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novel tentatively titled Indigo Girl (GemmaMedia 2018), a grant from the Sustainable Arts Foundation for her as-yet-unpublished mother/daughter travel memoir Squeaky Wheels, the Paris Book Festival Grand Prize for Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible (GemmaMedia 2013), and an IPPY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.


Sep 16

 

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, whose story “Monchan” appears in the “The Best Asian Short Stories 2017” anthology. Suzanne will be giving two presentations. Here’s the official description of one of them:

Panel discussion w/ Q & A

Kitaab Publisher Zafar Anjum and contributor Suzanne Kamata will discuss The Best Asian Short Stories 2017 anthology. Anjum will also talk about other anthologies in the works and publishing opportunities for Japan-based writers and translators in Singapore.

Zafar Anjum, who heads the independent Singapore publishing house Kitaab International, and contributor Suzanne Kamata, will introduce The Best Asian Short Stories 2017 anthology. In addition to the anthology series, Kitaab has published novels, short story collections and stories for children. Anjum will also discuss his vision for Kitaab and publishing opportunities for Japan-based writers and translators. There will be a question and answer period.

Zafar Anjum is a writer, publisher, and filmmaker who lives and works in Singapore. His books include Kafka in Ayodhya and Other Short Stories (Kitaab International, 2015), Iqbal: The Life of a Poet Philosopher and Politician (Random House India, 2014), and The Singapore Decalogue (Red Wheelbarrow, 2012). He is the founder-editor of Kitaab, an online journal and publishing company that promotes Asian writing in English.

Suzanne Kamata is the author or editor of ten published books including, most recently Screaming Divas (Simon Pulse, 2014), The Mermaids of Lake Michigan (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2017) and A Girls’ Guide to the Islands (Gemma Open Door, 2017). Her story “Mon-chan” was selected for inclusion in The Best Asian Short Stories 2017 anthology. She is an Associate Professor at Naruto College of Education.


Sep 7

WIT Life #328: Making Japanese History at the U.S. Open

 

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.

Being an avid tennis fan, I was thrilled when my clients asked me if I wanted to join them at the U.S. Open women’s semifinals last night.  I was especially excited because not only would I get to see Serena during her “Don’t call it a comeback” tour, but I would get to see Japanese rising tennis superstar Naomi Osaka play live for the first time.  Naomi set a personal record by reaching her first Grand Slam quarterfinal here, and she and Kei Nishikori together made history by becoming the first Japanese duo to reach the semifinals of the same Grand Slam tournament.  The last time Japanese players advanced into the later rounds simultaneously was back in 1996, when Shuzo Matsuoka and Kimiko Date reached their respective quarterfinals at Wimbledon (Shuzo incidentally was Kei’s coach in Japan when he was 12).

Coincidentally enough, Naomi Osaka (大坂なおみ) was born in the same city as her last name (大阪) to a Japanese mother and a Haitian father.  When she was 3, they moved to the U.S. with her and her older sister Mari, also a tennis player, but for the sake of their tennis careers their father made the savvy decision that they would represent Japan.  It’s refreshing that despite not being fluent in Japanese and not being purely Japanese, she has a huge backing in Japan.  At the match last night, a Haitian group was sitting behind us and enthusiastically calling out her name at regular intervals.  We ended up chatting and one guy explained that Haitian fans want to claim her as their own, and that they get frustrated when she is described as only “Japanese” as opposed to “Haitian-Japanese.”

She and opponent Sloane Stephens slugged it out with their amazingly powerful ground strokes, some rallies going as long as 18 points.  In her post-match comments, when asked why she was able to continuously hold serve despite Sloane’s 13 break chances, Naomi said, Read More


Jun 7

WIT Life #326: New York Japan CineFest 2018

 

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.

Last night I caught day 1 of the New York Japan CineFest held at Asia Society.  2018 marks the seventh anniversary of the event, and it seems to get better every year.  The lineup featured six short films that ranged in length from eight to 28 minutes, and included two documentaries.

My favorite was the final film And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool from Makoto Nagahisa, which clocked in at the longest 28 minutes but went by in a flash.  It is based on a true story of four 15-year old girls from a small town in Saitama who released 400 goldfish into their high school pool in order to escape the boredom of their daily lives.  Its zany tone and fast-paced story kept the audience captivated and laughing.  Despite its humorous tone, it poignantly addresses the universal feelings experienced during high school and certainly brought back memories of that time in my life.  Last year it received the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at Sundance (you can watch the film via this link), and it was Nagahisa’s directorial debut.

Another highlight of the program was Sugihara Survivors, which told the story Read More


May 28

WIT Life #325: Shogun World

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.

Hope everyone is enjoying the Memorial Day weekend! I’m out in Colorado, heading into the tail end of a three-week State Department interpreting gig on the topic of disability access and inclusion. This was something I knew very little about before starting, and have come to understand more about the situation both here and in Japan. Our last week will be spent in Seattle, where I’m sure there’s lots more to learn…

The HBO drama Westworld recently entered its second season, and while I am not a regular viewer I tuned in as I had heard it would have a Japan focus. The show tells the story of life-like robots in a Wild West-themed amusement park, and the complications that arise when they become sentient. This time around the series is set during Japan’s Edo Period in a place called Shogun World. Great pains were taken to ensure accuracy, even down to the Japanese that would have been spoken at the time. And it doesn’t hurt that the lineup of Japanese actors includes standouts like Hiroyuki Sanada and Rinko Kikuchi, who play a ronin robot and lead geisha respectively.

For more about Shogun World, check out this Japan Times article.

 


Apr 30

 

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.

This weekend I caught Kazuhiro Soda’s Inland Sea (港町) at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Art of the Real.  The festival’s opening film about John McEnroe whet my appetite for more documentaries, and I was looking forward to seeing the latest from Soda after enjoying his film Campaign at Japan Society several years back.  Inland Sea is set near the hometown of his wife Kiyoko Kashiwagi, who is also the film’s producer.  They were both on hand to introduce the film and take part in a post- screening Q&A.  In his introduction Soda shared that the film adheres to their Ten Commandments, which include tenets such as no research before shooting, not setting any themes or goals before editing, and paying for the production on their own (to the dismay of producer Kashiwagi).

Inland Sea takes place in the port city of Ushimado in Okayama Prefecture, population 7000.  Many of the younger residents have already left, and the documentary’s main subjects are the octagenarians Wai-chan and Kumiko, respectively a fisherman and the town crier.  They are both captivating subjects, but as a cat lover I was most entranced by the stray felines who congregate at the home of transplants to the area who have been feeding them.  I was engaged throughout the film’s two hour plus duration, but it definitely could have been cut in places, especially the long takes on the fishing boat.

During the Q&A Soda explained that the reason he chose to make a black and white film (except for the last color scene) was that he wanted to portray Read More


Apr 14

Posted by Tom Baker


The 12th annual Japan Writer’s Conference will be held this year in Hokkaido, a new location for the event. The organizers are now seeking writers to give presentations on the weekend of Oct. 13-14 at Otaru University of Commerce in Otaru, Hokkaido. If you are a writer and 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. These have included anthologist Suzanne Kamata, textbook author Todd Jay Leonard, travel writer Victoria Vlisides, short story writer Claire Dawn-Marie Gittens, novelists Benjamin Martin, Percival Constantine and Holly Thompson (the last of whom came to Japan in connection with the pre-JET MEF program), and journalists Elaine Lies and Tom Baker (the latter of whom wrote this post).

Past presenters have also included Australian poet David Gibley, “Slumdog Millionaire” novelist Vikas Swarup, “Cash Crash Jubilee” novelist Eli K.P. William, young-adult author Margi Preus, horror author Thersa Matsuura, and memoirist Leza Lowitz. The 2017 edition of “The Best American Mystery Stories,” edited by John Sandford, features a story by Karen McGee, who hosted the 2017 event in Tokyo. The host of this year’s event will be travel writer and textbook author Shawn Clankie.

Representatives of literary journals such as The Font and Cha have participated in past years, as have representatives of publishers including Fine Line Press and Isobar Press.

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 http://www.japanwritersconference.org.

Writers interested in making a presentation at the 2018 conference are asked to contact organizer John Gribble at gribblej@gol.com. The deadline for presentation proposals is June 1.


Mar 16

 

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.

Japan Week 2018 is taking place through the weekend at Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall, and this year’s theme is 3D Trick Art.  Sponsored by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), the event strives to create an Instagrammable, interactive experience for visitors.  In addition to the regular array of booths from travel agencies, various regions in Japan and Japanese food and drink purveyors, there are several large backdrops into which you can insert yourself for the ultimate selfie.  My favorite was the bowl of ramen into which you can become one of the ingredients, and others include becoming a topping for sushi, helping to carry the mikoshi at a matsuri and shuttling around a sumo wrestler in a rickshaw (Fujifilm is even on hand to help you print out these funny shots after you take them!). Read More


Feb 16

WIT Life #322: Then They Came for Me

 

Written by freelance Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as language, film, business, food and politics. 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.

Sign from Japanese-run business telling customers their clothing won’t be brought to the incarceration camp

After interpreting in Manhattan Criminal Court earlier this week, I stopped for lunch in Chinatown and found myself with some time on my hands afterwards.  I decided to visit the International Center of Photography and was nicely surprised to find the exhibition Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII (through May 6), a comprehensive portrayal of this reprehensible period in American history.  It includes works from prominent photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams, letters and other personal mementos, and moving video testimonials from those who were incarcerated or have family members who had been.

From 1942-1946, thousands of Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated to incarceration camps in desert and swamp areas of the Western U.S.  The original term for this had been “internment,” but I learned from the exhibition that Japanese American organizations and scholars have developed new terminology in an effort to more accurately reflect the wrongness of what took place. Read More


Feb 12

WIT Life #321: Sato Sakura Gallery

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 language, film, business, food and politics. 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.

Last September, Chelsea received a great addition to its art scene in the form of the Sato Sakura Gallery. This Japan-born museum has two locations (Fukushima/Tokyo) that specialize in 日本画 (Nihon-ga or traditional Japanese painting). This term and concept was created in response to 西洋画 (Seiyou-ga or Western painting), which made its way to Japan during the Meiji Era (1868). Today the idea of Nihon-ga can refer to both purely traditional Japanese painting, as well as new styles of painting that incorporate Western painting methods while remaining faithful to traditional Japanese painting techniques.

The inaugural exhibit at the new Chelsea location has 桜 (sakura or cherry blossoms) as its theme, and showcases 12 different artists and their works. They range from regular-sized paintings to giant folding screens, and my favorites were from self-proclaimed “flower and cherry blossom maniac” Reiji Hiramatsu. In particular, his work “Playful Carps” piece is impressive.  Its bright colors are striking, and I enjoy the playfulness of the fish in a pond with petals filling its surface. I also really like his “Mt. Fuji and Cherry Blossoms,” Read More


Nov 30

 

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.

Last week I had the opportunity to see some amazing works from legendary avant garde Japanese poet, dramatist, writer, film director, and photographer Shuji Terayama. I hadn’t heard of him before, but many critics view him as one of the most productive and provocative creative artists to come out of Japan. He has also been cited as an influence on various Japanese filmmakers from the 1970s onward. The three films screened were Americans, who are you (アメリカ人あなたは), Laura (ローラ) and The Trial (審判).

A special treat was that Laura included the restaging of Terayama’s 1974 film performance with the original actor, Henrikku Morisaki, who was in attendance. This short film feature female strippers who are berating the audience, when all of a sudden a spectator (Morisaki) enters the film. We saw scenes of him as a young man in this role, being stripped and assaulted by the women. At the end of the film he emerged from behind the screen, this time naked and holding his torn clothes. In an interview post-screening, Morisaki told stories about his work with Terayama over the course of almost 17 years. He described Read More


Sep 29

WIT Life #316: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Teikoku Hotel

 

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.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth, and celebrations are taking place around the country and world.  I recently had the chance to go to MoMA’s Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive (ending October 1 so run to check it out if you haven’t already!).  This incredibly comprehensive exhibit looks at Wright’s career from 12 different perspectives, each of which has its own section.   There are around 450 works that he made from the 1890s through the 1950s on display, and each section has a video narrated by a scholar in the respective field.

I was particular interested in the section discussing the second version of the Imperial Hotel (帝国ホテル), designed by Wright and built from 1919–1923).  It survived the Great Tokyo Earthquake that September, but eventually slipped into decay over time and in 1967 it was decided to demolish the hotel and replace it with a high-rise building.  The structure was mostly destroyed, but the iconic central lobby wing and reflecting pool were disassembled and rebuilt at Meiji-mura in Nagoya, which I was lucky enough to visit during a recent business trip.

This is an amazing theme park with a variety of architecture mostly from the Meiji Era (1868-1912), and Read More


Aug 27

 

Posted by Tom Baker (Chiba, 1989-91).

The Japan Writers Conference is a free annual event for English-language writers, held in a different part of Japan each year. In 2017, it will take place in Tokyo at the Ekoda Campus of Nihon University College of Art on Oct. 8-9, the last two days of a Japanese holiday weekend.

There will be will be about 30 presentations by published writers of fiction, poetry, memoir, travel writing and more. Several of those writers are former JETs.

JET alumnae Susan Laura Sullivan and Suzanne Kamata, for example, will give a joint presentation on editing anthologies. Sullivan is the editor of the forthcoming anthology “Women of a Certain Age,” while Kamata’s published anthologies include “Call Me Okaa-san” and “The Broken Bridge.”

Kamata will also give a presentation together with Ann Tashi Slater on creative nonfiction.

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JET alum and textbook author Todd Jay Leonard, whose many titles include “American Traditions,” will give a lecture on “The Ever-Changing Publishing Industry,” in which he will discuss traditional versus print-on-demand publishing, followed by a Q&A session.

Poet and novelist Holly Thompson, who first came to Japan in connection with the pre-JET MEF program, will present “Writing Picture Books: Nonfiction Opportunities.” Her published works include “The Wakame Gatherers.”

For details on those and the other presentations, visit www.japanwritersconference.org or follow @JapanWritersCon on Twitter.

The Japan Writers Conference, now in its 11th year, is completely volunteer-run, and admission is free.


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