TORONTO – After a sold-out launch on Jan. 9, Mata Ashita is preparing to host new sessions of its virtual creative writing circle for Japanese Canadians, strengthening connections between community members of all generations.
Join upcoming community writing workshops via Zoom on Feb. 6 and March 6. Upcoming speakers for Mata Ashita workshop sessions include poet Michael Prior (left) on March 6 and artist and authors Jeff Chiba Stearns (top right) and Lillian Michiko Blakey (bottom right) on April 3.
The first workshop saw writers of all ages and levels of experience tune in for an engaging conversation with Joy Kogawa, author of Obasan. Kogawa spoke of adjusting to pandemic living as “growing gills and learning to breathe underwater.” During the audience Q&A, Kogawa encouraged attendees to embrace their courage while speaking of issues of representation, creative process, and mental health.
After the community discussion, participants got their pens, notebooks and, laptops ready for a series of guided writing exercises. One of the most impactful prompts of the day involved writing a letter to another generation. It was empowering to discover connections between different perspectives on the Japanese Canadian experience and realize there is a real desire for us to find each other once again.
As Kogawa explains, “For me, the sense of the Japanese Canadian community is very fractured, and I think when we are able to make small connections like this, it’s like getting a piece of the puzzle into place. It’s exciting when you see the bright spots, the happiness that we can have when we recognize each other—maybe that’s enough to keep us sane, to keep us hopeful that one day we’ll see the whole picture.”
For Mata Ashita’s next workshops on Feb. 6 with Sally Ito and March 6 with Michael Prior, organizers Leanne Toshiko Simpson and Sen Canute hope to engage in more community-building exercises, providing opportunities for smaller groups to write together and form friendships. Recalling the communal rise of Asian Canadian literature in Canada, they also hope there will be an opportunity for Mata Ashita writers to eventually contribute to their own anthology of creative work.
“Reconciling with Japanese Canadian identity is something I think a lot of us struggle with. It can be daunting to seek out community, and in the pandemic, we have even fewer opportunities to find it,” says Canute.
“Our hope with this series is to offer up that much-needed space for connection, community wellbeing, and intergenerational healing through creative practices.”
The final announced guest speakers for Mata Ashita before the summer are Jeff Chiba Stearns and Lillian Michiko Blakey on April 3, Hiromi Goto and Erica Hiroko Isomura on May 1, and Ruth Ozeki on June 5. To register for an upcoming workshop, please find Mata Ashita on Instagram @matashitawriting or visit here.