Header image for A Famous Journalist

Friends of Walking

Hello. Once again, it is I, Craig Mod.

Working on Kissa by Kissa has knocked loose from the noggin’ some strange moments from past walks.

Last year, just as I was about to head up into the mountains on the northern side of Kumano City, I passed a tiny log cabin. The owner was working in their yard, and I yelled to them in Japanese, “Hey! Great weather, no?!” And they yelled back, “Oh, hello! You must be an English teacher!”

Now, I don’t have anything against English teachers. You can make a lot of cash doing that job in Japan. But that kind of instant presumption carries a little bit of a similar vibe (third cousins kinda vibes?) to, “Hey, you must play basketball?” said to a black guy. Their algorithm is simply Foreigner + InJapan = EnglishTeacher. Fine, fine.

Without missing a beat I yelled back something that just shocked even me. It’s the weirdest (OK, second weirdest) thing I’ve ever yelled to anyone in all my twenty-one years of living here. I yelled back in Japanese, “No no, not English teacher. I’m a FAMOUS JOURNALIST!” (And I swear to God I hadn’t yet read Transmetropolitan.)

Famous journalist? What the hell does that even mean? First, that’s not really a thing. Second, who says that? “I’m a famous journalist.” Obviously, I don’t think of myself as a journalist or as famous. I was just so frazzled by the parochial brazenness of “You must be an English teacher!” that it came tumbling out.

Well, you should have seen the look on their face. “Famous journalist?! Amazing! Can I have your card?”

They came bounding down to me as if I were some B-movie star they were supposed to know, my aura suddenly transformed from lowly and boring teacher of languages to exalted shoe leather burnin’ Somebody. I was walking with a friend who spoke a little Japanese and he whispered to me in English, “Did you just tell them that you’re … a famous journalist?”

“Please … write … name!” they yelled in shaky English holding out a pad and pen. (Where the pad and pen came from so quickly, I do not know.) So I did. I wrote, “John Jeremiah Sullivan.” The name of an actual famous journalist.

In my recent Roden missive I touted July 13th as a possible launch date for the pre-sale of Kissa by Kissa. I’m currently on the train back from the printers. Things are looking good but the dummy book wasn’t quite dialed in. So we’re taking another week and doing another pass. We’re talking changes on the level of half-millimeters. If all looks good next Thursday, then I’ll launch on the 20th.

This is fine — it’s not like we’re curing cancer here. And getting this first book dialed in to a good place is critical, since I’m treating this as a series. Book One doesn’t have to be perfect, but the fewer misses the better.

The manuscript is looking great. More and more solid by the day. I have been lucky to have sharp copyeditor — as well as sharp photographic — eyes on it. Everything has been ratcheted up a notch or two on the craft scale. There’s some Tuftian copy-fitting going on — writing, rewriting, nudging justification rules, hyphenation rules — to get the text blocks and page breaks to fit just-so. I’ve spent roughly twenty hours on small photo edits this week alone. Four hours yesterday on the copyright page. Last night, just as I was about to go to sleep I thought I’d look over the manuscript one more time. Two hours later I had dramatically expanded a chapter. My sleep schedule is presently bonkers.

I’m planning on doing a members-only Q&A once the book is done, walking through the whole design and layout process. Also planning on running an iPad Lightroom CC demo / tutorial showing some before and afters on the photo edits. The iPad really is an ideal device to make a lot of these edits. (Although Lightroom feels about half the level of quality and usability it should be … alas.)

Today at the printers I got back our final test prints. A few more tweaks and the photos will be baked. Tomorrow, dialing in the map with a map master. One of the great joys of this project has been collaborating with friends who are the best at what they do.

OK, this famous journalist needs to get some food. It’s 18:30 and today’s caloric intake has been a scant: smoothie and some “salad” Pretz.

More soon,

Fellow Walkers

“I learn the place I am by walking it. The sweating streets of New Orleans and the park paths of London. The furrowed fields and gravel farm drives of my home in Kentucky horse country."

“I was so little when our family escaped Russia as refugees, that only my bones remember the journey across multiple countries, the feelings of it all shared in hushed conversations until we reached the coast of the Pacific Ocean. I live with a perpetual tick, that compels me to spontaneously wander into unknown territory and figure out how to make my way back to the Pacific. It’s an odd yet comforting simulation that my bones relive, and the way I learn the most about myself.”

(“Fellow Walkers” are short bios of the other folks subscribed to this newsletter. In Ridgeline 001 I asked: “What shell were you torn from?” and got hundreds of responses. We’re working our way through them over the year. You’re an amazing, diverse crew. Grateful to be walking with you all. Feel free to send one in if you haven’t already.)


Not subscribed to Ridgeline?
(A weekly letter on walking in Japan)