Sep 24

 

 

Posted by Tom Baker

Novelist and former Aomori Prefecture JET Charles Kowalski, the author of the thrillers “Mind Virus” and “The Devil’s Son,” as well as the new middle-grade novel, “Simon Grey and the March of a Hundred Ghosts,” will present a workshop on giving names to fictional characters at this year’s Japan Writers Conference, happening in Tokyo on Oct. 12-13. Here’s a description of his presentation:

What’s In A Name? Tips and traps in character naming
Craft workshop

Remember the journey into Mordor by the heroic Bingo Baggins? (Of course not, and aren’t you glad?) The naming of characters is a difficult matter, but we will discuss the three main considerations (sound, meaning, and associations) and their applications to genres ranging from contemporary fiction to SF and fantasy, along with pitfalls to avoid.

Charles Kowalski’s debut thriller, MIND VIRUS, won the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Award, and was a finalist for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award and the Adventure Writers’ Grandmaster Award. His first middle-grade novel, SIMON GREY AND THE MARCH OF A HUNDRED GHOSTS, was just released by Excalibur Books.

For more information, visit charleskowalski.com or japanwritersconference.org.


Sep 21

 

Posted by Tom Baker

Kanazawa JET Michael Frazier is set to lead a poetry workshop at this year’s Japan Writers Conference (Oct. 12-13 in Tokyo). Here’s the official description:

Haibun, Tanka, Pecha Kucha—Contemporary English-Language Poets & Japanese Forms
Craft Workshop

This workshop focuses on the influences of unsung Japanese poetic forms on contemporary English language poetry and spoken word. We’ll watch and read haibun, pecha kucha, and tanka. We’ll discuss the forms and write our own poems using one of the forms. This generative workshop is open to writers of all genres.
In particular, we will look at less common forms (haibun & tanka) and newly-invented forms (Origami & Pecha Kucha). The Pecha Kucha, based on a Japanese business presentation style, was pioneered as a poetic form by American poet Terrance Hayes. It is this type of ingenuity this workshop is to focused on. In this workshop we will look at poems by writers of color who practice “re-approaching” by using Japanese forms like Aziza Barnes, Sonia Sanchez, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Amiri Baraka, and Terrance Hayes. We will discuss the content of their poems, why they used the form, and how they reinvented. Participants will be asked to choose a form and write something new in the workshop.

Michael Frazier graduated from NYU, where he was the 2017 Poet Commencement Speaker & College Union Poetry Slam Invitational Co-Champion. He has performed at venues such as Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, & Gallatin Arts Festival. His poems appear in The Visual Poetry Project, Day One, The Speakeasy Project, & others. Catch him reading poems for The Adroit Journal & teaching SHS in Kanazawa.


Sep 15

 

Posted by Tom Baker

A trio of current JETs – Micah Tasaka, Yoshika Wason, and Michael Frazier – will be among nearly 50 published writers making presentations at this year’s Japan Writers Conference (Oct. 12-13 in Tokyo). Here’s the official description of what they’ll do:

Beyond Borders: Creating Connective Writing Communities
Reading, Panel, and Q&A

In this presentation, we will discuss how to build international writing communities, utilize internet resources, and create publishing opportunities for one another. Ultimately, we want to explore the connective power of writing communities in our home countries and abroad while focusing on creating mutual support and legitimacy for other writers.
While publishing is often thought of as written work being “accepted” by a publisher, we would like to question what publishing means and focus on how to build international communities that support and create opportunities for one another. Through this discussion, we seek to dismantle the scarcity complex that often surrounds publishing and find new ways to get our work in front of audiences by means of collaboration and community support while utilizing internet resources to extend our reach to a global scale. With backgrounds in both written and performance art, we would like to redefine publishing to be more inclusive and community based. By establishing communities that are willing to hear and experience one another’s work, can we create space for more writers to be legitimized? In doing so, how can we ensure that those who exist in the margins are also heard from and not just established writers?

Micah Tasaka is a queer mixed Japanese poet and spoken word artist from the Inland Empire, California, residing in Fukui prefecture, Japan. They received their undergraduate degree in creative writing from the University of California, Riverside. Micah is a community organizer and has taught workshops on publishing manuscripts, poetry performance skills, and using poetry as healing for trauma survivors. Their first full length manuscript, Expansions, was released on Jamii Publishing in 2017, and their work has appeared in In the Words of Women, Name and None, and Nikkei Uncovered among others.
www.micahtasaka.com

Yoshika Wason is a teacher and writer. She earned her BA from Boston College, where she was Editor in Chief of ASIAM, an Asian Pacific Islander American literary magazine. She is continuing her work in the API community through her current role as Co President of the Asian Pacific Islander Association for Japan Exchange and Teaching (API AJET.) Yoshika is working on her first full length poetry manuscript currently titled Second Chances for Fallen Blessed Children and also has a self published micro chapbook called Extra Bold. She currently writes a monthly education column
called Today’s Lesson and has been published in Ghost City Review, Rice Paper Magazine, The Paper Napkin, and elsewhere. Learn more at
www.yoshikawason.com

Michael Frazier graduated from NYU, where he was the 2017 Poet Commencement Speaker & College Union Poetry Slam Invitational Co-Champion. He has performed at venues such as Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, & Gallatin Arts Festival. His poems appear in The Visual Poetry Project, Day One, The Speakeasy Project, & others. Catch him reading poems for The Adroit Journal & teaching SHS in Kanazawa.

For more information about this year’s Japan Writers Conference, visit www.japanwritersconference.org.


Aug 29

Posted by Tom Baker.

JET alum Suzanne Kamata will be among nearly 50 published writers making presentations at this year’s Japan Writers Conference (Oct. 12-13 in Tokyo). Here’s the official description of her talk:

“Wheelchair User or Wheelchair-bound?: Representations of Persons with Disabilities in Children’s Books”

Short lecture with Q & A

In this session, I will discuss positive and problematic representations of persons with using examples from recently published Japanese textbooks, and literature featuring children in Japan and other countries, including my own work, with a view to developing better awareness. With the approach of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, people with disabilities in Japan have been given more attention than perhaps ever before. English textbooks for Japanese children now frequently include stories about or representations of people with disabilities. Worldwide, initiatives such as #weneeddiversebooks and the call for #ownvoices have led to an increase of children’s and young adult books featuring characters with disabilities. That said, some of these representations, and the way that they are discussed remain problematic. When do stories about disability become “inspiration porn”? What kind of language should we use when discussing disability? Who has the right to tell these stories?

Suzanne Kamata is the award-winning author or editor of twelve published books including “Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs” (Beacon Press, 2008), “Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible” (GemmaMedia, 2013), “A Girls’ Guide to the Islands” (Gemma Open Door, 2017), “Squeaky Wheels: Travels with My Daughter by Train, Plane, Metro, Tuk-tuk and Wheelchair” (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2019), and “Indigo Girl” (GemmaMedia, 2019). She is an Associate Professor at Naruto University of Education.

For more details, visit http://www.japanwritersconference.org/


Aug 29

Posted by Tom Baker.

JET alum Jennifer Hammer will be among nearly 50 published writers making presentations at this year’s Japan Writers Conference (Oct. 12-13 in Tokyo). Here’s the official description of her talk:

“NaNoWriMo: What Are These Syllables and Why Do Writers Care?”

This lecture will focus on what exactly NaNoWriMo is, the pros and cons of writing 50,000 words in thirty days, and how writers can benefit from this online (and real life) community during the official November event, in April and July for “Camp NaNo,” and with writers of varying levels from around the world. Why should a writer care about these four syllables? Because NaNo is a great resource for writers, can be adapted to schools (and/or clubs), and is a way to make friends for life (as well as connect with the 5AM writing club, whichever time zone you’re in).

Jennifer Hammer is the Tokyo Municipal Leader (ML) for NaNoWriMo and a four-year NaNo winner. She writes whatever pretty idea catches her attention, all the way from super hero romance (White Knight) to creepy-crawly horror (JA Hammer) to fantasy video games (Coffee Quills).

For more details, visit http://www.japanwritersconference.org/


Aug 29

Posted by Tom Baker.

JET alum Todd Jay Leonard will be among nearly 50 published writers making presentations at this year’s Japan Writers Conference (Oct. 12-13 in Tokyo). Here’s the official description of his talk:

“Publishing in the EFL Market in Japan: Four Perspectives on How to Make your Proposal Count”

Short lecture with Q & A
This presentation will outline the current publishing market in Japan for EFL/ESL textbooks by reviewing the various points of views of the publishing industry. The presenter has published extensively within the ESL/EFL field in Japan and will offer helpful advice to budding authors who wish to pursue projects geared to Japan’s domestic market. What are publishers looking for in the current market? What appeals to editors who ultimately decide? What are the salespeople on the front lines hearing from their market? What must an author do in order to get his/her book published? This presentation focuses on these very questions.

Todd Jay Leonard has been actively involved in book publishing for thirty years and has published twenty books. He lives, writes, and teaches on the southern island of Kyushu, where he is a university professor at University of Teacher Education Fukuoka. He has published extensively in academic journals, magazines, and newspapers on cross-cultural, historical, and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) themes.

For more details, visit http://www.japanwritersconference.org/


May 31

WIT Life #336: June Japanese movie round-up

 

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language. Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

The weather is getting warmer by the day, and soon we’ll be seeking air-conditioned movie theaters to escape the heat.  Here are some Japan-related films in June that you might want to check out to stay cool and entertained!

Earlier this month I enjoyed Metrograph’s Ryusuke Hamaguchi series.  I was able to finally catch Asako I & II (寝ても覚めても), after having the chance to interpret for Hamaguchi several years ago when his epic Happy Hour (ハッピーアワー) came to MoMA.  This month the theater will feature Kon Ichikawa’s Alone Across the Pacific, based on the eponymous non-fiction book about the first successful transpacific solo sea voyage from Nishinomiya, Japan to San Francisco, California.

If short films are more your thing, don’t miss Asia Society’s New York Japan CineFest next week.  This two-night program features a diverse lineup of shorts, as well as Read More


May 17

2019 Japan Writers Conference wants you!

 

Posted by Tom Baker


Meiji Gakuin University, this year’s Japan Writers Conference Venue

The 13th annual Japan Writer’s Conference will be held on the weekend of Oct. 12-13 at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo. The organizers are now seeking writers to give presentations. If you would like to participate, contact details appear at the bottom of this post.

Each year, the Japan Writers Conference attracts English-language writers in a variety of genres and fields to share ideas on the art, craft and business of writing. And each year, a significant number of past and present JETs take part.

JET alum Tom Baker talks about book reviewing at last year’s conference.

At last year’s conference, for example, Holly Thompson spoke about the picture-book market, Suzanne Kamata introduced “The Best Asian Short Stories” anthology, and Tom Baker gave a nuts-and-bolts talk on book reviewing. JET presenters in previous years have included journalist Elaine Lies, textbook author Todd Jay Leonard, travel writer Victoria Vlisides, and novelists Benjamin Martin and Percival Constantine.

Run entirely by volunteers, the Japan Writers Conference is a free event open to all. Details on this year’s event can be found at japanwritersconference.org.

Writers interested in making a presentation at the 2019 conference should first read the “Call for Proposals” and then contact co-coordinators John Gribble at gribblej@gol.com and Karen McGee at karenandcheyenne@hotmail.com. The deadline for presentation proposals is June 1.


Mar 29

WIT Life #334: Hikikomori shifting demographics

 

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language. Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

The plight of Japan’s hikikomori (ひきこもり or voluntary shut-ins), has always been a topic that received a lot of buzz, but has primarily focused on young people affected by this phenomenon.  However, according to a recent nationwide survey carried out by the Cabinet Office that was the first of its kind, recent trends indicate that it is actually older people who now comprise a larger percentage of Japan’s hikikomori population (gender-wise, men still comprise the majority of hikikikomori at a rate of around 3:1).

This BBC article characterized hikikomori as “modern-day hermits,” and describes how this condition is not only limited to Japan, but also seen in other Asian and European countries.  In fact, the problem of loneliness and social isolation got so bad in the UK that it appointed its first designated minister for loneliness last year.  Here in the States, loneliness has various deleterious effects, which have become Read More


Feb 28

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language. Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

The sports portion of today’s Japanese news showcased the celebration of Kazu Miura’s 52nd birthday.  Looking as dapper as ever in a fashionable white suit in front of a huge cake, he shared that every birthday he wore a different color suit (past years have included bright red, yellow and blue), but that he had run out of colors so had to return to white.  Perhaps it is this enthusiasm and youthful spirit that enables him to keep pace on the soccer field with professional players decades his junior.  Miura (a.k.a. “King Kazu”) began his career in 1986, and he is considered to be Japan’s first soccer superstar.

He was the subject of a NYT profile last year, in which he was described as the epitome of Read More


Nov 15

WIT Life #330: Japan’s 2018 Buzzwords

 

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language. Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

It’s hard to believe but 2019 is just around the corner, the time when Best of 2018 lists begin to emerge. From Japan, the nominees for this year’s buzzwords have been compiled. The 30 candidates will be whittled down to the top 10 as well as an overall winner, to be announced on December 3 (you can vote for your favorite at the bottom of the link!).

Unsurprisingly, many relate to Prime Minister Abe’s work-style reform initiatives (働き方改革 or hatarakikata kaikaku). I hadn’t heard of short-time harassment (ジタハラ・ 時短ハラスメント or jitahara・jitan-harasumento), the pressure employers put on their workers to reduce overtime and maximize productivity, but I was familiar with the high-level professional system (⾼プロ・⾼度プロフェッショナル制度 or kōdo puro・kōdo purofesshonaru seido). This allows specialists like financial dealers or analysts with ¥10.75 million plus in annual income to be paid based on work performance, rather than hours worked. They won’t receive overtime pay as a result of being exempt from typical regulations, something the opposition party said would lead to longer working hours. It managed to pass and will go into effect for large companies at the start of the next fiscal year.

In the sports category, I liked the selection of buzzword Naomi-esque (なおみ節 or Naomi-bushi). It refers to the gentle and polite way Japanese-Haitian tennis player Naomi Osaka speaks, in contrast to her on-court tenacity. As reported in this blog, she Read More


Oct 26

WIT Life #329: Japan-Related Films for Your Weekend

 

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language.  Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s Japanese news, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

This week the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) hosted the premiere of the 2018 documentary 3100: Run and Become from director Sanjay Rawal. It showcases the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race which takes place in Queens every summer. This elite competition requires participants to run this unbelievable distance within 52 days, which means averaging at least 60 miles per day. Competitors come from all over the world, and some have run it as many as 14 times. Rawal also intersperses stories of other amazing distance challenges, such as a member of the Navaho Nation running 110 miles across the desert in memory of his father’s struggles when young, the Gaolo-San Bushmen running in pursuit of their prey and as part of their lifestyle, and the Tendai-shu monks of Mt. Hiei in Japan who carry out a practice of walking to attain enlightenment.

Spiritual training via walking is called 回峰行 (kaihōgyō), and the monks on Mt. Hiei carry out a version that takes place over 1000 days during a seven-year retreat period, called 千日回峰行 (sennichi kaihōgyō). During this time, the monk must remove himself from all family ties and other worldly distractions. Since this tradition began in 1885, only 50 plus monks have finished this quest, most in their 30s and the oldest in his 60s. The film tells the story of the monk Gyoman-san who is midway through his journey, and examines his mental state as he attempts to accomplish this major feat. He describes a point where you no longer Read More


Sep 23

Posted by Tom Baker

The Japan Writers Conference, a free annual event that invariably attracts at least a few JETs, will be held at Otaru University of Commerce on Oct. 13 and 14. One of the JETs giving presentations this year will be Suzanne Kamata, who will be giving two of the 36 presentations scheduled for the big weekend. One of them was described in a previous JETwit post. Here’s the official description of the other:

“The Truth about Writing Contests”
Short lecture with Q & A

I will describe various kinds of writing contests, the pros and cons of entering said contests, and give advice on how to improve an entrant’s chances of winning.

There are many contests for writers. Some may think that it’s not worth the time or the cost of the entrance fees. After all, many contests get hundreds of submissions, and judging is often somewhat subjective – every reader has different likes and dislikes. However, thanks to winning or placing in writing competitions, I have received plane tickets to Paris, Sydney, and Columbia, South Carolina (from my home in Japan). I’ve also been awarded cash, medals, trophies, and plaques and shiny prize stickers for my books, not to mention bragging rights and prestige. A contest win can also be an excuse for a burst of publicity. Contests may lead to recognition, getting an agent or publisher, and book sales. So how do you decide which contests to enter? How do you win? In this session I will share my expertise as a frequent contest entrant, sometime winner, and occasional judge.

Suzanne Kamata has won many awards for her writing including a grant from SCBWI for her forthcoming novel tentatively titled Indigo Girl (GemmaMedia 2018), a grant from the Sustainable Arts Foundation for her as-yet-unpublished mother/daughter travel memoir Squeaky Wheels, the Paris Book Festival Grand Prize for Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible (GemmaMedia 2013), and an IPPY Silver Medal for her most recently published novel The Mermaids of Lake Michigan (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing 2017).


Sep 20

Posted by Tom Baker

The Japan Writers Conference, a free annual event that invariably attracts at least a few JETs, will be held at Otaru University of Commerce on Oct. 13 and 14. One of the JETs giving presentations this year will be Tom Baker (who wrote this post, along with a recent Japan News article previewing the event). Here’s the official description of his presentation:

Anatomy of a Book Review
Short lecture with Q&A

“Anatomy of a Book Review” will explain how a book review is structured and what elements it should include. The key is to not merely indulge in one’s own reaction to a book, but to focus on being an informative and trustworthy guide for other readers.

A book review is like a book in miniature. It must grab the reader’s attention at the beginning, hold their interest through the middle, and leave them feeling satisfied to have spent their time on it by the end. But what goes into each of those parts and how do you put them together?

“Anatomy of a Book Review” will pin several reviews to the dissecting table to look at what parts they include and what function those parts serve. Vital organs include a catchy lead, facts about the author, and at least a sketch of the context in which the book appears.

Reviews of fiction and nonfiction will be compared. For any type of book, reviewers of course want to express their opinions. This presentation will focus on doing so in a way that fulfills the reviewer’s mission to be a concretely helpful guide for other readers.

Tom Baker has written and published about 300 book reviews over the past 20 years. He edited the Books page of The Daily Yomiuri, which is now The Japan News, where he edits the Bound to Please column. He was the ACCJ Journal’s book columnist for two years.

 

 


Sep 17

Posted by Tom Baker

The Japan Writers Conference, a free annual event that invariably attracts at least a few JETs, will be held at Otaru University of Commerce on Oct. 13 and 14. One of the JETs giving presentations this year will be poet and novelist Holly Thompson, who first came to Japan in connection with the pre-JET MEF program. She will present “Half the Story: Writing for the Picture Book Market.” Here’s the official description of her presentation:

Short Lecture, Exercises and Q&A

Picture book writing is a particular art. Writers of picture book manuscripts must write for page turns and create opportunities for the illustrator—writing just enough to offer possibilities. This session introduces the craft of writing picture books for current English-language picture book markets.

Writing is only half the story in picture books–images and text interact to tell the story together. So how do we write text without saying too much? Where in our writing should we step aside for the illustrator? And how do we compress stories for the strict count of 32 pages? How can we skill up to craft manuscripts that appeal to editors and art directors for their illustration possibility? This session will explore the anatomy of the picture book as it pertains to writers and offer guidelines for crafting fresh, marketable picture book manuscripts. We’ll examine sample picture books—fiction, nonfiction, poetry—and try some interactive exercises. We will address the current English-language picture book markets and share the gaps, openings and opportunities for writers to get a foot in the door.

Holly Thompson is author of the picture books Twilight Chant; One Wave at a Time, The Wakame Gatherers: verse novels Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth, Orchards, The Language Inside; and the novel Ash. She writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, is SCBWI Japan Regional Advisor, and teaches at Yokohama City University.


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