Japan 2016: Kyoto

On to Kyoto, where we spent the majority of our trip and still had only barely begun to see the incredible city.

View from the rooftop of our apartment building

We rented an apartment in the Higashiyama area, only a moment’s walk from Gion. There was so much to see and do from here without ever even stepping on train or bus, but both modes of transportation remained easily accessible for the times when we did venture further out.

Our first day just consisted of us moving ourselves and our luggage from Osaka to Kyoto via two separate trains and two separate taxis. It was very different than managing such a move in America, but we did it! Despite having bought many lovely things in Osaka which meant our luggage had very much increased in size. (We would end up buying another full sized suitcase in Kyoto and another carry-on in Kansai Airport before going home… and that was after I had already packed one suitcase inside another on our way to Japan, knowing we’d need the extra space!)

aoi matsuri 2016Our first full day in Kyoto, however, was timed so we wouldn’t miss the magnificent procession of the Aoi Matsuri, or Hollyhock Festival. Continue reading

Japan 2016: Osaka

For my first trip to Japan we decided to stay in the Kansai region. South of Tokyo, this is where you’ll find Osaka and Kyoto. I hope to visit Japan many times in my life and see many faces of it, but I planned my first trip as if it were my only one since nothing is ever guaranteed. I wanted to see the traditional side and the historical side of Japan more than the modern, so to Kansai we went.

We spent most of our first week in Osaka, staying at Hotel New Otani Osaka because it was both near a JR train station, making it easy to get around, but also because it was directly across from Osaka Castle and the surrounding park. osaka castle, hotel new otani osakaThe hotel was incredible. The staff made our first days in country wonderful, helping us get our bearings in the new culture and giving us an incredibly beautiful and comfortable place to stay. I mean… who can possibly deny this view? I spent time every day sitting in this window, loving on the view and watching the crowds below. When it came time for us to move to Kyoto I was already very sad to leave this behind.

Osaka Castle was one of the very first things we visited in Japan. Our first day we mostly spent exploring Osaka JR Station because it was rainy and while I wasn’t really all that jetlagged, hubby was. There was more than enough there alone to spend a very full afternoon. (My first purchase in Japan? An umbrella! A lovely mint green with white polka dots umbrella.) Continue reading

Update

I had intended to have consistent updates this month with the promised posts from last year’s trip to Japan, but sometimes health gets the better of me and throws things a little out of whack. There will be posts, three of them in fact, and hopefully soon, but this may run over into June’s postings. Photo heavy posts take awhile to put together and lately I haven’t been up to anything of the sort. Thanks for understanding and see you around here soon!

Looking Back: Japan 2016

A year ago today I was in San Francisco boarding a plane that would next touch down in Osaka, Japan.

Japan has been and still is my dream. It’s the home of my heart, the place my soul feels most joyful and most at peace. Everything there is both achingly familiar and fascinatingly new and ready to be discovered. This was the very first time I had the chance to “go home” and not one moment was a disappointment.

It’s a year later and I want to share a few of the memories I have, mostly through photos. Give you a glimpse into the world I experienced last May. I’m not sure yet when I’ll be able to return, though I have tentative ‘hopeful’ plans that are far too early in the making to be sure if they’ll pan out.

For now, I hope you’ll enjoy the posts this month as I look back at the awesome country and culture that is Japan. (At least how I was able to experience it.)

sunset over rice fields in japan

The Early Stages of Writing a Poetry Collection

If you’re following this blog, amidst the random posts on letter writing, kid lit, and other assorted things, you’ve seen a few posts about me working on a poetry collection. This is my first. I’ve written single poems for prompts, competitions, and personal ideas off and on for many years now, always thinking that one day I’d like to create a collection but never really sure what that would look like.

More than a year and a half ago I had an idea for a poem that slowly morphed into an idea for a themed collection based on the instrumental music of a single artist. I sat on the idea for quite a long time, thinking over possible ways I could approach a larger project like this, before I picked up the pen and began writing November of last year. (I also realized that a poem finished earlier in 2016 fit the collection, so wooo head start!)

But here’s the thing… while there are lots of wonderful blogs and vlogs walking writers through the process of novels, there isn’t so much material out there for poets writing a collection. I have articles saved with suggestions for submitting your work, organizing a collection (once the work is done), and promoting your book. Noooot so much the ‘here’s a blank page, now start your collection’ sort of references. Continue reading

KidLit Love: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

I had an imaginary friend for years. In some ways I think she never went away, but rather merged into my creative subconscious.

BeekleImaginary friends are quite the interesting topic to think about whether it’s your own personal memories, wondering about the psychology of the phenomenon, or just getting a smart punch in the feels when media brings up the topic. (Bing Bong, anyone?)

“The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend” by Dan Santat is sweetly written and stunningly illustrated. The image of Beekle makes me think he could possibly be a distant cousin to Baymax, which honestly is something I’m more than okay with. (Beekle and Big Hero 6 were both released in 2014, but obviously have nothing to do with one another.)Beekle - Interior Pic

When Beekle isn’t called off to the human world by a child’s imagination, he decides he’ll just set out and find his own child instead. His initial impression of the human world is that everything seems… not quite right. The kids he sees aren’t stuffing themselves with cake, everyone is in a rush, and he isn’t quite sure there’s a place for him after all.

But as is so often in both life and stories, right when he thinks he just might give up, the perfect friend comes along.

While I certainly enjoyed Beekle’s story, the art is what really swept me away with this book. The illustrations are vibrant yet easy on the eyes, with just the right amount of detail to keep you enjoying the pictures each time you see them. Dan’s art is everything about picture books that I love and remember from being a kid.

*Is there a children’s book about poetry, books, or creativity that you want me to check out? Make sure to leave the suggestion in the comments!

Letter Writing Extravaganza

In February I decided to take part in a challenge known as InCoWriMo or International Correspondence Writing Month. The goal was to write and mail or deliver a letter every single day in the month of February. These letters could be to family, friends, or even strangers. Many participants shared their addresses on the InCoWriMo website for those who wanted to write to strangers. I added my own address to the mix.

Honestly, I had hoped to receive maybe a dozen letters throughout the month. What little I found on the internet about the challenge didn’t really seem to tell me much about how big the event may or may not be, so I was careful with my hopes on the receiving end. It would at least be a chance for me to indulge my desire to send a bunch of snail mail while waiting on replies from my regular pen pals and that was good enough for me.

I wrote to a combination of existing pen pals, family members, friends who wouldn’t expect to receive letters, and the occasional stranger. Due to some health flare-ups I only got 20 letters sent out. (My hands didn’t work the best there for a few days, so letter-writing wasn’t really an option at that time.)

What did I receive? Continue reading

A Few Days of Crippling Self-Doubt

Writers (and other creative people) have this thing where we usually doubt ourselves. A lot. I can’t even quite explain to someone who doesn’t fight with this just how much we doubt.

This is me. Except, you know, without the book deal to soften the feelings.

I love Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s work. SO MUCH. Everyone should be reading her stuff. (Click on the comic and it will take you over to her site.)

My confidence in being a writer and in trying to become a well-published writer has its hills and valleys. There’s pretty much always a quiet voice in the back of my mind that asks me what I think I’m doing. Couldn’t my time be spent on something with a more guaranteed outcome? Like theoretical physics?

About a week ago that voice got really, really loud. Continue reading

Worldwide Post Report: January – February 2017

This is the last postcrossing update for a little while again. Stamps are expensive! And for now there are other things that I need to take care of. But you’re not here for that talk. On to the postcards!

Germany postcardI love this not just for the ocean (I always love the ocean), but also for the quote. I’m a person who very much loves her comfort zone. Very, very much. But I’m also aware of how much that comfort zone sometimes limits me. Last year I had the opportunity for international travel and that very much changed my views on the comfort zone. I still love it dearly, but I’ve always seen the wonder that is out there when you leave it behind. This postcard came from Germany. Continue reading

Tracking Creative Progress and Becoming a Writer

2017… the year I’m trying to get serious about being a poet. And about allowing myself more creative time in general.

I’ve been using the awesome (and incredibly simple) app Timesheet to track how much time I’m giving to writing and how much time is going to a given project. In January I tallied an impressive 35 minutes. Total. But in January I also gave most of my creative time to a photo book project. Many, many hours in fact. It was something I was passionate about creating and have been putting off because I’ve been terrible about allowing myself time to work on creative projects at all. I’m thrilled with the end result. And I’m learning how to give myself time for the creative projects I really want to work on, not just writing… and how to gently let go of the projects begun that became a burden instead of a joy.

I’m doing better with writing this month, and even though I haven’t clocked a lot of hours yet I have seen definite progress on my project. I’ve also taken on a commission for the first time. A small project for a friend who needed some poetry in her story. I’ve got a good start on it and am waiting for more notes from her before I launch into finishing it up. I’ve never tried to write something that isn’t a vision in my own head before, so this is good practice, even if not something I’d normally do.  Continue reading