Celebrating Childhood at the Chihiro Art Museum

April 22, 2017

Post by Mari Boyle, Tokyo.

On a cloudy Saturday in April, I joined SCBWI Japan members to make a visit to the Chihiro Art Museum Tokyo. The museum is dedicated to the work of Chihiro Iwasaki, award-winning Japanese children’s illustrator and artist, whose work is still widely celebrated some forty years after her death. The museum is tucked into a quiet residential area of Tokyo, built on the site of her family home. 

We were met in the foyer by Yoko Nakahiro, senior associate of the Chihiro Iwasaki Memorial Foundation, who kindly guided us around the museum. Yoko spoke enthusiastically about Chihiro’s life and work, and her impact on Japanese picture book illustration and art. Having lived through the Pacific War, (Second World War), Chihiro dedicated her talents as an artist to the theme of “peace and happiness for children”. Though she died at the age of 55, she sketched and painted some 9,400 pieces, seemingly never tiring of painting children and babies. As we wandered through the peaceful museum, past her beautifully recreated garden and workroom, I was struck by how familiar Chihiro’s work was to me. Her prints and books seem to be ever present in doctors’ offices, Japanese kindergarten, and preschool bookshelves, among other places, such is the popularity of her work. 

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SCBWI members with Yoko Nakahira, senior associate of the Chihiro Iwasaki Memorial Foundation.

Yet seeing her paintings in the museum brought a new appreciation of her skills. Chihiro combined traditional Japanese ink painting with Western watercolor styles, frequently using the white space in her work to invite the observer to fill up the canvas with their own imagination. Yoko mentioned that when Chihiro’s work was exhibited at the Norman Rockwell Museum, (Stockbridge, MA, 1996), some viewers felt her work looked "unfinished" precisely because of the unpainted backgrounds. Yet Chihiro had the ability to turn what is often regarded as negative space into a focal point by highlighting a single color.


We also had the opportunity to view two temporary exhibitions, "My Hans Christian Andersen" and Ib Spang Olsen’s, “The Soul of Denmark”. These shows are part of the museum's 40th-anniversary celebrations and the commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of Japan-Denmark Diplomatic Relations. While many Japanese might be reminded of their childhood specifically through Chihiro’s work, the Andersen exhibition reminded me of mine. It was a joy to see Chihiro’s interpretations of many of my favorite Andersen stories alongside the works of artists from around the world. 

A further gallery displayed the work of Ib Spang Olsen, a Danish painter and illustrator, and recipient of the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1972. Some of his books have been translated into Japanese and his style is somewhat quirkier and bolder, reflecting a different sense of childhood to Chihiro’s. Diverse cultural interpretations of childhood seemed to connect all the exhibitions. 

It was certainly a pleasant way to spend a cloudy Saturday in April, in the company of my fellow SCBWI friends, and I highly recommend that anyone visit, regardless of the weather. 

For further information about the museum go to the website: http://www.chihiro.jp/global/en/museum/index.html

Storytime, gallery talks, and even music concerts all help to make this Tokyo museum a special place for the young at heart. 


Going Digital: From Colored Pencils to the Apple Digital Pencil With Illustrator, Daniel Schallau.

Post by Mari Boyle, Tokyo

On March 12th, 2017, in a two-part SCBWI Japan event, Daniel Schallau, published children’s book illustrator, gave us insights into his pencil illustration work. Up until six months or so ago, Dan created most of his illustrations by hand. His medium was primarily color pencils, plus some very special ink pens. In a morning session at the Tokyo Women's Plaza, Dan showed us some of his original, painstakingly detailed drawings, each one taking months of work to complete. As someone whose drawing skills are limited to stick figures, I was in awe of Dan’s work. The detail, effort, and imagination that is poured into each piece is considerable. Focusing our attention on some of the minutiae of his craft, Dan took us on a journey through his illustrations with special video and soundtrack. It was mesmerizing. 

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Not our ordinary pens and pencils; these have style and tech.

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Dan recently added a new tool to his pencil case, the Apple Pencil, which is used with the iPad Pro (though there are other ‘smart pencils’ and tablets available). Dan showed us how embracing this new technology has impacted his work, comparing and contrasting with his traditionally drawn illustrations. Whilst time-saving aspects were significant, Dan noted that there are techniques and artistic effects that he was not able to perfect through drawing solely by hand before. The smart pencil and drawing apps that he uses have expanded his creative repertoire, and the results are equally stunning.

After a quick lunch and a brisk walk to the nearby Apple Store in Omotesando, we participants were given the opportunity to have a hands-on trial of the Apple Pencil. I must admit I was eager to try out the pencil but was feeling a little worried too, particularly as I was surrounded by a number of accomplished artists and illustrators. Dan guided us through setups and menus and other such technical things, but to make it easier for us he had prepared an illustration for us to ‘play’ with. Though I had a couple of hiccups getting started, I must admit that once I found my flow, it really was lots of fun. I was surprised at how easy it was to use the pencil and was soon happily coloring in. 

Surrounded by working chatter, everyone at the session was soon engrossed in picking and choosing colors, trying out different techniques and sharing their efforts.

As is the way of these things, time passed all too quickly. I could have happily stayed there for another hour or so. 

At the end of the session, there were a couple of questions, some a little too technical for my understanding. But there was one question right at the end, which I hope will be answered soon,

“When is Part 2?”

Sign me up, I’d love to try it again. 

For more information about Daniel Schallau’s work and to see some of his amazing illustrations and videos, please check out his website:  http://www.danielschallau.com/.

To head to the Apple Store on your own, find access and hours here

Double Feature Part 2: SCBWI Japan Showcase of New Works

February 4, 2017

Posted by Mari Boyle

As part of a double feature event, we had the opportunity to celebrate the recent and forthcoming work of some of our Japan SCBWI members.  The books featured in the showcase were:

Ginny Tapley Takemori, Translator The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui (Pushkin Press, 2015)

Michael Currinder, Running Full Tilt (Charlesbridge, 2017)

Suzanne Kamata, The Mermaids of Lake Michigan (Wyatt-McKenzie Publishing, 2017)

Leza Lowitz, Up From the Sea (Crown Books, 2016)

Holly Thompson, Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth (Henry Holt, 2016)

Keiko Kasza, ゆうくんのくまパジャマ (Yuukun's Bear Pajamas) illustrated by Yasuhiko Nakatani (Kodansha, 2017)

Izumi Tanaka まめちゃんのぼうけん (Mame-chan’s Adventure) (Creative Media Publishing, 2017)

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Seven members, authors, illustrators and one translator, presented their books, shared excerpts of their work, and revealed some of the ideas and creative processes that inspired them. It was fast and furious, 10 minutes per presentation, but it is surprising how much craft knowledge can be shared in these brief expositions. The range was impressive, from picture book to verse novel and YA fiction. As each author took their turn I was struck, as much by what connected their work, as what marked it separate. Place, time and culture featured strongly.

Suzanne Kamata commented on the importance of ‘place’ in a story.  She cautioned us about using a specific location, as its appeal might be limited only to readers who live there. Ignoring her own advice however, her coming-of-age novel, The Mermaids of Lake Michigan, is set in her hometown of Grand Haven by Lake Michigan. The small town local attractions provided the perfect setting for the more mystical elements of the story, and her knowledge of the local area, people and events additionally help to create realism in a narrative that dips into magic. 

Michael Currinder’s first book, Running Full Tilt, about a talented high-school distance runner and his complicated relationship with his autistic older sibling, is also set in the U.S. The story juxtaposes a humorous narrative with a sensitive issue. While this is a work of fiction, the novel is loosely based on Michael’s own experiences of growing up with his autistic brother. One of the ways he fictionalized the story was to place it in a contemporary timeframe. “It’s been a project,” he commented as he recalled the challenges of updating music references, fashion, technology and politically loaded language.

Time and place were specific in Leza Lowitz’s verse novel Up From the Sea. Set in Tohoku, Japan, during and after the 2011/ 03/11 tsunami, it tells the story of a mixed-race teenage boy living through the disaster. Having been in Tokyo when the quake struck, Leza confessed she was hesitant to write the book because she had not been directly affected by the tsunami. However, through volunteering in the disaster hit region, getting to know the area, the communities and listening to individual stories, Leza was finally convinced by a young boy who had lost his parents. He simply said, “Don’t forget about us.” Leza sought to keep her promise and decided that it was not a matter of “Do I have the right?” but more, “I really don’t have the right not to.” Writing the book was clearly an emotional challenge, as reflected in Leza’s moving talk.

Holly Thompson’s verse novel, Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth, also deals with strong emotional themes. Described in the Japan Times as, “A poetic tale of overcoming school bullies,” Holly drew on the experiences of her son, along with newspaper articles and other anecdotal stories, to unveil the pervasive bullying that often goes unchallenged in many Japanese schools. Time, place and cultural difference are integral to the story. To accompany the book, Holly wrote 30 notice poems written in the voice of various characters from the novel. (You can access them here.)

Picture books too can be place and time sensitive, as was apparent in Keiko Kasza’s bedtime story, ゆうくんのくまパジャマ (Yuukun's Bear Pajamas). Hovering between wakefulness and sleep, and played out in the margins of the real and imaginary world of childhood, Yuu-kun’s adventures with his bear-friends has been picked as one of the Calpis Picture Books, a scheme that distributes picture books to Japanese kindergartens. Interestingly, the publishers were hesitant about the opening scene in which Yuu-kun is left to go to sleep by himself. They did not believe this would happen in a Japanese household, and Keiko had to adjust the story to reflect a more Japanese cultural norm.

Time and place take on mythical qualities in Izumi Tanaka’s new work, まめちゃんのぼうけん (Mame-chan’s Adventure). What started out initially as a proposal for a children’s TV program blossomed into the quest-style story of two brothers seeking the sun-stone. Izumi based the characters on her cats, one confident and bold, the other shy and reluctant. Izumi shared her illustrations for the e-book with us, and as all good picture books do, they revealed as much about the characters’ relationship, as does the text.

In Ginny Tapley Takemori’s book placing the narrative in a specific time and place was a multi-layered task. In translating Tomiko Inui’s The Secret of the Blue Glass, much of it set during the Pacific War (World War II) in Japan, Ginny not only had to acquaint herself with this historical time period, but, as the original story was written in 1959, it was important that the translation of the Japanese text stayed true to the era it in which it was written. To achieve this Ginny happily read many of the books that had influenced Inui’s writing, such as Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, and The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. In doing so, Ginny placed herself into a linguistic time-style to match the Japanese narrative style of Inui.

Q and A session

Much more was covered in the Q and A session which followed. The authors discussed the challenges they faced, differences of writing styles, and negotiations with publishers over the all-important book cover.

Glad I was in the right place at the right time, and learned so much.

Double Feature Part 1: Are You an Echo? Lessons in Collaboration

February 4, 2017

Posted by Mari Boyle

When David Jacobson was given a slim book of Japanese poetry by a friend, he was eager to find out more about the author, Misuzu Kaneko (1903–1930), and the child-like simplicity of her work. The well-loved Japanese children’s poet wrote an incredible 512 poems in her tragically short life. Though Misuzu’s poetry had been translated into eleven languages, David could not find a comprehensive set of her work in English. Determined to bring Misuzu’s poetry to an American audience, David approached Chin Music Press with a proposal to publish a translation of selected poetry. The proposal was accepted, but he was asked to include Misuzu’s life story with the anthology. The result is the beautifully crafted Are You An Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko, published September 2016. It is the product of a talented team of writers and translators, David Jacobson, Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi, and the wonderful illustrator, Toshikado Hajiri. David, Michiko and Toshikado shared their experiences of collaborating on the book in a recent SCBWI Japan event in Tokyo.

Initially David focused on Misuzu’s biography. He had “vigorous discussions,” as he put it, with Japanese writers and other experts regarding how much detail should be included about Misuzu’s troubled married life, which resulted in her suicide at the young age of 26. Though he was acutely aware of how the knowledge might impact the reader’s interpretation of the poetry, as a journalist, David felt it important to include these events. “No matter how young the reader, they deserve the truth,” he commented. The issue is sensitively depicted, and has helped to open up debate among writers, teachers, librarians and readers, about how we portray the darker elements of life to young readers.

While David researched Misuzu’s life, he strongly believed her poetry should be translated by a poet. More specifically, he wanted a female poet, one who could capture the girlish essence of Misuzu’s style. Luckily, David found Sally Ito, a Canadian born Japanese writer, and her aunt, Michiko Tsuboi. The aunt and niece team had worked together on other projects, and had already translated some of Misuzu’s poetry for ‘fun,’ before David asked them to join him. Though it sounds like the perfect fit, both David and Michiko commented on how challenging the exchanges were between the three writers. Michiko admitted she was initially “shocked” by her niece’s “frank criticism” of David’s work, but as the project became more serious she knew she too had to set the bar high. Having to communicate via email between Canada, Japan and the U.S. complicated matters. There were ten or so emails each day, some examining broad themes, such as how to translate the girlish tones of Misuzu’s Japanese into English. Others debated precise details, finding just the right word or expression to preserve meaning. At other times Michiko felt compelled to clarify specific cultural or historical nuances of Misuzu’s life that Sally and David could not relate to. After a substantial back and forth, they had a final manuscript.

The next task was to find an illustrator. David wanted an illustrator who could authentically portray Misuzu’s world. He searched the Japan Illustrators Association (JIA) website, where he found Toshikado Hajiri. David saw in Toshikado’s work his ability to capture the child’s view of the world, much the way Misuzu did with her poetry. Toshikado shared some of his initial drawings with us, showing how they developed into final spreads. David was influential in this process, apparently very much so at times. But Toshikado took David’s suggestions on board and admitted he was happier with the new spreads. Toshikado and the team visited Misuzu’s hometown to ensure historical and cultural accuracy. Toshikado took photographs of her home and the surrounding area, collected contemporary maps, photos and paintings of the places where Misuzu grew up.

He paid attention to the finest details, including toys children would have played with in early twentieth-century Japan, and he sought to match Misuzu’s poetry through contrasts of dark and light, night and day, and seasonal variations. In one spread, Toshikado purposely included falling cherry blossom petals in the scene. “Cherry blossoms are beautiful,” he explained, “But they have a short life. Like Misuzu’s.”

It seemed through the very nature of this complex collaboration, each of the contributors sought to present Misuzu’s work in the most authentic way possible. Most certainly the echo of her voice is present on every page.


For further write-ups of this session please check out  Deborah Iwabuchi’s post on the SCBWI Japan Translation Group Blog here.

For more information about the book and Misuzu Kaneko’s life please visit http://misuzukaneko.com/


Giving and Receiving: SCBWI Japan Creative Exchange

January 21, 2017

Posted by Melissa Uchiyama

We sat. Fifteen of us, admiring and offering words of feedback to the authors and illustrators represented in our Japan chapter Saturday evening, January 21st. This was my first time being present and taking part in this aspect of SCBWI, despite the fact that Creative Exchange events take place three times a year.


While addressing one author's draft, the group discussed how we manage multiple characters. Space can be limited within children's books, an author attested, that if creating multiple characters, we must make sure each character is necessary and that they each have a clear voice. We continued to discuss this story and others, citing the importance of spending time on the characters, and moving through backstory and scenes in a way that pushes the reader through action, not staying too much on backstory.

Something impressive was that several participants brought other similar books into the feedback process, either supplying the physical book or suggesting the writer or author look to a specifically named book for an example or strategy at reaching their goal.

When examining our illustrators' work, particularly a science-based book showcasing aquatic scenes, the group wondered about visual language and schematics of looking at pages as a double spread. Illustrators, much like authors, must answer the question, 'Does it have us turning pages?"


Many of us seemed to be in the process of answering the question of, "Who will read this?" Certainly, the answer dictates the specific language and colors our overall vision. For writers, our readers and market will dictate how much we say and how much we leave for illustrations.

What a lucky thing to have the minds, experience, and imagination of gifted artists, in words and picture, among us, right here in Tokyo. Now that I have wet my feet, I'll certainly continue to attend SCBWI Japan Creative Exchange events. Now for editing!

Illustration Day with Barbara McClintock

November 20, 2016

On a Sunday in November, SCBWI Japan held an Illustration Day: Perfect Partners: Text and Art and the Visual Narrative of Picture Books with Illustrator Barbara McClintock. Visiting from the U.S., Barbara was also presenting at international schools and speaking at the International Library of Children's Literature in Ueno, Tokyo. 

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The event, held at the Wesley Center in Tokyo, had four parts. In Unpacking Picture Books, we took a close look at the mix of play and intelligence in HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON and balance of illustration and text.

In Learning from Favorite Books, participants spoke about a selected picture book and what they love about it. 

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In the Illustration Workout, participants worked through a series of exercises focused on shape, color and word choice paying attention to the visual experience of describing mood, character, and place. Participants then discussed their visual choices. 

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In the final session Barbara showed her own work and the process she uses as she moves from a written text to a dummy book, to sketches and, finally, finished art.

Illustration Day gave us all a serious word and picture workout and many good laughs. 

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Thank you to Barbara McClintock for so much great picture book inspiration and motivation! 


Japan Writers Conference 2016

October 29-30, 2016

Posted by Suzanne Kamata, Avery Fischer Udagawa, Mari Boyle and Holly Thompson

On October 29-30 the annual Japan Writers Conference (JWC) was held at Tokushima University in Shikoku. Several SCBWI Japan members presented and attended; in their words, here are comments about the JWC experience. 

Suzanne Kamata
On October 29-30 I had the great pleasure of hosting the Japan Writers Conference at Tokushima University in the new Glocal Communication Center. Although many people think that Shikoku is remote and difficult to get to, I'm happy to say that we welcomed participants from Thailand, Australia, the United States, and Hong Kong. We were also privileged to have children's book illustrator and Shikoku resident Toshikado Haijiri join us for lunch. We talked about his contribution to the book Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko,  which has been getting all kinds of positive attention in the United States and Canada.  I was impressed by his humility, and by the fact that his work, done from "remote" Tokushima, is reaching the world. Writing in English while living in this part of Japan can sometimes feel lonely, so it was wonderful for me, personally, to connect with other local writers who are interested in children's literature and to reconnect with SCBWI members who live in other parts of Japan. During the rest of the conference, I enjoyed the presentations related to children's literature including Avery Fischer Udagawa's talk on the importance of literature in translation. In fact, I was motivated to buy a couple of the translated books she discussed, and to commit myself to reviewing more books in translation. I also enjoyed Holly Thompson's introduction of verse novels for younger readers.

Avery Fischer Udagawa

I attended JWC for the first time this year, after hoping to attend for several years. I had a wonderful time! I saw a number of friends and acquaintances while also meeting new people. I enjoyed meals and sessions with writerly folk whose focus is not children’s  literature—and this helped me see my work in new ways, and develop strategies for discussing it. I gave a talk on sharing literary Japan with young readers through translations. Sessions that I attended included Diane Hawley Nagatomo’s talk on academic writing (a matter of practical concern for many of us); Michael Pronko’s session on writing essays (I’ve written dozens, he’s written hundreds!); and the "Inspiring Fiction: Where Do You Get Your Ideas" panel by Sara Ellis, Suzanne Kamata, Elaine Lies, Karen McGee, and Wendy Jones Nakanishi.

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This panel focused on generating ideas for fiction, and while I don’t generally do that as a translator, I enjoyed taking a peek backstage at the author's process. Holly Thompson’s sessions on verse novels and narrative poetry, and a reading of poets published by Isobar Press, gave me my first taste in a long while of superb poetry in English read aloud. I’m ready for more!

Mari Boyle

JWC was my first writers conference. At the two-day conference at Tokushima University, many of the writers attending write mainly for adult readers rather than children and YA audiences, but there were a few members of SCBWI running sessions too, so I knew there would be some friendly faces.

The sessions I attended were varied and wide ranging. A couple focussed on academic writing, (Diane Hawley Nagamoto), and writing textbooks, (Todd Jay Leonard), which were useful for my day job. I also sat in on a session about cookbooks by Richard Conrad, mainly because I love a good cookbook, but it was fascinating to learn about the role of an editor in this medium. Others were more general, for example, Marie Orise’s session on how to deal with being a perfectionist in writing. Marie highlighted the difficulties of finishing, and for that matter starting, a manuscript when almost perfect is not good enough.

A group session by several authors, including Suzanne Kamata, examined where authors get their inspiration from.  Weird news stories, science journals, family incidents, food, places and objects all featured, as each author re-told how their inspirations had flowered into full manuscripts and been published. Hans Brinkmann also showed how, by changing the odd detail here and there, he used many of his own true-life experiences to create autobiographical fiction.

Holly Thompson gave two insightful sessions, one on verse novels and the other on narrative poetry. These are both writing forms I enjoy reading, but have yet to try writing in. However, Holly’s second session included a workshop element which opened my eyes to the possibility, (though I’ll need a lot of practice).

Avery Fischer Udagawa’s session on children’s literature considered how we are introduced to books and story as children, and the important role that translations of children’s literature can have. Avery noted that while scores of books written in English are translated into many other languages, the reverse is not as true. She provided a few examples of Japanese texts translated into English and notably, many of the translators are members of our SCBWI translators group. If we really want diverse books and diverse authors to reach out to young minds, it is vital that the doors be wide-open to translations.

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In the spaces between sessions I had the opportunity to talk ‘writing’ with a wide-ranging group of authors. So, whilst this was not a ‘kid-lit’ conference, the opportunity to look at the craft of writing from many perspectives was interesting and inspiring, and one I’d seriously recommend to any SCBWI member. 

Holly Thompson

I have attended JWC in previous years but had missed the last three, so I was pleased to be able to join this year. I attended sessions on short stories, writing mysteries, and writing and publishing really short poems–a great variety.

I also enjoyed a panel session on getting ideas for fiction that featured SCBWI member Suzanne Kamata, and the session "Growing our Future Audience: Japan and Young Readers" with SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator Avery Fischer Udagawa. I presented the sessions "Verse Novels Crossing Borders" and "Poems with Plot–A Narrative Poetry Workshop." And I loved playing a bit role in a session that included readings by various poets published by Isobar Press–my role was to read one of the voices in a 3-voice haiku sequence from Snow Bones by Masaya Saito. 

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Though a bit out of the way for some, the Tokushima location for the 2016 conference was wonderful and provided a perfect excuse to explore the area prior to attending the conference. Thanks to Suzanne Kamata and Tokushima University for hosting!

Event Wrap Up: SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2016

October 22, 2016

Posted by Avery Fischer Udagawa

Trans Day 2016

On Saturday, October 22, 2016, SCBWI Japan presented its fourth biennial Translation Day: a day of presentations, critiques, and conversations for published and pre-published translators of Japanese children's/YA literature into English, including prose literature and manga.

Our SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog has several posts about this event. Without further ado, here they are!

Full program with speaker bios

Event wrap-up with photos

Translation workshop excerpts (prose)

Translation mini-joust excerpts (manga)

Please click through and enjoy. Also, please plan to join us at our next SCBWI Japan event featuring translation: "The Creative Collaboration behind Are You An Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko" with author David Jacobson, translator Michiko Tsuboi and illustrator Toshikado Hajiri, and SCBWI Japan Showcase of New Works, all on February 4, 2017. Details here.

AFCC 2016 Part 2: SCBWI Japan Wrap-up

May 25-29, 2016

Posted by Holly Thompson

At the 2016 Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) held in Singapore May 25-29, Japan was the featured Country of Focus, and SCBWI Japan participated mightily!

SCBWI Japan Regional Team members Mariko Nagai, Naomi Kojima, Holly Thompson, and Avery Udagawa all attended and presented multiple sessions each at AFCC 2016. In addition, members Trevor Kew and Cathy Hirano presented. Cathy Hirano and Kazumi Wilds are the translator and illustrator respectively of the two bilingual picture books that were published by the AFCC and launched at AFCC 2016 in conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of Singapore and Japan bilateral relations. Naomi Kojima served on the Japan Preparatory Team to organize the AFCC 2016 Country of Focus: Japan. Member Hitomi Otani, whose illustration work was featured in the Book Illustrators Gallery (BIG) also attended, and translation group participant Andrew Wong volunteered in the festival’s Japan booth.

Following are individual reports from SCBWI Japan, some containing links to more AFCC-related write-ups. We hope you enjoy this vicarious visit to AFCC 2016 and that you, too, may attend AFCC in the future.

Mariko Nagai, SCBWI Japan Regional Advisor

This year’s AFCC was a special one, given that the Country of Focus was Japan. Though I wasn’t part of the planning team, I was there when Mr. Ramachandran first approached Naomi Kojima, our amazing Illustrator Coordinator, and later watched with admiration as Naomi, with Yuko Takesako and Michiko Matsukata, both of the Chihiro Art Museum, planned and coordinated the event for two years. As a presenter and a panelist (and a moderator), my job was easy—all I had to do was to write the presentation and show up. As was the case with AFCC 2014, every panel I attended or participated in was meaningful and pleasurable—and, in many ways, I felt a strong sense of homecoming because this is one of very few festivals that focus on children’s books in Asia for Asian children.  My presentation “Children and Poetry” (moderated by Naomi Kojima) discussed the importance of poetry in children’s lives; neither academic nor hands-on, I talked, earnestly (I hope), about how, without really knowing, children are born speaking poetically, and often in a poetic syntax. From there, I talked about the universality and the mnemonic nature of poetry in children’s books in general, and picture books specifically.

The panel sessions I did were   “#WeNeedDiverseBooks. Really!” (moderated by Melanie Lee, with Deborah Ahenkorah, Jenny Murray, and Daphne Lee) and “Adult Content in YA and Children’s Books” (moderated by Nury Vittachi, with Cynthia Leitich-Smith and Julia Lawrinson), and I moderated  Tadahiko Motoyoshi and Chihoko Tanaka’s presentation, “Supporting Children’s Reading Activities,” which introduced the International Library of Children’s Literature (link: http://www.kodomo.go.jp/english/) and the activities and missions of the institution. It was such a pleasure to meet everyone in the Japan Delegation, and to meet old friends and make new ones from all over Asia and beyond. 

Holly Thompson, SCBWI Japan Regional Advisor

I have attended AFCC several times before, but this AFCC, with Japan as the Country of Focus, was particularly meaningful for those of us from SCBWI Japan. I am so grateful to Naomi Kojima, Yuko Takesako and Michiko Matsukata for their tireless work in preparing to spotlight Japanese children’s literature at AFCC. As for my role at the festival, I presented the three sessions: Tackling Novel Revision; Penning for the Preteen; and Verse Novels Crossing Borders. I served on the First Pages Critiques panel with Cynthia Leitich Smith (Cynsations) and Andrea Pasion-Flores (Jacaranda Literary Agency), and I moderated a session presented by Iranian scholar Ramineh Rezazadeh on the Gilgamesh Legend and Modern Encounters. I also presented a launch reading and discussion event for my verse novel Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth. Throughout the festival, I attended as many of the Japan Focus events as I could, explored and purchased books at the bookstore, and enjoyed talking, listening and laughing with so many Asian children’s content folks. The gala Japan Night celebrations at the aquarium were unforgettably full of splash. For more details and photos, see my “Country of Focus: Japan” blog post. As for AFCC 2016 highlights? The entire AFCC festival was a highlight—full of deepening friendships, new connections, and excitement about possibilities going forward with Asian children’s content.

Naomi Kojima, SCBWI Japan Illustrator Coordinator

I have been attending the AFCC since 2010, but I will remember AFCC 2016 as the most special AFCC of all, the year Japan was invited to be the Country of Focus. I have been working with Yuko Takesako and Michiko Matsukata of the Chihiro Art Museum since 2014, planning and organizing the Country of Focus: Japan program with the AFCC. Thirty-six people participated from Japan this year, including the twenty Country of Focus speakers. Please read this overview of the 2016 AFCC Country of Focus: Japan.

My brain circuit was running two programs during the AFCC: thinking of the Country of Focus speakers and their sessions, the exhibition, and the Japan booth, and thinking about my own sessions. I presented three sessions at AFCC. My presentation for the Country of Focus was “A Child’s World in Japanese Picture Books” where I introduced Japanese picture books ranging from classics to new picture books. I had two sessions under the Writers and Illustrators Conference, “A Portfolio Review” and a panel, “First Look: Illustration Critique” (moderated by Chris Cheng, with Calef Brown, David Liew, and Kyle Hughes Odgers). The “Portfolio Review” was a two hour session, with illustrators (Chris Nixon–Australia, David Liew—Singapore, Evi Shelvia—Malaysia, Gabriel Evans–Australia, Kyle Hughes-Odgers–Australia, Naomi Kojima–Japan, Otto Fong–Singapore, and Soefara Jafney–Singapore) meeting with each participant for a fifteen-minute one-on-one consultation. It was a pleasure and a challenge looking at the illustrations and picture book dummies and discussing the work with each illustrator at the “Portfolio Review” and the “First Look: Illustration Critique.”

I moderated Mariko Nagai’s Country of Focus session on “Children and Poetry: Thoughts and Words” and Akiko Beppu’s session on “Editing Books for Children.” I attended Country of Focus sessions “Totto-chan and Chihiro Iwasaki” by Michiko Matsukata, “Sing-along Concert with Japanese Stars” with Satoko Yamano and Toshihiko Shinzawa, “The History of Japanese Picture Books: From Einga-kyo to the Family of Fourteen” by Yuko Takesako, “Bookstart—Share Books with your Baby!” by Tetsu Shirai and Izumi Satou, “The Japanese Manga Scene and Manga vs. Picture Books” by Miki Yamamoto, and “Japanese Children’s Books: The Present and the Future” by Yumiko Sakuma. I also attended Miki Yamamoto’s mini Manga workshop at the Japan booth, which I enjoyed very much. This year I was in Singapore for nine days, and it was exciting to participate in the setting up and closing of the festival. I enjoyed meeting old friends and new people, and it was wonderful to be with friends from SCBWI Japan at AFCC. Congratulations to Mr. Ramachandran, Kenneth Quek and the hardworking AFCC team for another successful AFCC!

Avery Fischer Udagawa, SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator

This was my fifth year to attend AFCC and my third year to present. I offered two solo sessions: one about Japanese children's books available in English, and another about the business of translation. I also moderated four sessions: by translator Cathy Hirano, manga artist Miki Yamamoto, critic Yumiko Sakuma, and singers Tomihiko Shinzawa and Satoko Yamano. A special memory is hearing conference-goers sing the song "Rainbow" (Niji) with them! I also treasure the memory of Kazuo Iwamura, author of the Family of Fourteen series, making birdcalls and tender cow sounds, based on his years observing nature. I brought home a list of books to read and many notes from info-packed sessions. Please read more in my post "AFCC 2016 (Part 3): Slideshow Afterglow" at the SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog.

Cathy Hirano, SCBWI Japan Member Translator

AFCC 2016 offered another very full and stimulating program of lectures and workshops. The panel on “Where are the Parents” was an eye-opener for me. In Japanese and English-language stories it is quite common for one or both parents to be absent for one reason or another or to be a little unreliable. This allows children in the stories to have adventures or develop. There are also stories of alternative families. I learned from my fellow panelists from Singapore and the Philippines, however, that in their countries policies from boards of education, library associations and, in the case of the Philippines, the Church, mean that the parents portrayed in the majority of children’s stories are almost always orthodox (1 male, 1 female), and are present in an active, instructive and supportive role, which makes it harder to reflect the reality of other children.

Other highlights for me included Michiko Matsukata’s presentation on how Tetsuko Kuroyanagi’s Totto-chan: The Little Girl by the Window came to be illustrated by the deceased Chihiro Iwasaki, and Mariko Nagai’s lively and provocative presentation on poetry. Some of my favorite lines from the latter include “Poetry invites white space… poetry is dangerous, deviant and subversive… Poetry offers new ways of looking at things… bridges gaps between peoples and species.” And I’ll never forget singing Doraemon and Niji with Satoko Yamano and Toshihiko Shinzawa!

Every session I attended during the two very short days I was there was informative, stimulating and inspiring, and of value in my work. And then there was the bonus of all the opportunities to meet and be inspired by others in the field and the warm and welcoming atmosphere. The organizers and volunteer staff deserve a huge round of applause!

As a translator, I would love to see a bit more content aimed specifically for translators. The purpose of AFCC is to bring Asian content to the world, and translation is one vehicle that facilitates that process. I attended Holly Thompson’s session on Novel Revision and part of the First Pages: Writing Critique. These offered a wealth of tips for authors, which gave me insight into how they approach their work. They also made me realize that some of my needs as a translator are different from theirs. It would be helpful, for example, to have a few sessions or workshops that are specifically aimed at helping translators improve their line-by-line writing skills and to edit their own work to make it flow more smoothly. The First Pages session, for example, could be for first pages of a translation with the same kind of critique. Inviting translators to pitch a book during the Speed Pitching session might also be helpful. And finally, if a little more translation content were added, perhaps the name could be changed to the Writers, Illustrators and Translators Conference!

Editors' note: A new picture book in Cathy Hirano's translation—Monster Day on Tabletop Hill by Japanese author Akiko Sueyoshi, illustratored by Singaporean artist David Liew—was launched at AFCC 2016 in a special way. Please see the write-up under "AFCC 2016 (Part 1)" by Singapore-based translator Malavika Nataraj on the SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog

Hitomi Otani, SCBWI Japan Member Illustrator

This was my first experience at AFCC. As an illustrator I participated for three days, and I’m glad that I made the choice to fly to Singapore.

My first day started with Calef Brown’s “Whimsical and Nonsensical World of Illustrations.” Learning about his creative process and listening to the words in his poems was such inspiration. “Graphic Design Tricks and Techniques for Picture Books” was another informative session by author/illustrator Kylie Howarth and illustrator/designer Soefara Jafney. They discussed design skills in compositions, color theory and typography and shared their unique graphic design techniques. Daniel Palma Tayona, illustrator from the Philippines, whose beautiful works were exhibited at the Book Illustrators Gallery (BIG) shared his book design skills and his experiences as a book cover designer. 

Needless to say, all the Japan sessions including the Japanese picture books exhibition were such a success that not only the attendees from the other countries but also I myself learned more about Japan’s picture books in Singapore. By attending “A Child’s World in Japanese Picture Books” by Naomi Kojima, I realized that there were many more picture books in Japan that I didn’t know of and that I want to hold and read.

When a little break was needed from the sessions, the AFCC Book Fair was waiting in the lobby with shelves full of books in which to get totally absorbed. From the morning to the night there was no time to be wasted at AFCC–surrounded by books, among people gathered from around the world in one location with a passion toward one purpose. There are not many festivals where we can grab that unique enthusiastic vibe. I can’t wait to be there next year to feel that vibe again.

Andrew Wong, SCBWI Japan Translation Group participant and Country of Focus: Japan Volunteer

Volunteering at my first AFCC 2016 was great fun! Please see my write up on the SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog, "AFCC 2016 (Part 2): A Harvest of Knowledge About Japanese Children's Content," here. Besides manning the Japan: Country of Focus Booth at AFCC, making new friends, and meeting the people who create the content enjoyed across many generations in Japan, the insights that Yumiko Sakuma offered in her closing session proved immensely inspiring.

Trevor Kew, SCBWI Japan Member Writer

This year’s Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) was particularly special for me, as Japan, the Country of Focus is the place where I have lived and worked for the past eight years. Living in Japan, learning Japanese, and reading Japanese literature have all been transformative experiences in my life and so it was a great thrill to see the AFCC provide an international showcase for some of the best in Japanese children’s literature (and music!). I was certainly pleasantly surprised by the levels of enthusiasm and interest that the audience showed toward Japanese culture, history and literature. Congratulations to my SCBWI Japan and other Japanese colleagues on so many thought-provoking and inspiring presentations at the conference. For more information, please feel free to check out my full write-up of the AFCC 2016.

Kazumi Wilds, SCBWI Japan/US Member Illustrator

What I attended at AFCC 2016 and my comments:

May 25 (Wed)

The-not-so-normal, Whimsical and Nonsense World of Illustrations (Calef Brown)

On Translation (Cathy Hirano)

Understanding the Business of Translation (Avery Udagawa)

#WeNeedDiverseBooks. Really! Panel (Deborah Ahenkorah, Mariko Nagai, Jenny Murray, Daphne Lee)

Japanese Children`s Books in Translation (Avery Udagawa)

Sing-along Concert with Japanese Stars

First Pages: Writing Critique Panel (Holly Thompson, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Andrea Pasion-Flores)

Each session was interesting on the first day though I could only attend Mariko`s Panel discussion and Avery`s Japanese Children`s books in Translation half each because they were at the same time. Listening to Avery`s and Cathy`s talks, I noticed the serious situation of the translators and the fact that so few Japanese children`s books have been translated into other languages, especially English. Great Japanese children`s and YA books should be introduced to the world!

The Tree House kids’ room of the National Library was the best. There the activity of sing-along concert with Japanese stars was so much fun to join. Panel discussion First page was interesting even to illustrators. Not all panelists were gentle, but listeners understood the critical points and I thought creating attractive an first page which makes readers go on reading must not be so easy.

May 26 (Thu)

Totto-chan and Chihiro Iwasaki (Michiko Matsukata)

Graphic Design Tricks and Techniques for Picture Books (Kylie Howarth, Soefara Jafney, Moderator: Daniel Palma Tayona)

Lessons to be Learnt: Complex Issues in Children`s Books (Sarah Odedina)

Book Launch, Falling into the Dragon`s Mouth (Holly Thompson)

Conversation with Shaun Tan (Shaun Tan via Skype with Moderators: Ken Spillman, Adeline Foo, David Liew)

First Look Panel: Illustration Critique (Calef Brown, David Liew, Kyle Hughes-Odgers, Naomi Kojima)

The History of Japanese Picture Books: From Einga-kyou to The 14 Forest Mice (Yuko Takesako/ Moderator)

Japan Night

Because I love both the story of Totto-chan, by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, and Chihiro Iwasaki`s pictures, it was wonderful to listen to Michiko Matsukata. The great thing was we could see Chihiro Iwasaki`s paintings in the same building before and after the session. In the Q&A, I loved that even those questioners who seemed shy spoke up because they had loved the book Totto-chan for such a long time. I felt their love. Totto-chan 328802

Holly's Book Launch, Falling into the Dragon`s Mouth had great photos and poetry that made great images, some of which made me feel nostalgia. Throughout the conference I saw Holly giving advice to people who asked her questions—that was so nice of her. The panel discussion, “First Look: Illustration Critique” revealed good quality in the applied works, and the atmosphere of panelist illustrators were not unified—in a good way! I enjoyed the artists’ discussions. The History of Japanese Picture Books was a lecture through which we felt Yuko Takesako’s good nature. I think Ms. Takesako, who never let people see her tiredness and always tried to cheer up people, should get a distinguished service award! 

The Japan night party was super with deluxe food, music, dance, and entertainment at that magnificent aquarium. We had the book launch of our two bilingual picture books which were published by AFCC publications to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Japan. What a show it was!

 I never had such a book launch in my life, and I'll never forget! It was great to meet Emily Lim-Leh and Yumiko Fukumoto with whom I worked on the blingual picture book. 

May 27 ( Fri )

A Child's World in Japanese Picture Books (Naomi Kojima)

My Works: On Picture Books and Nature (Kazuo Iwamura)

Supporting Children`s Reading Activities (Tadahiko Motoyoshi and Chihoko Tanaka)

Crossing Borders: Kamishibai Culture and Its Universal Appeals (Kyoko Sakai)

Editing Books for Children (Akiko Beppu)

The Japanese Manga Scene and Manga vs. Picture Books (Miki Yamamoto)

Children's Literature Lecture (Yumiko Sakuma)

Naomi's “A Child`s World in Japanese Picture Books” was great chance to introduce good Japanese picture books to the participants. “My Works: On Picture Books and Nature” by Kazuo Iwamura was fun for me to listen to because his life in the countryside was similar to mine in the mountains in Shimane prefecture, and I sympathized with his lifestyle as an artist.

“Editing Books for Children” had me feel Akiko Beppu's editor's spirit. “Supporting Children's Reading Activities” was a speech by Tadahiko Motoyoshi, the director of International Library of Children's Literature, and a performance by Chihoko Tanaka. 

It made me interested in the library, and I visited there after I came back to Tokyo. They guided me through the whole fantastic buildings and history of the library. I really met nice people in Singapore! 


Thank you, AFCC, from SCBWI Japan!

AFCC 2016 Part 1– Country of Focus: Japan

May 25-29, 2016

Posted by Naomi Kojima

May is the month for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC). Held every year in Singapore and organized by the National Book Development Council of Singapore, the AFCC aims to promote the development and appreciation of children’s books and stories with Asian content. The AFCC has expanded since it started in 2010. In 2015, AFCC had 225 speakers and moderators, 718 conference delegates and 10,000 participants from around the world. 2016-05-24 11.28.47

Each year a country is featured at the AFCC. This year Japan had the honor to be invited as the Country of Focus, on the special year celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Singapore-Japan bilateral relations (SJ50). The AFCC and the Japan Preparatory Team organized and coordinated the Japan program, working together for two years, beginning after AFCC 2014. With Yuko Takesako and Michiko Matsukata of the Chihiro Art Museum, I worked as the Japan Preparatory Team, and this is a brief report and overview of the AFCC 2016 Country of Focus: Japan.

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The International Library of Children’s Literature accepted the role of Country Partner for AFCC 2016, and represented Japan for Country of Focus: Japan. Twenty speakers from Japan gave sessions as Country of Focus: Speakers: Akiko Beppu (Editorial Director), Avery Fischer Udagawa (translator), Cathy Hirano (translator), Chihoko Tanaka (International Library of Children’s Literature), Holly Thompson (author), Izumi Sato (NPO Bookstart Japan), Kazuo Iwamura (author, illustrator), Kiyomi Akita (Professor, University of Tokyo), Kyoko Sakai (Doshinsha Publishing Co.; The International Kamishibai Association of Japan), Mariko Nagai (poet, author), Michiko Matsukata (Curator, Chihiro Art Museum), Miki Yamamoto (Associate Professor, Tsukuba University; Manga Artist), Naomi Kojima (author, illustrator), Satoko Yamano (singer), Tadahiko Motoyoshi (Director General, International Library of Children’s Literature), Tetsu Shirai (Director, NPO Bookstart Japan), Toshihiko Shinzawa (singer, songwriter), Trevor Kew (author), Yuko Takesako (Vice Director, Chihiro Art Museum), Yumiko Sakuma (editor, translator, writer). 

The speakers covered a wide range of subjects on Japanese children’s content and culture, and they presented from May 25 to May 27 at the National Library of Singapore. Simultaneous interpretation was provided in English and Japanese.

Thirty-six people,including the twenty speakers attended the AFCC from Japan.


In addition to the Country of Focus sessions, the Exhibition “The History of Japanese Books—from E-ingakyo to the Family of Fourteen” opened at the National Library of Singapore on the first day of AFCC.


The exhibition was jointly organized by the National Book Development Council of Singapore, and the Chiihiro Art Museum. The exhibition ran from 24 May to 10 July, and many people enjoyed learning about 1,300 years of Japanese picture books, from the oldest illustrated manuscript in the eighth century to the artwork of six contemporary picture book artists. 

Japan Booth

Another feature highlighting Country of Focus: Japan was the Japan Booth located at the Plaza of the National Library. At the Japan Booth there were displays introducing various Japanese organizations and activities related to children’s culture and content. Visitors were welcome to browse through 200 picture books representative of Japan, which were donated by Japanese publishers, and to attend mini manga workshops. The booth served as a meeting place, for participants to sit and chat with the speakers. 

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Japan Booth

Two Bilingual Picture Books

In conjunction with SJ50, two bilingual picture books by authors, illustrators, and translators from Singapore and Japan were published by AFCC. These two picture books are Monster Day on Tabletop Hill, written by Akiko Sueyoshi, illustrated by David Liew, and translated by Cathy Hirano, and Benji,Yumi, Origami, written by Emily Lim-Leh, illustrated by Kazumi Wilds, and translated by Yumiko Fukumoto. The books were launched at Japan Night on May 26. Two days after the book launch, we received the sad news that author Akiko Sueyoshi had passed away. Akiko Sueyoshi attended AFCC 2013 as a speaker, and since then had become a strong supporter of AFCC. One of the happiest moments for the Japan Preparatory Team was when Akiko Sueyoshi told us that she would write a story for the bilingual picture book. The two bilingual picture books shall delight the children of Singapore and Japan. IMG_6027

Country of Focus: Japan was made possible by the enthusiasm and support of the speakers, the supporting organizations and volunteers. The donations from sponsors made it possible to have the exhibition and the Japan booth, which gave another dimension to the understanding of Japanese children’s books and culture. SCBWI Japan gave strong support to Country of Focus: Japan, as speakers, moderators, volunteers and conference delegates. SCBWI Translation Coordinator Avery Fisher Udagawa worked with many of the Country of Focus speakers on speeches and power point presentations, translating them from Japanese to English, and this gave the simultaneous interpreters enough time to prepare and understand the content of the presentations for accurate translation.  

Event Wrap-Up: March 13, 2016 Picture Book Day


A Thousand Words 

Guest post by Chika Nishina

Most of us have had the pleasure to visit the world of picture books in our daily lives ​and already know that a picture (book) is worth a thousand words. They capture our hearts with amazing illustrations and push a myriad of physiological buttons with their words. They make us cry, laugh, remember, and forget. 


Skyping with Yolanda Scott, Editorial Director at Charlesbridge

Listening to Yolanda Scott via Skype during the first half of the SCBWI Japan Picture Book Day opened our eyes to the million more magical metaphors and messages hidden in the books we love to read and, for some of us, to create. An Editorial Director at Charlesbridge, Ms. Scott introduced the Whole Book Approach to sharing, thinking about, learning through, and falling in love with picture books.

Reading PBs with Children

As we learned about picture-book terminology and compared and contrasted visual elements of picture books, we were able to interact with them in a more meaningful way. The small-group workshop that followed gave us each a chance to discuss what we learned and come to a better understanding of picture books. Authors, illustrators, aspiring writers, and enthused teachers alike were able to share their learning and make connections with books and each other.

Refreshed after lunch in historic Motomachi, our creative caravan ​glided back into the Pauli Building Loft of Yokohama International School for the the second half of Picture Book Day. We encountered an inspiring presentation by author-illustrator Satoshi Kitamura.


Satoshi Kitamura with his kamishibai theatre

Mr. Kitamura gently lead us through a creative journey that included kamishibai, crazy hairstyles, the conceptual possibilities of a simple line, and a hands-on, indoor version of cave murals!

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Creating a cave mural

At the end of the workshop, I felt happy and full of energy. I thought of all the books I had read in the past and wondered what I had missed. I was eager to return to my shelves of picture books and reread my old favorites with new “lenses.” I was also armed with a list of "must have" books. In addition to my picture book shopping list, I  had three new words added to my bucket list—write a book. Just three words. But for a newbie like me, they are worth a thousand!

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Cave mural detail


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Some Picture Book Day attendees with Satoshi Kitamura


Ivechika Nishina teaches second grade at an international school in Yokohama. She enjoys a good story almost as much as she enjoys a bag of tortilla chips. She shares stories—but not the chips—with her two daughters and all of her students through read-alouds. 


SCBWI Japan Translation Group Commemorates 3.11

by Avery Fischer Udagawa, SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator       

The SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog has featured a series of posts commemorating the five-year anniversary of 3.11: The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011. The posts include:

  • Deborah Iwabuchi’s reflection on two 3.11 story translations available from NHK World Radio online, “The Cape for Waiting for the Wind” by Sachiko Kashiwaba and “The Wind Telephone” by Yoko Imoto;

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  • Sally Ito’s introduction of the Tale of Hamaguchi Gohei, a classic tsunami folktale retold by Lafcadio Hearn (1850–1904), shared by translator Sako Ikegami in a post that has become the blog’s most-viewed;

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  • and David Jacobson’s discussion of Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko (1903–1930), a forthcoming book on an author whose poetry graced public service announcements after 3.11.

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Besides these, the Translation Group blog features a Children of Tohoku page, which lists media coverage of children and teens who survived the 3.11 disasters. If you know of news articles, documentaries, or other resources about children of Tohoku, please email them to Avery Fischer Udagawa, SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator: japan-tc [at] scbwi.org

The page is updated continuously, and new listings in any language, from any date—March 11, 2011, to now—are welcome and much appreciated. 

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Member News: Winter 2016


SCBWI Japan Member News

Posted by Misa Dikengil Lindberg, Vermont, USA


As always, compiling this season's members news has been hugely inspirational. SCBWI Japan members are a diverse crew of dedicated translators, authors, poets, and illustrators. I hope you get a chance to read many of these recent publications!

Avery Fischer Udagawa published an interview at Cynsations with Marian Smith, translator of the YA novel Playing a Part from Russian. She also wrote an article for SCBWI Insight called "Translation: Some Frequently Asked Questions."

Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud's first published poem, “Ode to the Pangolin,” appeared in the January 2016 Cricket Magazine. The poem was originally part of a blog post on her “Beloved of Beasts” website: http://belovedofbeasts.com/belogged-of-beasts/.

Suzanne Kamata's poem "Hiroshima School for Girls" appeared in the August 2015 issue of Skipping Stones.

Leza Lowitz’s solo debut YA novel, Up from the Sea, came out in January from Crown Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House, and was named #1 of Buzzfeed’s "Five YA Books You Should be Reading.” Lowitz received the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Multicultural Literature Honor for the work in manuscript form. 




Artwork by Izumi Tanaka, Japanese gouache painting


Izumi Tanaka's Mame-Chan won second prize at the competition of Creative Media Publisher in Japan. It will appear as an e-book in 2016.

Holly Thompson's young adult short story "The Ridge Path" was a finalist for the 2015 Hunger Mountain Katherine Paterson Prize, and her middle-grade verse novel Falling into the Dragon's Mouth will be published by Henry Holt in April, 2016. Holly was offered a Traidhos Artist Residency in Thailand to develop poetry projects for children and teens. 

Debbie Yasaki's middle-grade manuscript, Payment to the Desert, received the third-place award in the Willamette Writers’ 2015 Kay Snow YA and Middle Grade Fiction CompetitionRoland Smith Award; received Honorable Mention in the 2015 League of Utah Writers’ Creative Writing Contest, First Chapter—YA Category; was a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s 2015 Literary Contest, MG Category; and received Honorable Mention (novel) in RateYourStory’s 2015 writing contest. She is currently seeking representation.





Event Wrap Up: January 22, 2016 Naomi Shihab Nye Reading


Meet the Author Reading and Dinner with Naomi Shihab Nye

Posted by Holly Thompson


Author/poet Naomi Shihab Nye was recently in Japan visiting International schools in Tokyo and Yokohama. On a Friday afternoon in January, SCBWI Japan members had a special chance to attend the community reading with Naomi Shihab Nye at Yokohama International School.

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Naomi read some of her own poems then called on members of the audience to read—YIS students who had participated in her workshops, teachers, and other members of the YIS community stepped up to the mic. Clearly her three days at the school had been an inspiration, and it was a joy to see the poetry enthusiasm she generated. See this YIS news post Reflections on a Visit with Naomi Shihab Nye.

SCBWI members who attended the reading then took Naomi out to dinner at an izakaya restaurant in Motomachi where we talked writing, biculturalism, travels, books, languages, life in Japan, spiders, nattō, translation, and much more. 

Thank you for visiting Japan, Naomi! And thank you to Yokohama International School for hosting and for inviting SCBWI Japan members to attend.


Event Wrap-Up: Jan. 6, 2016 SCBWI Japan New Year’s Dinner

Gathering to Celebrate and Set Goals

by Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok, Thailand


Like many members of SCBWI Japan, I perform my children’s lit-related work largely in isolation. Our 2016 New Year’s Dinner was the perfect antidote to this! Held on the cozy heated terrace of Un Café, inside Tokyo Women’s Plaza, Shibuya, the gathering gave 14 writer, translator, and illustrator members the chance to come together in community, encourage one another, and share plans for the upcoming year. 

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This group has much to celebrate!

Several attendees had good news to share, including book launches, art showings, and awards. Several projects that began at SCBWI events or with the inspiration of fellow SCBWI members are—with persistence—nearing fruition! Kampai!

All participants in the gathering shared a craft goal for 2016. These goals ranged from “write more” to “write less,” and from exploring a new genre to studying a new topic, or working in a more self-directed (rather than as-commissioned) way.

When faced with deadline pressure, work-life balance issues, and the constant challenge to face the blank screen/page in solitary space, it helps to know that others have taken on this task. In time, we will all progress in growing children’s books from our experiences and interest in Japan—and we will come together again, to feast, commiserate, and celebrate!

Avery Fischer Udagawa is the SCBWI Japan Translation Coordinator and the SCBWI International Translation Coordinator.

Event Wrap-Up: Nov. 9, 2015 The 2016 Asian Festival of Children’s Content Session

Celebrating Asian Culture

Guest post by Mari Boyle, Tokyo, Japan

Claire Chiang and a selection of book titles

AFCC Chairperson Claire Chiang and a selection of successful book titles launched at the AFCC. Photo courtesy of Andrew Wong.


I love a good festival with music, dance and food. I also love a good children’s book, so needless to say, I was looking forward to learning more about the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) at a recent SCBWI Japan event. 

Claire Chiang, Chairperson of the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) and Chairperson of the AFCC Board of Advisors, led a delegation of twelve members of the AFCC Board of Advisors and the NBDCS, which organizes the AFCC. Claire enthusiastically championed its aims, which are “to nurture and support the community of children’s writers and illustrators in Asia and expose their work both to local and international audiences." As such, the grand vision is to develop the AFCC into the “Bologna Book Fair of the East.” 

The festival seems to have achieved this, in part, by offering children's writers and illustrators opportunities to connect with the business of writing through conferences and workshops. This year also included a four-day writers’ retreat, during which master classes and workshops were run by seasoned children’s writers, illustrators, agents and publishers from around the world. A second retreat is planned for 2016, and hopefully Holly Thompson, SCBWI Japan Co-Regional Advisor, will be one of the retreat leaders. Claire Chiang told us how the workshops and master classes are designed to encourage aspiring Asian writers and illustrators to “learn the art of reaching out to the hearts and minds of our children.” 

This is especially important, as the tradition of writing specifically for children is undervalued in many Asian countries.

Most children's books in Asia are still imported from the United States and the United Kingdom. Asian stories by Asian writers and Asian illustrators are few and far between on both Asian and Western bookshelves. This means that many of the billion and a half children in Asia rarely see stories that reflect their experiences.

In response, Asian authors are encouraged to launch their books at the festival. There are awards and competitions, and the AFCC has embarked on a publishing program to promote cross-country collaboration. 

Translation work is also a key feature at the AFCC through an initiative spearheaded by Avery Udagawa. The aim is to have books translated simultaneously into two or more Asian languages, in addition to English. Ken Spillman, a prolific Australian children’s writer and one of the AFCC panel speakers, reminded us of the potential for creative industries in Asia, as well as the need and desire to engage with Asian content, both within the region and worldwide.  

It really is startling to discover that many children in the region do not have access to stories in their own languages. Andrea Pasion-Flores, one of the few literary agents in Asia who represents children’s writers and illustrators, told us that in the Philippines alone there some 19 native languages and over 170 regional dialects. The AFCC promotes the transliteration of traditional tales unique to Asia. Recording these stories on paper is a powerful way of legitimizing a dialect or native language while connecting the past with the present and future.  

Illustrations, too, impact authenticity within stories. It’s not enough to vary the ethnicity of faces. Colors, textures and unique cultural motifs of each Asian country are as integral to a story as the words.

Nellie Sunny, president of the Brunei Darussalam Library Association, talked of how in a region where so many stories are shared through an oral tradition, many children’s book illustrators are mainly self-taught. The AFCC provides platforms for the myriad of talented Asian artists to work with picture book illustrators through workshops, in addition to exhibiting their work at BIG (Book Illustrators Gallery). 


Yuko Takesako

Yuko Takesako (right) and Michiko Matsukata (left) of the Chihiro Art Musuem giving a presentation on the 2016 AFCC Country of Focus-Japan program.


In 2016, Japan will be the Country of Focus. Yuko Takesako, Vice Director of the Chihiro Art Museum, indicated the exciting opportunities this will provide for Japanese authors and illustrators, including Mariko Nagai and Naomi Kojima, SCBWI Japan's Co-Regional Advisor and Illustrator Coordinator, respectively. Ms. Takesako stressed the importance of sharing Japanese expertise in children’s literature, especially considering the global success Japan has enjoyed. She acknowledged that Japanese writers and illustrators also have much to learn from Asian neighbors. By connecting through stories and intertwined histories, we deepen mutual understanding and strengthen relationships.  

The AFCC is an opportunity to showcase the diverse cultures of Asia. The events create possibilities to collaborate with people from cultures as diverse as Kyrgyzstan, Korea, Australia and India, and they support interaction between teachers, librarians, parents and, of course, children. As Asia opens itself up to global economic investment, culture, too, needs investment. Where better to begin than investing in the pages of a children’s picture book?


Mari Boyle is a preschool teacher and educational researcher with a love of picture books. 



Adventures with “Eigo de Asobo”: Part 2

Adventures with "Eigo de Asobo": The Illustrator's View

Guest post by Ross Wiley, Japan


A six-year-old girl named Emily, a teddy bear named Henry of proportions that could only work in pictures, and a parrot named Jack who has far more colors than he would if I had really thought through how many times I’d have to draw him. These are the characters that we settled on to star in a series of TV picture books to be aired on NHK’s “Eigo de Asobo.”


For those of you unfamiliar with the program, it is a fifteen-minute English broadcast that has been a long-standing part of NHK’s weekday morning lineup. The show is targeted at children aged three to five, but we are told that it is also viewed by elementary school students and occasionally used in classrooms. The aim of the program is to expose Japanese-speaking kids to natural English they can use in their everyday lives.


The picture book corner is meant to be first and foremost entertaining. This is TV land after all, and if itchy remote control fingers are not stopped, the show certainly will be. I think the stories have come out rather well, and the goal seems to have been accomplished. The secondary goals are where the picture book hobbling hobgoblins start laying their traps.  Each story, that is one week’s worth of episodes, must have a unified language topic, for example, talking about the weather, greeting friends, or making simple requests. Each episode should, in only four or five pages and about twenty words, have a repeated key phrase that suits the language topic of the week; function as an extraordinarily short stand alone part of an overall story; be funny, ideally; oh, and should also teach some kind of socially redeeming values. Time to get out the picture book chemistry kit, start mixing, and see what doesn’t melt a hole in the desk.


As could well be imagined, the pictures have to carry a lot of the story since the text is limited to dialogue. Coming from a background in illustration, I usually think quite visually anyway, and have a pretty clear idea of how the pictures and text should support each other. The challenges came when the production team from the show would send back my draft scripts and they were often edited and altered to such an extent that the story had taken quite a different turn. I had to rethink how things would look, and what would be possible to show in the pictures. Since we can’t rely on our viewers to understand all of what is being said, the pictures need to show pretty much everything. From the beginning, I had understood that the illustrations would be put through a kind of animation, but what I had initially imagined was much simpler than what has often resulted. I think the desire to make every detail of the text and story explicit in the illustrations has led to a few busier pictures that have more jumpy wiggly bits than I would make myself, but I hope that it means the audience is better able to understand what is going on and enjoy the story more.


I was actually a bit surprised how easy it was to fit illustrations to Gerri Sorrells’s stories. She obviously has a great imagination and put in lots of things that were fun to draw. I was especially excited to see that one of her stories had dragons. I have always loved drawing creatures with plenty of horns and mouths full of teeth, and I had just submitted a story where the main characters visit a land inhabited by dinosaurs. I would not have thought I would be able to get a dragon story in as well, so you can imagine my delight when I saw a script full of fire-breathing, wing-flapping, talon-brandishing goodness. Seeing that another of her stories had an octopus and a shark, I was reminded that one of the things I love about being an illustrator is working with other creative-minded people who have exciting ideas. In Gerri’s stories, the shark is the hero and the dragon is a baby in need of care. Had I been the one writing the characters, I probably wouldn’t have made the same choices, so it was truly fun drawing subjects that I could enjoy in a fresh way.



The puzzle pieces that go into a single moving page for the "Eigo de Asobo” storybook corner


All in all, the project has been eye-opening. We’re still in production for the second half of the season. The demands for extra frames for animation and further separation of elements within a single image have increased, which means an increased workload for me. But the time frame is also slightly more relaxed than it was for the first half. We made six full weeks of episodes start to finish in just over three months. That’s about 108 pages in full color! With the second half, I think I may even be able to return to something approximating normal sleep habits and pull the coffee IV out of my arm.


To view the script for the story that aired June 29–July 7, click here. http://www.nhk.or.jp/kids/eigo/text/re_n0001.html


The program page (in Japanese) also links to the picture book corner scripts:



Ross Wiley lives with his family in Mie Prefecture where he illustrates, writes, teaches, and spends as much of the remaining time outdoors as possible. He is an American ex-pat who has lived in Japan for about eight years.

Event Wrap-Up: October 24-25, 2015 Japan Writers Conference

Connecting at the Japan Writers Conference

by Melissa Uchiyama, Tokyo, Japan

Writing in Japan can sometimes be a lonely number. We don’t have the big-name conferences comparable to those in New York, San Francisco or Minneapolis. Some writers fly to other Asian countries to take part in large, writerly meetings of the minds. Perhaps being an English writer in a non-English speaking country can be a bit lonely. Perhaps this is the case for any writer, until one discovers and taps into a dynamic group such as SCBWI. Yes, perhaps the writerly-life itself calls for breaks from our notebooks and computers to connect with others and enjoy the encouraging camaraderie that a writing society or conference brings. 

SCBWI offers community. There are connections, and it is good to want that. I just attended my first Japan Writers Conference in Kobe, about an hour and a half west of Tokyo by bullet train. As the train doors opened, I caught a whole glimpse of Suma's sea, a blue respite from Tokyo's concrete. My people were there, all of us awaiting words and ideas in Suma's billowing air. 

Art greets you at Suma Station.

Art greets you at Suma Station.


Approximately seventy writers attended. Over fifty presenters led discussions, spoke on panels and helped to illuminate some aspect of writing and publishing. The conference took place on a hilltop of green at Kobe Women's University's Suma campus.


Cosmos, the official flower of Suma

Cosmos, the official flower of Suma



The Suma campus, an all women’s college



Suzanne Kamata, a longtime SCBWI member and author of oodles of multigenre works, hosted our own SCBWI meet-up over lunch the first day. A small group of us shared our backgrounds and aspirations—a comic artist and head of Big Ugly Robot publisher, a professional illustrator, and a cookbook editor who endeavors to write a middle-grade fantasy, to name a few, besides Suzanne and her own writing and publishing prowess. Three attendees are current SCBWI members, and I think the rest of the group's interest was surely piqued. 

Also pertaining to writers and illustrators of children and YA literature, this year’s Japan Writers Conference included a panel of published comic writers and artists. This panel was especially witty and engaging and drew a large number of attendees, reminding me of the power of well-crafted comics and graphic novels. This was the first graphic/comic presence in the JWC.

The three speakers of the fantastic comic panel: Adam Pasion, Sean Michael Wilson, and Graeme Mcnee.

The three speakers of the fantastic comic panel: Adam Pasion, Sean Michael Wilson, and Graeme Mcnee.


Adam Pasion, author, artist, and publisher at Big Ugly Robot , connected with his colleagues on their panel and with us in our chairs. He shared with me his intention of writing and drawing for younger readers. “Regarding my work, when I wrote it, I didn't have YA in mind, but my Crawdads book was heavily inspired by my favorite YA author, Mariko Tamaki. Especially the comic book she did with her cousin, Jillian Tamaki, called This One Summer.”

Adam went on to say, “I highly recommend that book if you haven't read it. It's some of the most compelling YA out there and a huge inspiration for me.”

IMG_2557 (1)

Books for sale at the JWC, by Adam Pasion and Graeme Mcnee



Connecting at such an event, reading new genres and discovering voices are all powerful ways we become newly inspired. 

Japan’s writers and illustrators are spread out over the country; yet, by the noticeable enthusiasm among writers and artists sharing work and ideas, I believe we’re all eager to support one another’s vision and craft. The relationships will continue to flourish. After all, we are people who use words and art to connect. 

The conference, though entirely free to attend, does require energy and resources to travel there and stay in a hotel. In other words, the commitment is not free. Hey, sometimes we need to invest in our craft. In my opinion, doing so only reinforces the choices we have made to be writers and our identities as such. While you're there, put in work. Practice and connect. There will always be rewards. 

Thanks to the relationships made at this year’s Japan Writers Conference and in our small SCBWI chat over lunch, I have some clear-cut goals. I have new friends to email, drafts to forward and a manuscript of poems to submit. For certain, I know I’ll point the way to SCBWI’s interactive events, and I plan on featuring interviews on our SCBWI Japan blog with many of these established and up-and-coming authors, translators, and illustrators in Japan. 

Cheers to all the new children's and YA work that will be created or wrapped-up by this time next year. See you back at the conference. The setting will be different, but we shall connect again.


Melissa Uchiyama is a writer and teacher living in northern Tokyo. She is a transplant from southern Florida. Almost eight years later, she still can't get excited about winter. Melissa maintains her blog, writes creative non-fiction, poetry, and has appeared in Literary Mama, Kveller, and within Mothering Through the Darkness, an anthology by HerStories Press. 


Event Wrap-Up: October 24, 2015 An Evening with Keiko Kasza, Author and Illustrator

Creating Picture Books from Start to Finish with Keiko Kasza 

Guest post by Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud, Tokyo, Japan


On October 24th, an eager group of SCBWI picture book enthusiasts were treated to an evening with author-illustrator Keiko Kasza, who gave us an inside look at the creation and editing process of picture books. Keiko has an interesting multicultural background and her status as a world citizen is reflected in her beautiful books. Keiko was born on a small island in Japan but has lived in such diverse locations as Indiana (United States) and Ecuador. She is back in Japan now and plans to stay for two to four years at least.


A picture of the guest author

A picture of the guest author


Keiko has been writing and illustrating for more than thirty years and has published 21 books. Her newest book, Finders Keepers, came out just two months ago. Now is the perfect time to schedule some school author visits here in Tokyo!


To help illustrate the journey of bookmaking, Keiko showed us the beginnings and the development of her popular book, A Mother for Choco. She even had an audio version of the story queued up, ready for our enjoyment. The narrators of the story were well-known actors such as Mary Tyler Moore, Lilly Tomlin, Paula Poundstone, Bea Arthur and others. Although she had not intended this book to be a helpful story for families with adoptive children, it has become a favorite among that population. 


Because Keiko is both illustrator and author, she is often asked what part comes first, pictures or story. She responded that, for her, writing the story comes first. Then her story gets divided into scenes, and she draws thumbnail sketches to lay out the book. This shows her if the stories and pictures are flowing well together. From a small and simple design, she will then create a book “dummy,” or a sample book, which gets sent to the publisher for review and revision.


Keiko’s talk was detailed and informative, explaining the editing, revision and printing process. We came away with a good grasp of the steps that must go into the creation of a final print book. Her stories about the revision challenges were humorous and at times a bit shocking. An author has to be flexible and creative when working with an editor. Sometimes, even readers can give helpful and workable suggestions for revisions or improvements.



Gleaning more about process from Keiko Kasza’s work, as the stories and inspiration leap from each page.



Kasza ended by urging aspiring writers to read lots of picture books and to compare and contrast story and style. She suggested that writers draw on childhood memories and experiences for story inspiration. Reading works-in-progress out loud with classical music playing in the background might help to hear the rhythm of the language or catch any awkwardness. She also suggested looking at the story's action from many different angles and perspectives.


It was a wonderful and informative evening that concluded with a delightful supper gathering at the restaurant downstairs. Thank you so much, Keiko, for sharing your valuable experiences and advice with us. We hope to see you again soon.


A group shot and much appreciation from SCBWI Japan!

A group shot and much appreciation from SCBWI Japan!



Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud is a teacher-librarian working at an international school in Tokyo, where she uses her drama and puppet skills to create a fun and stimulating learning environment for her students. She maintains several websites and writes poetry and picture books for children. The 2016 January edition of Cricket Magazine will feature one of her poems. 




Event Wrap-Up: SCBWI Annual Summer Conference in LA

Three Notes to Remember When I Go to My Next Annual SCBWI Conference

by Mariko Nagai, Tokyo, Japan 


I’ve been a member of SCBWI since around 2005, but I’ve only attended one SCBWI Annual Summer or Winter Conference (Los Angeles or New York City) so far. The first SCBWI Annual Conference I attended was a Winter Conference in New York City back in 2005, which was smaller in size and shorter in length. So much has happened in the ten years I’ve been a member: increases in membership, publishing houses closing and merging, SCBWI opening more international chapters, editors retiring while new young editors join. In other words, the publishing landscape has changed drastically. I became ARA for SCBWI Japan in 2013 and co-RA in February 2015, so it seemed like a good time to go to the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles. Now that I’ve been back from the conference for nearly two months, I wanted to write a note to myself about what to remember when I go to my next SCBWI Annual Conference:



1. Talk to Everyone: Though there are hundreds and hundreds of conference attendees, many clustered with their friends or joyfully giving hugs at every corner, don’t be shy. There are many others who are on their own like you. Yes, it’s hard to talk to people. It’s difficult when you see so many people walking around, already fast friends. You feel like you did back in middle school, standing there with a lunch tray, wondering where—and with whom—to sit. Remember, though, you are no longer an awkward thirteen-year-old. You’ve been around the block and through half of life, and you know that even at your age, people feel insecure—just like you are feeling. So stop being shy. Make eye contact. Smile. When you go to keynote speeches in the big ballroom, find an empty seat, ask people sitting nearby whether the seat is taken or not and, once settled, introduce yourself. One good thing about SCBWI conferences is you don’t have to explain yourself. There are some already-established commonalities: Everyone there is involved in children’s book writing—whether as writers, illustrators or translators. Everyone there loves to read kids’ books. Everyone there wants to talk about craft and process and failures. How easy is that? And how rare is that in your everyday life? You are among your peeps. Take off the shy hat and introduce yourself. The same applies to breakout sessions. Seat yourself, smile to the person next to you, talk to them. You just never know who you will meet there. Maybe your new writing buddy or a new great friend.


2. Don’t Despair: It’s not the end of the world when you can’t attend all the sessions you want to. There will always be sessions that overlap with each other, and the best thing to do is not stress out about it too much. If you’ve made friends, you can exchange notes later. If you are an introvert and it’s hard to make friends easily, just go with your intuition. Before I went, I circled almost every session that had “nonfiction” in its title, only to discover when I got there that I was drawn to fiction craft sessions. I despaired about so many choices. Then I realized I just had to let my mood take me where I needed to be—and in most sessions, I came out with hints and ideas toward my work-in-progress. Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes it’s not the session, but what happens in the hallways and outside of the conference rooms that gives you ideas.


3. Sleep Well, Rest Well, Eat Well: You are up early to catch the first session, going nonstop until night. If you are an introvert—and perhaps all writers, illustrators and translators have a big percentage of introverted self—the second and third day of the conference will be exhausting in a soul-sucking sort of way if you don’t sleep well, rest well and eat well. Not because anyone is leeching energy from you or there’s a demand on your energy. It is just exhausting. That’s how we introverts are. So a note to myself when I attend my second major SCBWI Annual Conference: don’t feel guilty for going to bed around 9 p.m. Go for a walk to grab lunch somewhere else—this will clear your head and clear the energy of the crowd. If at one point in the day you feel weary, don’t be afraid to go up to the hotel room and take a catnap. Don’t feel guilty for missing a session because you can’t take it anymore—it happens to many people, and it’s not a bad thing. Just enjoy this time away from your everyday life where people don’t quite understand why you write or why you love reading children’s books. All you learned at the conference may not be apparent at first when you head back to your everyday life, but it’ll be there when you need it—phrases you jotted down in your notebook, ideas you heard in passing, words of encouragement and stories of failure to carry you forward when you are questioning why it is you write. 

Having grown up in Europe and America, Mariko Nagai has received the Pushcart Prizes both in poetry and fiction. Author of books for both children and adult, she is also a translator of Japanese modern poetry. She is Co-RA of SCBWI Japan. 

Adventures with “Eigo de Asobo”: Part 1

Adventures with “Eigo de Asobo”: Learning to Play in English is Never Simple

Guest post by Gerri Sorrells, Japan

In 2014, SCBWI Japan was contacted by NHK Educational seeking illustrators and writers to collaborate on creating segments for their television program "Eigo de Asobo" (Let’s Play In English). After various meetings and a complex selection process that SCBWI Japan assisted in administering, one SCBWI Japan writer, Gerri Sorrells, and one SCBWI Japan illustrator, Ross Wiley, were selected for ongoing work. The episodes began airing in April 2015. Below are posts from Gerri and Ross about their experiences thus far. 


The assignment for the “TV Picture Book” was simple. Or so I thought.


Write one story in the present tense, in two hundred words or less, divided into four segments, featuring a different focus phrase or words from the “Can-Do List.”


What could be difficult about creating stories with “What’s your name?” or “It’s mine?” But then, the instructions started to sound more like a math problem.


Take one theme of less than two hundred preschool English words, divided by four stories, which are each a minute to a minute and a half in length with fifty words or less, multiplied by four sections, of which three of the stories in the series require “to be continued” endings yet must also “stand alone.” Add to the equation a little girl with a magical backpack, a stuffed teddy bear who is quite alive, and a noisy parrot who all travel through “Something-Something Land,” and then write a story encompassing a fantasy adventure, a moral lesson, finding happiness. And be entertaining.


Uh, sure. A piece of cake. Or a manju.


As someone with no gift for drawing, I was stumped as to how I could possibly explain four frames of a “comic strip,” never mind turn it into the Sunday funnies with minimal words. “It was a dark and stormy night” was already too long! Thus, began my journey with square boxes, stick figures, and regrets that I opted for performing arts rather than fine art classes in high school.


Fortunately, Ross Wiley, who is both an illustrator and a writer, was allocated the bulk of the work, so I got the lighter load. Ross’s stories were broadcast from April to June. Two more of his and two of my stories will be aired in October and December. 


Although I was only writing a couple of stories, I was asked to attend all the meetings with the producer, directors, advisors, and tech crew to observe the whole process of choosing the “key phrase” for each day, to narrow down what words were used in each episode, and to see how the illustrations would evolve.  The project has since become more complex as the “simple” picture book concept took on new life when the crew realized a still picture on a moving television screen wasn’t exactly mesmerizing the children. The graphics are now “pseudo animation,” with wings that flap, balls that bounce, and hands that wave. It’s more work for Ross, but it’s much more visually stimulating than just panning up and down.


I studied the “Can-Do List” of “Do you have bananas?” and “Look at the three trucks” and found no inspiration. I decided to at least tackle subjects I wanted to share with children today and chose two themes—cleaning up the ocean and how sharks can be nice, and what happens when you find a baby dragon! After submitting the first “fantasy adventure” drafts with detailed synopses and verbal storyboards featuring four to five conversational sentences per episode, the director requested the “adventures” to be simplified (and simplified some more), and by the time I was done a month later, the answer to the math problem was “I’m hungry,” “I’m sleepy,” and “I’m tired.”  


Gerri Sorrells with monkey friend

In truth, this picture book project was quite challenging. To “write” a story without the use of words and to envision an “animation” without the characters reacting to one another in conversational form or having storytelling narratives was definitely a test in creativity. I haven’t seen the finished product, but I’m sure it will be wonderful with Ross’s artwork.


As I reached over to grab the last piece of leftover manju, I remembered a traditional comical rakugo story that said manju is kowai. Whether the interpretation for the word kowai is “scary” or “hard,” I had to agree. Both manju and math problems are certainly very kowai.


Gerri Sorrells is a writer of many genres, such as children’s books, screenplays for animation and musicals, textbooks, advertisements and promotional videos. In her other life, she is the voice in books, educational texts, train stations, airplanes, buildings, commercials, and animation characters for TV, movies, theme parks and stage shows. Her latest publication is Cute to pretty ha dou chigau? (How Are Cute and Pretty Different) and tries to “simplify” the fine nuances of the English language through illustrations and anecdotes. Needless to say, it’s pretty cute!


Event Wrap-Up: Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2015: Three Perspectives


An Illustrator's Perspective

by Naomi Kojima, Tokyo, Japan


I am a Japanese author and illustrator of children’s books, but that doesn’t mean my picture books have Asian elements. I have been conscious of this since I first attended the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) in 2010. AFCC is a unique conference, aiming to promote and celebrate the creation, development and appreciation of quality Asian content for children, and every year at AFCC, I think about what it means to reflect Asian qualities in one’s work.


This year I participated as panelist, moderator and Chief Judge for the 2015 Scholastic Picture Book Award.


On the panel “What Defines Asian Illustration,” with Singapore illustrator Lak-Khee Tay-Audourard, we talked about the Asian and universal elements in illustrations. On the panel “The Hybrid Author—Author and Illustrator,” Australian author/illustrators Tania McCartney and Wendy Binks and I talked about our different backgrounds and experiences of writing and illustrating our own books. On the “First Look—Illustration Critique” panel with illustrator Amy Ng from Malaysia and Catarina Sobral from Portugal, we critiqued many sets of illustrations, which facilitator Kathleen Ahrens showed to us and the audience on the screen. Many illustrators came up after the session and told us how much they had learned, but we thought that we had learned just as much as they did from this intense session.



The First Look–Illustration Critique panel


This year the country of focus at AFCC was China. I attended the Children’s Literature Lecture by author Mei Zihan on the “Changing Landscape of Picture Books in China.” This was the first time AFCC had simultaneous interpretation. The lecture was conducted in Mandarin, and we used headphones to listen to the live interpretation in English.


Although there were many sessions I couldn’t attend, I was lucky to attend Suzanne Kamata’s panel with Reenita Malhotra Hora on “Writing YA Across Cultures.” Suzanne is also a longtime member of SCBWI Japan. It was wonderful to be at AFCC with Suzanne and Avery Fischer Udagawa, the SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator and SCBWI International Translator Coordinator, currently based in Thailand.


This year, the first Scholastic Picture Book Award was presented on Awards Night at AFCC. I had the honor to serve on the judging panel with editor Sheri Tan of Singapore's Epigram Books and editor Tina Narang of Scholastic India.


The Scholastic Picture Book Award was established to encourage and inspire the creation of more Asian-themed picture books, and to stimulate public interest and support for picture books with Asian themes. The award is presented to an unpublished, outstanding picture book, with a distinct Asian theme, created by a writer and illustrator of Asian descent, living in Asia.


There were over 130 entries from Asia this year. The winner went to a writer and illustrator team from Vietnam, Phung Nguyen Quang and Huynh Kim Lien, for their picture book The First Journey. The first runner up went to Ary Nilandari and Dewi Tri K. of Indonesia, and the second runner-up to Ichinnorov Ganbaatar and Bolormaa Baasansuren of Mongolia.


I think picture book awards are important because they offer incentive to writers and illustrators to strive and present their best work. I believe the Scholastic Picture Book Award will serve as a new platform to encourage, support and sustain the fine work of children’s books illustration and writing in Asia.


Next year, Japan is the Country of Focus. I have been working with Yuko Takesako and Michiko Matsukata of the Chihiro Art Museum to help organize the Japanese speakers and program for next year. There will be sessions by ten Japanese speakers, an exhibition of the history of Japanese children’s books, a display of 200 Japanese picture books and much more. The SCBWI Japan regional team will be there too. I hope many people will come to AFCC and celebrate Japan as the Country of Focus in 2016.  


When I come home from AFCC, I am a bit exhausted from the excitement and activities, but also refreshed and inspired by being with people who share the joy of creating children’s content. My picture books still do not have many Asian elements, but that is okay. My world stretches and broadens each year at AFCC.


Born in Japan, Naomi Kojima has divided her life between Japan and the United States. Her picture books have been published in the United States, Japan, France, and Sweden. Her new picture book, Tetsuko, will be published by Kaisei-sha in 2016. She is Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI Japan.



Naomi Kojima iillustrations at the BIG AFCC exhibition


A Writer's Perspective

by Suzanne Kamata, Japan


This year I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the Asian Festival of Children’s Content for the first time. Although I’d been to Singapore once before, about sixteen years ago, many new buildings have sprung up in the interim. In particular, I was dazzled by the architectural splendor of the Singaporean National Library.


First off at AFCC, I attended SCBWI member Candy Gourlay’s keynote, “Why Asia Needs More Writers for Children and Young People.” I’d just finished reading her award-winning debut Tall Story, and I was pleased to discover that she was as lively and bold in person as on paper. She reminded us of the educational benefits of reading for pleasure and the importance of children’s books with Asian content.


This year the focus country was China, so there were many events related to Chinese content for children, such as Ying Chang Compestine’s talk on “Children’s Books by the Asian Diaspora.” Compestine was raised in China and writes in her second language, English. Her books have won numerous awards. She spoke briefly about her most recent novel, which she co-wrote with her now-college-aged son. I’m still not sure how she persuaded her son, Vinson, to stick with the process through multiple revisions, but I came away impressed by her parenting as well as her commitment to craft. Additionally, scholar and writer Mei Zihan gave a fascinating lecture on the evolution of children’s picture books in China.


As moderator for Elaine Forrestal, I was also fortunate to learn about the research that went into her book Black Jack, about an African-American pirate in Australia. I also enjoyed A. J. Bett’s presentation about her YA novel, Zac & Mia, which was held in a room on the twelfth floor with a backdrop of Singapore’s twenty-first-century cityscape. On the final day of the Writers and Illustrators Conference, Indian writer Reenita Malhotra Hora and I spoke to a multicultural audience about “Writing YA Across Cultures.”



Talking about writing YA across cultures with Elaine Forrestal and Reenita Molhotra Hora


In between sessions, I was happy to nibble on Singaporean delicacies from the buffet, catch up with SCBWI friends such as Avery Fischer Udagawa, Naomi Kojima, and Jane Houng and meet new people.


Overall, I was impressed by the curiosity of the participants and their eagerness to reach readers beyond their own national borders. I heard at least one plea for more Japanese books with children’s content translated into English. I came home with a suitcase full of new books and renewed hope for the future of Asian books in English with children’s content.


American Suzanne Kamata has lived in Japan for the past twenty-six years. Her novel Gadget Girl was named the APALA Honor Book for YA last year and was designated a book of Outstanding Merit by Bank Street College. She is a lecturer at the University of Tokushima.


A Translator's Perspective 

by Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok, Thailand 


AFCC 2015 encouraged me as a Japanese > English translator. I connected with colleagues and friends; I heard statements in an important, long-running debate about how Asian stories can reach global readers. I learned of an initiative by Japanese, Chinese, and Korean publishers to create picture books about World War II. I also heard English > Chinese translator Chang Tzu-chang and Chinese > English translator Teng Qian Xi describe why and how they translate for children. This year’s China focus exposed me to lots of China-born texts and ideas. I look forward to AFCC 2016 with its focus on Japan!

Editor's note: Please see Avery's full post about her AFCC 2015 experience here at the SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog. 

Event Wrap-Up: June 20, 2015 Ginny Tapley Takemori Translation Talk

Translator Ginny Tapley Takemori: "On Whales, Blue Glass, War and Young People"


Translator Ginny Tapley Takemori spoke to SCBWI Japan on June 20, 2015, at an event titled "On Whales, Blue Glass, War and Young People."
2015-06-20 19.24.30 copy
In her talk, Takemori discussed two recent children's translations she has completed: The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine by Akiyuki Nosaka and The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui, both published by Pushkin Children's. 
Whale cover
Blue Glass cover
Major themes covered at the event included the importance of keeping war memory alive and the challenge of sharing war memory from authors in one culture with readers in another culture. Different cultures' story structures were discussed as well as the prevalent Western discomfort with unhappy endings. The need to handle war stories carefully in books for children came up, as did the imperative to translate freely in order to, ironically, preserve a text's spirit.
An in-depth interview with Takemori appears on the SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog here. The first chapter of The Secret of the Blue Glass has been made available by The Guardian newspaper online here.

Around the World with SCBWI Japan

Recently Words & Pictures, the blog of the British Isles chapter of SCBWI featured SCBWI Japan in its Around the World with SCBWI series. 

Have a look at Around the World with SCBWI Japan!

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 2.52.10 PM


And at last, recently we succeeded in having the entire SCBWI Japan Regional Team in the same place at the same time, and here's photographic proof (which, alas, we didn't have quite in time for the Around the World post). 

We all look forward to seeing you at upcoming events in Japan. Next up is a Creative Exchange in September. Details to be posted soon!





Meet Museyon: An Independent Publisher Excited About Japanese Children’s Literature in Translation


by Misa Dikengil Lindberg


Since December 2014 four new Japanese picture books in English translation have been released by the independent publisher Museyon Inc. Established in 2009 by the former president of Pokémon USA, Inc., Akira Chiba, Museyon began as a publisher of travel and art guidebooks, including such titles as Cool Japan: A Guide to Tokyo, Kyoto, Tohoku and Japanese Culture Past and Present by Sumiko Kajiyama. The company is based in New York and its books are distributed in North America. In December 2014, Museyon released its first Japanese picture book in English translation, Kuma-Kuma Chan, The Little Bear by Kazue Takahashi. This was soon followed in April 2015 by Timothy and Sarah: The Homemade Cake Contest by Midori Basho, a story of twin mice and a homemade cake contest held to raise money for turning an old, abandoned house into a community café, and Gon, The Little Fox by Niimi Nankichi and illustrated by Genjiro Mita, a classic of Japanese folklore in which a mischievous yet considerate fox attempts to atone for his thievery and ends up worsening his fate. Both titles were translated from Japanese by Mariko Shii Gharbi and edited by Richard Stull. In May Pakkun the Wolf and His Dinosaur Friends by Yasuko Kimura was released, which tells the story of a friendly little wolf who accidentally tumbles into an underground world of dinosaurs in search of his friend Mrs. Hen's lost egg. This title was translated by Aoi Taniguchi Roberts and also edited by Richard Stull. Publisher Akira Chiba and translator Mariko Shii Gharbi were kind enough to share their time with SCBWI Japan blog editor Misa Dikengil Lindberg and answer a few questions about how the translation and editing process unfolded and Museyon's plans for future publications.



For this new series of books, Chiba brought together a team of translators and Japanese and American editors to ensure that the translated text was smooth, culturally comprehensible, and accurate. In fact, on the books' copyright pages, Museyon credits both the translator and the English editor, Richard Stull. However, the published English text of Kuma-Kuma Chan, The Little Bear, the shortest text of the four, is an edited version of a translation Museyon received from Poplar Publishing, the original Japanese publisher.


Misa Lindberg: Niimi Nankichi's works are well known throughout Japan and upheld as classics of Japanese children's literature. Some even refer to him as the Hans Christian Andersen of Japan. Several of his books have already appeared in English translation, notably Buying Mittens (University of Hawai'i Press, 1999). I am so pleased to see a beautifully illustrated English translation of Gon kitsune now appearing in hardcover in the U.S. How were your current picture book titles chosen from the enormous selection of high-quality Japanese children's literature published each year?


Akira Chiba: Museyon began as a publisher of cultural guides, such as books on travel, art, film, and history. Japan has a rich picture book culture and I thought that by all means I want to introduce this culture to the United States, which has a similarly vibrant picture book culture, and so I published the first Japanese picture book in translation with Museyon. I chose four titles to start from the many Japanese picture books I would like to introduce. The titles were all published by Poplar, one of Japan's leading children's book publishers. Kuma-Kuma Chan has a simple story and is an exemplar of Japanese "cute." Timothy and Sarah and Pakkun the Wolf both feature anime-style illustrations and belong to the modern, Western style of picture books that are very popular.


Gon, the Little Fox is a Japanese folktale and features traditional Japanese illustrations. It is a story widely loved in Japan and is a standard selection for elementary school textbooks. It has been said that picture books containing moral lessons and lacking happy endings won't sell in the U.S., but given the school shootings, police shootings, and terrorist events currently confronting us, I decided to go for the challenge, hoping that children might learn to appreciate the importance of life, for what help that may be.


As this was Museyon's first involvement with picture books, the translators were not part of the selection process. However, as we continue to gain experience in picture book publishing, I think there will be opportunities for that and I always welcome suggestions.


ML: Mariko, can you explain your background as a translator and your connection to children's literature?9781940842028s



Mariko Shii Gharbi: I was born and raised in Japan and have lived in the U.S. for the past twenty years raising my child. I studied Japanese Literature in Japan and Business Administration in the U.S.  I have been working as a freelance translator for clients that vary from a technological venture business to a non-profit philanthropic organization. The idea of translating children’s picture books came from Akira Chiba, whom I had previously worked with before he started Museyon. Picture books is a new genre for me. I had enjoyed writing stories in my childhood, and translating children's books now is fun work. 


ML: Can you describe the translation process throughout these projects? How closely, if at all, did you work with the authors during the translation process?


MG: When I translate children's books, I first read the given materials and then do some research on the writers and the stories. I also try to learn how Japanese readers have received the authors and stories by reading online comments and reviews. Then I translate them into English on my own. Later an English native speaker will sit with me and we read the original books alongside my translations. We discuss how each sentence should sound in English to best convey the original intention. After that, I leave it up to the editorial team to produce the final version.


AC: For these texts, the translator and American editor had no direct communication with the authors.  However, the final editorial reviews were done in Japan, so the Japanese editor was able to ensure that each author's intent was conveyed.   


ML: Do you have any plans to expand beyond translations of picture books, into middle-grade or young-adult literature?


AC: Yes, I would like to work on publishing children's literature besides picture books in the near future.


ML: That's great news! And what about you, Mariko? Do you have plans to pursue other children's translations with Museyon? Has this project inspired you to pursue J-E children's literature translation with other publishers?


MG: Yes, I have already started working on a new title for Museyon from a very popular Japanese picture book author and illustrator, Tatsuya Miyanishi. It is from his tyrannosaurus series, which have collectively sold over 1.75 million copies in Japan to date. While perusing Japanese readers' comments on the Internet, I discovered that this story has touched the heart of a 3-year-old, who listened to his mother reading it to him in bed, and brought his mother to tears. It also moved an adult man who read it in a bookstore. The very same scene has made us each laugh and cry. I hope we at the Museyon team can bring this magical experience to readers in English also. I welcome more opportunities to work with children’s literature.  


ML: It sounds like we can look forward to many more contributions to Japanese children's literature in translation from Museyon. Good luck to you both and thank you very much for your time.




Born in Kobe, Japan, Akira Chiba has lived in New York since 1986. After serving as the President of Pokémon USA, Inc., he moved into the publishing business and established Museyon Inc. in 2009. www.museyon.com 


Mariko Shii Gharbi was born in Japan and has lived in the United States for over 20 years. She studied Japanese Literature in Japan and Business Administration in the U.S. She works as a freelance Japanese-English translator.


Misa Dikengil Lindberg is a freelance Japanese>English translator and editor. Her years working as a preschool and elementary teacher have given her an intense love of children's books. www.misalindberg.com


Event Wrap-Up: May 8, 2015 Workshop with Designer Ian Lynam


Activating Creativity Using Typography with Designer Ian Lynam 


Written in Japanese by Izumi Tanaka 

Translated and Edited by the SCBWI Japan Editorial Team


On May 8, 2015, designer Ian Lynam presented a workshop on typography entitled "A Little Bit of Type Goes a Long Way" for SCBWI Japan at the Tokyo Women's Plaza. The event was divided into two parts: the first half was a lecture on the history of American (and European) graphic design, and the second half was a hands-on workshop on typography using Letraset. Though I am an illustrator, I never really thought about text design as part of storytelling, so it was very interesting for me. 


Lynam Event 2



The first thing Ian did during the workshop was pass out various photographs of both interior and exterior designs created by Zaha Hadid. We each took a photograph, tracing paper, and white paper. Next, he asked us to lay the tracing paper over the photograph and to write numbers 1 to10 based on visual hierarchy. He said, "Just put number 1 over the item that catches your eye first. Make sure the number is big. Then put number 2 over the next item. Keep going. Make sure as you go higher in number, the smaller the text becomes." Then we laid the tracing paper over the white paper, and using several dozen sets of Letraset Ian brought, we started to create designs using letters. For an illustrator like me, I never thought that letters and words themselves could be designs, and that you can place them acccording to visual hierarchy. So many light bulbs went off in my head! This was such a discovery for me. Thank you, Ian!



Lynam Event 1


Member News: Spring 2015

SCBWI Japan Member News

Posted by Misa Dikengil Lindberg, Vermont, USA


This latest collection of member news reaffirms my conviction that hardworking writers, illustrators and translators who persist in their craft eventually earn recognition. Success also seems to snowball; for many, an initial publication may lead to signing with a literary agent and additional book deals. How inspiring! Congratulations to all SCBWI Japan members with recent successes. 


Avery Fischer Udagawa published the essay "We Need Translated Books" at Literary Mama in August 2014 and the article "Ways (and Whys) to Love Translators!" in the SCBWI Bulletin, January/February 2015. Her translation of the short story "Swing" by Mogami Ippei appears in Kyoto Journal 82. 


Suzanne Kamata's YA novel Screaming Divas (Merit Press, 2014) was named to the 2015 ALA Rainbow List. 


Naomi Kojima's artwork was exhibited at the picture book art museum Chisana Ehon Bijutsukan, Yatsugatake branch from September 20–November 30, 2014. The exhibition showed full illustrations from Naomi's picture books Mr. and Mrs.Thief, The Flying Grandmother, Singing Shijimi ClamsThe Christmas Song Book I & II, The Alphabet Picture Book, The Story of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, and Baku yumehime no gogakuyu (Yumehime the Tapier and Her Schoolmate). 


Leza Lowitz recently signed with literary agent Kelly Falconer at Asia Literary Agency. Her young adult novel in verse Up From The Sea has been sold in a two-book deal to Phoebe Yeh at Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin/Random House and is slated for publication in Spring 2016. Her second book will come out in 2017.

Gerri Sorrells signed a contract with NHK for Eigo de asobo and has been writing stories for the picture book section of the program, in part thanks to SCBWI Japan members Holly, Mariko and Naomi for finding the opportunity and coordinating the logistics. Also, Gerri's latest book "Cute" to "Pretty" wa dou chigau? (What's the Difference Between "Cute" and "Pretty"?) was published by Seishun Shuppan in March. Written in Japanese, it covers the fine nuances of English words through simple illustrations and explanations. Although the publisher's target audience was young graduates setting out into the business world, the book is finding itself in the hands of elementary and middle school students who have just started studying English and older kids taking TOEIC and TOEFL exams. 


Holly Thompson's picture book Twilight Chant, a lyrical evocation of animals at twilight was sold to Clarion. Her poem "Obon" was recently published in the Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, and she finished the final edits on Falling into the Dragon's Mouth, a middle-grade verse novel set in Japan to be published by Henry Holt in 2016. 


Event Wrap-Up: April 11, 2015 Author Patricia Lakin: Making Dead People Come to Life!

Wisdom from Patricia Lakin: Making Dead People Come to Life and So Much More

Guest post by Mari Boyle, Tokyo, Japan


To be honest I’ve never thought about writing biographies, so the SCBWI event on April 11, 2015, was the perfect opportunity for me to learn about the subject from veteran expert Patricia Lakin, or Patty, as she prefers. A prolific writer, Patty, at a youthful 71 years, has authored a number of biographies, including Steve Jobs: Thinking Differently, and six books for the noteworthy "Ready-to-Read" series, all published by Simon & Schuster.


Patty began the seminar by taking us back to her third-grade class. She spoke vividly of her teacher who quashed creativity in favor of perfect penmanship and accurate spelling. Failure to comply might have resulted in a whack across the palms with the "rat hand" (a rattan cane). Despite this poor role model, Patty entered the teaching profession. She later enrolled in the prestigious children’s book writing course at the New School, led by renowned Margaret “Bunny” Gabel, the antithesis of Patty’s third-grade teacher. Gabel gave this advice: “Practice writing every day and write what you care about,” which Patty clearly followed.


Patricia Lakin discussing the craft of writing biographies. Photo courtesy of Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu.


Patty regaled us with a multitude of examples on the craft of writing biographies. She talked about the process and the importance of gathering data from a range of sources, a task made easier today with the wealth of electronic tools. She noted the value of “marking the manuscript with your own thumbprint,” or your voice. She illustrated how to create links in the narrative of the subject’s life, to “shine the light” on supporting cast members, and to not be afraid of making connections between your own life and the subject's. By embracing this strategy Patty has been able to investigate avenues of inquiry bypassed by other biographers. 


As Patty engaged us with her animated style and humorous anecdotes, the importance of Gabel’s words“write what you care about”became clear, and also that it is equally important to care about what you write. Sometimes working 14 hours a day at her desk, Patty acknowledged that biography writing can be an emotional roller-coaster—feeling at times in awe of the individuals' achievements and at other times equally appalled by their personal behavior!


I also realized that the biographer needs a sizeable hatstand to cope with ever-changing roles—researcher, detective, historian, interviewer, psychoanalyst, but most importantly, storyteller. Because that’s what it really comes down to. Putting together all the information you’ve gathered and telling the story of that individual’s life. Gabel had said, “Practice writing every day,” echoing the old adage “practice makes perfect.” That's exactly what Patty does.


Patty shared a whole host of tips and information built up over the years, so I’m very pleased that she chose to follow the advice of Margaret Gabel rather than her third-grade teacher, if only for selfish reasons on my part. Had she not, I may never have had the pleasure of listening to and learning from her.


Patricia Lakin and SCBWI members

Patricia Lakin with SCBWI Japan members. Photo courtesy of Ruth Gilmore Inglesrud.


Mari Boyle is a preschool teacher and educational researcher with a love of picture books. 

Event Wrap-Up: March 14, 2015 Writers’ Craft Workout

Writers' Craft Workout in Five Quotes

Guest post by Doug Brittain, Tokyo, Japan


“Write about your last six months of writing.”

The prompt on the whiteboard that greeted participants seemed simple enough. For some SCBWI Japan members attending the March 14, 2015, “Writer’s Craft Workout,” presented by Naomi Kojima, Mariko Nagai, and Holly Thompson, this brought to mind stories started, finished, or revised. Others were able to recount little actual writing, but lots of new ideas, plots considered, and already-broken New Year's resolutions to do more writing. The first of five sessions, “Reflections and Goals,” was a time to figure out where we are and where we want to go as writers. The remaining sessions helped with first steps.


“Can I take a look at that?”

The books shared by everyone during the “Speed Book Talks on Craft” session came from a wide range of genres, countries, and notoriety. Some members lovingly described the writing, illustrations, and structures of their selected stories, as well as the way they are used as mentor texts or inspiration when working on stories. 


“Invent a character who has your bad habit, but a much worse case than you.”

Once our writing trainers Naomi, Mariko, and Holly had a handle on our creative fitness levels, it was time to get our writing muscles back in shape. Over the next 45 minutes we thought about current stories as we made our way through each of the eight “Circuit Prompts.” Character, plotting, dialogue setting, and more played in our heads as we wrote silently for five minutes at a time. What would happen in your story of a stolen ring, a fear of spiders, and a stranger?


“Writing is like a sumi-e painting. With only a few brush strokes you can evoke an image.”

In the first of the three craft-focused sessions, Naomi invited us to think of the rhythm of a picture-book story. An invitation, a buildup, a rest, a conclusion, and a hint at what’s to come are what make a story feel and sound right. Mariko compared writing to making a brick wall, where you have to make the bricks. She told us about how keeping a writing journal of thoughts, research, and plotting ideas can help to make those bricks. Finally, Holly offered a question for all of us to ask during our revisions. “How small can I make it and it still works?” It sometimes takes only a few words to evoke a scene, backstory, gesture, or emotion. Writers do love their words.




Holly Thompson leading a session



“If nothing changes, there’s no point.”

While this quote from Cheryl Klein’s distance critique group was shared during the final Q&A in reference to moving stories forward, it could also apply to what we all learned that day. One visit to a gym isn’t enough to undo a winter of neglect; this information from the first of hopefully many writing workouts must lead to better habits. It felt great to shake off winter writing rust and step confidently into spring.




SCBWI Japan Regional Team

SCBWI Japan Regional Team Roles for 2015


The SCBWI Japan Regional Team roles have shifted slightly for 2015. Holly Thompson and Mariko Nagai will now serve as Co-Regional Advisors (Co-RAs), and for the time being SCBWI Japan will not have an Assistant Regional Advisor (ARA) although this position may be filled in the future. Naomi Kojima continues to serve as the SCBWI Japan Illustrator Coordinator (IC) and Avery Fischer Udagawa continues to serve as Translator Coordinator (TC). 




Other SCBWI Japan key volunteers include Gerri Sorrells who handles venue reservations and manages the main listserv; Suzanne Kamata who assists with publicity; Misa Dikengil Lindberg who edits this blog; and Patrick Gannon who serves as our webmaster. We'd like to recognize the following SCBWI Japan volunteers for providing assistance with planning and running events, writing blog posts, and completing various administrative tasks: Izumi Tanaka, Yoko Yoshizawa, Sako Ikegami, Deborah Iwabuchi, Colleen Sakurai, JP McCormick, Shilpe Agashe, Li-hsun Tu, and Doug Brittain. 

The SCBWI Japan Regional Team looks forward to working with and being inspired by members and friends of SCBWI Japan in the coming year. 

Event Wrap-Up: February 21, 2015 Winter Sketch and Word Crawl in Yokohama

Winter Sketch and Word Crawl in Yokohama

Contributed by Mariko Nagai, SCBWI Japan Co-Regional Advisor


It’s such a rare moment in our busy lives when someone gives us uninterrupted time to find inspiration. It’s not rare, but a gift, I think. These are the thoughts that went through my head as I got on the train and headed out to Yokohama, a port city only twenty minutes from Tokyo by express train. February weather in Yokohama can be erratic—cloudy, windy, or, even worse, rainy—but the day of SCBWI Japan’s Winter Sketch and Word Crawl was beautiful and sunny. We met first at the Japan Newspaper Museum, a historic building that somehow survived the air raids during World War II, and we took off individually with a promise to meet up in two hours. One writer stayed right next to the 19th-century printing press; “Exactly what I needed because I’m writing about a printing press right now,” he said. He breathed in the ink smells and sketched with words a description of the machine as he nursed a twisted knee. An illustrator healing a broken toe sat in a room in the museum and worked on a dummy for her work-in-progress picture book.


sketch crawl 2

Illustrator Yoko Yoshizawa’s afternoon sketch


Two illustrators ventured outside and sketched, sketched, sketched with renewed inspiration. I went off to the Japan Silk Museum and listened to silkworms munching on mulberry leaves and spinning silk threads. Just like the writer who stayed by the printing press, this was fortunate serendipity because I was working on a piece of writing on, of all things, silkworms and mulberry leaves! 


After two hours, we all gathered full of ideas and sketches, and shared our bounties over cups of tea and coffee in a cozy, Viennese-style café. Two hours of gift and bounty and serendipity. We then walked over to Chinatown and ate to our hearts’ content while we laughed and shared stories. What more could writers and illustrators ask for than a day of inspiration, good fellowship, and amazing food?


sketch crawl 1

Tea and coffee after the crawl, photo by Naomi Kojima

Mariko Nagai is the author of Dust of Eden (2014) and is currently co-RA of SCBWI Japan. 

Reflecting on 2014

Reflecting on 2014 with SCBWI Japan


Contributed by Holly Thompson, SCBWI Japan Regional Advisor


SCBWI Japan had a full and eventful year in 2014. Here is the complete list of 2014 SCBWI Japan events:


Jan. 10  Of Asia and Children’s Books: Focus on the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, Tokyo featuring R. Ramachandran, Exectutive Director AFCC, and Bolormaa Baasansuren and Ganbaatar Ichinnorov, SingTel Asian Picture Book Award Winners for Old City


Feb. 22 SCBWI Japan Writers’ Day 2014, Yokohama featuring Distance Critiques with agents Andrea Welch and Anna Olswanger, craft lecture by Editor Andrea Pinkney via video, and librarian Wouter Laleman speaking on School Visits


Mar. 3 Meet the Author Dinner with Ruta Sepetys, Tokyo


Apr. 18 Rosemary Wells Master Class, Tokyo


May 16 RA Holly Thompson SCBWI Japan presentation, Japan International School Librarians Meeting, Chofu 


May 17 Comic Book Writing with Sean Michael Wilson, Tokyo


May 30–June 4 AFCC, Singapore: ARA Mariko Nagai and IC Naomi Kojima, presentations and SCBWI meeting; Cathy Hirano, translator of the 2014 Andersen Award winner Nahoko Uehashi, presentation arranged and supported by SCBWI Japan members; SCBWI meeting/dinner


June 22 SCBWI Japan Creative Exchange in Akiya, Kanagawa


July 3  Children’s Books of Malaysia with Yusof Gajah and Linda Lingard, Tokyo


July 10 SCBWI Japan Regional Team Meeting, Yokohama


Aug. 23 Gallery Visit and Dinner with Illustrator John Shelley, Tokyo


Sept. 26 SCBWI Japan Creative Exchange, Tokyo


Oct. 18 SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2014, Yokohama featuring translators Juliet Winters Carpenter, Daniel Hahn (on Skype), Cathy Hirano, Alexander O. Smith and Lynne E. Riggs


Oct. 25–26 Japan Writers Conference, Iwate, with SCBWI Japan lunch meet-up


Nov. 6 Illustrator Ross Kinnaird—Using Humor to Motivate Reluctant Readers, Tokyo


Dec. 7 SCBWI Japan Bonenkai Brunch, Tokyo


And a few more details:


In May, RA Holly Thompson presented at the semi-annual meeting of Japan International School Librarians giving an overview of SCBWI and introducing them to the SCBWI website and ways to search for SCBWI speakers. SCBWI Japan is included, via Holly, in the Japan international schools librarian listserv. SCBWI Japan receives advance news of visiting authors and illustrators, and publicizes SCBWI events to the librarians and their school communities. The librarians run the Sakura Medal program; SCBWI Japan member books have been nominated for awards since the program’s inception some ten years ago. SCBWI Japan members are increasingly invited to present at international schools in Japan.


In May/June, ARA Mariko Nagai and IC Naomi Kojima attended and presented at the Asia Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) in Singapore. Take note: Japan will be the country of focus for AFCC 2016!


In August, RA Holly Thompson, TC Avery Udagawa, plus two SCBWI Japan members, attended the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA. Avery was the first translator to receive an RA Tribute Fund Scholarship. Thanks to her efforts there are more opportunities for SCBWI translator members worldwide.


SCBWI Japan translators continue to be very active. In June, they created a presence at the IJET conference (international conference of the Japan Association of Translators) in Tokyo. In October, SCBWI Japan held Translation Day 2014; this was the third biennial Translation Day and was highly successful, bringing together many professionals in the field of Japanese-English translation of young adult content. See the Translation Day Event write-up on the Translation Group Blog (ihatov.wordpress.com).


Thank you to all of the thoughtful and giving volunteers both at the events and behind the scenes who made these events possible and to those who helped publicize and write up posts for the SCBWI Japan Blog. And thank you for the continued support of SCBWI.org in helping to fund our events. 


We are so proud of the recent accomplishments and honors of our members—APALA awards (YA and YA honor category in 2014!), contracts with top agents and major publishers, and new books launching and new drafts being completed. We look forward to another year of exciting events in our creative SCBWI Japan community. Do check out the upcoming events on the events calendar. 2015 will be a busy year for SCBWI Japan!


SCBWI Japan has a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SCBWIJapan), Twitter account (@SCBWIJapan), plus this SCBWI Japan website and blog–please visit them all!


Event Wrap-Up: November 6, 2014 Workshop with Illustrator Ross Kinnaird

Event Wrap-Up: Illustrator Ross Kinnaird: Using Humor to Motivate Reluctant Readers–the Carnivalesque in Illustration 

Guest post by JP McCormick, Tokyo, Japan


ross kinnard1

Ross Kinnard showing attendees his work


I am no artist. I haven't even picked up a pencil or a paintbrush since I was thirteen years old, but the writer in me couldn't resist the opportunity to meet famed illustrator Ross Kinnaird at the SCBWI Japan event on November 6. Ross, whose first illustrated children's book, Why Do Dogs Sniff Bottoms by Dawn McMillan and Bert Signal, won the New Zealand Post's Children's Choice Award in 2003, was every bit as kind, engaging, and utterly hilarious as his books. After all, anyone who draws pictures of butts and bodily functions to the delight of children around the world is bound to be lots of fun–and Ross did not disappoint. He shared with us his professional journey from advertising executive to renowned illustrator of over 30 children's books, and explained his motivation for creating what he humbly referred to as "fart books." Young boys, Ross pointed out, sometimes tend to not read as much as young girls. Using his pencils and watercolors to bring the world of flatulence, underwear, and butt jokes to life, he noticed that these "reluctant readers" took a shine to his off-kilter books and made them their very own. While I kept laughing at his stories, it was clear that Ross had put a great deal of thought and care into his work, and to encouraging all children–even the reluctant ones–to read.  


Next, Ross picked up pencil and paintbrush and showed us how he brings his characters to life. He started with a quick pencil sketch of a little pup–he made this look ridiculously easy–and then used watercolor with practiced ease for the finishing touches. Then, Ross showed us some of his original illustrations that had been used in his books–a seagull with some special "gifts" for littering beach-goers and an inside peek into a school for nasty, stinky flies were among my favorites. By the time our evening was drawing to a close, I could hardly wait to try to draw something on my own–anything!  A circle here, some lines, a couple of whiskers . . . he made it look so easy. I did my best to keep up with the serious illustrators from our chapter, who of course whipped up fantastic sketches of cats, dogs, and sundry beasts and used the watercolor for those perfect splashes of color. Ross was so enthusiastic that I stopped watching everyone else and doubting myself, and just started drawing. This first attempt at drawing will never see the light of day, of course, but I am very grateful that I could spend the evening with Ross and watch his work come alive. I think I'm going to keep drawing, too.  


ross K 2

Inspired writers and illustrators with Ross Kinnaird


JP McCormick writes stories for young readers inspired by his travels through the Middle East and Asia.

Event Wrap-Up: October 25-26, 2014 Japan Writers Conference

Japan Writers Conference 2014 


The Japan Writers Conference 2014 was held at Iwate University in Morioka on October 25-26, 2014. Several SCBWI Japan members attended. Author Trevor Kew posted a wonderful wrap-up of the weekend on his blog here, including notes from several of the sessions. 


Japan Writers Conference

Event Wrap-Up: October 18, 2014 SCBWI Japan Translation Day

translation day


SCBWI Japan Translation Day 

translation day









On October 18, 2014, translators convened at the Yokohama International School for the third biennial SCBWI Japan Translation Day, which featured a keynote speech by Cathy Hirano and a workshop led by Juliet Winters Carpenter. Photographs from the event and Deborah Iwabuchi's event wrap-up can be found on the SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog. For a closer look at the workshop contents, see Avery Fischer Udagawa's post on the same blog, "One Passage, Seven Translations–Minae Mizumura."






Event Wrap-Up: September 26, 2014 Tokyo Creative Exchange

Tokyo Creative Exchange 

Guest post by Shilpa Agashe, Tokyo, Japan


I had the opportunity to attend my first SCBWI creative exchange led by Mariko Nagai. The conference room setting was in direct contrast to the imagination and creativity brought to the table in the form of some wonderful stories. There was a nice mix of picture books and middle grade works, spanning everyday, historical, and fantasy elements.


We made ourselves comfortable around a makeshift square table and settled in for about two and a half hours worth of discussion. Mariko's question, "Who wants to go first?" was perhaps the only time during the entire evening when we had a moment of silence. It is interesting how as children we want to do everything first and as adults we don't want to go first or sit in the front row. As it so happened, my manuscript was at the top of the pile!


Each of us was asked to read aloud a part of our piece that we were most proud of and to think if the rest of our writing lived up to that standard. Everyone then chimed in with questions, compliments, and suggestions on what worked well and what didn’t. Since the participants had taken the time to read all the pieces submitted for critique it resulted in quality feedback for everyone. There were laughs, thoughtful frowns, and light bulb moments.


At the end of the session I had a bunch of notes on my manuscript, a shot of creative energy, and renewed confidence to revise and hone my story.


Shilpa Agashe is a software engineer who writes code by day and stories by night.


Event Wrap-Up: August 23, 2014 John Shelley Gallery Visit and Dinner

John Shelley and Stone Giant: Gallery Visit and Dinner

Guest post by Naomi Kojima, Tokyo, Japan


The SCBWI Japan August event was a happy reunion and an inspiring gallery visit with SCBWI Japan’s long-time friend John Shelley, who now lives in the UK. John Shelley was back in Tokyo this summer for the opening of his show Stone Giant.


We visited Gallery Space Yui in Aoyama to view John’s illustrations from his latest picture book, Stone GiantMichelangelo's David and How He Came to Be by Jane Sutcliffe, illustrated by John Shelley (Charlesbridge/Random House, 2014). We spent a long time at the gallery, marveling at John’s fine illustrations of the story of Michelangelo and how he chiseled David out of a massive piece of marble.




We asked John many questions about creating the illustrations, his research for historical information, and art tips about what kind of paper John used, how he drew the light gray pen lines, and which paints he preferred.


The questions and conversation continued throughout dinner at Crayon House and late into the night. John shared his good news that several Japanese publishers had offered him Japanese rights to his next US picture book, Crinkle, Crackle, Crack! by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by John, due for publication through Holiday House in 2015.




John explained that he has had picture books published by Japanese publishers and picture books published by US publishers, but until Stone Giant, none had crossed borders as translations. The Japanese edition of Stone Giant (Ishi no kyojin) came out in 2013 from Komine Shoten, half a year before the US edition to meet the timing of a major exhibition of Michelangelo’s work held at the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. John said it made him very happy that a Japanese translation of Crinkle, Crackle, Crack! is on its way.




Congratulations, John Shelley! SCBWI Japan looks forward to your next visit!


For details about the illustration process and challenges, visit John Shelley’s post about the book on his blog Shelley Scraps

SCBWI Summer Conference Wrap-Up


SCBWI Summer Conference in LA–Wrap-Up


by Li-hsin Tu, Avery Fischer Udagawa, Kazumi Wilds, Holly Thompson


Li-hsin Tu, Writer


My time at the summer conference in LA was nothing short of an adventure. My hotel at the Beverley Hills, aside from being a good 30-minute walk away from the Hyatt, turned out to be the creaky, spooky place you often see in a scary movie. Then I lost my iPhone (which was also my only time-telling device, alarm clock, map, and camera) the night I decided to skip the poolside party in favor of getting more rest, but ended up spending most of the night looking for the phone at the mall across from the party, and ended up with no phone, no rest, and no party. And despite living nocturnal in Japan in the days leading up to the trip, I went through most of the afternoon sessions with a sleepy fog. While these incidents felt like frustrating distractions from the awesome conference, looking back, I realized they also made this year’s LA conference especially memorable for me. 


It’s hard to condense what I learned and experienced into a few hundred words. If I had to assign a “memorable word” for each day of the conference, I’d give day one “Diversity,” day two “Life,” and day three “Courage.” From the welcome and introduction to the keynotes (by Meg Rosoff, Judy Schachner, and Stephen Chbosky) to the international social event in the evening, the first day celebrated the fact that great stories come from writers and artists of all cultures, tastes, and accents, for we all strive to create great stories for readers of every culture, taste, and accent. On the second day, we learned how great story-tellers find inspiration for their creative projects from real life (Meggie Stiefvater called herself a “thief” of ideas), and how the creative process intimately reflects the writer/artist’s life journey, as shared by Aaron Becker and Cynthia Kadohata. On the final day of the conference, when Tomie DePaola gave us the advice to “have COURAGE,” I realized that Courage was the theme for the conference all along. It doesn’t matter how accomplished or prolific one is, every writer and artist needs Courage to tackle the blank screen and the empty canvas each day, and no one, not even Sharon Flake or the legendary Judy Blume, is exempt from having to conquer demons of self-doubt in order to do each day’s work.


On a more personal note, my favorite keynote was Cynthia Kadohata’s “My Life: Real and Imagined.” Cynthia shared how she channeled her real life joy and sorrow into her stories, and the stories that reflect her triumphs and struggles (“like liquid”) are the ones that can touch not only her hard-to-impress editor, but also resonate deeply with her readers. My favorite workshop was called “In the Hot Seat: Embodying Your Character from Tricks from the Theater.” Jill Santopolo introduced the exercise often used by stage actors to help them fit into the characters’ shoes. We then practiced by wearing the name of our protagonist (using the back of our conference name tag), and taking turns being “in the hot seat,” where you answer all kinds of questions (“what’s inside your pocket?” “what did you have for breakfast?” etc.) as the character. We all learned something new about our protagonists after the exercise, and I found the activity especially helpful in finding the right voice for the story. 


If you are thinking about attending the summer conference in 2015, my advice for you is to book your room early. Staying in the conference hotel makes a world of difference when your body and brain are still in Japan time. I never realized how valuable it is to have a place to retreat to when you need a break, or to sneak in a quick nap. The one regret I have is that I didn’t get to spend a lot meaningful time talking and exchanging information with other attendees because I was always looking for a corner where I could doze off without being noticed. Having a bed just an elevator ride away allows you to recharge when you need to and set your own pace.



Avery Fischer Udagawa, Translator, SCBWI Japan Translation Coordinator


An SCBWI Tribute Fund Scholarship allowed me to attend this year’s Summer Conference. I believe I was the first translator to benefit from this support in SCBWI’s history. Thank you, SCBWI and Tribute Fund contributors!


Three highlights of the conference for me were . . .


Chances to hone my translations: I took part in a one-on-one manuscript critique with SCBWI co-founder Stephen Mooser, who has authored more than 60 children’s books. He reviewed the first ten pages of my middle grade novel translation as writing in English, providing excellent feedback on how I could hone my language. I also took a half-day intensive on novel revision with Linda Sue Park, a Newbery Award-winning author. From her I learned several ways to make a completed manuscript “strange” to myself—and spot more ways to streamline the language. Every segment of this intensive applied both to writing and to translation.


Opportunities to ask editors how they acquire translations: I attended break-out sessions by Alessandra Balzer, co-publisher of Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books; Mary Lee Donovan, editorial director at Candlewick Press; Dinah Stevenson, publisher of Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; and Julie Strauss-Gabel of Dutton Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. Each of these editors took time to field a question from me about how/whether she considers works in translation and how these might be submitted.


Time to network with members of the We Need Diverse Books Campaign: This campaign took the children’s literature world by storm this past May, pointing out the need for main characters of color and of different cultural backgrounds (among many other kinds of diversity). Since translations are a source of diversity in literature, I was thrilled to meet authors Lamar Giles and Meg Medina, two leaders in the We Need Diverse Books initiative. I hung out at a We Need Diverse Books lunch meet-up and heard a panel by Lamar Giles, Meg Medina, Linda Sue Park, authors Sharon Flake and Suzanne Morgan Williams, and agent Adriana Dominguez. This discussion of diversity galvanized me to bring more books from overseas to young readers. They deserve to explore stories from their whole world!



Kazumi Wilds, Illustrator


The conference overall was an exciting new world to me. I have never met so many artists gathered together in the same place! The attendees have sympathy for each other, same for the staff members and guest speakers, too. As a result, I felt huge energy. 


I got inspired a lot at each lecture or workshop facing the wonderful artists and their works. Also, by talking to them directly, I got to know many techniques and artistic processesthis was so useful to me. Nobody hesitated to show their techniques.  


And I met the SCBWI members of San Diego where I live now (I recently moved from Japan). They welcomed me to join their group and we participated together in the costume contest at the party. It was fun and I became part of their circle.


The highlights of the conference for me? Everything was exciting and fun. But if I have to choose one thing, probably it would be the illustrator intensive on Monday. I joined the illustrator intensive all day. The live demonstrations showing the process of their art making by artists Pat Cummings, Judy Schachner, Aaron Becker, Peter Brown were such precious experiences for me. 


What advice do I have for others attending the SCBWI Summer Conference? People are so nice and happy to share the experience with you, so do not  worry. Just be healthy and bring nuts or bananas with you!



Holly Thompson, Writer, SCBWI Japan Regional Advisor


As Regional Advisor, I’ve had the opportunity to attend and work at the SCBWI LA Summer Conference a number of times. I always enjoy the opportunity to meet with the regional team members from all over the world, and connect with the writers, translators, illustrators and faculty members in attendance.


Highlights for me this year? Panels of editors and agents are always of interest, as well as sessions with editors and their authors, since I know that I will draw on their words of advice for our members in Japan. Also, at this year's LA conference, I made sure to attend several nonfiction sessions. One that I found particularly helpful focused on point of view and voice in nonfiction. Eugene Yelchin’s session on Page Turns—Surprise and Expectation in Picture Books was outstanding. I particularly liked the keynotes by Meg Rosoff, Megan McDonald and Maggie Stiefvater.


Advice for others attending the conference? Attend as many sessions as you possibly can, but be sure to come up for air when you need to! Sign up for the intensives—they are wonderful opportunities. Get outside during the day—I go for a run each morning, which helps me endure hours in air-conditioned rooms. Fill out the feedback form to influence future conferences. And most important, talk to people at the conference, even when you feel shy—connections you make at SCBWI conferences are often lasting.



Member News: Summer 2014

Member News highlights the latest inspiring successes of our talented writers, illustrators and translators. SCBWI Japan members should submit news to the blog editors by July 1 for the summer post and January 1 for the winter post. Other SCBWI members who frequently visit and attend events in Japan may also submit their news for Visiting Member News. 


SCBWI Japan Member News


John Paul Catton published his second book in the “Mirror, Sword, Jewel” trilogy, Voice of the Mirror, in June through Excalibur Books. 


Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu has recently signed with literary agent Holly McGhee at Pippin Properties. Her middle-grade novel Somewhere Among has been sold in a two-book deal to Caitlyn Dlouhy at Atheneum, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, and is slated for publication in 2016. 


Avery Fischer Udagawa will attend the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles (August 1-4) with support from a SCBWI Tribute Fund Scholarship. http://www.averyfischerudagawa.com


Deborah Iwabuchi finished her second translation for the Shueisha Creative project. This second book is a YA novel, The Order-made Murder Club by Mizuki Tsujimura. Release is scheduled for late 2014 or early 2015. 


Suzanne Kamata's YA novel Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible was named an Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) Honor Book and received the Skipping Stones Honor Award. Gadget Girl was also named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Children's Book Committee of the Bank Street College of Education, and was designated a book of Outstanding Merit. Her novella "The Returnee" was serialized in Cricket Magazine. She also published two poems in YARN, and her YA novel Screaming Divas was published by Merit Press in May.


Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani are pleased to report that their debut YA novel Jet Black and the Ninja Wind has received the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) Award in Young Adult Literature. Also, Leza Lowitz just completed a mentorship in the YA novel with Amy Goldman Koss through the Northern Central California chapter of SCBWI.


Holly Thompson's YA verse novel The Language Inside was listed in Bank Street 2014 Best Children's Books of the Year, YALSA 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and 2014 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts. Her middle-grade verse novel Dragon's Mouth was sold to Laura Godwin at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, and her YA poetry was featured on the Young Adult Review Network in April. 


Visiting Member News


Rebecca Kool-Fujibe, Canadian author of Fly Catcher Boy, a bilingual (English/Japanese) children's book, will be returning to Nagoya for the month of October to present her story through kamishibai at various venues in Aichi. She also plans to attend the Japan Writer's Conference in Iwate. 


Event Wrap-Up: July 3, 2014 Children’s Books of Malaysia

Children's Books of Malaysia

with Author/Illustrator Yusof Gajah

Literary Agent Linda Tan Lingard


This year Malaysia was the featured theme country at the Tokyo International Book Fair July 2-5 at Tokyo Big Site, and as a result SCBWI Japan was able to invite Linda Tan Lingard, managing partner at Yusof Gajah Lingard Literary Agency, and author/illustrator Yusof Gajah to present about Children's Books of Malaysia. They were joined by batik artist Zakiah Mohd Isa, Nor Azhar Ishak and Mahaya Mohd Yassin. 



Linda Lingard began by giving an overview of the children's book industry in Malaysia including the challenges of cultivating talent among writers and illustrators, marketing in a multilingual society, publishing trends and bookselling. 


Yusof Gajah followed with slides of his captivating elephant artwork and spoke of his commitment to taking art projects into schools and hospitals and his mission to mentor younger artists toward professionally establishing more Malaysian author/illustrators.


After the main talks, Zakiah Mohd Isa, modeling some of her own batik art based on husband Yusof's designs, shared a humorous account of how she transformed from a person disdainful of art to a self-taught batik artist. 



Nor Azhar Ishak shared some images of his colorful batik artwork for children, and Mahaya Mohd Yassin spoke about her writing projects. The evening was full of warmth and energy, and after the presentations participants adjourned to a cafe for lively talk over dinner. 



Members of SCBWI Japan and other SCBWI chapters in Asia have had opportunities to meet at the Asian Festival of Children's Content in Singapore each year, and this opportunity for SCBWI Japan members arose in part from such AFCC networking. We are grateful to Linda Lingard and Yusof Gajah for including SCBWI Japan in their busy visit schedule. It was wonderful to experience a bit of the Malaysian children's book work right in Tokyo.



Event Wrap-Up: June 22, 2014 Creative Exchange in Miura

Creative Exchange/Miura Sketch and Word Crawl

at the Sakurai Temple House and Surroundings in Akiya


Miura 2014 CIMG4922


Our group of illlustrators and writers met at Zushi Station on Sunday morning and took a bus down the west coast of Miura to the quiet district of Akiya. Befitting the rainy season, the weather was drizzly, so upon arriving at the Sakurai temple house and drinking some cooling shiso juice, we settled in for the creative exchange. 



The temple house full of antiques, artwork and sculptures was a perfect setting for critiquing fiction and nonfiction, picture book text, dummies, middle-grade and YA. 

After the creative exchange we chatted over bento lunches and savored Colleen's famous sangria, and we almost forgot altogether to go outside. Late in the afternoon we set out through Akiya back lanes, admiring hydrangea in full bloom . . .


Miura 2014 CIMG4918


and walking along shore by the Tateishi rocks



Although–full confession–we didn't do much in the way of writing or sketching at this particular Sketch and Word Crawl, it was a relaxing and inspiring day talking about writing and art, and everyone seemed pleased to have made the journey down to Miura. A huge thank you to Colleen and Shoichi Sakurai for hosting this special event! Perhaps it will become an annual SCBWI Japan tradition. 

Event Wrap-Up: May 17, 2014 Comic Book Writing with Sean Michael Wilson

Comic Book Writing with Sean Michael Wilson


Many people think graphic novels, comic books, or manga are all conceived and generated by illustrators. But this is not necessarily the case. Sean Michael Wilson flew up from Kyushu to share with SCBWI Japan about writing graphic novels.



Sean Michael Wilson


Wilson, who is not an illustrator, has been creating and writing comic books/graphic novels since 2003, ranging from literature adaptations, nonfiction graphic novels, original fiction works, and adaptations of Japanese historical works such as The 47 Ronin and Hagakure: The Code of the Samurai—the Manga Edition. At the SCBWI Japan event, after introducing the audience to the wide range of projects he has worked on, he talked about the difference between graphic novel artist and writer: as a writer, he comes up the story line, but he doesn’t just fill in the word bubbles—he gives detailed textual descriptions for each panel on the page, while also giving enough space for artists to be creative. Wilson then discussed examples of basic graphic novel elements such as panels, word balloons, captions, and gutters. He emphasized the importance of time in each panel on a page and transitions between panels, saying, “Each panel should be a beat.” Wilson reminded participants that the most important thing for writers to keep in mind is the story and then went over the basic process from idea to plotting, page breakdown of action, and finally the script, including description, dialogue, and captions. He explained that the overall arrangement of panels is generally left to the illustrator.


After the process talk, participants were placed in pairs—generally a writer and an illustrator together. Pairs were told to create a story including a variation of two characters meeting such as two children, two dogs, or two total strangers meeting. They were assigned to plan and generate two pages with a total of ten panels to tell the story.



SCBWI Japan members working in pairs


While the interactive part of the event could easily have been twice as long, and pairs were racing to finish, everyone enjoyed the challenge of collaborating to create the two pages. Many participants then adjourned to a nearby café for continued writing and illustration talk.



Event Wrap-Up: April 18, 2014 Master Class with Rosemary Wells

Master Class in Picture Book Writing and Illustration

with Author/Illustrator Rosemary Wells


Guest post by Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud, Tokyo, Japan


From our opening introductions to the final story of the evening, author and illustrator Rosemary Wells gave SCBWI Japan participants practical and pithy advice. Although I cannot distill the evening into three sentences (as we were required to do in our self-introductions), I will do my best to “omit needless words.” (Strunk and White) Wells’ advice was to be “précis,” or precise, because “no one wants to slog through endless wittering in a children’s book.” Wells suggests cutting your picture book text down to four sentences per page at most. Leave some story exposition to the illustrator. Write what you know and find out what you don’t. “The art of writing for children is like being a contra-alto,” said Wells. “It requires unique talents.” We listened carefully, as this “off-the-cuff” talk struck a chord in all of us and should help us perfect our pitch in story creation.


“My stories are non-fiction,” began the author who creates beloved stories with bunnies and kittens as the protagonists. “They are based on life experiences.” As a writer one has to have a sieve in the brain to collect memories and feelings. Max and Ruby are characters drawn from her own children. She described hearing her older child, the “Ruby” of the pair, attempting to instruct her younger nine-month-old sibling, upon whom “Max” is modeled. “Table . . . T-A-B-L-E . . . TABLE. Say it!” To which the nine-month-old would respond, “Bang.” Max’s dragon shirt and general countenance was drawn from a toddler with a withering glare wearing a shirt that glared as well, sitting in the heaping shopping basket ahead of her while she waited and waited one chilly raw night to bring home one carton of milk. The character, Yoko, began with a group of three girls from Osaka who attended Rosemary’s daughter’s school. They were teased about the sushi and seaweed in their traditional Japanese lunches, which her daughter thought was totally unfair. Family memories and personal memories are the story starters for the author’s books. “Go back to your childhood,” advised Wells, “and remember.”



Author/illustrator Rosemary Wells


“The art of illustration is a challenge,” explained Wells. “Try not to repeat in pictures what the text says.” She said that the artist should look for elements that the text does not overtly mention. Find humor in the text. Marry the text without being the same as the text. Wells prefers the word “illumination” to the word “illustration,” harking back to the time of the beautifully gold-leaf enhanced drawings with which scribes enhanced the scriptures. She said that the pictures should make the story glow with deeper meaning and draw the reader further into the story’s embrace.


Wells has been in the business since she was twenty. Now, at age seventy, she has seen publishing rise and fall. Publishing is “in the trenches now,” she explained. “Publishers grab for too much and authors cannot make a living. Publishers have wrecked things a bit,” she said. Rosemary has seen her own royalty percentages cut in half over the years. It is especially difficult for new authors. Still, she gave us hope by encouraging us to write what is true and deep. “Present it simply,” she advised, “with no affectation . . . [w]rite for yourself,” she said, despite our protestations that editors ask writers to categorize themselves. On the other hand, she said, “You may not argue with your editor. Work without ego; listen to your editor and do it better. Only after you have produced 10 starred-review books can you go at it with the editor.”


And while a trained and experienced editor will have valid criticism, Wells did warn against listening to all the advice that one might hear in a writer’s group. “Advice given from a reader’s perspective is valid,” she admitted, “but amateurs may not know what they are talking about when giving publishing advice.” This is not to say that Wells does not encounter any friction with her own editors. She sometimes disagrees with their choices, but they are the ones paying to have the book printed, after all. She sent around a recently published book along with its original “dummy” so we could note the changes that were made. She also mentioned that she does not illustrate for other authors, as she will inevitably end up changing the original text and make changes all the way up until the deadline, sometimes even afterwards. The advantage of being both author and illustrator is that the two always agree on the finished product.


The importance of authenticity in writing for children was emphasized again and again. Wells explained that children are dealing with life issues and they know they have to handle it on their own. “School is like a big bus. You get on with a bunch of people you don’t know and then they lock the doors of the bus and you can’t escape. You are stuck with these people for years.” Parents and teachers do what they can to help, of course, but Wells explained that it is as if they are on the outside of a thick Lucite bubble. They can see the struggles children go through, but in the end, each child must find his or her own solution. It is an author’s job to write about the person and the true emotions. The story should be about an individual, not about a problem or a conflict; “the person, not the peanut allergy.” Adult agendas have no place in children’s books. Children love stories that show characters overcoming obstacles with humor and grit. Be authentic and write simply. Young readers will love you for it.


Thank you, Rosemary, for sharing yourself with us.



Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud is an elementary librarian at an international school in Tokyo. She is the author of a series of books of children’s sermons that have sold worldwide and been translated into Norwegian. She has recently published a vibrant, professionally illustrated children’s book created and optimized for the iPad. belovedofbeasts.com


Event Wrap-Up: March 15, 2014 Meet the Author Dinner with Ruta Sepetys


Meet the Author Dinner with Ruta Sepetys


Guest post by JP McCormick, Tokyo, Japan


On March 5th, I had the good fortune to sit next to the award-winning, NYT-bestselling author Ruta Sepetys at SCBWI Japan's Meet the Author Dinner in her honor. Aside from the rare opportunity to hear such a seasoned and successful writer, I was particularly excited to meet someone who loved my swampy, faraway home of New Orleans as Ruta had shown with her latest book, Out of the Easy. The fact that it was Mardi Gras night back in Louisiana just made the evening all the more auspicious. Ruta was every bit as friendly and gracious as I had hoped, and was as eager to learn about us as we were about her. Over dinner and drinks, she worked her way around the table, asking each of us about our own projects, our histories, our favorite writers and illustrators. As the questions and conversation continued, I completely forgot about the sheets of pouring rain outside, my soaked feet, and my 5:00 a.m. conference call that crept closer and closer. My attention was solely fixed on Ruta and her stories about inspirations, methods, and her thoughts on the art and business of children's literature. 


Ruta made me feel especially welcome as the group's newest member and aspiring writer. While she deftly fielded an array of questions from our more seasoned writers and artists ("What is the nicest way to break up with an agent?" was my favorite one), she didn't miss a beat as she shifted gears to address my more basic, neophyte queries ("What's an agent?"). When Ruta asked me to talk about my own work, which is influenced by the time I've spent in Central Asia and the Middle East, I was struck by how easy she was to talk to. After a few minutes of rambling, I quietly told myself to shut up so as not to take up any more of the group's time, but she was just as inquisitive about my steady battle of draft revisions as I was about her international book tours. By the evening’s end, my iPhone bristled with notes about critique groups, authors to research, mentoring opportunities, and web designers, and I had gained a new respect for media training and the power of YouTube book promotional shorts (the promo video on her website for Out of the Easy is an exemplar model).


By this time, Ruta is probably already in the United States, hard at work. I hope she finds her way to New Orleans soon. I've asked my friends at Napoleon House to have a cold Pimms cup and a hot muffuletta sandwich waiting for her. After all the insights, inspiration, and encouragement I got from her, a proper drink and a good Southern meal is the least I can do to repay the kindness.



JP McCormick writes books for children and young adults inspired by his travels through the Middle East and Asia. He lives in Tokyo with his wife, Masami.


Event Wrap-Up: February 22, 2014 SCBWI Japan Writers’ Day

SCBWI Japan Writers' Day: Jazz It Up! Writing Today for Children and Young Adults  

Guest post by Colleen Sakurai, Akiya, Kanagawa, Japan


I’m always excited to be able to spend a day focused entirely on the writing craft, where I can share information about children’s literature with like minds. I was especially looking forward to Jazz it Up! Writing Today for Children and Young Adults, held at Yokohama International School. I was not disappointed.

The morning opened with participants receiving and sharing work submitted to Anna Olswanger, literary agent at Liza Dawson Associates, and Andrea Welch, Senior Editor at Beach Lane Books, as part of the Distance Critique Opportunity. I hadn’t sent work in for feedback, but I was riveted by the feedback shared by those who did. As the brave writers shared their critiques with the group, I found it interesting how often we tend to focus on the negative, even while also receiving positive comments. Of course, we learn more from “constructive” criticisms, but it was still an eye-opener.

Following the critiques was a pre-recorded video message by author and publisher Andrea Davis Pinkney in which she outlined five major stepping stones in the writing process: 

     *Write every day! Every single day!

     *Read every day.

     *Become a scholar of the genre.

     *"Kill the committee." (The committee that lurks in your brain and tells you that you are unworthy, that is!)

     *Feel good about what you're doing. Think of the end use. Be excited, ignited, inspired—and stay on the journey!

She also spoke about the huge obligation we have as writers to take kids by the hand, and by the collar, if need be, and the importance of telling old stories in a new way. Andrea’s message was so inspiring. I want to be her!

After Andrea signed off, we gathered in the back of the room, where SCBWI Japan Assistant RA Mariko Nagai had collected a rich display of picture books for us to peruse with Andrea’s points in mind. It was nice to see these principles put into play in the final products. A lively discussion followed as we took turns reviewing each published book to see how it fit into Andrea’s framework.


Lunchtime arrived. A group of us had pasta in Motomachi, and it was a miracle that our group of ten could be seated together during the typical Saturday lunch rush. SCBWI veterans sat side by side with new writer friends; a shared common bond in writing was all that was needed to spark conversation and laughter. 


The break was followed by an inspiring panel discussion on Things Learned Along the Way to Publication with YA authors Leza Lowitz, Suzanne Kamata, and Mariko Nagai. RA Holly Thompson contributed via message. While listening to their individual stories, I was struck by what they had in common—all these published authors wrote and rewrote for years and years before their books came to print. Staying the course pays off.

Next, Wouter Laleman, elementary school librarian of the American School in Japan, offered an entertaining, interactive presentation on author school visits. He spoke specifically about what schools want from visiting authors and how authors are chosen. His presentation covered a variety of writers and detailed their unique visits. It was wonderful to see the different approaches a writer can take to share his/her work at a school. 


The SCBWI Japan Writers' Day was a very full day that more than delivered on its promise to “jazz up” our writing and publishing. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.

Colleen Sakurai has been a member of SCBWI since 2010 and thanks the Universe every day for the inspiration and friendship it has brought her.

Event Wrap-up: January 10, 2014 Of Asia and Children’s Books

Of Asia and Children’s Books: The Role of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC)


featuring R. Ramachandran, Executive Director of AFCC


and Bolormaa Baasansuren and Ganbaatar Ichinnorov, SingTel Asian Picture Book Award Winners for Old City on Friday, January 10, 2014


Contributed by the SCBWI Japan Blog Editorial Team


Photos by Annie Donwerth Chikamatsu


When we received an email from R. Ramachandran that he would visit Tokyo in January, we were all excited, for he is not only the Executive Director of National Book Development Council of Singapore, he is also the Executive Director of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC). He is a highly regarded librarian who has received numerous accolades for his work in promoting literacy. 




Always held in Singapore, AFCC’s vision has been to provide the world’s children with high-quality Asian content so that they may learn about Asian cultures through multimedia. Its mission is to foster excellence in creation, production, publication and promotion of children’s materials in Asia since 2010, and for a decade before while the festival went under the name of Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference (ACWIC). The number of faculty, participants and attendees has grown over the years, and the festival’s workshops, exhibitions and media mart attract preschool and primary school teachers, parents, writers and illustrators, librarians and media specialists (producers, publishers, etc.), providing them a place to learn and to share ideas and materials about the region. The country of focus for 2014 is India, and the conference features a line-up of experts and authors from India and beyond.


Many SCBWI Japan members have presented at past festivals; our very own Holly Thompson, Regional Advisor of SCBWI Japan, and Naomi Kojima, Illustrator Coordinator, gave keynote speeches for the 2013 AFCC, while Alexander O. Smith (publisher and translator), Avery Fischer Udagawa (translator), Yoko Yoshizawa (illustrator), and Trevor Kew (writer) gave presentations on various aspects of children’s book publishing in past festivals. Mariko Nagai, the Assistant Regional Advisor, has been invited to present and launch her book at the 2014 AFCC. 



In his 45-minute presentation, Ramachandran emphasized again and again that Asian children often grow up reading books from Europe and America, and that there is more need to offer affordable and accessible Asian-themed books to children in Asia. In the past, when the festival was called ACWIC and only writers and illustrators participated, “nothing happened”, he said, though it was a great opportunity for writers and illustrators to gather and celebrate their works. By bringing teachers, parents, writers and illustrators, librarians and media specialists together, they can create practical synergy to the entire publishing process—from inspiration to publication to distribution and promotion. He shared with the audience several publications that resulted from the AFCC festivals, and emphasized that AFCC is interested in providing bilingual (English being one of the languages) high-quality yet affordable and accessible books with Asian content. The audience—one of the biggest SCBWI Japan has had—was composed of Japanese writers, illustrators, editors, librarians, and people from book-related museums and foundations who were eager to hear about opportunities at AFCC. After the presentation, we had time for Q&A, when various questions were asked—from the definition of “Asia,” to the economics of publishing and distribution, to translation, to English as lingua franca.




AFCC hosts the Scholastic Asian Book Award for authors of Asian descent, and the SingTel Picture Book Award is open to picture books depicting an Asian theme from authors and illustrators worldwide. Bolormaa Baasansuuren and Ganbaatar Ichinnorov, the husband-and-wife writer and illustrator winners of the 2013 SingTel Picture Book Award, presented their picture book, Old City. Moving from illustration to illustration, the book provides a wonderful journey into the past from present-day urbanization. Bolormaa and Ganbaatar shared the story of when they first conceived the idea back in 2006. At that time, they did not know how to write a children’s book, but with the helpful feedback from SCBWI Japan (namely, Holly Thompson and John Shelley), they rewrote the book. We had the pleasure to see the dummy that was submitted to the award, as well as hear them talk about their process of working both together and individually on this book. Their talk was done in Mongolian, which was first translated into Japanese, then into English. It indeed embodied the international spirit of SCBWI and the event itself!




Overall, it was a wonderful night of insights, inspiration, networking, and laughter.



This year’s AFCC will take place in the National Library Building in Singapore from May 30 to June 4, 2014. For further information about the Asian Festival of Children’s Content see AFCC.com.sg


Happy New Year from SCBWI Japan!

SCBWI Japan Year of the Horse Greetings


SCBWI Japan Regional Team Message, posted by Holly Thompson, Mariko Nagai, Naomi Kojima


We would like to wish everyone a wonderful new year—we hope that for all 2014 is a happy, healthy year full of creative endeavors.


Regional Team Changes


We’d like to announce that as of January 1, Naomi Kojima has stepped up to the role of Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI Japan. Naomi is one of the founding members of SCBWI Tokyo/Japan, previously served as co-RA, and has presented at and helped with many SCBWI Japan events; we welcome her back to the Regional Team. We’d also like to thank Yoko Yoshizawa for her service as ARA and Illustrator Coordinator. She stepped in as ARA in March 2008 and helped re-energize SCBWI Tokyo. In her six years of service as ARA and IC, she oversaw two major Tokyo gallery shows, was active organizing events on behalf of illustrators, interpreted events and translated publicity, assisted with finances, contributed often to the newsletter, handled our announcement lists, and was a tireless, supportive volunteer for our chapter. We wish Yoko well (she has many upcoming gallery shows in 2014 for which she is now painting like a maniac), and we look forward to welcoming her at future SCBWI Japan events. Earlier in the year, outgoing ARA Jenny Walters relocated to Germany, and Mariko Nagai stepped up to fill the ARA position.


Upcoming Events

We are beginning 2014 with some SCBWI Japan events we hope many will attend and enjoy.


On Jan. 10, SCBWI Japan will host Of Asia and Children’s Books: The Role of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) featuring R. Ramachandran, Executive Director of AFCC and Bolormaa Baasansuren and Ganbaatar IchinnorovSingTel Asian Picture Book Award Winners for Old City. Details are here.


On. Jan. 18, SCBWI Japan will hold the first Creative Exchange of 2014 for authors, illustrators and translators to give and receive face-to-face feedback on works in progress. Details are on the events calendar at japan.scbwi.org here.


Also, we will be offering distance critiques again. A notice will be sent out to members soon and the manuscripts will be due on Feb. 1, then sent to the agent or editor who will write critiques; the critiques will then be distributed at our Writing Workshops event on Feb. 22 in Yokohama. So far we have booked agent Anna Olswanger of Liza Dawson Associates and Andrea Welch, Senior Editor at Beach Lane Books for these distance critiques. We are still hoping to find an editor who can Skype in to the Feb. 22 event. If you have editor suggestions please contact us.


Please see the other upcoming events now on the SCBWI Japan calendar. We always welcome volunteer involvement in planning and implementing events and welcome your input.


We hope to see members and nonmembers at the Of Asia and Children's Books event on January 10 at the Tokyo Women's Plaza to welcome Mr. Rama to Japan, and to enjoy learning about the creative process of Mongolian husband and wife picture book team, Bolormaa Baasansuren and Ganbaatar Ichinnorov.


Happy Year of the Horse! 

Holly Thompson, SCBWI Japan Regional Advisor

Mariko Nagai, SCBWI Japan Assistant Regional Advisor

Yoko Yoshizawa, SCBWI Japan Illustrator Coordinator



See what SCBWI Japan did in 2013!

Reflecting on 2013 with SCBWI Japan


Contributed by Holly Thompson, SCBWI Japan Regional Advisor


2013 certainly felt like a busy year for SCBWI Japan. 


Here is the complete list of all our 2013 events:

Feb. 2, 2013 Creative Exchange, Tokyo

Mar. 3, 2013 Digital Illustration with Illustrator Paul Richardson, Tokyo

Mar. 21, 2013 Meet the Illustrator Dinner with David Wiesner, Tokyo

April 12, 2013 Open Portfolio Critiques with Kerry Martin, Senior Designer Clarion Books, Tokyo

Apr. 20, 2013 Distance Critiques with editor Sylvie Frank, Simon & Schuster, and Sally Morgridge, Holiday House, (online) and Follow-up Workshop: Interpreting Critiques and Planning Next Steps for our Work, Tokyo

May 19, 2013 Miura Sketch and Word Crawl, Akiya, Kanagawa

May 25-30, 2013 AFCC Singapore (members Holly, Avery, Alex, Naomi, Gerri, Trevor)

June 15, 2013 Creative Exchange, Tokyo

July 4-7, 2013 Tokyo International Book Fair—SCBWI Japan Member Meet-up

August 2-5, 2013 SCBWI LA Summer Conference (members Holly, Annie, Leza, Li-hsin)
Sept. 27 SCBWI Japan Showcase, Tokyo, featuring 10 SCBWI members showcasing new work

Oct. 19, 2013 Creative Exchange, Tokyo

Oct. 26, 2013 Translation Group Meet-Up, Ofuna, Kanagawa

Nov. 2-3, 2013 Japan Writers Conference, Okinawa; SCBWI Japan Meet-Up led by member Benjamin Martin

Nov. 15, 2013 Meet the Illustrator Dinner with Isabel Roxas, Tokyo

Nov. 30, 2013 Writer’s Night—Writing Poetry for Children and Teens with with Leza Lowitz on Quest Poems, Mariko Nagai on History Poems and Holly Thompson on Action Poems

Dec.  11, 2013 Gallery Visit—Galerie Malle for exhibit of illustrations for Nankichi Niimi stories—and Year-End Party, Tokyo


And we migrated to our new website: japan.scbwi.org


Thank you to all of the energetic volunteers both at the events and behind the scenes who made these events possible. And thank you for the continued support of SCBWI.org in helping to fund our events. 


So have a look at upcoming events on the events calendar. I'm looking forward to all that SCBWI Japan has to offer in 2014!

SCBWI Japan Showcase, September 27, 2013


SCBWI Japan Showcase 2013


featuring Linda Gerber, Suzanne Kamata, Trevor Kew, Naomi Kojima, Leza Lowitz, Benjamin Martin, Mariko Nagai, Shogo Oketani, Holly Thompson, Kazumi Wilds and Yoko Yoshizawa 



At this SCBWI Japan Showcase 2013, SCBWI Japan member authors and illustrators presented their recent or forthcoming children’s and YA books to the public in short, lively presentations at the Tokyo Women's Plaza. Authors and illustrators shared excerpts, ideas that inspired the work, research photos, the creative process, illustration and writing techniques used, the path to publication, curriculum tie-ins, school visit approaches and more.


Books featured in this showcase evening:


  • Lights, Camera, Cassidy: Celebrity by Linda Gerber (Penguin Books for Young Readers, 2012) [unable to attend]
  • Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible by Suzanne Kamata (Gemma Media, 2013)
  • Bakuyumehime no gogakuyu (Dream Princess the Tapir and Her Friend) by Sachiko Kashiwaba, illustrations by Naomi Kojima (Kaisei-sha, 2012)
  • Playing Favourites by Trevor Kew (Lorimer & Co., 2012)
  • Jet Black and the Ninja Wind by Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani (Tuttle Publishing, 2013)
  • Revenge of the Akuma Clan by Benjamin Martin (Tuttle Publishing, 2013)
  • Dust of Eden by Mariko Nagai (Albert Whitman & Co., 2014)
  • J-Boys, Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani, translated by Avery Fischer Udagawa (Stone Bridge Press, 2011)
  • The Language Inside by Holly Thompson (Delacorte/Random House, 2013)
  • Gojuuon by Kazumi Wilds (Aslan Shobou Publishing, 2014)
  • Matata murefu by Yoko Yoshizawa (Fukuinkan Shoten, 2014)

SCBWI Japan Blog Welcome!

Welcome to the new SCBWI Japan Blog. Check back here for event write-ups and posts of interest to writers, illustrators and translators. 


SCBWI Japan holds monthly events in Tokyo and Kanagawa and occasionally in other regions of Japan. Check the events calendar and join us if you can!