Japan Writers Conference


2017 (last year's) Japan Writers Conference Presentations


Allan Murphy, Naomi Arimura, Graham Bathgate


“Scratch the Steel, Find the Bamboo": How we wrote, collected and published authentic and lyrical stories about Japan, with explorations of the qualities of  “good” writing about Japan


Short presentations with Q&A.


Many years ago in Tokyo 73-year-old Masuho Fujita wrote elegantly about memories of her life for her English language class. Her essays were so beautiful and moving they were collected into a book, “Glimpses of Old Tokyo”. The editor formed Fine Line Press to publish Masuho's book and to collect more interesting stories of Japan from those who had lived there and those still there.


The presenters will discuss writing about Japan using their own experiences, reaching below the surface to find the nature and beauty of life in Japan through lyrical short stories. With the help of the audience they will create a list of “good” writing points about Japan, illustrated with some examples from the Fine Line stories.


The audience members will be invited to write a paragraph capturing one of their best stories of Japan.


Allan Murphy: I’ve lived in Japan a long time since I left Canada via China and Australia. I still teach here,enjoying the contact with students. Japan – comfortable, safe, frustrating but never boring. Japan – relaxing, sexist, traditional, clean and contradictory. Every day here is an adventure, much to write about and take photos of. I’ve written on many subjects – The Beatles, travel, and Murphy’s Law applied to Japan. I’ve had a long collaboration with Graham Bathgate, founder of Fine Line Press – writing communicative materials for students, doing presentations at the likes of JALT conferences and now helping with books of stories about Japan.


Graham Bathgate:   I lived and taught in Tokyo for 20 years to 2002. Returning to New Zealand

I collated a student’s excellent essays and stories to form the first book of Fine Line Press, “Glimpses of Old Tokyo”. More books followed as friends and contacts wrote about their best (and worst) experiences in Japan. Mary King wrote a whole book about walking the length of Japan. Ed Levinson wrote his memoirs about photographing Japanese landscape and tending an organic garden on the Boso Peninsula. I’m currently working on a book of memoirs of a friend who interviewed celebrities to Tokyo in the '70s and ‘80s.


Naomi Arimura: I married a Japanese musician/musicologist in 1972 and have lived in Japan ever since. In the early years, I wrote a regular column “Talking About Music” for the Asahi Evening News. I contributed stories on Japan to two books published by Fine Line Press, articles to Ikebana International, and co-edited a book of English and Japanese Proverbs (Asahi). I have been Editor of the Journal of the Association of Foreign Wives and for the last 20 years have written a short school play for my high school’s annual festival. When I retire next year, my ambition is to write more.




Ann Tashi Slater & Suzanne Kamata


Creative Nonfiction: What Is It and How Do You Write It?


Reading/Talk with Q&A


The session will begin with a short reading of creative nonfiction by Kamata and Slater, followed by a discussion of what creative nonfiction is and techniques for writing it. The session will include a look at how/where to publish creative nonfiction.

Kamata and Slater will read from their published creative nonfiction. They’ll talk about the evolution of their pieces and discuss common problems and challenges that arise when writing creative nonfiction. In addition, they’ll talk about their experiences with publishing in this genre and share practical tips. Resources will be provided, and there will be time for Q&A.


Suzanne Kamata is an award-winning author and editor living in Tokushima Prefecture, where she teaches at Tokushima University. Her most recent books are A Girls' Guide to the Islands and the IPPY award-winning novel The Mermaids of Lake Michigan (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2017). She has a BA in English Literature from the University of South Carolina, and an MFA from the University of British Columbia. Visit her website at http://www.suzannekamata.com and follow her on Twitter @shikokusue.

Ann Tashi Slater’s work has been published by The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Granta, and is forthcoming in Tin House and Agni; she’s working on a memoir about a modern-day pilgrimage to India. She has a BA in Comparative Literature from Princeton and an MFA from the University of Michigan. A longtime resident of Tokyo, she teaches at Japan Women’s University. Visit her website at www.anntashislater.com and her HuffPost blog [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/atslater-642]. Follow her on Twitter @anntashislater.




Baye McNeil


Landing and Expanding a Newspaper Column in Japan


Lecture with Q & A


Since 2014, McNeil has penned the “Black Eye” column for The Japan Times, the largest circulation English language newspaper in Japan. “Black Eye”has become the go-to resource on the experience of people of African descent living in Japan. For this class McNeil will share  some of what he's gleaned as a successful Japan-based writer on how he built his column from the ground up to one of the top destinations in Asia for news and info on people of color.


When McNeil first began his column all he had was a love of writing, a popular blog and a couple of indie-published books to his credit. Without much of a journalism background, he built “Black Eye” from scratch, and in 3 years time has established it as a go-to source for information on black lives in Asia. He's done so by covering the hot topics through the eyes of black people from every corner of the globe in Japan, voices heretofore unheard.


In this session, McNeil will share not only how he landed the column, but how he's managed to expand it into the institution it's become. He will discuss various marketing techniques and editorial strategies that can be incorporated to increase a column's reach, and the challenges of maintaining bias-free journalistic integrity while reporting on a topic on which one has strong personal opinions, and avoiding getting embroiled in conflicts of interests (and what can occur when a columnist fails to). There will be a Q/A period at the conclusion.


Baye McNeil is originally from Brooklyn, NY, and moved to Japan in 2004. He has written two books, “Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist” and “Loco in Yokohama”. He is a noted blogger, a newspaper columnist, and a lecturer. He resides in Yokohama.




Charles Kowalski


Do Good Things Come in Small Packages? The Pros and Cons of Small Presses


Short lecture and discussion


Small, independent publishers now control as much of the book market as the Big 6 conglomerates. What are the advantages of publishing with these small presses? What are the drawbacks? The presenter will share his experience with a small, start-up publisher, and invite participants to share theirs.


In recent years, the share of the book market controlled by the Big 6 has been steadily declining, while the market share of small presses has been increasing dramatically, to the point where the balance is now nearly even (Nielsen Book, 2015). In this presentation, the presenter will share, from his experience, some of the advantages and drawbacks of publishing with a very small press. Advantages include: a shorter route to publication, increased royalties, more creative freedom, more individual attention than large presses, and more cachet than self-publishing. Drawbacks include: small or no advance, limited budget for promotion, limited distribution in brick-and-mortar bookstores, reduced access to widely syndicated reviewers, and reduced eligibility for professional associations. Participants with experience publishing with small presses will be invited to share their stories as well.


Charles Kowalski’s debut thriller, MIND VIRUS, won the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Award, and was a finalist for the Clive Cussler Grandmaster Award, the Killer Nashville Claymore Award, and the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association Literary Award. Charles teaches at Tokai University in Kanagawa.




C. E. J. Simons


 Title: ‘The Rhymers Club: Or, How to Kill with a Closed Couplet’


A poetry workshop focused on how to rhyme in verse, and why rhyming poetry can help aspiring poets to win over editors by demonstrating technical skill. The skills in this workshop are also applicable to writers of lyrics for folk or popular music.


The session will teach and share the theory and techniques of rhyme in English. The session will focus on practicing skills, but it will begin with a brief introduction to different kinds of rhyme: not only the basic categories of full rhyme, near rhyme, off-rhyme, sight rhyme, etc., but also good and bad rhyme. Linguistically and culturally, what makes some rhymes sound better than others? What rhymes sound old and worn-out, and what rhymes will make the listener or reader sit bolt upright?


We will read some examples of good and bad rhyme in English poetry, and talk about how using ‘end rhyme’ has become more difficult as English has developed from a more- to a less-inflected grammar. Workshop participants will then have the opportunity to practice writing ‘closed couplets’: pairs of lines with adjacent rhymes. The closed couplet is one of the more challenging tests of rhyming skill in poetry, because the rhyme has ‘nowhere to hide’. The listener can’t avoid hearing a closed couplet’s rhyme, and so the poet must work hard to make it sound natural.


Finally, the session will discuss how effective and original rhyming can win over readers, audiences, and editors.


C. E. J. (Christopher) Simons is Senior Associate Professor of British Literature at International Christian University, Tokyo. He holds a D.Phil in British Romanticism from Lincoln College, Oxford, and in 2003 he held the Harper-Wood Studentship in Creative Writing at St John’s College Cambridge. His first full collection of poetry, One More Civil Gesture, was published by Isobar Press in 2015. His poems have won prizes in international competitions including the Bridport Competition, the Cardiff International Poetry Competition and the Wigtown Competition. His criticism and poetry have appeared in UK publications including the Independent, Isis, Magma, Oxford Poetry, PN Review, The Times Literary Supplement, and World Haiku.




David Gilbey


Reeling and Writhing 8: A Poetry Editing Workshop – preparing for publication.


A ‘closed’ workshop, requiring participants to submit (drafts of) poems before the conference as well as be involved in the discussion of work submitted by others.


The proposed workshop is based on the familiar and successful structure and strategy as offered by John Gribble at the 2008 JWC and my own over the last eight years. It will involve my sending out a ‘brief’ to intending participants requiring submission of drafts of poems, then, before the actual workshop, reading and making comments on each of the participants’ poems and finally, participating in the workshop discussion itself at the conference.


This workshop allows writers to work on a poem or two in readiness for publication, recognising that conference delegates are themselves writers, teachers and editors and that there are both personal and professional benefits from a closely-focussed discussion of emerging texts. So the purpose of this workshop is to give a small group of poets the opportunity to meet, read and discuss in depth a sample of each others’ work. The workshop will be open to a limited number of participants but writers of varying degrees of experience will be welcome. The session will be closed and of two hours’ duration. There will be two parts to the workshop: preparation and participation. Preparation also has two parts: submitting and close reading – those who sign up for the session will be contacted before the conference.


David Gilbey is Adjunct Senior Lecturer in English at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia, and the founding President of Wagga Wagga Writers Writers, as well as a poet. His three collections of poems are 'Under the Rainbow' (1996), 'Death and the Motorway' (2008) and 'Pachinko Sunset' (2016). He has taught English at Miyagi Gakuin Women's University in Sendai, Japan 1996, 2000 and 2007.




Diane Hawley Nagatomo


Writing EFL Materials for the Japanese Market




This presentation will discuss how to write EFL textbooks for the Japanese university market and how to get Japanese publishers to publish them. I will briefly describe my own experiences and how the textbook market has changed over the past twenty-five years. I will give advice on how to approach publishers and how to write a proposal they would be willing to take a chance on.  Finally I will show how to avoid a gender imbalance while writing dialog and reading materials.


Dr. Diane Hawley Nagatomo, associate professor at Ochanomizu University, has published academic books, academic articles, and more than twenty EFL textbooks and self-study books.




Edward Levinson


Photography 101 for Writers


Lecture with slides, Q & A


Independent publishing is becoming more popular. The need for a writer’s social media presence with visuals is more demanding. Edward will share simple techniques and ideas to improve the photos that go with your writing. Emphasis is on the “why to” but will also include “how to” tips.


In these multimedia times more and more writers are required to do their own photography or see a need to add visuals to their writings. We need photographs for blog entries, social media, magazine articles, promotional materials, teacher or business presentations. Many publishers expect writers to supply their own photos.


Combining words with images can be a challenge. Photos need to be edited as tightly and consciously as your writing. Understanding a few basic rules, camera settings, and photo software tools can vastly improve the look of your photography. Photo editing (and keeping your photos organized) is easier than you imagine.


Create an intriguing image then write something to go with it. Or you have a great poem or vignette, a pithy thought for Twitter or an email and you want a visual to go with it. They both need to be good, and balance and compliment each other!


Edward Levinson has lived in Japan since 1979. His memoir, Whisper of the Land, was published by Fine Line Press (2014). He has published two books in Japanese by Iwanami Shoten and a photo book, Timescapes Japan. He lives on the Boso Peninsula, inspired by nature and his garden.




Eli K.P. William


Fictional Ventriloquism: Approaches to Authorial Voice and Its Many Voices


Lecture with Q & A


I will discuss voice in fiction, differentiating authorial voice from the voices authors inhabit, including narrators, characters, and texts within texts.


Voice is an essential element of fiction. In order to write compelling stories, an author must discover their own unique voice, which thereafter identifies their writing like a fingerprint. At the same time, stories often contain a variety of voices, including those of narrators, characters and texts within the main text. How does an author go about discovering their voices? How can they use their own voice to speak in other voices? I will describe how writing my Jubilee Cycle trilogy, including Cash Crash Jubilee and The Naked World, challenged me to

summon many voices from within my authorial voice in order to bring my cast of characters to life. Drawing on examples from my writing and elsewhere, my hope is to provide conceptual and practical tools to help other writers learn their own fictional ventriloquism.


Eli K. P. William is the Canadian author of Cash Crash Jubilee (Skyhorse 2015) and The Naked World (fall 2017), books one and two of the Jubilee Cycle, a cyber-dystopian trilogy set in Tokyo. He has spent most of his adult life working in Tokyo as a Japanese-English translator and occasionally writes articles for such media as the Japan Times, the Pacific Rim Review of Books, Cha Asia Literary Journal and tor.com. Twitter: @Dice_Carver. www.elikpwilliam.com




Gregory Dunne, Richard Jones & Ken Rodgers


“Editing Kyoto: Collaboration and Creativity.”


Panel Discussion


This panel explores the making and editing of a special, two-volume issue of Poetry East Magazine focused on Kyoto’s legacy in art and literature. The editors speak to the challenges and joys of visualizing, editing, and shaping the issue with one editor in Japan and the other in the USA.


From inception to completion – how does the idea of collaborating on a special issue of a poetry journal focused on the legacy of  Kyoto’s art and literature come into being and find its way forward to  realization and completion? This panel reflects upon and explores the year-long adventure of making a two-volume issue of Poetry East (DePaul University, Chicago, USA)    focused on Kyoto. The editors will talk about what it is to collaborate and how they managed to collaborate despite living at a great distance from each other. They will discuss their brief time together in Kyoto and their work with Kyoto-based poets and artists who became critical to the enterprise. The long time editor ofPoetry East, Richard Jones, will speak specifically to how, in this case, collaboration was not only wise, but necessary. The discussion will include readings of collaborative creative work and outstanding examples of contemporary poetry discovered in the process of making the issue.



Richard Jones is a poet and the author of many books, including The Blessing: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press). He edits the literary journal Poetry East at DePaul University in Chicago,  where he is a professor of English.


Gregory J. Dunne is the author of two books of poetry Home Test (Adastra Press, 2009) and Fistful of Lotus (2000). and a book of creative nonfiction:  Quiet Accomplishment, Remember Cid Corman (Ekstasis Editions, 2014). He writes regularly for the Pacific Rim Review of Books and is associate poetry editor for Kyoto Journal. He teaches at Miyazaki International College, Japan.


Ken Rodgers, originally from Tasmania, was one of the founders of the all-volunteer-based English-language quarterly Kyoto Journal, back in 1986. Managing editor since KJ 22 (1993). Recently edited two books by Robert Brady: The Big Elsewhere, meditative reflections on homesteading (and grandfathering) in Shiga, and Build Your Own Dog, a soon-to-be-published story collection.




Hans Brinckmann


How Boyhood Memories of the Second World War Turned into Two Publications


Short lecture and reading, with Power Point, and Q & A


Some memories of WWII are still with me: the “winter of starvation” in Holland, when I was 12; and what happened to my Japanese father-in-law. I will talk about and read from my publications on the subject.


At the suggestion of my translator, Hiromi Mizoguchi, I wrote an essay about a man I never met: my father-in-law, a Keio University graduate, who died from an accident shortly before the end of WWII. The essay, Of Guns and Cutlery, appeared in translation in the literary magazine Atlas in 2015, the 70th anniversary of the war’s end. The English original was published in the August 10, 2017, issue of The Japan Times. In a separate memoir, The Monkey Dance, I related how as a 12-year old, I travelled by bicycle along a dangerous 10 km road to the center of The Hague during the “Winter of Starvation,” 1944-45, to visit my father and collect food. I will read from both publications.


After a banking career in five countries I quit banking in 1988 and turned to writing, mostly in English, six books so far. My essays, in Hiromi Mizoguchi’s translation, regularly appear  in the Japanese literary magazine Atlas. The most recent essay, Lifelong Dedication, published in July 2017, was about Dr. W.F. Hilton, aeronautical and space scientist and inventor of the term “sound barrier."




Holly Thompson


Writing Picture Books: Nonfiction Opportunities


Lecture with Q&A


Nonfiction picture books provide opportunities for writers who enjoy both research and storytelling. Now is a golden age for nonfiction picture books. This session examines current trends and explores possibilities in crafting contemporary nonfiction for children.


This presentation will examine current nonfiction picture book trends in the major markets. We will examine nonfiction picture books through a series of interactive exercises. Nonfiction picture books usually have a higher word count than story picture books, providing great opportunities for writers who love both research and writing for young people. Using sample picture books for close examination, participants will investigate narrative voice, ways of telling, format, sidebars, back matter, and more, in contemporary nonfiction. Nonfiction prompts, discussion and Q&A will be included. We will consider research and experience required for moving a nonfiction picture book project forward, as well as possible angles for approaching subject matter. Come to this session to learn more about children’s nonfiction today—innovative, bold, and constantly evolving.


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




Hugh Ashton


Wearing different hats – writers and editors as imitators


Lecture with Q&A


Sometimes you want to be another writer, or you just need to produce material in a style other than your own. Hugh Ashton, who describes himself as a "literary chameleon", explains some of the tricks of the trade.


Taking on another's voice demands not only writing, but reading skills. Ashton explains how to take apart existing writing, and extract the essential elements in order to create your own work in that style, or how to edit another's work in order to maintain a house style or to fit a chosen audience.


After 28 years living in Japan, Hugh Ashton returned to the UK in 2016, where he continues to produce novels and technical manuals in a variety of styles, as well as providing editing and other author services.




Jacinta Plucinski


Writing Interactive Fiction


Short lecture and workshop


Interactive fiction, a genre mainly for young readers, uses techniques including branching narratives and the rules of role playing games to create “fiction that allows the reader to participate in the story by making choices.”


Popular interactive fiction series includes Choose Your Own Adventure, Pick Your Own Path and the You Say Which Way series, among others.


In this workshop, Jacinta discusses what makes the genre unique, what it reveals about the power of agency and choice, and how to write it. Participants will then write their own short piece of interactive fiction.


Jacinta Plucinski runs Zoot Publishing. Writing as Cinta, she is the author of Who Ate The Cake?, Let’s Play Hide-and-Seek, and Who Took The Teddies? She has 18+ years experience writing for organisations including Google and Discovery Channel, and was associate partner, editor and writer for the social publication Be Movement.





James Shea & Kyoko Yoshida (吉田恭子)


Writing Japan: A Discussion with Writers Featured in Cha's Special Issue


A panel discussion featuring writers published in Cha's 2017 "Writing Japan" issue followed by a Q&A with the audience.


This panel discussion features writers published in Cha's "Writing Japan" issue from the summer of 2017. It explores the nature of contemporary writing, such as poetry, essays, and short fiction, that encompasses the various meanings of "Writing Japan" and includes a Q&A with the audience.


A Hong Kong-based online literary journal, Cha has been publishing quality writing from and about Asia since 2007. Guest editors James Shea and Kyoko Yoshida co-edited Cha's special issue on "Writing Japan" which appeared in June 2017. This panel discussion features writers whose work was published in the issue, including Loren Goodman, Nakagami Nori, and Jordan Smith. Topics for discussion include the various, and, at times, contradictory meanings of "Writing Japan," cliches encountered in writing about Japan, and the Japanese imaginary. The session includes a Q&A with the audience.


Moderated by Shea and Yoshida, this panel discussion features writers whose work was published in the issue, including Loren Goodman, Nakagami Nori, Jordan Smith, Yoko Danno, and possibly others.


James Shea is the author of two poetry collections, The Lost Novel and Star in the Eye. Star in the Eye was selected for the Fence Modern Poets Series and included in the Poetry Society of America’s New American Poets series. He currently teaches at Hong Kong Baptist University.


Kyoko Yoshida is the author of Disorientalism, her debut collection of stories in English. A fiction writer and translator based in Kyoto, she has published a co-translation with Forrest Gander of Kiwao Nomura’s Spectacle & Pigsty, which won the 2012 Best Translated Book Award in Poetry in the United States.




Jessica Goodfellow


Project X: Poetry Project Books


Short lecture with Q & A


The project book is a popular (if controversial) trend in poetry publishing, but what makes a poetry collection a project? We’ll discuss advantages/disadvantages of the project book as art object and in the marketplace; themes/topics/narratives conducive to the form; whether projects are conceived intentionally or organically; and more.


Project books, while not new, are having a heyday in modern poetry publishing. Given that, understanding their impact on poets’ writing processes as well as on their influence on the future of contemporary poetry is necessary. To begin, we’ll look at the elements that make up project books (as opposed to collections of poems and novels in verse). Successful project books will be studied to find themes, topics, and narratives that lend themselves to the form. We’ll discuss how writing a project book changes the poet’s working experience, including whether the form develops organically or intentionally. Advantages and challenges inherent to project books will be highlighted. The impact of this form on publication opportunities will be discussed. We’ll also discuss the dislike of some prominent poets for the term ‘poetry project’. Examples will be given (and solicited from participants), and participants will brainstorm projects that they themselves might pursue.


Jessica Goodfellow’s books are Whiteout (2017), Mendeleev’s Mandala (2015) and The Insomniac’s Weather Report (2014). Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, Verse Daily, Motionpoems, and The Writer’s Almanac. A former writer-in-residence at Denali National Park, she’s had work in Threepenny Review, Passages North, The Southern Review, etc.




John Boyd


The Pros & Cons of Publishing with Pronoun


Presentation Type: Short lecture with Q&A


After trying in vain over several years to find an agent to represent my first novel, Killing Time in Tokyo, I decided to publish it myself, first on Amazon's KDP & Kindle Unlimited. I then later used Pronoun to publish "wide."


I will detail my experience—good and bad—publishing my suspense crime novel, Killing Time in Tokyo, using Pronoun, an ebook distributor which links to the Big 5 eBook sites: Amazon’s KDP (but not Kindle Unlimited), Apple’s iBooks, Kobo, Google Play and Barnes & Noble.


 I will conclude by suggesting who might or might not benefit from using Pronoun.


John Boyd is a freelance SciTechBiz writer and string for the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Spectrum magazine in the US. He is the author of the novel  Killing Time in Tokyo.





John Gribble


“Remembering Hillel Wright”




Hillel Wright, whom Suzanne Kamata characterized as “writer/editor/fisherman/anarchist,” passed away suddenly August 1st. A real force in the English-language writing community in Japan, he was a friend of the Japan Writers Conference and a frequent presenter. This will be an opportunity to share memories and short readings of his work or work about him.


John Gribble is a poet, essayist, and co-organizer of the Japan Writers Conference.




John Paul Catton.


Retropunk - Make My Day!


Short lecture with Q&A.


John Paul Catton presents an easy guide to the bewildering number of sub-genres that have mushroomed in Fantasy and Science Fiction over the last thirty years. He will also provide an overview of current publishers.


You may have heard of the term 'Steampunk', but what exactly does it mean? Is it a cosplay fashion statement, or is it a school of literature? How did it begin? What is the connection to Dieselpunk, Mythpunk, and Nanopunk?


There is a natural human impulse to 'pigeonhole' every work of art, going back to Hamlet's Polonius and his 'tragical-comical-historical-pastoral' stage plays. Many find this restrictive and irritating, but if you don't take it too seriously, it can be a valuable analytic tool and information resource to authors.


J P Catton offers a guide leading the audience through the bewildering and labyrinthine world of 'Retropunk'. It includes an explanation of the various subgenres and their origins, notable works and authors, how to recognize the category any particular work belongs to, and how they can be valuable to any writer working in genre fiction!


John Paul Catton has had fiction and non-fiction published by Marvel Comics, Telos Publishing, Interzone (UK), Prediction (USA), Metropolis and Tokyo Weekender (Japan). He teaches Communication and Media Studies at the Kanda Institute of Foreign Languages, and is the co-founder of the independent publishing house Excalibur Books.




Josh MacPherson


Creating the Vocabulary Ninja


Short Lecture with Q & A


My project was to develop a vocabulary book for advanced English language learners. To support a different approach to vocabulary acquisition, I sought to create engaging stories with moral dilemmas that would entertain, enlighten and assist in retention.


I will talk about where the idea came from, the writing process and also discuss how I currently market the book and the concept.


I will discuss what the landscape is like, from what I've gleaned from the academic English side of Facebook and how someone who wants to publish might use that information to promote their own book.


The main idea is that you can NOT rely on a publisher coming along and picking up your book, but instead you need to build up a community of followers. You must interact with that community and use your following as leverage when trying to pitch to a publisher.


Right now I'm cold pitching to big name publishers and one of the strengths has been the fact that the book, in manuscript form, is completed and there is a community gathering around it.


Josh MacPherson has over ten years of experience teaching English. He has written an in-depth guide to the TOEFL called TOEFL Speaking Success, which was later made into an online course on Udemy. His most recent work, The Vocabulary Ninja Handbook, is available to preview at the official website: www.VocabularyNinja.com.




Suzanne Kamata and Susan Laura Sullivan


From Ant to Anthology: Getting an Anthology off the Ground


Short Lecture with Q&A.


We will explore the process of collecting other people's stories and successfully publishing them in anthology form. We will discuss our different and shared experiences, and highlight the difficulties as well as the successes of attracting both writers' and publishers' attention.


It is not easy to get published, no matter the form. The market is tough and competitive. Publishing anthologies is perhaps an even more difficult matter. Although great gifts for special occasions, anthologies are not high on publishers’ lists of sought after material. Submission pages often state short stories or poetry are not currently being sought, and sometimes detail that no general interest in anthologies exists. Fiction anthologies face a double bind. This presentation will detail how Suzanne Kamata successfully published three hybrid, fiction and non-fiction anthologies, and the process Susan Laura Sullivan and her co-editors undertook to bring an anthology of creative non-fiction to the publisher’s table. Examining themes, book proposals, payment, pitfalls, and negotiations between both contributors, co-editors and publishers, among other topics, the two Sues will share their journeys.


Suzanne Kamata is the author or editor of ten published books including, most recently, the award-winning novel The Mermaids of Lake Michigan, and a nonfiction travelogue for literacy learners, A Girls' Guide to the  Islands. She has contributed to numerous anthologies and edited three well-received anthologies. She teaches EFL at Tokushima University.


Susan Laura Sullivan is the co-editor of an upcoming anthology, Women of a Certain Age. Reviews, stories and poetry have most recently been published in Plumwood Mountain, Westerly and MiNUS TiDES! She teaches at Tokai University. In 2012, she was shortlisted for the TAG Hungerford Award for an unpublished novel.




Karen McGee


Writing about sex: the good, the bad, and the unintentionally hilarious


Short lecture with Q&A/Discussion


The presenter will discuss how to write effective sex scenes in fiction, what to do and what to avoid, what to reveal and when to draw the curtain, plus read a few examples of the best and worst. Bring your opinions.


K. McGee grew up in Berkeley, California and currently lives in Tokyo. A professor at Nihon University College of Art and co-organizer of the Tokyo Writers Workshop, McGee’s recent work has appeared in “Bete Noire,” “The Font,” “Mystery Weekly” and “The Dark City Crime and Mystery Magazine.” Her story “Dot Rat” appears in Otto Penzler’s Best American Mystery Stories 2017.




Leza Lowitz


Making Memoir: From Situation to Story


Type of Presentation:


Short Lecture with Q & A

Combined Craft Workshop


Do you have a life story you think would make a good memoir? The road to memoir is paved with good intentions, but how do you move from situation to story? How much truth do you tell? And what about privacy? What changes have to be made for narrative flow? How do you marry fact and fiction?


In this craft talk, Leza Lowitz will share the writing process she undertook to publish her memoir Here Comes the Sun (Stone Bridge Press, 2016) about her quest for motherhood across two continents, two decades, and two thousand yoga poses. She will delve into the joys and pains of the writing, editing, publication, and marketing processes. Bring your memoir ideas to flesh out in craft workshop portion.



Leza Lowitz has published twenty books in a variety of genres. She has received the APALA Award in Youth Literature, A SCBWI Multicultural Literature Honor, the PEN Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, grants from the NEA, NEH, and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Translation Award. Her memoir, Here Comes the Sun—about her quest for motherhood across two continents, two decades, and 2,000 yoga poses—was a #1 best-seller on Amazon, and has been called “A new Eat, Pray, Love.”  Portions appeared in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, Shambhala Sun, the Manifest-Station, Yoga Journal, Yoga Journal Japan, Asian Jewish Life, Wanderlust, Elephant Journal, and Best Buddhist Writing.  Her essay on the craft of memoir appeared in The Magic of Memoir (SheWrites Press, 2016). Lowitz’s other books include the #1 Amazon best-sellers Up from the Sea, a YA novel in verse (Crown Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House), Jet Black and the Ninja Wind, Yoga Poems: Lines to Unfold By and Yoga Heart: Lines on the Six Perfections. She runs a popular yoga studio in Tokyo and travels internationally teaching yoga, writing, and mindfulness. Visit www.lezalowitz.com  or www.sunandmoon.jp




Marie Orise


From the ‘Down’ Draft to the ‘Up’ Draft: Self-Editing a Work of Fiction

Short lecture with Q&A


This session aims to explore effective ways for fiction writers to edit their scenes as well as their prose.


According to a friend of Anne Lamott, ‘…the first draft is the down draft—you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft—you fix it up.’ The ‘down’ draft is like drawing a plan of a mountain hike, and the ‘up’ draft is like carrying the plan out. The path from the one to the other is narrow and steep, but along the way we are also offered a feast of vistas not available anywhere else.


In my short talk, I will share some of the tips that I have learnt in the process of editing my first novel, which include: leniency for the ‘down’ draft, but tyranny for the ‘up’ draft; delete all scenes and all words that do not belong, no matter how brilliant or lyrical or funny they are; colour-code your scenes and work on them one at a time; devote all the time it takes to getting things right; revisit previously-edited passages regularly; trust that your draft will develop and thrive, but only over an extended period of time.


Dr Marie Orise, associate professor at Meiji University, was recently an academic visitor to the University of East Anglia, observing and participating in their creative writing programme. Her publications include a short story in a Puffin anthology (*Skin Deep*) and a travel piece which won third prize of the 12th Izu Literary Award.




Paul Rossiter and Andrew Fitzsimons--Isobar Press


The Year’s Work at Isobar


Poetry reading with short Q&A


Introductions to and readings from the latest Isobar books: Approach to Distance by Peter Robinson; Kotan Chronicles by Genzo Sarashina, translated by Nadine Willems; The Sunken Keep, Giuseppe Ungaretti’s first book (Il Porto Sepolto, 1916) translated by Andrew Fitzsimons; and Temporary Measures by Paul Rossiter.


Isobar Press, which is based in Tokyo, specialises in English-language poetry from Japan. In this session, Isobar authors Paul Rossiter and Andrew Fitzsimons will introduce the latest Isobar books: Paul Rossiter will read from Temporary Measures, a gathering of poems written in London, France, and the Middle East in 1978-1981. Andrew Fitzsimons will introduce The Sunken Keep, his translation of Giuseppe Ungaretti’s first book, Il Porto Sepolto, written in the trenches in 1916, and will speak about the influence of Japanese poetry on Ungaretti when he encountered it in pre-First World War Paris. There will also be readings from Kotan Chronicles: Selected Poems 1928-1943 by Genzo Sarashina (the pre-war Hokkaido anarchist poet and Ainu ethnographer) translated by Nadine Willems; and Approach to Distance: Selected Poems from Japan by Peter Robinson, a gathering of poems written in and about Japan during Peter Robinson’s eighteen-year residence here.




Peter Jonathan Mallett


Opening Lines


Lecture and discussion


This workshop will examine writers' aims in the openings of several contemporary novels. Are these openings successful and do they make us want to read the complete work? Participants are invited to bring the openings of their own novels to add to the discussion.


The opening lines of some classic novels have achieved immortal status, recognized even by those who have never read the complete works they come from. For writers hoping to find an agent today, the opening lines are crucial and offer possibly the only chance their work will be read and, if published, achieve commercial success.


University professor/ writer Peter Mallett has an MA in Creative Writing (Bath Spa University). Formerly Arts editor of Kansai Time Out and publisher/editor of Artspace, he has written for The Asahi Evening News, Gramophone Japan, Opera News, The New Internationalist etc. His textbook From Word to Letter was published in 2007. His short stories have appeared in The Font and East Lit and he was winner of the 1st Writers in Kyoto Writing Contest in 2016. He’s working on a killer opening to his novel.




Sara Kate Ellis


The Art of the Retcon: How the ‘cheap’ tricks of comic books, soap operas, and fan fiction can help unstick your story.


Short lecture with craft workshop and sharing.


This presentation focuses on the concept of "retroactive continuity": the addition of new, conflicting information to a backstory in order to accommodate a current plotline or event. Comic books reboot entire universes, soap operas age down their characters, and fan fiction writers add backstory or write over canonical disappointments with “fix-its”-- rewritten scenes that add depth and pave over character inconsistencies. But what makes for a successful retcon of a narrative, and how can writers harness these tricks to wrestle out of bogged down middles or lackluster ends? In this workshop, participants will look at some successful and unsuccessful examples of the retcon from film, television, and comics, and then apply those tools in a narrative ‘repair shop.’


Sara Kate Ellis is a 2011 Lambda Emerging Writers Fellow and a master of seat nabbing during crowded commutes.  Her stories have appeared in Ideomancer, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Crossed Genres, and AE-The Canadian Science Fiction Review. Her story "Liarbird" also won the 2015 Defenstrationism short fiction contest. She lives in Tokyo with her cat Tom and is working on her first novel.




Shivaji Das


Non-Required Travel: Collecting stories of unheard lives


Short lecture with Q&A


Is travel writing dead in this era of Google Image Search and Instagram? The author proposes that there is yet scope for insightful travel writing by engaging in Non-Required Travel – exploring the lives of locals typically bypassed, thereby encouraging travellers to seek more meaningful experiences while fostering greater mutual understanding.


The author will cite some stories from his latest book ‘Angels by the Murky River’ to highlight this perspective – understanding the lives of the homeless in Mumbai and Seoul, chronicling the conditions of diamond and salt miners in Indonesia, contrasting the journeys of Filipino women boxers and beauty pageants. The speech will also elaborate on the three enablers for non-required travel: a) learning the local language b) taking a genuine interest in everyone’s lives and c) letting one’s curiosity overtake shyness.


Shivaji Das is the author of three travel memoirs and photography books. His latest book is ‘Angels by the Murky River: Travels Off the Beaten Path’. Shivaji’s work has been featured in TIME, Economist, BBC, Asian Geographic, etc. He is the conceptualizer of Migrant Poetry Contests in Singapore and Malaysia.




Stephen Mansfield


Liberating Genres: Writing About Japan




The presentation theme focuses on how writing on subjects such as history, travel, and many other forms, can serve as a vehicle for expressing a writers’ alternative or ulterior purposes and intentions in exploring themes not necessarily confined to the parameters of the prescribed subject.


Examples will be provided of various writer’s appropriation of forms to serve their own specific ends. The main content of the talk draw sfrom my own writing and photography on Japanese themes in article and book form. After looking at a number of examples, the talk will conclude with an examination of published work connected to Okinawa, with samples and analysis of how specific techniques, such as the requisitioning of fictional and creative writing methods can be used effectively to produce original text. The talk will also touch on the self-mythologizing process involved in treating subjects in this manner. The presentation aims to expand the perspectives of the audience, providing writers and would-be authors with ideas, which they can apply in their own work. Aside from the experimental benefits of exploiting writing forms to incorporate personal fields of interest, original perceptions and narrative, the ensuing writings can also serve to find one’s inner voice and individual style.


Stephen Mansfield is a British writer and photographer based in Japan, who has published articles in over 60 magazines and newspapers worldwide on a wide range of subjects, including interviews, book reviews, travel articles, issues, arts and crafts, food, architecture, and Japanese gardens. He is the author of seventeen books, including Lao Hill Tribes: Traditions & Patterns of Existence, Japan’s Master Gardens: Lessons in Space & Environment, and Tokyo A Biography.




Thersa Matsuura

"The Ins and Outs of Writing Dark and Horror Fiction"

Short lecture with Q&A

In this lecture I will talk about various aspects of writing dark and horror fiction: what is horror; types of dark/horror fictions; beginnings, middles, and ends; scene and structure; settings; characters; and also talk about submitting your work, markets, and getting published.

Thersa Matsuura is a graduate of Clarion West (2015) and the recipient of HWA's Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship. She's had various short stories published in magazines and anthologies and is the author of two short story collections: A Robe of Feathers and Other Stories (Counterpoint LLC), and The Carp-Faced Boy and Other Tales (Independent Legions Press).


Todd Jay Leonard

"The Ever-Changing Publishing Industry--The 'Pros and Cons' and the 'Ins and Outs' of Getting a Book in Print Successfully:  'Traditional' vs 'Print on Demand' Publishing"

Short lecture with Q&A

This presentation will outline the "pros and cons" and "ins and outs" of traditional publishing and the newer, more modern "print on demand" publishing trend. The presenter, Todd Jay Leonard, has published extensively within both categories and will offer helpful advice for budding authors who wish to pursue projects in either genre.

 In today's competitive publishing world, a transformation is occurring which is allowing authors opportunities to put into print their creative work that traditional publishers have been either unwilling or hesitant to pursue in the past. Doing away with the "middleman" (literary agent), offering deadline flexibility, along with a wide range of editorial services, the "print-on-demand" publisher is turning the entire industry on its ear.

Todd Jay Leonard has been actively involved in book publishing as an author for over  twenty years and has published sixteen books with traditional publishing companies, as well as four titles with print-on-demand companies. This experience has given him a unique perspective in comparing the two types of publishing industries.

This presentation focuses on comparing the "pros and cons" and "ins and outs" of publishing with a mainstream, traditional publisher as opposed to going with a POD publisher. In addition, Professor Leonard explains the differences between the two publishing classifications and addresses some common myths associated with both types of publishing.

Todd Jay Leonard lives, writes, and teaches in Kyushu, Japan where he is a university professor. He has published extensively in academic journals, magazines and newspapers on cross-cultural, spiritual, historical, and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) themes. He has been actively involved in book publishing as an author for over  twenty years and has published sixteen books with traditional publishing companies and four titles with print-on-demand companies.




Tokyo Poetry Journal

Tokyo Does Poetry Does Tokyo: An Ethnography of Tokyo Poetry Journal

Panel presentation with short readings from the journal, followed by discussion/Q&A.

Tokyo Poetry Journal brings Tokyo’s rich fusion of poetry and arts to the world through poetry, essays, reviews and interviews with digital media online. This panel surveys the work of TPJ from the editors’ perspective—as poets, academics, and translators living and shaping the scene with each issue.

Tokyo Poetry Journal was founded in 2015 to bring the rich, diverse happenings of Tokyo’s poetry scene to the larger Anglophone readership worldwide. This panel surveys the contributions TPJ has made through the first five issues in print and its growing online presence, including audio and video footage of poetry performances, frequently accompanied by live or studio music from our partners in the Tokyo soundscape.

Special topic issues have included a music-themed volume (edited by Jeffrey Johnson), released in conjunction with the announcement of Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize in Literature; a “Heisei generations” issue examining young poets who came to prominence in the Heisei Era, just as the Emperor is announcing his historic abdication (edited by Jordan Smith); and an issue on Japan and the Beats edited by Taylor Mignon. With each issue, the journal has expanded literarily, digitally, and institutionally growing from grass-roots, underground magazine toward a full-fledged NPO.

Taylor Mignon composes poetry with a particular ear for sound while enjoying musical collaboration. He hopes to found a creative writing program including a student journal, performances for cultural festivals and spoken word competitions at a university in Japan. He is Editor-in-chief of Tokyo Poetry Journal.

Jordan Smith writes poetry, translates, and researches in Japanese literature. He teaches literary translation and comparative literature as Associate Professor (Josai International University). Translations include Yoshimasu Gozo (Alice Iris Red Horse), Mizuta Noriko (The Road Home, 2015; Sea of Blue Algae, 2016), and many more. Japanese Poetry Editor at TPJ.

Winner of the 2009 Golden Crown Literary Award for the translation anthology "Sparkling Rain: Fiction of women who love women from Japan" , Barbara Summerhawk resides on both sides of the Pacific, in Oregon and Kiyose, Japan. A professor emeritus of Daito Bunka University, she also shares a volume of poetry translation with Shima Yoko, "Invitation to a New Yarn." She is Emeritus Editor at TPJ.

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