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Blog // Creativity
October 14, 2017

Japan Writers Conference

The Japan Writers Conference, held over two days, brought together a diverse collection of authors, editors, poets and publishers

The Japan Writers Conference, held over two days, brought together a diverse collection of authors, editors, poets and publishers, all of them focused on writing in or about Japan. From what I could gather, most if not all were working in English, although quite a few also worked in Japanese or translated works from Japanese.

Having taken a half-day last week to visit the Tokyo Art Book Fair, and with family commitments over the weekend, I decided to attend only the second day of the conference. So it was a relatively peaceful holiday Monday trip across Tokyo, on a fine sunny autumn day, to the Ekoda campus of the Nihon University of Art.

The conference was divided into 50-minute sessions, with sessions running in three rooms at the same time. It was a little hard to decide which to attend, since I was unfamiliar with the work of most of the presenters, and the sessions’ titles made it difficult to guess what they were about.

But I managed to catch talks on photography for writers, writing creative non-fiction, memoir writing, and how editing can help a writer to develop their voice.

The Best Writing Lesson Of The Day

Perhaps my favourite session was about how tricks used in comic books and soap operas can help writers to rethink their storytelling.

This session, led by author Sara Kate Ellis, was the only one to include a practical exercise. We were given 10 minutes to use one of the tools we’d been discussing, based on the work of Andrew J. Friendthal, to rewrite a well-known fairy tale.

I decided to try reimagining the story of Snow White by using a flashback sequence, a bit like a prequel, to change our understanding of some secondary characters in the story. Below is the unedited introduction I came up with.

The Seven

The young woman arrived at the house of the seven, scared, alone, having run all night through the forrest. The dwarves took her in, each joking, full of banter, making her feel at home. They gave her food, a healthy bowl though little food seemed to be in the kitchen, clothes that fit her tall frame, though three dwarves combined barely reached her height.

She slept and in the morning there was a single glass of milk on the table. She drank I then seemed to pass into a daze. The dwarves gathered around her and started to ask who she was and where she came from.
They knew, of course, the seven always knew, the past, the present, the future, they had a full grasp.

She was vain, ambitious, like a cliche from a fabled piece of fiction. She wanted to te the most beautiful woman in the land, the seven new role would be much deeper, the fulcrum in the movement that would unify warring kingdoms. She had to become queen, but that the task the seven faced was this, how to break up the current royal household, and then safeguard the child, Snow White.

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Dane Cobain 6 years ago

I think the tip that you picked up can apply to a wide range of stuff. It’s actually quite interesting to try to take concepts from one genre or medium or whatever and to apply it to another. For example, you could look to music and take the concept of a remix and write something using that, or perhaps you could look at different art styles and try to find ways to represent them with the written word.

Really, anything that makes you think a little differently is a pretty good idea. And as a creative yourself, I’m sure you know what it’s like. Sometimes you try something different and it doesn’t work at all. Arguably, that’s the most likely result. But if there’s a 1% chance that you’ll end up creating something truly new and original, it’s got to be worth a shot!

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