Japan Writers Conference 

This last weekend I joined the Japan Writers Conference at Tokushima University. An annual event, about a hundred educators, journalists, poets, writers, and hangers-on like myself gather at a host university and spend two days giving and participating in presentations, panels, workshops, and readings. It all started on Friday night with a dinner party at a local brewery, the Awa Brewery, which had the best beer on tap that I think I’ve ever had in JP.

About a third were poetry related. This is not my thing. But I’m really glad I was exposed to it. I like interesting turns of phrase. I suppose I didn’t recognize that going into it, but I came out understanding it. I’m drawn to prose-like poetry, or poetic prose. There was a poetry reading at dinner on Saturday, and the one I liked the best was the poetry slam-like reading.

Among the many great presentations was the excellent Susan Spann, author of a series of Japanese historically based detective stories. Hers was perhaps the most practical advise, and the most engaging presentation. Writing is a process, get it on the page, ensure you haven’t broken the rules of your genre, then rework it again and again till it’s done. Others I enjoyed were discussions on violence in fiction and plotting short stories.

I came away with a couple of short story ideas, and plenty of inspiration for the coming month of NaNoWriMo.

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13 thoughts on “Japan Writers Conference 

  1. I’ve seen Susan Spann’s books in the library and waffled on trying them out. If you think she gave good advice, that’s enough for me to pull the trigger.

    Historical mysteries are always a tricky thing to pull off; I just bailed out of one where the author was mainly interested in showing off his knowledge. But (and this will not surprise anyone) I’m pre-inclined to like an author who’s sufficiently analytical about her work to give good practical advice.

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    • Well, I didn’t read her books so I can’t vouch for that. But I can say that she gave two great talks, one on the structure of a murder mystery (and her process), the other on editing. They were both really engaging.

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      • And that’s where I’m coming from. Far too many authors, it appears to me, don’t know what they’re doing. Writing is an imaginative art, but it’s also a craft–and that’s particularly true in a mystery, which is one of the more demanding forms.

        It’s also one of the more restrictive forms, which is another thing a lot of writers don’t seem to understand. P. D. James compared it to writing a sonnet. If you choose to write a sonnet, you’re choosing to abide by the form. If you’re going to whine about how the sonnet’s 14-line form is too limiting and how it crushes your artistic vision, don’t write sonnets. Write something else. (In my opinion James would have been a better writer if she’d taken her own advice, but I digress.

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      • Well, she’s a high power lawyer, and a good presenter who came across as very detail oriented, so that hopefully meets your bar. I missed the opportunity to buy her books there, but my workshop friend and neighbor bought two, so I plan to join you in checking it out.

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