Inspirational Albom headlines writers confab


POSTED: Thursday, September 10, 2009

It isn't often that Hawaii gets to be first in line for something that's bound to attract national attention. Even best-selling author Mitch Albom was surprised to see his new book, slated for release on Sept. 29, for sale on a folding table in the lobby of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

“;That's why this is our 50th state; we finally got it right!”; he joked during his keynote speech at the Hawaii Writers Conference last weekend.

Albom, whose previous books “;Tuesdays With Morrie,”; “;Five People You Meet in Heaven”; and “;For One More Day”; sold a total of more than 28 million copies and were made into Emmy Award-winning television movies, also is a regular guest on ESPN's Sports Reporters and SportsCenter. (He was a successful sports journalist and radio/television broadcaster before becoming a mega-selling author).

His attendance in Honolulu provided an ideal opportunity to speak for the first time about “;Have a Little Faith,”; his latest book about how religious beliefs can bring people together rather than pull them apart. In it he tells about reconnecting with his own Jewish faith over the last nine years—prompted by a request to deliver his rabbi's eulogy—while getting to know an African-American pastor who pulled himself out of a life of crime and drug addiction to lead a Christian church full of poverty-stricken congregants. Albom described the evolution of these relationships and how he came to dedicate some of the proceeds of this new memoir to repair the leaky roof of the church (of which he is the first official Jewish member, he chuckled) that doubles as shelter for many homeless people.

In the nine-year journey of writing this book, he discovered that life is not about finding answers. Instead, it revolves around “;the search for meaning.”;

Look for Albom's latest effort on the best-seller list, where it's bound to spend some time ...

The Hawaii Writers Conference opened in the Royal Hawaiian Monarch Room with mesmerizing performances from Hawaiian slack key master Makana and slam poet Kealoha, who was featured on HBO's “;Brave New Voices series presented by Russell Simmons.”; They brought the audience to its feet with their energetic presentations, as did Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole, who chanted with his mother and grandmother. I think the combination of hula, music, chanting and poetry was one of the most impressive and comprehensive presentations of Hawaiian culture the conference has ever assembled. Repeated standing ovations indicated that the 700 attendees thought so, too.

By chance, I ended up sitting next to Michael Arndt, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of “;Little Miss Sunshine,”; whom I wrote about two years ago when he first spoke at the conference on Maui (hsblinks.com/pl). Our interview was brief but memorable because of 1) his charm, 2) his unwillingness to let us take a picture of him (”;Writers shouldn't be photographed for the same reason models shouldn't be interviewed,”; he quipped), 3) his inspiring story, 4) his intellect and 5) his charm.

Arndt just finished working on Disney/Pixar's “;Toy Story 3,”; a multiyear endeavor that officially culminates when the movie comes out June 18, 2010. He assured me that we wouldn't be able to miss its release. In fact, you can't miss the teasers all over YouTube already! ...

...Filmmakers, get ready: Showdown in Chinatown is back. Torry Tukuafu will host Hawaii's independent film community from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sept. 19 at NextDoor.

The challenge? To create an original short film that answers the question, “;How do you see Honolulu's Chinatown?”; in three to seven minutes. Twelve entries will be selected, screened and judged live on the big screen at 43 Hotel St. Submissions are due Sept. 18. What's at stake? Cash prizes, a posting on the Chinatown Film Project Web site and a screening at the Hawaii International Film Festival on Oct. 23.