Susan Spann joins me to talk about moving beyond a life of fear and climbing 100 Japanese mountains in a year while beating cancer — and writing a book about it all.
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<p>Writing is only part of a writing career -- no one warned us that we would need business acumen and entrepreneurship to be an author. Whether you're traditionally published or an independent self-publisher, it's good to have a leg up on accounting, marketing, time management, and other key skills.</p><br><p>These recordings of live discussion on craft and development, on business best practices, on explorations of fascinating and inspiring real life cool stuff, and more will help you along your writing journey and career development. Join Laura VanArendonk Baugh as she shares what she's learned and what she's learning. (Or join the weekly live discussion with your own questions!)</p><br /><hr><p style='color:grey; font-size:0.75em;'> See <a style='color:grey;' target='_blank' rel='noopener noreferrer' href='https://acast.com/privacy'>acast.com/privacy</a> for privacy and opt-out information.</p>
This is Laura VanArendonk Baugh,
and I still don’t have a catchphrase.
So I want to welcome you to tonight’s
stream. I am
a little discombobulated.
And so I apologize in advance.
I have been trying to put things together
when I discovered that this was not
going to be a multicast after all.
So we’re just on Twitch tonight.
I apologize for the chaos,
if you were seeing my several frantic
messages on various social media,
hopefully you have found your way here
and we will take it as it comes,
because that’s that’s how we do things.
That’s how we roll.
So I just have a couple of real quick
housekeeping things before we get
into the meat and the fun of tonight.
So first up, huge, massive
for all of you guys who were here
and somehow made me a Twitch affiliate
in like three weeks, which is insane.
So I am just thrilled
and and so very grateful.
And that did not get enacted because,
again, I was supposed
to multicast tonight.
And part of the affiliate terms of service
is that there will be no
And I was supposed to have Susan
on tonight and promised
that that would be on YouTube.
Well, that didn’t work out
for various YouTube reasons.
So so we are just doing it on Twitch
tonight, which means I ran through
the affiliate thing as fast as possible so
that you guys could get loyalty points
for viewing tonight’s stream,
which is great because that’s how
I’m going to be doing the giveaways.
And I don’t know if
if you didn’t see them before,
I have so many things to — I have no idea if
this is showing on camera, look,
these are for the writing craft
talks and I have lots more stuff.
And so this will be going out over
the next few weeks, and
and they will be done through the points.
So you get points just for watching or
for interacting and various things.
So you don’t have to do
anything except be here.
So hopefully that is all working as
of now and you can get it for the stream.
I don’t know, I should have
I should be more organized.
I should have a list.
So if you are not on my newsletter,
please go ahead and get on that.
And also on Susan’s newsletter and we’ll
talk about where those are later tonight.
Speaking of, we have
a guest tonight! Guest.
It sounds so weird to say guest when I don’t feel
like — like “guest” implies a show and it’s
really just me talking,
so I don’t know if that’s, whatever.
So anyway, the point is we have
Susan Spann tonight and I am absolutely
delighted to to be chatting with Susan.
I’m a little bit giddy, probably showing.
So Susan is a friend of mine.
We actually met because we both write
stories set in historical Japan
and then it went from there.
And I’m just going to nerd out for the
next however long we’re here with Susan.
I do want to throw up very,
very briefly, actually.
You know what? Let me bring Susan in first.
And we’re going to do that now.
Hello, how are you?
And I can hear you.
Life is fantastic.
OK, so very, very quickly,
I just want to mention
Susan is live from Tokyo,
and then I am streaming out to you guys.
So there is a little bit of delay,
in the chat,
which, by the way,
I just noticed Grace is here.
Thanks for stopping by.
Am I wearing TARDISes?
I am not wearing TARDISes.
I don’t know where you’re asking,
but there there are TARDIS — oh these?
These are not TARDISes.
They’re just cute.
But thanks for stopping by.
Grace, meet Susan! Susan, meet Grace!
This is thoroughly
international right now.
Gracie is in New Zealand.
Susan is live from Tokyo.
And where I was going with that is there
is a little bit of a streaming delay.
So by the time we see your chat,
we’ve actually probably moved
on for 20 seconds or so.
I noticed during Gen Con
sometimes it could be
a quite significant delay.
So if we keep talking, it’s not
that we’re ignoring your question.
I’ll run back and grab it.
Just there’s a little bit of a delay.
So just be aware and sorry, Susan,
I was going to tell you that in advance,
and you found out just now.
So I apologize.
Oh, I know.
It’s so good.
It’s all good.
OK, all right.
So with that said, we’re going to launch and part
of the reason that I asked Susan here is
she has a new book,
which is largely an excuse,
but we’re going to start with it and run
with it as a, you know, legitimate excuse.
And I’m going to hope
that it come on, come on.
There we go.
Come on, please, please focus.
Oh, there it comes.
So my copy actually
hasn’t arrived yet.
even my e-book copy didn’t come through,
so I need to have a small tantrum.
So we just have that picture.
That’s what we’ve got to work with today.
hey, Seeker, thanks for waving.
So, Susan, I’m going to let you introduce
the book because you’re going
to say it so much better than I have.
I’ve tried to encompass so many
themes every time I talk about it.
And I just end up kind of sounding
I just keep saying it’s better than
what I’m making it sound like.
So I’m going to let you do
the encapsulation of it, please.
so the book is titled Climb: Leaving Safe
and Finding Strength
on One Hundred Summits in Japan.
And it basically summarizes what happened
after I decided that I was going to break
away from fear and stop living a life
that was ruled by fear and ruled
by the things I couldn’t do and attempt
to pursue my dream to climb one hundred
famous Japanese mountains in a single
year, having never climbed
a mountain before in my life.
right after I decided to do it,
I got diagnosed with cancer.
So that became part of it, too, because,
as you say, it’s many things.
But ultimately, what I really hope
that it is, is a fairly fast paced
(surprisingly, even though I wasn’t) adventure
in the mountains and culture of Japan.
And I hope something that will make people
realize that if you dare to dream,
you can change your world.
And thank you for that sweet, sweet segue,
because one of the things I wanted
to mention is, you know,
I’m doing this video channel
for a variety of things because
I’m generally bad at branding.
But one of the things I wanted to talk
about was, is my own work,
because it’s the me show.
It’s all about me.
And while I am terrible at branding and I
do way too many things and I’m
unfocused, the thing that always, always,
always is, is in there somewhere is
somebody discovering they have agency
that they didn’t know they had.
And I realized that that is the absolute
perfect time to bring you in, because
as you said, like, oh,
I’ve never climbed a mountain before.
I think I’ll do 100 in a year.
Like, what is that?
I want to make a life change,
I light a scented candle, OK?
You want to make a life change,
you swap hemispheres and climb
two mountains a week.
So I feel like that is a legitimate
invocation of finding agency that you
had not had not anticipated.
But we have a couple of people in the chat
and just going to say hello real quickly.
We have NanVan.
And Pastor Chris coming in from NorCal.
OK, Chris, that’s going to be.
I know him.
So all the waves.
So with that, as far as the,
what am I trying to say,
the springboard, I guess, of,
you know, you and — I want to say,
coming back to somebody, you know,
I met you some years ago and you were —
from the outside looking in —
you had success.
You were an attorney.
You were a successful author.
You had a series running.
I wanted to be you.
You know, this was going on.
said it didn’t feel like that inside.
so I guess what what prompted that change,
because that’s a pretty huge change, too.
I mean, you were traveling to Japan
regularly, but then to be like, hey,
I’m going to move here and climb two
mountains a week,
you know, what was the tipping point
that actually set you over there?
You know, I think it really was just
finally deciding to listen to my heart,
I mean, for years, for years,
I had just fallen in love with Japan.
My heart would ache every time I would
come back and look at my photos,
from my trips, from my research trips,
I would just it would hurt.
It would physically hurt.
And I could only think about being there.
But I was too afraid to really admit
to myself that I wanted to be something
more than a lawyer.
That was what I was doing for my day job
and that I wanted to go try
to do this thing that was real.
I had spent my whole life
not doing anything real.
You know, I write books.
I love to be in my fantasy world.
I love to read books.
But I had never dared to step outside
that and do something concrete.
And I finally decided that I
was tired of being afraid.
I was tired of worrying about what if.
I was tired of every single decision
in my life coming from a place of fear.
And the only way I could think of to face
that was to throw everything into the wind
and jump out without a net
and see what life would bring.
There is something to the you know,
burn the ships approach, you know,
we’re going to try this and we’re going
to make sure that if I if I decide to go
forward, there is no going backwards.
So I have to continue forward.
But that’s not
the fun and easy way to do it.
That’s so I think that’s — go ahead.
I was too scared
for anyone to know.
I mean, I was too frightened to do it
at all and literally the only way really
was burn the ships were going forward.
Yeah, well, and I am
I guess that I it’s such a huge,
huge thing, and then I’m giving slight spoilers here,
but I already said that you beat cancer
in the video promo.
So so people know cancer is involved.
But that was a ridiculously fast
diagnosis and reaction.
And I mean, I remember you messaging me
and if I’m recalling correctly, it was something
like, by the way, I have cancer and I’m
having surgery in two days. Like it was,
how fast was that?
the official diagnosis came on a Monday
and I had a double mastectomy
the following Thursday.
So three days.
That’s insane, by the way, like that, that
I just throw some judgment from over here
on the side of the ocean, but I mean,
and, if I recall correctly.
That was right before you
moved to Japan, right.
What was the time frame there?
In fact, I signed the book contract.
What happened was I signed the book
contract, I had the idea to do it.
I started getting things started and
I started actually making preparations.
You have to have a visa,
obviously, to come over here.
You can’t just willy nilly for a year.
And so I had to come over
and sign my visa contract.
So I had airplane tickets
for December 20th.
And on November the 6th,
I went in for a routine mammogram
just to get that out of the way.
And on November the 7th, I found out
that that was did not go as planned.
They found cancer, which was malignant.
And then on the 10th,
I had a double mastectomy and I was
on a plane for Tokyo on the 20th.
Because as you do.
You know, I had just signed the contract,
I was I was
moving forward and I just thought, well,
I talked with my oncologist and he had said
that we would — I did not stay,
by the way, in Tokyo in December.
I came back for treatment —
But my oncologist just said, you know,
this is, you were going to climb
one hundred mountains.
This is one hundred and one.
And it’s the first one
and it will be the hardest.
But we’re going to get you
through it so that you can go.
And so we delayed my travel like moving
to Japan by four months so that I
could undergo intense chemotherapy.
And you know what?
We’re three years almost down
the line and everything’s good.
And just the
I mean, that’s a major surgery,
Like, that’s that’s that’s not a two
minute laparoscopic procedure.
you know, my the people I’ve known
who have undergone that, that’s a longer,
that’s a fair amount of recovery time.
And so if you’re like, “and Imma
climb some mountains!”
Like that is
did you have to make any changes?
Did you have to make any
alterations in what you were doing?
Did it make it
I mean, just like where
how did that affect things?
Because because that is not how
you were planning to do this.
No, it wasn’t so we did as I mentioned,
we had to put a four month delay on coming
to Japan in the first place because after
the double mastectomy,
even though they did get the cancer,
it had not moved into my my immune system.
The oncologist recommended because
my cancer was what they call triple
negative, which means it was not
responsive to hormones.
So I couldn’t take anything.
Some women can now take a pill after they
finish their treatment to keep
the cancer coming back.
But that wasn’t available to me.
So I went through a four month course
of very intensive chemotherapy that we
went through the level of chemotherapy
for stage two cancer,
even though I only had stage one cancer,
because we wanted to make sure that we did
everything we possibly do to make to
prevent it from coming back.
And so my training,
which had consisted primarily of walking
because I wanted to be able to be
in shape, I basically had to continue
that during my cancer treatment.
I would give myself the day
of the treatment off.
And then after that I started walking
again 2000 steps more every day
until I hit over 10000 steps.
And then we’d continue that for a week
and then I’d go back in and get
shot full of delightful
chemicals and started all over.
I mean, just just just again,
it’s one hundred and one mountains,
and in that most of your other mountains,
you were able to do it a day or two
if you overnighted on the mountain.
And that was a long haul.
so that’s going to be a part
of the book that is and can be
I don’t know how to say this without
sounding horribly crass,
but unfortunately relatable to a lot
of people — struggling,
you know, in some ways.
In some ways it made.
I’m sorry I lost you there
for a second in some ways, that’s OK.
No, sorry, I stopped.
I was like, OK, I’m talking over now.
I think it was really important.
I think it was actually
an important part of the book.
And it was also a really good life lesson,
which is that when you tell the universe,
I think I’m going to face my fears
and your biggest fear is actually getting
cancer, getting actually breast cancer,
be really careful what you ask
for because you might just get it.
There’s there’s a certain.
God has a sense of humor,
and I really don’t believe it’s an evil
sense of humor, but there are times when
it’s an uncomfortable sense of humor.
Actually, I am a person.
I’m a person of faith.
And I did actually when I was getting
ready to come to Japan and say, no, God,
I’m going to face my fears and I want to,
I want to face my fears and come through
it and be strong and be different.
And, you know, I really.
That was answered.
And so, you know, it was like, okay, well,
I didn’t really realize we’re going to.
The funny thing was there was a part of me
and I mentioned this in the book,
there was a part of me that kind
of went, “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
I wanted to face my fears in a safe way.”
But, you know, that’s not what life is.
And so I’m it was much better, actually,
in some ways that I got to face all
my fears at once and go through it.
Yeah, and so I this this is this is
the part I haven’t read,
and I’m waiting anxiously for mine to come
so I can so I can dig into it,
dig into that stuff.
Let’s talk about something
not cancer for a while.
But you did originally.
Originally you were talking about doing
the the hundred peaks,
like not not just a hundred peaks,
but THE hundred peaks,
which since I’m going to guess that a lot
of our viewers are not familiar
with the Hyakumeizan, could you summarize
that and then talk about where that went?
Yes, there was a very famous book
in Japan, at least written in the 1970s
by an author and mountaineer called
Kyūya Fukada called Nihon Hyakumeizan,
which translates roughly to the hundred
famous mountains of Japan
and kind of decided that he had
been a mountaineer for a long time.
And he decided that these hundred
mountains, if you climbed them all,
you would learn what the essence
of Japanese mountains were.
And it has become kind of the gold
standard for Japanese mountaineers,
but not for a short period of time.
In Japan, it’s viewed as something
that you do over a lifetime.
And over that lifetime you accumulate
knowledge and understanding
and a spiritual bond with the mountains.
And of course, being an American
decided, “I’m gonna do it in a year.”
Because nobody ever, no woman,
no non-Asian woman had
ever climbed them all in a year.
And to my knowledge,
no Asian woman either, because, as I said,
that’s not the way Japanese
people do these things.
And so I decided I’d do that in a year
and realized fairly early on and without
doing too many spoilers from the book,
not not too early,
about a third of the way through the climbs,
but realized that I had to make a choice,
I could face my fears or I could
achieve a mountaineering first.
But I couldn’t do both.
I could not learn the lessons that those
mountains had to teach me if I rushed
my way through it and
I came to the decision,
which was hard being kind of an alpha
goal motivated person, which I really am.
I mean, you talk a lot about
about goals and motivation and how —
I think my personal clicker was achievement
of success and had to get there.
And I had to, I had to achieve the thing.
And so making the shift to address
what worked for me,
really issues of personal growth,
that was a much harder decision
and something I struggle with and struggle
with openly in the book and ultimately
decided that the goal was one hundred
mountains in a year and not
living a life of fear anymore.
And so that was the direction
I decided to proceed.
But by the way,
I’m still climbing the Hyakumeizan,
I’ve climbed to more since I finished
the 100 summit, so that’s still on.
So it’s still going to happen, just
maybe not maybe not in that first year.
What I saw, and I don’t think I
put this, I don’t remember if I put this
in any of our video promos or not,
but I had the absolute delight of getting
to go to Japan and climb with Susan
at the end of her journey.
And that was fantastic.
One of the things that that you
explained when I was doing this
was just the the choosing
of the mountains and and choosing
mountains of significance, either
culturally or historically or personally.
man, I probably should have made a script,
OK, yeah, but but one of the one
of the final mountains we did and I’m
totally blanking on the name.
I have like two syllables, but in Nara.
And it’s ridiculously famous.
Well, are we talking about little Tempozan?
No, no, no, no, no, no, no,
in Nara and next to
next to Mikasa-san,
it’s Waka, waka…
And I’m just sitting here and I’m like,
I’ve got two syllables, not enough.
Where’s the rest of it?
But but that is I had so much fun–
First of all, I just had a fabulous
time walking around, learning.
I’m learning so much of of the local
history and significance there,
because you had the inside track on quite
a lot of that, which I think at some
point we’re going to have to talk about.
But even after I came back and looking up
more things about where I had been
and the and the significance and the
the festivals and the historical
sites there that I had been and I
was like, oh, I’ve been there.
And so I know that obviously that’s
a mountain with cultural significance.
Koya-san has a lot of historical
and cultural significance and is
also one of your favorites.
And now I don’t know if I get to have
favorites, having done like four,
three, I’m not even sure.
But but I can say twenty five
percent of them is my favorite.
Koya-san would definitely be up there.
But can you talk just
a little bit about like what?
I’m not going to ask you to pick favorite
mountains, because that’s not fair,
but if you want to just tell us things
like something, something we absolutely
need to know about Koya-san or something
like that to just
give us a little teaser on what mountains
we need to come and read up on.
I had a wonderful time on so many
mountains because there were so many that
were so different from each other, right.
So we did go to Koya-san, which also is
home of Japan’s largest cemetery.
In fact, I ended up making
four trips to Koya over the course
of my mountain climbing year because
Koya-san sits on a mountain top plateau
that sits in a bowl surrounded by peaks.
And so there were lots of different
peaks to climb up there.
Koya-san was also the place that I
went for a climb that didn’t happen.
And so the book will talk about
that climb that didn’t happen and why.
And that was a moment of facing mortality
that I was not certainly not planning, but
ended up being one of the most special
experiences that I had.
Another thing that was really great was
when I was up in Hokkaido,
I had the chance to climb up
the side of the waterfall.
has an old trail and the trail actually
literally leads right up the side of a
waterfall for a little over 100 metres.
So you’re climbing kind of up this rock
face and the waterfall is just
flowing down next to you.
And that was a really fabulous moment.
That was also where I saw a very famous
Japanese animal that I will not mention.
You’ll have to read the book to find out what it was.
Teasers! Awesome. It was Pikachu,
wasn’t it? Just right there sitting.
Actually, I did see a pikachu.
I actually did see it,
but not on that particular one.
So you — Tempozan came
up just a little bit.
And I definitely think we need to go
back and talk about Tempozan because
I’m going to say this and hope it doesn’t
sound insulting, as spectacular as it was
to finish Mountain #100 with you.
Mountain 101, I think, was Tempozan, was
its own special joy and experience, and
so it was perfect.
It was the perfect cap.
It was ridiculously fun.
So Tempozan — and feel free
to jump in here at any time.
I’m just going to
mention — in Osaka, there is a lump of dirt
which was constructed when when they
dredged the harbor a couple centuries ago.
It got the name
Mount Tempo. Tempozan.
I don’t even remember how
it got on the geography maps,
the geological society
listed it as a mountain.
Do you remember the story behind that?
I should have done my research.
it was it was actually created — in Japan —
international mountaineering standards are
that a mountain is supposed to be,
I think, a thousand meters
in order to qualify as a mountain.
But Japan has a little bit more
relaxed definition of what
qualifies as a mountain.
And so anything of geological
significance or historical or
which is a lot of the mountains in Japan,
can be qualified as mountain.
So the Japanese Geological Survey decided
which was actually created during
the dredging of Osaka Harbor
during the 18th century,
even though it is only, you know,
very short, did qualify as a mountain.
And yes, I’ve carefully avoided the the
actual height because I wasn’t sure if
you had a way of revealing that or not.
But it was it was definitely
a challenging climb.
Mountaineering is challenging.
The challenging part was
finding the mountain to climb!
When the surrounding
area is higher than the mountain….
It really is! Like there’s,
it’s great because there are old
woodblock prints of this mountain,
which is in a park next to the harbor.
And like Susan said, it’s been around
for a couple of hundred years.
It was just a local park phenomenon.
But it has settled over time.
and so we accidentally climbed the wrong
mountain first because it was
taller than our goal mountain.
And we’re walking around the park at night
and and there’s a Ferris wheel with,
like the the kanji for hell on it.
Just everything was fantastic.
Oh the evil Ferris wheel! Like, blood red….
Flashing red in the night.
So anyway, the ascent of Tempozan was
one of the most thrilling and and giddy
adventures of my of my time there.
And and I will let you do the big reveal
if you choose to here,
on the exact height of Tempozan.
Yeah, well, actually we
will be doing a joint,
I’m just gonna throw this out there,
we will actually be doing a joint article,
blog post about this and will probably
maybe crosspost it on both of our both of our
websites shortly to celebrate the release,
because this is, I have photographs,
so I’m sure you do, too,
from this event that are just
in the archives waiting for the perfect
reveal of us, ascending this peak, which rises
to a towering three point five meters into the air.
Like to I can spit higher
To summit, you go up the side and then there’s
actually a little lump you step over
and then step down onto
the summit of Tempozan.
It’s a thing of beauty.
So, yeah, that was,
that was the–
But there is a summit marker.
There is a summit marker.
We got selfies with the summit marker.
It’s completely legit.
So yeah that is, that is a
I look forward to our
expedition log for the fact —
it was the perfect cap.
It really was.
And then, and then we ate okonomiyaki
which was also fantastic.
And then I went to, where was I?
Oh, I was at a street festival
in New Zealand with Grace,
who’s in the chat somewhere
a couple of months later,
and they had an okonomiyaki booth
and I got all excited.
And it was
absolutely terrible and nothing at all
like what I wanted,
so it was just it just hurt because I just
had such good stuff not that long ago, so.
Well, when you come back, which you will
I am going to come back.
And I wanted to — we were talking about goal
setting and whatnot and and traveling.
And so Susan and I were supposed
to with another friend, Erica,
we were supposed to hike the Kumano Kodō
which is a pilgrimage trail.
That’s, what, a thousand years old?
One of two UNESCO designated
trails, the other one being the
Camino de Santiago.
and then just this week, of course,
2020 happened, 2020’d right
over all of our plans.
So but you are still going to make
that trip this fall and then we’re going
to do it
again as a group later.
But then, by the way, it’s in the book.
I walked it during my mountain climbing
year, so that’s actually mentioned
in the book later in the book as well.
So I was going to ask if you wanted to,
like, give a little teaser about
that since since it is, you know, again,
something of very special
Yeah, the Kumano Kodō
basically is a trail that runs through
the mountains of Wakayama Prefecture,
which is south of both Tokyo and Kyoto,
and also Osaka, south
on a little peninsula.
And it has been walked
by retired emperors.
It was tradition for the emperor of Japan
when he retired from public life.
Also for a lot of samurai who retired
from public life and members
of the imperial family when they were
still active in public life to go and walk
this approximately 100 kilometers,
150 kilometers trail through the mountains
as a pilgrimage and stop at the three
Kumano grand shrines,
which are very important shrines to
Amaterasu-ōmikami, the sun goddess, the chief
deity in the Shinto pantheon.
And so it was a hike that I took
originally in twenty eighteen after
wanting to do it my whole life
as a as a break and
moment of consideration,
midway through my hundreds summits journey
to see where I would
go to reflect on where I was
and where I wanted to go from there.
So that that does feature
in the book as well.
Yeah, so and I wanted to throw out and I
don’t know if I meant I don’t remember if
I mentioned this,
but if you are here in the chat and you
please throw them into the chat,
we’re just going to be a little,
like I said, possibly slight
delay on seeing them.
this is absolutely open for for discussion
or Q&A or or funny jokes or
whatever that jump in at any time.
Oh, I’m sorry.
I just said, indeed.
Oh, OK, sorry, I I’ve you’re you’re just
a little bit quiet on my on my monitor.
So if I’m talking,
I miss you or I cut you off.
So let’s do let’s talk about something
else that’s that’s not the book,
because since we are friends and I see
your social media,
I know that you have an exhibition
coming up in a fairly cool hobby.
I don’t know — a hobby,
Is hobby a bad word for that?
I don’t know.
Is that a right word?
it’s not a profession.
It’s not a vocation.
But hobby, a hobby to me.
As soon as I said it I was like, no,
that’s when I play my casual phone game.
Like, that’s like, you know,
Angry Birds level of, yeah.
Anyway, Susan, you pursue
traditional Japanese calligraphy.
Please tell us a little bit about what’s
coming up with, because I’ve been seeing
your progress and it’s really cool.
Yes, thank you.
So, yes, I study shodō,
the traditional Japanese calligraphy
in here in Tokyo with a master who is
very, very, very talented.
And she has been, I’ve been training
with her for about three years.
I started actually during
the hundred summits climbs.
There’s a little little bit about
shodō in the book as well.
And I study both kanji,
which are the Japanese the Chinese
characters used in Japanese writing.
And I also study kana,
which is the Japanese syllabary.
So the hiragana and katakana
people who study Japanese language
together referred to as kana,
which are phonetic.
There is an older form of writing that was
used in the 19th century
and going forward, a lot of the original
novels like Tale of Genji were actually
written in kana, or in a combination
of kana and kanji.
And it’s a separate art
from writing the kanji.
And so that’s where I really excel,
although I study them both.
And I did just find out that I have been
invited to participate in an exhibition
that happens annually at the
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art.
So my work will be displayed there
in January, which is really cool.
Which is just slightly cool.
Like just just just a little bit.
Yeah, that is that is very cool.
And it makes Susan incredibly
useful as a traveling companion,
by the way, because
it means she is familiar with these older
forms of the characters,
which then when I’m at a museum and I’m
looking at, I have no idea what this says.
And Susan can just read
it off for me like that.
Yeah, that’s great.
And the way that I am going to jump jump
way back here in time,
the way that I first encountered Susan
before we met in person was I read one
of her books and then I stalked
her on the interwebs and found her.
But she writes
the really fun —
— and these are not the first in the series.
Can I do this without getting glare?
OK, I think I think I can do this.
These are later in the series,
but they’re the ones I’ve got
with the really cool new covers.
So that’s why I’m showing these up.
And then my other ones are in ebook.
So that’s a little bit harder to show off.
But the Shinobi Mysteries, which
has one of the best premises.
You have a ninja
as your amateur detective who can’t
tell people how he can solve crimes
by knowing how murders are committed.
Because when you’re a ninja,
you’re not supposed to let that slip.
So it’s one of the greatest
premises: I have to solve a crime, but not
make it look like I’m solving a crime.
I just I have a good time with it.
And Hiro is working with Father Matteo,
who’s a Portuguese priest.
So there’s a lot of fascinating cultural,
historical interplay going on.
And so I’m just going to throw out a plug
that if you need to catch that
you can start with,
Claws of the Cat is the first one.
And then and then we’ll go.
So, oh, I’m sorry.
We have a question in the chat that I was
happily just rambling on and and missing.
NanVan, who is my mom.
She asks Susan, aside from the massive
fact of moving to the other side
of the world, having cancer surgery,
and becoming a new mountain
climber on a deadline,
what was the most intimidating
aspect of moving from the USA to Japan,
especially doing so on your own?
I think the most intimidating aspect
for me, actually — curiously,
peopledo ask you, what was
What was the the hardest part of it?
The most intimidating aspect of it for me
was dealing with the massive —
well, there were two.
The internal one was dealing
with the massive fear that was,
What was I thinking?
You know, there’s a lot of
we all act like, oh, she went
out to face her fears and she did it.
Now she’s not afraid anymore.
And well, in the short form, that’s true.
The entire first
third of the mountains went very well,
because one thing that’s really true,
if you if you go to face your fears
and you do something that’s designed
to put you outside your comfort zone,
you will not be in your comfort zone,
like guaranteed. By definition.
Yeah, it was the point,
but it wasn’t always comfortable.
In fact, it was very often.
The thing physically that was the most
difficult was that even though
my Japanese — I was able to read
Japanese when I came over somewhat,
my Japanese skill was was very small.
And when you go traveling in the mountains
of Japan, you know, in Tokyo or in Kyoto,
there’s a lot of English.
And you can really
advocate for people to come to Japan
because you can really do a lot here,
even if you don’t speak Japanese.
But when you start going out
into the countryside and into places
that are not really tourist places
that places that mostly only Japanese
people go, then by definition
there’s a lot less English.
And my language skills faced a very big
challenge, the mountain of their own,
you might say,
especially because when you go out
and you’re the only
non Japanese person on a mountain,
everybody wants to talk to you.
They want to know what you’re
doing there, where you came from.
And in the beginning, I would
sort of just stare at people.
But now now, of course,
I’ve learned and I can talk with them.
So that was a challenge too.
So not directly equivalent,
My husband and I went hiking in Ecuador
in the Andes a couple of years ago,
which was fantastic.
We did a backpacking trip for several
days, but I’m used to being able to get
around if I need to, in Spanish.
You know, I actually lived
in Spain for a time.
I certainly have perfectly decent enough,
you know, tourist Spanish that that,
you know, even if I go to someplace that’s
not peninsular Spanish,
I’m going to be able to
order a meal and get directions,
you know, no matter where.
And I can usually have,
you know, conversations about hot air
balloons or just random
stuff that will come up.
But then in this rural, rural,
rural, exceedingly rural
part of the the Andes.
And, you know, we’re trying
to find our way in there.
Of course, there’s no signage.
There’s you know, we’ve got a general idea
of maps, but, you know,
that kind of thing.
and so I’m stopping and talking
to the farmers and oh, my gosh,
I remember at one point we’re trying
to figure out our way
to to the next village.
And I stopped and I asked for help.
And I had a probably seven minutes
of detailed directions
from the local farmer.
He had three teeth and a kind of Spanish
native dialect, and he just
kept going for seven minutes.
I got one word out of it, just one.
And at the end, I thanked him and I
turned and I walked away with my husband.
And I’m like, we’re just going
to walk until we find something.
Like there was nothing.
But it’s, we’re so used to —
And I think what was making me think
of this is we’re so used to in our modern
age, having so many fallbacks, you know,
like English is very prevalent
in most international cities.
You can you can find some English
signage or someone to help you or or
you know, or we’ll pull out
our phone and use a Google Translate or,
you know, it just any of these things.
And it’s not
those aren’t always available.
And that is that is a huge stretch when
and you’re like, oh,
I could walk off the back side of this
mountain and no one would ever see me.
No one would know, like,
you know, that kind of thing.
So that’s yeah.
That’s just made me think of it when
you’re talking about being out
in the rural area and needing
And like I can know,
I’ve had conversations on art theory
and Spanish like I can I,
I’m OK in most cases.
And then there I was like
they will find our bodies
I got nothing.
So we have a question from Pastor Chris.
Sorry, I was just waxing emotive there.
Susan has an artful and special gift
for character dialogue
in her shinobi mysteries.
I’m wondering how or if internal personal
dialogue finds its way into her
experiences while writing Climb.
Absolutely, in fact,
in the shinobi mysteries, you know,
is the sort of the POV character,
and periodically in the books,
the books lapse into italics,
which are Hiro’s internal thoughts.
And not too often,
but enough that I think they add
to the book, you know,
it’s a way to get into his thoughts
because the narrator is third person
close for all the writer geeks among us.
As I was writing Climb,
I started to realize that this book
was not — there is dialogue in the book.
I did preserve dialogue
where I could with people.
I took copious notes so that I would have
the words exactly right for the book.
But yes, I also discovered where
Hiro’s internal monologues come from.
There is an internal narrator
in my book and it is also in italics.
And that is partly because my internal
critic was absolutely opinionated about
some of the decisions I made over
the course of my journey, and I decided
to give that internal critic a voice.
So yeah, it’s in there.
Do we get arguing with the
internal critic because.
I do that?
All the time.
All the time, yes, my internal critic was
very fond of telling me that I was going
to die in moments when it
was really not very helpful.
And so how I dealt with that and those
fears and actually there was
curiously there there was a a dramatic
evolution in my relationship
with my internal voice over
the course of the year.
I mean, which surprised me.
And I didn’t realize it fully until I had
gotten to the end of the year and was
looking back over my notes and went, wow,
our relationship has changed.
And that was fascinating to me.
So that’s something else that you
will see if you read the book.
that’s one of those intriguing things that
when you’re experiencing that minute
change every day, you don’t
notice it because it’s so small.
But when you sit down and you go over
compiled notes or you go back to old
journal entries or whatever,
and you’re like, oh, my gosh,
this is a really huge shift.
one of the things I think is is fun about
reading someone else’s experience.
You know, I, I can see a huge change
because I’m not living the minute
shift every day kind of thing.
So I don’t know if I said that in any way
that makes sense.
We’re going to move
on and pretend that it did.
And plus, my internal voice is also
And so, you know, very snarky and
not always helpful, really, but means.
Well, I think and so
there’s a lot of snarky internal
dialogue that goes on in the book.
And that was kind of fun.
I’m always down for snarky dialogue,
internal or external.
So, yeah, that’s
except what it’s except when it’s not
helpful in a life or death situation,
then you’re like, can you just save
that for the debriefing? It’d be good.
we were talking about Hiro
and Father Matteo and.
That it is a series, I think I was
saying, I hope I was saying
start at the beginning,
because while each book is self contained,
there’s also an overarching plot running
through it that — I’m probably not going
to beg for spoilers and reveals here.
But you never know.
I might lose all inhibitions
and just have no shame.
I’m going to mention this because we had
a number of people who who came to this
Twitch channel originally because
of the Japanese folklore and story time
from Japanese history and those
presentations for Japan.
so if you are interested in the Japanese
history, like this is your
classic Shogunate period piece
with the history running
alongside these characters.
So it’s really it’s a really
fun way to to get that and.
So can we get out a little bit of a legal
teaser on what’s coming next,
you know — what is this book?
Is this book seven,
Eight. Book eight, and seven was Ghost of the Bamboo Road.
OK, OK, so
what’s up with book eight?
Well, Hiro and Father Matteo,
to bring up to speed anybody who
is getting into it now, Hiro
and Father Matteo originated, they first
started out in Kyoto where Father Matteo
was basically trying to establish
a mission to the common people separately
from the primary Jesuit mission,
which historically worked with the samurai
and I kind of set it up that way
on purpose because it gave.
After being in Kyoto for four books,
there was a series of events that forced
them to flee Kyoto. I won’t give you
a spoiler on that, but just know
that they’re now on the road.
They’ve been on the road.
They have traveled to Koya-san.
They have traveled up the what would
become the Tokaido between Kyoto and Edo.
And now they are finally arriving in Edo.
Also in Book eight, which is called
Fires of Edo
they arrive in Edo and they are having
to deal with a series of fires
that have broken out there and.
After in the aftermath of one of fires
the following morning,
the body of a samurai is found
in the burned out shop of an artisan.
And the question is,
what is an artisan doing with a dead
samurai in his burned out shop?
And how did that man get there?
Because the artisan claims
that he knows nothing about it.
And do we have a projected release?
I know 2020 has thrown so
many schedules off.
I mean, I’m going to quickly,
quickly pass over that because I have
a book delayed by 2020 and we
don’t even bring that up.
So but is there any longer view?
Is that a 2021 release or do we know yet?
It looks like it’s going to be 2021.
We will hopefully have an update
on that soon, but I think it is
going to be 2021.
My apologies to everybody.
I’ve had a book out every year since 2013,
13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20,
20 decided to stick a finger
in the eye of publishing all around.
Yeah, like I’m voting 2020
off the island. We’re all done, thanks.
I think the phrase 2020 vision is going to mean something
very different when we’re done with this.
It really is.
What did I see recently, it was like
“hindsight is 20/20” was actually a time
traveler phrase that we have totally
I know we’re all looking
forward to 2020 being hindsight.
Yeah, that’s that’s for sure.
OK, we have another comment from NanVan
who says, I just discovered that our local
library system has five of Susan’s books
and Climb is listed as an option.
And I will just mention for anybody out
there who’s not in the writing industry,
never feel guilty about getting a library
book of somebody’s book like that is
still supporting the author.
The author still gets paid because
somebody bought that book.
Library books are great.
Please get the library book.
Support your local libraries.
Libraries are a lifeline in so many ways
for so many people,
especially in times like this.
I felt I fell in love with Japan
by reading James Clavell’s Shogan, which I got
from the library when I was like 11.
And so I mean, seriously,
like support your libraries.
They’re life changing.
They are wonderful.
Big plug for libraries.
I am totally you know,
people say to me all the time.
“I’m so sorry.
I read it at the library.”
I’m like, what is that to apologize for?
That’s no apology.
And that’s another thing too,
that I’ll frequently tell people if you
can’t afford to buy every new book
that comes out somehow, like a lot
of things, you know,
requesting them at the library is
a fantastic way to support an author whose
work you can’t afford in that moment.
Like just put in a library request.
Oh, she says she would like you to know
that she did order a copy of Climb.
Oh, I’m sorry.
I was gonna say it for people who might
not know because a lot
of people don’t know this.
You can go into your local library
and say, I would like to order I’d like
to read Book X, can you
And libraries have a budget for doing that.
And so, you know, you can go in and get
them to order the books for you and then
you can read it for free just by asking so
or in 2020 you can request
the book online so you don’t have to go.
Yes, because, because yeah.
Susan is safely in Tokyo but we’re still
here in the land of “thou
shalt not touch people” so.
You to order order stuff online.
So she’s, she has her copy coming.
She ordered it last week so just
do the libraries and, and ordering and we
have covered all the bases at this point.
It’s been tested.
what, what else.
I just, there’s a Doberman
in my lap now and she just showed up
got a cat still near you.
Is she still there.
Can you introduce you to, she’s sleeping.
Can we go.
Let’s do this.
I’ll try it here.
There she is. Oobie!
Oobie is like,
“I didn’t, what, I’m busy,
important watching things to be doing so.”
So we were talking before we got started,
before I realized that that this would
actually be a really great thing to ask
you about on the air, so to speak,
which is, Oobie’s your cat,
and then you have a crow
that has been coming to see you.
And they are like, friends.
we have Japan is very famous for its
Japanese crows are very, very large,
they are the Corvus macrorhynchos
or the large billed crow.
That’s actually Corvus japonicus macrorhynchos
But the Japanese crows are they tend to be
larger than — most people
from the States think
they’re ravens. They’re very, very large,
they’re very smart
and they live everywhere.
And there’s a whole family of them
that lives in the trees
of a shrine not far from my house.
And one of them has decided to sort
of befriend Oobie. The crow will come
and sit on the television antenna
of the neighboring house
and look in the window at her.
And she would look at him or her.
I’m not sure exactly how the crow
identifies in terms of pronouns.
So we’ll just go with that.
They look in the window,
and Oobie looks at the crow.
And so I decided to start giving
the crow an offering every morning.
And so the crow likes donuts
so it doesn’t get a whole one.
It gets pieces of a doughnut
And so Oobie will sit at the window and wait
for hours for Hachi, which is what we call
the crow, to come and take the donut.
And the reason that we call it Hachi is
that in Japanese legend and myth,
crows are actually harbingers of good.
They are messengers of the gods
and specifically they are messengers
the sun goddess, and the most famous such
crow is Yatagarasu, the eight-span crow,
which is a three legged crow of Japanese
myth and also the symbol of the Komodo
shrines, which we mentioned earlier.
And so Yatagarasu is a way of saying
“eight span,” meaning the wingspan of the crow,
because it was supposed to be very large.
But another way of saying this in Japanese is
Hachi and so and honor of Yatagarasu
the eight span crow
I call this crow Hachi or eight.
So I’m feeling like a little bit dumb
right here, because
I’ve always known that his name is Hachi
and I’ve always just thought of it
as the number eight in my head.
But with Japanese phonetics being what
they are, Hachi could have been something
else that I just wasn’t aware of.
But then as soon as you said eight space crow
I was like, oh, hold on,
hold on, I’m going to catch up here.
So, yeah, there you go.
Grace in the in the chat is observing
that you have an opportunity to say “crow-nut”
when you give Hachi his little
doughnut in the morning.
I missed that.
Makes me feel better
about the Hachey thing.
So, OK, great.
So sorry, I’m still stuck on crow-nut, it’s great.
Oh, all right.
I mean, I realistically like I could just
sit here and nerd for a while because I’m
honestly in some sort of grieving
stage, withdrawal, I don’t know what
about missing my Japan
trip with you in October.
So I have — I should have
brought it up here —
I have a little tiny bit of I don’t even
remember what they’re called, but they’re
tiny little flower shaped sugar candies.
And we bought them in Kyoto last year
on the street
with all the candy shops.
And I have just a few of them left.
And I’m rationing them out, like one
every 10 days or something, because
I’m not getting to replenish them so.
I have no idea what they’re called.
I don’t even know, like,
they’re not even my favorite thing,
but they what I have left.
were invented as a gift for people
who came to see the emperor
during the Edo period.
That was pre-Edo period.
star-shaped candies —
I’m sorry we lost
your audio there for just a second, so
Emperor, Edo period, and then something.
The candies were gifts,
for people who came,
that style of candy was originally gifts
for people who came to visit the Imperial
family, they were they were sort of like
gifts for people who came
to see the emperor.
So they’re they are very, very Japanese.
And I they have a little
a little sheet with them with all
the colors and their
I don’t know if they’re supposed
to be flavors or meanings or what.
I haven’t actually looked at the sheet.
I just keep it tucked it in with it
just in case it is important.
But I am slightly embarrassed to tell you
that if I, if I’ve got it out and I treat
myself to my one and then it sits there
and I look at it and my husband will come
by and take one and I have
to stop myself from being like,
that’s all I have, you know, is
my little resource guarding there.
So but yeah, I,
I put up a video, just a tiny little tiny
little snippet because I
was trying to cheat
the algorithms and I needed to get word
out that we were not going to be
on YouTube tonight, that we were
just going to be on Twitch.
So I cheated and put it on Facebook
with a video so that the Facebook would
show the post, that’s
how you work the system.
And so I pulled
a little snippet of video from
our visit to teamLab Borderless, which
is the phenomenal, I’m going to say Art
It’s a walk through art installation.
I don’t know another way
to describe that,
but it’s a huge building.
Everything is done with projection.
You guys, like,
go and hit it on the YouTubes.
I’m angry at YouTube right now,
but you can look this up.
And it’s teamLab Borderless Tokyo.
And they have constant rotating exhibits.
I saw they just have a new one out.
I recognize the room it was in
but the lights,
the installation itself is new,
but everything is done with lights
and projection and it is just phenomenal.
we we went there, I think it was the first
visit for both of us when we went right.
And yes, it was actually and I’ve been
five times since so that
I know and I’m not remotely bitter about that at all,
like at all,
because this is
even if you sit even if you’re sitting
here thinking, oh, man, like
art museums are OK, but no, no,
like this is the art museum that after
seven hours you’re like,
wait, wait, I need to go now.
Like, it’s it’s so much fun.
Everything a lot of it is interactive.
It’s all of it is trippy.
and I probably had a point to that when I
started, but I just got excited
and started talking about teamLab Borderless.
So that’s where we are now.
Go, go Google that.
People watching find some
of the really cool stuff.
And in fact, I have some videos from that
that I’m going to put up on up as well.
So there will be some more videos of that
coming soon to all my channels.
And oh yeah.
Let’s talk about your channel because you
are just starting
a YouTube channel, right?
Where can we find you and what
can we expect to see?
My channel is just in my name,
which is Susan Spann and my kind
of my schtick with it is it’s Spann in Japan
says all different kinds
of things about Japan right now.
I have some videos that I shot,
very short ones from the hundred summits
and one from Kegon Falls,
which is a ninety seven metre
waterfall in Tochigi prefecture.
That is one of the most
beautiful waterfalls in Japan.
I will actually be doing probably 30
minute a day daily videos edited
on the Kumano Kodō next this autumn.
So when I go to walk in,
I’m actually going to shoot video and then
edit cut so that we have basically
an entire walk along the Kumano Kodō
basically like 30 minutes a day with a
video, with narration, with explanations.
I’m sorry about that.
I know, I wish you —
I will be watching every one of those videos
I would probably suspend it on my phone,
from a little wire in front of me,
and I’ll go walk around my yard
with it in front of me like I’m pretending.
But we will do it in 2021.
We will do it in 2021, another set of them.
But so, and then I’m going to go
to all different kinds of things.
We’re going to do food,
we’re going to go order ramen in a ramen
restaurant and eat ramen and we’re going to do
Shojin ryori which you and I ate,
which is the Buddhist temple cuisine.
Just amazing, spectacularly beautiful.
So I’m basically going to do videos,
on videos, on nature, videos,
on culture, videos, on
everything and anything from daily life
in Japan to little remote
villages to eating weird foods.
Maybe we’ll go have some basashi which is
horse meat, sashimi, things like that.
So it’s just all different kinds
of things, everything
from nature and culture on.
So your favorite
new travel channel.
So, I’m going to get my daily hit there.
I mentioned that once.
OK, OK, so roughly once a week.
And I’ll work out a schedule
on here some point I, I
you were talking about,
you know, needing to just
start and then burn the ships.
And that’s basically how I’m approaching
this streaming video thing, which is OK.
I should probably do this.
Let’s just do it.
It’s happening now.
Wonder what I’m talking about, you know.
So but yeah, I do plan to actually
have a schedule and and to get
what am I trying to say,
a schedule where people can see,
you know, what’s going to be the topic?
So tonight we’re talking about craft.
Tonight, we’re talking
about business aspects.
Tonight, we’re talking about what’s going
on in Japan with Susan
and and all of that.
So stay tuned.
It’ll happen, I promise,
if you want to see when that happens —
Look how smooth that was.
I didn’t even see that change —
Check out my newsletter and Susan’s
newsletter to get updates on her
releases and things and the.
Oh, hang on, hang on, it’s right,
bup, bup, bup, bup, and then Susan’s is.
And so you can see our
you can just head to our websites and pick
up pick up the newsletter there,
I believe both of us have
freebees just for signing up.
That’s I haven’t yes.
I haven’t quite got that settled in yet.
So I’m actually just getting started
with the newsletter so patience,
and the thing I’ll tell people is I don’t spam.
I do not spam you, like I send
mine about quarterly.
It’s very, it’s very seldom so it’s not
it’s not the kind of thing where if you
sign up for it, you’re going to be getting
something in your inbox every 15
minutes. Oh gosh no.
So yeah, yeah I’m definitely the same.
It’s every two to three months unless I
have a new release,
in which case it might be more often.
But yeah, that’s
a no spam pinky swear.
It’s not going to happen.
Well we have been doing this for an hour.
I just looked at the clock.
That was fun.
So it doesn’t like is there
anything you want to slide in.
Because my plan is just,
just to spell this out also.
Now I’ve publicly committed right now
my plan is to pull this video —
which honestly, I’m hoping I hit record.
Did I hit record?
Please tell me I hit record.
I did not hit record,
which means I’m going to be doing some
to get this video back.
And then it will get subtitles
and it will go on YouTube and
as soon as I get that back.
So that’s how we’re going to do that.
Yeah, I’m sorry, just experiencing
a small adrenaline spike right now.
Me and then that will that will
be on YouTube with subtitles.
But is there anything that you want to add
before we before we quit
for the evening or morning in your case?
Yeah, just the only other thing I would
mention is that if people like Japan
and want to see more photos from Japan
in addition to video and things like that,
that I do have a Facebook page.
It is Susan Spann Author.
And on that page, I actually do
all kinds of photos,
typically just about every day,
photos from traveling in Japan,
photos of life in Japan, food in Japan,
all different kinds of things.
So if you’re in Japan, you want to see
photos, stills as opposed to video.
Check out Facebook page and
you’ll see all kinds of things
that some of the weird, because that is
definitely a highlight in my daily.
You know, people talk about doom scrolling
in social media right now,
and I can and yours is like
the bright spot in the doom scroll.
So positively can recommend
that I don’t do any.
I do no politics, by the way.
I do no politics.
I do no commentary.
I do pretty pictures of things that are
moments of peace and oddities
that I find in Japan.
And I do that deliberately because I don’t
it’s not I don’t have opinions,
but I feel like there are lots of opinions
in the world right now.
And you can find opinions everywhere.
And some of them you might agree
with and some of them you might not.
But I feel like people kind
of need that little oasis.
And that’s that’s that’s
how I see my role.
well, I am going to call it here because
we have been going over an hour and I’m
thrilled that we got to do this and chat
with you, that was a lot of fun.
to those who joined us and gave us
questions and whatnot.
I appreciate that.
So Susan Spann, her new book is Climb.
She also has the
And we will, I don’t know
what’s happening next week.
I’ve got sort of ideas.
I’ll let you know it’ll be on schedule.
So that’s my problem.
So, Susan, thank you so
much for being with us.
And I am going to to wish you
a fantastic is it Friday?
It’s Friday in your world.
So have a great it is Friday
and a holiday weekend.
And believe it or not,
this weekend is Monday or we have
a holiday for what Japan
calls Mountain Day.
So of all the of all the great timing,
that is fantastic.
Well, you have a fantastic
holiday weekend and the rest of us are
going to slog through one more one more
day till we get to the weekend, so.
And thank you guys
so much for joining us. Bye!