Tammy Ho Lai-ming/ Cha Co-editor
Cha is the first and currently only Hong Kong-based online literary quarterly journal dedicated to publishing quality poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction, drama, and reviews written in English, as well as photography and art. It has a strong focus on Asian-themed creative work or work done by Asian writers and artists. It also publishes established and emerging writers/artists from around the world.
In November 2008, we published the first anniversary issue of Cha (Issue 5). In this special Cha Edition for APWN, I have selected some of the best work from the first five issues of Cha to mark this memorable moment. This edition features poetry by Martin Alexander, Bob Bradshaw, Lee Herrick, Kavita Jindal, Louise Ho, Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Reid Mitchell, Alistair Noon, Papa Osmubal, Steven Schroeder, Gillian Sze, Eddie Tay, Bryan Thao Worra, Ouyang Yu, Alison Wong and Nicholas Y. B. Wong; short stories by Robert Abel, YZ Chin, Sushma Joshi and Nirmala Pillai; non-fiction by Anne Levesque; and photography & art by Leon Lai, Franky Lau, Mary Lee, and Aya Padron.
I am also happy to share some reflections on starting and running an online journal based in Hong Kong:
-My co-founder and co-editor (Jeff Zroback) and I had the idea for Cha about two years ago (I think it was Summer 2006). We noticed that there was not an online journal in Hong Kong, whereas elsewhere in the world there are many. In Singapore, for example, there are several very good online literary journals such as Quarterly Literary Singapore Review and Softblow. Since Jeff is a professional editor and I have literary editorial experience and some writing background, we felt that we were in a good position to start a journal based in Hong Kong.
-We decided to start an online journal instead of a print one for several reasons. Firstly, there were already a few print literary/cultural journals in the city such as Asia Literary Review, Hong Kong Culture, Muse, Renditions and Yuan Yang. But as far as we know, there was no online publication devoted to English literature in the area. We therefore felt that there was a comfortable space for Cha online. Secondly, online publications offer a variety of advantages over print publications. They are much less expensive to run, which is an advantage especially for English writing in Asia. At Cha, one goal is to bring together Asia’s under-published writers and established ones, as well as emerging writers. With almost no operating cost, we are free to take a chance on unknown or less commercial writers. Finally, an online journal allows us to reach readers from across the continent and the world much more easily than we could with a print publication. We are, however, considering publishing an anthology of the best works which have appeared in Cha at some point in the future.
-We are not sure why Cha is the only online literary journal based in Hong Kong at the moment, but we feel confident that there will be more in the future.
-We usually receive around 250 pieces of work from about 90 to 100 writers/artists for each issue. But that number is growing every issue. Our writers/artists come from a wide variety of background and countries. We have published a good mixture of local writers, expats, and Asians living abroad, including writers and photographers from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, China, India, Singapore, Australia, Canada, USA, Malaysia, Laos, etc. We have also published some local Cantonese writers, as we think it is important to try and expose Hong Kong literature internationally. Our oldest contributors are over 70 years old, and our youngest contributor is 17.
-Since our third issue, we have started asking a guest editor (sometimes two) to help us with reading submissions because the number has gotten so large. So far Eddie Tay ( Singaporean poet living in Hong Kong), Nicholas Y. B. Wong (Hong Kong poet) and Reid Mitchell (poet, novelist and historian currently living in China) have been our guest editors. Award-winning Hong Kong poet Arthur Leung will be our guest poetry editor and Reid Mitchell will be our guest prose editor for the next issue of Cha, due out in February 2009. We choose our guest editors carefully and they must have contributed to Cha before.
-Our selection criteria is simple: writings and images that grip our attention and make us return to them again and again.
We hope you will enjoy this special Cha APWN edition. We also hope that one day we can feature your work in Cha.