Writers to gather, discuss their craft
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Michael Tsai
A procrastinating rancher and a prized bull named "Buckets."
Trench warfare along the Western Front.
A man's daring explorations of his own mind.
Sundry or spectacular, slice of life or brush with the bizarre, the stories that comprise people's lives have a meaning and a value all their own. And according to Hawai'i-born memoir writer J. Arthur Rath, they deserve to be shared.
"Everyone has some precious knowledge," Rath says. "I try to help them find out what it is and explain how and why it's precious."
Rath, author of "Lost Generations: A Boy, A School, A Princess," is one of 10 featured presenters at the reborn Hono- lulu Writers Conference taking place Nov. 18 at the East-West Center.
Resurrected by founder Rich Budnick after a five-year hiatus, the conference is intended for writers and would-be writers of all levels. This year's conference features 10 prominent authors and industry professionals offering workshops in 11 different areas.
Rath, an accomplished writer in a variety of media, will lead a session on memoir writing.
Other sessions include fiction writing with Steven Goldsberry ("Maui the Demigod," "Luzon"); nonfiction writing with Stuart Coleman ("Eddie Would Go"); children's writing with Sandi Takayama ("The Musubi Man"); cookbook writing with Advertiser food and books editor Wanda Adams ("The Island Plate"); romance writing with prolific historical romance author Penelope Neri; self-publishing and book marketing with Budnick ("Hawaii's Forgotten History"); magazine writing with Honolulu magazine editor A. Kam Napier; short-story writing with Cedric Yamanaka ("In Good Company"); and book proposals with Honolulu-based literary agent and former editor in chief of the New York Times Publishing Co. Roger Jellinek.
The conference also offers participants the opportunity for a free manuscript critique by Jellinek and fellow literary agent Eden-Lee Murray as well as representatives from Island Heritage, Bess Press and Mutual Publishing.
With 17 books to his credit, Rath is no stranger to the publishing world. Perhaps his most important publication was also the most personal.
In "Lost Generations," published last year, Rath weaves an intricate memoir about a childhood spent bouncing between relatives and foster families here and on the Mainland as his single mother, Hualani, struggled to stay afloat. Part of the "lost generations" of Native Hawaiians admonished to acculturate to white Western culture, Rath discovered a cultural identity and a sense of purpose as a student at Kamehameha. The book tracks Rath's near-tragic love story through the institution's most troubled period in the late 1990s, providing fresh perspective from a decidedly personal vantage point.
Yet, as Rath emphasizes, it doesn't take a TV-ready dramatic life story to make a worthwhile memoir.
As Rath writes in his course workbook "You, What, Why, and How," autobiography "is the revelation to the reader and the writer of the writer's conception of the life he or she has lived."
If an experience is important to the writer, it follows, there are ways in which the writer can communicate that importance to his or her readers.
Yet many prospective memoir writers never share their stories, no matter how compelling they may be. The problem, Rath says, is simple shyness.
What Rath hopes to do with his interactive workshop is inspire writers to overcome their feelings of fear, apprehension or unworthiness. He emphasizes that memoirs don't necessarily have to be published to be valuable. The experience of confronting and organizing memories can be tremendously clarifying for the individual writer, and the project itself — be it published manuscript, hand-written journal or oral history — can be a valuable record for friends and family.
"I hope I can stimulate people to understand that what they have experienced is memorable and should be shared," he says.
Reach Michael Tsai at email@example.com.