Squeaky Wheels is a Winner!

I’m so excited to report that my mother/daughter travel memoir was named Best Novel/Biography in the inaugural Half the World Global Literati Awards! (See details below!)

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Global, July 15, 2016 – Half the World Holdings, a women-focused investment platform, Friday announced Laurie Petrou as the winner of the inaugural Half the World Global Literati Award 2016. The prestigious international award recognizes unpublished work that reflects the complexity of women’s lives, and has at their heart a central female protagonist.
The winning submission, ‘Sister of Mine’, is a psychological thriller that explores themes of loyalty, betrayal and debt through the lives of two sisters bound by a knot of secrecy. Author Laurie Petrou is an associate professor of The RTA School of Media, Ryerson University, Toronto.

“The judges rewarded the taut writing of a compulsive page-turner which explores the complex relationship between two sisters with a damaging secret. Our shortlist plays with the themes of adventure and courage, dignity and struggle, with characters motivated by an overarching sense of love” explained Caroline Bowler, representative for Half the World Holdings. “We are moved to see this award embraced by all walks of life, from all over the world. This represents a very real desire to recognize women at the center of our cultural lives.”
Along with the top prize, there were also category and People’s Choice award winners, each collecting US$1,000. Suzanne Kamata, based in Japan, collected top prize in the novel category. Her teenage daughter, Lilia, was born deaf and affected by cerebral palsy but this hasn’t dinted her sense of adventure and thirst for exploration. Suzanne’s honest and raw biography ‘Squeaky Wheels’ describes a mother’s love to open up the world to her child.

Danna Petersen-Deeprose, a student at McGill University Montreal, collected the short story prize for her work ‘Looking for Lost Girl’, which describes the journey of a woman in her mid-twenties looking for the courage to start her own life. Top screenwriter Lisa Hagen has two old ladies plot their escape from a retirement home in ‘Dancing on the Elephant.’ The two friends explore the big questions in life; what is my legacy and why am I even here? Friendship was also the key theme for the People’s Choice award, decided by thousands of votes from the general public. Eventual winner was LA-based Jude Roth whose screenplay ‘Plan B’ tells of 3 women and the bonds that carry them when the chips are really down.

The Half the World Global Literati Award was set up in response to 2015 research from author Nicola Griffith, which identified that the majority of the significant literary prizes are awarded to works written from a male perspective. The award is set to return in spring 2017.

Statistics about the Half the World Global Literati Award 2016.
• 59 countries including Eritrea, Iran, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago
• 45.5 percent submissions are novels, 36.5 percent short stories, 18 percent screenplays

• Drama the most popular genre, topping novels & screenplays and a close second for short stories. Literary Fiction was the second most popular with Romance in third. Erotica comprised of less than 5 percent of all entrants.
• Majority of the short list are female (82.5 percent) vs male (17.5 percent)

About Half the World Holdings
Half the World Holdings, which was launched by Blackrun Ventures in March 2016, is a global investment platform in companies for whom women are the end-consumer. The
Half the World platform provides the capital, advisory and international networks needed to develop and scale these ventures globally. Blackrun and Half the World Holdings partners come from the worlds of private equity, investment banking, multinational businesses and entrepreneurship, with offices in Berlin, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, New York, Sydney and Singapore.
For more information, please visit http://halftheworld.media.

Bigger in Russia

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“A couple of years later, I got an email from the foreign rights department of a publisher in Russia. In grammatically creative English, the sender asked me to send copies of Call Me Okaasan, a collection of essays I’d edited on mothering children across two or more cultures, and my novel, Losing Kei. The message came through my website, not through my agent or publisher, so I immediately thought it was some sort of scam. Maybe they’d ask me to front a few thousand rubles for the translation of my books. Maybe they’d just ask for my bank details or credit card number, without having any intention of translating or publishing the work whatsoever.” Read more.

The Writer Without a Hometown

Before I came to Japan to teach English” for one year,” before I met and married a native son and settled here with my family, I lived in South Carolina, land of Palmettos and peaches, alligators and Gullah women selling handmade baskets at the side of the road, hurricanes and pampas grass and hush puppies. I’ve written about South Carolina, too, especially in my most recent novel, Screaming Divas, which is about an all-girl punk rock band in 1980s underground Columbia. These girls attend art shows in abandoned warehouses and dance in clubs with graffitied walls. Wanna-be punks with Southern accents, they eat plates of grits at 2AM in a café, across the street from the, capitol building pocked with Union bullets. Screaming Divas FINAL.indd.)

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The stories that I tell are odes to the places I love; writing is revisiting. Out of homesickness, I’ve found ways to link Japan and South Carolina in my writing. For instance, when I was working on my first novel, I learned that a young, aspiring artist from Columbia, named Blondelle Malone, had stopped off in Japan to paint on her way to France, where she would meet Claude Monet and impress him with her Japanese landscapes. After poring over her letters and articles on Japan at the South Caroliana Library, I wrote an article about Malone’s sojourn in Japan, and later wove her story into my first novel.

I have lived in various places, but I am, for all intents and purposes, a writer without a home town. There is no shelf for the works of local Anglophone-only writers at the nearest book store. My awards go unacknowledged by the Tokushima press, and it’s unlikely that a press release would get me onto Shikoku TV. While most writers can depend upon the support and enthusiasm of friends and neighbors, and have a list of people to invite to a book launch party, the good people of Aizumi take no notice of what I do because I am writing in a foreign language. My editors, readers, and critics are, for the most part, thousands of miles away, across oceans.

When I leave my desk in the afternoon and go out into the world, children passing by on the way home from school with satchels strapped to their backs, look at me and shout “Hello!” They see me as an English-speaking person, nothing more, nothing less – an opportunity to try out foreign phrases they learned at school. Usually, I smile and return their greetings. The farmers harvesting rice nearby have no knowledge of awards I’ve won, or failed to win, of acceptances, or rejections, of sales, or lack thereof. The fact that I am a writer has never come up in conversation with my neighbors, and maybe it’s better that way. The woman who lives next door would never think to ask how my new novel is selling when she brings a bag of freshly harvested carrots (or spinach or watermelons) to my door. People never volunteer ideas for my next novel, or even ask what my latest book is about. Left in peace, I am free to observe and write as I wish, at my own pace. Obscurity has its own rewards.

My Profile of Ama Ata Aidoo

Over the seven decades of her career, Ghanaian writer Ama Ata Aidoo has published award-winning novels, plays, short stories, children’s books, and poetry, and influenced generations of African women writers. Before Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie of the award-winning bestselling novels and viral TED talks, before Doreen Baingana, Helen Oyeyemi, Sefi Atta, Taiye Selasi, NoViolet Bulawayo and any other of the number of rising female literary stars out of Africa, Aidoo was blazing trails. In fact, in her endorsement of Aidoo’s most recent book, Adichie writes “I occupy the space of a ‘Black African Happy Feminist’ because writers like Ama Ata Aidoo came before me. Her storytelling nurtured mine. Her worldview enlarged and validated mine.” – See more at: http://www.literarymama.com/profiles/archives/2016/02/a-profile-of-ama-ata-aidoo-draft.html#sthash.qgOfgt7Q.dpuf

 

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My MFA

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.”

 

 

[Trying to be] Big in Rural Japan

For the past several months, most of my writing efforts have been channeled not into this blog (as you can probably tell) but into three full-length projects. I now have drafts in various stages of three novels – two YA novels, and one adult novel, which I’m calling The Baseball Widow, and which, as you may guess, is somewhat autobiographical.

Over the past three years I’ve published my first novel, set here, in Tokushima, a picture book, also set here, and two anthologies. I have tried, on numerous occasions, and in various ways to bring my books to the local media’s attention. Call me crazy and/or conceited, but I believe that there might be a few people around who would be interested to know that someone among them is writing about Tokushima for the rest of the world. The local newspaper has, however, ignored the press release that I sent in Japanese, as well as the sample copies of my books that have arrived in their offices.

“The direct approach doesn’t work in Japan,” my husband told me. “It’s better if they hear about it from someone else.”

Okay, so I tried to go through a friend with connections, but that didn’t work either.

Finally, my husband went on a fishing trip with an old high school classmate who now writes for the newspaper. He finagled an interview for me. A reporter arrived on my doorstep last Thursday.

I had all of my books piled on the coffee table. I knew that they were old news, so I tried to give him something fresh. Losing Kei is being translated into Russian! My anthology Call Me Okaasan recently won an award! But all he wanted to talk about was my work-in-progress, The Baseball Widow. More specifically, he seemed to be angling for some juicy true-life stories that made it into the book. “Like a fight you had with your husband,” he suggested.

“It’s fiction,” I insisted. “Sure, it’s based on truth, in part, but part of the reason I’m writing it as a novel is in order to protect my family’s privacy.”

When I told him I wasn’t sure if my husband would want to be mentioned by name (along with his age and workplace and how we met), he put down his pen and said that if he couldn’t write about my husband, then there was no story.

It was the oddest, most uncomfortable interview I’ve ever endured. Maybe sleazy is the right word.

In the past, I’ve been interviewed by people who had an interest in books – or at least some interest in me.

I guess the lesson here is “be careful what you wish for.”

The basest part of me hopes that at least this interview sells a few books.

Leaving the Interior

This past weekend I flew up to Tokyo for two literary events.  The first was a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators showcase, at which eight of us presented our recent and forthcoming works for children.  Interestingly, one illustrator, Youchan, had just completed a Japanese book about a deaf child at school.  Another, Naomi Kojima, spoke about translating the letters of a legendary children’s book editor, and my friend Holly and her illustrator did a presentation on the making of The Wakame Gatherers.  (For my interview with Holly, click here.)   I was lucky to meet Yuka Hamano, the illustrator for my own forthcoming picture book, Playing for Papa, which will be published by Topka Books in Spain.

The following evening I was on a panel along with Alfred Birnbaum (Haruki Murakami’s first English translator) and Barry Lancet, Executive Editor of Kodansha International, at the Society of Writers, Editors and Translators New Year Party.  I read a few pages of Losing Kei and talked about the book.

 I had a great time.  Unfortunately, while I was gone, my hubsand and mother-in-law had a big blow out which had nothing to do with me.  My mother-in-law said, however, that it happened because I wasn’t here to act as a buffer.  Also, she had some self-esteem issues because Jio didn’t eat all of the bento she prepared for him.  And my son said he didn’t feel well and stayed home from school yesterday, although he had no fever, did not vomit, and had a healthy appetite.

In Japanese the word for wife means “woman of the interior.”  See, I’m supposed to stay in the house all the time.  Look what happens when I go out! 

This weekend I’m going to Kagoshima.