Welcome to my website! My name is Yurina Yoshikawa (née Ko), and I’m a writer, editor, and instructor living in Nashville, Tennessee. Whether you’re looking for some help with your writing, or you’re interested in reading some surreal literary fiction, I’m excited to share my work with you one way or the other.

A little about me…

I grew up moving back and forth between Tokyo and California, and I’ve spent most of my life feeling like a Japanese person living abroad, or a foreigner living in Japan. I have a B.A. in philosophy from Barnard College, where I read a lot of Plato and Foucault while taking as many electives as possible on WWII. Then I earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia University, where I taught undergraduate writing for several years. After that I worked in the publishing industry in New York City in both editorial and publicity departments. And finally, in the summer of 2017, I made the big move to Nashville, Tennessee with my husband, where I started working freelance as an editor, copywriter, and creative writing instructor. My writing has been published on The New Inquiry, Hyphen Magazine, Chapter 16, and others. My essay, “Grasshopper,” was the winner of the Tennessee True Stories Essay Contest, judged by Mary Laura Philpott. I also have several novels-in-progress, and you can learn more about them out on my Personal Projects page.

My favorite writers include Elena Ferrante, Joan Didion, James Baldwin, Kazuo Ishiguro, Yoko Ogawa, Yoko Tawada, Anton Chekhov, Alexander Pushkin, Haruki Murakami, Kobo Abe, Donna Tartt… the list goes on!

Some other random facts: I’m a violist in the Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra, I love cats, and I’m a mom to a goofy toddler.

I’m also excited to announce that I have been selected to be an OZ Art fellow for the 2019-20 year! This means I’ll attend OZ Arts performances for free in exchange of creative responses through the form of short stories and essays. One of those stories has been published on the Art Wire website.

Panel 1

Writing Classes

I work as a one-on-one coach and instructor through The Porch, a non-profit writers’ collective based in Nashville, Tennessee.

To learn more about my teaching style, read this fun interview I did with Kristopher Carey at The Porch in October 2018.

1. Creative Writing Mentorship – One-on-One, In-person or remote (Based in Nashville, through The Porch

Do you have an idea for a story, personal essay, or even a novel or memoir, but don’t know where to start? As an experienced writing instructor with an M.F.A. in creative writing, I’m here to be your personal writing coach. We’ll identify short- and long-term goals, try out various exercises, and work on polishing a project, one step at a time.

(Note: I do not take high school clients working on their college application essays, but I’m more than happy to give referrals to some writing consultants who have worked specifically in this area.)

2. Creative Writing Workshops – Group, One Session a Week, Nashville Only @ The Porch

Here are some classes I’ve taught in the past:

Foundations of Fiction

Whether you’re new to fiction writing or want to recharge your writing practice, this class will help you generate new work and take a close look at the building blocks of good prose fiction such as character, setting, detail, point of view, voice, dialogue, and narrative structure. We’ll read and discuss published stories with an eye toward these elements of craft, and weekly writing exercises will allow you to develop your own work and get feedback in a supportive environment.

Writing About Home

Whether you’re a local Nashvillian or a recent transplant, you’re probably thinking about your relationship to the place you call home. Maybe it’s the place you were born. Maybe it’s where you are now, or where you envision being in the future. Many writers have wrestled with the idea of home, and all the questions that come with it. Is home synonymous with family? What happens when you’ve been away from home for a long time, and come back to find it unrecognizable? How, and when, does a person decide whether or not to call a new place their home? Should a place automatically make a person feel “at home,” or should people strive to change a place to make them feel that way? We’ll look at examples from both fiction and nonfiction, and try various in-class writing exercises to wrestle with these questions ourselves. This workshop welcomes writers who already have completed drafts, as well as writers just getting started. 

Balancing Reality and Fiction

This workshop is designed for writers who are working on stories based on historical fact or personal/family history. We often get excited about turning a nugget from reality into a fictional project, but it can be daunting to balance research with the creative act of composing scenes and dialogue. What should that balance look like? How can a writer sound credible but creative? Which facts should stay, and which should go? We’ll look at examples from other writers, establish our own goals (as everyone’s will look different depending on the project), and workshop drafts with these personal goals in mind. 

Foundations of Creative Nonfiction

The difference between a mildly interesting story and one that goes deep into a reader’s heart and mind is largely a matter of craft. Even the most compelling real-life material won’t grab an audience if it isn’t shaped and presented with skill. In this class, we’ll survey the major forms of creative nonfiction, including memoir, narrative reportage, and the essay, and we’ll take a close look at story structure and voice. The primary emphasis of the class, however, will be on helping you generate and refine your own work through weekly prompts and group discussion. Whether you are just beginning to explore your material or already have a book manuscript in progress, this course will provide you with guidance, encouragement, and detailed feedback. This class is for you if you love writing from your own life, are working on or towards a memoir, want to explore the many joys and diverse structures available to you in the personal essay, or just know you have some great true material to put down in writing. 

The Personal Essay

There are infinite variations of the “personal essay,” which makes the format both exciting and daunting. The essay might be a mix of personal anecdotes with bigger sociopolitical commentary, and the essay’s structure might mimic, or enhance, the overall point the author is trying to make. The essay could be linear, non-linear, fragmented, or infused with dialogue and scene-setting that almost make them sound like short stories. We’ll look at examples by James Baldwin, Richard Rodriguez, Jonathan Lethem, Joan Didion, and others to help us craft our own personal essays. This workshop is designed for writers who already have completed drafts, as well as writers just getting started.

One-Day: Honoring James Baldwin on His Birthday

“Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated and this was an immutable law.” So writes James Baldwin in his groundbreaking essay, “Notes of a Native Son,” which was published in 1955 yet remains as relevant as ever today. August 2nd marks what would have been James Baldwin’s 95th birthday, and what better way to honor his legacy than reading his essay together as a group? We will take a close look at a few sections, in a way suited for those who have already read the text, and those who haven’t. (Copies will be provided.)

One-Day: Conversations in Fiction

Real life conversations are rarely comprehensive, clean, or static, with beautiful sentences blurted out perfectly from start to finish. Yet fiction allows all sorts of possibilities with regards to the way people do, could, or even should talk. Whether you’re writing realistically or more fantastically, we’ll look at various examples and discuss how a conversation scene can serve your story.

Free Workshops for Teens through SLANT, the youth division of The Porch:

SLANT workshops are intended for high school students. We meet in StudioNPL on the third floor of the Main Nashville Public Library. This is a free event open to students from any area. 

You’re the Expert of Yourself: Writing The Personal Essay

Everyone has a story to tell, and the good news is, there are lots of possibilities for how you can tell your story through a personal essay. In this workshop we’ll talk about creative ways to structure an essay, the pros and cons of linear and fragmented styles, and useful habits for writing beyond the workshop.

Writing Big Ideas

Have you ever wanted to write about a big, important topic, but didn’t know where to start? In this workshop, we’ll look at examples of “Exhibit Essays,” where an author uses a specific and approachable “exhibit” in order to talk about something bigger and deeper. Then we’ll try using “exhibits” to tackle big ideas in our own writing.

Panel 2

Personal Projects

I’m happy to announce that I have been selected to be an OZ Art Wire Fellow for the 2019-20 season! This means I’ll attend a variety of performances at OZ Arts for free in exchange of creative responses in the form of short stories or essays. These will be published on the Art Wire website, and may inspire longer pieces for submission elsewhere.

Works in progress: 

The Mouth and the Voice (A novel)

A young Japanese woman, who has been living abroad for the last five years, returns to her parents’ home in Tokyo after the March 2011 tsunami to find everything surreal and unrecognizable from the way she left it. The plot involves a massively popular J-pop idol group, innocent but twisted cartoons that have taken over TV commercials, the collective Japanese psyche after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the crazy inner-workings of an independent film studio, voice acting, and at the heart of all the chaos, a coming-of-age story about a young woman who slowly finds her way back home. Themes: returning home, identity, collective trauma in pop culture, coming-of-age. Literary fiction, ~83,000 words. (An early draft of this project was submitted for the Columbia School of the Arts M.F.A. degree in 2014.)

The Triumph of the Outrageously Cute Smiling Sunshine Idol (A novel)

A Japanese visual artist who has been living and working abroad for most of his life seeks to use his work to criticize Japanese society’s treatment of women, only to be targeted for his own misogyny. Written from the POV of all the women in his life.

Oh Yoko! (A novel)

A Japanese woman forced to move to Tennessee for her husband’s job finds unexpected parallels between Japan and the American South.

The Island is Burning (A Novel)

Submitted for the Barnard Centennial Scholars Program, 2007. A result of two years visiting Okinawa and researching the various sides to the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, as well as the ongoing tension between local Okinawans and U.S. military bases. The novel focuses on an Okinawan woman named Chiyo who survived the mass suicides during the Battle of Okinawa and reflects on the traumas of war as an elderly woman living in Yomitan village, only miles from the contentious U.S. air force base. Themes: WWII, war memory, U.S.-Japan relations, trauma.


Chapter 16, a publication of Humanities Tennessee:

Grasshopper, January 17, 2020
First-place winner of the Tennessee True Stories Essay Contest, judged by Mary Laura Philpott

Hyphen Magazine: 

The Story of a New Name, June 10, 2019
An essay about all the times I’ve changed my name, most recently from Ko to Yoshikawa.

The New Inquiry: 

Little Big Eater Girl, January 18, 2016
An essay about Japanese female competitive eaters and eating disorders.

Manufactured Response, April 22, 2014
An essay about responses to the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Columbia Political Review: 

Memory and Pacifism, October 31, 2010
A survey on the various responses to the U.S. military base presence in Okinawa, Japan.

Change Japan Can Believe In, October 18, 2009
A survey on the various responses to PM Yukio Hatoyama’s victory in the 2009 election.

Columbia Daily Spectator, regular columnist for a series called “2+2=5”: 

An expert on nothing, April 27, 2010

Brave new reader, April 13, 2010

The carnivore manifesto, March 30, 2010

The elimination of Women’s History Month, March, 2110, March 9, 2010

The gold standard, February 23, 2010

A romance of many dimensions, February 9, 2010

Frontiers of philosophy, January 26, 2010

There will be time, December 13, 2009

Can’t read my poker face, November 29, 2009

A matter of taste, November 15, 2009

A cosmic consciousness, October 18, 2009

Can machines produce art?, October 4, 2009

Why not wonder?, September 20, 2009

Panel 3


I look forward to hearing from you!