Yesterday I got the latest issue of Poets & Writers magazine and discovered an essay about getting blurbs, which was kind of apropos. My publisher told me that he was waiting for a blurb to put on the front cover of my novel before going to press. I assumed that he’d sent the manuscript to lots of famous writers and was waiting for them to email words of praise. On the backs of other books published by the same publisher there are such blurbs from Pulitzer Prize winners and writers that I admire like Lee Smith and Ann Beattie. After reading the essay in Poets & Writers, I’m thinking that the authors of those books actually know the Pulitzer Prize winners and asked them directly for blurbs, and that my publisher was waiting for me to send him the blurbs. Oops. A little breakdown in communication there. I suppose it seems to him as if I know what I’m doing, but I ‘m just making it all up as I go along.
I did put a bunch of blurbs about my writing in general on my new website. I should have gotten these people to blurb about Losing Kei. Oh, well. I did manage to procure one blurb, but the book is supposed to go to press right about now, so there’s no time to ask anyone else.
We narrowly missed Princess Masako’s (er, Prince Naruhito’s) motorcade on Friday. There were policemen at every corner when I went to pick up Lilia at the deaf school, and also clusters of on-lookers, preparing to wave their little Japanese flags.
Princess Masako has made the front page of the newspaper two days in a row. She looks well, in her beige pantsuits, with her Chanel handbag, but it’s hard to tell her state of mind. This is her first public appearance in five months.
Speaking of princesses, I was both intrigued and dismayed to learn that John Burnham Schwartz has a new novel coming out. The novel, entitled The Commoner, is inspired by the life of Empress Michiko, who has had many stress-related health problems of her own. There is also a Masako-type princess in the story. The book got a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. It’ s going to be published in January, the same month as my novel, Losing Kei. Of course I’m going to read it, but this book has obliterated any slim chance I had of having my own novel mentioned in Vogue, Vanity Fair, etc. There’ s no way they would mention two novels about Japan in one issue, and Schwartz, who has already published three novels, one of which has been made into a major motion picture, and who writes features for Vogue and is obivously well-connected, will get all the ink.
Have just returned from a wildly busy weekend in Tokyo, where I attended the first ever Japan Writer’s Conference. Will report in more detail soon.
I’m feeling sort of grumpy today. Maybe it’s the heat. I also keep thinking about the email message that my mother sent from Michigan, where my dad was attending his class reunion. My dad went to high school in Reed City, which is kind of a podunk town (sorry if you’re from there). One of his classmates had a son who grew up to write a book. This son, Doug Stanton, was a special speaker at the class reunion. His book is about the U.S.S. Indianapolis, which sank during WWII. It was published by a major publisher and it’s going to be made into a movie. I’m happy for him. Really. It’s not the kind of book I’d normally read, but I understand that books like that are popular. Fine. So what bothered me about my mother’s email was her writing, “Maybe your book will be made into a movie, too. You never know, honey.” It’s as if having your book made into a movie somehow validates it. I’m sorry if people are too lazy to read, but how many times do you see a movie and think, “The book was so much better!” And I understand how movies reach more people, but why can’t the book be enough in itself? I would be happy about the money that I might get, but I don’t see how my novel could be turned into a movie. Some Hollywood screenwriter would make lots of changes, turn it into a thriller, and then it wouldn’t be my work at all. *Sigh* I suppose I should get used to this kind of thing. Next, Mom will say, “Maybe you’ll get a story published in Good Housekeeping, you never know.” Or “Maybe Oprah will have you as a guest. You never know.” But even if none of these things happen, I am still happy that I am about to publish my first book.
Last Sunday evening I had the great privilege to be a guest reader at Four Stories Osaka, a spin-off of the Four Stories reading series held in Boston. The whole thing was started (and is continued by) Tracy Slater, an emerging writer who teaches gender studies at a Boston prison. Tracy decides on a theme (this time it was loss and desperation) and invites four published writers to read for fifteen minutes each. I’ve been to three of these events so far, and it’s always a good time. Tracy is enthusiastic and supportive and a boon to the arts in Japan; every writer should have a Tracy!
The event was held at Portugalia Bar & Grill, just down the street from the American consulate. There was lots of food and wine and an attentive, literate audience, including a reporter from the Japan Times. I got to read along with Holly Thompson, author of the wonderful novel Ash, and a contributor to my anthology The Broken Bridge. It was fun to hang out and talk with her, and to have a look at the dummy of her forthcoming picture book. Brit Chris Page read a funny story and a man whose life is going down the drain, and American Jerry Gordon read a heartbreaking tale about a boy’s uneaten last lunch.
All of the readings and some photos from the event are now online. Mine is here. (I was holding a mike in one hand and my pages in the other. If you here a pause, that’s me trying to get tot he next page.) Depending on how fast your computer is, it may take awhile to download the audio portion.