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.

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.


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.

Oct 2


The 4th annual Japan Writers Conference will be held Oct. 10-11 in Tokyo with 30 writers giving 50-minute presentations about the artistic and business sides of their respective fields, which inlcude fiction, poetry, journalism and even EFL textbook writing. At least four of the presenters are former JETs.

The venue is the Ekoda Campus of Nihon University College of Art. You can find full details by visiting http://www.japanwritersconference.org/or following the event on Twitter via http://twitter.com/JapanWritersCon

Here are some slightly shortened versions of the official descriptions of presentations to be made by JET alums:

DWAYNE LIVELY (Niigata-ken, 1996-99) “My Freeware Life.”

The lecture focuses on my experiments with various freeware writing programs, some of which promise to help improve the writing process. The first part of the lecture introduces a number of freeware writing programs that have been suggested by and/or designed by fellow writers. I will explain the results of my experiments with each program and will demonstrate how easy, or not, they are to use, how they changed my writing process and whether or not I intend to keep using them. Next, I will describe what happened when I attempted to follow a handful of “how to write a novel” plans offered free online. Finally, I will introduce the moral if the lecture, including what I learned and what I managed to accomplish during all the experiments.

Dwayne Lively’s fiction has appeared in Twister, Kansas Quarterly, and The MacGuffin. His non-fiction and reviews have appeared in Transitions Abroad, Literary Magazine Review and online at Notebookism.com. He has been a writer, teacher and editor for the better part of 20 years and worked and taught in Japan, the USA and Albania. In his dwindling free time he’s been finishing up a novel and, on occasion, writing the online journal The Crazy Japan Times ( http://www.crazyjapan.com).

SUZANNE KAMATA (Tokushima-ken, 1988-90): “Marketing for Beginners.”

Getting your book into print is the easy part. Publishing it – making your work known to the public – takes a bit more effort. These days, writers are often expected to submit a marketing plan along with manuscripts, and most publishers expect writers to take an active role in marketing. So how do you market a book if you’re living in rural Japan, far from your target audience? Suzanne Kamata, author of five books with meagre advertising budgets, will suggest some easy, cheap, and not so obvious ways for expats to spread the word about their books.

Suzanne Kamata again: “Kickstart Your Creativity”

Suzanne Kamata will lead participants in writing exercises meant to warm up the writer and/or kickstart creativity when the muse is absent. Bring a notebook and a writing implement.

Suzanne Kamata is the author of the novel Losing Kei (Leapfrog Press, 2008) and editor of three anthologies – Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs (Beacon Press, May 2008) The Broken Bridge: Fiction from Expatriates in Literary Japan (Stone Bridge Press, 1997), and Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2009). She also serves as fiction editor of the popular on-line journal literarymama.com from Tokushima, Japan, where she lives with her family.

TODD JAY LEONARD (1989-92): “So you want to publish an EFL textbook?–Four Points of View to Consider when Writing a Proposal–The Myths and Realities of EFL Publishing in Japan.”

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. 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.

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

TOM BAKER (Chiba-ken, 1989-91), “Interviewing Creative Subjects: Actors, Authors, Artists and Auteurs.”

Interviewing a creative subject requires thorough preparation to elicit original and interesting quotes. My talk will explain how to do the research, write the questions and conduct the interview. It will briefly touch on turning quotes into a story. A well-prepared interviewer will be familiar with the subject’s previous interviews, online self-expression and body of work. The interviewer will look for themes and connections in the work to ask probing questions about its meaning. The interviewer will prepare questions ranging from basic to technical to off-the-wall, but will use the list only as a guideline to the conversation. The interviewer will tolerate digressions (within reason) and allow thoughtful silences to bear fruit. The interviewer will look for local angles and connections to current events.

Tom Baker has been a staff writer for The Daily Yomiuri since 2001, and has interviewed Sylvester Stallone, Liv Tyler, Marlon Wayans, John Woo, Nicholas Sparks, Barry Eisler, Brian K. Vaughan, Michael Sowa and many others. He is a coauthor of Tokyo Chic and The Sushi Lover’s Cookbook.

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