Jamie Ford's Blog
April 13, 2015
Two important things happened last week. The first, was that Seattle's Panama Hotel (depicted in Hotel on the Corner of You Know What) thus ensuring that a very valuable piece of real estate and the belongings of the 37 Japanese families therein, will never be flattened and turned into condos.
This was such welcome news. Because on the flip side of the historical spectrum, I found out that something less praiseworthy was happening.
Poet Janice Mikikitani found a propaganda photo of her cousin, Jimmy, for sale in the auction. Jimmy Mirikitani's life and struggles are detailed in the documentary, Cats of Mirikitani.Rago Auctions, an esteemed auction house, is selling a collection of artwork, photos, and documents that once belonged to Japanese families who were incarcerated in the US during WWII because of their race.
The artwork, created by people who had been wrongfully imprisoned, and the photos, many of which were used for propaganda, are part of a collection amassed by Allen Eaton. That collection, which was never meant to be sold, is now being sent to the auction block by someone who obtained the items from one of Eaton's descendants.
If this sounds wrong, well, that's because it is.
The auction house has issued a statement that basically says that the seller can't afford to donate these things.
Really? I find it hard to sympathize with the financial plight of the seller when compared to the Japanese Americans who created these items in the first place. They couldn't afford to lose their homes, farms, and businesses. But they did. Many lost everything and still fought in Germany, losing arms and legs and lives. Their suffering, their sacrifice, shouldn't be someone else's payday.
These items should be donated to a museum, or given back to the artists and their familes. Anything else is just adding insult to injury. And an exhaustive list of organizations and individuals agree.
To sell these items to the highest bidder is shameless, to make museums and family members bid against each other is greedy, and for an auction house to profit via sellers' fees and buyers' premiums on items created beneath a cloud of injustice is culturally illiterate at best and morally reprehensible at worst.
To learn more about this auction and how to stop it, please visit this Facebook group.
I finally spoke with Tom Martin at Rago Auctions. He expressed his shock and awe that people feel so strongly about this auction (but that he is powerless to change anything).
He also said that he had no idea 120,000 people had been incarcerated, that people were born in camps, died in camps. (And again, he's totally helpless).
Face it, this is an extremely reputable institution (heck, David Rago is on Antiques Roadshow) but on this subject they're culturally tone-deaf in both ears. Tom was proud of their press in the New York Times. But there was no outreach on the West Coast, the area affected by the Internment. And they contacted the Smithsonian and the California Historical Society, but not any Japanese newspapers, museums, or foundations. (Also, the water-colors and oil paintings in the auction are from a prison camp in Wyoming, so the California Historical Society might be off by a few states).
Oh, and did I mention that he's also incredibly powerless to do anything?
Sorry for the snark, kids, but I took his repeated apologies of powerlessness to mean "I don't care enough to do anything, or even try."
Well, now that THOUSANDS of people are calling on Rago Auctions to halt the sale of these items, including a petition at Change.org, and Eric L. Muller, the historian who wrote the auction's catalog copy (and whom I admire) has cancelled his lecture at the auction house this week, maybe--just maybe, someone with authority will care enough to do the right thing. C'mon Rago Auctions, you can do it.
In the meantime, here's an article in tonight's Sacramento Bee: Japanese Americans protest auction of internment camp art. And a follow up piece in the NYT: Auction of Art Made by Japanese-Americans in Internment Camps Sparks Protest. Also, Rafu Shipo weighs in: Community leaders protest auction of JA camp artifacts.
April 7, 2015
There's a big Hugo Awards kerfuffle which I'll delve into later in the week, but at the moment, I'm reeeelaxing. Okay, I'm trying to relax, as I wait to hear back from my editor on the new manuscript.
I can't quite bring myself to dive into a new project, though I'm quietly gathering research materials. And I can't quite go back into the current book. So, I'm catching up on interviews and I even signed a contract for a new story called The Uncertainty Machine which will appear soon in the third volume of the Apocalypse Triptych.
In the meantime, I wait, daydreaming.
April 1, 2015
[image error]After months of secret negotiations I'm happy to announce that HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET has finally been optioned by Hollywood mega-director, Justin Lin (The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift) with Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand) as executive producer.
Production begins this fall with Vin Diesel signing on to star in the iconic role of Henry Lee, both as old Henry (with a lot of make-up and special effects) and as a baldish, swaggering, tattooed young 12-year-old Henry. And in this big-screen adaptation, Henry trades in his little red wagon for a '67 Mustang Fastback that tears up the streets of Seattle's Chinatown.
At first I was a little nervous about the casting of Vin as Henry, but it turns out that he's a huge fan of the book, literally and figuratively.
The Hollywood Reporter even quoted him as saying: "This book has everything. Racial tensions. Familial conflict. A message of social justice. A timeless love story. Even a father and son element. All it's lacking is muscle cars and booty quake."
Plus, when I found out that the filmmakers had also cast Chiaki Kuriyama, who played Gogo Yubari in the Kill Bill films, as Keiko, I was sold. Literally, because a giant Brinks truck backed up to my house and dumped a pile of cash in my garage.
At that point I thought, "What the heck, I always wanted a gold-plated swimming pool in my back yard, BOO-YA, let's do this crazy thing!"
March 24, 2015
I just realized that I've had this blog-thing for ten years. That's kinda crazy, especially when you consider that I set up shop a few years before I ever finished, let alone SOLD a book. If you're curious what I was blathering on about in the dark ages, here ya go.
Nowadays, blogs are somewhat passe, especially with the ubiquity of social media (I'm looking at you Facebook). It seems that most of my online interactivity occurs in other venues, and interestingly enough, it's voiced in different ways. Sooooo...with that in mind, here's a thought-map of where I am, and what I'm up to.
Facebook - For those that want to friend me (please do!), I post about my current work-in-progress, travel (personal and book events) and also the regular things normal people post--like my kids' concerts, shoes that my dogs have mangled, and adventures of the Books & Brews Book Club.
Facebook/AuthorPage - Yes, I have an author page. Authors are recommended to do this since a normal FB account maxes out at 5,000 friends, but these so-called fan pages allow for unlimited followers. On my author page I tend to post more authorly things (surprise), like book tour info, tips for writers, and generally stuff germane to readers, book clubs, bookstores, and librarians.
Twitter - I love Twitter. Not sure why. Probably has something to do with my short attention span. On Twitter I tend to post humorous stuff, but also things with an activist bent. Twitter is so immediate and hashtags work so well that it's really the perfect venue to voice opinions on current events. Also, with a limit of 140 characters no one can go bananapants with some political screed. Less, indeed, is more.
Instagram - I'm a believer that IG is best used as a window, not a mirror, so you won't find a gazillion selfies, nor photos of Starbucks cups. Instead it's just weird, "Day-in-the-life" stuff. Enjoy.
Google+ - This is total mystery to me. By that I mean, I have 250,000 followers on G+. THAT'S INSANE, especially when you consider I have about 8,000 Twitter followers and 2,500 Facebook friends. What gives, Google? And there's hardly any activity, but since I have so many followers I feel like I should post something, so this tends to by my own personal click-hole where I post cool links.
I'm also on LinkedIn with a resume that goes all the way back to my paper route in the 6th grade, and I'm on Goodreads, but I don't do much on either venue, though this blog is aggregated to both places.
Which brings me to the big ol' WHAT WILL YOU BE USING THIS VENUE FOR?
I think this blog will become my home for long-winded responses to things in the author world. Stuff comes up that needs a full-explanation, like last year's spat between Hachette and Amazon, or a recent talk given at a major writers conference were authors were discouraged from voiceing opinions (I couldn't disagree more). That kind of thing. But also book updates, travel news, yada yada yada.
Speaking of, I really need to pack for Seattle. Emerald City Comic Con, here I come.
March 18, 2015
[image error]Yes, every author is also a part-time fashion criminal. Hence, the Batman jammies. A lot of people wonder what it is that I do after completing a new book. Do I pour some scotch and smoke a single cigarette? Do I slice the neck of a bottle of Dom with a ceremonial broadsword (that would be kinda cool, actually). Do I run naked through my neighborhood screaming, “SUCK IT, FRANZEN!”?
None of the above.
What I actually do…wait for it…is clean my office.
I know. It’s all about the sexy up here in Bittersweet Productions.
Well, I do that for two reasons:
My office is usually a neglected animal warren by the time I drag myself across the finish line of a new novel.
I’m not really done yet.
Basically, I don’t celebrate anything until my editor gives the book her Papal blessing. Then I kinda celebrate, but it’s more like relief. But the work doesn’t really end, because at that point we start editing. Then copyediting. Then proofing. Then cover design. Then the riot of small things that go along with launching a book: questionnaires about the book for PR. Cover copy. Blurb requests (begging). Catalog copy. Submissions to foreign editors with notes, videos, thoughts, ideas.
And then before I have a moment to really reflect on this book, this 10 lb. baby that I’ve given birth to sideways (my wife is a Labor & Deliver nurse by the way, who always reminds me whenever I use that metaphor that one, that’s not physically possible, and B, I don’t have a uterus) my agent will ask, “whatcha working on now?”
Because with the ever-changing literary landscape (with eBooks, yo) I only do one-book deals. So she’s quick to point out that I should get under contract again.
So it’s DANCE, MONKEY DANCE all over again.
Which I’m happy to do. I have a LOT of ideas. Plus, if I ever run out, people always email me and say, “I have this great story about the time the police stole my bicycle.”
Okay, enough of this blogging nonsense. I’ve got work to do.
March 6, 2015
As I'm winding down the new book, I'm winding up a bit of book travel, including a panel on diversity at Emerald City Comic Con, the latest stage adaptation of HOTEL at the CATS theater in Nevada City (directed by Annie Lareau), and even a high school commencement speech
(God help us all).
See you soon!
Literary Lions Gala
Black Tie Optional
Emerald City ComicCon
Washington Convention Ctr
Southern KY Book Fest
Knicely Conf. Center
Bowling Green, KY
Nevada City, CA
IHC Humanities Lecture
Twin Falls, ID
Talk & Signing
Great Falls High
Great Falls, ID
January 26, 2015
Photo by Sarah Deutsche. A week ago I was in East Texas for the 15th Annual Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend, which is for authors, sort of like Coachella meets Burning Man with a little bit of Elvis thrown in for good measure.
In other words, you kinda have to be there to understand it.
Now they number 600 affiliated book clubs all over the world. They wear tiaras, leopard print everything, and a LOT of pink!
And once a year they gather in Texas for a book love explosion of author panels, keynote talks, dancing, and costumes galore. (Oh, and Dreamworks Entertainment has optioned Kathy's life story for a movie!)
This year's theme was Around the World with Books so I went as a steampunked Phileas Fogg. This was my fourth year and I've learned that you can't overdo it when it comes to costumes. These ladies go all out. And I was also honored to be co-hosting, which meant I got to do a lot of the interviewing instead of being the interviewee, which was exhausting, exhilarating, and an all-around good time.
Plus, it's always nice to meet other authors, make new friends, and spend time with fellow travelers on this weird, magical writing journey. I got to rub elbows with a Pulitzer winner (Bill Dedman), a Nobel Prize finalist (Pat Montandon), and one of the ghost-writers for the Hardy Boys (Joe Holley).
Last, but not least, I was gobsmacked to learn that Songs of Willow Frost had been voted Fiction Book of the Year! Somewhere William and Willow are celebrating.
For more amazing portraits from this years event, clickety click here.
January 8, 2015
Catch me in Shreveport next Weds where I'll be giving an artist talk at the ArtSpace.Hey, it's me, the absentee landlord of this here blog. I tend not to travel for book events in November and December, so those are always my most productive months, and this past year has been no exception. I'm thiiiiisss close to finishing the new book. (Still searching for a title). If all goes well I'll be wrapping up the ending this month.
What is it about, you ask? Well, all I'm going to say is that if HOTEL was heartwarming, WILLOW was heartbreaking, the new book is designed to be heartmelting. (Leesha's description, not mine).
In the meantime, it's a new year, which means a smattering of new travel starting next week where I'll be at the ArtSpace in Shreveport and co-hosting the 15th Annual Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend in East Texas. Imagine Coachella for book groups with a smattering of Burning Man meets Elvis and you're kinda there.
Off to edit. Pack. Pick up my steampunk outfit from the dry cleaners. The usual.
Oh, and Happy New Year!
November 27, 2014
(This appeared in 2009. But it's one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories, so I thought I'd share it again).
My father ran a restaurant—a small, unassuming diner kind of place, with a smoky bar attached. While my friends’ fathers were engineers, physicists, and pipe-fitters, men with college degrees, journeyman cards, or at least fancy titles, my dad breaded chops. He wasn’t working on his Masters on the side and wasn’t in line for any kind of promotion, ever. And to be painfully honest, as a selfish, myopic teenager, I was often embarrassed.
I felt like the Chinese version of “Toula” in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Growing up, on any given Saturday I’d doff my stained apron, go home and shower, then head to some junior high dance wondering if I still smelled of frying oil.
Much to my chagrin, birthday dinners were always held “at the restaurant,” and why not? That’s where my dad was, because he never stopped working. It was the only way he could be there. My friends loved it. Instead of eating delivery pizza, they could order anything off the menu and have the run of the place. How cool is that? Not very, I’d mutter. Gawd, I was a brat.
So when my father announced that he’d be leaving the restaurant open on Thanksgiving, I was mortified. Not only would this mean I’d have to work, (because he was giving everyone else the day off), but who on Earth would want to come to our trivial mom & pop shop on such a festive holiday? We didn’t offer a prime rib on silver chargers, or hollandaise covered anything. Today’s teenager would have begun cutting himself in angst, but it was merely the 80s, so instead I grumped, I slumped, I down-in-the-dumped.
I rolled my eyes and slogged through a haze of holiday drudgery, as my mom strung lights in the bar and set up a fake tree that had seen one too many Christmases, while my dad stayed up all night baking pies and stuffing turkeys.
In the morning, I washed dishes, set tables—the usual—certain that we’d spend the day in our empty place of business, with nothing but the hollow, mocking, I told you so songs, playing on the jukebox.
I imagined my friends enjoying their Norman Rockwell families and their postcard-perfect tables of Betty Crocker greatness. And secretly wondered if I’d been adopted, robbed of my rightful destiny with some normal family.
I mentioned something to my father about the banks being closed, a sarcastic nod to the cash register, which sat empty and unmanned.
“No need,” He said.
“What do you mean, no need?” I was the one always running to get more one-dollar bills or rolls of quarters to make change.
“No charge today. It’s Thanksgiving.”
The good thing was: I was certain no one would show up, the bad thing was: I was certain my dad had lost his mind. Why? Because he’d invited all of our regular customers, who I had envisioned politely declining the kindly offer, much preferring their own families, their own traditions, to slumming around with us.
So when the first little old man wandered in, I assumed he was lost and looking for directions. Instead my dad took his hat, found him a seat and poured a glass of wine. Then an elderly woman showed up and gave my dad a hug. Then two rough looking kids in their 20s who once worked for my dad when “they got out.” Then a retired cop. A bus driver. A carload of little old, canasta-playing ladies. Some brought desserts. Others brought eggnog with 7-11 price tags, or dollar-store boxes of candy canes. In all, more than 75 people showed up. All of them regulars—the men who appeared like clockwork, after work, and nursed lonely drinks at the bar. The walker-bound lady who came by cab from a retirement home, who had more money than friends, who ate the same meal week after week, because she had no place else to go.
They ate, drank and sang (loudly!), watched football and played cribbage in the bar.
And when we ran out of turkey, my dad fried hamburgers. On any other day, I would have been mortified. Embarrassed. Humiliated. Instead I cut French fries. Grateful for my family—for my dad’s stumpy, leathery, blue-collar hands, with scars from kitchen knives and frequent burns.
Late into the evening, we finally locked the doors. After sweeping up broken plates, scrapping grills, wiping counters, washing dishes, reveling in the glorious mess.
We finally went home, exhausted, leaving the Christmas lights on.
Here's wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving.
November 19, 2014
Hmmm...seeing as how I just personalized a ginormous stack of books that lovely readers had sent in for holiday gifts, it's only fitting that I let THE GREAT BIG WORLD KNOW, that--yes, I'm always happy to personalize books for whatever occasion. Christmas? YES! Hanukkah? INDEED! Feast of Elvis? WHY NOT? Bring it on!
So if you'd like to buy personalized books for the readers on your holiday shopping lists, please email my studious assistant, taskmaster, and all around majordomo: firstname.lastname@example.org. She'll make it happen.
Also, if you're in the Seattle area you should check out the Seattle 7 Writers' Annual Holiday Bookfest at the Phinney Neighborhood Center on November 22. Twenty-eight authors, all in one place, with a portion of their book sales going to 826 Seattle.
Happy holidays. Be good. Santa and the NSA are watching.