Monday, June 22, 2015

Hawaii Fiction Writers: upcoming workshops & readings

Hawaii Fiction Writers calendar of events:

Saturday, July 18, 2015 - 11:30 a.m. - Luncheon & Reading at Assaggio Kahala.  Join us for lunch! Featuring readings by Leslee Ellenson, Malena Brooks, and Carol Catanzariti!

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Saturday, August 15, 2015 - 10 a.m. to noon - Writers Workshop at Aina Haina Library. Workshop on character led by Craig Howes of the University of Hawaii!  Join us.

Saturday, September 19, 2015 - 10 a.m. to noon - Aina Haina Library.  "Computer and Software Tips for Writers," led by computer wizard David Jones!  Also bring your pages to read and share.
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Saturday, October 17, 2015 - 10 a.m. to noon - Aina Haina Library.  Writers Workshop:
"Plot, Character, and Setting: The Journey Home, with Stops in Dickens' London, the Land of Oz, and Fenway Park."  
Workshop led by Michael Little.

Join us as we explore the relationship of three major parts of fiction, as illustrated in "A Christmas Carol," The Wizard of Oz (film version), and baseball.  Including a writing exercise: write a short plot summary (beginning, middle, and end), opening paragraph, and closing paragraph (we get to leave out that pesky middle!).

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Hawaii Fiction Writers reading at Kapolei Library on June 13

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Hawaii Fiction Writers will be having its first public reading next Saturday, June 13, at the beautiful Kapolei Library.  Please join us ... should  be fun ... and spread the word!

Where:  Kapolei Public Library
Date:  Saturday, June 13, 2015
Time:  10:30 a.m. to noon
Lunch:  Assaggio Kapolei (just a couple of blocks from the library) ... we have a reservation for noon.

Reading will be Carol Catanzariti leading off, Marie Hara, Rosemary & Larry Mild, Christy Passion, and, batting sixth and playing emcee, Michael Little. Each reader will have 10 minutes to read, which will leave time for some questions and discussion.  

Looking ahead for Hawaii Fiction Writers in 2015:

(1) lunch (and short readings by Leslee Ellenson and a couple of other writers TBA) Saturday, July 18, 11:30 a.m., at Assaggio Kahala ...

(2) return to Aina Haina Library for writers workshops at 10 a.m. on third Saturdays: August 15, September 19, and October 17 (more details on these later).

J.D. Salinger, we hardly knew ye ... by Michael Little

[Note:  J.D. Salinger died five years ago.  This is an essay I wrote at that time.  All true at the time, and today.]

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J.D. Salinger, best known for writing a sensationally popular and critically acclaimed novel over 50 years ago, and for never having appeared on Oprah or The Tonight Show, or pretty much anywhere else outside of Cornish, New Hampshire, after he ran from his celebrity, died last week at the age of 91.

This news has been rattling around in my head in the five days since he left us (this time for good). My thoughts on Salinger keep returning not to the writer but to his most famous character, the narrator and antihero of The Catcher in the Rye, on his way home at Christmas from yet another dismal failure as a prep school student, but not going straight home, instead spending a weekend underground in Manhattan, searching, lost, the 20th century Huck Finn, and like Huck always on the move—Holden Caulfield.

Everyone who's read Catcher has their own memories. For me, it's summer and I've just graduated from high school. I'm in Saint Louis taking music classes and I've bought a copy of the book I've heard about and I'm sitting in a small restaurant by myself, reading Holden's account of his weekend in New York City.

The book's paperback cover promises that "This unusual book will shock you, may make you laugh, and may break your heart—but you will never forget it." True on all points, although the book gave me more laughs than shocks, and as for breaking my heart, that was something I would have to wait six months for, when my high school sweetheart ran off with a sailor (an event that Holden would probably describe as both "corny" and "crummy").

About six years later Holden is waiting for me again. I need to choose a subject for a master's thesis in English, and I return to The Catcher in the Rye. By this time I've taken just about every literature class I can and I'm armed with all kinds of cool analytical tools to dissect Salinger and his book. When I read the rest of his fiction I am struck mostly by the importance of family in the stories, and not so much parents as siblings. All the Glass family brothers and sisters drive most of the other stories. As for Catcher, it's Holden's sister, Phoebe, who means the most to him and ultimately saves him from his crummy lost weekend. It's for Phoebe that Holden returns home.

So I write the thesis and call it "The Value of the Family in J. D. Salinger." Having finished the project, of course, I move on to other writers, other literature classes, away from Holden and Catcher, although, as the cover says, you will never forget it. Or him.

Eventually I move on to teach college English in Seattle. You would think that I'd include Holden in one of the college English courses, but I never do. I don't know why, I just don't. When I board a United flight one snowy Seattle morning, on my way to a new life in Hawaii, how can I have known that Holden is waiting for me on Maui?

It takes a couple of years on Maui, but on a fateful afternoon at Baldwin High School, there I am in the dusty old book room and another teacher is telling me to "look around and see what you can find." I spy a modest stack of worn, abandoned paperbacks against a wall. I move closer for a better look, and of course it's The Catcher in the Rye. Holden's been waiting for me. Lucky for me, and lucky for my students, there are just enough copies for the one class that awaits a new book. The next day I pass out the old paperbacks, ask the students to open them to chapter one, and then I begin reading aloud:
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Nobody speaks. I look up and the students all have their faces in the books. "Keep reading," one of them says. So I do. In the days that follow we live through that weekend with Holden Caulfield. By the time we finish the book the school year is almost over. No time to start another book. I collect some of the Catcher paperbacks (about half of the books have disappeared, and I know that the students who liked Holden best just can't give him up, and that's fine). I return the remaining books to the dusty old book room. They may still be there.

So that's it. I'm ready to move on. I look through the obituary and articles about J.D. Salinger in The New York Times, and I wish him well on his journey. As far as I know, Salinger never met Oprah. He never crashed a White House dinner. He never needed to be famous. But Holden Caulfield takes on the world for him. The book awaits.