Program for JWC 2020

The presenters are listed in alphabetical order by first name.

Barry Eisler
How to Write a Killer Opening
An interactive lecture with plenty of Q&A.

The job of every sentence in a novel is to make the reader want to read the next sentence. Which makes the first sentence especially important! We’ll talk about what what kind of first sentence, first paragraph, first sequence pulls the reader out of the everyday world and into the world of your story.

A story boils down to three elements: who, what, and where. Character, plot, and setting. To pull a reader into a story, from the first words you have to serve up some combination of those elements. But to keep the reader going, you have to paradoxically nourish the reader with information that simultaneously famishes the reader for more. As T.S. Eliot said in Gerontion, “the giving famishes the craving.” We’ll start by examining the opening lines of Ken Follett’s The Key to Rebecca—one of the best opening sequences ever:

The last camel collapsed at noon.

It was the five-year-old white bull he had bought in Gialo, the youngest and strongest of the three beasts, and the least ill-tempered: he liked the animal as much as a man could like a camel, which is to say that he hated it only a little.

Barry Eisler spent three years in a covert position with the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, then worked as a technology lawyer and startup executive in Silicon Valley and Japan, earning his black belt at the Kodokan Judo Institute along the way. 

Eisler’s award-winning thrillers have been included in numerous “Best Of” lists, have been translated into nearly twenty languages, and include the #1 bestsellers Livia Lone, The Night Trade, and The Killer Collective. Eisler lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and, when he’s not writing novels, blogs about national security and the media.

Bob Tobin
Writing, Publishing and Promoting Your Non-Fiction Book
Short Lecture with Q&A
Nonfiction, Career

This will be a nuts and bolts session on writing and publishing a non-fiction book.

Topics include: starting with what you know, blogging, writers conferences, finding an agent or publisher, making a pitch, query letters, organizing materials, beta reviewers, writing a proposal, editing, self-publishing, POD and traditional publishing.

Bob Tobin is a non-fiction author who writes about happiness, careers and self-development.  He’s the author of several titles in English and Japanese. His most recent book is ˆNo Regrets:  How To Kickstart Your Career And Your Life [Pub. Discover 21] He’s Professor Emeritus, Keio University  Originally from Boston, Bob now lives on the island of Okinawa.

Charles Kowalski
Masterminds, Minions, and Monsters: Creating 3D Villains
Craft Workshop

Create compelling villains that readers will love to hate! This workshop will introduce three main villain motivations (the “3 D’s”) and show how these form seven archetypes, plus six effective recruiting tools for henchmen (FLAMES), the top five justifications for villainy, and how to defeat the villain for a satisfying ending.

“A story is only as good as the villain.” – Clive Barker

Bad guys make good stories, and this workshop will focus on creating compelling villains that readers will love to hate. 

Here are the questions to be asked and answered in this workshop.

What makes a compelling villain? How can the BOOM technique help create a villain with a believable backstory? 

How do the three main motivations of villains intersect to form seven villain archetypes?  What are the common personality characteristics of each?

What are the six tools used by master villains to recruit followers? What are the top five justifications for villainy?

What are the five main patterns of villain defeat and their common variations?

Come find out!

Charles Kowalski is the award-winning author of contemporary thrillers MIND VIRUS and THE DEVIL’S SON, and the Japan-themed historical fantasy SIMON GREY AND THE MARCH OF A HUNDRED GHOSTS. When not writing, he teaches at Tokai University.

Christopher Simons
Virtuosity in Verse: Writing Powerful Cross-Disciplinary Poems
Craft Workshop

This poetry workshop will discuss and practice strategies for writing short poems that use concepts and vocabulary from cross-disciplinary subjects that may be unfamiliar to most readers. The goal of the workshop will be to create poems that are clear and engaging without compromising their complexity of thought and language.

The workshop will look at poems on non-literary subjects (or not conventionally literary subjects) such as medicine, astrophysics, economics, politics, anthropology, linguistics, psychology. . . anything that uses concepts and technical vocabulary that aren’t immediately obvious to the general reader. How can a poem of 20 lines engage with new or challenging concepts and theories in such a way that the poem maintains the ’truth’ of the other discipline, but isn’t dry or obscure? 

Poets want their work to be published and read as widely as possible; this reality drives  poets and publishers towards poems built on simple subjects, clear vocabularies, and familiar feelings. Yet our world is anything but simple. In order to remain relevant, poetry must engage with new scientific and technological vocabularies; new idioms from politics and popular culture; new kinds of relationships. This workshop will explore strategies for writing and revising poems about cross-disciplinary subjects that use vocabulary, images, and concepts that most readers may find unfamiliar. How can a short poem of this kind show the reader what the poem is about, without ruining the poetry? How can such a poem find an audience, or create one? Should poets use footnotes, or expect (or even demand) that readers Google as they read? This session will workshop poems submitted in advance; however, participants are welcome to attend without submitting work.

Christopher Simons is Senior Associate Professor of Literature at ICU in Tokyo. He has held the Harper-Wood Studentship in Creative Writing at St John’s College Cambridge. His most recent poetry collection is Underground Facility (Isobar Press, 2018). His criticism and poetry have appeared in numerous UK publications including the TLS.

David Brennan
Playing Around with Voice
Lecture/Reading with Q&A

I will do a reading from my novel which has a very distinctive voice. I will talk about this and voice in general, its importance and techniques used to achieve it. This will be followed by a Q&A and contributions/suggestions from those in attendance.

Voice is perhaps the most important quality in writing fiction yet the most difficult to achieve. I will read from my novel Upperdown which has gained praise for it’s distinctive voice. I will also discuss and give examples of other writers who have achieved distinctive voices for their characters. You can have a brilliant story but if the execution of the voice doesn’t bring it to life, the story will be like the tree falling in the woods with nobody to hear it. However, you can get away with a mediocre story if you have a very distinctive voice. A good writing voice is idiosyncratic, representative of humanity and imperfect. This lecture and reading hopes to touch on the topic of not being afraid to follow the imperfection of voice.

David currently lives in Suzhou. In June 2019 he published his first novel, Upperdown, with epoque press. He was been nominated for the Hennessey Award 2019/2020. He was one of the winners of the Irish Novel Fair 2018. In 2016 he won the Frank O Connor Mentorship Bursary Award and has been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story (2017), the Doolin Short Story award, the Curtis Bausse Short story award, the Fish Memoire (2018) and longlisted for the Fish Memoire prize (2016 & 2017) and the Colm Tobin Award (2017).

David Gilbey
Reeling & Writhing at a Distance: a poetry editing workshop

This is a closed workshop of two hours’ duration, limited to 8 participants. This year it will be offered via Zoom  Participants will submit drafts of poems which  will be circulated so each can read and prepare comments. In the workshop  writers will read their work and participants will provide editorial advice.

This workshop allows writers to work on a poem or two in readiness for publication, recognising that there are both personal and professional benefits from a closely-focussed discussion of emerging texts. So the purpose of this workshop is to give a small group of poets the opportunity to meet, read and discuss in depth a sample of each other’s work. Writers of varying degrees of experience are welcome. There will be two parts to the workshop: preparation and participation. Preparation also has two parts: submitting and close reading those who sign up for the session, all of whom will be contacted before the conference.

To sign up, contact David directly at

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

Don Maybin and Eucharia Donnery

Resuscitating “The Active Learner”: A journey of self-abuse?
Short Lecture with Q&A
Other Genre
Textbook writing

This is a report on our adventure of revising and re-publishing an out-of-print textbook series still very much in use. Revision work was guided by input from teachers who used the series. Our goal was to rewrite material and remove “warts”, including typos, wordy directions, poorly-ordered activities, and unscripted recordings that were too natural for their own good.

Although the copyright reverted to the authors, some components are locked in a “grey zone”, including illustrations and some recordings. 

A tentative work schedule was decided – then along came coronavirus and all schedules were ditched! And we need to consider the new textbook in an online context.

The final hurdle will be getting the book re-published. Should we go back to the publishers? Self-publish? Put it online? Each possibility has advantages and disadvantages. We will discuss all three.

Don Maybin and Eucharia Donnery work in the Department of Applied Computer Sciences at Shonan Institute of Technology (SIT) in Fujisawa. They are the current authors of “The Active Learner”, a communication management text designed to change behavior, especially with SIT’s lovable computer geeks.

Gregory Dunne
The Truth of Poetry
Short Lecture with Q&A

John Gardner stated that only writers of fiction tell the truth, as opposed to politicians, and just about everyone else. Writers of fiction, he went on, create worlds that are essentially dreams, and that if the dream should be interrupted by a false note, something untrue to the human experience, the novel would fail because the reader would stop reading. Thus, novelists are, in this sense, truth tellers. This lecture, applies a similar theory to lyric narrative poetry, and posits that the fictive worlds created within the narrative poem must be truthful and that this requires the poet to push beyond the literal into the more capacious world of the imagination.’

This lecture aims to help poets appreciate the way in which the autobiographical fact can work with the imagination to create a truer, more fully realized poem. The lecture will focus on poets trying to salvage drafts which aren’t working. It will provide strategies to help poets reach the goal of creating living, breathing, “true” poems.

Gregory Dunne is the author of Fistful of Lotus (Elizabeth Forrest, 2000), Home Test (Adastra Press, 2009), Other/Wise (Isobar Press, 2019) and Quiet Accomplishment: Remembering Cid Corman (Ekstasis Editions, 2014). He is associate poetry editor at Kyoto Journal and teaches in the Faculty of Comparative Culture at Miyazaki International College.

Hans Brinckmann
Making A Memoir From A Personal Journal
Lecture with Q&A

A memoir of one’s life in Japan can attract readers interested in Japan’s culture and society. especially if it reflects unbiased observation, interaction with residents, and thorough fact-checking, and is supported by a journal.

In 2005, I published a memoir entitled “The Magatama Doodle, One Man’s Affair with Japan,” which attracted enthusiastic reviews, as did the Japanese version in Hiromi Mizoguchi’s translation. It eventually went out of print, but second-hand copies remained available on amazon at exorbitant  prices – up to US$1,300! Its popularity made me decide to republish the book, with a new section covering the years up to now. The successor to the original publisher agreed to issue it under a new title,  “The Call of Japan: a Continuing Story – 1950 to the Present Day.”

The success of the original book was no doubt due to the personal nature of the story, and its roots in the postwar period, which was supported by the journal I kept over the years. It provided the flavour of authenticity, essential for a good memoir

Award-winning author Hans Brinckmann (URL:, born in The Hague, after a 36-year career as a “reluctant banker” turned to writing fiction, non-fiction and poetry. His titles include:

The Call of Japan: a Continuing Story – 1950 to the Present Day (Renaissance Books, UK, 2020) 

The Monkey Dance (H2H Publishers, 2017) A brief memoir of the last winter of WW 2 in Holland

In the Eyes of the Son, a novel (Savant  Books and Publications, Honolulu, 2014)

The Tomb in the Kyoto Hills and other stories (Strategic Publishers, 2012)

The Undying Day (H2H Publishers/Trafford, 2011) A bi-lingual selection of poetry written with side-by-side with Hiromi Mizoguchi’s translation

Showa Japan: the Post-War Golden Age and its troubled legacy (Tuttle, hardback 2008; paperback 2013) Japanese translation by Hiromi Mizoguchi (Random House-Kodansha, 2009)           

Noon Elusive and other stories (H2H Publishers/Trafford, 2006) 

The Magatama Doodle, One Man’s Affair with Japan, 1950-2004 (Global Oriental, UK, 2005)

Holly Thompson and Mariko Nagai

Re-envisioning Revisions: A YA/MG Novel Revision Workshop
Craft Workshop

A closed two-session workshop for those who pre-register

Please note: It is no longer possible to sign up for this workshop

Re-envisioning Revisions is a closed YA/MG novel revision workshop for participants who have pre-submitted complete novel drafts (original or J>E translation) for group feedback prior to JWC. At JWC, participants will discuss whole novel revision strategies and techniques and workshop writers’ selected revised excerpts.

Writers often get bogged down in whole novel revision and struggle to re-envision their work. This workshop will create groups of writers and translators of YA and MG fiction to read and comment on each other’s novel drafts prior to meeting for novel revision workshop sessions at JWC. The aim is to give YA/MG writers/translators a fixed deadline for completing a novel draft, to ensure that in small groups they can offer and receive feedback on drafts in advance of JWC. 

During the two back-to-back JWC Re-envisioning Revision workshops, writers will reflect on feedback, discuss tools and techniques identified for advancing their novel, and plan key strategies for revision. Writers/translators will have a chance to share a brief excerpt of a revised scene, and will set personal goals for completing whole novel revisions within the support of a larger writing group. The end goal is to grow writer revision practices toward developing strong YA/MG novels viable in today’s children’s and teen publishing markets. Open to participants who submit a completed draft of a young adult or middle grade novel by July 30. Those interested in participating should send an email of interest to by July 10 with JWC YA/MG Novel Revision in the subject heading.

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

Mariko Nagai ( is the author of Histories of Bodies: Poems, Georgic: Stories, Irradiated Cities, Dust of Eden, Under the Broken Sky and the forthcoming The Sword of Yesterday. Mariko Nagai is a Professor at Temple University Japan and is SCBWI Japan Co-Regional Advisor.

Iain Maloney
The Only Gaijin in the Village: Making Narratives Out of Experience
Lecture/Reading with Q&A

In 2016 my wife and I bought a house and moved to a small village in rural Gifu Prefecture. I began writing a series of columns for Gaijinpot about my experiences as the only gaijin in the village, which was published as a memoir in spring 2020.

This presentation will focus on making narratives out of the real world experiences, both personal and from contemporary history. There are two sides to this coin: I will talk about the process of fictionalizing real events, looking at writers such as David Peace, while touching on my own fiction work. I will also look at turning everyday experiences into memoir. I will talk about the process of moving from writing fiction to narrative non-fiction, the similarities between the two forms and the challenges inherent in leaving the imaginary for the actual. I will also talk about appropriation, and the tensions between factual accuracy and the requirements of storytelling.

Iain Maloney teaches English and creative writing at Nagoya University of Foreign Studies. He is the author of three novels and a collection of poetry. His memoir about life in rural Japan, The Only Gaijin in the Village, was published in spring 2020. @iainmaloney

Jane Joritz-Nakagawa, Yoko Danno and Goro Takano
Poetry Reading with Q&A

Yoko Danno, Jane Joritz-Nakagawa and Goro Takano will each read a brief selection of poetry from their recent books, followed by Q&A with the audience.

In this session three very experienced and widely published poets will read aloud recent work.  Time will be allotted at the end of the reading for participants to ask questions of the poets.

Although YOKO DANNO is Japanese, born and educated in Japan, she writes poetry solely in English. Her poems have appeared internationally in many journals and anthologies, online and in print.  Her recent books of poetry include: “Aquamarine” (Glass Lyre Press, 2014), “Woman in a Blue Robe” (Isobar Press, 2016), “Further Center: Poems 1970 ~ 1998” (with an introduction by Gary Snyder, The Ikuta Press, 2017) and “Photo Scrolls” (prose poems with photographic images, a collaboration with James C. Hopkins, the Ikuta Press, 2020). Visit:  

Click here for a list of Danno’s books on Amazon

JANE JORITZ-NAKAGAWA is the author of over a dozen books and chapbooks of poetry and also is the author of essays, short fiction, and cross-genre works.  Recent books include “Poems: New and Selected” (Isobar, 2018), “<<terrain grammar>>” (theenk Books, 2018), and, as editor, “women : poetry : migration [an anthology]”, theenk Books, 2017.  Her new poetry book “Plan B Audio” will be published in approximately July, 2020 with Isobar. Email is welcome at janejoritznakagawa(at)gmail(dot)com.  Visit:

GORO TAKANO has published three poetry collections through BlazeVOX (NY): “Responsibilities of the Obsessed,” “Silent Whistle-Blowers,” and “Non Sequitur Syndrome.”  “On Lost Sheep,” Takano’s translation of the works of the Japanese modernist poet Shiro Murano, was published through Tinfish (HI). Takano’s first Japanese-only poetry collection, “Nichiyo-bi no Shinju” (“Sunday Double Suicide”) was published through Karan-sha (Fukuoka). 

Joan Bailey
Meet the Editor and Talk about the Pitch
Panel Discussion

Join editors from five Japan-based publications to discover what kinds of story pitches they are looking for, what makes a good one, and why pitches get passed over. Learn the dos and don’ts of pitching as well as how to catch a busy editor’s eye.

This panel discussion will feature five editors from Japan-based publications: The Japan Times, Savvy Tokyo, Gaijin Pot, Tokyo Cheapo, and Tokyo Weekender. Each editor will share generally what kinds of stories they are interested in and what they are looking for now; what makes a good pitch; what doesn’t make a good pitch; what additional skills are helpful; and what they want to know about you, the writer. They will also discuss the challenges their publications face and how that affects freelance writers pitching stories to them. Participants will have a chance to ask specific questions about the pitching process and leave with a list of resources.

Joan Bailey is a freelance writer based in Tokyo. Her work focuses on food, farming, farmers markets, and travel. Her work can be found at The Japan Times, Tokyo Weekender, Modern Farmer, Civil Eats, Savvy Tokyo, and Outdoor Japan. Visit to read your fill!

John Dougill
Writers in Kyoto: The Group
Short Lecture with Q&A

Writers in Kyoto was set up over five years ago with six members. It has since expanded to over 50 paid-up members. What do they do? Why do they exist? And what lessons can be learnt?

Writers in Kyoto is a group of some 50 published and self-published English-language authors with a special connection to the ancient capital. It is run on a membership basis and is involved with promotion, book launches, readings, the exchange of information, and social events. We have a good relationship with Tuttle and collaborate with Kyoto Journal and the Kansai branch of SWET.

Our main activities include lunch talks, a writing competition, and producing anthologies of members’ writing. We also run a website and have two Facebook pages, one for public viewing and one for members only. In addition we have invited some of the country’s leading writers to give presentations – Karel van Wolferen, Robert Whiting, Richard Lloyd Parry, Judith Winters Carpenter, and Alex Kerr amongst others. 

In this presentation the speaker will review the first five years with a view to seeing what lessons can be learnt.

John Dougill is a retired professor of British Culture, who has been 30 years in Japan. Amongst his books are Kyoto, A Cultural History; Japan’s World Heritage Sites; Zen Gardens and Temples of Kyoto; and In Search of Japan’s Hidden Christians. He runs the Green Shinto blog and is founder-organiser of Writers in Kyoto.

John Gribble, Kristina Butke, Percival Constantine, Alec McAulay, Warren Decker
The MFA: The Good, The Bad, and The Expensive
Panel Discussion

Should I get an MFA or other graduate-level degree in writing? Aren’t they expensive? Are they difficult? Are they any good? What sort of program should I look at? What kind of benefits should I expect to receive? These questions and others will be addressed in this session.

Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and other advanced degrees with a writing emphasis have become a viable option for those seeking to improve their writing skills and advance themselves professionally. Some programs are full- or part-time on a university campus, some are on-line, some are hybrids, blending elements of both. The panelists, all with advanced writing degrees, will each talk about the programs they attended, their own experiences and answer your questions.

John Gribble is a noted gasbag. He rarely knows what he is talking about, but he states his ignorant opinions with great vigor. He has spent far too much of his life in school and other institutions. He is also a poet, co-organizer of the Japan Writers Conference and the Tokyo Writers Workshop, and earned his MFA at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. His available books are Another Wrong Fedora and Ueno Mornings.

Kristina Elyse Butke is an American writer, editor, and teacher who indulges in cosplay, art, and all things otaku. She has a BA in English Literature from Capital University and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. A former college English teacher, playwright, and composer, she now writes fantasy and horror. Her work has been published by ExFic, First Class Literary, and Synaeresis Magazine, among others. She’s also worked the convention circuit, presenting panels on writing fanfiction and genre fiction at events such as Ohayocon, Matsuricon, and Colossalcon. In terms of editing, one of her latest projects included subtitle edits for Pied Piper Inc.’s release of the anime Skip Beat!, and she currently edits and contributes to Speculative Chic.

Kristina lives in Kumamoto prefecture in Japan, where she works in multiple high schools as an assistant language teacher. When she isn’t working on all the things, she travels to shrines, hunts for Kumamon, and spends more money than she should at the JUMP shop.

Raised on a consistent diet of superhero comics, action movies, and video games, Percival Constantine wanted to grow up and write the type of fiction he consumed. Now as a prolific author of pulp fiction, he’s written around thirty books across various genres. He’s also the host two podcasts—Japan On Film and Superhero Cinephiles. When he’s not working on projects, he somehow finds time to teach classes in literature, film, and English. Born and raised in Chicago, he’s now based in Kagoshima, Japan. 

Alec McAulay is an award-winning writer and director. Originally from Glasgow, Scotland, he has lived in Japan since 1989. He teaches Creative Writing at Yokohama National University. Alec has an MA Screenwriting (Distinction), and a PhD (Screenwriting) from the Faculty of Media & Communication, Bournemouth University. His children’s novel Robot Santa (unpublished) is about a ‘hafu’ Scottish-Japanese girl who builds a robot Santa to save Christmas.

Warren Decker is a teacher and writer based in Izumi, Japan. He has published poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in The Best American Poetry 2018, The New Ohio Review, Modern Haiku, Sou’wester, and other journals. His first book of poetry The Long Side of the Midnight Sun is available from Isobar Press. He has an MFA in creative writing from the online program at the University of Texas, El Paso.

Kai Raine
Subsidy Presses and Self-Publishing: A First Timer’s Perspective
Short Lecture with Q&A

There is a lot of information out there about self-publishing, but it can be overwhelming for a first-timer. In this lecture, I will detail my first experience with subsidy publishing, and lessons I have since learned in self-publishing.

When self-publishing, there is a lot to consider: ISBNs, cover art, editors, layout, format… And all this on top of all the writing and polishing of your writing. This can be overwhelming for a first-time self-publisher, who might not know where to start.

In this lecture, I will recount my first publishing experience, in which I went with a subsidy press, and explain the lessons I learned about both self- and subsidy publishing.

I will share information about Gatekeeper Press, the publisher I used, but I will also detail some downsides of that experience.

This is a lecture aimed at first-time authors.

Kai Raine is a PhD student of cognitive science in robotics. Kai is the author of the subsidy-published fantasy novel These Lies That Live Between Us. Kai spends her free time writing and reading anything she can get her hands on.

Karen Hill Anton
Memoir: Everyone has a story – here’s how you can tell (write!) yours
Short Lecture with Q&A

Memoirists speak of their experience of writing as cathartic, but this author thinks it may be much more than that. She says writing your memoir, an endeavor of personal storytelling you’re prepared to share with the world, can be a deeply satisfying revelation.

Having recently published The View From Breast Pocket Mountain: A Memoir, in this session the author will share what she’s learned, and explore with attendees the essential elements of this genre.

In this session we will cover such topics as Chronology, Identifying Theme, Structure, Yourself as the Principal Character, Voice, Detail, and Dialogue.

Karen Hill Anton wrote the column “Crossing Cultures” for the Japan Times (1985-1999). Her short story appears in “The Broken Bridge” (Stone Bridge Press) and recently in the essay collection “The Meaning of Michelle” (St. Martin’s Press). Originally from New York City, she’s lived with her family in rural Shizuoka since 1975.

Recipient of the “Outstanding Nonfiction (Memoir)” award at the Southern California Writers Conference, September 2018, The View From Breast Pocket Mountain is available at

Marco Lobo
Providing Authenticity through Research in Both Fiction and Non-Fiction
Short Lecture with Q&A

A look into research sources for developing timelines and fact-checking in order to build an environment that supports a credible narrative.

One of the greatest challenges in writing historical novels is ensuring that historical descriptions for the period are authentic.  Often an arduous task, it is also a delight to be able to immerse readers in the real world of a novel’s protagonists and antagonists.

With no experience of biographical writing, I accepted a commission to document the life of a historical figure (and family member) who died in the 1960’s. With a very restrictive deadline, I threw myself into the research and successfully completed the project on time. Reviews of the book have been overwhelmingly positive. I will share my experience with this project.

With a 40-year business career, Marco built his reputation by helping European and North American multinationals establish their commercial footprint in Japan and the wider Asia region.

He published his first book in 2012, ‘The Witch Hunter’s Amulet’ a historical novel. He has  since published three more historical novels: ‘Mesquita’s Reflections’, ‘The Atavist’, ‘JINCAN’, and  ‘…everyday is mine’, a biography of Pedro José Lobo.

Melinda Falgoust
The Mad, Mad, Science of Dissecting the Plot Monster: A Universal Formula for Success
Short Lecture with Q&A, Craft Workshop

It IS Rocket Science…well, sort of.

Participants learn the scientific formula distilled from the teachings of master storytelling gurus worldwide which can be applied universally across all types of writing.  With a slight margin for error, the formula holds true for most successful works, many which will be examined in this presentation.

Every good doctor (evil genius scientist) knows the inner mechanics of his patient (or monster).  Writers are no different.  We have no Gray’s Anatomy, but we do have some scions of story science to provide guidance to the systems and organs that make a truly good story sing – the 16 elements that form the anatomy of plot.

Attendees will participate in guided dissection of some successful, well-known titles in children’s and adult literature to see how the Plot Formula applies and, when adhered to, nearly guarantees a concise, tightly woven plot that keeps the monster under control. 

Melinda Falgoust is an internationally award-winning author whose writing has appeared in Reader’s Digest, AHMM, and others.    Most recently, she was recognized as a finalist in the Clive Cussler Adventure Writer’s Competition.  The veteran actor often reaches into her actor’s bag-of-tricks to introduce quirky characters that bring her presentations alive!

Michael Frazier
I AM MY FAMILY (a persona workshop)
Craft Workshop

This is a poetry workshop (open to writers of all genres) who are interested in writing about and through their family. We will use the persona form—writing in the voice of family members—to interrogate ourselves. Some poets we’ll look at include Natalie Diaz, Paul Tran, and Julian Randall.

No one can move forward without looking back at where they’ve come from. This is the principle that guides this workshop. Persona poetry is poetry in the voice of someone, or thing, other than ourselves: shiba inu, wild iris, Sailor Moon, Kanye West, or even your bed. We will use the persona to focus on and interrogate our own families and make meaning out of the relationships that have formed us. In order to embody the voices of our family (biological or chosen) we must practice radical empathy. While a persona is in the voice of someone else, my hope is that in the poems we will write, we will turn inwards and learn something new about ourselves. We will look at writers who wield the persona and voices of their family with urgency like Paul Tran, Yalie Kamara, Hiwot Adilow, K-Ming Chang, Natalie Diaz, and Eduardo C. Corral.

Michael Frazier is a poet in Kanazawa. He graduated from NYU, where he was the 2017 poet commencement speaker & co-champion of CUPSI. He’s performed at venues including Nuyorican Poets Café & Lincoln Center. On staff at The Adroit Journal, his poems appear in COUNTERCLOCK, Construction, Visible Poetry Project, among others.

Mike (Michael) Guest
Depicting Multiple Identities and Marginalized Characters in Fiction
Short lecture with Q&A

Intersecting cultural, ethnic, and social identities are a feature of our increasingly hybrid/hyphenated society, and one that has emerged in modern fiction. In this presentation, with reference to his own writing struggles, the presenter will discuss how writers might tackle the depiction of such characters while avoiding stereotypes and caricatures. 

Intersecting and, often, competing senses of self and other — ethnic, cultural, linguistic, sexual, or social — is a fact of 21st century life. The world is becoming increasingly populated with hyphenized-hybrid cultural and linguistic identities, a wider recognition of non-traditional sexual/gender identities, ‘third-culture children’, all working within multiple socio-cultural milieus. Such characters are also now increasingly emerging in fiction, as in the presenter’s novel, ‘The Aggrieved Parties’. This, however, creates a fiction writer’s dilemma: How can we depict such complexity in our characters without falling into the traps of pandering to stereotypes or using such characters merely as vehicles for socio-political commentary? Taking examples from both his own and others’ work plus thirty years’ experience living and traveling ‘abroad’, the presenter hopes to ignite a discussion as to how balance, sensitivity, and accuracy in creating complex identities in pan-cultural fiction might best be achieved.

Michael (Mike) Guest is Associate Professor of English in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Miyazaki. Besides over twenty years’ worth of academic publications, Guest has written two novels, the latest being ‘The Aggrieved Parties’

The Aggrieved Parties: A Novel

He also maintains an EFL blog, ‘Musings and Methods’,

and a literary blog, ‘Honeyed Badger Feet’.

Mike Guest’s Blog: Honeyed Badger Feet

Michael Pronko
The Structuring Blues
Short lecture with Q&A

This talk will propose various forms of structuring in the creative process. Both conceptual and practical approaches to employing structuring processes will be explained as ways to enhance the creative process and become more productive. 

Structuring longer forms of writing is extremely important. Some writers can handle that in their head, but many need the help of paper, pen, craft books and computer tools. This talk will go into the how and why of structuring a novel with a focus on keeping the process flowing, productive and changeable. Structure need not be confining, formulaic or straightjacketing. Just the opposite, utilizing structure is one of the most important ways to improvise and create freely. This short lecture with Q&A will talk about the stages of structuring a novel, starting with the initial core idea and moving through three- and five-part concepts of structure, to final revisions. At each stage of the process, a supple, tensile concept of structure can greatly enhance improvised creativity and narrative flow. The talk will look at various techniques for best using structuring techniques.

Michael Pronko has written for many publications. His mystery novels, The Last Train and The Moving Blade, won numerous awards. Tokyo Traffic was released in 2020. He also has three books about Tokyo life and runs the website Jazz in Japan. He teaches American Literature at Meiji Gakuin University.

Michael Dylan Welch
Going Nowhere: Learning Haiku from Pico Iyer (and a writing exercise)
Lecture with exercise and discussion

Join Michael Dylan Welch for an inspirational PowerPoint presentation on the art of going nowhere, and writing haiku about it. Haiku poets are accustomed to seeing the virtue of the ordinary, but now that we’re all mostly still in coronavirus lockdown, or have been for a while, we’ve all been forced to “go nowhere.” Pico Iyer, the well-known travel writer based in Kyoto, has written about the art of stillness that finds much in common with haiku. This presentation explores his ideas and applies them to haiku, and may inspire you even if you write other poetry or fiction. You can help with the presentation by taking turns reading “nowhere” haiku shown on screen. After the presentation and a brief discussion, we’ll turn our attention to a writing exercise, and then share what we write (if you like) for group discussion.

Michael Dylan Welch is originally from England, and grew up there and in Ghana, Australia, and Canada. He currently lives near Seattle, but enjoys visiting Japan (his wife is Japanese, from Gifu prefecture). Michael’s haiku have been recited for the Empress of Japan, performed at the Baseball Hall of Fame, printed on balloons, and chiselled into stone. He has won first prize in the Henderson, Brady, Drevniok, and Tokutomi haiku contests, among others, and his poems, essays and reviews have appeared in hundreds of books, anthologies, and journals in more than twenty languages. His translations from the Japanese (with Emiko Miyashita) have included books on Noh, furoshiki, bonsai, and a translation of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, a selection of which appeared on the back of 150,000,000 U.S. postage stamps. Michael  was also keynote speaker for the 2013 Haiku International Association convention in Tokyo. He served as vice president of the Haiku Society of America for many years, and cofounded the Haiku North America conference in 1991 and the American Haiku Archives in 1996. He founded the Tanka Society of America in 2000 (and returned recently as president), the annual Seabeck Haiku Getaway in 2008, and National Haiku Writing Month in 2010 ( Michael has also served two terms as poet laureate of Redmond, Washington, where he is also president of the Redmond Association of Spokenword and curator since 2006 of the monthly SoulFood Poetry Night readings. He has published more than 75 books, mostly related to haiku. You can learn more about Michael, and read his essays and poems at www.

Naomi Hirahara
The Gardener Did It: Developing a Mystery Sleuth
Lecture with Q&A

One of the most popular categories of books, the mystery genre opens a door to history, culture and setting. At the center of a successful standalone novel or series is its sleuth.

Naomi Hirahara, author of the Edgar Award-winning Mas Arai mystery series, will share specific details on how she developed her gardener protagonist and discuss other sleuths–from classics such as Sherlock Holmes to more contemporary ones like Maisie Dobbs. 

A former journalist with The Rafu Shimpo newspaper in Los Angeles, Naomi worked on her debut book for 15 years before SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI was published in 2004 by Random House. Since then she has released a total of 10 mysteries, one middle-grade book and several nonfiction history books. Her final Mas Arai mystery, HIROSHIMA BOY, will be published in Japan by Shogakukan in 2021. Her upcoming historic standalone set in 1944 Chicago, CLARK AND DIVISION, is scheduled for publication in 2021 with Soho Crime. For more information, go to All her novels, both print and electronic, are available on all platforms; the entire Mas Arai mystery series, including two in Japanese, are offered as audiobooks on Audible.

Patrick Parr
How to Write and Sell Biography
Short Lecture with Q&A

For anyone looking to write about someone other than themselves. To write original biographical portraits, it takes knowing where to look. Archives, interviews, microfilm…if you like these words, come on in.

For this presentation/Q and A, I’ll take the audience through a simple five-step process to create a unique article about someone who you assume everything has been written about. 

I’ll also show how I started creating my ‘biographical portrait’ platform back in 2014 after writing short fiction for fifteen years. 

I’ll also describe how to properly research and write an article (or book) about a well-known historical figure, such as Albert Einstein or Martin Luther King Jr.

Patrick Parr’s first book is The Seminarian: Martin Luther King Jr. Comes of Age. His newest is One Week in America: The 1968 Notre Dame Literary Festival and a Changing Nation. He is a history columnist for Japan Today and teaches at Lakeland University of Japan.

Paul Rossiter, Warren Decker, Gregory Dunne, Jane Joritz-Nakagawa, Philip Rowland
This Year at Isobar
Reading with Q&A

Five Isobar poets will introduce and read from their latest books: The Long Side of the Midnight Sun (Warren Decker), Other/Wise (Gregory Dunne), Plan B Audio (Jane Joritz-Nakagawa), and The Painting Stick (second, expanded edition, Paul Rossiter), NOON: An Anthology of Short Poems (Philip Rowland, editor).

In this session, five Isobar authors will introduce their latest books. Warren Decker will perform passages from his book-length poetic drama, The Long Side of the Midnight Sun, in which the hero, Craig, along with his wife and family, leaves home in Osaka and embarks on a mind-altering journey in Ocean City, Maryland. Gregory Dunne will read his quietly moving elegies and open-hearted poems of friendship, marriage, family and vocation from his collection Other/Wise. Jane Joritz-Nakazawa will read from Plan B Audio, her powerful book-length poem written in response to a life-threatening illness and in the aftermath of the radical surgery that saved her life. Paul Rossiter will read from The Painting Stick, a collection of poems from 1991-2002, originally published in 2005; eleven (at last finished!) poems from the same period have been added to this second, expanded edition. Philip Rowland will read from NOON: An Anthology of Short Poems, which he edited. 

Warren Decker lives in Izumi, Japan, 

trapped in his doubts, but presuming he can

write his way out by rhyming each line 

with his feet keeping time. He aspires to shine

like a luminous wave of blinding compassion 

but was just a dim ripple the last time we asked him. 

Warren’s poetry, fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The Best American Poetry 2018, Frogpond, Modern Haiku, NOON: journal of the short poem, Acorn, The New Ohio Review, THINK, Sou’wester, Fifth Wednesday, and several other online and print journals. He has also been spotted performing his rhymed poetry online and in front of live audiences in Osaka.  

Gregory Dunne is the author of Fistful of Lotus (Elizabeth Forrest, 2000), Home Test (Adastra Press, 2009) and Quiet Accomplishment: Remembering Cid Corman (Ekstasis Editions, 2014). He is an associate poetry editor at Kyoto Journal and teaches in the Faculty of Comparative Culture at Miyazaki International College. Dunne has published poetry in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, cold drill, Crazyhorse, Hummingbird, Kyoto Journal, Modern Haiku, Poetry East, Poetry Kanto, Rock and Sling, Verse and Voice and Yomimono, among others. His books are Fistful of Lotus (Elizabeth Forrest, 2000) and Home Test (Adastra Press, 2009). His critical memoir, Quiet Accomplishment: Remembering Cid Corman was published in 2014 (Ekstasis Editions).

Jane Joritz-Nakagawa is the author of ten poetry collections, as well as chapbooks, ebooks, and a volume of selected poems: Poems: New & Selected (2018). She has also edited an anthology of innovative transcultural poetry and essays by fifty women poets titled women : poetry : migration [an anthology]. She has published poetry, essays and memoirs in many journals, including A glimpse of, The Argotist Online UK, Dispatches from the Poetry Wars, Marsh Hawk Review, Modern Haiku, New American Writing, NOON: journal of the short poem, Otoliths, Past Simple, Plumwood Mountain, Sibila, Tears in the Fence, Translating Chronic Pain, and Wordgathering. She has published ten books of poetry, including Poems: New & Selected (Isobar Press, 2018), and in 2018 she edited women : poetry : migration [an anthology] (theenk Books).

Paul Rossiter has published nine books of poetry since 1995. After retiring from teaching at the University of Tokyo in 2012, he founded Isobar Press, which specialises in publishing English-language poetry from Japan. More information about Isobar Press can be found at: Journals where his work appear include NOON: journal of the short poem, Otoliths, PN Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, Tears in the Fence, Shearsman, Tokyo Poetry Journal and World Haiku. He has published nine books of poetry since 1995: the most recent are Temporary Measures (Isobar Press, 2017), and On Arrival (Isobar Press, 2019).

Philip Rowland lives in Tokyo, where he works as a professor of English. He is the author of Something Other Than Other (Isobar, 2016), the founding editor of NOON: journal of the short poem, editor of NOON: An Anthology of Short Poems (Isobar, 2018), and co-editor of the anthology Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (Norton, 2013). His other publications include together still (Hub Editions, 2004), where rungs were (Noon Press, 2007), someone one once ran away with (Longhouse, 2009), before music (Red Moon Press, 2012), Something Other Than Other (Isobar, 2016). He is the founding editor of NOON: journal of the short poem.

Percival Constantine
Finding Success With Self-Publishing
Lecture with Q & A

The rise of ebooks has made it easier than ever to get your book to your readers without going through a publisher. But is self-publishing even right for you? How do you find readers? Can you actually make money? Self-published author Percival Constantine will help you answer these questions and more so you are better informed about what decision is best for your writing career.

Raised on a consistent diet of superhero comics, action movies, and video games, Percival Constantine wanted to grow up and write the type of fiction he consumed. Now as a prolific author of pulp fiction, he’s written around thirty books across various genres. He’s also the host two podcasts—Japan On Film and Superhero Cinephiles. When he’s not working on projects, he somehow finds time to teach classes in literature, film, and English. Born and raised in Chicago, he’s now based in Kagoshima, Japan.


Steve McClure
The Art of the Interview
Short Lecture with Q&A

Veteran journalist Steve McClure passes on some tips about how to prepare for, conduct, and write up a successful interview.

There’s a lot more to conducting a successful interview than sitting down with your subject and turning on your recording device (or opening your notebook) and asking questions. In this talk, veteran Tokyo-based journalist Steve McClure outlines how to prepare for, conduct, and write up an interview so that the finished product — in print or electronic form — is clearly presented, informative and maybe even entertaining. Making an interview work involves striking the right balance between planning and spontaneity, thinking on your feet, and remembering that the point of doing an interview is to enable the subject to communicate his or her ideas or information to your intended audience — it’s not about you. A good interviewer is a combination of stenographer, psychologist and logician. And good interviewing skills are useful in all sorts of fields — not just journalism.

Steve McClure is a native of Vancouver, Canada, and has lived in Tokyo since 1985. From 1991 until 2008 he was the Japan correspondent and then Asia bureau chief of Billboard magazine. He now works as a TV news rewriter at NHK World as well as a freelance writer and narrator.

Steve Redford
Stuck in a Dark Tunnel? Really? — Managing the Writing of a Novel
Short lecture with a bit of workshopping and discussion

This presentation/discussion will focus on the problems involved in managing the writing of a novel–useful, hopefully, for those who have in the past struggled with “keeping a novel together,” and for those trying to tackle a long piece of fiction for the first time.

You’ve got an idea for a novel, a rough idea of plot and conflicts, a rough idea for five or six major characters. You want to guarantee the likelihood of producing an excellent work of fiction and increase the likelihood of finishing it. How much more brainstorming about character and plot should you do before you actually begin the writing of the novel itself? How completely do you need to understand each character’s personality, quirks, likes/dislikes, past experiences, recent experiences, and impressions?These are questions this presentation will address. After some statements on writing by a number of novelists, the presenter will discuss how he’s approaching the writing of his current project. A short exercise will follow, encouraging participants to consider how important depth of knowledge about a character can be.

Steve Redford is originally from Atlanta, Georgia. He has one M.A. in American Literature and Creative Writing, and another in Advanced Japanese Studies. He has been a professor of American literature at Shizuoka University for twenty-two years. Most importantly, he is a hiker, a ukulele player, and a gardener. His website is

Steve’s books include: When a Sissy Climbs a Mountain in May and Along the Same Street

Steven Wolfson
The Art of Cinematic Storytelling
Lecture with Q&A

The greatest challenge facing all screenwriters, whether novice or professional, is the process of transforming a premise into a compelling, sustainable story. This workshop focuses solely on the art of the story, with an emphasis on such fundamentals as character development, super-objective, rising conflict, scene work, and three-act structure. Participants learn how to spot critical mistakes often made in the first draft of a screenplay. The final goal of the workshop is a greater understanding of what makes a story work and a series of tools that participants can immediately apply to their current script.

Steven Wolfson has been an Outstanding Instructor of the Year  in The Writers Program at UCLA twice where he has taught for the past 20 years. A highly sought-after story consultant and dramaturg, he has worked one-on-one with several A-list Hollywood writers and directors.

As a screenwriter, Wolfson has sold projects to Fox, Lions Gate, TNT, MTV, Langley Entertainment, Beacon Films and producer Arnold Rifkin.  Wolfson wrote the independent romantic comedy, Dinner and Driving, which premiered at The Austin Film Festival and went on to win audience awards at several film festivals and was sold to HBO. Wolfson also wrote and co-produced the critically acclaimed Lionsgate feature, Gang Tapes, a coming-of-age drama set in South Central, Los Angeles. Gang Tapes played to sold-out audiences at film festivals in both The United States and Europe.

Suzanne Kamata
Wheelchair User or Wheelchair-bound?: Writing About Disability
Short Lecture with Q&A
Fiction, Nonfiction

In this session, I will discuss positive and problematic representations of persons with disabilities in literature, including my own work, with a view to developing better awareness.

With the approach of the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics (hopefully), people with disabilities in Japan have been given more attention than perhaps ever before. English textbooks for Japanese children now frequently include stories about or representations of people with disabilities. Worldwide, initiatives such as #weneeddiversebooks and the call for #ownvoices have led to an increase of  books featuring characters with disabilities. That said, some of these representations, and the way that they are discussed remain problematic. When do stories about disability become “inspiration porn”? What kind of language should we use when discussing disability? Who has the right to tell these stories? In this session, I will address these questions, using examples from recently published Japanese textbooks and literature featuring children in Japan and other countries, including my own work.

Suzanne Kamata is the award-winning author or editor of twelve published books including Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs (Beacon Press, 2008), Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible (GemmaMedia, 2013), A Girls’ Guide to the Islands (Gemma Open Door, 2017), Squeaky Wheels: Travels with My Daughter by Train, Plane, Metro, Tuk-tuk and Wheelchair (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2019), and Indigo Girl (GemmaMedia, 2019). She is an Associate Professor at Naruto University of Education.

Todd Jay Leonard
Publishing in the EFL Market in Japan:  Four Perspectives on How to Make your Proposal Count
Short lecture with Q & A

This presentation will outline the current publishing market in Japan for EFL/ESL textbooks by reviewing the various points of views of the publishing industry.  The presenter has published extensively within the ESL/EFL market in Japan and will offer helpful advice to  budding authors who wish to pursue projects geared to Japan’s domestic market.

Most likely, every language teacher in Japan has (at some point during his/her tenure) contemplated writing a textbook to fill a void in the market…in that constant search for the perfect, all encompassing textbook.

In today’s competitive publishing world, getting the proverbial “foot in the door” can seem daunting and nearly impossible.  What are publishers looking for in the current market?  What appeals to editors who ultimately decide which titles go to production and which ones do not?  What are the salespeople on the front lines hearing from their market base?  What must an author do in order to get his/her book published?

This presentation focuses on these very questions, offering inside insights from all the various points of view that must be considered when writing a proposal to publish a textbook–the publisher, the editor, the salesperson, and the author. Professor Leonard explains the realities within the publishing industry and addresses some common myths associated with EFL publishing.

Todd Jay Leonard has been actively involved in book publishing for thirty years. He is the author of 22 books. He has published books with a number of different Japanese publishing companies. He lives, writes, and teaches on the southern island of Kyushu,  where he is a university professor at University of Teacher Education Fukuoka.  He has also published extensively in academic journals, magazines, and newspapers on cross-cultural, historical, and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) themes.

Warren Decker
Pterodactylic Pentagrameter: Working with Rhyme and Meter
Craft Workshop

In this workshop we will focus on poetry that incorporates rhyme and meter. As a participant, please bring 2-10 lines of rhymed and metered poetry for us to discuss. Please also be ready to share your unique techniques for finding the right meter and rhymes for your poetic lines.

Paradoxically, the confines of rhyme and meter can often serve to open unexpected creative doors. One who sets out to write about “fractals” may find “pterodactyls” swooping into their poem. Maintaining a regular pattern of stressed and unstressed beats might lead a poet—after many hours at the keyboard—feeling as though a supernatural rhythmic force is guiding them to choose the perfect words and in the perfect order. 

In this workshop, while looking at specific examples of rhyme and meter as exhibited in the participants’ samples, we will collectively attempt to recall the wonderful technical terminology describing syllabic meter (for example: “iambic pentameter,” and “dactylic tetrameter”), but also consider looser and more intuitive accentual poetic rhythms. 

Furthermore, we will discuss the incredible variation contained within the seemingly simple concept of “rhyme,” focusing on concrete examples to understand how and why certain rhymes work.

Warren Decker has published poetry, fiction and non-fiction in The Best American Poetry 2018, NOON, The Font, Frogpond, Modern Haiku, Acorn, The New Ohio Review, THINK, Sou’wester, Fifth Wednesday, and several other online and print journals. He also performs his poetry online and in front of live audiences in Osaka.

Wendy Jones Nakanishi (aka Lea O’Harra)
How to Write a Crime Novel
Short lecture w/ Q & A

I will offer advice and suggestions to individuals who wish to try to write a murder mystery. These include the importance of creating a group of clearly-defined individuals (including, of course, the potential victim and the potential murderer) within a well-established context: people with whom readers can identify, in situations which are readily comprehensible, Plotting, naturally, is an essential component of such a novel. The author needs to increase the tension and stakes (and suspense) steadily throughout the book. All the main plot lines and subplots need to support or complement each other, ratcheting up the tension.  Detail has to be vividly presented — and made implicit rather than explicit, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions. I will provide examples from  from famous exemplars of this fiction genre as well as from my own crime fiction novels.

Wendy Jones Nakanishi, an American by birth, has lived in Japan for 36 years, employed full-time at private Japanese universities. She has published widely in her academic field of English literature and also writes creative non-fiction and short stories. In recent years, under the pen name of Lea O’Harra, she has published three crime fiction novels in her ‘Inspector Inoue Mystery Series.’

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