Amy Chavez will be giving a talk upstairs at Roars Pub on April 19 about being a freelance writer in Japan. It will mark the official launch of Writers in Kyoto, and in advance of the occasion she kindly told us of her writing career so far.
Could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I had always wanted to be a writer. In fact, my first submission was when I was 12 years old after my sixth-grade English teacher encouraged me to submit one of my essays to the publication “Stone Soup.” That was also my first rejection. There were hundreds more to come! But I knew I wanted to write professionally, and perhaps because of that early rejection, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, so I put my dream on hold and concentrated on getting a job where I could make a living. I earned my M.A. in ESL and came to Japan in 1994 to teach at university. I lived in a 6-tatami mat room for four years, used the public bath (sento) and saved money, never forgetting my dream to become a writer. In 1997 I moved to a small island in the Seto Inland Sea and the following year started writing full time.
What kind of things have you written?
Japan opened doors for me and I was soon writing ‘Japan Lite,’ a weekly column for the Japan Times (18 years now). Other publications started asking me to write for them too, so by now I’ve written for numerous newspapers, magazines and online media. I also write weekly for RocketNews24, which I love because it’s new media and presents so many new challenges. I also blog for HuffPo, which significantly increases my reach. After turning down two book contracts, I self-published my first book Japan, Funny Side Up, went with a publisher for my second, Running the Shikoku Pilgrimage, and am working on another book with a publisher right now for Autumn 2017 release.
Finally, what do you like about living and writing in Japan?
I love Japan because, I swear, there is no such thing as writer’s block here! There is so much to learn, so much to write about. It’s a great place for an active mind.