Stories close to home


POSTED: Sunday, March 08, 2009

All the stuff that comes out of the mouths of writing teachers can essentially be boiled down to: Write about what you know. Glue your butt in front of the keyboard. Start typing.





        » Bamboo Ridge Wine & Words: Pupu party and reading, 5 p.m. Wednesday, Kapiolani Community College Tamarind Room. Donation: $10. RSVP: 626-1481 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

        » Book launch: Reception and reading, 7 p.m. March 18, University of Hawaii-Manoa Campus Center Ballroom

”;Islands Linked by Ocean”;
        by Lisa Linn Kanae
        Bamboo Ridge, 176 pages, paperback




Lisa Linn Kanae didn't realize how close to home her stories were in Bamboo Ridge's “;Islands Linked by Ocean”; until she began collecting them. “;Most take place at home—Diamond Head, Waikiki, Kapahulu and Kaimuki, so, yeah, home informs my writing,”; she said. “;Home, family, friends. All of the stories are fiction with the exception of the title story, a true story about my father. Like many writers, a lot of the fiction I write is informed by personal experiences—snippets of real life embellished by my imagination.”;

As an instructor of composition and literature at Kapiolani Community College, Kanae preaches what she practices.

“;Process? I do what every other writer does. I work at it!”; say Kanae. “;It's never the same. Image. Phrase. Something someone said. Something someone did. I never know where 'it' comes from, so I just pay attention. I jot it down and walk around with the idea in my head for a few days. Thinking is a large part of the process. When the story is ready to get written, it will nag me to no end.

“;And then I have to clean my house. Literally. I have to un-clutter my life a little so I can sit down and focus. Once that is done, I can sit down and start. After I push out a draft, I leave it alone for long enough to return to the page with a clearer perspective.”;

Kanae's early perspective was Kapahulu Avenue, where she “;could walk up the street and smell bread baking at Love's Bakery, but since my father worked for Holsum, we never walked into Love's.”; Mom worked at the Sheraton, and Kanae countered at McDonald's when she wasn't ditching Kaimuki High School for the waves at Tongg's.

“;My husband and I live near UH. I love to travel, but I hate being away from home. I can't imagine living anywhere else. You can take the girl out of the ahupuaa, but you can't ... well, you know.”;

As far back as she can remember, Kanae had the writing jones. “;I wrote love stories for girlfriends about the boys they had crushes on. Silly skits—my childhood homage to 'Saturday Night Live' and Monty Python—and then my brother and I would act out the parts,”; said Kanae.

“;That, and I always loved to read. Mom bought one of those record players that looked like a little red suitcase and a collection of Disney Read Along book albums, with the sweet 'bing' that signals to turn the page. The narration and music taught me to listen for the rhythm of language.”;


In her 30s when she returned to college, Kanae got serious about the craft of writing, “;whether I would be successful at it or not. I knew instinctively this would take years. I wrote reams of prose and poetry that sucked, but I didn't care. I was obsessed. Still am! And I'm still learning. Writing is a practice. It was never meant to be easy.”;

Kanae's previous work, “;Sista Tongue,”; is an artful history of pidgin dialect in Hawaii. Does pidgin resist consistent spelling?

“;Nah nah nah. Pidgin can't even resist being dynamic. I have noticed something pretty cool. Pidgin writers are relying on published pidgin writing as references for spelling, so as the body of literature grows, an indirect standardization is being established. I just love the way Lee Tonouchi spells 'litto' and 'nutting.' In the end, like every living language, there is no consistent anything, jes planny trying fo keep up with the words leaving the mind.”;

Speaking of words, “;blurb”; to Kanae sounds like a drowning noise. Nonetheless, Lee Cataluna, Lois-Ann Yamanaka and Anona Napoleon submitted such glowing testimonials for the book cover that they “;made me want to get up on a table and dance like a crazy person. Meant a lot to me!”;