Kameoka in Brief

Pictured: A two minute walk from my apartment.

To all the HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of people reading this, sorry this entry is so late in coming. Between moving/settling in/getting sick/trying to prepare for lessons, I just never had the energy to do much of anything other than what was strictly demanded of me. Even now after taking the last couple weeks off, I still only really have time to phone in a quick entry. Hopefully once I’ve settled into a routine I’ll be able to devote more time to describing my experience here in this blog, but for now I’ll just write a few paragraphs on borrowed time.

Things have been busy but pleasant (other than getting sick). Classes started a week ago Wednesday. I’m teaching at 11 different schools; two junior highs and a bunch of elementarys. Some of the elementarys are way off in the country; the hour-long commutes though pine-covered mountain valleys will probably be pleasant once I know where I’m going, but I have to admit I’m not looking forward to trying to figure out the routes to each school the first time. I have a few schools within walking/biking distance, but the rest require a complicated series of bus transfers and being picked up by teachers at different times and places. I can’t imagine trying to navigate it without Japanese reading/speaking ability. Again, once I settle in and know where I’m going it’ll be fine, but in the meantime it’ll be a bit stressful.

So far I’ve visited one of the junior highs and one of the elementarys, and have had a bunch of great classes so far. I’m sure eventually I’ll have a few nightmare classes, but so far it’s been great. It’ll probably be a few months before I’m *completely* settled into teaching again, but for the most part I already feel like I’m already back into the groove.

Okay! I’d like to write more, but I’ll have to save it for another time; I’ve got a really busy day tomorrow, so I need to rest up for that. I have two three-day weekends coming up back-to-back, so hopefully I can write more then. Cheers!

Departure Stuff

If you’ve read this entry, then you know that I’ve been lucky enough to be accepted to participate in the JET Program for a second time. I have just a month until I board that plane, and have a lot of preparations left to do… my departure has sort of snuck up on me. I have to admit it hasn’t completely sunk in yet.

One thing that’s helped to make the experience seem more real is I just found out where in Japan I’m going to be. I’m about 30-60min outside of Kyoto. I still don’t know exactly where I’ll be or what age groups I’ll be teaching, I gotta say I couldn’t be more delighted with the location. So for all your people who offered to buy me a beer, know that I’m coming to collect!

Oh, one more thing related to my departure: if anyone’s interested in getting a signed/inscribed copy of Tonoharu from me, place those orders now! Once I leave the US I won’t be able to do them for obvious reasons.

More updates to follow in the coming weeks!

Upcoming Talk in Chicago!

Just wanted to mention that I’ll be speaking this upcoming Friday, June 10th, 2011 in Downtown Chicago!

I’ll be there as a part of an author’s panel devoted to experiences teaching English in Japan. The event is sponsored by the Japan American Society of Chicago and the JETAA Chicago Chapter.

This will almost certainly be my last public appearance before I leave for Japan in July, so if you’re in the Chicago area, come out if you can!

Event Details:
What: JETAA Author Panel: Experiences Teaching English in Japan
Who: Me, and authors D.H. Cermeño & James Kennedy
When: Friday, June 10th 2011, 6pm to 8pm
Where: Barnes & Thornburg LLP, 1 N. Wacker Drive, Suite 4400, Chicago, IL 60606 [ Google Maps ]
Admission: $5 JASC & JETAA Members/$10 Non-Members

Space is limited to just 35 attendees, so if you want to go, register now:

May 2011 Update

It occurred to me that it’s been several months since I’ve actually posted anything original on this blog. Most recent posts have been links to YouTube videos and other filler. So I figured it was high time for an update of sorts:


For two years beginning in 2008, I received a scholarship that included a monthly living stipend. It was juuust barely enough to get by on, but I gotta say, it was glorious. It confirmed something I’d long suspected. If I have a steady & predictable source of income and am able to do work that I care about, I can be quite happy, even when I’m hovering around the wrong side of the poverty line.

In March 2010 the scholarship ended, and with it went my steady income. The financial concerns I put on hold for two years ago returned to the fore. As I contemplated my cartooning “career”, I realized that one area where I dropped the ball was marketing & promotion. I had done a bunch to market my first graphic novel shortly before it came out, but almost nothing after that.

Many artist/writers/cartoonists eschew marketing, and I’m sympathetic with that point of view. It takes precious time away from the art, and can be a slippery slope. You write a couple press releases and hand out a few business cards, and before you know it you’re a hack that “creates content” that will appeal to the “18-34 demo”.

Okay, maybe that’s overstating the point a bit, but even artists that take marketing seriously probably see it more as a necessary evil than something they’re actually interested in. But having spent the past 18-odd months trying to market my work, I’ve actually sort of come to enjoy it, the networking aspect in particular.

“Networking” is of course just another way of saying “meeting people”, which is something I enjoy, despite the fact that I’m somewhat introverted. So I’m glad that I had the pretense of “networking” to force me to get off my butt and go out there and meet people. This has enriched my life both professionally and personally.

All-in-all, my efforts have been successful… relatively speaking. Unfortunately, “success” in the world of alternative comics rarely reaches the opulent heights of “living wage”. I make money off my comics, it still isn’t enough to sustain me, and my savings are getting pretty meager. So I’ve decided to make a strategic retreat and get a day job again. (Oh, the horror!)

The good news is, I’ve landed a great one: as a JET Program assistant English teacher. This is what I did from 2003-2006, and what served as the framework for the Tonoharu storyline. It’s hands-down the most rewarding “day job” that I’ve ever had, so I’m honored to have the opportunity to do it again (plus, it’ll remind me of the experience as I work on the last half of Tonoharu). I’ll be leaving for Japan late-July.

So what does this mean for my cartooning aspirations? I haven’t given up on them. I’ll continue to work on Tonoharu in the evenings and on weekends. I suppose this will slow my already glacial pace, but what can you do. Once I’ve had the chance to refill the coffers a bit, I’ll probably take another swing at cartooning full-time.

In the meantime, it’ll be great to have money for extravagances again, like replacement computer equipment and dentist visits. That’s how I roll, folks!