The Glasgow Writers’ anthology in support of the Japanese Red Cross earthquake relief efforts was published today, with a reception at the Japanese Consul General’s house in Edinburgh. The CG himself, Mr Tarahara, is a warm, welcoming gentleman who sings “Annie Laurie” in a sonorous baritone. A nice afternoon.
The anthology – entitled “A Thousand Cranes” – is published by Cargo Publishing at £11.99. It’s beautifully produced and contains some fine writing (though I will confess to being miffed at a biography that ignores the two most important things I’ve ever written!).
The story I contributed, “Bellflowers”, actually began life as a workshop activity at last year’s “Northern Writes” conference: I read the story at yesterday’s event, and felt happy with the sound of it. Here’s the opening:
“Kikyo still makes tea in the traditional way, just as Lyle enjoyed it. Her chabako is old, and the glaze on the thin tea bowls is cracked. It is her mother’s mother’s mother’s, all she brought from Japan in 1952 when she came as his wife to a new land where everyone drank coffee, the black, bitter drink that made you feel strung tight like a biwa, and kept you awake when you needed sleep. Lyle preferred her tea, even the usucha which was all she could approximate in America, a thin stuff her father would have used to wash his socks.
She has been told gently not to perform the ceremony in the day room, a sparse expanse of caramel-coloured vinyl floor where many of the others watch court TV and argue over checkers. Other residents, the Kind Nurse has told her, might trip on her mat or break her bowls. Sometimes she forgets, and sets her chabako in the middle of the floor, cooled by draughts from the French windows that open onto the patio where many of the old women sleep their days away wrapped in blankets, whatever the heat. At times like these, the Kind Nurse will help her back to her room, her bowls and tea whisk and caddy on a tray she has brought for that purpose. Sometimes, before the Kind Nurse comes, the old man who wears the golf shirts and elasticated slacks shouts at her.
Lyle Jnr. visits her often, but he has never liked tea. Once, she suspected it was because he wanted so much to be all American, and that his classmates teased him for the shape of his eyes and the colour of his skin. But he has grown strong and tall, and served in the Army, and no-one calls him names any more. She is proud of him, but he is not her son; she never had her son, who died in her womb three days after her husband was killed at Iwo Jima. Lyle Jnr. is a good boy, though, and brings her Pocky Chocolates, especially the strawberry which she enjoys so much, and occasionally he finds maju with anko filling.
She tells him about her days. Many people visit her, like Betty, Lyle’s sister, who died in her Edsel. Betty sits with her, and they talk about Ma, who was so angry at Lyle for marrying a Japanese woman and who never called Kikyo anything but “Nip”. Betty argued with her mother, told her how well Kikyo cared for her son, so much better than the trailer trash and pan-pan girls he dated before he joined the Army; but the old woman, fat and with heavy breasts, never forgave Kikyo for starting that damned war, and Lyle eventually moved them to California so they could be free of her.
“Mom, Aunt Betty died,” says Lyle Jnr.
“I know, silly boy,” says Kikyo. “She says she’ll come again tomorrow.”
Lyle Jnr. talks a lot to the Kind Nurse, and to Doctor Chamberlain who gives her tiles to play with and asks her questions about who the President is and the day of the week. She thinks these are a waste of his time, but not hers, because time is what she has. The days move slowly. The Kind Nurse smiles. Her MMSE indicates severe impairment. Lyle Jnr. tuts and shakes his head.”
All profits will go to disaster relief in Japan. It will be available in Waterstone’s; if you are a retailer who’d like to help, books can be ordered from The Book Source on a sale or return basis. It can also be purcheased directly from Cargo HERE.
Thanks and congratulations to Iain Paton and the editorial team, and to Cargo for supporting it. A second edition – with a foreword by Alex Salmond – is already planned, so this first edition may become a collector’s item! Please buy it – it’s for a very, very good cause.
The Writers for Japan anthology will be published by Cargo Publishing, with a target date of 24 June. After a promotional reception at the Japanese Consulate in Edinburgh, there will be a major Glasgow launch. Further events may follow. The final line up – including many top notch writers – is:
On The Brink Of Being A Great Success by Katy McAulay
March 14th 2011 by Annika Firmenich
Leviathan by Stuart Wilson
Haiku by Agata Maslowska
The Unbeaten Track by Andrea Mullaney
Peach Cigarettes in Tokyo by Kirsty Logan
Still Life by Emma Briant
Sakura Season by Lorna Callery
Jizo by Paul McDonagh
Snow Melts by Helen Sedgwick
Aokigahara by Eamonn Bolger
Ohayō Gozaimasu by JL Williams
Mum Fūsui by Cara McGuigan
Make Up, Sake and Firemen by Deborah Andrew
the dance of the year by John Brewster
A Glasgow Haiku by Kate Hendry
Hikikomori by Alex Cox
Saigō and the Spider by Iain Paton
Sinkhole by Iain Maloney
Bushido by Gar Hunter
Lost for Words by Paul Marsh
The Watchers by Nick Boreham
A Thousand Cranes by Fleur Capocci
Wedding Poem by Vivien Jones
Kimono by Lynsey May
The Lovebirds by J David Simons
Morning Haiku by Kathrine Sowerby
Hokusai’s ‘Great Wave off Kanagawa’ by Jim Stewart
From Out Waste Places Comes A Cry by Norman Bissett
Matsu by Paul McQuade
Building Edo by Michele Waering
The Positives by Steven Fraser
Haiku for Japan by various writers including the Open University
Bellflowers by Raymond Soltysek
A Year In A Kimono by Sam Porter
Nothing like a Real Smile by Ewan Gault
When I was a Ninja Turtle by Alan Gillespie
The Crane by Marise Morse
The Looking Glass and I by Layla Blackwell
Gion-no Ki by Sam Porter
A Letter of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton
Late Night Searching of ‘2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami ’ on Wikipedia by Mark Russell
Arashi by Nicola Robson
The Emperor’s Crows by Fiona Thackeray
More details to follow.
Huge praise should be heaped on Glasgow writer Iain Paton for spearheading a campaign to raise funds to support victims of the recent Japanese earthquake. Iain’s wife Deborah has taught in Iwate, and their compassion drove them to come up with the idea of a charity booklet, written by local authors. Iain’s boundless enthusiasm – his tail rarely stops wagging – has captured the imagination of many Glasgow writers who are at this moment furiously writing Japanese-themed poems and fiction.
The project has grown wings since its initial conception. More than two dozen authors (many mentioned in this blog) have offered work, and the booklet – now a fully fledged book – is being considered by two commercial printers/publishers. In addition, Iain has been invited to the Japanese Consulate in Edinburgh for talks.
Jointly edited by Iain, Alan Gillespie, Cara McGuigan and Alex Cox, it is hoped that the anthology will be available in early summer. I’ll re-post then with details of how to buy what should be a very worthwhile book.
In the meantime, you can follow the project’s progress at Glasgow Writers for Japan. Needless to say, if you can offer help in any way – sales space in your shop, services of any kind, such as artwork or photography - please get in touch. Feel free to donate at The British Red Cross too.
Here’s a link to an opinion piece I wrote published in today’s “Scottish Review”.