Story by Paul Wood
These days it’s hard to find a bookstore on this island. Even so, many of us continue to wish to warm our hands at the sputtering flame of literary fame. And writers (or would-be writers) from afar continue to think that Maui is a fine literary watering hole.
And so it is — humpback whales leaping, writers explaining what they would write if they didn’t happen to be at a writer’s conference, agents and editors wandering about, scouting for talent or mai tais, whichever comes first. All this was proven by the gone but once-lavish Maui Writers Conference.
Its successor, the Aloha Writers Conference, launches on Martin Luther King Day weekend (January 18-21) at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, followed by a writers’ retreat at the Pioneer Inn, Lahaina. Here you will meet writers who have succeeded wildly in the book biz, and people who actually understand how the book biz works.
The old Maui Writers Conference was burdened by its fascination with hype. This new one is a bit more dreamy. For one thing, it’s nonprofit. Proceeds from the conference will go to Keiki o Ka ‘Aina Family Learning Centers, a sixteen-year-old organization that provides educational and family-building programs, no charge. Its development director, Vicki Draeger — herself a writer of books for children and founder of a Pukalani girls’ school called Clearview — felt that she could provide quality improvements on the prior model, and still come out in the black. This is a huge risk, of course.
Vicki’s lifeline for this endeavor is its cultural authenticity. She is enlisting the aid of two Hawaiian women who qualify as improvisational poetesses, Puanani Burgess and kumu Hokulani Holt. Clifford Nae‘ole, the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua’s cultural advisor, will emcee. Says Vicki, “I want it to feel like you feel when you’re invited into the home of a Hawaiian.” A panel of African-American women will provide its own insights into literature’s social responsibilities.
You can also expect to make connections in the big-time-writer biz, folks like Kaui Hart Hemmings, whose Hawai‘i-based novel The Descendants became a celebrated George Clooney movie. John Lescroart, writer of twenty-three bestselling thrillers. Jacquelyn Mitchard — USA Today called her book, The Deep End of the Ocean, the second-most influential in twenty-five years. Diane Lake, the screenwriter for Frida. William Bernhardt, “the master of the courtroom drama.” Any attendee with an as-yet-undiscovered literary masterpiece can take advantage of several scheduled “one-on-one pitch” sessions with agents and editors.
Maui No Ka ‘Oi is a conference sponsor, and will publish (with compensation) the best 600-word story submitted by a paid participant. Details will be available at the conference.
Conference details and the full roster of literary luminaries can be found at www.alohawritersconference.com.