I was fortunate to be interviewed by Author Solutions at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference last month. The interviewer noted that, in addition to novels, I’ve written children’s nonfiction books, essays and short stories. She asked what the challenges and benefits are of crossing genres like this.
I had to think about that a bit. It wasn’t in my grand plan of becoming a published writer to consider whether crossing genres would be a good strategy—I just took advantage of any opportunity that came my way. I started out writing short stories, and was lucky enough to get a few published, and that led me to moving on to write novels. But before my novels got published, by a fluke I got the chance to write two kids’ non-fiction books—one on Niagara Falls and a bio of Christina Aguilera when she was still a teen sensation (pre Xtina!). My goal hadn’t been to be a children’s book author, but that didn’t stop me from giving this a shot.
These ended up being my first published books. My name appeared on the covers as the author, but I didn’t receive royalties since the publisher paid only a flat fee. It wasn’t the ideal situation, but I thought it was a terrific opportunity to get some publishing cred under my belt. And, not to mention, working with an editor and having real deadlines were valuable experiences that prepared me when I got my novels published later with a major house. Whether it’s been fiction vs. nonfiction or trad-pubbed vs. self-pubbed, I seem to have done it all, kind of flying by the seat of my pants.
And now this crossing genres has come full circle, with two new releases out this month.
My short story “Love Right on the Yesterday” is appearing in a wonderful YA anthology: Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction – An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories, edited by Holly Thompson and published by Stone Bridge Press. The book will benefit teens in Japan whose lives were upended by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. Portions of the proceeds will be donated to the Japanese non-profit, HOPE FOR TOMORROW, to support ongoing relief efforts for teens in Japan.
And I was honored when the story was selected to be published in the Young Adult Review Network. You can read it HERE.
And crossing over into the non-fiction genre, my essay “Burning Up” appears in Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop, edited by Laura Barcella and published by Soft Skull Press, including writers such as Caroline Leavitt and Cintra Wilson.
So I’d like to know if you’ve ever “crossed genres.” What’s been your experience? And if you haven’t yet crossed over, why not try writing a short story, a picture book, an essay, or some flash fiction? It’s all about our creativity no matter what the form or where it lands.
Wendy Nelson Tokunaga is the author of the novels “Midori by Moonlight” and “Love in Translation,” both published by St. Martin’s Press, and the e-book “Falling Uphill” under the pen name Kelly Sweetwood. She is also the author of the non-fiction e-book, “Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband.” She teaches writing at Stanford University’s Online Writer’s Studio (her online class So Not Chick Lit: WritingNovels About Women’s Lives starts April 9!) and University of San Francisco, and also has her own manuscript consulting service. Visit her at: www.WendyTokunaga.com