When editor Anita Sundararaj suggested I write a story for a book Professor Mohammad A. Quayum was editing of new Asian short stories, I backed away, saying that I’m not Asian, so probably wouldn’t qualify. She urged me to write one and send it to him anyway, as I live in Japan. I went into a file and pulled out an article about the firebombing of Tokyo in 1945. What must it have been like to have lived through the hell of thousands of incendiary bombs cascading down on your head? Having thought about it for a few days, I sat down, turned on my computer, and began writing. The character that appeared was an eight year old boy named Seiji Matsuda. The story begins when a U.S. Army sergeant named David Sakamoto comes across a boy drawing with a piece of found charcoal on a piece of partly burned cardboard. Squatting down near the boy, he introduced himself. “You draw very well,” he said. Glancing up, Seiji wondered what a Japanese man was doing in a US Army uniform. “Yes, it is confusing. My parents are from Japan.” He looked around at the neighborhood. Only a few houses still stood.
“You live near here, eh?” The boy nodded. “Mind if I walk you home? It’s my job to see how people are doing.” Getting up, Seiji tucked the drawing under his right arm and walked to his house. From that point, the story of Seiji’s life begins.
* * *
When flames began raining down on his neighborhood, his mother gathered her 2-year old daughter and screamed “Run, Seiji, run to the river!” Across the street from their little home, his favorite grandma stood, her clothing in flames, staring up at the sky. With that and other nightmare images in his mind, he ran after his mother. When the bombing finally stopped, he looked at his mother and realized that his little sister Setsuko was dead. At daybreak, reality hit everyone still alive that their lives had changed forever.
* * *
I sent the story to Professor Quayum and waited. Several months later I got the news that out of 150 submissions, mine was one of twenty-five that was accepted. I was over the moon! The title of the book is “A Rainbow Feast: New Asian Short Stories,” published in Singapore by Marshall Cavendish International (Asia). You can find it on amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Feast-Asian-Short-Stories/dp/9814302716/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1471665387&sr=1-1&keywords=Mohammad+A.+Quayum%3A+A+Rainbow+Feast%3A+New+Asian+Short+Stories
When Professor Quayum asked if I was interested in writing reviews for his Asiatic Literary Journal I said yes. For around two years I read and reviewed books by writers I would never have come across had I not sent my Seiji story to him.
None of this would have happened had I not introduced myself to Anita Sundararaj, whom I’d met on an internet magazine called “Speak Without Interruption”. She runs “How To Tell a Great Story”, a story telling resource website at www.howtotellagreatstory.com
I also met my first publisher (since defunct), who published my first three books (“The Old Man and The Monkey”, “Grandfather and The Raven,” and “Bear, a story about a boy and his very unusual dog”.
So . . . if you want to tell stories, tell them, be curious and never give up.
Sayonara for now.