I’m not sure when I first got the idea that I wanted to create an exhibit of images that related to my novel, Gina in the Floating World. I do know that I made my first collage inspired by my novel after it was accepted for publication and that my cover designer, Julie Metz, used some of the elements (the Japanese city and Hokusai’s iconic woodblock print, “The Great Wave”) in this collage to create my book cover. Around that time, I also produced my first Tokyo at night wate
Pack your bags. It’s summer, and it’s the longest day, when your thoughts may turn not only to where you will vacation but also to what you will read. Personally, I love books that whisk me away to exotic places without having to shell out the airfare. (My own novel, Gina in the Floating World, is set in 1981 Japan.) Whether or not you plan to travel anywhere, these five sense-filled novels, all published in 2019 (presented in order of publication date), will transport you ac
The first draft of my novel, Gina in the Floating World, reflected my own experiences as a foreign bar hostess in a Tokyo suburb in the mid-1970s. As an experience that for me was both challenging and fascinating, it was a story I wanted to tell. But my own tale wasn’t substantive enough to be a memoir, nor sufficiently engaging in terms of plot to be a good novel. Encouraged by an editor to ramp up the drama and the sex, I took my assignment seriously, but that meant going
I’m always intrigued by those films that are “inspired by” or “based on” true events. As a writer who likes to use my own life as a jumping off point for my stories, I recognize that these re-workings of real life are not without their pitfalls and challenges. For one, viewers/readers may accept the fictionalized version as reality. (“Did you really do that?”). But if we wanted to tell what actually happened, we would create a documentary or write a memoir. I would dare to
Growing up, the one consistent holiday tradition my family maintained was listening to a recording of Dylan Thomas reading “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” I can still picture us all--stuffed after our Christmas dinner, the presents long since unwrapped and sitting in a pile under the tree—sinking into our respective chairs in the living room and listening in rapt attention. Each year, I would hear something I hadn’t heard before—a phrase or an image. Even now, nothing evokes
For those of you who missed my book launch at Porter Square Books on October 2, 2018, I present below the text of my presentation. In general, I am not a good ad-libber, so what you have here is close to what my audience heard. *** "Gina in the Floating World" is about one young woman’s journey and evolving self. Tonight, I’m going to take you on a trip back in time—back through my various careers and tell you a little about my novel’s journey and evolution. Set in the boomin
As a writer, you dream about the day when you will present your first book to the world. That day—Tuesday, October 2, 2018, has come and gone, but I can honestly say that it was one of the most thrilling and exhilarating occasions of my life—up there with John’s and my wedding day in 1989 and the day I received my doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1992. The difference was that this event was all mine, a factor that made it potentially scary, too. My
I recently did an interview with Dead Darlings, conducted by Marc Foster, about my novel, "Gina in the Floating World."Among the thought-provoking questions Marc asked me was one related to themes of sexual harassment that appear regularly in different forms throughout the book. The notion of consent around sexual matters was always present from my story’s first incarnation as a screenplay, interestingly titled “Informed Consent.” I ditched that title because it sounded too m
I wrote this poem in high school for our annual literary newspaper. But, with three weeks until publication of my novel and four weeks until official launch, it describes the way I am feeling now. One two three four five six metal rungs
Dented in the middle
Five four three two only one more
Seated on the highest step
A small girl in pigtails,
Seated up there.
Gripping tightly curved, thin bars
She inches down the shiny slide.
Then, presto! Zing!
In addition to being a writer, I am also an artist. I work in several media, but one of my favorite is paper or mixed media collage. Currently, I am working on a series of collages inspired by Gina in the Floating World, which is set in Japan in the 1980s. These collages, which are small, illustrate different aspects of my protagonist’s experiences but are not meant to be literal representations. With collage, I start with a general idea or theme. Searching through magazines,
Cheryl Suchors, author of the inspiring memoir of adventure and persistence--48 Peaks: Hiking and Healing in the White Mountains (She Writes Press, September 2018), interviewed me about my writing process. Cheryl: When did you begin writing fiction? Belle: As a child I used to draw stories with a narrative sense to them. I’d describe the action out loud, as I drew. They were kind of like graphic novels. I did that for several years. In high school I remember that my favorite
Art figures prominently in my novel, Gina in the Floating World. The title of my book itself refers to an aspect of Japanese life (“the floating world,” or pleasure-seeking quarters) that became a popular subject matter for many of the great Japanese artists in past centuries, especially those producing woodblock prints. My first introduction to woodblock prints was the set of two prints that adorned my parents’ bedroom wall. Long and skinny, they depicted women with grim fac
Writing is all about revision, and Gina in the Floating World is no exception. I have shredded and re-crafted it numerous times. Although my official records indicate 14 drafts, I know there have been many more micro-revisions in between drafts. Curious about its own evolution, I copied the first few sentences of each of major revision as well as the final draft, which was a tightening at the sentence level. Below I share these along with my summary of how I arrived at each.
As I prepared for my interview with Mr. K, the club owner, I worried about my lack of glamour. I had all the wrong clothes and the wrong look. My skirts were too short and my hair, too long. I wasn't blond enough or foreign enough. I bought some makeup, washed my hair, and dressed as well as I could after ten months of living out of a backpack. I tried not to think what my feminist friends would say, nor to listen to my own feminist conscience. At the appointed hour, I met Mr
The rain poured down in opaque sheets outside the American Express office in Tokyo, where I collected my mail, and considered my alternatives for the afternoon. For eight months in the mid 1970s, I’d been traveling over large stretches of Asia, much of it alone. Once more a natural phenomenon would determine my fate. Had it not been for an earthquake in Darwin, Australia and the subsequent purchase of a cheap "bucket shop" plane ticket that allowed me multiple stops on the wa