The Gods on Kauai are furious about the way humans have trashed the island and are about to bring down an epic tsunami and hurricane on the island to wipe the slate clean. Innocent people will die. Tutu, the spirit of a long dead kahuna (shaman) has a plan though, and before she is finished she will unleash a cast of characters and situations that will make you laugh and weep.
As a periodontist for 30 years, I spent most of my writing time making patient entries related to diagnosis and treatment, an exercise that hardly leaves much leeway for creative expression or even accessing much in the way of an emotional range. So, now, because the experience opens a part of me that I love to explore, I take every chance I can, to sit down and write, “Every chance I can” is a qualifier that others may recognize as it doesn’t happen as often as I would like. Even after retirement, life is still full, maybe fuller than before. so, how have I managed to complete two books and begin a third. The only way I can do it involves three arms, above and beyond the two I use to lift myself out of bed every day.
The first arm is my writing group. I am in cahoots with the most supportive and at the same time most analytical and critical group of writers that you can imagine. They have the knack for criticizing every detail and at the same time making me feel good about my work and wanting to make it better. But besides the people, the structure of our group helps me write on a regular basis. We used to meet weekly and in a year or so we ran out of current work and nearly fell apart. So, after a meeting of the minds, those we could locate, we decided on a new course of action. Once a month on a Monday night we have critique night. Anyone who has something that they would like to have critiqued by the group sends out a copy of the work a week or two in advance, depending on the length of the piece. We all read it and do track changes on Word or corrections by hand and then on the given Monday evening we go over in detail what we like about the piece, what bumps us and throws us off the track of reading it and what suggestions we have to improve it. In our responses we avoid vacuous comments such as “I loved it” or other unhelpful input.
My second writing arm is a monthly writers retreat also with my writing group. Once a month on a Saturday we find a place; either someone offers their large home or we go to a retreat center; somewhere large enough so everyone (generally 10-12 writers) can find a quiet place to work. We start at 9AM, though people arrive throughout the day. Each person brings their own snacks, lunch and a dish for a pot luck dinner. Somehow we always end up with wine and pupus for a sharing period, much needed because after a day of writing, at around 4PM, anyone who has been working on something that day, if they choose, has the opportunity to read their fresh material. Feedback for this kind of material is essentially positive since we all know it is very much in the beginning stages. Some of the writing, though is amazing. After our feedback session we are usually so happy from the fun (and the wine) that even ordinary food tastes epicurean. In the interest of fairness, the food is not ordinary, since cooking ability seems to be an unwritten criteria for membership in our group. If it isn’t superb it must at least be healthful.
The third arm of my writing is a periodic personal retreat. This month at our house we are having a steady stream of my girlfriend’s family members visiting our house here on Kauai. I’m not leaving to escape from them. I truly enjoy the visit. But the opportunity gives them some time to be together and gives me the chance to write. Leaving the house for a couple of days on Kauai is not an easy task since hotels are prohibitive. Somehow though, when you need a solution, it shows up. I have found two places in the mountains of Kokee, about two hours from home where I can cheaply rent a private cabin and that is precisely where I am writing this blog entry after spending the past two days and evenings putting the finishing touches (one more go round) of Brothers Lovers Gods, my novel about Kauai. The second planned retreat is coming up in a couple of weeks and if I’m in a holding place, for example waiting for an editor response, I will use the time for a personal vacation. If you find it impossible to rent a cabin as I’ve done, try this. I take a day a week or so and have breakfast at a local coffee house, then put on my noise canceling headphones and hunker down into a corner to write my day away. I stop for lunch or a snack and stay focused unless a friend comes by and grabs my attention away to talk about the latest island gossip.
I should be clear that those three arms do not comprise the whole of my writing time. I take a day here and there and a morning here and there and a few hours here and there and write my heart out. But the retreats form a platform from which to jump.
For some people who visit Kauai, the most challenging issue is trying to get to do everything there is to do on the island. For others, it involves trying to stay away from activity and just be. Funny, for a place that has the reputation as a place where people go to live to get away from it all, it’s a bit paradoxical. There is so much nothing to do here that it is hard to get to all of it. If you are worried that you might not get what you are looking for, relax. There is plenty of nothing to go around. But be warned. Most of the nothing happens at night.
When telling visitors about Kauai, I start with the premise that everyone loves nature. But nature lovers seem to boil down to two kinds of people. Those who want to get their feet wet (we’ll talk later) and those who love nature but don’t necessarily want to be “in it.” It is not a bad way to be. Those folks just want to watch it from a safe distance. If that sounds like you, I suggest you go to a high end hotel like the Hyatt or St Regis (or one half step down to the Marriott or Sheraton) and just immerse yourself in the rooms, the spas and the views from the hotel. If you are going to spend a lot of time there at least make sure that the comfort is up to your standards. For those who want to win a prize for doing nothing rent a vacation home on one of our beautiful beaches. If you grow tired of being indoors, rent a car and drive around the one highway that circles the island, stopping at beaches you can see from the car and easily accessible restaurants. You can see nearly everything without getting 50 feet from the car. You will have a great time because just being here soothes the soul. If your husband, wife or lover, as the case may be, has an activist view of reality, it might be a good idea to rent two cars if you can or come with another similarly matched couple. Another good alternative is to take a tour bus to various places.
For those immersionists among you, I suggest that you do not allow yourselves to be tied down by those who are of the previous persuasion. There is so much to do outdoors on Kauai that immersionists have to live here to get to it all and even then, it’s a full time job and they generally have to select one or two favorite activities. Sutfing, hiking, helicoptering (please try not to do this- it is a beautiful way to see the island but they badly disturb the hikers) swimming, surfing, boogie boarding, stand up paddling, kite surfing, river rafting, kayaking, outrigger canoeing, biking, ATVing, motor scootering, tennis and i don’t know what all. What I do know is that what makes all of these activities so varied is the change that takes place in conditions of weather, location and other factors.
Now don’t get the idea from what I am writing that one of you is going to have a better time than the other. The trick is not to do everything or to do nothing but to play to what you love, Then let the magic of Kauai heal your bones.
If you have ever visited Hawaii or if you have ever dreamed of visiting Hawaii, watch for Brothers Lovers Gods (looking for a great independent editor) for a delicious taste of the true island flavor. No, it is not a cookbook, but it is hard to write about Hawaii, especially the Garden Island of Kauai without immersing the reader in the senses. The ocean breezes, the local cuisine, the palms, flowers and ocean as well as the struggles with developers from the mainland and the myriad struggles of the protagonist all play a role in this fun filled yet sharp pointed tale.
The Hawaiian gods are furious with the development and pollution that has occurred on their beloved Kauai and Wakea, head of the God family, so to speak, decides to take matters into his own powerful hands and wipe the population from the island with a simultaneous tsunami and hurricane. Only the wiles of a long dead kahuna Tutu can save the day. How she orchestrates her plan reveals so much about life on Kauai that you will feel you are there. Visits to real places in the course of the novel enhances the immediacy and by the time you come to the end of the novel, you may find you’ve made a phone call to your travel agent.
When you visit us, please respect the aina (the land) as the locals say. There is much Aloha here, but if you bring some with you, you’ll receive more than you can take home.