Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My JWC prezzies

This year's Japan Writers Conference was held in Kobe City. I was really psyched about this year, because I was scheduled to present TWO topics.

My presentations were:

Into the Melting Pot: Writing the Multicultural YA


Brick by Brick: Building your blog

The MCYA (I so want to make a remix of the song YMCA with that) presentation was interactive. So the attendees worked to come up with their own definitions and lists.

First we defined multicultural YA. This is my definition:

Multicultural YA is literature marketed for a teen audience where two or more cultures interact. 

Why I went with this definition:

- not specifying that the interaction had to be in the book included books written wholly in one culture, but transposed into another- like Harry Potter.
- not saying that the cultures clashed, included situations where a protagonist is doing fine with balancing the cultures
- by specifying the word culture, I felt like I excluded stories about different races where race and/or culture plays no role.

There were two main premises of the presentation:

1. Multicultural stories are about differences and similarities. As you research and as you write, you need to consider how things are the same for the protag as in the culture you're writing for. And you also need to consider how they're different. From a YA point of view, some things you might want to consider are school, free time, family, after-school activities, styles, pop. culture, body image...

2. Writing a multicultural story is about balancing multicultural elements against all the other elements of the story. Too much muliticultural and you're a travel guide. Too little and you're a regular story which happens to live in one country, but which has no ties, and could move to another country at the drop of a hat. As you decide where on the multiculturalism vs. story graph you want to fall, then you also have to decide if to include things which would be familiar universally (like sushi in a Japanese story), touristy (like going to Tokyo Tower) or everyday things that are less familiar (like specialty KitKats).

I felt really confident about my blogging presentation. I've been doing this blog for 2 years, and I've earned quite a few friends and professional acquaintances through it. If I'm qualified to talk about anything, I'm qualified to talk about blogging basics. Thank you guys for the role you've played in that.

I was surprised to find the room almost full when I got there. I'd specifically applied to do a blogging workshop because I knew that noone else here does them, and because I love blogging. I did not expect the majority of attendees to come.

I started out with WHY you should blog. I gave all the reasons you hear everywhere, along with a few often overlooked, but really important to me: motivation and support, feedback, and a chance to write. Then I got into the nitty gritty of how to set up a blog: hosted vs stand-alone, money and tech issues (not deeply), and what should be in your side bar or your tabs.

In the final section of the presentation, I looked at content - how often, how long, audience, tone, etc -and comments/ traffic/ followers.

I wrapped it up with a few words on cashing in on your blog, professionalism, being obnoxious, and the fact that if you don't like it, then you should find another social media outlet. A bad blog is worse than no blog, IMO.

Once again, I was surprised by the response. People came up with almost 15 minutes of questions to ask. And that was only because I stopped them so the next presenter could set up. Afterwards people kept coming up and thanking me and saying they'd never thought of some things I'd mentioned. Someone asked a social media question in a subsequent presentation, and  was directed to me as the resident "expert"! Even after the conference the next day, a lady came up and asked me if I'd done the blogging presentation. She'd had to work on Saturday and said her friend had told her she'd missed a good one.  I've even gotten emails telling me about things people have adapted on their blogs or asking more questions.

And the best vote of confidence is that I've been asked to re-package both presentations: the multi-cultural one as an article, the blogging one as a longer presentation for a workshop.

2 more reasons why I need to work harder on bringing a novel to market.

Big thanks to the attendees of JWC for being such a fantastic audience, and to the conference organisers for giving me the opportunity. Tomorrow, I'll offer a round up of some of the other presentations at this year's JWC.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's great news! It sounds really interesting indeed. :)

Coincidentally, only yesterday I read this blog: http://letthewordsflow.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/how-should-we-handle-racially-diverse-characters-in-ya/

Including more diversity in literature is a great, but it's not as easy or obvious as it may seem.