Kamalani Hurley floral

‘Eia ko‘u mana‘o

Reflections of a Native Hawaiian writer

Kamalani Hurley florals
Kamalani Hurley floral

‘Eia ko‘u mana‘o

Reflections of a Native Hawaiian writer

Kamalani Hurley florals

My Debut Picture Book is Announced at Publisherʻs Weekly!

PW announcement

Maha­lo ke Akua! After a long career teach­ing writ­ing (which I real­ly loved), I thrilled beyond words that my debut pic­ture book, KAHOʻOLAWE, has been offi­cial­ly announced at Pub­lish­erʻs Week­ly!

 

Kahoʻolawe is a sto­ry of loss and era­sure, of sac­ri­fice and ded­i­ca­tion, and, ulti­mate­ly, of restora­tion and resilience. Writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Native Hawai­ians Kamalani Hur­ley and Hari­nani Orme, this chil­drenʻs pic­ture book is the sto­ry of alo­ha ʻāi­na — a deep love of the land — and explores what hap­pened to Kahoʻo­lawe and how she is a bea­con of hope for the Native Hawai­ian peo­ple and for peo­ple every­where who fight against social and envi­ron­men­tal injustice. 

Maha­lo nui …

  • to the lead­ers of the Pro­tect Kaho’o­lawe ‘Ohana for their exper­tise and sup­port of this project. Their ded­i­ca­tion to Kahoʻo­lawe and to the Hawai­ian peo­ple con­tin­ues to inspire. 
  • to edi­tor and pub­lish­er, Car­ol Hinz, whose exper­tise and patience we are count­ing on to get the book into the world.
  • to my agent James McGowan, who always knew this sto­ry need­ed to be told.

 

image cred­it: Vic­ki Palmquist — Wind­ing Oak

Interview with Native Hawaiian Artist Brook Kapūkuniahi Parker

Brooke-Parker

We are delight­ed to fea­ture the accom­plished Native Hawai­ian artist and his­to­ri­an, Brook Kapūku­ni­ahi Park­er. He has illus­trat­ed sev­er­al chil­dren’s books for ʻAha Pūnana Leo Hawai­ian Emer­sion Schools and cre­at­ed numer­ous stun­ning com­mis­sion pieces for clients through­out Hawai’i. His pas­sion is to Brooke-Parkercre­ate breath­tak­ing art that brings life to our ances­tors, and he does so through his exten­sive knowl­edge of  Native Hawai­ian his­to­ry and culture. 

For those who haven’t met you, could you please tell us a lit­tle about yourself?

I have always loved to draw since I was lit­tle but only start­ed paint­ing in 2009. I’ve been mar­ried for 32 years, 5 chil­dren, two grand­chil­dren. My biggest sup­port­er is my wife and busi­ness part­ner, Drena. 

Where did you grow up? What high school did you grad from? 

I was raised in Kahaluʻu, Heʻeia, and Kāneʻo­he, Oʻahu. I attend­ed Cas­tle High School and grad­u­at­ed class of ’79. 

Go Knights! Why did you become an illus­tra­tor? Did you always know you could cre­ate art?

KamehamehaI learned art by watch­ing my dad cre­ate his art. I am pas­sion­ate about fam­i­ly his­to­ry and hon­or the ances­tors by paint­ing their sto­ries and accomplishments. 

Note: Brook’s father, David Kaleiomanoanahu­lu Waipa Park­er, was a gift­ed writer and aliʻi mem­ber of the Roy­al Order of Kamehameha.

What do you enjoy most about cre­at­ing art? What are some of your great­est challenges?

I enjoy telling the sto­ries of our kūpuna and keep­ing their names and mem­o­ries alive visually.

What are your hopes and dreams for the year and beyond in terms of your artis­tic career and what you would like to see pub­lished in the future?

Brook-Parker-artI am thank­ful I am able to pro­vide for my fam­i­ly by paint­ing and hope to pub­lish a book on the Great Chiefs of Hawaii which will include the art I have created.

We are look­ing for­ward to that! There are not a lot of Native Hawai­ian, Pacif­ic Islander or peo­ple of col­or kid lit illus­tra­tors. Why do you think that is?

Yes, I agree. We need more Pacif­ic nation artists to tell our sto­ries through our own eyes.

Do you have a web­site? Are you on  social media?

My web­site is Hawai­ian at Art. Iʻm also on Insta­gram and Face­book

What advice would you give an aspir­ing illustrator?

Don’t give up, holo­mua, move for­ward, improve your skills, and be pas­sion­ate about what you do.

Can you share a bit of your cur­rent work?

I am cur­rent­ly com­plet­ing a large paint­ing of Chief Kaiana with his broth­ers, Nahi­olea and Namakeha.

Where do you get your inspirations? 

Liliʻu-TributeFrom books, sto­ries and oth­er gift­ed artist I admire.

Illus­tra­tors and artists, like writ­ers, do a lot of research when theyʻre cre­at­ing. Whatʻs your research process like? 

I study, med­i­tate and pray before projects.

Can you share a bit about what you’re work­ing on next? 

Iʻm not quite sure yet, maybe some­thing of a Hina vibe.

We have much to look for­ward to from you! Maha­lo, Brook, for shar­ing your man­aʻo! To learn more about Brook Park­er and to view sam­ples of his art, vis­it his web­site at Hawaiianatart.org and fol­low him on Insta­gram

Interview with Author Vera Arita

Vera-Arita

Hawaiʻi-based author Vera Ari­ta has spent her life help­ing spe­cial-needs chil­dren to suc­ceed. Her chil­drenʻs books focus on Hawaiʻi themes and encour­age chil­dren to  delight in the world around them. 

Vera-AritaMaha­lo, Vera, for allow­ing me to fea­ture you on my blog. For those who haven’t met you, could you please tell us a lit­tle about yourself?

Alo­ha all! I’m Vera Ari­ta, and I am a retired spe­cial edu­ca­tion teacher.  I taught for 32 years, and then I retired from Mililani Ike Ele­men­tary in  Cen­tral Oʻahu in 2016.  I am cur­rent­ly a half time field ser­vice instruc­tor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawaiʻi at Manoa, and I help stu­dents learn how to be spe­cial edu­ca­tion teach­ers.  I live in Mililani with my hus­band, Neal, and we have two sons/two daugh­ters-in-laws, two grand­sons and a granddaughter. 

Where did you grow up? What high school did you grad from?

I grew up in Waipahu and went to Waipahu Ele­men­tary, Inter­me­di­ate and High School.

Go, Maraud­ers! Who is your biggest supporter?

For sure my hus­band, Neal, our sons and extend­ed fam­i­ly! I also have great teacher and church friends who come out full force to sup­port my book signings.

Why did you become a writer? What inspired you to write for children?

All-Around-The-IslandsIn my teach­ing career, I always had a dream to write children’s books to share the love, care and life lessons I’d grown to appre­ci­ate. I believe the inspi­ra­tion also comes through my faith in Christ. My first book, All Around the Islands, came out in 2005.  I ded­i­cat­ed my first book to my par­ents, Bolo and Eileen Sone­da, because my dad was very ill, and Iʻd promised him that I would write a book someday. 

What do you enjoy most about writ­ing for kids? What are some of your great­est chal­lenges in writ­ing for children?

I think hav­ing kids learn about ani­mals or the sounds of the let­ters in rhyme is very reward­ing. My fourth book, Alpha­bet Huk­i­lau, was writ­ten on an iPad! I was just kick­ing arAlphabet-Hukilauound with the idea of a net catch­ing let­ters instead of sea ani­mals. At the back of the book there is non-fic­tion infor­ma­tion of the sea ani­mals since much of our con­tent stan­dards deals with read­ing non-fic­tion books. 

The chal­lenge for any author is find­ing a pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny who is will­ing to risk cre­at­ing a book with your words. 

What are your hopes and dreams for the year and beyond in terms of your writ­ing career and what you would like to see pub­lished in the future?

Teach­ing chil­dren has been, and is, my pas­sion, and cur­rent­ly my pub­lish­er is con­sid­er­ing a count­ing book that is quite whimsical.

There are not a lot of sto­ries for or by Native Hawai­ians and Pacif­ic Islanders. Why do you think that is? What do you think we can do the change that?

Again, you have to find a pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny who believes in your writ­ing.  I believe that in Hawaii, most pub­lish­ers have to cater to the tourist mar­ket for their books to sell. I’m hop­ing that my new book, which pro­motes char­ac­ter edu­ca­tion, will be in all schools in Hawaii and nationwide.

Do you have a web­site? Are you on social media? Do you do school visits?

I do not cur­rent­ly have a web­site, but I am on Insta­gram Vera­sonedaari­ta or you can email me. I do school vis­its where I share the writ­ing process and share sketch­es of how a book is formed.  I often browse through reviews on Ama­zon of my books and find it very hum­bling to get such rave reviews.

What advice do you have for aspir­ing writers?

Nev­er give up on your dreams. You have to reach out to many pub­lish­ers and not get dis­cour­aged. My pub­lish­er told me she receives sub­mis­sions near­ly every day, and few are picked up to be published.

Can you share a bit of your cur­rent work?

Alo­hasaurus is a sto­ry that I think many peo­ple can real­ly relate to.  It’s about a dinosaur who has no friends because he looks dif­fer­ent, and he sounds dif­fer­ent.  In Alohasaurusmany ways it’s like my broth­er, Mike, who, was socially“different.”  Mike was born with men­tal and phys­i­cal chal­lenges.  Sad­ly, Mike recent­ly passed away in ear­ly Sep­tem­ber 2022, so he did not get a chance to see the book.

In the sto­ry, a group of curi­ous and coura­geous chil­dren befriend the dinosaur, and in turn, he teach­es them ways to be kind and how to mod­el alo­ha. Through their new­ly found friend­ship, they name him “Alo­hasaurus.”

As a sub­sti­tute teacher, I’ve been test mar­ket­ing the draft of the book with stu­dents, and it has got­ten “5 star” reviews from them! I have even shared the book with some mid­dle school stu­dents, and they real­ly liked the sto­ry. Their encour­age­ment has been uplift­ing and so precious.

Which of your books did you have the most fun writ­ing? Which was the most challenging?

Animals-Sing-AlohaMy third book, Ani­mals Sing Alo­ha. It is a phon­ics book that teach­es how to write and sound out the alpha­bets cor­rect­ly. It was a sur­prise because the draft was lit­er­al­ly writ­ten on the back of an anniver­sary card while I was in a Maui hotel lob­by on vaca­tion. I tell stu­dents that when inspi­ra­tion hits, you have to be ready to write!  That book has been my best-sell­ing book to date.

Most chal­leng­ing is Alo­hasaurus because it’s been on the back burn­er since 2007!  I wrote the draft on the back of ser­mon notes in church and always felt that this would be a great book; how­ev­er, the pub­lish­er wise­ly was wait­ing for the right time to cre­ate it — and now is the time!

What beliefs are your books challenging?

They chal­lenge peo­ples’ beliefs that you have to look and act like every­one else to be suc­cess­ful. The les­son to the read­ers is that you can be a suc­cess if you are kind to oth­ers, speak respect­ful­ly, work hard and are a team player.

What’s your expe­ri­ence with pub­lish­ing your books?

I learned that when you sign a con­tract, all your future man­u­scripts go to them first and if they reject it, then you are free to go to anoth­er pub­lish­er. Also, the pub­lish­er can edit your writ­ing if they feel it flows bet­ter a dif­fer­ent way. There needs to be trust that the pub­lish­er knows what it takes for a suc­cess­ful book; how­ev­er, there may be times when you must per­se­vere and not give up on a reject­ed book.

Where do you get ideas for your books?

Can-You-Catch-A_Coqui-FrogIt seems that dif­fi­cult fam­i­ly times pro­vid­ed inspi­ra­tion for me to write. In 2006 my broth­er, Mike, had a seizure and hit his head very hard and became brain-dam­aged.  While he was in an extend­ed coma, I promised to write anoth­er book and ded­i­cate it to him. Thus, Can you Catch a Coqui Frog was written. 

Authors write to per­suade, inform or enter­tain.  My books fall between inform­ing and enter­tain­ing. As a teacher I couldn’t find a book that men­tioned all eight Hawai­ian Islands, so that’s how All Around the Islands came about.  Alo­hasaurus men­tions dif­fer­ent kinds of car­ing for peo­ple and for our ʻāina.

Which char­ac­ters do you relate with eas­i­ly? Why?

In fic­tion­al sto­ries, I relate to the char­ac­ter who real­ly aren’t out­stand­ing, but through much deter­mi­na­tion and hard work, they are able to achieve a lot.  One of my favorite bible vers­es is Philip­pi­ans 4:13: I can do all things through Christ Jesus. A good exam­ple of this is that I recent­ly decid­ed to enter the Hon­olu­lu Marathon with three months left to train. I did it 10 years ago but trained for a year back then. With the Lord’s help, I can do it again.

Maha­lo nui, Vera! To con­tact Vera Ari­ta and learn more about her books, please fol­low her Vera­sonedaari­ta in Instagram.

Interview with Illustrator Dru Santiago

Dru-Santiago

Hauoli Makahi­ki Hou, every­one! I love the start of a shiny new year. We also cel­e­brate Chi­nese New Year around here. Kung Hee Fat Choy

What bet­ter way to start a new year but with tal­ent­ed Native Hawai­ian and Hawaiʻi based writ­ers and creators!

Meet the won­der­ful Dru San­ti­a­go, Hawaiʻi based illus­tra­tor and the 2021 Soci­ety of Chil­dren’s Book Writ­ers and Illus­tra­tors Nar­ra­tive Art award.

Dru-Santiago

First of all, con­grats, Dru! For those who haven’t met you, could you please tell us a lit­tle about yourself?

Hel­lo! My name is Drus­cil­la San­ti­a­go, and I draw pic­tures for kids and grown ups. I’m from Waipahu, but I live in town with my hus­band and our son, now. These days, I most­ly work on illus­trat­ing kids books, but I also do pri­vate com­mis­sions and graph­ic design/illustration work for local busi­ness­es and non-profits.

Where did you grow up? What high school did you grad from? 

I love this ques­tion! I lived on the main­land for a while in my twen­ties, and every time I ran into some­one from Oahu, we’d always be like, “What high school you grad?” With­out fail. And I’m proud to say I grad­u­at­ed from Leile­hua High School in Wahi­awa. Go mules!

Dru-cookingIndeed! My hus­band, Tim, is a proud Leile­hua grad, too. Why did you become an illus­tra­tor? Did you always know you could cre­ate art?

I think I’ve always been an illus­tra­tor even though I didn’t know to call it that. I’ve loved to draw since I was a kid. My mom went to art school when I was very young, and I used to watch her draw and get into her expen­sive art sup­plies and draw my own lit­tle pic­tures along­side her. From there, my love of pic­ture books, car­toons, and comics sort of lead me to this career.

That’s so cool. What do you enjoy most about illus­trat­ing? What are some of your great­est challenges?

Ooh. So, I kind of live in my head and draw­ing is the best way to express myself. You know? It’s like talk­ing. So in a way, what I like specif­i­cal­ly about illus­trat­ing is that I can tell a sto­ry with­out hav­ing to say words.  And I think the great­est chal­lenge of being an illus­tra­tor is tak­ing this love of draw­ing and mak­ing it a job. Because my mind wan­ders, and it’s impor­tant to stay on task. So maybe the real chal­lenge is stay­ing focused? Yeah, that’s it. Dru-art

What are your hopes and dreams for the year and beyond in terms of your artis­tic career and what you would like to see pub­lished in the future?

I’m just get­ting start­ed, so my hope and dream is to keep going!

Do you have a web­site? Are you on  social media?

Yes, my web­site is adventurefun.club, and my insta­gram han­dle is @adventurefunclub. I’m on insta­gram more than I should be, and while I enjoy engag­ing on social media, the best way to con­tact me is via email. Don’t get lost in the DMs! 🙂 

What advice would you give an aspir­ing illustrator?

I would say, what I tell myself all the time, there is no “right” way to achieve your goals. Keep work­ing at your craft, and you will get there. For real. And if any aspir­ing illus­tra­tor read­ing this is par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in Pic­ture Books? Join Soci­ety for Children’s Book Writ­ers and Illus­tra­tors! Seri­ous­ly, click this link: https://www.scbwi.org/  Join­ing SCBWI and attend­ing a nation­al con­fer­ence was incred­i­bly help­ful and enlight­en­ing for me. 

Can you share a bit of your cur­rent work?

I’d love to! I am cur­rent­ly work­ing on a Hands-On Sci­ence series by Lola Schae­fer. It’s my first pic­ture book project, and I am lov­ing it. The first book in the series, called MATTER, is set to be released this sum­mer 2023. The oth­er two books in the series will be about Geol­o­gy and Motion.Dru-art-surfer 

We love STEM pic­ture books! Can you share a bit about what you’re work­ing on next?

Not real­ly next, but in addi­tion to the Sci­ence series, I am work­ing on a won­der­ful book called A HAT FOR A HOUSE by Audrey Per­rott. I’m not sure how much I can say about it, but it’s exciting! 

It is! Maha­lo, Dru! We’re look­ing for­ward to your upcom­ing books! To learn more about Dru San­ti­a­go and view a gallery of her sketch­es,  vis­it her web­site and blog, Adven­ture Club

MELE KALIKIMAKA a me HAUOLI MAKAHIKI HOU!

Christmas-2022

As 2022 ends, I look back with alo­ha and grat­i­tude to the many peo­ple who have made such a dif­fer­ence in my writ­ing life.

Christmas-2022

Maha­lo nunui to the won­der­ful writ­ers and artists who shared their man­aʻo here on my blog this past year — their hopes and accom­plish­ments con­tin­ue to inspire us.

To the many won­der­ful writ­ing friends I’ve made, espe­cial­ly at Writ­ing Barn’s CtC com­mu­ni­ty, my alo­ha always. You are a source of encour­age­ment and wis­dom I know I can count on.

Thank you, Bran­di Uye­mu­ra, for let­ting me bounce ideas off of you and for shar­ing your won­der­ful writ­ing with me. 

Maha­lo to my agent, James Mac­Gowan, for believ­ing in me. Team James all the way!

I look for­ward to shar­ing good news in the com­ing year about my debut pic­ture book as well as a new web­site focus­ing on Native Hawai­ian and Poly­ne­sian cre­ators! Alo­ha from my ʻohana to yours! See you in 2023!

Interview with Author/Illustrator Caren Loebel-Fried

Caren-Loebel-Fried

Our ongo­ing series of inter­views with Native Hawai­ian and local Hawaiʻi writ­ers con­tin­ues this Caren-Loebel-Friedweek with Caren Loebel-Fried, the tal­ent­ed award-win­ning author/illustrator. 

Alo­ha, Caren. For those who haven’t met you, could you please tell us a lit­tle about yourself?

Alo­ha, Kamalani. I’m an artist and author from Vol­cano, on Hawai’i’s Big Island. My favorite things are explor­ing wild places, watch­ing and learn­ing about birds, mak­ing art and telling sto­ries about these things.

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up on the New Jer­sey shore, going to the beach in the summer.

Who is your biggest supporter?

My hus­band encour­ages and cheers me on, and some­times joins me on my research adven­tures. Many biol­o­gists, cul­tur­al prac­ti­tion­ers, teach­ers, and librar­i­ans also sup­port my work, and help me get the sto­ry right.

Why did you become a writer/illustrator?

My mom is an artist and still is my great­est inspi­ra­tion. I was always drawn to mak­ing art. And my art has always told sto­ries. When I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate books, I worked to be a bet­ter writer. Now I tell sto­ries with words AND pictures.

What inspired you to write for children?

Pic­ture books were a nat­ur­al fit for me. But I have to admit, I cre­ate my books for Legend-of-tall ages — kei­ki and the adults who read to them, and any­one who enjoys a com­pelling sto­ry. I’ve always loved read­ing books writ­ten for all ages, and I col­lect art-filled books that inspire me, no mat­ter what age they are intend­ed for. 

What do you enjoy most about cre­at­ing for kids?

I love shar­ing with a curi­ous audi­ence, and most kei­ki are open and curious.

What are some of your great­est challenges?

My aim is to be a voice for wildlife. My great­est chal­lenge is per­suad­ing peo­ple to care about and want to help native species. I try to do this in a fun way, by cre­at­ing engag­ing sto­ries and art that cap­ture the spir­it and per­son­al­i­ty of the indi­vid­ual ani­mal (includ­ing human!), plant, the nat­ur­al ele­ments and envi­ron­men­tal Polufea­tures that are my sub­jects… I aim to make art that is col­or­ful, engag­ing, alive. I am also inter­est­ed in cul­ture and how we humans live in our world, inter­act with our envi­ron­ment, and our con­nec­tion to place. Many of us have lost a feel­ing of con­nec­tion to the nat­ur­al world. I try to awak­en or reawak­en that connection.

What are your hopes and dreams for the year and beyond in terms of your writing/artistic career?

This year, I’ll be work­ing on my next book with Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawai’i Press. This sto­ry is about Makani, a young Hawai­ian girl named after the wind that seabirds depend on. Makani adores ʻuaʻu, the Hawai­ian petrels that her biol­o­gist mom works with. Seabirds are so cool! But their lives are com­plete­ly hid­den from us. They live over the ocean and only come to land to breed, fly­ing in the dark of night, and nest­ing in bur­rows under­ground. I’ll be telling their amaz­ing sto­ry Lonothrough the expe­ri­ence of Makani. I hope this book inspires read­ers, espe­cial­ly girls, to explore sci­ence, art, and sto­ry­telling. There are many ways to help wildlife! We can all find our own way to help pre­serve wildlife and wild places.

Do you have a website? 

I do: https://www.carenloebelfried.com/. And I have a YouTube Chan­nel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNgbp1m6lsf6d4w89oV6ung

What advice would you give an aspir­ing writer/illustrator?

Keep cre­at­ing! Dis­cov­er the things that are impor­tant to you and tell about them in your work!

Which char­ac­ters do you relate with eas­i­ly? Why?

My last book, Manu, The Boy Who Loved Birds, is about a young boy named after Manu-the-Boy-Who-Loved-Birdsan extinct Hawai­ian for­est bird. I relate to Manu des­per­ate­ly want­i­ng to know the mean­ing of his name, and leav­ing no stone unturned in his jour­ney of dis­cov­ery… and also his dif­fi­cul­ty in believ­ing that extinc­tion is for­ev­er. I also relate to Manu’s par­ents, who won’t just give Manu answers, but instead give him the oppor­tu­ni­ties to make dis­cov­er­ies him­self. I tried to do this with my own son when he was grow­ing up, and now I do it with my read­ers and my books!

Thatʻs a beau­ti­ful book. What beliefs are your books challenging?

It’s hard to hear, learn, believe that things we do may be unin­ten­tion­al­ly hurt­ing wildlife. I try to present the facts, for peo­ple to know for them­selves. But I also present ways that peo­ple can help. I try to write hope­ful, inspir­ing sto­ries and give peo­ple the tools to be an active part of the solution.

Where do you get your ideas and inspirations?

I see some­thing cool out in nature almost every­where and think, Wow- THAT would make a great storybook!

Maha­lo, Caren, for allow­ing me to inter­view you and for shar­ing your man­aʻo! To learn more about Caren, and to see a gallery of art pieces and to con­tact Caren Loebel-Fried, please vis­it Carenʻs web­site.

Interview with Native Hawaiian Writer Adam Keawe Manalo-Camp

Adam Keawe

Our ongo­ing series on Native Hawai­ian and local Hawaiʻi writ­ers con­tin­ues this Adam Keaweweek with Adam Keawe Man­a­lo-Camp, the tal­ent­ed Native Hawai­ian writer and blog­ger. If you’re a reg­u­lar read­er of Ka Wai Ola O OHA, then you’ve no doubt read Adam’s won­der­ful­ly inter­est­ing, well-researched arti­cles about the his­to­ry and cul­ture of our people.

I’m a huge fan of your writ­ing, Adam. But for those who haven’t met you, could you please tell us a lit­tle about yourself?

The home­lands of my ances­tors are Hawai’i and the Philip­pines. My grand­moth­er grew up in Hon­okaʻa while my moth­er and I grew up in Kewa­lo with­in Papakōlea Hawai­ian Home­stead. My ʻiewe and piko are lit­er­al­ly buried at Papakōlea. I also spent a chunk of my life in the Philip­pines. As far as my research back­ground is most­ly in his­to­ry and anthropology.

Where did you grow up? What high school did you grad from?

I grew up with­in Papakōlea and am a prod­uct of Hawaiʻi’s pub­lic school sys­tem. I grad­u­at­ed from Roo­sevelt High School.

Who is your biggest supporter?

My hus­band. He’s been with me from the very begin­ning when I was get­ting my master’s in coun­sel­ing psy­chol­o­gy and veered off course to be a free­lance writer. The lat­ter and mar­ry­ing him were the best deci­sions I made (besides hav­ing kids)!

That’s awe­some. Why did you become a writer? What inspired you to write for children?

In gen­er­al, my ances­tors. But my moth­er always encour­aged me to write.

Why did you become a writer? What inspires you to write y0our posts and articles? 

I have always liked to write. The first time that a piece of mine was pub­lished was in the ʻŌʻi­wi Lit­er­ary Jour­nal, and I was grad­u­at­ing high school. The late Māhealani Dudoit had dis­cov­ered me through a long email chain where I was talk­ing about the impor­tance of King Kalākaua’s world tour of 1881. I was very self-con­scious because ofbe­ing māhū, neu­ro­di­verse, and hav­ing Eng­lish as my sec­ond language—Hawaiian was my first. Māhealani said she loved how unique my voice was and encour­aged me to keep writ­ing.  It took me a long time to real­ize that what I told in school were my weak­ness­es are actu­al­ly my strengths.

Then some eight years ago, I began writ­ing posts on social media and recent­ly my oth­er pieces and some of my research have appeared in Civ­il Beat, Ka Wai Ola o OHA, Nat­Geo, etc.

What do you enjoy most about writ­ing? What are some of your great­est chal­lenges in writ­ing your arti­cles and posts?

When I write posts, I think of them as love let­ters to my ances­tors and to my cul­ture. I do not have a social media cal­en­dar or plan things out. I write because some­thing inspires me to and I found a par­tic­u­lar top­ic inter­est­ing. I also write in hon­or of my grand­moth­er and moth­er who used to con­stant­ly fill my thoughts with sto­ries of their times and the times of the ances­tors. I know many Kāna­ka Maoli who read my posts may not have their kūpuna around or have been scat­tered through­out Tur­tle Island, and so I would hope some of my posts may be a small light to remind them of where they came from.

Social media can bring so much pos­i­tive atten­tion to indige­nous peo­ples but social media can also be chal­leng­ing. Some folx are on social media plat­forms sim­ply for clout or to attack peo­ple behind a wall of anonymi­ty. I try not to focus on those peo­ple but to focus on the folx out there who are search­ing for man­aʻo and want to engage in aloha.

I always learn some­thing new from your posts. What are your hopes and dreams for the year and beyond in terms of your writ­ing career and what you would like to see pub­lished in the future?

I have a cou­ple of arti­cles com­ing out this year includ­ing pieces on Kao­mi. The pan­dem­ic sort of made me rethink my career and what I want to write about. I would want to write more local Fil­ipino and queer his­to­ries as well as more on Hawai­ian strug­gles from a his­tor­i­cal point of view. I would like to also write more fic­tion­al short stories.

I always ask the fol­low­ing of the writ­ers I inter­view: There are not a lot of sto­ries for local kids by local writ­ers. Why do you think that is? What do you think we can do to change that?

I think in gen­er­al there aren’t a lot of works for chil­dren by BIPOC writ­ers in gen­er­al. A lot I believe is the lack of access to pub­lish­ers as well as eco­nom­ic fac­tors. There are a lot of cre­ative Kāna­ka Maoli out there that I know of but due to the cost of liv­ing and oth­er expens­es, some see being cre­ative as a side has­sle as they feel that being cre­ative can­not sus­tain them finan­cial­ly. I myself would not know how to get start­ed in that field.

Do you have a web­site? Are you on social media? Do social media play a role for you as an author? Do your read­ers con­tact you? What do they say?

My link­tree is linktr.ee/adamkeawe That fea­tures links to some of my work and my blog. I got on Face­book about eight years ago, and on there I am admin for the Hawai­ian His­to­ry and Cul­ture group, which has 34,000+ mem­bers. Insta­gram I got on right before the pan­dem­ic and that is where I am more active. I also have Twit­ter but am not too active on there. All of my han­dles for my social media accounts are: adamkeawe.

In gen­er­al read­ers are sup­port­ive and engage in discussions.

What advice do you have for aspir­ing writers?

If your naʻau keeps push­ing you to tell a sto­ry, youʻre a writer. Nev­er be dis­cour­aged nor base your self-worth and your writ­ing on how many likes of fol­low­ers you have. In the end, you will con­nect with who you need to con­nect with.

Can you share a bit of your cur­rent work?

I have two pieces com­ing out soon. One is about Kao­mi and anoth­er is about my moth­erʻs best friend who was a transwoman in the 1970s.

What beliefs are your sto­ries challenging?

Patri­archy, set­tler colo­nial­ism, homo­pho­bia, racism, and anti-Semitism.

Where do you get your inspirations?

I draw a lot of my inspi­ra­tion from my ances­tors and talk­ing to oth­er Kāna­ka Maoli. But I also read oth­er writ­ers from var­i­ous gen­res includ­ing Joy Har­jo, Ninotsche Rosca, Noam Chom­sky, Langston Hugh­es, Audre Lorde, Stephen King, and so many oth­ers. Sci­ence fic­tion such as The Expanse, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Baby­lon 5 inspires me as well.

Your arti­cles and posts demon­strate a lot of research. Whatʻs your research process like? How long is your research for a typ­i­cal article?

Nor­mal­ly I have at least three sources per arti­cle. In social media posts, min­i­mum two.  Before I begin a major writ­ing assign­ment, I chant “E hōmai…” and ask to be guid­ed. I do the same pri­vate­ly before enter­ing a library or archives. I am mind­ful that research is cer­e­mo­ny and method­ol­o­gy is rit­u­al, and I try to bring that into what­ev­er I am work­ing on.

Have you ever con­sid­ered writ­ing a longer work, like a book or screenplay?

Yes. I would rather col­lab­o­rate though because of the time that it takes.

Can you share a bit about what you are work­ing on next?

I am col­lab­o­rat­ing with Kumu Lua Michelle Manu on a book about women warriors.

Women war­riors? I look for­ward to that. Adam, maha­lo nui for shar­ing your man­aʻo! To learn more about Adam Keawe, vis­it his Link­Tree

Interview with Author Dani Hickman

How About a Pineapple?

Wel­come to our lat­est inter­view with Native Hawai­ian and local Hawaiʻi writ­ers!  Author Dani Hick­man is the author of four delight­ful chil­dren’s books pub­lished by Island Heritage. 

Hi, Dani. For those who haven’t met you, could you please tell us a lit­tle about yourself?Dani Hickman

I’m a mar­ried local girl with four adult chil­dren. My youngest, who co-authored two of my books (How About a Pineap­ple? and Tako Lends a Help­ing Hand) just went off to col­lege. My home in Wai­pio is still full with four dogs, one cat and one very fat beta fish. My day job is in Human Resources at a local adult in-home care service.

Where did you grow up? What high school did you grad from?

I’m a town­ie who grad­u­at­ed from McKin­ley High School. Go Tigers!

Indeed! Who is your biggest supporter?

My hus­band, Jeff, is my part­ner in all things. From rais­ing the kids, to edit­ing my writ­ing, to being my arm can­dy at author events, Jeff has always been my rock. He is a Kame­hame­ha grad and retired Nation­al Guard Vet­er­an. His feed­back and con­tri­bu­tions in my sto­ries def­i­nite­ly helps me add more “fla­vor” to any­thing I do.

Why did you become a writer? What inspired you to write for children?

I’ve always writ­ten short sto­ries and poems since I was lit­tle. Pub­lish­ing always seemed like some­thing that was too dif­fi­cult to achieve and I had no idea where to even begin. I had a co-work­er, Tam­my Paikai, who pub­lished a few children’s books and inspired me to give it a try. She was incred­i­bly help­ful and encour­ag­ing with all the behind the scenes stuff, like set­ting up for a book sign­ing and being resilient dur­ing the edit­ing process. I also LOVE her books. “Too Many Man­gos” is my favorite Tam­my Paikai book, so relat­able in Hawaii and a great les­son of giving.

What do you enjoy most about writ­ing for kids? What are some of your great­est chal­lenges in writ­ing for children?

I love the book sign­ings and read­ing at the schools! Meet­ing chil­dren and hear­ing them say how much they love the sto­ry is such a heart­warm­ing expe­ri­ence. My biggest prob­lem when writ­ing for chil­dren is my love for big words. Keep­ing sto­ries at 2nd grade read­ing lev­el and replac­ing “ver­bose” with “talk­a­tive” or “mean” in place of “mali­cious” is a chal­lenge. My kids always loved “big” words but my edi­tor has a dif­fer­ent viewpoint.

What are your hopes and dreams for the year and beyond in terms of your writ­ing career and what you would like to see pub­lished in the future?

I’d like to pub­lish a chap­ter book for teens with a Hawaiʻi sto­ry­line. Maybe even a Pono the Garden GuardianHawaiʻi graph­ic nov­el. I’d also love to do a sequel for my first book, Pono, the Gar­den Guardian. He’s my favorite lit­tle guy with a big heart. I have a rough idea of what I’d like his next chap­ter to be. Pub­lish­ing anoth­er adven­ture for him would be amazing.

There are not a lot of sto­ries for or by Native Hawai­ians and Pacif­ic Islanders. Why do you think that is? What do you think we can do the change that?

I agree that there are not enough Hawaiian/Pacific Islander children’s book authors. In my opin­ion, I think part of that stems from the Hawai­ian cul­ture itself. Hawai­ian is a spo­ken lan­guage, tra­di­tion­al­ly pass­ing sto­ries through chants, song and dance. The lack of a writ­ten Hawai­ian lan­guage did not become issue until the arrival of the mis­sion­ar­ies. Today, there seems to be a lim­it­ed group of tra­di­tion­al kumu who are per­pet­u­at­ing the cul­ture as they always have, through oral teach­ings. I think more in the com­mu­ni­ty are try­ing to reach out to kei­ki, but unfor­tu­nate­ly, the pool of knowl­edge­able experts with a pas­sion for writ­ing and a focus on children’s sto­ries is small. It may be help­ful to have more out­reach by cul­tur­al groups to encour­age kei­ki to put their demands out there for books and also writ­ing their own stories.

Do you have a web­site? Are you on social media? Do social media play a role for you as an author? Do your read­ers con­tact you? What do they say?

My web­site is sore­ly out of date. Iʻm also on Face­book. I been have slack­ing off con­sid­er­ably in pro­mot­ing my books in the last cou­ple of years. My focus was on my fam­i­ly and get­ting my daugh­ter set up for col­lege. Now that she is in col­lege, I hope to get back to it. I have got­ten email sent from my web­site, direct mes­sages and com­ments on face­book and my direct email. Most of the feed­back was through social media. A major­i­ty of the com­ments were around how much they liked the char­ac­ters. A few made wel­come cri­tiques of dif­fer­ent direc­tions the How About a Pineapple?sto­ry could have gone. My favorite bit of feed­back was that I didn’t name the pup­py in How About a Pineap­ple? I pur­pose­ful­ly left out a name because I noticed many chil­dren com­ing to book sign­ings men­tioned that their dog was the dog in the book. I felt nam­ing the dog exclud­ed all those kei­ki with white dogs that want­ed to imag­ine their pup­py on an adven­ture. The dog is named Kea in the book descrip­tion but not in the sto­ry, and I still appre­ci­ate the comment.

What advice do you have for aspir­ing writers?

READ READ READ! Learn how oth­ers weave their sto­ries and devel­op their char­ac­ters. All those dif­fer­ent styles helps you find your own. Be open to feed­back from oth­ers, it can only make you bet­ter. Write about what inspires you. Don’t be dis­cour­aged — keep trying.

Can you share a bit of your cur­rent work?

Rainbow Friends in the SeaThe last book I pub­lished was a baby book, Rain­bow Friends in the Sea. I’ve always loved rain­bows and want­ed to write a col­or book for lit­tle ones. It’s a board book with a sim­ple rhyming theme show­ing the basic col­ors of the rain­bow in sea life. My favorite part of the book is a mir­ror in the end, because “You’re my newest Rain­bow Friend.”

Which of your books did you have the most fun writ­ing? Which were the most challenging?

Writ­ing How About a Pineap­ple? with my daugh­ter was the best expe­ri­ence. At 12 years old she was burst­ing with ideas and edits. It was a bless­ing work­ing with her.

My first book, Pono the Gar­den Guardian, was the hard­est to write. I invest­ed a great deal of my heart in that book, and it was too long. The text need­ed to be cut in half. Cut­ting some­thing you love down to its core was very dif­fi­cult for me but also a valu­able les­son. Great sto­ries can be a rela­tion­ship between the author and the read­er. Using few­er words allows the read­er to fill their mind with the pic­tures they cre­ate. The writ­ing is just there to point and to guide.

What beliefs are your books challenging? 

I think there are many sto­ries about heroes. I believe every­one can be a hero. You just have to decide how. My char­ac­ters aren’t “super,” they’re YOU in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions. They’re YOU choos­ing to be a good per­son in a small, but sig­nif­i­cant way.

What’s your expe­ri­ence with pub­lish­ing your books?

I’ve had good expe­ri­ences with my pub­lish­er. Island Her­itage is well known for qual­i­ty and has a his­to­ry of amaz­ing works. I’m hon­ored that they allowed me to share my sto­ries and sup­port me as an author.

Where do you get ideas for your books?

I write sto­ries I want my chil­dren to learn from. I take a les­son like self-less giv­ing, doing what’s right and work­ing well with oth­ers, and I have the char­ac­ters show you why that les­son mat­ters. Inspi­ra­tion is every­where and in com­mon every­day things. Children’s sto­ries should shine a light on a dif­fer­ent way to look at some­thing, from dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. It’s a great way to learn no mat­ter what your age. 

Which char­ac­ters do you relate with eas­i­ly? Why?

The char­ac­ter clos­est to me is Tako Lends a Help­ing Hand. Tako wants to Tako Lends a Handhelp every­one but takes on more than she can do and ends up for­get­ting every­thing she’s already promised. Man­ag­ing tasks and time while work­ing with oth­ers to get things done is some­thing I think many peo­ple can relate to. Tako is an octo­pus, so it’s a lit­tle wish­ful think­ing to hope for a few extra hands on busy days.

Can you share a bit about your next book?

 I always have 10–12 books in dif­fer­ent stages at all times. It’s com­mon for me to put some­thing down for months and come back to it with fresh eyes. The book I have that’s a bit far­ther along than most is a sto­ry about not want­i­ng to go to bed. It’s got more of a nation­al theme, and it rhymes, which is always a bit more chal­leng­ing to get the rhythm right. Many par­ents can con­nect to a sto­ry of a child want­i­ng to stay up a lit­tle lat­er than they should.

 

Maha­lo, Dani, for shar­ing your man­aʻo with us! To con­tact Dani Hick­man and learn more about her books, please vis­it her web­site at thedanihickman.com

Interview with Writer Brandi-Ann Uyemura

Our ongo­ing series on Native Hawai­ian and local Hawaiʻi writ­ers con­tin­ues this Brandi_Uyemuaweek with my friend, author Bran­di-Ann Uye­mu­ra. Writ­ing coach, blog­ger, coach and author, Bran­di does it all. Her arti­cles and essays inspire hope, courage and com­pas­sion. An Asian Amer­i­can who grew up in Hawaiʻi, Bran­di brings a much need­ed authen­tic voice, not just for Asian kids in Hawaiʻi but for all kids, everywhere.

Hi, Bran­di. Thank you for allow­ing me to fea­ture you. For those who haven’t met you, could you please tell us a lit­tle about yourself?

Hi! I’m Bran­di, a writer and mom of two young boys. I grew up in Hon­olu­lu, Hawaii and went to Aiea High School.

Go Na Aliʻi! Who is your biggest supporter?

My hus­band. He’s been with me from the very begin­ning when I was get­ting my master’s in coun­sel­ing psy­chol­o­gy and veered off course to be a free­lance writer. The lat­ter and mar­ry­ing him were the best deci­sions I made (besides hav­ing kids)!

Why did you become a writer? What inspired you to write for children?

I think I’ve always been a writer. I just didn’t know you could do it for a liv­ing. It’s fun­ny I coach cre­ative women and I often say that the thing you say you would nev­er do, is often the thing you want to do most. When I got my BA in Eng­lish from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ore­gon, I could have gone the children’s writer route, but I nev­er thought I would write for kids. I even interned at Skip­ping Stones, a mul­ti­cul­tur­al children’s magazine.

One of my ear­li­est mem­o­ries in school was hav­ing to cre­ate a pic­ture book. I think it was about rats or some­thing lol. It was a piv­otal mem­o­ry because I remem­ber think­ing: wow you mean I can write a book?

What do you enjoy most about writ­ing for kids? What are some of your great­est chal­lenges in writ­ing for children?

I have fond mem­o­ries of read­ing books in my youth. It was that one moment when I felt that vis­cer­al expe­ri­ence of being in the sto­ry. I think every read­er remem­bers read­ing Char­lie and the Choco­late Fac­to­ry and want­i­ng to eat choco­late or get­ting chick­en skin from Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I’ve almost nev­er been able to recap­ture that feel­ing as an adult. When I write for kids, I get that mag­i­cal expe­ri­ence of feel­ing like any­thing is possible.

Oh, yes, I know what you mean. What are your hopes and dreams for the year and beyond in terms of your writ­ing career and what you would like to see pub­lished in the future?

I hope to get more of my pic­ture books on sub­mis­sion and my mid­dle grade mys­tery in sub­mis­sion shape. I have oth­er fic­tion nov­els that I’ve start­ed, anoth­er mid­dle grade, and two women’s fic­tion nov­els. Once my kids are in school again, I hope to real­ly get deep into those.

I think I will always be a writer. Fic­tion is new to me and yet, it feels like com­ing home There’s some­thing fresh and deli­cious about writ­ing fic­tion that I haven’t expe­ri­ence writ­ing nonfiction.

There are not a lot of sto­ries for local kids by local writ­ers. Why do you think that is? What do you think we can do to change that?

I don’t know exact­ly why that is. And you and I have had con­ver­sa­tions about that. It’s so impor­tant to have these unique cul­tur­al expe­ri­ences on the book­shelves. I think we need to sup­port oth­er local and indige­nous writ­ers with sto­ries to tell. I think what you’re doing: writ­ing about your own cul­ture, work­ing to get them pub­lished and fea­tur­ing local writ­ers and authors on your web­site are piv­otal ways to change the landscape.

I agree! Do you have a web­site? Are you on social media? Do social media play a role for you as an author? Do your read­ers con­tact you? What do they say?

I have two web­sites: The Inspir­ing Bee and Brandi-AnnUyemura.com. The Inspir­ing Bee was cre­at­ed decades ago and is all about inspir­ing peo­ple to fol­low their pur­pose. The oth­er web­site is a place for writ­ers. Both have helped me get jobs and con­nect with writ­ers in the decade or so that I’ve had them so I am grate­ful for both.

I’m on Twit­ter, Face­book and Insta­gram all with @TheInspiringBee. I met my first free­lance writer friends over a decade ago through my blog and Twit­ter. I’ve also met IRL mom friends and coach­ing clients sole­ly through Insta­gram. Right now, I’m pre­pub­lished, so I’m using social media as more of a way to con­nect and find inspi­ra­tion from oth­er creative’s platforms.

What advice do you have for aspir­ing writers?

If I were to speak to an aspir­ing writer, I would tell them their words mat­ter. There is always room in the col­lec­tive for their voice and that any­thing they don’t know, they can learn. The main thing is to keep going. The only way to become the writer you dream of, is to write. Write despite fear. Write despite inse­cu­ri­ty. Write despite what any­one else says. And don’t show your work to any­one in the ear­ly process. Give your­self the free­dom to express and put every­thing down on paper. You can always go back to revise.

Can you share a bit of your cur­rent work?

I wrote a pic­ture book about the local Japan­ese Bon Dance here in Hawaii. Orig­i­nal­ly, it was writ­ten in third per­son and was basi­cal­ly a doc­u­men­tary on a real scene at a Bon Dance lol. I had no idea what I was doing. It has had mul­ti­ple iter­a­tions since then and is now writ­ten in first person.

What beliefs are your sto­ries challenging?

I think cul­ture, courage and being and accept­ing your­self. It’s a sto­ry about con­nect­ing with your ancestors.

What is your inspi­ra­tion for your stories?

My own life as a mom rais­ing two boys for sure. And my family’s life grow­ing up in a sug­ar plan­ta­tion in Kauai. It’s a mix of every­thing I’ve read, researched and lived.

Which char­ac­ters do you relate with eas­i­ly? Why?

I can relate to my main char­ac­ter being afraid to dance in front of every­one. I real­ly grap­pled with this sto­ry for years until I had an amaz­ing men­tor, Andrea Wang from PBChat. She helped me to get to the heart of my story.

That’s cool. Are you work­ing on a new writ­ing project? Can you share a bit about your next book?

I am revis­ing a mid­dle grade mys­tery. It’s about six years in the mak­ing. What moti­vat­ed me was receiv­ing a SCBWI men­tor­ship and High­lights schol­ar­ship. These came right when I was about to throw in the tow­el. It’s a sto­ry that blends my own past expe­ri­ences work­ing at a choco­late store, as a pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tor and mid­dle school ther­a­pist. It’s a choco­late mys­tery about an Asian Amer­i­can girl grow­ing up in an almost all white com­mu­ni­ty where she befriends her for­mer neme­sis and bul­ly, and learns that we’re all a mix of bit­ter and sweet. None of us immune to the evils of the world.

 

That sounds intrigu­ing Bran­di. Maha­lo for shar­ing your man­aʻo and best wish­es always! To con­tact Bran­di-Ann Uye­mu­ra, vis­it her on social media or The Inspir­ing Bee and Brandi-AnnUyemura.com

Interview with Native Hawaiian Author Tammy Paikai

I_am_Kiki_I_love_me

Today I am delight­ed to fea­ture my friend, the tal­ent­ed Native Hawai­ian author Tam­my Paikai.  Her five pic­ture books cov­er sub­jects that teach chil­dren impor­tant life lessons but do so in a fun and approach­able way that kids — and their par­ents — love. 

Alo­ha, Tam­my. It’s so good to talk with you! For those who haven’t met you, could you please tell us a lit­tle about yourself?

I like to describe myself as a kind and good per­son.  I was inspired by my father who was my role mod­el grow­ing up.  He was a gen­tle soul, yet had a wit­ty sense of humor that always made me laugh. 

Being a young mom of three won­der­ful chil­dren, my first career was to help sup­port my grow­ing fam­i­ly.  I worked for 20 years at The Plaza Hotel by the Hon­olu­lu Inter­na­tion­al Air­port as the Senior Reser­va­tions Clerk.  In the hos­pi­tal­i­ty indus­try I could help oth­ers and that gave me the most satisfaction. 

My sec­ond career was for me because I had always want­ed to do some­thing cre­ative in my life.  I worked for Island Her­itage as a Cus­tomer Ser­vice Rep­re­sen­ta­tive and Front Office Admin­is­tra­tor for 17 years, and it was such a joy to be around so many cre­ative peo­ple.  I feel so blessed that Island Her­itage gave me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to write books for chil­dren.  It has real­ly been a dream come true.

Where did you grow up? What high school did you grad from?

Although I was born in Hon­olu­lu, Hawaiʻi, my ele­men­tary years were most­ly spent in Rese­da, Cal­i­for­nia.  I returned back to Hawaiʻi when I was 10 years old and attend­ed sev­er­al schools on the West side of the island.  I even­tu­al­ly grad­u­at­ed from Aiea High School.  Liv­ing in Hawaii was where I learned about all the dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties and cul­tures of the islands. 

Who is your biggest supporter?

My biggest sup­port­ers are my fam­i­ly, espe­cial­ly my hus­band of 40+ years.  He always believed in me and my tal­ent.  To this day he loves to share my sto­ries with his young stu­dents.  He has been a Hawai­ian Stud­ies teacher since 1988.  I am so hap­py that he can share these sto­ries with a mes­sage of alo­ha, shar­ing, laugh­ter, fun and self-confidence. 

Why did you become a writer? What inspired you to write for children?

Aloha_IsIt was a desire deep inside of me to be cre­ative.  From child­hood, I drew car­toons and wrote poet­ry for fun.  At Island Her­itage I want­ed to try my hand at being a writer.  The Cre­ative Direc­tor sug­gest­ed that I sub­mit a man­u­script.  I came up with a lit­tle poem called, Alo­ha Is…,and it was accept­ed and pub­lished in 2006.  To this day, it is still one of Island Her­itage’s Best Sell­ers.  This sto­ry is in rhyme and shares the many mean­ings of alo­ha.  Illus­trat­ed by Ros­alie Pruss­ing, the pic­tures are absolute­ly a work of art! I want­ed to write for the chil­dren of Hawaii to give them books about “us.”  I was very lucky to be part­nered with great artists that brought my sto­ries to life.  Their tal­ents helped me share the beau­ty of our peo­ple, our val­ues, our lifestyle and our home. 

What do you enjoy most about writ­ing for kids? What are some of your great­est chal­lenges in writ­ing for children?

Too_many_mangoesI real­ly enjoy when the kids con­nect with my sto­ries. Like in Too Many Man­goes, per­haps they have man­goes that they have shared with their neigh­bors or maybe they have a hard-of-hear­ing grand­pa too.  I am in awe when some­one says that my book is one of their favorites.  Nev­er in my wildest dreams did I think that would ever hap­pen!  It makes me feel so proud that I can bring joy to oth­ers in my own lit­tle way.  My great­est chal­lenge would be com­ing up with an idea for a sto­ry.  I want all of my sto­ries to be upbeat and pos­i­tive.  I want to give a good mes­sage to the chil­dren and make them smile. 

What are your hopes and dreams for the year and beyond in terms of your writ­ing career and what you would like to see pub­lished in the future?

I_am_Kiki_I_love_meRight now I am just enjoy­ing my lat­est book, I am Kiki!  I Love Me! which just came out this sum­mer 2022.  The sto­ry begins with Kiki singing a song to her­self on the beach of Hawaiʻi until a vol­ley­ball play­er teas­es her for being so short.  Kiki loves her­self and won’t let oth­ers bring her down.  Illus­trat­ed by Eliza Fort­ney,  the beach scenes are absolute­ly beau­ti­ful with lots to look at. 

I have been wait­ing a very long time to have this sto­ry pub­lished.  I love this sto­ry because I hope to inspire young chil­dren to sim­ply love them­selves the way they are and not let oth­ers make them feel bad about them­selves.  Also, I was able to add a lit­tle poet­ry in the sto­ry which is a fun touch for Kik­i’s confidence. 

There are not a lot of sto­ries for or by Native Hawai­ians and Pacif­ic Islanders. Why do you think that is? What do you think we can do the change that?

We should always encour­age peo­ple to share their own sto­ries.  Like my co-work­er sim­ply encour­aged me to sub­mit a man­u­script, I thought it would be hard­er than that.   Years, lat­er I encour­aged a friend to sub­mit a man­u­script, now she is a pub­lished chil­dren’s author at Island Her­itage too. 

What advice do you have for aspir­ing writers?

 If I can do it, so can you!  Write what you know about, what you enjoy, what you love, etc.  Also, read it out loud to your­self, over and over again to make sure it is just right.  Have a good mes­sage or moral if it is a chil­dren’s sto­ry.  Take pride in your work! 

Which of your books did you have the most fun writ­ing? Which were the most challenging?

I enjoyed writ­ing Too Many Man­goes, a sto­ry about shar­ing.  Grand­pa has so many man­goes that he asks his grand­chil­dren to share the man­goes with the neigh­bors.  Illus­tra­tor Don Robin­son’s char­ac­ters are so delight­ful. I was able to incor­po­rate my fam­i­ly’s names in the sto­ry, and I real­ly did climb my Grand­pa’s man­go tree when I was a child.  By the way, my grand­pa’s name was Mr. Wong, just like the in the story! 

Grandpas_mixed_up_luauWhich were the most chal­leng­ing?  I want­ed to do a fun­ny book with rhymes.  Grand­pa’s Mixed-Up Lūʻau is what hap­pens when a lov­able, but hard-of-hear­ing Grand­pa tries to help Grand­ma get ready for a lūʻau.  Also illus­trat­ed by Don Robin­son, the sto­ry unfolds with his beau­ti­ful pic­tures. At first things were flow­ing nice­ly:  “boy” rhymes with “poi,” “Malia” rhymes with “hau­pia.” But I strug­gled with a rhyme for “kalua pig.”  Then inspi­ra­tion came from above, “Canoe that’s big!” 

What’s your expe­ri­ence with pub­lish­ing your books?

It’s been excel­lent!  The Cre­ative peo­ple at Island Her­itage, a.k.a. The Mad­den Cor­po­ra­tion were not only pro­fes­sion­al but super cre­ative and extreme­ly tal­ent­ed.  I’m sure it helped me by being a co-work­er/friend to the Cre­ative Depart­ment.  Their web­site has not only my books but also they have beau­ti­ful Hawai­ian themed gifts and souvenirs. 

Where do you get ideas for your books?

Honu_honu_where_are_youHon­esty, I believe my inspi­ra­tion comes from “above.”  Some­thing hap­pens and the title pops in my head and the writ­ing part comes easy after that.  For exam­ple, one day my neigh­bor came to our house and asked if we saw her pet tur­tle that they lost.  I thought to myself, Honu, Honu, Where are You? and then wrote the rhyme for that play­ful sto­ry about baby dol­phin look­ing for his friend, Honu, the sea tur­tle.  Yuko Green who clev­er­ly illus­trat­ed the book using flaps to help hide the tur­tles in  this story. 

Anoth­er time, my daugh­ter was telling me that she put capers in her salmon dish.  I heard “papers” and ques­tioned her about what kind of papers?  She was annoyed, but I thought it was fun­ny.  So I came up with Grand­pa’s Mixed-Up Luau.    

Which char­ac­ters do you relate with eas­i­ly? Why?

Kiki would be the char­ac­ter that I most relate too.  She is short, wears glass­es and is hap­py-go-lucky.  As a young girl my broth­er would tease me and I did­n’t stand up for myself.  I wrote Kiki want­i­ng young girls to love them­selves so that if oth­ers tease her, it would not affect her self-esteem.  My daugh­ter was work­ing on a project a few years ago about empow­er­ment for women of col­or.  That project inspired me to write I am Kiki! I Love Me!  

This is great, Tam­my. Any­thing else?

Maha­lo to my long time friend, Kamalani Hur­ley.  I am so hon­ored for her to share my hum­ble sto­ry.  Also, many thanks to the peo­ple of Hawaii for mak­ing me feel spe­cial and embrac­ing my sto­ries that I real­ly loved writ­ing.  Dreams do come true, thanks to you!

Maha­lo to YOU, Tam­my! We look for­ward to many more of your sto­ries for kei­ki! To con­tact Tam­my Paikai and learn more about her books, please vis­it the Island Her­itage website