I started this blog two days ago at the prompting of Seymour Jacklin who asked if I wanted to be involved in a blog hop. I told him that I’d love to, but I didn’t have an active blog. So I made one. It’s a brilliant idea, connecting writers online regardless of countries, nationalities and age. Here I quote Rob Rife (who nominated Seymour):
The rules of the game? Tag three other bloggers, all of whom will answer four questions about writing and the writing process. We post two weeks after the previous crew. Therefore, every two weeks, the number of bloggers posting grows exponentially!
The goal is simple – to connect writers who blog in a tighter community and hopefully, enrich others looking for answers to their own writing questions.
Seymour has nominated me and I gladly accept! (Sorry for the lack of posts, I promise there will be more. Please follow me and stick around!)
I feel extremely honoured to be considered by Seymour since he’s an amazingly dedicated and talented writer and editor. To be honest, I still have yet to read much of his writings, but what I have read, I have thoroughly enjoyed. We attend the same church (King’s Church Durham) and I first heard about him from others: ‘Have you met Seymour? He’s a writer too.’ Wonderful! I don’t have as many writer friends as I would like, so I was eager to meet and connect. We started chatting through Twitter and since then, we’ve had several pleasant conversations about the art of writing and books we’re reading. I’ve learnt plenty from him and I look forward to learning even more from his experienced self.
His main project is a podcast called Stories from the Borders of Sleep, which is a delightful collection of ‘curious tales and fantastical fables’. He has also been involved in compiling and editing two children’s books (There’s Something In The Water and Mr Minotaur’s Minor Tour) written by 300 & 200 children from 10 & 8 primary schools in Durham city, respectively, as part of a project called One Big Story. Check him out at his website where he blogs regularly, Twitter (he links to the most interesting articles) and Goodreads. Oh, and he’s a mean tin whistle player, have a listen: SoundCloud.
And now, on to the four questions:
1) What am I working on?
Since it’s the summer holiday, I don’t have any essays to write (fortunately). Currently, I’m working on two stories. One is a novel I started about a month ago, not the first one I’ve started, but hopefully the first one I’ll finish. As excited as I am about the premise, I’m keeping it a secret for now. What I can disclose is that it is set in Japan in the near future. I haven’t been able to keep to my 2000 words/day goal but I have 13,000 words so far. It’s not much but it’s a start. I’ve forgotten the importance and necessity of ‘quantity’ since I’ve spent most of the past few years focused on ‘quality’; with short stories, you can perfect each sentence before moving to the next one. I can’t afford to do that with a novel so my main goal right now is to churn out words.
I’m also working on a story which began as a short story and will probably end up as a long-short story (novella-length). I was inspired after spotting a young Japanese boy dragging a white suitcase in the middle of crowded Ikebukuro, looking lost and overwhelmed. It’s about a kid named Naoya, 12 years old, who spends the summer in Tokyo with his uncle. He desires to transition from childhood to adulthood, and the story documents his disillusionment when things aren’t all as they seem.
Recently, I finished another short story called ‘Seiko’s Minor God’ which I submitted to Popshot Magazine last month (but was rejected) about a lady named Naoko who flies from Tokyo to London, exploring the concepts of time and transcendence. It’s the first short story I’ve written that I’m actually happy with and I’ve submitted it to several other literary magazines in hopes of pleasing at least one editor who is kind enough to publish it. If no one accepts it, I may just publish it on my blog for your reading pleasure! (UPDATE: Inkapture kindly accepted and published ‘Seiko’s Minor God‘!)
I’ve also started this blog. I had forgotten just how easy and fun and indulgent it is to talk about one’s self.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’ll answer this question just as soon as I figure out exactly what genre my writing falls into. I think it’s something along the lines of realistic fiction, but with postmodern elements (still too broad?). I’ve definitely been influenced by magical realism. But there’s also no denying the influences of Victorian fiction. So now that you have a clearer picture of what I write, or not…
I don’t know if I can adequately explain the differences with other works of the same genre, but I can pinpoint what makes my writing unique: it’s all connected to and influenced by Japan. If I had to pick a writer that roughly falls into the same category, I might pick Salman Rushdie. But what India is to him, Japan is to me. It’s not English literature, but think Haruki Murakami: a depiction of the mundane life in Tokyo, a juxtaposition of the composed external and conflicting internal, sprinkled with tinges of the fantastical, peculiar and surreal. Japan is my undeniable setting of choice.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I love Japan. I grew up here. It’s a physical ‘home’ that I am deeply attached to. And I want to share that love, joy, admiration, respect for Japan with the world. Though many are enamoured with Japan (manga, anime, sushi, etc.), their understanding of the country is very superficial. And that isn’t their fault. It’s not a country you can understand in a week or two. Pierce through the surface and you discover a Japan you never knew existed, and it is my desire to communicate that beauty, to bring awareness to those interested yet unenlightened.
What I perceive to be the biggest challenge: Japan is all about ‘what is not said’. Those living here are aware that much of the culture, its people and mannerisms and behaviour, is unexplainable. Japan’s beauty and appeal lies in the atmosphere characterised by subtle changes, the sensitive (even spiritual) aura of places and people, the unspoken common sense and knowledge; and quite honestly, if you’ve never lived here, it’s difficult to comprehend. It will seem mysterious and foreign. But that is precisely what I want to do: to explain the unexplainable.
A quick search for ‘English literature about Japan’ on Google yields close to nothing, save David Mitchell, an English novelist most famous for Cloud Atlas who lived in Japan for 8 years teaching English. He is the only contemporary author I know that has attempted to depict and portray contemporary Japan, its quirky and eccentric culture (Ghostwritten, number9dream). Kazuo Ishiguro certainly doesn’t count since he’s more British than Japanese, and the Japan of his novels is formulated from historical imagination (a brilliant author nonetheless).
I want to fill that vacant slot. Yes, there is translated Japanese literature. But I want to write English novels and stories, I want to see more English literature about Japan.
4) How does my writing process work?
I joke. Well, kind of. I tried to establish a writing routine this summer but that has failed miserably. I noticed at university that I can only study in the afternoon, specifically from 13:00 to 18:00, meaning mornings and nights don’t work well for me. I’m discovering the same to be true for writing – I’m most productive during this particular time slot.
I can’t write at home. Too many distractions, a safe haven which I associate with relaxation (a nicer synonym for laziness); a sofa in front of a TV always seems to be a good enough excuse (it’s not). So I go to a café to write, usually Mister Donut where I buy one doughnut (Pon de Ring or Golden Chocolate) and sit for a solid two hours. The other day I found a spacious Starbucks near my station which I suspect I’ll be frequenting habitually.
But at last, I unearthed the secret, discovered the most conducive environment for efficient, fruitful writing: aboard the train. Your image of trains in Japan might be one of people packed like sardines, standing with 12 different people pressing against you (it is possible):
This is a common sight. But I’ve opted to live a slower-paced life this summer, meaning I’ve been taking the local trains which stop at every station instead of the semi-express or express or rapid trains which skip most stations and stop only at the major ones. The difference? It’s less crowded. In fact (and this is a rare sight indeed), it sometimes looks like this:
And having the train, or at least the carriage all to yourself is sublime, a surreal experience in a city of 35 million people (Greater Tokyo Area).
Now the deal about trains in Japan: everyone minds their own business. Japanese people have perfected the art of silence and privacy, utterly focused on their phones or books without so much as a blink to whatever is happening around them. But then again, nothing is happening around them (except the occasional noisy foreigner, but still that does little to faze them). And so every time I’m meeting a friend for tea in Tokyo (I live in Saitama, the adjacent prefecture), I take advantage of the 45 min ~ 1 hour commute into the city to write or read, rocked gently by the train as my body settles into a rhythm, the words naturally flowing out at a steady pace. And boy, am I productive.
I hope you enjoyed reading that. If you have any questions, agreements or disagreements, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please comment!
What I’m supposed to do now is to nominate three other writers/bloggers and invite them to continue this blog hop. And so I present to you my three:
BradfromBradford: Brad is a good friend, a travelling companion, a fellow TCK/PK/MK, trilingual (English, Japanese, French) and a hell of a guy. We went to the same international school in Tokyo together (he was one grade above me) and we both ended up in the UK, him at the University of Bradford, me at Durham University. We’ve done an Eurotrip together, spanning 5 countries in 3 weeks. He used to blog at Inspiration’s Waiting Room which was extremely entertaining and well-written. His latest blog documents his recent return to Japan this summer after graduating and his desperate hunt for a job as a foreigner. He’s also a popular YouTube vlogger (a handsome American who speaks fluent Japanese: instant lady-killer) and boasts an impressive 686,000 views on his ‘Call Me Maybe in Japanese‘ video (he’s going to hate me for this).
Chikara Saito: Chikara was my classmate for several years at the international school in Tokyo and we’ve done our share of stupid stuff. He’s also probably the most intellectual person I know. He recently graduated from Hope College in Michigan and studied… what did he study? Well, in his words, he dabbled ‘a bit in everything — Christian dogmatics, Reformed-Catholic dialogue, moral theology, philosophical theology, political theology, metaethics, metaphysics, modal logic, philosophy of language, Medieval philosophy, and — most prominently — the work of Søren Kierkegaard.‘ A brilliant writer, a magnificent thinker, a trusty editor, he has also proved to be a genuine and caring friend. Plus, he’s absolutely hilarious. Check out his thought-provoking pieces on his Medium website (my personal favourite is ‘Posting for a Vera, Or: Sounding Out Noetic Idols‘).
Stacia Reaching Up: Stacia and I were classmates in elementary school, so the last time I saw her in person was probably more than 10 years ago. Recently, we reconnected through Facebook and were delighted to discover our mutual love for the arts. And truly, her authentic passion for writing shines through her blog, mainly through her poetry, accompanied and influenced by her hobbies of yoga, dance and photography. Enjoy the words and photos she painstakingly crafts and combines; something is bound to resonate in your heart (my personal favourite is ‘Free Verse: Enough‘).
You have a fortnight. I expect to see those three posts within the next two weeks!
Check out BradfromBradford’s blog hop response post here: Day 18 – Blog Hop.