Winnie is a Taiwanese-American who lives in London and has worked in the film and media industries for several years. We first found out about Winnie last spring when Jessica Craig noticed her on the longlist for the CWA Debut Dagger Award (she went on to be Highly Commended as the runner-up for this annual prize for an unpublished debut). We could immediately see from Winnie’s website that with her international background and her intrepid experiences as a writer, filmmaker and traveler that she could be a perfect fit for Pontas, and Jessica sensed from a short excerpt of her novel-in-progress that Winnie has serious talent for creating fiction that is instantly gripping and moving.
It was later in the summer after Jessica met Winnie in person in both London and Harrogate and after reading the first half, and then the complete manuscript of her novel, Dark Chapter, in one sitting, that she knew this is one of the most controlled yet eloquent, subtle yet heart-wrenching, suspenseful yet lyrical novels she has ever read as an agent. The sensitivity and sharpness Winnie brings to opening the reader’s heart and mind to several difficult and important issues is astonishing.
Dark Chapter is a brave and provocative exploration of rape, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and psychological healing that perceptively takes the reader into the point-of-view of both victim and perpetrator, as well as exposing the various reactions of friends and families and how sexual violence is handled legally, medically, and in the media. It is also an astonishingly sensitive and insightful work of social realism that breaks new ground in discussing gender, class and even race. It is extraordinary how while writing about painful experiences that changed the course of her own life, Winnie simultaneously creates empathy for the grim realities of the lives of people on the margins, and how perceptively she shows us the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, and even draws in issues of globalization and the ongoing refugee crisis, and without ever losing the reader’s immersion in the central characters and gripping plot.
Winnie M Li is already becoming a leader on improving communication about sexual violence. She wrote a short play, “Everything’s Normal”, which premiered in London to a sold-out audience in February 2015 as part of the UNHEARD 2015 Festival, exploring themes of sexual abuse and assault through performance. She also co-founded the Clear Lines Festival, the UK’s first-ever festival dedicated to talking about sexual assault through the arts and discussion. This multidisciplinary festival which ran in London from 30th July – 2nd August 2015 was a huge success and was widely covered in the mainstream UK media (at this link you can watch Winnie Li being interviewed on the Channel 4 News). Both Winnie Li individually and also the Clear Lines Festival are shortlisted for the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize. The Irish media widely covered the story of Winnie’s rape after it happened in 2008 and only last weekend Winnie was featured in the Saturday Magazine of The Irish Times with a short extract from the opening of Dark Chapter.
Winnie M Li is truly one of the bravest, brightest, and most creative and inspiring women we have ever encountered and we are thrilled to begin submitting her novel Dark Chapter to international editors this week!
For more information, please contact Jessica Craig.