Da Conversation: What do you Read?

At this year’s Hawaii Book and Music Festival, Misty Sanico, Richard Melendez, and I hosted “Buckaloose! Your Story,” a flash fiction and improv. workshop that utilized writing prompts to “break free” from or loosen the self-editor inside us all in order to get our creativity out. It was a great event with a wealth of participants, some even contributing their stories to the Bamboo Shoots section and BR Year of the Horse monthly writing contest. Afterward, I spoke with several audience members, their reactions affirming the connections that as writers we try so hard to make through story, and yet a large majority had never picked up a single issue of Bamboo Ridge, a journal that for the past thirty-six years has worked hard to foster the “voices” of the various communities in Hawaiʻi and provide local, national, and international readers an opportunity to connect with stories and perspectives that otherwise might not be presented via mainstream media.

For many people of I have talked to, their reaction to Bamboo Ridge is equal parts surprise and validation: surprise because they have been told and taught that their voices do not matter, a sense of validation coming over them at the realization that they do. For many, this is why we write (for more, see my previous blog post) “to give a voice to,” “because it aches to experience life and not attempt to share it with other people,” “I write because, as Rilke advised, I have asked myself if I must… and the answer has always rung out in assent.”

And yet, our public libraries are struggling to stay open, our bookstores are shuttering their doors, and more and more stories are being told about Hawaii rather than from Hawaii.

This leads me to ask:

What do we read? Does it differ from what we write? Why?

There are other questions we could ask and topics that could be discussed (Literature versus literature, anyone? Entertainment/Popular texts versus “Prize-winners”, the decrease in creative arts in our public schools, mainstream versus alternative presses, self-publishing), but I want to leave the questions fairly open and broad, here’s a few more to get you thinking:

What do you read? Are there books you “enjoy” reading and those you read to satisfy something else? If you are a writer, do the books you read differ from what you write? Are there stories you would like to see explored in local literature that you haven’t seen? What do you “enjoy” about local literature? What was the last “local” book you read?

Your answer does not need to be complicated, just honest. You can either respond in the comments section below (via Facebook, or by signing in to/signing up for your Bamboo Ridge account) or by emailing me directly ([email protected]). If you choose to use the latter option, I will post your responses (anonymously, if you prefer) by updating this blog posting. Either way, your perspective matters, so please share your thoughts and join “da conversation”. Bookmark the site and check back often!

Looking forward to hearing what you have to say,



I would like to leave you with a piece from the HBMF workshop session, featured here with permission from the author:

Born half and half, raised wrong.
Born half Black half Filipino, raised subhuman.
Born a girl, raised to please.
Born the oldest, raised to be last.
Born in the morning, raised to hide in the night.
Born in struggle, raised myself.

Talk story

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