Make It Happen, Step 1: Choose the Path

Make It Happen
Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash

It’s time to make it happen.

It’s one week into 2019, the year in which I proclaimed I’m going to write (and actually finish) a novel, and I thought I knew my plan.

Suddenly, though, I have two projects to choose between. I need to make a decision.

Let me tell you about the first project, A few years ago, during NaNoWriMo, I wrote a full draft of a children’s book. It’s a middle grade novel, to be more specific.

When I finished, I sketched out two more books in the series and wrote their first drafts. And then I mostly just left it all alone.

Last year, I showed the first couple chapters of the first book to a literary agent at the ASJA conference and she gave me some good feedback. She suggested changing an aspect of the plot, which she said was a little too dark for that age reader. It made sense. She said after I did that, she’d like to read it again.

I reread the trilogy a few months ago and realized that while it needs a lot of work, I still like the story. I should get back to this, I thought.

Then the other day I realized that another idea, the story I have been trying to write for half my life, is actually a novel. Suddenly I am really excited about writing that novel and cannot get it out of my mind.

But then—there goes that seesaw again—last week I got an email saying the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Hawaii was going to start offering meetings here in Hilo.

Other writers, right here in Hilo!

I went to the first meeting and felt my body relax into an, “Ah!” While I have many writer friends, most live outside of Hawaii. It can be lonely writing on a rural island in the middle of the Pacific. When I looked around that meeting, I wondered if maybe some of these children’s book writers and illustrators could be on-the-ground writer buddies.

We met in downtown Hilo’s former Koehnen’s building, an elegant 1910 building that takes up a whole city block. It’s a lovely, gracious, and well-maintained Renaissance Revival style building with koa walls, ‘ōhi‘a floors, and a grand koa staircase. Originally it was the Hackfeld Company, then Koehnen’s, both retail enterprises.

Now, it’s the National Oceanographic Institute’s Mokupāpapa Discovery Center, which interprets the natural science, culture, and history of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and their surrounding marine environment.

We gathered upstairs, under the very tall, open-beam ceiling and next to huge, unscreened windows that let in the breeze. In the distance, beyond coconut trees, I saw two canoes full of paddlers glide slowly across the gentle, gray ocean.

There was a reminder of the building’s current marine science focus in the corner—a large, papier mâché “rock” sporting orange, gold, and green coral.

Listening to Richard Peck

Among other things, we watched a Master Class interview with children’s author Richard Peck. Decades ago, when he and I were both much younger, I once heard him speak in person at Henderson Library in Torrance, California.
Make It Happen

I was already a big reader and fan then, and he was already a successful novelist. He went on to write an astonishing 41 books for young people before he passed away last summer.

Here’s some of what he said in the video that interested me:

• In a children’s book, the young person has to solve his/her own problem and find his or her own way.
• Their parents must be kept in check—supportive, but in the background.
• You should write from observation, he said, not from experience.
• He said he always sits behind young people on the bus, and hangs out in malls. That’s how he gets the dialog right.
• Take yourself out of the story by always writing in first person. Then it’s a child’s diction.  Make It Happen
• He said he was born listening. “I grew up under tables and behind doors, listening.”
• He loved to listen to the old people and now, he said, the grandparents and great-grandparents were coming out in his writing.

I really liked hearing that last bit. I am all about the family stories, the generations, and the connections across time. They come out in my writing, too—my children’s book trilogy has all of that. So does my other novel idea, actually.

After the SCBWI meeting, a couple of writers talked about starting up a critique group, something I’ve been thinking about lately. It had me thinking seriously about choosing to work on my very rough children’s novel for this 2019 project.

What to do, what to do.

In my next blog post, I’ll tell you about the other possibility. And I’ll make a decision already!

Please note this post contains affiliate links

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Hawaii Content Marketing & Rock Stars

Do you know that buzz phrase “content marketing?” It’s what businesses are calling the content they hire us writers to provide. Here’s the best definition of content marketing that I’ve come across; it’s from the Content Marketing Institute:

Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content Marketing is showing the world that you are one. – Robert Rose

Content marketing is a focus for me, and much of the content marketing I do is related to Hawaii, where I live and work. I know Hawaii well, and my journalism background and years as a freelance writer makes it easy for me to research and write (or ghostwrite) about just about anything – whether it’s related to Hawai‘i’s business, travel, culture, people, or something else.

I don’t have links to many of my articles on my website right now, so I am compiling a list here. This is just a small number of the many and varied magazine articles, books and blog posts I’ve written for various businesses, corporations, hotels and media outlets in Hawaii and elsewhere.

On Business & Current Affairs:

Hawaii Travel

Hawaii Culture

Hawaii People

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Voyaging Through Time & Space

June 2, 2014

The Hokule‘a and Hikianalia, two traditional-style Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoes, just left from Hilo Bay for the first leg of a trip around the world. The trip is called Malama Honua, and it will be a three-year circumnavigation of the earth covering 47,000 nautical miles with stops at 85 ports in 26 countries.

There is an excellent website about Hokule‘a and Hikianalia, where you can track the voyage on Google Maps, and read much more about it.

Hokulea, Hikianalia, Hilo, Polynesian Voyaging Society, Hawaiian Tradition, Hawaiian Culture

It’s one of the coolest things in 21st-century Hawai‘i, in my book, and has such an amazing story.

Traditionally, Polynesians traveled the oceans in this sort of wa‘a kaulua, double-hulled canoe, without, of course, modern navigational instruments. Over the centuries, though, Hawaiians, and most of their Polynesian cousins, lost that knowledge. Back in the 1970s, a small group of Hawaiians went looking to learn how to revive this tradition. Few people in the Pacific still knew how to navigate across the ocean traditionally, without instruments, but a handful of people in the Pacific did. For the most part, though, they guarded their knowledge and wouldn’t share it.

Finally the Hawaiians found Mau Piailug, of Satawal in Micronesia, who still knew the ancient techniques and agreed to teach them. It’s an enormous, amazing story reaching across both space, cultures, time, more:

In 1975, no Hawaiian living knew these ancient techniques forblue water voyaging.[21] To enable the voyage, the Polynesian Voyaging Society recruited the Satawalese Master Navigator Mau Piailug [of the Weriyeng school in the Caroline Islands (map) of the Federated States of Micronesia (map) ] to share his knowledge of non-instrument navigation. While as many as six Micronesian navigators had mastered these traditional methods as of the mid-1970s,[22] only Mau was willing to share his knowledge with the Polynesians.

Mau, who “barely spoke English,” decided that by reaching beyond his own culture, sharing what had been closely guarded knowledge, he could possibly save it from extinction. Through his collaboration with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Mau’s mentorship helped “spark pride in the Hawaiian and Polynesian culture”, leading to “a renaissance of voyaging, canoe building, and non-instrument navigation that has continued to grow, spreading across Polynesia (map) and reaching to its far corners of Aotearoa [New Zealand] and Rapanui [Easter Island].” (Thompson, Reflections on Mau Piailug, 1996) – Wikipedia

The canoes are such a symbol of Hawaiians and their traditions, their culture, their achievements and excellence and abilities. And the Hokule‘a, and the crewmembers, have been around since the 1970s, so we’re well into another generation of students now. They are all about sustainability and education and science and more. This tradition is unlikely to die out again anytime soon.

On the website, you can read, in both Hawaiian and English, about honoring the ancestors who went before us, see photos of the two wa’a departing from Hilo for Tahiti, read about Polynesian navigation, and more.

Do you love that the Hokule’a has a blog? I do.

Here’s a post about the canoes leaving at Richard Ha’s blog, which I edit. He is a local businessman and farmer, and supplied bananas and tomatoes for the crews.

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“Gathering Places” Tour a Success!

Our recent Historic Architecture Tour of Hilo went great! It was the second in a series of three tours we give on the Big Island each fall, and this one focused on “Gathering Places.”

These tours, which are offered through Lyman Museum, are so much fun to research and lead.  It was Judith Kirkendall who designed them and she has brought me on to help. Judith is a historian and anthropologist (her dissertation was on the anthropology of food), lived for many years all over the world, and was formerly a University of Hawai‘i dean. She is just a lovely, interesting person. I am so fortunate to be able to work with her. We have so much fun working together.

Judith KirkendallJudith Kirkendall

East Hawai‘i, of course, has so much interesting history, and one of the fun things about our tours is that we can sneak people into places one doesn’t ordinarily get to see. Among many other places, we went into the Kaikodo Building and up into what was formerly its very interesting Masonic Lodge to examine the architecture – even though the Center Stage Dance Studio has recently moved in there. We talked to them in advance and got permission to have a look around even though they had a class in session! It was generous of them.

We heard all about the Koehnens building’s history,  and even went into its basement where we got to peak into a cement channel where the Wailuku River courses underneath the store. You can see the river swooshing by! I mean, you could reach down (not too far) and touch the water! Owner Karyl Franks told us some great stories about the building, how it was built, tsunamis, and how they keep that river from flooding the place.

We ate our bento lunches (included in the tour) at the Wild Ginger Inn in Wainaku, which has quite a history of its own. Its owner showed us around and told us about how it was formerly a hotspot bar/nightclub. One of our tour participants recalled going there in the 1950s when a stripper from Punahou School was performing. It’s much calmer there now.

There were many other stops as well – I’m just telling you some of the highlights – and then we ended up at the Japanese tea house at Lili‘uokalani Gardens, where we talked about Japanese architecture, brought over by Japanese carpenters who immigrated as plantation workers.

Japanese tea ceremony, Liliuokalani Gardens

The women of the tea house put on a tea ceremony demonstration for us, and it was an absolutely perfect way to end our busy tour. I think everything seemed to leave the tea house feeling a bit more calm and centered than when we arrived there.

Our next tour, also a guided van tour that starts at the Lyman Museum and runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., is on Saturday, December 17th. It’s on domestic structures – or another name for it might be “Historic Homes.” Sign up for it by calling Lyman Museum at 935-5021, if you’re interested, and don’t wait ’til the last minute because we fill ’em up.

And stay tuned for news about a brand new tour series, on a new topic, that we’ll be premiering starting in February. It’s going to be neat, and I’ll tell you more about it here soon.

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Tsunami!

We are having a tsunami today, it seems. The first wave is expected to arrive in Hilo any time now. Hilo is supposed to get the first, and biggest, of the waves. The radio says that the water in Hilo Bay is starting to draw back. Tsunami in real time.

Click on this image to go to KHON video of the tsunami.

picture-2

We live up the mountain a little way, and some good distance from the ocean, so we are in no danger here.Thank goodness for the warning this time. Preparations have been extensive here, with civil defense sirens going off every hour since 6 a.m., and mandatory evacuations from coastal areas in effect. Hopefully, the island is prepared.

In the past, downtown Hilo, and certain other spots, have been destroyed and many people killed, back before there were warning systems in place. Most recently, downtown Hilo was destroyed by tsunami in 1946 and again in 1960.

I cannot even imagine what a magnitude 8.8 earthquake would feel like. Absolutely terrifying, I’m sure. My hearts go out to the people in Chile.

Live tsunami video, too, from www.bjpenn.com.

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Beginning Ukulele Class

Macario will teach a continuing Beginning ‘Ukulele class at the East Hawai‘i Cultural Center starting Saturday, June 6.

The series of 1.5 hour classes, which will meet on five consecutive Saturdays at 10 a.m., cost only $25 total for the public and $20 for EHCC members.

Macario's Ukulele Class in Hilo

“You don’t have to know anything about the ‘ukulele,” says Macario, who played music professionally in Honolulu and on the mainland for 16 years. “You need to have your own ‘ukulele and bring a pen or pencil, and that’s it.”

He says he will teach some basic theory and chord structures so students will have the tools to go home and continue.

“I try to keep the class really simple so people can really understand how the notes and chords work,” he says. “I’m trying to give them a roadmap so they can look at their ‘ukulele’s fret board and figure out where the notes and chords are. That way, with a few simple instructions they’ll be able to go home and figure out what the chords in a song are.

“Most Hawaiian songs are really basic, really simple patterns,” he says. “Once you hear those and learn those simple patterns, you’ll start to recognize them everywhere.”

Students who know a little bit about ‘ukulele are welcome, he says, and he’d be happy to go over subjects slightly more advanced if appropriate, but mostly it’s a class for beginning ‘ukulele players. “I want to keep it simple; a simple class to get beginners started on their way to understanding the music, so they can learn more on their own and progress.”

Currently Macario works as a photographer; see his website here. He also runs an online magazine called Macario’s Big Island.

To enroll in Macario’s five-week Beginning ‘Ukulele class, call the East Hawai‘i Cultural Center at 961-5711. The East Hawai‘i Cultural Center is located at 141 Kalakaua Street in Hilo.

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Hilo Vog

Edited on 4/21/09 to add: And an earthquake, too! My visiting friend is having the full Big Island experience.

From the USGS: A light earthquake occurred at 4:58:09 PM (HST) on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 . The magnitude 4.2 event occurred 7 km (4 miles) NNE of Ka`ena Point.

I have a dear friend visiting from the mainland, and today there is big time vog here in Hilo. It look as if you might have to push through the voggy air with your hands in order to walk.

I feel terrible when a friend is visiting our lovely, usually sparkly town and Hilo puts on her all-time ugliest dress.

VogVolcanic fog. It’s stuff that can make your eyes burn and that you can taste in your throat. It can be a huge problem for people with asthma or other respiratory problems. I have a cold right now and I feel the vog in my lungs; fortunately, this will pass.

Thank goodness it is not usually like this.

Hilo is truly one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever seen. It rains a lot and then it sparkles, and is blue and green in all the right places. The water shimmers. And the gentle tradewinds generally whisk away all the bad stuff, leaving us with air that is crystal clear.

It sounded so defensive today when I muttered that it isn’t usually like this. “It really isn’t.” (Defensive.)

What’s a person to do? We went for a long walk in Lili‘uokalani Park anyway, and pretended we could see clear to the other side.

The trades will come back and the air will clear, and soon everything will be all right again. Tomorrow is another day.

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Dottie Thompson, George Naope, & the Definition of “Resplendent”

Aunty Dottie Thompson and George Na‘ope, together credited with starting Hilo, Hawai‘i’s Merrie Monarch Festival 46 years ago, are both looking frail this year, and both attended the festival briefly on the final night in wheelchairs.

Still, one can always count on Uncle George to look absolutely resplendent.

dottie-george1

Re·splen·dent   (rĭ-splĕndənt)

adj.

Splendid or dazzling in appearance; brilliant.

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin resplendēns, resplendent-, present participle of resplendēre, to shine brightly : re-, re- + splendēre, to shine.]

Splendid. Dazzling. Brilliant. He definitely still shines.

 

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Hula at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, and Tears

It’s Merrie Monarch week and it’s absolutely the best week of the year here in Hilo. 

We went down to the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel this afternoon and watched the free hula performance by Puanani Crumb’s Halau Hula O Hilo Hanakahi.

5-yrs-crumb-halau-1

It was wonderful. The music, the hula, the crowd. Hula Legend Uncle George Na‘ope was there, wheelchair-bound now, wearing a green running suit, white Crocs and then of course his hat and his wide gold bracelets running up his arm. 

I just love it all. The tiny kids who dance. The older ones who dance and who are so, so lovely. The crowd, appreciating. The smell of the plumeria lei the dancers are wearing. The emotion. The power of the hula. The stories.

Drew Kekaualua was singing with them, Pua’s nephew, and she told a story about how he and his brothers would back up their mother when she used to dance to the song “U‘ilani.”

She said, “But then I realized they don’t really know the song. And I wanted them to know it, so I taught it to them. And then I taught my alaka‘i to dance it. I’ve never seen anybody dance that song.”

She said she told her nephew (who has a beautiful voice) to sing it the way his mother used to sing it; not the way they all sing now.

So they played U‘ilani, and he sang it the way his mother used to sing it, and her alaka‘i danced. Pua dedicated the song to Drew’s mother, Bobbie Kekaualua, who was in the audience.

It was beautiful. It was beautiful. Bobbie stood watching, rapt, her hands making the moves of the hula, a big smile on her face. She was moved. Afterward, she told me she cried.

I absolutely love Merrie Monarch week, when all the focus is on hula, and stories and beauty and all that culture comes to the forefront.

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