#CantWait for SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018

Translation Day 2018 info with prior Days’ write-ups

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

If you follow Japan kidlit in English online, you may have seen me shout out SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018 in Yokohama on October 20—here, say, or here, here, or here. I #cantwait for this event! Here’s why:

  • This will be the fifth biennial SCBWI Japan Translation Day.
  • This will be the fifth time we have welcomed a master translator, of an author relevant to children’s or YA literature, to work with us on craft.
  • This year’s master translator will be Louise Heal Kawai, renderer of Ms. Ice Sandwich by rising literary star Mieko Kawakami. This novella is told in the voice of a fourth grade boy. Louise will tour us through it and workshop another passage from its source volume Akogare (Longing), specifically the story 苺ジャムから苺をひけば. Psst: This story unfolds when the boy from Ms. Ice Sandwich is in sixth grade, and is told in the voice of his female classmate from Ms. Ice Sandwich. It has yet to be published in English. Cool! Or should I say, icy!
  • What else? We will screen not one, but two, prerecorded Skype interviews with luminaries in our field. The first is with Adam Freudenheim, publisher and managing director at Pushkin Press, who has helped launch several landmark Japanese titles in English translation, from The Secret of the Blue Glass to The Beast Player to Ms. Ice Sandwich. Our second interview will be with Takami Nieda, translator of the novel Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro: a searing Romeo-and-Juliet story about a Korean-Japanese teen who falls in love with a Japanese teen. Nieda fell so in love with Go that she made a Twitter account to ask the author to let her translate it—and it worked (eventually)! COOL!
  • Just interviewing Adam and Takami spurred me to send out more work and plunge deeper into my translation and translation advocacy projects.
  • Once I edit my starstruck self out of the interviews a bit, I know they will have the power to inspire others at Translation Day too.
  • Speaking of inspiring, how icy is it that author Holly Thompson has gathered excerpts to share with us in a workshop on age categories in US book publishing? We will get to see if we can identify chapter books, middle grade novels, YA novels, and/or adult books by their innards—and discuss how we think Japanese books slot into the US categories (which also influence the UK and beyond) and vice versa. Is Ms. Ice Sandwich adult or middle grade? Is Go adult or YA? Need there be an or? Hmmmm . . .
  • Speaking of hmmmm, did you know that category differences affect English-language books traveling into Japanese too? JBBY President Yumiko Sakuma—herself the translator of 200 children’s books from English into Japanese, from Flat Stanley to Of Thee I Sing—will be on hand to share stories.
  • Speaking of stories (of stories), grant funding supported the translation of Go and the publication of Ms. Ice Sandwich . . . and pssst, a new grant from SCBWI may be ready to announce on the occasion of Translation Day. This grant has been years in the making. You can find it now if you search SCBWI.org assiduously, OR you can take a hint by removing the H from the name of this cool American dessert product or this ubiquitous Japanese beauty product. Warning: the news may make you dance, or even ice dance.
  • Speaking of dancing, we have a celebration this year, of Japan’s Eiko Kadono winning the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing (aka “little Nobel”)—a feat that required nomination by JBBY, and which surely benefited from the translation by Lynne E. Riggs of Kadono’s iconic Kiki’s Delivery Service. Anyone up for throwing confetti??
  • And speaking of confetti, you will definitely want to throw some when you hear the list—our longest yet—of English-language children’s book editors who are open to receiving submissions from SCBWI Japan Translation Group. This openness does not grow on trees, especially if (like most translators) you are unagented.

So dust off your Rolodex, shred some rough drafts for confetti, buy a copy of Ms. Ice Sandwich to have Louise sign, and bring your dancing shoes . . . because this Translation Day will be chill. Note: You do not need to have submitted a workshop translation to join us for the day. Next note: If you are in SWET, you can enter at SCBWI member price. Next next note: Even the nonmember price is a great deal, thanks to a generous regional grant (grant again!) from SCBWI.

#CantWait to see you at SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018!

 

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World Kid Lit Month Review: Riku and the Kingdom of White

By Malavika Nataraj, Singapore

September is #WorldKidLit Month, a time to notice if world literature is reaching kids in the form of translations. Malavika Nataraj shares this review of children’s novel Riku and the Kingdom of White by Randy Taguchi, translated by Raj Mahtani, published by Balestier Press.

On March 11, 2011, the world watched in open-mouthed horror as the most powerful earthquake ever to rock Japan set off a giant wave that lapped up everything in its path: a tsunami that slammed into three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex, crippling them and resulting in a catastrophic release of radioactive waste that affected hundreds and thousands of lives.

We all heard and read about the evacuations, the relief operations despatched into the worst hit areas, the scores of people who lost everything—their homes, their families, their possessions. Japan was in a panic; all of the resources it had strived to protect—its waterways, the sea, the very air—had fallen prey to the invisible evil that was seeping into everything, silent and deadly. Radiation. This word reverberated through the nation and beyond. Exports suffered. Share prices dropped. People had little or no electricity. Cartons of uncontaminated food and bottled water were scarcely unboxed before they flew off store shelves. Fear lurked everywhere. Hundreds and thousands of residents within a 20-kilometer radius of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant were forcibly evacuated, their hometowns deemed too dangerous to inhabit.

Yet many people chose to remain nearby. Technicians, engineers, doctors and fire-fighters stayed behind, risking their own lives and those of their families to help the nation fight the catastrophe. We, the world, heard the reports, read the articles and watched the news. But could we ever fully understand the challenges these people faced, living in a radioactive disaster zone?

In towns that were as close as 40 kilometers to the epicentre of the disaster, many families soldiered on. Children still went to school, teachers still taught, and most residents made themselves as useful as they could. They organized volunteer centres, ran operations to de-contaminate their streets, and closed their windows against the radiation. Despite their challenges, their view of the world remained as upbeat as possible. But the way the rest of Japan viewed the Fukushima residents had changed. People became wary of the evacuees and residents, fearing that they had been ‘contaminated’.

This did not stop volunteers from pouring in. They came from all over Japan, bringing with them food, hope and helping hands. Many were moved by the plight of the children in Fukushima, who had been robbed of a normal childhood so suddenly.

The Fukushima Kids project kicked off in summer 2011, to give Fukushima kids an opportunity to learn and grow amidst nature—something they were no longer able to do in their own hometowns, for fear of exposure to radiation.

Over the summer, spring and winter breaks, hundreds of children were shepherded out of Fukushima to other parts of Japan, where they participated in homestays, enjoyed hands-on activities, played sport, went on treks, spent time with animals, ate healthy food, and generally enjoyed being ‘normal’ kids. This afforded them a chance to relax and refresh, learn new things and be close to nature again. The Fukushima Kids Executive Committee, formed by volunteers, ran the project successfully for five years.

Author Randy Taguchi

Author Randy Taguchi’s charming narrative, Riku and the Kingdom of White, is the result of time she spent as a volunteer in the Fukushima Kids project, working with the families and children of Fukushima. Through her involvement, she had the opportunity to interact with and interview dozens of Fukushima residents, and she was deeply moved by their resilience and strength.

Her story is the simple, yet thought-provoking tale of Riku, a fifth-grader, whose physician father accepts a transfer to Minamisoma, a town near the disaster zone. Having fresh air to breathe and good food to eat were things Riku never had to think about. Until now. And he is definitely not prepared for how much his life is about to change.

When Riku’s classmates in Utsunomiya find out that he is transferring to a school in Fukushima, their reaction is of shock and horror. “He’ll die of the radiation, poor guy,” they say. Riku’s aunt Midori, his mother’s sister who lives in Yokohama, also has nothing but horror stories to share about the fate of the towns near the epicentre of the disaster. But nothing will change his father’s mind, so Riku—whose life, he believes, is not in his control—puts on a brave face and prepares to follow his father. His mother has passed away, and his dad is the only family he has now.

The story, translated into English by Raj Mahtani, is told through Riku’s eyes. Through Riku, Taguchi has us experience a world where children go to school breathing only through masks. Their clothing covers every inch of their skin, and their heads droop like wilted flowers under their hats. Frozen and canned food, sausages, rice from other parts of Japan, carried in the capable arms of volunteers—these are the foods they eat. Tiny cylindrical objects that continuously measure radiation levels, called dosimeters, dangle from their necks as a reminder of their new reality. Taught in classrooms with sealed windows, sweating through the blistering summer months, they need at all costs, to be protected from this invisible evil, radiation. They inhabit a world where no one is allowed to play outside; a place where only the wind pushes the swings in empty parks, and unused bicycles turn to rust in garages.

When Riku arrives at Minamisoma, memories of his Utsunomiya life still fresh in his mind, he is stunned at how empty the town feels, like a town of ghosts. There are no kids about and he sorely misses running around with his best friend Yuta, and riding bikes the way they used to. When Riku finally does meet local children, he feels like an outsider. He is aware that he isn’t a ‘real’ Fukushima kid. At first, he is baffled by the others. Why don’t they play outside? Why do they all look so downcast? But as time passes, he begins to understand too well the magnitude of the disaster, and the impact it has had on the lives of Fukushima’s children.

The children naturally look to adults for answers. How should we live? What should we do? But no answers come, because the adults themselves are confused. They are stressed out and sad. Decontamination of the pavements, soil, and school grounds happens multiple times a day. But no one knows what to do with the radioactive waste. What’s the point of decontaminating the mud, if it is just going to be stuffed into bags, piled up and left here anyway? Riku thinks. The adults are full of contradictions. “We just want you to study without any worries, Sweetie,” says one mother. Riku wonders if that is even possible anymore.

Throughout this book, Riku runs through a gamut of emotions: anger at his father for bringing him to Fukushima, confusion, sadness, and finally, acceptance.

The more time Riku spends in Minamisoma, the more like a ‘Fukushima kid’ he becomes. This is never clearer than when he goes to stay with Aunt Midori during his summer break. His cousins are afraid to come near him in case he is contaminated; his aunt won’t let him touch anything without having a hot bath first. He feels contaminated, like an untouchable, an outcast. He realizes that this is how everyone views children like him—children who are living in the disaster zone. He sees that he can never go back ‘home’ to Utsunomiya or anywhere. He has lost his home forever.

Things begin to look up for Riku when he and four other children get the chance to leave Fukushima during winter break, as part of the Fukushima Kids project. He learns that he will go to Hokkaido, a place that holds the fondest memories for him, because it was there that his family had their last holiday before his mother’s death.

In Hokkaido, he spends time outdoors, crunching through snow in his snowshoes and learning about animals of the forest from his homestay host Mr. Nomura. He has thoughtful conversations with the indomitable Gen-san and with Mr. Nomura’s son Yoichi. In Hokkaido, no one treats him like an outsider or an outcast. He finally feels like a regular kid. Slowly, he begins to heal.

Translator Raj Mahtani

Riku begins to come to terms with the loss of his mother; he battles his loneliness by befriending a mysterious boy in the woods and a mischievous tonchi. He finally returns to Fukushima, more mature and responsible. He begins to see that his life is his own and he can live it with strength and heart. And that being a Fukushima Kid isn’t so bad after all.

Riku and the Kingdom of White is a valuable story of a boy’s spiritual evolution. And translator Raj Mahtani, who has collaborated with Taguchi on her book Fujisan, brings Riku to life for the English reader.

A Yokohama resident, Mahtani has been translating from Japanese to English since the nineties. His other translations include Rieko Saegusa’s Tale Winds, Fumitada Naoe’s Live with Meaning. Die with Passion and Shiho Kishimoto’s I Hear Them Cry.

 

Reviewer and editor’s note: We hope for Balestier Press to issue a second, carefully edited edition of this novel that does justice to its highly compelling content. 

Announcing SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018

Akogare by Mieko Kawakami, source text for workshop by Louise Heal Kawai at SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators presents

SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018: Japanese Children’s and Young Adult Literature in English

A day of presentations, workshops, and conversation for published and pre-published translators of Japanese children’s and YA literature into English.

Date: Saturday, October 20, 2018

Time: Registration 8:30 a.m. Sessions 9:00 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.

Place: Yokohama International School, Yokohama, 2F Pauli Bldg

Fee: Advance registration 3,500 yen for current SCBWI or SWET members; 5,000 yen for nonmembers. At the door 4,500 yen for current SCBWI or SWET members; 6,000 yen for nonmembers.

Advance registrations and translations of texts for workshop with Louise Heal Kawai (see below) due by Monday, October 8, 2018.

Registration:  To reserve your place and request workshop texts, send an e-mail to japan (at) scbwi.org

This event will be in English, with one session in Japanese.

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SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018 Schedule

8:30 Registration | 8:50 Opening Remarks

9:00-9:45 Takami Nieda: On Translating Kazuki Kaneshiro’s Go

The translator of a searing novel about anti-Korean discrimination in Japan, portrayed through a high school coming-of-age and romance story, discusses the landmark title and her process. (Pre-recorded Skype interview.)

9:45-10:00 Avery Fischer Udagawa: SWET, SCBWI, Submission Opportunities and Speed Share

Avery Fischer Udagawa shares about SCBWI and SWET and leads participants in a “speed share” of their current projects. She also shares about submission opportunities for participants in Translation Day from interested publishers.

10:00-10:45 Adam Freudenheim on Publishing Japanese Children’s Lit in the UK

As publisher and managing director at Pushkin Press, Adam Freudenheim has been instrumental to the UK publication of The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy HIrano; The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui and The Whale That Fell In Love with a Submarine by Akiyuki Nosaka, both translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori; and Ms. Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Louise Heal Kawai. He discusses the challenges and rewards of releasing these titles in the UK and beyond. (Pre-recorded Skype interview.)

11:00-12:00 Louise Heal Kawai: On Translating Mieko Kawakami’s Ms. Ice Sandwich

As translator of a realistic contemporary novella marketed to adults, but which features a fourth-grade Japanese boy as its hero, Louise Heal Kawai discusses her process and the book’s offerings for middle graders through grown-ups. A time to delve into the book one reviewer calls “a wonderful example of the power of narrative voice.”

Lunch—Bring a lunch, and “talk shop” with fellow translators in the event room or nearby Minato-no-Mieru Oka Park.

1:00-2:30 Louise Heal Kawai: Translation Workshop

Louise Heal Kawai critiques participants’ translations of selected excerpts from a portion of Akogare, the book by Mieko Kawakami containing Ms. Ice Sandwich. Meant to follow Ms. Ice Sandwich, this portion is as yet unpublished in English, and foregrounds the voice of the Japanese girl from Ms. Ice Sandwich, who is now in sixth grade.

Translation Day participants must submit their translations of the selected text for this workshop by October 8, 2018. To request the text and register for Translation Day, send an e-mail to japan (at) scbwi.org

2:45-3:15 Holly Thompson: Workshop on US Middle Grade and Young Adult Categories

Publishing translations in the US (and beyond) requires knowledge of the age and marketing categories used in the children’s/teen publishing industry there. Holly Thompson demystifies these categories by sharing excerpts from recently published novels.

3:30-4:15 Panel Discussion: When Japanese Novels Meet US Book Categories

Professionals who market Japanese novels in the US discuss US and Japanese book marketing categories. What can happen when Japanese novels are placed in American-style MG, YA, or adult categories—or handled as category-crossing “crossover” titles?

4:15-4:45 Discussion/Q & A and Closing Comments

* * * * * * * * * * *

SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018 Speakers and Panelists

Louise Heal Kawai was born in Manchester, England. She worked as a translator and teacher for more than twenty years in Nagoya, Japan, and also spent a short time living in Fort Worth, Texas, before moving to Yokohama. Her published translations include Milk by Tamaki Daido, which appeared in the short story anthology Inside and Other Short Fiction;  Shoko Tendo’s best-selling autobiography Yakuza Moon; a novel by feminist writer and poet Taeko Tomioka called Building Waves; and the novel The Island of Expectation by Ito Ogawa. Kawai translated an excerpt from Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami into Northern English dialect for Words Without Borders, before translating Ms. Ice Sandwich by the same author. In a contrasting vein, she has translated A Quiet Place by crime writer Seicho Matsumoto and the investigative thriller Seventeen by Hideo Yokoyama, published in 2018. She teaches English at Waseda University, Tokyo. An interview with her about Ms. Ice Sandwich is here.

Takami Nieda was born in New York. She has translated and edited more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction including The Stories of Ibis by Hiroshi Yamamoto, Body by Asa Nonami, and The Cage of Zeus by Sayuri Ueda, as well as The Art of Ponyo by Hayao Miyazaki. Her recent translation of Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro has been described as delivering a “witty, sarcastic narrative voice [that] conveys great poignancy.” Her translations have also appeared in Words Without BordersAsymptote, and PEN America. Nieda teaches writing and literature at Seattle Central College in Washington State. She responds to an interview about Go! here.

Adam Freudenheim was born in Baltimore and lived in Germany for a time before moving to the UK in 1997. He served as publisher of Penguin Classics, Modern Classics and Reference from 2004 to 2012 before joining Pushkin Press, where he has launched several imprints, including Pushkin Children’s Books. He has overseen the publication of many acclaimed translations for children, including The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius, translated from Swedish by Peter Graves; The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson; My Sweet Orange Tree by Jose Mauro de Vasconcelos, translated from Brazilian Portuguese by Alison Entrekin; and a number of landmark Japanese titles.

Yumiko Sakuma was born in Tokyo and worked as an interpreter and in-house editor before becoming a freelance editor, translator, critic, and professor of Japanese children’s literature. She has translated more than 200 children’s books into Japanese, and her work has garnered many awards, including the Sankei Juvenile Literature Publishing Culture Award. She also researches African literature and runs a project promoting African children’s books in Japan. Her blog and her essay “What Exactly Is Translation?”  translated by Deborah Iwabuchi are helpful reading for Japanese-to-English translators. Ms. Sakuma serves as President of the Japanese Board on Books for Young People (JBBY).

Holly Thompson is originally from Massachusetts and lives in Kamakura. Her writings include the picture books One Wave at a TimeTwilight Chant, and The Wakame Gatherers; the middle grade novel Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth; the young adult verse novels Orchards and The Language Inside; and the adult novel Ash. She is venturing into translation. She serves as SCBWI Japan Co-Regional Advisor.

Avery Fischer Udagawa grew up in Kansas and lives near Bangkok. Her translations include the story “Festival Time” by Ippei Mogami in The Best Asian Short Stories 2018, forthcoming from Kitaab, and the middle grade novel Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba, forthcoming from Chin Music Press. She serves as SCBWI International Translator Coordinator and SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator.

japan.scbwi.org

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Save the Date! SCBWI Japan Translation Day on October 20, 2018

It’s back! The biennial SCBWI Japan Translation Day will take place on October 20, 2018, in Yokohama—and feature as workshop leader Louise Heal Kawai, translator of Ms. Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami. A “quixotic and funny tale about first love” for a boy in his fourth year of primary school, Ms. Ice Sandwich was published in English by Pushkin Press (UK) and Penguin Random House (US), and appeals to middle grade readers up. Publisher Adam Freudenheim will speak by prerecorded video about the novel and about Pushkin, home to several landmark translations about and for the young. In addition, speaking by prerecorded video from Seattle, translator Takami Nieda will discuss her rendering of Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro, an intense coming-of-age story featuring a Korean teen raised in Japan. Watch this space for the full program, and plan to join us in Yokohama!

Prior Translation Days: 2016 / 2014 / 2012 / 2010

When Translating Japanese Children’s Literature Helps You Meet Ruth Stiles Gannett

Dover Publications edition of My Father’s Dragon

Every once in a while, being a translator of Japanese children’s books puts you in the best place to learn about children’s books of another country. Such was the case when Deborah Iwabuchi agreed to translate the only biography (in Japanese) of Ruth Stiles Gannett, author of My Father’s Dragonand assist Ms. Gannett on her summer 2018 visit to Japan.

By Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi, Japan

First of all, a little background for how this came about! In 2010, Ruth Stiles Gannett came to Japan at the invitation of a Japanese newspaper. The well-known author, aged 87 at the time, captured the heart of Akie Maezawa, the interpreter assigned to accompany Ms. Gannett on school visits. Maezawa subsequently made a trip to Ithaca, New York, to visit and talk to Ms. Gannett.

The result was the only book-length biography of the author of the Elmer books, The Woman who Wrote My Father’s Dragon, Ruth S. Gannett (published in Japanese by Fukuinkan Shoten).

I met Maezawa—let’s call her Aki, as Ms. Gannett does—when she attended an SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2016 in search of a translator for her book, which has been well-received by Elmer fans in Japan.

The Japanese biography of Ruth Stiles Gannett, written by Akie Maezawa, published by Fukuinkan Shoten

One look at the cover, with a photo of a smiling Ruth Gannett holding a huge stuffed Boris doll surrounded by a sunny background of white and yellow stripes, and I was sold! (That’s another story, and yes we are looking for a publisher.) Meanwhile, Aki became involved with Puk, a Japanese puppet theater company. Puk was planning a production of My Father’s Dragon and was facing various problems with copyrights. Aki became their point person to garner support from the author of the book. After the production got the go-ahead, the people at Puk decided they wanted more than anything to have Ruth Gannett in Japan to see it. The author, 94, had recently had an accident that left her bedridden, but in typical style, she miraculously recovered and, accompanied by two of her seven daughters, she made the trip to Japan.

Ms. Gannett and her daughters made it safely to Tokyo at the end of July 2018 and, among side trips to Hakone and other places, attended a Puk performance, much to the joy of the audience and cast. On August 4, a separate event took place at Kinokuniya Hall in Shinjuku: a panel discussion by four people closely connected to the Elmer books in Japan, followed by Q-and-A session with Ms. Gannett. To my great pleasure, Aki asked me to help interpret the event for the three guests of honor.

On the evening of August 4, Ms. Gannett and her lovely daughters, Louise Kahn and Margaret (Peggy) Crone, arrived wreathed in smiles and ready for the big evening. The looks on the audience members’ faces as we all entered the packed Kinokuniya Hall told the story of how much everyone loved the books: My Father’s Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, and The Dragons of Blueland. Many families in the room had three generations present, eager to see a beloved author. Feeling like a celebrity myself, I settled with Ms. Gannett’s family in seats about halfway back in the hall, until it was time for Ms. Gannett to go onstage.

Above: Ms. Gannett, her daughters, and a cutout of Ms. Gannett backstage at Kinokuniya Hall.

The first half of the program was a panel discussion with Mr. Shibasaki, the director of the Puk production, Aki Maezawa, Tetsuta Watanabe—son of the late Shigeo Watanabe who translated the Elmer books—and Tomoko Shirota, a member of JBBY who has successfully used My Father’s Dragon for twenty-four years in library programs to get children reading. The initial talks by these four were delightfully full of episodes about Ruth Stiles Gannett, Elmer Elevator, the puppet production and children and adults who have read and loved the books over the years. I wish I had the room to include all the stories here.

Japanese edition of My Father’s Dragon, translated by Shigeo Watanabe, published by Fukuinkan Shoten

Since this is a translators’ blog, let me talk about Shigeo Watanabe, as described by his son Tetsuta, who traveled all the way from Australia to be with Ms. Gannett that evening. The elder Watanabe was a member of the ISUMI group: writers and translators who met regularly in the years following the end of World War II to discuss the direction in which they hoped to take children’s literature in Japan. Watanabe had first read My Father’s Dragon in 1952, just four years after its publication in the US. He and the ISUMI group eventually chose the book as one they wanted Japanese children to read. In Tetsuta’s words, “They were looking for a book Japanese would enjoy, but probably not write.” My Father’s Dragon was published in Japanese as “Elmer’s Adventure” (Erumaa no boken) in 1964.

Tetsuta, a small child at the time, recalls his father ruminating over aspects of the book—things that would warm the cockles of a translator—such as the relationship of the two wild boars who make appearances throughout the story. Were they siblings? Friends? A married couple? He had to know so he could decide the type of language to use. Inverting parts of words as the excitable Mouse did in the English proved to be an easy task as Japanese syllables are easy to play with. Once the book was out, Watanabe, a young man with a family to support, kept careful records of the number of copies My Father’s Dragon sold, comparing it to Rieko Nakagawa’s Iya-iya-en, a bestselling Japanese book, which came out at about the same time. (Note: It turns out that Nakagawa and her son, Kanta, are both huge Elmer fans! Shirota told the rapt audience how young Kanta had begged his mother to use her publishing contacts to rewrite the book with his name in it and title it Kanta’s Adventure. The little boy only gave up his tearful pleas when Nakagawa explained about copyrights.)

Above: Tetsuta Watanabe and Akie Maezawa pose backstage; Ms. Gannett signs her autograph.

Shigeo Watanabe went on to become a prominent translator of children’s books. I have never read his Japanese translation of Elmer, but I’m sure he deserves his share of the credit for how the books have stood the test of time and remained consistently popular in Japan for the past half-century—as well as for the excitement in Kinokuniya Hall on August 4.

The second part of the program that evening was devoted to Ruth Stiles Gannett. Frail, but elegant and sure, she took the stage flanked by her daughter Louise, who assisted her mother with some responses (the interpreter’s interpreter) and me (the plain old Japanese-to-English interpreter). Aki, who knows Ms. Gannett well, took the job of summarizing and interpreting the author’s responses into Japanese. Ms. Gannett’s English was easy to understand and the audience was perfectly silent as they hung on every word, and remained captivated as they listened to the Japanese that came afterwards. Here are a few of the questions.

Anniversary edition of the Elmer trilogy

Why did you decide to write the books? I had been working at a ski lodge, the snow had melted and I had nothing to do. My parents were busy with their work, so I got busy writing! I did it mainly to entertain myself. I never intended to publish it until someone suggested it.

Why did you choose a dragon for Elmer to save? I was writing a book about my father, and I wanted him to save a creature that was large, strong and unusual.

Why did the dragon have yellow stripes? I drew a different picture of the dragon, and the stripes were the choice of my stepmother, Ruth Chrisman Gannett, who did all the illustrations in the book.

Why did you choose for Elmer to eat tangerines (mikan)? When I was young we got tangerines in the toes of our Christmas stockings. They weren’t available much before the Christmas season. Fruit like that was a rare treat for us.

What do you do every day? Oh not much, I like to read, get exercise, do yoga, bake bread and cookies . . . (note: there was more, but I can’t remember it all!).

Ms. Gannett had a question of her own that she mentioned several times during the short time I was with her. I’ll put it out there and would love to hear from anyone who has ideas on the subject so I can let her know. In publishing My Father’s Dragon, she intended it for middle graders to read, but she has found that in Japan it is overwhelmingly read to preschoolers, and she wonders why that is.

The two hours sped quickly by. Just before the evening ended we were joined on stage by Peggy and the Puk cast as the entire hall sang “Happy Birthday” to Ms. Gannett, who will be 95 on August 12. “Don’t forget!” Aki reminded the audience, “Her name is Ruth. Make sure to get the ‘r’ and the ‘th!’”

IMG_2100

My selfie with Ruth Stiles Gannett. I worried that we would wear her out, but Ms. Gannett and her daughters were gracious and she had a beautiful smile for everyone! —D.I.

Working with U.S. Agents, Editors and Publishers: Followup and Further Ideas

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

SCBWI Japan’s recent event Working with U.S. Agents, Editors and Publishers generated discussion both on-site and online. See this followup post by Ayanna Coleman of Quill Shift LLC, which offers a reflection on the event plus further revision and marketing tips, useful to translators as well as writers and illustrators. Many thanks, Ayanna!

Working with U.S. Agents, Editors and Publishers: Event in Tokyo on June 30

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators presents

Working with U.S. Agents, Editors and Publishers 

Time: Saturday, June 30, 2018, 6-8 p.m.

Place: Tokyo Women’s Plaza, Audiovisual Room B, 5-53-67 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (by the United Nations University; map)

Fee: 500 yen SCBWI members; 1,000 yen nonmembers

Reservations required. To reserve, email japan (at) scbwi.org by Thursday, June 28.

Is your work submission ready? How will you know? And how can you make your illustration work or your writing stand out from the crowd when you submit? What are some common errors made when submitting? How can you better your website and social media presence before you submit? How should you handle requests from agents, editors or art directors? What should you do if you receive an offer for publication before you have an agent? Join this workshop with discussion, Q&A and exercises to ensure your best chances at breaking into and thriving in the U.S. children’s book market.

This workshop will be led by the SCBWI Japan Regional Team: Mariko Nagai and Holly Thompson, co-Regional Advisors; Naomi Kojima, Illustrator Coordinator; and Avery Fischer Udagawa, Translator Coordinator.

What to prepare and bring:

Illustrators: Portfolio for group review and discussion; sample postcards for art directors; sample dummies; sample submission-ready picture book manuscript text; device for sharing and reviewing your online presence

Writers: Sample first page of a submission-ready manuscript (or entire PB manuscript); MG/YA 500-word novel synopsis; device for sharing and reviewing your online presence; query letter

Translators: Translated work summary or pitch (your own or examples by others); MG/YA 500-word novel synopsis; sample first page of a submission-ready translation; device for sharing and reviewing your online presence