I don’t talk about my writing process for fiction here much. I write middle grade. Middle Grade is the industry term for books for kids approximately ages ten to twelve, or so. Young Adult is for teens, but I can’t write young adult because I was an extremely boring teenager. (Meaning I did not have a boyfriend who was a vampire, I did not engage in any battles to the death, and I never left behind audiotapes blaming thirteen people for the reasons why I died. Yep, I was boring.)

So anyway, I do middle grade. As yet unpublished. But still very very very very very very very good. (My mom thinks so.) Anyway, I wrote a cat into one of my manuscripts. It was set in Japan, and at first I made the cat an exotic “American shorthair.” (I was amazed when I first came to Japan, and discovered that one can buy pedigreed American Short Hair cats at pet stores for the yen equivalent of hundreds of dollars.) To me, American Short Hair is the kind of cat that almost everybody in the U.S. keeps as pets, and they always get them for free.

Anyway, I thought about it, and thought about it, and I changed the cat in my manuscript to a Japanese Bobtail. Why?

I had never seen a Japanese Bobtail in the U.S. NEVER! The very name sounded exotic.

But then in Japan, I saw one almost immediately! “Wow!” I exclaimed. “Japan really does have Japanese Bobtails!!!!!!!!”

The Japanese Bobtail cats are free cats here, not the pet store cats. (You know….your neighbor’s cousin’s friend’s cat had kittens and you want a kitten, and well, you’ve heard there’s two tabby brown and one gray, but the gray’s been taken so you have your choice of the male tabby brown or the female tabby brown, and they’re both really cute and sweet and free and they’ve got bobbed tails.)

Roughtly ten to twenty percent of the cats here in Japan are bobtails? (I’m guessing. This statistic is NOT scientific.) Their tails are naturally bobbed. They were not cut off! It’s a genetic thing.

So anyway, my parents’-in-law cat is a cat that they got from somebody for free, and he is a Bobtail. His photos are below.

My son named him “Hiro” (pronouced Hero), but my MIL calls him Shiro when my son leaves the room.  Shiro means “White” and is a common name for white pets. (But I use the name Hiro/Hero because it is a cool name and I love my son.)

This is our local park in Fukushima City, last Sunday morning. Another Bobtail. This is a Calico so she is probably female.

So basically, for my characters in Japan, Bobtails are “regular” cats and American Shorthairs are “exotic” cats. Funny how it reverses like that! In Japan sushi is “regular” food and turkey with mashed potatoes is “exotic.” Different countries have different points of view….

Hi, Mom! Hi, Baba!

For Mother’s Day, I’d like to express my love to my sweet and caring mother, Maxine. She is such a giving person! True story: Once (in Wichita, Kansas) my dad was driving to work on the Wichita highway. (Quiet by big city standards.) Further ahead, a bank truck accidentally released money when its doors flew open!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Yes, it happens in real life. It sounds like a movie plot, but my dad was there and my dad is not a liar. Anyway, my dad did not stop because he had to get to work. But when he drove home that night, there were two one dollar bills on his car grill. AND MY MOM RETURNED IT. That’s how honest she is.

My husband’s mother, Mizue, is a hard-working woman who is also a good person. She is Obaasan (Grandmother) but we call her Baba (Granny/Gramma.) She took me and my son in after the quake in eastern Japan (she and her husband live on the west coast.) She is also very honest. How did I get so lucky to have a great mother and a great mother-in-law?

This sweatshirt was a present from Baba for my son. I think this shirt is neat because I’m always trying to figure out what it means, exactly.

Happy Mother’s Day!


HATRNES MORE PATRYLYN!!!!!!  Because everybody needs more Patrlyn in their lives. 🙂

Kako Satoshi (famous Japanese writer of children’s books, and also scientist) passed away

This news has absolutely nothing to do with Fukushima. However, I enjoy books so it interests me.

A famous writer (and scientist) named Kako Satoshi has died at the age of ninety-two.

He wrote many books for kids, and also illustrated them. This is the display of some of his books at our local public library.

He is such a famous writer that some of his picture books have been translated into English. (It’s very rare for Japanese picture books to be chosen to be translated to English. Unfortunately, there are many wonderful Japanese picture books that never get translated.)

Kako is his family name and Satoshi is his given name. Interestingly, Kako Satoshi is his pseudonym. Pseudonyms are VERY common for writers in Japan.


What would my pseudonym be? Hmmm……that would be interesting to pick your own name!

Pen Name—–Real Name

Kako Satoshi—–Nakajima Satoshi

Natsume Souseki—-Natsume Kinnosuke

Yoshimoto Banana—–Yoshimoto Mahoko

Beat Takeshi——Kitano Takeshi

Koizumi Yakumo—–Lafcadio Hearn (I think he officially changed his name to Koizumi Yakumo, and therefore it was not only his pen name.)

Comu Comu Children’s Library in Fukushima City

Recently I have been working on a manuscript that is set in the United States, but has some Japanese themes. I haven’t written much because I feel I have to do a lot of research to get the parts relating to Japan right. I’ve been going to the public libraries in Fukushima, checking out books for kids and reading them. (A book for adults is too difficult for me. I can read an adult book, but it would take me too long.) Children’s books are short and to the point.

One of the best libraries for children in Fukushima City is the library on the first floor of the Comu Comu Building (a large building devoted to children’s activities.)

What a modern library! It was built shortly before my family arrived here (in 2006.)

The sign says, “Yoi Ehon” “Good Picture Books”

Actually, I think these are award winners. The poster shows books which have won an award in Japan (I’m sorry, I don’t know the name of the award. I think it is sort of similar to the Caldecott.)


By the way, at the bottom of the photo above, you can see the Kamishibai books.

(If you’ve read Allen Say’s “Kamishibai Man”, you know the sort of book I am talking about.  )

Toddlers’ area

Books in English (The main library has far more, especially in its stock room.)

More library……..

Cute decorations!

There are always a theme of books on display when one enters this library. This is the theme of “Sports.”

I love the library at Comu Comu and its friendly and helpful librarians! Comu Comu is completely free of charge to visit, and it has lots more than a library (although it is all child-related.)

Tsubasa? Tsubasa! TSUBASA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I wanted to write about Fukushima and when I first began, I was going through dictionaries looking for names of my characters. (They are all Japanese and therefore must make sense as names to Japanese people.)

The first names I came upon were the names of two women. They are Japanese women, but in my writing I translated their names into English, and in Japanese, their names make a clever pun. (If I do say so myself.) While writing, I CONSTANTLY asked myself, “If this were translated in Japanese, how would it be translated? What would it sound like to Japanese ears?

So I found the two women’s names first, and I love their names. Their names began the book, and the feel of the book. (This book is not yet published.)

Next, I needed the names of my main characters. Combing throught my dictionaries, I decided on Haruka from my female protagonist and Tsubasa for her younger brother.

One reason is because both these two names are currently very much in use. Go to any school in Japan, and you’ll likely find a Tsubasa or a Haruka (or possibly both.)

Haruka was chosen for its meaning: Far Away. I imagined that for kids in America, Fukushima is “far away.” Thus for this reason (and other reasons) became Haruka’s name.

Tsubasa’s name means “wing.” My feeling was flying. I’m not as attached to his name as to Haruka’s. In fact, I’ve thought about changing it something else.  But obviously I must still like it, because I’ve never changed it.


So WHY did I type all that out? Well, bullet trains (shinkansen) all have names. The one we take to get to the proximity of my husband’s hometown is called “Tsubasa.”

Cool, huh?


For more info about the bullet trains: