For the past two years, I’ve been working on an MFA in Creative Writing through the Optional Residency Program at the University of British Columbia. It’s been challenging and exhilarating, especially since during that time I also started my first full-time job in fifteen years, and launched a new novel. I’ve now finished my course work. I still have to complete a dissertation, but I can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. I took some classes in subjects that I wasn’t quite comfortable with, such as poetry. I’m so pleased to present a couple of poems that I produced in that workshop and revised with feedback from my classmates, many of them well-published poets.

Here are “Night at the Theater” and “1.5 Kilometers from Ground Zero.”



My Night as a Diva

Only in Japan, folks. (photo courtesy of girl fantasies aside, I’ve always been shy. For a long time, the only thing worse than speaking in public was having to sing in public, i.e. at those end-of-the-year parties I had to attend while working at the Board of Education in a small Japanese town. I didn’t know many of the songs on the karaoke machine because they were in Japanese. There were some Beatles hits and Carpenters classics, but that’s about it.

I sometimes sing while listening to music, or when I’m by myself, doing something mindless, but I don’t regularly hang out at karaoke bars. My daughter, however, wanted to go. She enjoys trying out her rock star moves while attempting to follow the lyrics on the TV screen during music shows. To be honest, she’s not good at singing, but she has a good time.

My son likes to sing, too, and I can often hear him when he’s plugged in to his iPod, wailing away. He’s started going out to karaoke boxes with his friends. I’d heard rumors that he was pretty good, that he’d gotten nearly a perfect score on “Let it Go.”

When my husband suddenly suggested going out for karaoke last week, I thought it might be fun. The kids would enjoy it, and we’d be doing something as a family. I was pleasantly surprised that my son was willing to go with the rest of us.

We went to a karaoke club and rented a box (a room with a table, sofas, and a karaoke machine) and started picking out songs. A lot had changed since my last trip to karaoke. Instead of looking through a song book, there was now an electronic device that seemed to have every song in the world.  Also, the machine rated each performance.

My son, with his renditions of hits by Exile and One Direction, had the highest scores, and we started re-thinking his future. Maybe he had potential as a pop star. My daughter tried the theme songs to her favorite anime shows and stayed above 50 points. We realized it was a good exercise in reading and in voice control. My husband sang some Japanese songs that I didn’t know, and I tried “Rill Rill” by Sleigh Bells  “Come See About Me,” by the Supremes, for which I got one of the highest scores of the night.

Two hours and about 8,000 yen (approx. $80) later, our time was up. As we got ready to leave, I thought about how I would practice my Beyonce for the next time.








The Writing Life Blog Hop

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

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

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”