Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, October 18, 2001

Make sense of
contracts, pidgin
and writing stuff

Bamboo Ridge panels address
the issues important to authors

By Tino Ramirez
Special to the Star-Bulletin

When the staff at Bamboo Ridge began organizing this weekend's writers institute at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, they wanted to present a variety of panels addressing a variety of literary genres, film, performance and storytelling, as well as teaching writing and literature, said Managing Editor Joy Kobayashi-Cintron.

Making films, for example, will be taken up by Edgy Lee, who has documented Hawaiian cowboys and Waikiki, along with Eric Nemoto and Jon Brekke, whose "'Tis the Season" won best film at the Chicago International Children's Film Festival.

Topics to be discussed range from "Pidgin: Need or No Need?" with Lee Tonouchi, Lee Cataluna, Kent Sakoda and Cedric Yamanaka; to "Already Famous: Getting the Book Contract," with Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Nora Okja Keller and Deborah Iida.

For a complete rundown on the institute's 16 panels, you'll need to call Bamboo Ridge or check the organization's Web site at The Star-Bulletin spoke with several panelists to get an idea of what they'll be discussing.

When Bamboo Ridge was founded in 1978, the Internet was just a techie's dream, but in the last decade it has changed the way literature is written and distributed. Discussing "Technology and Local Literature" will be Bamboo Ridge Webmaster Peter Li, online magazine publisher Jhoanna Calma and Ryan Ozawa.

Ozawa edits Diarist.Net, an online resource for diary writers. The Internet has removed "the gatekeepers" of publishing, allowing a wide range of people to write and have their work read, he said.

"Instead of being the domain of artists, writing has become the tool of the everyday citizen. Technology empowers anybody," said Ozawa.

Writing for online publication also cuts the time it takes for writing to reach an audience and helps build community. An example is the wealth of writing being done reacting to Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., he said.

"Journal writing is a great coping mechanism, and when the strikes happened, among the community of people writing online, we got together to try and track down the writers in New York to see if they're OK."

Online journals were also a way to immediately understand the impact on individuals, a topic not taken up until later by the mass media, he said.

"Through online journals, people are connecting and sharing," said Ozawa. "That's the value of it, and that's what I plan to proselytize about at the institute."

Writers often are asked if their work is about specific incidents in their lives. Taking up that issue are Marie Hara, Mavis Hara, Wendy Miyake, Lisa Kanae and Gail Harada on "Women Writers: Transforming Personal Experience."

Harada, a poet on Kapiolani Community College's language arts faculty, said all of them use personal experience, but not necessarily in an autobiographical way. She expects the panelists to discuss how they work experience into literature.

"They transform it into a poem or story, and it's not really a record of facts; it becomes literature," said Harada.

Cedric Yamanaka, longtime reporter for KITV, short-story writer and scriptwriter, is on two panels. He has a collection of short stories, "In Good Company," coming out in the spring from the University of Hawaii Press. The eight stories focus on the dignity of people living in neighborhoods across the state, he said.

Although he hasn't met with other panelists to go over what they'll discuss in another panel -- "Pidgin: Need or No Need?" -- Yamanaka said that in terms of literature, pidgin is the language of many Hawaii residents.

"If you want to capture a true sense of Hawaii, pidgin English is important," he said. "It has a place in literature."

Yamanaka will also sit with Wendy Miyake on "Winning and Losing the Honolulu Magazine Fiction Contest." They'll be joined by John Heckathorn, Honolulu's editor, who describes the contest "like the Super Bowl of Hawaii literature." It reaches a wide audience, and its panel of judges constantly changes, ensuring many different voices are heard.

He won the contest about 10 years ago with "One Evening in the Blue Light Bar and Grill," a story about a graduate of Farrington High School encountering his high school sweetheart in a Chinatown bar.

"Winning it was a good affirmation," he said. "Writing is an individual sport, so it's people saying you're on the right track, and I'm also pleased to hear students are using it in speech contests."

Yamanaka is participating in the workshop to help writers looking for a community: "It's a good feeling to know that other writers are asking the same questions and share the same goals as they sit in front of their word processors. It's a lonely ride, and if I can help somebody, then that's great."

Forum facts

Bamboo Ridge Writers Institute:

>> Tomorrow: 7 p.m. reception followed by reading featuring writers published in Bamboo Ridge issue No. 79. Free.
>> Saturday: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Morning and afternoon panels and writing workshops, as well as open mic for writers to read their work from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
>> Registration fee: $50, $40 students, $30 Bamboo Ridge members. Lunch: $5.
>> Call: 626-1481, or inquire by e-mail at

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