Writers conference turns page to Oahu
Leaders of the Maui Writers Conference announced a new name and fresh location in an effort to accommodate more attendees from Hawaii. Now in its 16th year, the premiere gathering of literary and commercial luminaries is moving to Waikiki for Labor Day weekend and adding, "on the Road in Honolulu" to its name.
Last year in Wailea, Maui, the conference welcomed Pulitzer Prize winners, Academy Award-winning screenwriters, National Book Award winners and a former poet laureate. This year's big ticket attraction is Robert Moresco ("Crash," "Million Dollar Baby"), a producer and Academy Award-winning screenwriter.
While the new location is sure to increase participation, whether or not it will affect the conference's ability to lure as many high-caliber speakers did not seem to be a concern. Georja Skinner, chief officer of the Creative Industries Division in the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, felt that Oahu's historic and cultural attractions -- Pearl Harbor and Bishop Museum, for example, as well as the dazzling Waikiki Beach Walk -- would offset the loss of the idyllic Maui setting.
David Carey, president and chief executive of Outrigger Enterprises, a major sponsor of the event, agreed.
"Waikiki gives many choices and venues for your participants," he told the media gathered at the Ala Moana Hotel yesterday. "And this will help them experience the new Waikiki."
Conference venues include the Hawaii Convention Center and the Ala Moana Hotel. The retreat takes place at the renovated Outrigger Reef on the Beach and Embassy Suites-Waikiki Beach Walk.
"Our primary mission is to bring the literary and publishing world to the people of Hawaii, and 90 percent of the people in Hawaii live here," said longtime Maui resident John Tullius, who started the event with his wife, Shannon. The number of requests from Honolulu residents motivated them to move the conference to Oahu, where they will continue to highlight Hawaii's "living culture and language."
Another component that Shannon Tullius hopes to expand in 2009 is the youth writers program, which allows a limited number of teachers and students to attend writing workshops associated with the conference. In addition, the pre-conference retreat, featuring intensive tracks in best-selling and literary fiction, scriptwriting, narrative nonfiction, self-help and mind, body and spirit, will continue. Led by best-selling authors such as Jacquelyn Mitchard and H.W. Brands (also a Pulitzer Prize finalist), it helps aspiring writers craft their work in intimate settings.
Shelly Mecum, an eighth-grade teacher at Holy Trinity who sold her book idea at the Maui Writers Conference several years ago, said that when high-powered agents and editors come to Hawaii, "something happens to them here." They become helpful, generous and kind, and attendees have an opportunity to meet with them under these favorable conditions.
After all, said Skinner, who also sold her book at the conference, "All you need is an idea. ... You never know what magic is going to happen."
Change of scenery
Maui Writers Conference on the Road to Honolulu
» Aug. 29-Sept. 1
» Conference registration: $695 until May 1; $795 after May 1
» Conference Retreat, August 22-28: $1295 until May 1
» For more information: www.mauiwriters.com; (808) 879-0061