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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, July 6, 2003

Bamboo Ridge marks 25 years of literary scene, island style

By Wanda Adams
Advertiser Book Editor

True to character, when the folks at Bamboo Ridge Press began to plan an event celebrating "25 years of publishing da kine local literature," they didn't want a black-tie dinner in a Waikiki hotel. Instead, next Sunday afternoon's event involves a "big bamboocha plate lunch," a bargain book fair, a cool collectible sale and a silent auction quite different from the ones you usually encounter at fund-raising events.

Birthday Bash

When: 1 p.m. July 13

Where: Manoa Grand Ballroom, Japanese Cultural Center, 2454 S. Beretania St.

Entertainment: Haunani Bernadino (musician and Hawaiian language teacher), Ozzie Kotani (slack-key master) and Chris Planas (eclectic blues and jazz man and former Pagan Baby).

Tickets: $20 in advance ($13 tax-deductible); $25 at the door ($18 tax-deductible).

Information: 626-1481 or www.bambooridge.com to order tickets using Visa or MasterCard.

Or mail check/money order to: Bamboo Ridge Press, P.O. Box 61781, Honolulu, HI 96839.

Items to be auctioned off include tea and a manuscript review with writer and editor Marie Hara; a certificate good for caregiver respite from poet Juliet Kono, who cared for her mother with Alzheimer's Disease and then wrote about it; an afternoon of exploring Kailua by kayak with pupu on the beach at sunset, plus jewelry and other items crafted by the multitalented writers.

Families are involved, too, with Nora Okja Keller's husband pledging a day of fishing on board his boat Fox Girl; a vest handwoven by Eric Chock's wife, Ghislaine, president of the Hawai'i Handweavers Hui; and artwork from Song's husband, Dr. Doug Davenport.

Bamboo Ridge was born when writers Darrell Lum and Eric Chock, classmates from Ma'e Ma'e Elementary to McKinley High School, decided that local writers weren't getting their due.

"People we had gone to school with and took writing courses with graduated and were never published. When they send their stuff in, it came back with 'Nice poem, but can you put in a glossary? Can you explicate this other stuff?' It didn't have hula girls and beaches, so publishers didn't understand it," Lum said.

So the two, with zero knowledge of the publishing business and about $200 in their pockets, decided to publish a local literary magazine. "We wanted to publish work we liked and admired, and we wanted to treat writers the way we wanted to be treated," said Lum. No glossaries required.

Their first printer was Dennis Watanuki at Pioneer Press, who saw their eyes bulge when he estimated what the first issue would cost and suggested they maybe work from the other direction: How much have you got to spend? The first issue cost $1.25, which turned out to be more than the cost to mail it.

Lum counts among the highest compliments for those early issues when Watanuki would complain that the collating was taking too long. In those days, small jobs were collated by hand, with pages set out in order and guys circling around the table picking them up. If a story was good, the line would slow to a halt while the collaters read.

Although they had plenty of writing friends and some editing experience, Lum and Chock had no business plan and no idea of how a magazine went together. But they quickly learned and applied for grants and now are a respected member of the fraternity of literary journals around the country.

The name Bamboo Ridge is an apt one: It's the name given to a spot near the Halona Blowhole where a group of fishermen would gather, their poles forming a ridge of bamboo. Lum, then an academic advisor at UH, learned about it from a student excited about a night spent with this group of older guys, who practiced an arcane form called slide-bait fishing, in which the line is cast far out and then the heavy bait (tako, used to catch ulua) is sent down the line after it. The irony was that some of the guys hadn't caught any fish in years; it was just the ritual and camraderie they enjoyed.

Lum and Chock liked the sound of the words and the metaphor: For many local writers, the point was not to be published, but to write. They weren't pursuing commercial success, Lum said, "the work was more heartfelt, the authenticity and the truth was what mattered."

Correction: Marie Hara's name was misspelled in a previous version of this story.