Not everyone has what it takes to be an author. Being able to create something from nothing is hard. Making sure that it's interesting and exciting enough for other people to want to read is even more difficult. But Young Post's Summer Story Competition winner Yu Sze-hon has done just that.
Sixteen-year-old Sze-hon's story describes Hong Kong's future; a future that sees the city almost completely underwater. The idea for the story stemmed from a report about rising sea levels, which inspired one of the key elements in the story: the extensive flooding that leaves most of Hong Kong's residents in the year 2065 living in homes on top of water rather than on land.
"I've worked on a few short sci-fi stories in the past, so the idea of adding hi-tech, futuristic solar panels into this story came quite naturally to me. When I saw the theme of the competition, 'Sunshine On My Shoulder', I thought my story would be a lot more innovative if I took it literally. This was what inspired me to write the scene where the protagonist puts the solar panel on his shoulder. I mean, I couldn't have put the 'sunshine on his shoulder' any more literally than that, right?" Sze-hon jokingly says.
But of course, like all aspiring Shakespeares out there, Sze-hon faced some challenges while writing. The main obstacle was the setting.
"I really had to do quite a bit of research before putting pen to paper," he says. The geography was the main problem: how high the water level should be, which regions would be flooded, and which wouldn't. "In the end, I solved the problem with the help of a contoured map of Hong Kong. Another good reason why you should pay attention during geography lessons," he adds.
But a love of writing wasn't the only reason he wrote the story.
"I suffer directly because of the environmental problems, being an asthma patient myself. My doctors blame it on air pollution, and tell me that it won't improve unless I move somewhere with cleaner air. It's disheartening to think about how serious the environmental problems are in Hong Kong, and how so many Hongkongers like me suffer because of it," says the student from Tsuen Wan Government Secondary School.
The theme of his story came from his passion for the environment, and his anger at social inequality. Sze-hon is an enthusiastic supporter of the environment, and thinks the income gap between the rich and the poor is to blame. "The rich don't conserve energy as much as the poor do because they can afford to waste. Another outrageous example is the fact that the more electricity the commercial sector uses, the less it needs to pay, thanks to our highly commercialised society."
While some environmental problems are inevitable, Sze-hon hopes to show people that a lot of these issues can be avoided by making small changes.
"I'm completely overjoyed to have won this competition. I really didn't expect my work to make the winning list of Hong Kong's best English-language newspaper," says Sze-hon. "This is a great confidence boost, and will give me the motivation to continue writing. I really wish to see positive changes in our society, however small, and maybe my writing can help make those changes happen."
Behind every successful person, there are supporters, and Sze-hon knows he couldn't have done it without the support of his family, teachers and friends. "I would especially like to thank my mentor, who has always given me the freedom to write whatever I want, as well as my parents, the most attentive listeners in the world."
Sze-hon has his own tips for any aspiring writers out there. It might sound obvious, but he notes that reading is essential to boosting your writing skills.
Just as a balanced diet is important for your body, Sze-hon emphasises that it's good to be exposed to different styles of writing. "The sky's the limit. Write about anything that pops into your head," says Sze-hon.
And he follows his own advice. In his spare time, Sze-hon writes regularly for all sorts of different reasons. He might be writing a fictional story about the medieval city of Constantinople, or drafting a business proposal on how to set up a TNT factory. Right now, he is working on an advert for a spa.
"I keep a journal, too. I think recording everything using words is more satisfying than taking photos," Sze-hon says.