Friday, February 3, 2012

Interviews with TOMO Contributors Author Arie Nashiya and Translator Juliet Winters Carpenter

Arie Nashiya (author of the Tomo story “Fleecy Clouds”) was born in Tochigi Prefecture. She began her writing career with the novel Deribarii age (Delivery Age), which won the 39th Kodansha Children’s Literature Newcomer Prize in 1998. Her novel Pianisshishimo (Pianississimo) was awarded the 33rd Japan Children’s Literature Bungei Kyokai Newcomer Prize. Among her best-known other works are the novel Surii sutazu (Three Stars) and the short-story collection Shabondama domei (The Bubble League). 

Juliet Winters Carpenter (translator of the Tomo story “Fleecy Clouds” by Arie Nashiya), a Midwesterner by birth, is a longtime resident of Japan. Her many translations include mysteries, romance novels, haiku and tanka poetry, historical fiction, and works on Buddhist philosophy. Volume one of Saka no ue no kumo (tentative title Clouds Above the Hill), her joint translation of Ryotaro Shiba’s epic on the Russo-Japanese War, is forthcoming from Routledge in 2012. She lives in Kyoto, where she is a professor at Doshisha Women’s College, and on Whidbey Island, Washington. Visit her page on the SWET website:

Interview with Author Arie Nashiya

This story is full of such precise detail and the moment to moment thinking of the main character. Does this sort of attention to detail feature in your longer works as well?

It is always my desire to portray the emotional wavering, conflicts, and troubles of teens in my works. That's because I want young readers to identify with and feel close to the feelings and actions of my characters. Sharing similar feelings and thoughts with characters allows the reader to realize that someone like him or her exists inside a book (or at the very least, that someone who thought up the story exists). You are not alone: this is the message I want to convey to young readers. In longer works, sometimes I portray the emotional shifts in one character slowly, following the flow of the story, and other times I portray the inner life of multiple characters separately, in detail. In short stories, I excise one portion of the main character's life to write about, so I think the characteristics of what I want to portray show up more clearly and leave a stronger impression.
Arie Nashiya

What was the seed for this story? Did you encounter a store called Fleecy Cloud?
I wrote this story on request for a short story anthology on the theme of "first lost love." Figuring that other authors would write about boy-girl romances, I decided to try something a little different. Several of my works are about young girls drawn together by feelings stronger than friendship. At one stage in adolescence the opposite sex arouses aversion, so I think it's completely natural for girls to feel stirrings of love for other girls. Actually, once when I was 14 I had a crush on a girl who was a close friend, and anguished over it.

Occasionally I ride a transit bus. The route I take has several charming boutiques, and the idea of writing something where a shop like that figures in the story was always in the back of my mind. None of them has the same name as the shop in this story. "Fleecy Clouds" came to me because I wanted to use the image of fluffy clouds to convey the main character's delicate feelings. I looked up all sorts of names for clouds in foreign language dictionaries, wondering what expressions there were, and that's how I came up with the idea for the name.

As a teenager, did you have a close friend from whom you eventually parted ways?
I often do things alone. When I was 13, there was someone I wanted to be best friends with, but she ended up staying home from school all the time. I didn't want to part from her, so every day I used to call her on the phone and urge her to come back. But she never did. Instead, at the start of the new school year she transferred to another school. I didn't hear the news straight from her, either, but from my teacher. Only then did it occur to me that possibly she had found my presence oppressive. As a child I wasn't good at thinking of others' feelings, so my attraction to her was all one way. After I realized that, I began to think about my distance from people and to sense that although I had friends, I had no best friend. I longed for a close friend who would understand me, but I had trouble getting along with others, so when I was a teen, I wanted to go live in the desert or on Mars, somewhere where I could be alone.

When you write, how do you usually enter a story. Do you find yourself hearing a character’s voice? Do you see a particular scene?
Sometimes I imagine a line of dialogue, a scene, or a situation. Other times it's the main character's mood or emotions, or an impression from music, an interesting sequence of words, or an image of cool mist floating in the air, tinged with color and scent. It could really be anything.

Sometimes the story takes shape while I'm engrossed in thinking about what sort of person the main character is. I write and rewrite the first part of the story over and over. Sometimes I move things around, switching the chapter I wrote first with another one. I do lots of polishing. Sometimes the content ends up completely different from what I thought it would be when I started to write.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent novel(s) for teens? 
My most recent YA book published on paper is an anthology of short stories called Shabondama domei (The Bubble League). The main characters are a fourteen-year-old boy and girl, and the stories are a strange mix of romance and fantasy. I am also currently publishing two YA novels serially on the Internet. One is a set of short stories called Little Leaves: Kimi ga iru kyoshitsu (Little Leaves: The Classroom Where You Are) that's running in the web magazine Poplar Beech published by Poplar ( It's a bittersweet story of adolescence, portraying seven high school boys and girls and their friendships, loves, and worries over the future course of their lives.

The other one is called Sora o oyogu yume o mita (I Dreamed I Swam in the Sky), appearing serially on "NHK Net Beginners" ( It's about some high school girls who learn how to make their dreams come true by using the Internet properly--a pick-you-up story. 
My deepest sympathy to all those who suffered damage in the disaster.
I believe that the future can be changed. Set your rudder in the direction you ultimately want to go in and move forward, keeping in mind both far-off goals and goals near at hand, to help you over the obstacles right in front of your nose--do that, and someday you'll find yourself close to where you want to be. I believe you can do that. Aim to live a better life. Never hesitate to have hope and dreams. Everyone feels helpless at some point in life. When you're tired it's OK to rest, when you're sad it's OK to cry, and when you feel frustrated, let all your frustration out. Then when you feel better, lift your head a little. No matter how dark the world is around you, far off somewhere you'll see the future of your dreams, shining brightly. At every point in your life, make the best choices you possibly can. During my difficult times as a teenager I used to read a lot of books. Books lighted my path and helped me make choices. There are many things you can do right now.

Interview with Translator Juliet Winters Carpenter

Can you tell us about your background and how you came to settle in Kyoto and focus on translation?
I grew up in Evanston, Illinois, where like Saki and her friend I used to ride the bus to and from high school, rain and shine. Once in a while I would walk to save the money (12.5 cents--we used bus tokens, two for a quarter). I started studying Japanese the
summer I was sixteen, and never looked back. Once I realized how different English and Japanese were, and what a fun challenge literary translation would be, I was hooked. I made up my mind while still in high school to keep up my study of the language and culture for the rest of my life--and be a translator! I live in Kyoto and teach in the Department of English at Doshisha Women's College. In all I have translated over fifty books, and never get tired of translating. Every new project is a great adventure.
Juliet Winters Carpenter

What appealed to you about the story Fleecy Clouds?
I liked the narrator and her combination of sensitivity, intelligence, devotion, and utter cluelessness. I was also fascinated by the idea of fleecy v. cottony clouds to express the same thing. As someone who is interested in words, and translation, this was particularly appealing to me!

I have never experienced the exact kind of relationship the narrator had with Saki, but I certainly did have a special friend in high school, someone I was best friends with from fourth grade on but who moved away... Even though we live on opposite sides of the globe, and don't communicate all the time anymore, she will always be like a sister to me. I hope that the narrator's friendship with Saki will also change and grow.

Do you find short stories more difficult to translate than novels? YA more challenging than adult fiction? Are there particular challenges in translating YA fiction?
I think all translations have their own unique set of challenges--the most important thing for me in translating is getting beyond the words on the page and inside the characters, or the situations, and making them real in English. I haven't done YA fiction before and thoroughly enjoyed it. Getting the tone right is important--hearing the voice of the character. I dredged up memories of my own teen years, and also imagined a character from another famous YA story (I won't say which one!) and tried to make the narrator's voice sound a bit like that. I find having a particular model in mind is useful.

Do you have any message for teens in Tohoku?
You have friends around the world! We are all rooting for you. Japan needs your energy and strength and creativity. Stay proud of Tohoku. The area will bounce back with your help. I love Tohoku and want to visit again soon!

No comments:

Post a Comment