Oct 1

Posted by Tom Baker

JET alum and prolific author and editor of fiction and nonfiction Suzanne Kamata will host a panel discussion on how the pandemic has changed the writing life and the publishing world at this year’s Japan Writers Conference. The conference, which is free, will take place in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Oct. 15-16, but participants must sign up by Oct. 8.

Here’s the official description of her panel’s presentation:

Suzanne Kamata
Clara Kiyoko Kumagai, Kristin Osani, Clarissa Goenawan, Sara Fujimura
Pivot: Writing for a Post-Pandemic World
Panel Discussion
Fiction


How do you keep going when the world, the publishing landscape, and YOU have had major paradigm shifts since 2020? Multi-published authors Sara Fujimura, Clarissa Goenawan, Suzanne Kamata, Clara Kiyoko Kumagai, and Kristin Osani discuss the limitations and growth opportunities that come with this new post-pandemic reality.

Are you waiting for the publishing world to “go back to normal?” The bad news: It’s not. Supply chain woes, soaring material costs, editorial burnout, and continued unrest in the world have made traditional publishing harder to break into and even harder to sustain a career. Savvy authors pivot. Five multi-published, award-winning, globally-minded authors give a state-of-the-industry report from their region of the world. They identify specific challenges they’ve had in the last two years, including launching new books during a pandemic (One out of 10 stars. Highly DON’T recommend!). They also offer tips and techniques on how to keep your writing career rolling when it seems the world is constantly conspiring against you.

American Suzanne Kamata has lived in Shikoku for over 30 years. During the pandemic, she published an award-winning middle grade novel, Pop Flies, Robo-pets and Other Disasters; The Baseball Widow, a novel for adults, and Waiting, her poetry debut. She is an associate professor at Naruto University of Education.

Clarissa Goenawan (she/her) is an Indonesian-born Singaporean writer and translator. Her award-winning short stories have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies in Singapore, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Italy, the UK, and the US. Rainbirds, her debut novel, has been published in eleven different languages. Her second novel, The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida, came out in 2020. Watersong is her third novel.

Kristin Osani (she/her) is a queer fantasy writer who lives in Kyoto, where she works as a freelance Japanese-to-English video game translator when she’s not wordsmithing, working on nerdy cross-stitching, or cuddling her two cats (three if you include her husband). She has translated games like The Kids We Were, Voice of Cards, and Triangle Strategy. Her original fiction has appeared in FlashPoint SF, the Arcanist, and Ghost Orchid Press’s Beyond the Veil: Supernatural Tales of Queer Love anthology.

Clara Kumagai is from Ireland, Canada and Japan. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in publications such as The Stinging Fly, The Irish Times, Banshee, Room, Cicada, and The Kyoto Journal, among others. Her children’s story, A Girl Named Indigo, was translated and published in Japanese with the title Indigo wo sagashite (Shogakukan, 2020). Her young adult novel, Catfish Rolling, is forthcoming in 2023. She currently lives and works in Tokyo.

Sara Fujimura is a hybrid author of four award-winning young adult books: Tanabata Wish, Breathe, Every Reason We Shouldn’t (Tor Teen), and Faking Reality (Tor Teen). She is represented by Ann Rose of the Prospect Agency. Every Reason We Shouldn’t was named an NPR Best Book of 2020. www.sarafujimura.com


Sep 26

Posted by Tom Baker

JET alum and acclaimed poet Michael Frazier, whose work has appeared in the anthology Umoja, will hold a workshop at this year’s Japan Writers Conference.

Here’s the official description of his presentation:

Michael Frazier
O Death, Where is Your Sting?: A Poetics of Hope!
Craft Workshop
Poetry


Turn on the news and it is inevitable to see a news broadcast about someone dying. By a virus, a health condition, a natural disaster, or a twisted mind with a weapon. This generative workshop is a poetics on death and grappling with the fear death induces by unmasking the demon and realizing our hope.

This is a generative workshop for those interested in writing about and through the reality of being ephemeral beings in a world that is posed against our fragile lives. We will read poems anticipating, about, and responding to death. Some poets may include Danez Smith, Safia Elhillo, Li Young Lee, Max Ritvo, Mary Oliver, and others. We will read anti-eulogies, psalms, palindromes, and other poems that resist the inevitable. We will understand how they write around and through the concept of dying, with particular interest in how hope is the hinge of their poetry. We will write our own poems that face our fears.

Michael Frazier is a poet and high school teacher living in Kanazawa, Japan. Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets nominated, his poems appear in Poetry Daily, The Offing, RHINO, Tinderbox, Tokyo Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.


Sep 26

Posted by Tom Baker

JET alum Jillian Marshall, author of “Japanthem,” will delve into the nature of memoir in a presentation at the Japan Writers Conference.

Here’s the official description of her presentation:

Jillian Marshall
Reimagining Memoir: Storytelling as Analytical Inquiry
Short Lecture with Q&A online
Nonfiction


What lies between the traditional boundaries of non-fiction genres? This presentation examines the analytical possibilities of memoir and storytelling. Bookended by presentation and discussion, we will read a chapter from my new book as a case-study in analytical memoir, learning about Japanese music culture in the process.

This hybrid presentation and group reading introduces new approaches to memoir devised during my time in (and departure from) academia. Following with a brief lecture questioning the limits of non-fiction genre — what does the slippage between memoir and ethnography reveal? — we’ll examine analytical memoir by reading a chapter of my new book, Japanthem: Counter-Cultural Experiences, Cross-Cultural Remixes. Originally written as part of my doctoral thesis in Japanese ethnomusicology, the selected chapter and Japanthem on whole posit memoir and storytelling as colloquial sites of anthropological inquiry (in this case, getting subtly bullied by my Buddhist dance teacher in Akita Prefecture). With the Q and A that follows, I ultimately hope to inspire new possibilities in non-fiction writing and bridge not just the intellectual rigor of academia with the public sphere, but cultural (mis)understandings between Japan, the US, and beyond in the process.

Jillian Marshall, PhD, is a writer, educator, and musician who champions public intellectualism. Her first book, Japanthem: Counter-Cultural Experiences, Cross-Cultural Remixes, debuted in April with Three Rooms Press. Jillian’s other writings have been published by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Cornell University Press, and Music Television.


Sep 19

Posted by Tom Baker

JET alum and author Coffee Quills will speak about newly emerging forms of publishing in a presentation at the Japan Writers Conference.

Here’s the official description of their presentation:

Coffee Quills
Spinning Web Fiction for Fun & Profit
Short Lecture with Q&A
Fiction, Other Genre
Game Writing


Quick discussion of what authors and writers want, going into the pros that web fiction can offer and the pitfalls that are hidden among the opportunities, and showing writers and authors that – in addition to traditional publishing and indie publishing – web fiction can be a 3rd option in their writing career.

Wander deeper into the realms of internet writing and find places where writers can explore the opportunities web fiction offers through serializations (in which a story can be uploaded chapter by chapter even as it is being written) such as Kindle Vella and Radish, or interactive writing with Choice of Games and Tales, in addition to the benefits that free places such as Wattpad, HoneyFeed, and Royal Road offer.

Coffee Quills, of Tokyo, is an embodiment of their slogan Many QuillsMany Genres. They are a game developer with 4thewords, stream daily writing sprints on Twitch, and have indie published three books: Blasted Research, Digital Lights, Spells, Snow, & Sky. They exist on coffee and seafood.


Sep 13

Posted by Tom Baker

Sarah Coomber (Yamaguchi, 1994-1996) is the author of “Under the Same Moon,” a memoir in which she describes moving to Japan in search of a reset in life. One month from now, she will share some of her memoir writing tips in a presentation at the Japan Writers Conference.


Most of this year’s conference will be held in person at the Shonan Campus of Tokai University in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, but some sessions, including Sarah’s, will take place online via Zoom. (Join the conference mailing list to get the Zoom codes.) Her talk is set to begin at 10 a.m. on Oct. 16 (Japan time). Here’s the official description:

Sarah Coomber
Moment by Moment: Demystifying the Writing of a First Memoir
Craft Workshop online
Nonfiction, Other Genre
Memoir


Telling your story in memoir form can be daunting—you have a lifetime’s worth of experiences to draw from. Where to begin?

Moment by moment.

In this craft workshop, I will share several strategies to help you on your way.

Memoirs, like life, progress moment by moment. The most important thing is not whether your particular story is full of excitement, tragedy or coincidence. What matters is what you bring to the moments in your story—how you view, interpret, reflect on and react to them.

Infusing moments with meaning will help you uncover your larger story. This can occur with sensory explorations, analogies, linked memories, about-ness and more.

I will share what I wish I’d known before writing my first memoir and will coach you through several of my favorite moment-developing strategies.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a scene or observation to explore.

Sarah Coomber is the author of The Same Moon (Camphor Press, 2020), a memoir about two years she spent regrouping in rural Japan after wrecking her Minnesota life. She has worked in public relations and journalism, coaches writing, has degrees in creative writing and journalism, and achieved level four certification in the Seiha School of koto.


Sep 11

Posted by Tom Baker

Tokai University Professor and JET alum Charles Kowalski will be the host of this year’s Japan Writers Conference, at his university’s Shonan Campus in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Oct 15-16.

He is the author of the Japan-based middle-grade fantasy Simon Grey and the March of a Hundred Ghosts, and the contemporary thrillers Mind Virus and The Devil’s Son. He has won the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Award, and has been a finalist for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award, the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association Literary Award, and the Adventure Writers Grandmaster Award.

This year’s Japan Writers Conference will feature approximately 27 different sessions on various aspects of the writing life, one of which will be presented by Charles himself. Here’s the official description:

Charles Kowalski
The Magic of Humor
Craft Workshop
Fiction, Nonfiction


What wizardry lies in writing magical symbols that make anyone who looks at them fall into helpless laughter? Here, we explore ways to infuse writing with laugh-out-loud humor, such as combining divergent situations to make a comic premise, creating comic characters, and running dialogue and narration through “funny filters.”

Of all the ways to make people laugh, one of the hardest is through the written word. This workshop will present several techniques for infusing writing with laugh-out-loud humor, including:

How humor works by subverting expectations and creating new ones
How to combine disparate situations for comic effect
How to run ordinary dialogue and narration through “funny filters”
How to create comic characters using archetypes, quirks, and comical situations


Sep 5

Todd Jay Leonard to speak on textbook publishing at the Japan Writers Conference

Posted by Tom Baker

Textbook author Todd Jay is one of the JET alumni writers who will be giving presentations at the 2022 Japan Writers Conference, held on Oct. 15-16 at the Shonan Campus of Tokai University in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. For details, see http://japanwritersconference.org. Here’s the official description of his presentation:

Todd Jay Leonard
Publishing in the EFL Market in Japan: Four Perspectives on How to Make Your Proposal Count
Short Lecture with Q&A
Instructional


This presentation will outline the current publishing market in Japan for EFL/ESL textbooks by reviewing the various points of view of the publishing industry. The presenter, Todd Jay Leonard, has published extensively within the ESL/EFL market in Japan and will offer helpful advice to budding authors who wish to pursue projects geared to Japan’s domestic market.

Most likely, every language teacher in Japan has (at some point during his/her tenure) contemplated writing a textbook to fill a void in the market…in that constant search for the perfect, all-encompassing textbook.

In today’s competitive publishing world, getting the proverbial “foot in the door” can seem daunting and nearly impossible. What are publishers looking for in the current market? What appeals to editors who ultimately decide which titles go to production and which ones do not? What are the salespeople on the front lines hearing from their market base? What must an author do in order to get his/her book published?

This presentation focuses on these very questions, offering inside insights from all the various points of view that must be considered when writing a proposal to publish a textbook–the publisher, the editor, the salesperson, and the author. Professor Leonard explains the realities within the publishing industry and addresses some common myths associated with EFL publishing.

Todd Jay Leonard has been actively involved in book publishing for 30 years and has published 26 books. He has published books with a number of different Japanese publishing companies and this experience has given him a unique perspective in offering advice to potential authors on what the market is looking for currently and what the publishing industry is searching for in new titles.

He lives, writes, and teaches on the southern island of Kyushu, where he is a university professor at University of Teacher Education Fukuoka and is the department head for the English Department for the graduate faculty. He has published extensively in academic journals, magazines, and newspapers on cross-cultural, historical, and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) themes.


Aug 23

Posted by Tom Baker (Chiba, 1989-91)

U.S. President Joe Biden is set to visit Hiroshima next spring, when Japan hosts the Group of Seven summit. All of Biden’s recent predecessors have also visited Japan at some point.

Amazingly, the first presidential visit happened way back in 1879, when Ulysses Grant spent the summer in Japan shortly after leaving office. He met an array of Japanese historical figures, including Eiichi Shibusawa and Emperor Meiji.

I recently spent a day exploring Tokyo in Grant’s footsteps. Here’s what I found.



Jul 27

WIT Life #365: New York Asian Film Festival

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Professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03) presents WIT Life, 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 offers some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

The New York Asian Film Festival taking place at Lincoln Center is one of my favorite annual events, and it’s coming to a close this weekend. This year the festival celebrated its 20th anniversary, and it was back in person for the first time in two years. Over the first week, I was lucky enough to interpret for several actors, producers and directors. Particularly thrilling was being able to work with the actor Hiroshi Abe, of whom I’ve been a longtime fan. He attended the festival to receive the 2022 Screen International Star Asia Award and participate in the Q&A for his film Offbeat Cops, which had its world premiere at the festival.

My sharp-eyed friend in Japan was up early watching Fuji’s Mezamashi TV, and she was able to capture this photo of me on stage with Abe and Offbeat Cops director Eiji Uchida (to my left/right respectively in the picture). Abe plays a hard-boiled detective named Naruse who gets shunted off to the police band, and ends up going on a journey of self-discovery as a result (and learns how to play the drums, as the actor had to in real life!). During the Q&A, Uchida expressed his desire to make a sequel where Naruse has a showdown with the NYPD Police band, and to the delight of the crowd Abe said that he’s be up for it.

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May 10

Posted by Tom Baker

JET alum Tom Baker, a “Jeopardy!” champion and regular participant in the Tokyo pub quiz scene, gave a talk at the most recent Japan Writers Conference about “How to Write Pub Quiz.”
You can watch his presentation below, and find more JWC presentations — including several by former JETs — at the Japan Writers Conference YouTube Channel.
Also, if you would like to give your own presentation at the 2022 Japan Writers Conference this October, you can submit a proposal here. The deadline is June 1.


May 6

JET alum writers: Joyce Jarman Walsh on interviewing

Posted by Tom Baker

JET alum Joyce Jarman Walsh, who runs a livestream talkshow called #SeekingSustainability, gave a presentation titled “Live + Engaging Networking via Interviews with Japan Insiders” at the most recent Japan Writers Conference.
You can watch a video of her talk below, and find more JWC presentations — including several by former JETs — at the Japan Writers Conference YouTube Channel.
Also, if you would like to give your own presentation at the 2022 Japan Writers Conference this October, you can submit a proposal here. The deadline is June 1.


Apr 28

Posted by Tom Baker

JET alum and novelist Joanne Anderton gave a presentation titled “Speculative Fiction Autobiography” at the most recent Japan Writers Conference.

You can watch her presentation below, and find more JWC presentations — including several by former JETs — at the Japan Writers Conference YouTube Channel.

Also, if you would like to give your own presentation at the 2022 Japan Writers Conference this October, you can submit a proposal here. The deadline is June 1.


Apr 21

Posted by Tom Baker

Novelist and JET alum Suzanne Kamata hosted a panel discussion on “Writing Identity” at the most recent Japan Writers Conference. Joining her were Tokyo-based writer Clara Kiyoko Kumagai; Kyoto-based fantasy writer and translator Kristin Osani; Indonesian-born Singaporean writer Clarissa Goenawan; and award-winning young adult author Sara Fujimura.

You can watch their discussion below, and find more JWC presentations — including several by former JETs — at the Japan Writers Conference YouTube Channel.

Also, if you would like to give your own presentation at the 2022 Japan Writers Conference this October, you can submit a proposal here. The deadline is June 1.


Apr 19

Japan Writers Conference: Hans Brinckmann on memoirs

Posted by Tom Baker

Longtime Japan resident Hans Brinckmann talked about turning his life into a book in “Making a Memoir from a Journal,” a talk that he gave at the most recent Japan Writers Conference.

If you have a Japan memoir inside you, watch his presentation below for inspiration and ideas. You can find more JWC presentations at the Japan Writers Conference YouTube Channel.

Also, if you would like to give your own presentation at the 2022 Japan Writers Conference this October, you can submit a proposal here. The deadline is June 1.


Apr 3

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


Poet and JET alum Michael Frazier gave a presentation titled “A Poem is a Thing that Moves: Contemporary Lyric Poems” at the most recent Japan Writers Conference.
You can watch his presentation below, and find more JWC presentations — including several by former JETs — at the Japan Writers Conference YouTube Channel.
Also, if you would like to give your own presentation at the 2022 Japan Writers Conference this October, you can submit a proposal here. The deadline is June 1.


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