The New Banner: The Three Birds


If youʻre a reg­u­lar at my blog, you will notice some­thing fun — a brand new ban­ner! Itʻs not just pret­ty art (by tal­ent­ed local artist Dru San­ti­a­go.) Itʻs got some cool Hawaiʻi (and Hawai­ian) fea­tures, too.

To begin, weʻll look at just one: the three birds. 

Spot them in the ban­ner above? Cute, right? But theyʻre not just any birds.

Hawaii-koleaFirst there are three, for a rea­son. Three is my favorite num­ber. Lots of things come in threes — three wish­es, the triple crown, three parts of an atom, three-part sto­ry struc­ture, three mus­ke­teers, junken­po — but  most impor­tant to me are my three daughters.

The birds in the ban­ner are kōlea, Pacif­ic gold­en plover, and one of my favorite birds. Every year these lit­tle migra­to­ry birds spend the sum­mer in Alas­ka rais­ing their babies and then fly thou­sands of miles home to Hawaiʻi in the winter. 

Itʻs always a joy when they return in July or August. They come back skin­ny — itʻs hard work fly­ing so many miles non­stop — and enjoy our mild win­ters, get­ting all fat and fluffy. 

Kōlea tend to return to the same Hawaiʻi neigh­bor­hoods each year, and Iʻm always hap­py when I see them on our Cen­tral Oʻahu street. I can tell theyʻre around when I hear their dis­tinc­tive keek-KEEK!

When kōlea are home, they can be found every­where — in parks, on roof tops, in park­ing lots, at the shore.

They leave for Alas­ka in April and May. We can always tell when theyʻre ready to leave because they grow a win­ter coat of black feath­ers on their bel­lies, like the lit­tle guy to the left up there in the banner.

The Hawaiʻi Audubon Soci­ety keeps track of the com­ings and goings of kōlea and encour­age the pub­lic to get involved. Kōlea have long, slen­der legs, and because they can be found every­where, they may have unfor­tu­nate encoun­ters with cats or ʻio (Hawai­ian hawks) or cars. The Audubon web­site pro­vides guid­ance on help­ing any injured lit­tle friends you might come across.

And now a cul­tur­al note. In Hawaiʻi, being a human kolea is an insult. Think about it this way: kolea come, enjoy the weath­er, eat, have a good ole time, eat some more, take what they want … and then clear out, leav­ing their mess behind. In Hawai­ian, this is mahaʻoi, and for peo­ple, not a good look. So be a bet­ter vis­i­tor (or col­lege stu­dent or uni­ver­si­ty researcher or snow bird), and get to know us while youʻre here. You might become our non-native ally, and our com­mu­ni­ty def­i­nite­ly needs more of those.

Next time: whatʻs with that red and white blan­ket design in the ban­ner? Hint: itʻs palaka!

To learn more about the kolea, vis­it the Kolea Count web­site at Images from the Kolea Count website.


Interview with Author 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?

Alphabet-HukilauI 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 around 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 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

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 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

Interview with Native Hawaiian Author Tammy Paikai


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

Interview with Award-Winning Author Ilima Loomis


Wel­come to the first in a new series of inter­views with Native Hawai­ian and local Hawaiʻi writers! 

Ilima-LoomisI am very pleased to intro­duce award-win­ning author Ili­ma Loomis. She has an exten­sive back­ground not only in writ­ing for chil­dren but also in jour­nal­ism, con­tent mar­ket­ing, sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy. Her goal is to help her read­ers to make sense of com­pli­cat­ed subjects.

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

Alo­ha! My name is Ili­ma Loomis, and I’m the author of chil­dren’s books includ­ing ‘Ohana Means Fam­i­ly and Eclipse Chas­er: Sci­ence in the Moon’s Shad­ow. Along with writ­ing books for young read­ers, I also work as a sci­ence writer! I inter­view sci­en­tists and help explain their research and dis­cov­er­ies for a gen­er­al audi­ence. I start­ed my career as a com­mu­ni­ty jour­nal­ist, work­ing as a reporter for The Maui News. While I was born and lived most of my life in Hawaii, I recent­ly moved to Van­cou­ver, Canada.

Ohana-means-FamilyWhere did you grow up? What high school did you grad from?

I was born and raised in Kailua, Oahu, and I grad­u­at­ed from Iolani School in Hon­olu­lu. Go Raiders!

Who is your biggest supporter?

My daugh­ter is 15, and she recent­ly told me that she was proud of what I do and she thought I was cool. That real­ly meant so much to me! I’m grate­ful to be her mom. She inspires me.

Thatʻs very cool. Why did you become a writer? What inspired you to write for children?

I actu­al­ly start­ed out as a jour­nal­ist. I’ve always writ­ten non­fic­tion because I’m inspired by the real world. My first chil­dren’s book was actu­al­ly a spin-off from a non­fic­tion book I wrote about pan­io­lo and ranch­ing in Hawaii. After I fin­ished the book for adults, I thought it would also make a good sub­ject for kids, so I pitched and wrote a pic­ture book. I loved the expe­ri­ence of writ­ing for kids and was hooked.

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

I love the chal­lenge of tak­ing a com­plex sub­ject and fig­ur­ing out how to dis­till it into a sto­ry that kids will under­stand and relate to or find inter­est­ing. It real­ly forces you as a writer to think about what’s most impor­tant and what you most want to say. It’s such a short for­mat, there’s no room for any ram­bling or digres­sion. Even though I’m writ­ing non­fic­tion, I still have to think cre­ative­ly about how to say what I want to say, and how to turn these cold facts into a sto­ry that makes the read­er feel emo­tion. It makes me a bet­ter writer. 

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?

First, I want to note that I’m not Native Hawai­ian; I’m from a mul­ti-gen­er­a­tional kama’aina fam­i­ly. Hawaiʻi is my home, and it meant so much to me to be able to share some­thing about Hawaiʻi’s cul­ture with this book. I also want to cred­it and thank Hōkūao Pel­le­gri­no for review­ing and adding his cul­tur­al exper­tise to the book.

Eclipse-chaserI absolute­ly believe that there is a huge need for more books for and by Native Hawai­ians and Pacif­ic Islanders. It’s grat­i­fy­ing to see that chil­dren’s pub­lish­ing has embraced diver­si­ty in the last few years and is start­ing to catch up with the long over­looked need for sto­ries that reflect the diverse world in which we live. That push for diver­si­ty needs to include indige­nous voic­es, in par­tic­u­lar Native Hawai­ians and Pacif­ic Islanders.

There’s a lot I don’t under­stand about how pub­lish­ing works as an indus­try, but I do think that orga­ni­za­tions like SCBWI (Soci­ety of Chil­drenʻs Book Writ­ers and Illus­tra­tors) can sup­port this move­ment by con­tin­u­ing to work on being more diverse and inclu­sive in their mem­ber­ship and pro­grams for up-and-com­ing writ­ers and illus­tra­tors. I think the SCBWI Hawaiʻi Chap­ter is doing a great job on that and I hope they con­tin­ue to push even hard­er toward those goals. And of course as read­ers the best thing we can do to show pub­lish­ers that there’s demand for books by and for Native Hawai­ians and Pacif­ic Islanders is to buy and sup­port the books that are already out there. I think it’s espe­cial­ly impor­tant to sup­port local Hawaii pub­lish­ers, because they’re the ones lead­ing the way in shar­ing Native Hawai­ian and Pacif­ic Islander sto­ries, and that’s where many new writ­ers and illus­tra­tors get their start. Local pub­lish­ers are an impor­tant resource for read­ers and writ­ers in Hawaii, and we need to sup­port them!

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 do some social media (where else would I find an out­let for all the pho­tos I take of my dog??). Writ­ing can be a lone­ly activ­i­ty, so I found that social media was a great way to con­nect with oth­er writ­ers and build com­mu­ni­ty. I do some­times hear from read­ers, and I absolute­ly love it when I see peo­ple share that they enjoyed my book. It’s espe­cial­ly cool when I see the book shared by librar­i­ans or teach­ers! As an author though, I try to turn off the social media for a while so I can focus on my writ­ing with­out distractions.

Rough-ridersWhat advice do you have for aspir­ing writers?

There’s no sub­sti­tute for just writ­ing a lot and putting it out there for peo­ple to read. I actu­al­ly believe it’s more impor­tant to write a lot than to write well. You learn some­thing every time your work gets released into the world, so take every oppor­tu­ni­ty you can. Some writ­ers will hang on to their work, pol­ish­ing and pol­ish­ing, because it’s nev­er good enough. Per­fec­tion­ism is a killer. Just let it go.

Can you share a bit of your cur­rent work?

I’m work­ing on an idea about pol­li­na­tor gar­dens! I’m inspired by small-scale conservation.

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

I actu­al­ly had an incred­i­ble expe­ri­ence writ­ing Eclipse Chas­er. I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to trav­el to the 2017 total solar eclipse with Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawaii solar physi­cist Sha­dia Hab­bal and her team. We camped in the Ore­gon desert, and she allowed me to doc­u­ment her expe­di­tion for the book. It was a once-in-a-life­time experience!

What beliefs are your books challenging?

Inter­est­ing ques­tion! I don’t think I set out to chal­lenge peo­ple’s beliefs, but in ‘Ohana Means Fam­i­ly I want­ed read­ers to reflect on how food con­nects us with each oth­er, with nature, and with the world.

What’s your expe­ri­ence with pub­lish­ing your books?

My first two books, Ka’im­i’s First Round-Up and Rough Rid­ers: Hawai­i’s Pan­io­lo and Their Sto­ries were pub­lished with a local pub­lish­er (Island Her­itage). It was a great expe­ri­ence, and I am real­ly grate­ful Island Her­itage took a chance on my books and gave me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work on those projects as a young writer. I actu­al­ly orig­i­nal­ly wrote ‘Ohana Means Fam­i­ly with the inten­tion of pub­lish­ing it local­ly as well. But when I con­nect­ed with my agent, Kaimis-first-roundupKel­ly Son­nack, she thought there would be inter­est out­side of Hawaii. She end­ed up sell­ing it to Neal Porter, an acclaimed chil­dren’s book edi­tor. It was an incred­i­ble oppor­tu­ni­ty to be able to work with Neal on my first pic­ture book out­side of Hawaii, and I think he did an amaz­ing job with the book. I was espe­cial­ly excit­ed that he select­ed illus­tra­tor Kenard Pak to cre­ate the art, and I think the results were absolute­ly gorgeous.

Where do you get ideas for your books?

I’m inspired by the nat­ur­al world and how humans inter­act with nature!

Which char­ac­ters do you relate with eas­i­ly? Why?

I’m a qui­et, intro­spec­tive per­son, so I usu­al­ly relate to qui­et, intro­spec­tive characters.

Can you share a bit about your next book?

As I men­tioned, I’m work­ing about a book about pol­li­na­tor gar­dens. For inspi­ra­tion, I plant­ed some native wild­flow­ers in a planter on my deck. Now that I live in the Pacif­ic North­west there are so many plants and ani­mals that are new to me. I love watch­ing the bees buzzing around the flow­ers, and I’m espe­cial­ly excit­ed every time hum­ming­birds come for a vis­it! They’re so tiny and cute! I love the idea that humans can inter­act with nature and sup­port con­ser­va­tion even if they live in small spaces or in the mid­dle of a big city.


Maha­lo nui, Ili­ma, and best wish­es for your con­tin­ued suc­cess! To con­tact Ili­ma Loomis and learn more about her books, vis­it her web­site,

Monday is National Spam Musubi Day (Thanks, L&L!)


Mon­day August 8 is the Sec­ond Annu­al L&L Hawaiʻi Nation­al Spam Musubi Day, and that means a free musubi from L&L Hawaiʻi. Launched by the ven­er­a­ble Hawaiʻi com­pa­ny and licensed by Hormel Foods, this it-should-be-a-hol­i­day is anoth­er quirky and fun Hawaiʻi thing. 

And because I love both spam and his­to­ry, letʻs have a lit­tle of both in todayʻs blog post. Spam_musubi

Spam musubi  is sticky white rice topped with a slice of sea­soned cooked spam, wrapped up in a piece of crunchy nori sea­weed. In my post on 12 Things Native Hawai­ian and Hawaiʻi Kids Like, — my addi­tion to chil­dren’s author Tara Lazar’s 500+ Things That Kids Like — spam musubi is right there near the top of the list. Thatʻs because itʻs a con­ve­nient, inex­pen­sive, pack­able lunch. 

Canned spam first became pop­u­lar in Hawaiʻi dur­ing WW II. Soon home cooks were cre­at­ing dish­es made from the salty canned meat. When I was grow­ing up, we ate spam all the time, includ­ing fried with eggs and rice (which is a favorite break­fast order at Hawaiʻi McDon­alds restau­rants.) The first time my col­lege room­mates saw me fry­ing up spam, they freaked out, that is, until they tast­ed it. 

Hawaiʻiʻs Bar­bara Funa­mu­ra is cred­it­ed with invent­ing spam musubi in the ear­ly 1980s for the Joni-Hana restau­rant on Kauaiʻi, accord­ing to the Gar­den Island news­pa­per. Mrs. Funa­mu­ra had no idea that her hum­ble recipe would, like many great inven­tions, become so popular.

My kids grew up pack­ing spam musubis to eat after hula and soc­cer prac­tice, and to this day, itʻs a sat­is­fy­ing treat. Our sim­ple method was sim­ply splash­ing a bit of shoyu into the pan as the spam cooked, but a search on the inter­net reveals lots of fan­cy recipes.

Oh, and did you get the August 8/8–08 shout-out to our area code? Hap­py Spam Musubi day! Pho­to cred­it: L&L Hawai­ian BBQ

12 Things Native Hawaiian Kids Like

Hawaiian hula dancer

I love chil­dren’s author Tara Lazar’s blog. Many years ago she post­ed “500+ Things That Kids Like.” From 3D movies to zoos, the won­der­ful list is a reminder of the things that make child­hood fun.

Hula dancing
Hawai­ian hula dancers | Joe Sohm | Dreamstime

Let’s add to this list. To start, here are 12 things Native Hawai­ian and Hawaiʻi kids* like.

  1. Paipo board­ing, the per­fect short board for body surfing
  2. Spam musi­bis and ume musubis
  3. Hehi at a loʻi kalo (flat­ten­ing the fields at a taro garden—sticky, mud­dy fun!)
  4. Stand­ing on a surf­board and not falling off
  5. Danc­ing in hula fes­ti­vals com­pe­ti­tions, or cheer­ing on hula sis­ters and brothers
  6. May Day fes­ti­vals in ele­men­tary school
  7. Spot­ting kōlea as they change from brown to black and white just before they leave
  8. Shave ice, with or with­out azu­ki beans and ice cream
  9. Wav­ing at paʻu rid­ers at Alo­ha Week and King Kame­hame­ha parades
  10. String­ing lei for Memo­r­i­al Day and lay­ing them on graves if you’re a scout
  11. Learn­ing to play the ukulele in ele­men­tary school
  12. Olivine sand

Send me your unique­ly Hawaiʻi list, and I’ll include it in an upcom­ing post!

*Native Hawai­ians are indige­nous to the islands and can trace our ances­try to before Capt. Cook’s arrival in 1778. In con­trast, Hawaiʻi kids are non-native locals. The term Hawai­ians is reserved for the native people.