Swedish editor, and my haul of freshly -picked chanterelles

Other trips include a few days visiting friends in Madrid, enjoying both cityscapes and countryside, and an upcoming trip to Germany.  In the meantime, must get back to the grindstone and finish my work on Dark Chapter.  Here’s the exciting post from my agent’s September newsletter!

An article gone viral, academic presentations & upcoming theatre

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If you haven’t read it, my latest article on the Stanford sexual assault has gone somewhat viral, with over 90,000 people (at last count) reading it around the world!  After The Conversation published it, other media outlets like the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The Independent, TIME, Scroll, and Raw Story ran it, making it available to readers as far flung as Oz and India.  Case in point: social media amplifies (as I argue in my article), and with millions of people worldwide reading the full impact statement of the Stanford survivor, this case has become a game-changer in influencing the way we think and talk about sexual assault.Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 13.06.16

This is all very on topic for my PhD research on social media and narratives by rape survivors, and  I’m thrilled to announce I recently passed my PhD upgrade at the London School of Economics! Which means it’ll now just be, oh, three years before you can call me ‘doctor’?  (Yep, a long game we’re talking here.) This week I’ve just presented a paper on my work with child sexual abuse survivors at the CMCI PhD Conference ‘(In)Visible Cultures’ at Kings’ College London, and I’ll be presenting it again at the Media and Communications PhD Symposium at the LSE on June 30th.

On June 23 and 27, I’ll chair the Q&A following performances of Foreign Body, a work-in-progress piece of physical theatre, which explores a woman’s memory of sexual assault and her interview with her perpetrator.  The Q&A will be with Imogen Butler-Cole of The What Works (the theatre-maker who created and performs Foreign Body) and Marina Cantacuzino and Anne-Marie Cockburn of The Forgiveness Project.  Marina founded the well-known project, and Anne-Marie’s own restorative process with the young man who supplied a fatal overdose of MDMA to her 15-year-old daughter is a remarkable journey, You can watch her story here. We’ll be discussing trauma, recovery, and restorative justice among other things — and do join us at either of the performances: at the Off Beat Festival in Oxford at 7:45pm on Thursday, June 23 (tickets £8/6) and at the RADA Festival in London at 4pm on Monday, June 27 (tickets £10/5).  Hope to see you there!

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Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 Asian Women of Achievement Awards Dinner, where I was shortlisted in the Social and Humanitarian category.  Although I didn’t win, it was truly inspiring to be among so many fantastic women, who have made such a difference in their work across a range of industries.  Here’s me and the delightful Harleen Kaur, winner in the Sports category, who at 17-years-old is an international World Martial Kombat champion. It’ll be an honour to be part of a growing network of accomplished Asian women recognised by the Women of the Future Foundation — and I look forward to seeing our collective positive impact on society continue!AWAA w Harleen

Clear Lines was a success!

So the festival I decided to launch in April ended up happening July 30 – Aug 2 — and I’d say it was a success!  The Clear Lines Festival had an estimated 500 people involved over the four days, including 60+ speakers and artists who wanted to help us start a new conversation about sexual assault and consent.  People cried at our Theatre Night and laughed at our comedians, including the brilliant Tiff Stevenson, Josie Long and Bridget Christie — and there were heated discussions at many of our panels.  A number of events were filled to capacity, and Channel 4 News even aired this nifty segment on us:

Overall, there was a lot of press generated about the festival.  We were covered by The Telegraph, the Daily Mail, Time Out London, The Huffington Post, among others.  And I had a live television interview on London Live and some live radio interviews on various local BBC stations.  Check out our press here and you can read our wrap-up blog post on Clear Lines here.

A special shout-out to my festival Co-Founder Dr. Nina Burrowes, to our sponsors On Road Media and McAllister Olivarius, a dedicated Planning Committee, a great team of volunteers, and our 138 Crowdfunders… without whom the festival could not have happened!

Longlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger!

Another surprise recognition in the genre world… I’m thrilled to have been long listed for the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Debut Dagger Award 2015.  This is for the opening of Dark Chapter, my debut literary novel which I’ve been working on for…oh, a year and a half now. (The re-draft is 85% finished.)  So it’s good to be getting some recognition for all my work on it!  You can read more about the long list here.  The CWA is perhaps best known for the Gold Dagger, which in the past has been awarded to Val McDermid, Sara Paretsky, and Ian Rankin, among others.  Anyway, the shortlist will be announced May 15th at CrimeFest. Fingers crossed…

Also, a flash fiction piece of mine is now available to download on the nifty Quick Fictions app.  I wrote ‘Nabateans’ after my trip to Jordan last summer, and it’s now one of the many bite-size stories you can download and read while commuting, waiting, or for random in-between time. Each story is 300 words or less!  Quick Fictions is supported by Myriad Editions, and can be downloaded for only 79p here.  (Apparently, it’s ranked No. 5 among the UK’s paid apps.)

2 days until my play is performed in London!

Ah, so the exciting news is that in two days (on Sat, Feb 21), my short play “Everything’s Normal” will be performed as part of the UNHEARD 2015 Festival, exploring themes around sexual abuse and violence through performance.  No, not the most feel-good of themes, but very important, given how many people are affected by such crimes.  It’s been quite intriguing for me, especially to sit in on rehearsals and hear some very talented actors speak lines I’ve written.  Anyway, I’ve written an article for The Huffington Post here on the creative process involved and the background to the festival.

Do come if you can!  Tickets are only £ 7 and proceeds will go to nia, a non-profit in London dedicated to ending violence against women and children.  There’s also lots of other great events at UNHEARD, taking place at The Bread and Roses Theatre in Clapham. This includes a poetry/spoken word night and several performances of The Vagina Monologues.  My play will be the closing piece in Scratch Night One on Saturday, Feb 21, starting at 7:30 and finishing around 8:45.  There will be one performance only, so hope you can make it!

Upcoming Readings and Recent Travels

I’ll be reading at a few upcoming events here in London!

On Sunday, June 22, you can come to the free Quick Fictions event on the final day of the fantastic Literary Kitchen Festival.  It’ll be 2-3pm at the Peckham Pelican in South London, but get there on time –   Quick Fictions short stories are very brief (300 words or less)!  I’ll be reading my short story ‘Nabateans,’ which should later show up on the very nifty Quick Fictions app from Myriad Editions –  rated one of the Top 10 Apps by The Sunday Times last year.

On Wednesday, July 2, I’ll be performing at L A Noble Gallery in Dalston, East London. It’ll be an evening exploring their current exhibit on Johanna Ward, whose art “draws upon myth, fairy tales, private emotions, and environmental destruction” (i.e. right up my alley).   Johanna herself will give an artist talk, followed by spoken word performances from myself and some of my fellow writers at Goldsmiths.  Only 5 pound entry, from 6:30-8pm!

Other than these bits, I’ve been traveling a lot recently (Paris, Newcastle, Jordan, Cumbria, and Belfast).  In Newcastle, I was a guest at the fantastic Thinking Digital 2014 conference, where I learned a great deal about a whole load of things I don’t normally think about (i.e. the design of the new XBox system and other techie things).  Later, I tromped around Hadrian’s Wall on my own, and a few days later continued haunting Roman ruins on a much-needed holiday in Jordan.  I also went to Petra, which has been on my must-visit list ever since I saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  GO TO PETRA if you get a chance.

In fact, I wrote the short story ‘Nabateans’ while on the flight back from Jordan, inspired by  my trip to Petra.  So you can hear my take on it at the Quick Fictions reading on June 22 and later on their downloadable app!

Petra selfie! Me in front of the Treasury building, rather sweaty from trekking down the Siq

 

 

Writing a weekly series for The Huffington Post

So this HuffPost writing is now sort of a weekly thing.  My second post for them went up last week, featured in HuffPost Women, and you can read it here:  ‘On the Anniversary of Your Rape.’

In the coming weeks, I hope to use this platform to explore issues surrounding sexual assault, and how it’s handled in our society through policy, contemporary attitudes, and representations in the media.  Please do Tweet or share this around, if it’s an issue that’s important to you.  My writer page for The Huffington Post is here and you can also follow me on my newly-revived Twitter account: @winniemli  – Thanks!

My article on The Huffington Post – “Dear Harvard: You’re Not Winning”

Hey, that’s cool.  The Huffington Post featured my article on their “front page” today!

The title is: “Dear Harvard: Your’e Not Winning (This Article Is About Rape, Not Basketball” and it’s effectively a response to “Dear Harvard: You Win” — the shocking op-ed written by an anonymous Harvard undergraduate student earlier this week.  In the earlier op-ed, the student blasts Harvard for their mis-handling of her sexual assault case.  In my response, I reflect on this from my perspective as a Harvard alum and a rape survivor.  Many thanks to those you who have already shared it round – please continue to do so.  I’m hoping that if enough people speak up, we can advocate a change in the policy towards sexual assault at Harvard and other colleges.  At the moment, it’s simply too easy for date rape cases to go ignored and un-pursued at educational institutions.  And the consequences for victims can be devastating.

New Whereabouts and Whatabouts

Hi everyone

Just an update on where I am and what I’m doing.  After my book launch in Singapore in August 2012, I actually moved to Singapore for a short 6-month stint this year.  This involved wrapping up my work with the Doha Film Institute (where ultimately I had overseen 300+ screenings of 200+ art-house/foreign films and was very tired) — and leaving Qatar.

In Singapore, I worked as a Project Consultant for Temasek Holdings, on a future nature-themed tourist attraction.  Fascinating work, and thematically right up my alley, but ultimately I missed the time to write my own stuff.

Hence my second move this year, back to London, where I’m currently blazing ahead on a new novel and learning loads about literature and writing practice, through the Creative Writing MA at Goldsmiths, University of London.  After years of boardroom meetings, Blackberry messages, and delayed bureaucratic approvals, I have to say being a student and having the time to be creative on my own terms is a breath of fresh air.  I highly recommend it, if you’re the creative type!

I still do freelance work, so if anyone’s in need of a film programming consultant, copy writer, script editor, or general creative conceptualizer (whatever that means) …. give me a shout!

Next up, I’m working on becoming a philosopher-king (whatever that means).  Or maybe a warrior-poet.  (They won the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.  Don’t mess.)