The Writing Life Blog Hop

Published June 1, 2014 by gaijinmama

Fellow writer and expat Rachel Piehl Jones invited me to participate in this blog hop on the writing life. Be sure to check out her post and her excellent blog on living in Djbouti. Below, I will introduce more writers and books for you to discover.


Here are my replies:


1) What am I writing or working on now?

I am in various stages of three different projects including a young adult novel about a Japanese boy who returns to Japan after having lived abroad for three years, only to find that he no longer fits in; a follow-up to Gadget Girl in which Aiko visits post-disaster Japan and finally gets to know her father; and a mother-daughter travel memoir. I also occasionally write short pieces such as this newspaper article on writer Mariko Nagai, and a column for All Nippon Airway’s inflight magazine.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I often write from the experience of being an expat American in a conservative part of Japan where there are few foreigners. There are many expats writing about being a gaijin in Tokyo, for example, but not so many writing about what it’s like to raise a child with disabilities in the sticks.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Like many people, I write the kind of books that I want to read, and that I think my kids would like to read. The YA mentioned above was intially written for my son. The main character plays baseball here in Japan, as does my son. I read the whole book to him at bedtime. The books about Aiko are written for my daughter, although she doesn’t read English. Hopefully someone will translate them into Japanese one day! (Hint hint!)

Basically, I’m very interested in people of other cultures and experiences. I love doing the research (like traveling to Paris and drinking hot chocolate at Angelina’s with my daughter, or listening to grrl bands while I was writing my new novel Screaming Divas).

4) How does my writing process work?

When writing a first draft, I usually have an idea of the arc of the story and how it will end, but I don’t outline. I tend to write out of sequence and then piece everything together later. I don’t usually show my work-in-progress to anyone until I have a full draft, but last fall I enrolled in the MFA Program at the University of British Columbia, and I have been sharing chapters of my new novel with my classmates. It’s a delicate process.

After I’ve finished a draft, I usually senin to a few trusted beta readers and then revise. Rinse. Repeat. It seems to take me about four years to finish a book.


Check next week for posts from:

Helene Dunbar, author of the intensely beautiful new novel These Gentle Wounds

Fellow expat blogger and writer Melissa Uchiyama whose writing appeared recently in Literary Mama

and Christine Kohler, author of No Surrender Soldier, a fantastic novel set in Guam.




Talking Rock, Writing & Darius Rucker with Author Suzanne Kamata

Published May 25, 2014 by gaijinmama

Originally posted on therockmom:

So one of the best things about being part of the ‘Dragonfruit’ anthology is getting to know the work of other expatriate women writers. Women such as award-winning author, Suzanne Kamata, who lives in Japan. Her anthology essay, ‘Love and Polka Dots’, tells of a museum trip with her daughter, who is a budding artist herself but disabled, much like the artist they’ve come to see – Yayoi Kusama.

Writer, teacher, rock neighbor

Writer, teacher, rock neighbor

Suzanne’s interested in strength through self-expression and how creativity can be an empowering force, especially for young people. Two of her YA novels – Screaming Divas and Gadget Girl: the art of being invisible – deal directly with this idea. And since the protagonists of Screaming Divas start an all-girl rock band (heck yeah!), I thought it’d be fun to query Suzanne about her musical tastes and influences, and whether or not they intersect with what her kids – two teenagers –…

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Blog Tour: Screaming Divas by Suzanne Kamata – YA Reads Blog Tours

Published April 6, 2014 by gaijinmama

Happening now! The blog tour for my next novel, Screaming Divas, is now underway. Click on the link below for the full schedule of guest posts, excerpts, giveaways, and interviews:

Blog Tour: Screaming Divas by Suzanne Kamata – YA Reads Blog Tours.


Screaming Divas FINAL.indd


Kirkus Reviews on Screaming Divas: “Kamata’s (Gadget Girl, 2013) sensitive, restrained prose shines during small character moments—like Cassie’s fierce recitation of Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” during English class”

A poem for March

Published February 24, 2014 by gaijinmama

Because March mornings

were so blustery

I felt I had to hold on

to everything

with both hands

and all of my strength

or I would lose

the world.

In my black rubber boots

with my mittens on a string

I wanted to walk up the hill

become taller


big and broad enough to

block the wind.

I wanted to part the clouds

with a swish of my arms

to be

the king – or queen

of the universe.

Gadget Girl named the APALA Honor Book for YA Literature!

Published January 31, 2014 by gaijinmama

GadgetGirl_FinalSome happy news! Gadget Girl was named the APALA Honor Book in the young adult category at last weekend’s ALA Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia. I am extremely grateful to the Asian Pacific Librarians Association, as well as my publisher, GemmaMedia, my fellow SCBWI-Japan members, and everyone else who has given this book a chance. I am thrilled to find myself in the company of honorees Linda Sue Park, Gene Luen Yang, Ruth Ozeki, Leza Lowitz, Shogo Oketani, Cynthia Kadohata, and Jennifer Cody Epstein, among others.  Here is the full list of this year’s winners and honor books.

Of course you can purchase copies at Amazon, Powells, The Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, or your local bookstore (though you may have to ask them to order it). You can also check it out of your local library (or ask the library to order a copy if it’ s not yet in the collection).


How to Get a Book Deal: Timing is Almost Everything

Published December 6, 2013 by gaijinmama

Screaming Divas FINAL.indd

I can still clearly remember the phone call that I thought would change my life. I was in the bedroom, standing next to my infant twins’ crib, listening to one of the top children’s and young adult agents in the business telling me that she was passionate about my novel about an all girl punk rock band in 1980s Columbia, South Carolina, and that she would be persistent in finding a publisher. This is the big time, I thought. I’m about to publish my first novel!

I’d originally written it as an adult novel, but I was happy to revise it for the young adult market, and I foresaw devoting myself to angsty teen fiction. But the big-time agent couldn’t sell my novel. Well, if she can’t sell it, then nobody can, I thought.

I stuck the novel in a drawer. I wrote and published another novel, this one for adults. I compiled and edited two anthologies. I published a picture book, and a different young adult novel. But every now and again, I’d open the drawer, pull out that other novel, and revise it yet again.

Nobody would buy it since it was set in the 1980s, I thought. And the only books agents seemed to want at the time were paranormal and dystopian novels. Still, I couldn’t quite leave Screaming Divas alone. I decided to chop it up and sell it for parts. I placed a chapter in an anthology called Woman’s Work: Stories edited by Michelle Sewell. I placed another chapter in the literary journal Hunger Mountain.

A writer friend who’d read and loved Screaming Divas when I’d first written it, encouraged me to give the novel another try. After all, the editors who’d rejected it the first time around were no longer employed. And there seemed to be a resurging interest in the 1980s and in the riot grrl movement. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was on the New York Times bestseller list. Rainbow Rowell’s 1980s novel became hugely popular as well. And recently I came across no fewer than three young adult ballet novels set in that same time period. It looks as if the 80s are back.

Okay, I’ll give it one more try, I thought. A couple of new presses, headed by two of my favorite famous writers, had cropped up. I submitted to both on the same day. Little did I know, one writer/editor, Jacquelyn Mitchard, of Merit Press, had just started teaching at Vermont College of Fine Arts, the publisher of Hunger Mountain. Noting that part of my novel had been previously published in the journal, she immediately invited me to send more pages. (She was online when I hit “send,” so by immediately, I mean within an hour.) Within weeks, Jackie offered to publish my novel. The famous writer/editor of the other press sent me a list of revisions with an eye to the adult market and invited me to resubmit. By this time, however, I was pretty sure that I wanted to publish Screaming Divas as a young adult novel, and I was thrilled at the prospect of working with Jacquelyn Mitchard.

My infant twins are teens now, so it’s taken awhile, but the book will be published in May, 2014, by Merit Press.

Gourmet Girls in YA Fiction

Published November 7, 2013 by gaijinmama

I’m sharing a post that originally appeared on Christine Kohler’s blog:

ANYONE BUT YOU is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet in Chicago Italian restaurants. Mmm…pizza, anyone? To get a taste of how cleverly creative Kamata plays with food and cooking utensils, here’s a quote from GADGET GIRL: “Luckily, Gadget Girl has brought along her crème brȗlée torch. She’s been planning on using it to make a surprise dessert for Chaz’s victory dinner, but she whips it out early to melt the golem.”

Warning: You might want to wear a bib in case you drool while reading.

ANYONE BUT YOU by Kim Askew & Amy Helmes

The inspiration for Askew and Helmes’ third Twisted Lit novel, ANYONE BUT YOU, was the Montague and Capulet animosity in Romeo and Juliet. Why did the families despise each other in the first place? The authors’ re-imagined saga revolves around a bitter rivalry between two family-owned Italian restaurants in Chicago, and the mystery of how their feud began. Naturally, Askew and Helmes were influenced by the ongoing debate over who makes the best Chicago deep-dish pies: Gino’s East? Giordano’s? Lou Malnati’s? Pizzeria Uno? (Uh…they’re opting not to weigh in with a verdict on that, lest any diehards out there come after them with pizza-cutters!) The star-crossed lovers, Roman and Gigi, find forbidden love against the backdrop of homemade pasta and pizza dough. Going back in time—1933, to be exact—to explore the imagined history of their families’ epic impasse gave the authors an opportunity to tell the fascinating history of pizza in America. The dish wasn’t always standard fare in the States, but like the works of Shakespeare, it’s become a classic readers would be quite reluctant to live without.



GADGET GIRL by Suzanne Kamata.

For me, food is an integral part of culture. When reading a book set in a foreign country, I’m always interested to know what people eat. I’m sometimes even inspired to cook food mentioned in the book in order to add to my reading experience. I recently read a book set in Japan, which is one of the most food-obsessed cultures on earth, in which there were virtually no references to food. It made me distrust the author of that book a bit. How much did the author really know about Japan? I wondered.

In GADGET GIRL, my heroine, Aiko, visits France, another food-obsessed culture, so there are many references to cooking and various types of cuisine reflecting Paris’s multi-culturalism.

Food is also associated with love and affection…and motherhood. The mother in this book is not terribly interested in cooking. She is raising her daughter, who has cerebral palsy, single-handedly while pursuing her art. She doesn’t like cooking. My intention was not to write a bad mother, but to show that there are different ways of being a good mother. I think it’s important to teach kids the value of art, of having a consuming passion, of pursuing one’s art. Aiko and her mother take turns cooking (which allows the reader to see that even a person with “challenges” can put dinner on the table and be independent).

I also wanted to play a bit with expectations about gender. In my house, my Japanese husband makes breakfast every morning, cooks most meals on weekends, and packs our son’s lunch. Although this is atypical in Japan, I don’t think it should be. Aiko’s mom’s boyfriend, Raoul, is a big foodie. He loves cooking and produces fabulous meals for Aiko and her mother. And why not?

What other food-related YA novels can you recommend?


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