Talking Story

Lehua Parker

Lehua Parker is originally from Hawaii and a graduate of The Kamehameha Schools and Brigham Young University. So far she has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, an author, a web designer, a mother, and a wife. Her debut novel, One Boy, No Water is the first book in her middle grade Niuhi Shark Adventure Series. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, four cats, two dogs, seven horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.
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When the college kids first moved back home, device chargers and cables started disappearing. I stomped around the house, ticked that I suddenly couldn’t plug in my phone or tablet while on the couch or in the kitchen or at any place I was used to.

There was much grumbling and stink-eye flying on my part and some non-committal shrugging from the rest of the adults in the house.

After a couple weeks of this, I didn’t have to look anymore. Great, I thought, people are leaving my stuff alone.

Nope. I found out this weekend that my husband has a hidden stash of chargers and cables. He’s been secretly replacing the ones that go missing before I realize they’re gone.  For a YEAR. 🤣

#truelove #don’ttouchmystuff #HomeU #keepMomhappy

For a while now, my style has been best described as tropical middle-aged frump with a side of at-least-I’m-not-naked–a.k.a. old fut titah-rella with shoes. But there was a time when I wore smart business attire, cocktail dresses, and even formal wear. I’ve kept all the classic and timeless pieces in my closet, waiting for day the when I’d need them again.

Y’all, this closet is chocked full and the size of a kid’s bedroom. In the original house plan, it was an office.

But since October, I’ve lost some of my fluffy, so much that I have to get new everything. Apparently, my family thinks it’s a problem when my yoga pants fall off as I walk upstairs. This is the result of a permanent lifestyle change, not a diet. These clothes are never going to fit again.

It’s strangely hard to purge my closet. Some of it is fear–what if I need these clothes again? Then there’s the memories attached to certain things. And the freak out at the waste that I didn’t comprehend until it was Marie Kondo’d in front of me. (Still tags on this? Really?! What was I thinking?!!!)

It’s taken me days to go through it all, and I had a couple of minor panic attacks where I temporarily “rescued” a few things.

But I then I thought about the woman having the right kinds of clothes for a new job. I thought about the plus-sized teen needing something for a special dance and the grandma that would love to wear bling-y palm trees and pineapples to bingo. These gently/only once/never-worn clothes are going to be put to good use, far better than faux soothing any hoarder-anxiety.

And me? I’ll still look on-brand as a middle-aged bag lady author. I’m holding onto a bunch of hoodies, a couple of pairs of jeans that I can keep up with a new baseball belt–a truly magical invention–and a few t-shirts. They’ll be easy to find among the rows of empty hangers.

#notallgoingtofitinthecar #donations #onlypantswithbeltloopsfornow #newclothesinsummer


College Daughter comes home for the weekend and discovers a massive new dog pillow in front of the fireplace.
 
CD: I knew it! We’re getting a new dog! Big, right? Like a Great Dane!
 
Me: No. No new dogs.
 
CD: But…
 
Me:
 
CD:
 
Me:
 
CD: Mom!
 
Me:
 
CD: You got that pillow for yourself?! That’s crazy!
 
(CD turns on the fireplace. Grabs a pillow and blanket from a nearby basket. Snuggles down. Turns on the TV.)
 
CD: Oh. My. Gosh! This is AMAZING!
 
Me: Yeah. That’s why I got it for YOU!
 
#Everybody‘sNewFavoriteSpot #PlanWorked #CouchtoMyself
I’ve spent too much time today watching Bollywood dance sequences for a sangeet ceremony that’s a two second scene in my Hawaiians (and Hindus) in space story. It’s probably a good thing YouTube wasn’t around when my friends were popping and locking in high school. And Bhangra? Not much like hula, but… 🤣

Writing is like deep-sea diving. You spend a lot of time preparing and planning. There’s specialized gear and uncommon knowledge to acquire, some kiddie pool practice before venturing out into the open ocean, and a lot of effort to travel to new and unexplored dive sites.

Immersed in an alien macrocosm, time’s suddenly up, and you have to leave long before you’re ready. Before transitioning to surface world, you must decompress–otherwise Very Bad Things can happen.

On even the most routine dives, there’s always something unexpected, be it creature, human, weather, or something technically challenging. When you’re not diving, you’re dreaming about it and planning the next trip.

Yeah, writing is like diving to me. Which writing analogies resonate with you?

#amwriting #divingdeep #hawaiiansinspace #timeforadivetrip

While I try to trick myself into outlining, at my core I’m really a discovery writer flying by the seat of my pants. I’ve been working on what I call my “Hawaiians in Space” story for a few years now.

An early version was published in a fractured fairy tales collection, but honestly, that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell and not surprisingly, it wiffed on hitting the publisher’s target audience of Hallmark-loving romance readers. I tend to take traditional tales too far out of expectations for readers who love the predictability of those kinds of stories. I don’t like to color in the lines.

In rewrites I’ve untethered the story from it’s fairy tale roots, but it’s still not working.

Today I’ve rolled up my editing sleeves and am doing a full breakdown–character analysis, story beats, conflicts–the whole space enchilada that I never thought I had to do because–hello–it’s my story and I have it all in my head.

Yeah. Problem. That’s not what’s on the page. 🙄 Finding holes, plugging leaks, and hoping the third time’s the charm.

#amWriting #HawaiiansinSpace #ItsGoingToBeAThing

 

You know how Boy Scouts are supposed to do a good deed each day? A couple of days ago I was the little old lady that got helped across the street–and the stakes were way higher than getting across the road.

I run on Diet Coke. It’s no secret–and cans are hands down the best. There’s an ongoing canned soda shortage in Utah. Right now canned Diet Coke is almost impossible to find and more valuable than gold to those who drink it like water.

So I’m in Costco. I know there’s no possibility that they have any, but it never hurts to check, right? I get near where the canned soda is kept. It’s right near the end of a row, but I’m on the wrong aisle, so I follow their stupid flow patterns and go ALL the way around until I’m in the right aisle coming from the “approved” direction. I’m almost there when a mom with two strapping teenage sons comes down the wrong way and stops at the soda.

I watch as one son loads cases of Mountain Dew and Sprite while the other son rummages and pulls up a case–35 cans!–of Diet Coke. “Hey, Mom!” he says, “I got the last one!” He puts it under their cart.

I call out, “Lucky!” Just teasing a bit.

“Oh,” he says. “Did you want Diet Coke?”

“Yeah, but it’s okay,” I say. “It’s not a big deal.”

“Oh, you can have it,” he says, picking it up again.

Oops. This was not my intention. “No, really,” I say. “It’s fine. I was just teasing a little.”

“No, take it,” he says, walking over.

His mother is staring daggers at me. I’m pretty sure she’s buying things for a Super Bowl party. Teen boys don’t drink Diet Coke, but she probably does. The kid’s not oblivious to the waves coming off Mom.

He glances at her, a bit confused. “What? It’s just Diet Coke.” He chucks it under my cart.

One of the sample ladies magically appears. She nervously says to the mom, “Go up to the front and tell them you want Diet Coke. They may have some in the back.” Sample Lady gets the stakes. Maybe over the past few months she’s seen blows over this and is tired of mopping up blood.

“Oh? There’s more in the back?” I say.

The mom and I both know that there’s no way there’s some in the back, but I’m thinking it’s a graceful out for me. I can just say, “No, you keep it and I’ll talk to somebody up front.”

But the kid is undeterred in doing his good deed. “See,” he says to his mom, “We can just ask up front.” He turns to me, face shinning with the good manners he’s been taught, and I see that doing this is very important to him. It’s cementing a pattern of thinking of others before himself.

Yeah, it’s Diet Coke, and it doesn’t mean much to him. But refusing it might make him feel less like helping others in the future.

I look at the mom and tell her she’s raised good sons with my eyes. I smile at the kid beneath my Covid mask and say, “Thanks. I really appreciate it.”

He grins and says, “No problem,” and turns to grab regular Coke.

And I hele’d out of there so fast smoke was probably coming off my sneakers.

It was 35 cans of Diet Coke after all.

#amwriting #musejuice #GoodDeeds #Momisstillprobablypissed

PEAU Women’s Writing Crew
January 7, 2021
Prompt: A New Year’s resolution, a pacifier, fireworks
about 300 words


Liz’s Closet

by Lehua Parker

 

It was exactly the kind of thing Liz hated doing.

Hot.

Dusty.

And  guaranteed to make a much bigger mess before it was over. Her mother used to say cleaning closets was a lot like eating an artichoke—to get to the heart, you had to unpeel layers that were never going to ever fit together again.

But it was late November and her New Year’s resolution to organize—get rid of—all the boys’ old baby stuff boxed in the top her closet couldn’t be pushed to next year.

Again.

Standing on her tippy-toes, the first box teetered before tumbling over, showering her with bits of desiccated spider and gecko droppings.

“No, no, no!” she shrieked, shuddering as she dropped it. “Ugh! I did not sign up for this! This crap had better not be in my hair!”

She bent forward, shaking her head and running her fingers through her hair. When she was confident that nothing ugi was crawling along her scalp, she whipped her hair into a titah bun and sighed. “Just do it, Liz,” she said. “When you’re done, you can reward yourself with the last of the butter mochi before the kids get home from school.”

The first thing she saw when she opened the box was a long red string of stale firecrackers. She laughed. Paul must’ve confiscated them from Jay a couple of years ago. The burns on the ceiling and cement floor of the carport were still there. Fortunately, back then all Jay could get his hands on were firecrackers. Heaven only knew what he would do with grownup fireworks.

The next thing she pulled out made her pause: a pacifier without a nipple. Zader, she thought. Even as a baby he destroyed everything he chewed.


The Pasifika Enriching Arts of Utah (PEAU) Women’s Writing Crew meets online Thursdays at 8 pm MST. Here’s a link to all the latest info: https://pik2ar.org/peaulit/  All women writers are welcome, particularly those writing from a Pacific Islander perspective. Each week there are suggested writing prompts, group critique, and a craft discussion. After each workshop, I’ll post my example on my website. Most of the time, they’ll be little snapshots about characters from the Lauele Universe, including the Niuhi Shark Saga trilogy, Lauele Chicken Skin Stories, Lauele Fractured Folktales, and more.

PEAU Women’s Writing Crew
December 9, 2020
Prompt: pig, string or rope, bicycle
about 500 words


‘Alika and Arnold

by Lehua Parker

 

Tuna burst through ‘Alika’s bedroom door.

“‘Alika! Aunty—”

WHAM!

‘Alika’s punch landed solidly in her gut. “How many times I wen tell you no come—”

Tuna bent over, one arm on her stomach, the other braced against the door jam. “Banana leaves,” she wheezed. “Big bunches of ti leaves. Chicken wire.”

‘Alika stood there, mouth open and catching flies. “What? What you said?”

“Try look!” Tuna said, pointing toward the window.

Through the jalousies ‘Alika could see Uncle Butchie and Uncle Kawika rummaging in the back corner of Tutu’s lot.

“This pig more small than last year’s,” Uncle Butchie said. “At least we no need dig the imu deeper.”

“Yeah,” said Uncle Kawika. “Not too much rubbish to clear, either.”

Uncle Butchie jammed his shovel in the loose dirt. “You saw the banana stalks and ti leaves Myrna wen bring?”

“Yeah, get plenny. Eh, when you like do ‘em?” Uncle Butchie asked, tilting his head toward the pig pen.

“Bumbai,” Uncle Kawika said. “When ‘Alika-dem stay school. I no like him getting all ulukū.”

“Arnold,” ‘Alika breathed. He shoved Tuna aside and raced out of the room.

“Wait!” Tuna puffed. “Arnold’s not in the pen!”

Halfway down the hall, ‘Alika screeched to a halt. “Where?”

“I left him by the Nakamura’s side fence tied to the big coconut tree.”

‘Alika nodded and turned toward the front door. He gave Tuna one last look as she tried to stand up straight. “Eh, sorry, yeah?” he said as he slipped outside. “But I did tell you fo’ knock first.”

When ‘Alika rounded the corner by the Nakamura’s fence, all he saw was Tuna’s bike leaning against a coconut tree. “Arnold?” he whispered.

Nothing.

Creeping closer, he spotted some jute twine wrapped around the coconut trunk and disappearing into the hibiscus hedge. “Fo’real, Tunazilla?” he muttered. “This string wouldn’t hold a mongoose. Arnold better still be here or I’ll whop yo’ jaw fo’real.”

He ran his fingers along the string and crawled under the hedge to discover a big pig dozing in the shade.

“Arnold!”

Startled, the pig grunted and jumped. Seeing ‘Alika, his curly tail whirled like a hula hoop, and he made happy pig snuffle noises as he ran to him.

“Shhhhhhh,” said ‘Alika as he scratched behind Arnold’s ears. “It’s good to see you, too, buddy. But we’ve got to get out of here.” With one quick tug, ‘Alika snapped the string from the coconut tree and wrapped it around his hand.

What to do? Where to go?

‘Alika’s eyes landed on Tuna’s bike.

But it’s a girls’ bike, he thought. No way.

From the house Tutu’s voice called, “‘Alika! Your breakfast is getting cold. You better hurry or you going miss the bus!”

“Screw it,” ‘Alika said. “Sometimes you just gotta hele. C’mon, Arnold.”

‘Alika threw his leg over the bike seat and pedaled away, Arnold following like they’d done this a million times.


The Pasifika Enriching Arts of Utah (PEAU) Women’s Writing Crew meets online Thursdays at 8 pm MST. (I’ll post links and more info soon!) All women writers are welcome, particularly those writing from a Pacific Islander perspective. Each week there are suggested writing prompts, group critique, and a craft discussion. After each workshop, I’ll post my example on my website. Most of the time, they’ll be little snapshots about characters from the Lauele Universe, including the Niuhi Shark Saga trilogy, Lauele Chicken Skin Stories, Lauele Fractured Folktales, and more.

Santa at Respite Beach.
Man, I need to get back to the ocean.

Ever enter a time warp? Sometimes it’s a good thing, like when you’re on a long plane ride and you fall asleep and 10 minutes later you’re landing halfway around the world. Score!

Other times you turn around and it’s been SIX MONTHS since you wrote a blog post. Or wrote anything longer than an article, essay, or short story. Six months that felt like a decade, the worst kind of time warp where you stand in line or get on a plane and months later discover you’re still right where you started.

Or mostly.

I know I was busy, so busy I didn’t have time to do anything except put out the fire right in front of me and beat out the new flames arising from all sides.

2020 sucked, folks. For everybody.

But although I don’t have a new novel or play to feel good about, I did do some writerly stuff. I did some developmental editing on a few titles ranging from middle grade speculative fiction to adult non-fiction; wrote and sold a few short stories and essays; taught a few classes; mentored a few burgeoning writers and editors who didn’t listen when I said writing is hard, go to med school instead; did the layouts for a few books; did some copyediting; and spoke at a few virtual conferences. I accepted a position as the Personal Voices Editor at Dialogue magazine and found lots of nicer ways to say, “Yes, you do have multiple PhDs from Ivy League schools–well done! Regardless, your manuscript is not a personal essay. It is a diatribe. Thanks for submitting. P.S.–It’s ZZzzzzzz.” I also got to tell some new writers that I loved their personal essays and, “Yes!” In November I started working with Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources (PIK2AR) in Utah as their Literary Coordinator and rebooted a women’s writing group and an adult book club, plus planned a kids’ literacy initiative and book club for 2021 with Pacific Heritage Academy.

Lots of work, but not a lot of new, creative words.

Like many, I had lots of personal drama and trauma in 2020. Adult kids moved back home to continue university classes online, and my husband stopped traveling for business and began working worldwide via Zoom from his home office. Everything we were looking forward to was canceled. We all stayed home, the longest I haven’t traveled since childhood. Kupuna died suddenly from heart attacks or had cancer or strokes, leading to new assisted living situations which ended up feeling like Covid jail when we could only visit through glass. It’s hard to hug through a window pane. But as hard as social isolation is, losing people is much, much harder. From mid-summer on, every week, then every few days, someone I knew from writer-world, ‘ohana, or my neighborhood died. I stopped counting at 18.

No wonder that for most of the year, I wasn’t able to write or edit my own words. I just couldn’t.

But life has to go on. I’ve realized that I need to write my words and tell my stories for my own sanity. When you can’t control anything in the real world, you can control your story.

Sugar-free gum and Diet Coke feed the muse. Or at least distract her so I can write!

Well, until your characters mount a rebellion and hijack the narrative. But that’s the fun part.

Coming up in 2021–more published short fiction in anthologies, a newly designed website (fingers crossed), AUDIO BOOKS for the Niuhi Shark Saga, the long-anticipated Hawaiians-in-space novella, a new horror series for kids, and new weekly Lauele Shorts on the blog–quick snapshot stories about favorite characters in the Lauele Universe. (Because when you’re leading a weekly writing group you have to–ahem–write.) As part of the literacy initiative, I’m going to write some new reader’s theater plays with Pacific Islander characters and themes for kids. There’re also three novel-length books I hope to draft in 2021, two set in Lauele and one not set in Hawaii at all.

Next to my computer are stacks of sugar-free gum and a new pink micro-fridge stocked with six Diet Cokes. (Thanks, Santa!) Writing is happening.

Thanks for hanging in there with me. Here’s to a brighter 2021: I wish all a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

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When you’re allergic to water,
growing up in Hawaii
isn’t always paradise.

With Niuhi sharks,
even out of the water,
you’re not safe.

Everything you thought you knew
about Zader is a  lie.