Day One: Embracing Change

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Day One: Embracing Change

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Oahu
Aug 29, 2008

The Hawaiian Islands Writers Conference opened with a chant and hula by Halau Hula Ka No’eau.  It’s tradition in Hawaii to open events–canoe races, groundbreaking ceremonies, writers conferences–with a recognition of the place and culture of Hawaii.

The Hisbiscus Ballroom of the Ala Moana Hotel was filled to the gills, with attendees lining the back wall.  Two giant video screens bookended the stage.  Directors Shannon and John Tullius made opening remarks and, then, they turned the stage over to emcee Sam Horn.

Just like in years past.

And, yet, it’s clear the message of the conference is “change.”  Wearing a pair of strappy and sparkly high-heeled shoes–that reminded me I had to yet to shop the shoe department of the new and nearby Nordstrom’s–Shannon announced the conference would be embracing Oahu for years to come, effectively quashing all questions at the outset of any return to Maui.  Michael Pili Pang’s halau performs under the company name of HULIAU, which, according to the program, represents, “a turning point in time where one rooted in the past, influenced by the present, tells stories for the future.” 

The keynote address was given by a quirky South African-born, 75-year-old man now living in Australia.  He’s Australia’s best-selling author, ever.  His book The Power of One is listed as amazon.com’s fifth best-selling book and sits right behind the classic To Kill A Mockingbird in the rankings.  Pretty heady stuff.  What’s more, he’s run 37 marathons.  Fifteen of those marathons were “ultras,” meaning instead of a mere 26.2 miles, they numbered 100 miles in length.

Obviously, Bryce is driven.  He was born an illegitimate child in South Africa and grew up in an orphanage in an area known as Devil’s Canyon.  At 11, he won a scholarship to high school, mingling with the sons of millionaires during the school term and living on park benches with drunks during the holidays.  A few years later, he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship at Cambridge, dressing in a monkey suit for a local zoo to earn his passage to England.  Or, so he says. 

Now, don’t go thinking this is one orphan-cum-intellectual.  Bryce is more Australian than he is Londoner.  He ran from one end of the stage to the other.  He imitated birds and lions and chimpanzees.  He used words I won’t repeat here.  He talked about menopause and intimate parts of the anatomy.  He sang.  In short, he is a storyteller. 

But here’s what he said that I had to dig through the shenanigans to remember:

  1. All things are possible with imagination.
  2. Declare yourself, declare your intention, declare yourself a writer.
  3. They say there are three major protagonists in a story–the two that hate eachother and the third that plays off each–but there are really four.  The fourth is your reader.  “The most valuable lesson you’ll ever learn in writing is to involve the fourth protagonist.”

More to come.  Stay tuned.


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