Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Connecting and Contrasting Cultures

Kathryn Page Camp
When writing a story with characters from different cultures, how do you connect those cultures while maintaining the separate identity of each? And is it harder when the uneducated reader may lump the two together? For example, how do you remain sensitive to the differences between two Asian cultures? That’s the dilemma that Chinese American author Jamie Ford would have faced when writing Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
Jamie Ford’s novel tells the story of two young teens living in Seattle, Washington after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The protagonist is a Chinese American boy who becomes friends with a Japanese American girl. The problem that drives the story is the clash between Henry’s friendship for Keiko and the opposition from his Chinese father, who sees all people of Japanese ancestry as the enemy.
I enjoyed Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, but this isn’t a book review. Instead, I mention it as a source for learning how to connect and distinguish different cultural identities.
Cultural characteristics can be learned as facts, but cultural identity is more elusive. Sometimes you just have to see how someone else handled it, and Jamie Ford handled it well. If you want to know how he did it, you’ll have to read the book for yourself.
Because some concepts must be caught rather than taught.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her most recent book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), is a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Indiana Writers' Consortium to Participate in Downtown Hammond Art Walk

IWC will participate in the Downtown Hammond Art Walk on Saturday, May 31, 2014, from 10 AM until 4 PM. IWC will host member readings every hour on the hour as well as offer quick literary activities that will appeal to adults and children alike. This free event is open to the public.

The IWC’s activities will take place at its new offices in the Hammond Innovation Center, which is located at 5209 Hohman Avenue in Hammond, Indiana.

The reading schedule is:

10:00 AM—Julie Larson is the fiction editor for Blotterature Literary Magazine. Her short stories have been published in Mangrove, Ricochet, and Epiphany Magazine.

            Janine Harrison teaches creative writing at Purdue University Calumet. She is anthologized in Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women and Heartscapes. Her work has also appeared in A&U, Skylark, The Mom Egg, Blotterature, and other journals.

11:00 AM—Yusuf Ali El is the author of Raw Tears, a collection of poetry, and How to Feel Good About Yourself.

12:00 PM—Gordon Stamper, Jr. is an instructor at Ivy Tech and Purdue University North Central and was editor-in-chief for Charles B. Tinkham: Selected Poems (2006). His published poetry includes “Yearning to be Free” (Danse Macabre, July 2011) and “Jazz Funeral” (Spirits, Fall 2005; reprinted on September 1, 2006, NWI Times).

1:00 PM—Karen Kulinski is the author of Rescuing Ivy, coming in 2015 from High Hill Press.

2:00 PM—Kayla Greenwell is a student at Purdue University Calumet. Her short prose has been published in Blotterature and other journals. Kayla is the winner of the 2014-2015 Crowel Scholarship in Writing.

3:00 PM—Michael Poore is the author of Up Jumps the Devil from Ecco Press (an imprint of HarperCollins).

Literary activities, such as creating a found poem and making a haiku bookmark, will be ongoing. IWC’s new space will be open for viewing and light refreshments will be served.

Other locations participating in the Art Walk are: Paul Henry’s Art Gallery, White Ripple Gallery, It’s Just Serendipity, Blue Room CafĂ©, Side Car Gallery, C.I.S.A. Studios, Hammond Arts Center, Substation No. 9, Mark Anderson Studios, and Towle Theater.

The Hammond Public Library is hosting a local authors’ fair from 12:00 – 3:00 PM. Several IWC members are participating in the fair and will have books for sale. The participating members are Yusuf Ali El, Kathryn Page Camp, and “Brothers of Terror” Mark Cusco Ailes and Derek Ailes.

Come join us at both events on May 31.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Introducing Asian/Pacific American Literary Sources

Julie Demoff-Larson
As the month-long celebration of Asian/Pacific American heritage moves quickly by, let’s not forget to take time to appreciate what this faction of the literary community has given. Countless writers continue to enrich American society with tales that merge history and customs with the modern world. Their culture, however American, remains connected to their homeland through generations storytelling. Contributions by Asian/Pacific Americans in literature deepen our understanding of a part of the world that most of us do not have access to. As readers, where do we start in our exploration of Asian/Pacific American literature? In celebration, here are a few offerings that bring a multitude of writers and artists together for your enjoyment:
Government sponsored websites such as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and the Smithsonian give information on the history and various art forms that are indicative of the Asian/Pacific culture. Recordings of Asian/Pacific American poets can be found at And The Smithsonian is full of educational lesson plans, events, and articles, as well as hybrid haiku/visual artifacts to view.
If it is contemporary literary arts you are interested in, well, you are in luck. Quite a few literary journals and magazines feature Asian/Pacific American writers and artists. No need to do a search; here is a short list to get you started:
1.      Kartika Review serves the Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) community and those involved with Diasporic Asian and Pacific Islander-inspired literature. They have featured original works by writers such as David Mura, Russell Leong, Min Jin Lee, Tess Gerritsen, Peter Bacho, Porochista Khakpour, Bryan Thao Worra, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, Don Lee, and Alexander Chee.
2.      Lantern Review aims to provide a virtual space in which to showcase Asian American poetry and to engage with issues relevant to its production and dissemination. They welcome anglophone writers of all ethnic backgrounds whose work has a vested interest in issues relevant to the Asian diaspora in North America, as well as work created collaboratively in a community context.
3.       TAYO Literary Magazine cultivates emerging poetry and prose, publishing writing that knifes, lifts, and strikes at the emotive truth of all things lost and adrift. They are dedicated to the creation, cultivation, and promotion of Filipino/Filipino American arts and culture, open to all work that cuts the insides and opens the heart. Work found on TAYO is contemporary and edgy.
As you embrace Asian/Pacific American heritage month, look within your community for organizations, churches, universities, and local writing groups that offer programs or celebrations. Get involved or experience something new.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Learning about New Cultures

Kathryn Page Camp
What do you do when you want to write about a culture you don’t belong to? You could wing it, which is a horrible response. You could give up. Or you could research, research, research.
That’s the choice Joanne Oppenheim made.
It doesn’t matter what the culture is: the options are the same. But I’ve been researching the Japanese American incarceration during World War II, and this is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. Put those together, and it’s the perfect time to answer the question at the beginning of this post with an example involving the Japanese American incarceration.
The book is Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration during World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne Oppenheim (Scholastic Nonfiction, 2006). So what can it teach writers about researching a culture we don’t belong to?
Dear Miss Breed actually tells two stories. The first is about Clara Breed, a Caucasian children’s librarian at the San Diego Public Library. But her passion was for, and the primary focus of the book is, the Japanese American children who were incarcerated first at Santa Anita Racetrack in California and then at Poston, Arizona.
All Joanne Oppenheim wanted to do was track down a post-war classmate for a class reunion. She found her classmate, but she also discovered a sheaf of letters written to Clara Breed by Joanne’s classmate and other Japanese American children who had frequented the San Diego Public Library prior to the war. Those letters painted a picture of what Miss Breed’s young friends went through, and many are reprinted in the book. Letters written at the time of the events are always a great starting point for research.
But Joanne didn’t stop there. Most of the letters were upbeat, as if the writers didn’t want to depress Miss Breed with the full picture. So Joanne dug deeper. She found as many of Miss Breed’s correspondents as she could and interviewed them. She also looked at official documents, including the testimony given before the congressionally appointed Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.
Even though the letters tried to be upbeat, they were probably Joanne’s best source because they were contemporaneous with the events. The interviews were second best. They took place long after the actual events when memories had faded, but by watching facial expressions or hearing changes in the interviewee’s voice, she could gain information about emotions that were missing from the Commission testimony. But all of these sources melded together to provide a fascinating and realistic picture of what it was like to be a Japanese American child living on the West Coast during World War II.
Are you interested in writing about a culture that is not your own? You could make it up. (Please don’t.) You could give up. Or you could follow Joanne Oppenheim’s example.
Because she chose the third option, I and many others learned about a new culture.
And isn’t that the goal?
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her most recent book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), is a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Leader in Publishing Asian American Studies

Kathryn Page Camp
May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. May was chosen because two important events happened then: (1) the first Japanese immigrants arrived in America on May 7, 1843, and (2) the transcontinental railroad, built mainly by Chinese laborers, was completed on May 10, 1869.
This month commemorates the culture, traditions, and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. That’s a goal shared by the University of Washington Press (UWP), which publishes books in Asian American Studies.
I’m currently writing a middle-grade novel that deals with the Japanese American incarceration during World War II. In the research phase, I compiled a library of 18 books specific to the subject. They come from 13 different publishers, and Scholastic and Heyday (out of Berkeley, California) are responsible for two books each. But weighing in with four books, no publisher dominates my collection the way the UWP does. In fact, of the six memoirs sitting on my shelf, UWP published half.
Although my research emphasis was on Japanese Americans, UWP also covers Chinese Americans and other Asian groups, and it publishes practically every genre except perhaps children’s books. And while the majority are works by Asian American authors, that’s clearly not a requirement.
If you are looking for research material for a book involving Asian American culture, tradition, or history, check out the titles available from UWP. Or if you have completed a book with that emphasis and are looking for a publisher, you can find the submission guidelines at
The University of Washington Press celebrates Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month all year long.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her most recent book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), is a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at