|2013 Crystal Kite Winner Benjamin Martin!|
I contacted Benjamin to find out about his book and his history with SCBWI...
Lee: Please Tell us about Samurai Awakening.
Benjamin: The Samurai Awakening series is the culmination of my time teaching on small islands in rural Okinawa, Japan. I moved to Japan in 2008 to teach English, and quickly found myself in the midst of amazing new experiences and a rich culture I wanted to share. Samurai Awakening was my debut novel and is a mix of my experiences, Japanese mythology, and pure fantasy. I started writing in 2010 and it placed in the top 1% of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. The series continues with Revenge of the Akuma Clan in the Autumn of this year.
From The Jacket: David Matthews is having a rough time. Being a teenager is bad enough, but when he picks up and moves to Japan for a year, with barely any knowledge of the language or social behaviors of Japanese teenagers, things go from bad to worse. Until one day, David attends a temple ceremony and finds himself possessed by a Japanese god. Suddenly, he can understand and speak Japanese. He has unbelievable new powers, including the ability to shift into a tiger, and a powerful sword he can materialize at will from its sheath—his body.
But nothing comes for free, demonic oni and terrifying ghostly yurei. Trained by his host family, famous sword-makers and the keepers of an ancient secret entrusted to their family by the first Emperor of Japan, David must fight desperately to save his host sister from a hoard of Japanese monsters. Evil has returned to Japan, and David must overcome his own insecurities if he is to save her and become a True Samurai—the protector of Japan.
Lee: Sounds very cool! How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you’ve gained by being a member?
Benjamin: Having written a novel with no background in writing and no local support (I was on an island with a population of 550 people), I began reaching out to friends, teachers, and online for some way to learn about what to do with my initial story. One of my high school English teachers pointed me to an author friend of hers, who pointed me to Verla Kay’s Blueboards, the discussion group that is soon to merge with SCBWI’s own boards. That connection led me to SCBWI in 2011. As soon as I saw the unique connection and support amongst the children’s writing community I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
Since joining I’ve benefited from the publications, news, and community in Japan and abroad. I was thrilled to be able to attend the South West region’s conference when Samurai Awakening debuted last year and look forward to learning and sharing in the years to come. The biggest thing I’ve gained from SCBWI is the sense of community and positive support. I love reading about the successes of fellow members and it is an honor to be recognized by such a diverse group of talented and welcoming people.
Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children’s book writers and illustrators?
Benjamin: The readers of this blog have already followed the very first piece of advice I could give. Find a community of people willing to listen and give advice. There are very few real experts when it comes to books. Great stories don’t always become books, and some books aren’t all that great. We write for different reasons, and see words in different ways, so I find it incredibly important to get perspectives outside my own head. My experience in the publishing world is unique, so I won’t join the throngs of people telling you “how to get published.” I will say, “Good luck.” If you have a story to share, find a way to share it. Someday, it might lead you in unexpected directions.
I also connected with Holly Thompson, regional advisor for SCBWI Japan, to find out more about their region...
Congratulations, to Ben, one of our Okinawa members! The Japan Writers Conference will be held in Okinawa in November, and we look forward to Ben's participation in the SCBWI sessions at that annual event.
SCBWI Japan (formerly SCBWI Tokyo and SCBWI Okinawa) has about sixty members. We have monthly events usually on weekend days or evenings including guest speaker events, workshops, creative exchanges, gallery exhibitions, sketch and word crawls, and networking nights. We also have all-day events with guest editors, agents, authors and illustrators, and SCBWI Japan is the first SCBWI region to have a Translation Group, which focuses on the translation of Japanese children’s and YA lit into English.
Our SCBWI Tokyo members are a mix of Japanese nationals and residents of Japan from around the globe. Our newsletter (www.scbwi.jp) includes interviews and features relating to Japan and Asia. SCBWI Japan plays a prominent role in the Japan Writers Conference and the Asian Festival of Children's Content (AFCC) in Singapore. The Asia SCBWI chapters are growing, and I'm certain we’ll soon be seeing more and more children’s and YA lit coming from Asia—both local-language and English-language stories set in and related to all the different corners of Asia.
To find out more about Benjamin, visit his blog more things japanese.
To learn more about SCBWI Japan, check out their website.
Thanks to Benjamin and Holly, and cheers to Benjamin for his Crystal Kite Win for "Samurai Awakening!"
Illustrate and Write On,