Talking Story

Pacific Literature

I’ve been working off and on a middle grade children’s series set in Hawaii for several years. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy writing it—I did—and it wasn’t that I kept running out of ideas—if anything, I had too many. The problem was a much bigger question.

What was I going to do with it when it was done?

There are as many reasons to write as there are writers, some of them noble and pure of purpose and others more, ahem, monetary in nature. The “what to do with it” question was compounded by the fact that my kolohe characters kept insisting on talking in pidgin. Hawaiian Pidgin English, as in Not Standard English which is what most middle grade kids are learning to read in America. No publisher in his right mind would want to tackle a problem like this and the dearth of Hawaiian writers on the national stage publishing works with pidgin seemed to back up this theory, Lois Ann Yamanka and Graham Salisbury being the few exceptions that prove the rule.

So the series lurked in the background of my mind and computer, rising to the surface when no other productive use of my time could be found to avoid housework. What can I say? Laundry has to get done and dishes washed, but like death and taxes I try to avoid them as long as possible. “Working on the series” sounded like a great excuse to me.

A couple of months ago, bored and looking for “a project,” I attended a workshop on the emerging field of self-publishing. Books and publishing—the act of getting the stories into the hands and minds of readers—are undergoing a revolution not seen since Gutenburg showed off his fancy new press. Ebook readers and new distribution channels have created unparalleled opportunities for authors to reach highly targeted audiences and to achieve that basest reason of all for writing: a paycheck.

I would have shouted eureka, but that would have been a little cliché.

Now that I knew what I was going to do with it, I set about writing again and putting all of the building blocks in place to self-publish. Author website and store, check. Blog, check. Fan Facebook page, check. Research best practices, check. Someone to do cover art, check.

And then a little voice said, “Why are you doing all of this?”

“’Cause I have to do something with all these words and stories,” I replied. “No one else will.”

“How do you know?” the voice chided. “Did you ever give anyone the chance to say yes?”

Huh. All of this work was based on the assumption that no mainland publisher would be interested in a middle grade series with pidgin dialogue.

And I was wrong.

Through a series of events that no one would believe if I told them, I got the series in front of a real live traditional mainland book publisher who is seriously considering the books for publication on the national level in a five book, five year deal that doesn’t seem real. The details are still being worked out and nothing is final until the ink is dried on the contract, but wow lau-lau, apparently there is a Santa Claus, Virginia, and for Lehua, a mainland publisher who thinks there’s a market for middle grade fiction with pidgin dialogue.

Here’s to the new year!

From One Boy, No Water

Book 1 of The Niuhi Shark Saga

Jay sat back in his chair and scoffed. “You behind the times, Uncle K. Get plenny kine shark bite people: bull shark, great white, tiger, hammerhead—”

“No. Only one kine: niuhi.”

“No, I saw it on Shark Week! In Australia—”

“You stay Australia?”

Jay paused, confused. “No,” he said.

“Then why you worried about Australia?”

“I not, I—”

“Good. Then listen to your uncle. In Hawaii only get one kine shark for worry about: niuhi.”

“Niuhi?” Jay looked around the lānai. “What kine is that?”

“Told you,” said Uncle Kahana. “Man-eater.” He smiled. “Or man-biter. Depends on the mood.”

Excerpted from One Boy, No Water by Lehua Parker. Copyright © 2012 by Lehua Parker. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

From One Boy, No Water

Book 1 of The Niuhi Shark Saga

“Jay,” said Nili-boy softly, “What’s the haps?”

“I saw…I think I saw a shark,” said Jay.

“Who’s a pretty girl, hah?” Nili-boy gave ‘Ilima a final ear ruffle and stood with a shrug.

“Probably. Get plenny sharks out there. Probably more than one.”

Jay bit his lip and nodded. “I think might have been two. One was big.” He looked at the Nili-boy, taking his eyes off the water for the first time. “Really, really big.”

“You seen sharks out there before?” asked Uncle Kahana.

Jay shrugged his shoulders. “Sometimes.”

“Big ones?”

“Yeah, but this one was…different.”

“Different how?” ask Nili-boy. “Different color, different fins?”

Jay looked at the ground, pushing sand with his toes. “I dunno how. I saw ‘em and I got chicken skin and I knew.”

Excerpted from One Boy, No Water by Lehua Parker. Copyright © 2012 by Lehua Parker. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

From One Boy, No Water

Book 1 of The Niuhi Shark Saga

I sensed it first, some motion out of the corner of my eye, color darting too fast against the sun. I flipped off my jacket’s hood and whipped my head toward the Nalupūkī shoreline in time to see someone scrambling out of the ocean, surfboard under one arm, the other waving wildly. “Shark!” he yelled, “shark, shark, shark!”

“Jay,” I said, and then I was gone, running full tilt over the rocks and to the beach, ‘Ilima at my heels.

Excerpted from One Boy, No Water by Lehua Parker. Copyright © 2012 by Lehua Parker. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

From One Boy, No Water

Book 1 in The Niuhi Shark Saga

Climbing over the first slippery finger, out the corner of his eye Kahana saw movement, a quick, angry flick of a tail near the far edge of the reef. Moving his hand to block the sun, he spotted the dark bullet shape cruising along the palm of the lava hand. He grinned and called, “Eh, Manō, I spak you! What? Hungry? Try off Waikiki beach, get choke white meat there! Ha! No way you going kaukau one skinny old man today!”

Excerpted from One Boy, No Water by Lehua Parker. Copyright © 2012 by Lehua Parker. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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