How I became the Otaku Journalist

1 September 2014 | 1 comment

Every now and then, students and aspiring journalists write to me for advice about entering the field. Here’s an email I sent recently, published with permission.


I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about how you became a journalist and blogger. I often write my thoughts and little journal entries, but I want to make the transition from something personal that would only be of interest to me, something that is more appealing to people that are not me. Any pointers you may want to offer me would be greatly appreciated!


I really like the phrasing of this question. I am often asked how I became a writer, but I think today just about everyone is a writer. We tweet and text and update Facebook all the time. We write a novel’s worth of email every year. We’re all writers now.

It’s not enough to have a blog, either. As of 2013, there are 152 million blogs online. Just because you’ve started a blog doesn’t mean anyone has to listen to you.

So in a world where everyone’s a writer and a blogger already, what can you do to stand out?

In my experience, the answer is persistence. Making a habit of updating your blog on a regular schedule. I became a journalist and blogger by yelling loudly about how much I wanted to do it day after day and year after year.

For nearly five years, I’ve more or less stuck to a strict Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting regimen. I’ve always thought of my blog as a job. I honestly think my blog has gone downhill now that I write professionally elsewhere. In 2010 and 2011 when this blog was my only writing outlet, I did more interviews, nuanced opinions based on current events, and even mini-documentaries.

Think of a blog as a hub to showcase your writing. Nobody cares where you got your degree when they see expertly reported articles on your blog right in front of them. And don’t forget to write about the potential career skills you’re picking up, whether you’re sharing an interesting anecdote while teaching college or learning a new language.

Your blog isn’t the end goal. Instead, it’s to broadcast loudly what it is you want to do for a living to anyone that will listen. It’s not to grow your blog to thousands of readers or make money off of it (though after half a decade that’s been a pretty neat side effect), but to show off your best work while also showing how prolific you can be.

Longtime readers already know that I’ve gotten every writing job I’ve ever had because of my blog. I referenced articles on my blog when I entered a contest for female journalists under 25 on Forbes—and I won. That’s how Owen Thomas found out about me and offered me a job at the Daily Dot, and later at ReadWrite where we both work now. Don’t forget that I just started reviewing at Anime News Network because I submitted a blog post as a writing sample.

In fact, last week I just signed my first solo book deal. I’ll be working with Carlton Publishing to write a book about cosplay. Why’d they ask me? They liked my articles on cosplay, which they’d seen on the Daily Dot, my portfolio, and of course, my blog. That’s worth stating again: if I had never started a blog, I would never have gotten a book deal.

You mentioned that you’re concerned about branching out your topic space from stuff you care about to stuff that appeals to other people. However, I think that’s the wrong way to go about it. A successful blogger isn’t you thinking, “What will make other people like my blog?” They’re writing about what they care about. If you don’t care about your blog, nobody will. I’ve written before about being a niche writer and how it’s your biggest asset.

“But nobody cares about what I like!” you’re thinking. Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. People who like anime are not a global majority, and people who like anime and want to be writers are an even smaller group. When I came up with the name Otaku Journalist, a lot of well-meaning friends urged me to go with something more general. But here I am, and here you are, and you’re asking me this question instead of another blogger for a reason.

If action points are more your style, here’s a checklist:

√ Start a blog

√ Pick a few days a week to update

√ Blog about what you want to be paid to write about

√ Share it with your friends and family

√ Share it on social media

√ Share it with people you admire

√ Enter contests and apply for jobs and use your posts as a portfolio

I am not guaranteeing overnight results. And if you find yourself giving up, maybe that’s a sign you weren’t that enamoured with writing as a career in the first place. I blogged through a retail job, an office job, and now several writing jobs. I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back, but to demonstrate how important I think blogging continues to be to any writing career.

I know, I know, I’ve been harping on this for years. I hope this inspires you to just go for it. Don’t wait until the “perfect” moment. Your writing style will improve and change and that’s the point. My only regret is that I didn’t start my blog sooner.


Do you have a question you’d like to ask? Drop me an email or visit my Tumblr Ask box.

Otaku Links: The silver lining

29 August 2014 | No comments yet

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The Internet, especially our little otaku/gamer/geek corner of it, has been terrible this week. I don’t blame you if you’d rather go outside. But if you’re stuck at your screen, I’ve collected some inspiriting links to remind you it’s not ALL bad.

  • Free! Eternal Summer is the best anime of the season and everyone in Japan agrees. Even if you don’t agree, what this confirms is that women are a much bigger part of the anime audience than the stereotypes would have you think.
  • I went to a Magic: The Gathering tournament in DC last weekend mainly to cheer on my husband. The Washington Post was there too, and they profiled Feline Longmore, a trans woman who happens to be ridiculously good.
  • Never heard of Anime Sols before this week, but it’s a really neat idea. People crowdfund classic DVD box sets, and then everyone gets to watch them streaming. And it’s all done in partnership with Japanese studios, too.
  • MC Melody Doll, the world’s only Elegant Gothic Lolita rapper, has a new single out. If you’re into My Little Pony fandom, you might recognize the song’s composer, electronica master The Living Tombstone.
  • Finally, I was on Beneath The Tangles’ very first podcast talking about anime and religion, writing for a living, and my new ANN gig! I’ve been reading Beneath The Tangles for four years now, and I was glad to be their first guest.

Screenshot via Gravity Falls.

My reviewing gig at Anime News Network!

28 August 2014 | 7 comments

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Update: Read all about ANN Streaming Reviews here!

All right, I already pushed back publishing once, but everybody knows about it. I blabbed about it in a podcast at Beneath The Tangles, ANN has hinted at it, and I’m not sure exactly when it will all be made official, but here goes.

I’m now a weekly streaming anime reviewer for Anime News Network.

It started at Otakon actually, when Mike Toole casually mentioned during our panel that ANN was looking for people to review anime part-time. This season I’m watching a lot of shows as they come out so I thought, why not write about them, too?

I wrote a cover letter to Zac Bertschy and attached my recent Mushi-shi/Natsume blog post as a writing sample. (See, this is where having your own anime blog can translate into getting jobs.) He liked it, and offered me a trial position, along with 9 other people. This is a paid position, but, as is pretty common in freelance writing, I’ve been asked not to disclose what I’m making.

This season, I’ll be reviewing Free!, Bakumatsu Rock, and Nobunaga Concerto on Crunchyroll each week as they come out. I was assigned two shows I’d never seen, so I had to spend some time catching up. It’s my own fault actually—Zac wanted to make sure each of us had two shows we actually wanted to watch. I had asked for (and was assigned) Tokyo Ghoul, which I had heard great things about from my friends. But when I tried to actually watch it, at midnight in my darkened bedroom, I couldn’t keep my eyes open through all the gore! I asked if I could be reassigned, and if I could possibly get some new friends.

After Zac got over his perplexedness at a reviewer requesting a show they knew nothing about, he asked me to choose one of the anime nobody else had picked. Nobunaga Concerto is one of the lowest-rated shows of the season and I think I was fair in giving it a D. But there’s a certain joy to writing negative reviews, and I’m hoping you’ll read along as I have fun with it.

I am not a completely amateur reviewer. I used to do weekly reviews when I was at Japanator, occasional analysis for this blog, and in a burst of hubris I even wrote How to write anime reviews people actually want to read (whether I actually can do that, well, you be the judge). But the wide majority of my portfolio is reporting work. I’m hoping that my new position at Anime News Network will help me to become a more well-rounded writer.

Reviews should be up either tomorrow or later next week. I’ll back-link them here. Stay tuned for a blog post later when I let you know what I’ve learned from this experiment!

Anime romance for grown-ups

25 August 2014 | 13 comments

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I’m watching Blue Spring Ride this season. (To be honest, I started because I love Futaba’s hairstyle, and I’m still debating with myself whether or not it’d be too awkward for everyone involved  to bring a picture of an anime character to a hairdresser.)

Blue Spring Ride is ostensibly a shoujo romance show, but I think Beneath The Tangles hit the nail on the head when writer JP summarized it as an anime about learning to be yourself. Like a lot of teens, Futaba tries on personalities she hopes are more “likeable” than her own. She is unable to discover whether or not she’s in love with handsome Kou until she discovers herself.

This is all well and good as a coming-of-age story, but for me it’s not a very satisfying romance. Stuff like Kimi No Todoke is endearing at first, but can you believe it’s been 24 episodes and they still can’t confess? As I’ve gotten older and gotten married, I’ve learned that romance is about a lot more than the butterflies in your stomach when you’re trying to admit you like somebody.

I’m not just talking about sex. There’s learning to trust each other, dealing with jealousy regarding other love interests, sharing each other’s identity and physical space, and learning to resolve the inevitable argument without saying something you regret.

In order to get stories like this, you have to move beyond the shoujo genre into josei, which is geared at older women (but I’d argue that my favorite josei anime and manga, just like my favorite seinen stuff, are for everyone). These all involve straight relationships, but if you know of one that breaks that mold, I’d love to hear about it!

karekano

My favorite is 1998’s His And Her Circumstances. Yukino and Arima are both seemingly-perfect students who find they can be themselves around each other. It’s a rare high school romance that answers the question, “What happens after the first kiss?” One reviewer called it director Hideki Anno’s “personal case study of relationships.”

Both of Ai Yazawa’s most well known works, Paradise Kiss and Nana, involve more mature relationships, too. The characters in these shows have sex and contemplate or commit to cohabitation. They have arguments, resolutions, and sometimes, amicable separations.

Moving on to manga, there’s Happy Marriage?, the story of an office lady who has to marry a man she doesn’t know in order to keep up appearances. Perhaps since they live together, they’re able to get beyond the “does he like me?” tier of the relationship into subplots about infidelity and reconciling each others’ obnoxious housekeeping habits.

At any age, that very first “I love you” is the biggest rush you’ll ever feel. But as we get older, we aren’t fooled that it’s all “happily ever after” from here. I have a craving for more anime and manga that smartly and wholeheartedly explores the messiness of a romantic relationship.

Do you have any favorite romance anime or manga?

Otaku Links: Grab your headphones

22 August 2014 | No comments yet

tomoko_headphones

  • Real Life vs. Anime: Basketball. A video answer to people who ask me, “Why do you think Kuroko’s Basketball is interesting but not real basketball?”

Good news: starting next week, I can finally tell you about some exciting stuff I’m working on! Watch this space.

Screenshot via Watamote

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