A Tribute to Jim Harstad

writer, educator, mentor, and friend.

Jim Harstad supported Bamboo Ridge Press and the local literary community for many years. His writing has appeared in thirteen issues of Bamboo Ridge, and he was a faithful participant at events and readings, even for issues he wasn’t published in.

He was a favorite teacher to many students, a mentor to other educators, and introduced many to Hawaiʻi literature through Growing Up Local: An Anthology of Poetry and Prose from Hawaiʻi (Issue #72), which he co-edited with Bill Teter, Eric Chock, and Darrell H. Y. Lum. He leaves a vibrant legacy of great words and good deeds. He will be greatly missed.

Jim’s writing is preserved not only in the issues of Bamboo Ridge but also here on the website. Going all the way back to 2010, when our Bamboo Shoots online writing community first began, Jim was an avid contributor to our monthly contests.

Every month, consistently and without fail, Jim rose to the challenges set forth by our community director the “Bamboo Buckaroo.” Whether it was a hundred words of micro-fiction or a haiku, Jim humbly wrote and shared. He encouraged others to write and share, commented on their pieces and gave advice. He was a positive co-conspiring wordsmith who made writing fun. You can read all of his entries here.

Starting in May of 2018, in addition to his Bamboo Shoots entries, Jim began to post a thousand words of his memoir, ON HE RODE, to share with the BR ʻOhana. It was in his own terms, “a very rough draft of an almost paranormal adventure that took place in the summer of 1968.” And every month, at the beginning of the month, we’d all look forward to reading the next installment.

In celebration of our friend, we’ve compiled the chapters of his memoir (over four years of writing) and present them to you in the flipbook below. I’ll let him introduce it with a quote pulled from one of the early chapters:

Allow me to interrupt, Dear Reader (if, in fact, anybody out there is actually reading and trying to make sense of this exploration of personal events from the landmark summer of 1968), to formally acknowledge the rough-draft nature of this effort. It is, after all, a rough draft. You might then ask why I don’t keep my rough draft to myself until I’ve had a chance to give it a more socially acceptable coat of polish? The answer is that I’ve tried that, with mostly unsatisfactory results — consequences, almost. It’s complicated.

So complicated that I will over-simplify by saying that it is almost solely through the generosity of that most generous of hombres, the Bamboo Buckaroo himself, that I am able to keep producing this semblance of narrative flow. By allowing me to post a thousand unprescribed and unjudged words a month, he offers a challenge and an opportunity that even the laziest, most undisciplined bones in my body, the ones that hold this pen, can’t resist. Thus, this homely narrative.

To view the memoir in full screen, click the square icon to the right of the cover. To read these chapters in their individual and original format, you can find them in this list of all of Jim’s Bamboo Shoots submissions.

Please feel free to share your stories or memories of Jim in the comment section below.

Talk story

  1. Lanning Lee says:

    Jim Harstad was my 11th- and 12th-grade English teacher. He’s been a huge influence in my life, one of the big reasons why I ended up majoring in English. I dedicated my PhD dissertation to Jim and my high-school art teacher, Shige Yamada.

    Jim told me that Amsterdam was his favorite place to vacation. The next time you’re in Amsterdam, please have one for him.

    Jim, one of the great things about heaven is that the sun is always over the yardarm. I hope you and Commander Williams got down pronto to having a few brews and tossing some horseshoes.

    You will be missed, Mr. Harstad.

  2. Dawn Ellen Kim says:

    I am very saddened by this news. Condolences to his Ohana. I’m new to the Bamboo Ridge Press writing community but have enjoyed Mr. Harstad’s writings. Because I notice he posted a ‘draft’ monthly, I felt encouraged and inspired to just keep writing and sharing. Mahalo to a man I never met but who left an impact on me. I’m sure he did for many other writers as well.

  3. piihonua says:

    You wen geev ‘um all da way. We aloha you and treasure the gifts you’ve left with us through our Bamboo Ridge ʻohana.

    Paʻa nō ke aloha nui i ka manaʻo a me kanaʻau. ( Deep love remains firmly in our thoughts and souls. )

  4. Doreen Beyer says:

    Misty, thank you for the wonderful tribute to Jim Harstad and for compiling his memoir. I only know Jim through his words, but you’ve added dimension to a man I’ve never met, through his deeds and obvious desire to grow and nurture a writing community. He was always one of the first to post on-line…I would’ve been left wondering where he’d ridden off to in future posts. He will be greatly missed.

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