Thursday, December 11, 2008 Announces Winners of 2008 Creative Competition congratulates the 2008 "Surf" creative competition winners Michelle Dick for her image, "The Waterman," Sandra Krawciw for her poem, "Watching Lincoln Surf," Ben House for his essay, "Remind Me I'm Alive," and Frank Reilly for his story, "Surf Dog."  And 11-grader Emily Rider for her untitled poem.

Winners and runners up (see list below) are invited to read and share their entries at a time and place to be determined in January.  Submissions of the contest winners and runners up will begin posting on after the public reading. is a venue for rigorous writing with a view about Kauai. Year-round, the on-line literary journal welcomes high-quality writing and thoughtful images from the public. All submissions are moderated by a three-person editorial board, however, not all are posted. encourages the expression of all voices and delights in words and images that shift thinking and open minds. Much like an on-line blog, encourages interactive dialogue with the hopes that the time-honored tradition of kama'ilio, talk story, will build community and understanding.

Runners Up:

Laurie Barton for "Surfer Cake" and "Ocean Death"

Faith Harding for her untitled submission

Alison Hummel for "Return to the Surf"

Sandra Krawciw for "Watching Daughters Surf"

John Ullis for "Surf Northshore"

Susan Ullis for "Tank in Sand"

Clouds and Sun Sing Hallelujah in Golds

Sharon Douglas

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Haiku by Catherine Pascual-Lo
Image by Carl Lo

When day is over
turtle doves return to roost
at their comfort zone.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


by Brian Doyle

I’ll tell you a surfing story, and this is the rare surf story that has no oceans or surfboards in it, because it’s about a guy who spent almost his whole life surfing situations and relationships, never falling in, never over his head, never breathless, always on top of the situation and never in or of it, you know what I mean? And he went half a century without ever getting his feet wet, and then, as so often is the case when we talk about hearts being startled awake, it was a kid who knocked him off his board and into the sea where hearts get hammered and startled and shivered and born again.

But I get ahead of myself. The guy’s name was Pete. He had been a terrific athlete as a kid and then he was a terrific hand with money and investments. He made boatloads of money, got lots of girls, traveled everywhere, did every dashing thing you can imagine, but after a while even the coolest girls would gently disentangle themselves, because, as one of them said with real affection, you never get tangled, Pete, and in the end we see that you don’t want to bother, and even someone who just wants to have fun can’t stay long, you know what I mean?

He did know what she meant, too, which is what stung.

He got all the way to age fifty like this, looking cool on the outside and not getting birthday cards from anyone, and no one except the doorman at his condo knowing when he was sick with the flu, and finally he sold his condo in Boston and bagged his lucrative master of the universe job and moved to Poipu and bought a condo on the beach and spent his time paddle-surfing, but nothing really changed and he had girls but no lovers and companions but no friends, you know what I mean? But finally what happened was he was driving drunk and got busted, and during the whole process of getting that fixed he met a detective who showed him the world of meth babies, kids whose parents were addicts and dumped them or burned them with cigarettes and dangled them from highway overpasses and evil shit like that, and there was a kid named Kimo who was four and both parents dead from meth, and this kid says to Pete one day, at the cop orphanage, how come you never look at me with both your eyes? and Pete says that was the moment everything cracked. He says it wasn’t like in the movies where there’s swelling music and the lights get brighter, in fact he said he wanted to slap the kid for being rude, but he didn’t, and eventually he adopted Kimo, it’s a long story and there’s no happy ending neither, because they argue like hell, and neither one of them can cook worth two cents as yet, and Kimo just got his face tattooed like a Maori for some reason, which sent Pete into a roaring fit like you read about.

But he roared, you know what I mean? If you are furious you’re not surfing, right?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Announcing Third Annual Writing Competition announces its third annual writing competition. This year’s theme is “Surf.”

Entries will be accepted in the following categories: essay, story, poem and visual image. A student category will be created pending interest and writing quality.

Entries must focus on Kauai. Participants are urged to express their thoughts, feelings and observations about the theme, “Surf” through the lens of their own unique experience and viewpoint.

Prizes will be awarded. Winners and other noteworthy contributors will be posted on and invited to read on a special night later this fall. (Date and place to be determined.) Writers may submit up to three entries. There is no word limit--brevity is encouraged but not required. Visit to view the quality of works posted and the blog’s mission statement.

The deadline for submitting entries is midnight HST November 15, 2008. Text entries must be pasted into the body of an email and sent to Images must be sent as a jpg attachment. is a venue for rigorous writing and imagery with a view about Kauai. The journal is intended to serve as a timely, interactive forum, and readers are encouraged to visit often and post comments. The editors look for writing that raises thought, not walls, and encourage writing that rouses respectful dialogue. The editors hope to build community and understanding through conversation. Think of as a conversation about Kauai.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

E Kala Mai Ia’u: A Reflection on Paddling

by Dena Cassella

In the matter of canoes, there was nothing to be understood. Everything was instinctual. Paddling canoes is the sport and spirit of Hawaii. A way to preserve a sacred culture in just seconds: spurts of remembrance when wave touches wood. It was a rite of passage. For me, it was a chance to redeem a fair complexion. I had always been a strong and structured girl, with broad shoulders and thick trunks of legs. Sturdy is what my father called me. Only feeling small and delicate while nestle in the sands of Makapu’u beach, sinking deep into the moist crumble of earth, feeling the sun boil and birth our connection as we’d melt into ourselves.

Digging deep into the current’s white splashed tips, I became a paddler at age ten. I became useful, fluid in motion and incredibly effective in a canoe. Dragging 600 pounds of hollowed Koa wood great distances with such elegant intensity sent shivers down my shoulders and awakened my body to the miracle performed by our crew of six girls. The canoe cradled me, positioned so neatly in its flat plank seats. It was my kumu, my teacher, nurturing my learning. I knew how to navigate the current of an open ocean, and keep the balance of the canoe in treacherous winds and unforgiving waves. Paddling was my being—I’d sweat salt water and breathe ocean breezes. There is no sensation more powerful than feeling as mighty as the sea.

In late May when I was nearing seventeen, something went wrong.

With the six of us seated and alert, we lined our vessel up to our starting mark, an empty gallon milk jug bobbing above its anchored self. We sat up straight and listened for our commands. Our coach, a tall, tan man screeched with intensity, hut ho, and we were off. Blades following one after the other in sync with our lunging bodies as we pulled the canoes down the murky stretch of canal. I dug my paddle hard and wrenched my body upright sternly. Harder and faster, the stroke count rose and we followed intently, not like young girls, but like brutish creatures with unstoppable resolve.

Without warning, it happened: I could not feel anything. Nothing. Not the dried layer of salt blanketing my skin, not my wrists, not my fingers, I could not feel the waxy wood of my own paddle in my grip. Nothing. I looked down at my limbs, for reassurance, and they still seemed intact. The sensation distracted me and our boat slowed down as we neared the finish. My crew relaxed breathing heavy sighs of exhaustion. I lay my paddle on my lap and stared at my fingers, plump and tense, and watched as my hands uncontrollably shook and twitched. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what this was. I panted, turned to the girl in the seat behind me and displayed my hands in her face. My eyes releasing a flood of tears made her panic and share in my numb terror. She held them still with her own tired hands, trying to stop the shaking, but she could not. The weary head of every girl in the vessel perked up, confused and frightened by my condition. The shaking grew worse. It weakened my body, stripping me of my sturdiness, causing me to slowly slip out of my plank seat in the canoe. Only my weeping strengthened. Mixing with the salty film of dried canal water, my tears rushed down my cheeks, bombarding my lips with a rotten taste.

Carpal tunnel syndrome said a doctor, who suggested surgery and I refused it. Damaged nerves, said another doctor, frequent ice baths. But they did say one thing in common you cannot be fixed. But I could not stop paddling. Though my body pleaded with its mental, and my performance as a paddler weakened, I did not know how to exist with out it. I did not want to exist with out it. After two more years of numbed races and practices, my parents told me to quit. But it is hard to leave your successes behind you. It is harder to leave your entire being behind you. The sacrifice of belonging: the trade off of ethnicity and identity, pale and tan, an existence and a life.

I still go to races, to sit, and watch the canoes take off. I nest near the shorelines, by old hala trees and smooth water-washed stones, and I wait. Feeling all I can in my sandy burrow, the tiny dips of indented skin on my thigh from the clinging granules, never letting me go, and the warm sticky island air rushing from ocean to meet my face with humid kisses. I wait to remember the delicate neck of the paddle and the miraculous sensation of muscles moving. Digging my hands deeper into the grainy surrounding, grasping what I can of the sodden sands beneath my body, holding it tight and desperate. With browning skin blistering in the sun’s rage, I silently request forgiveness from the waves, and understanding from the wooden vessels fighting the tide out to the starting mark. E kala mai ia’u, I beg them, pardon me for sitting these races out.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Open Yo Maka

by SistaG

where everything's nice
palms are swaying
and folks are saying

things in pidgeon
it's almost a religeon
this way of life
the illusion of no strife.

where everything's nice
on the surface at least
Just don't look too deep

where everything's nice
yeah, right
we've all been asleep

wake up sweet brother,
little sista too
your folks are old
it's up to you.

and it takes more than
stink eye
to get the big guys
to change.
listen to your heart
don't get shame,

we still got
more than a lot
to work with
to get them to stop.

and remember
even folks that do
stand firm and true,
even they get shaken
when more is taken

by those in power.
can't you see the hour
is drawing near
for all we hold dear,

All that we love
all that we say
we put above
all else?

It takes a very strong man
or woman or child
to have the vision
to keep it wild

here in Paradise
where everything's nice

so let's be wise
for a change...

Monday, April 14, 2008

In the Heart of a Kauai Winter

by Sharon Douglas

A symphony of bird song celebrates the clear, blue, what will become an 80-something-sunny day. Doves coo. The white and black shama thrush click, and sing their complex little songs. Red cardinals sound like melodious cars starting their singing engines. A rooster, or two, or three … punctuate the cacophony with a “How do you do?”

Green lushness, on closer inspection reveals a color splotched canvas: Papaya trees laden with sunrise papayas; yellow edged palm fronds form green splayed fans; hand shaped hau leaves on tangled trees with flowers that change from yellow to a red-orange when they drop; ti leaves splattered in intense yellow or pink blotches; and pink and white tipped snowbush. Splotches of color-on-green.

Drive down to the west side and see light green breadfruit footballs growing in trees, protected by waxy dark green leaves. Or see tall, tassleless sugarcane grass swaying gently as it still grows.

Even more vivid are the intense egg yolk scrambled flowers etched high against blue sky on the yellow shower trees. There’s the one near the Koloa fire-station, and then there are a few as you head out of Waimea Town. This yellow scramble of color, high up and, then, lower down, the yellow hibiscus smile brightly. Or there are the cup of gold vines that compete with the intense cerise and purple and hot pink bougainvillea.

There are also the African tulip trees with their vividly orange cup-like blooms. These are profuse and their abundant color can be seen almost everywhere on Kauai.

And, should you head up to Holy Cross Church from the west side into Kalaheo: the flaming Mexican vine, ablaze in orange as it drips off, garlanding green shrubs and trees in the valley to the south.

At sunset, a bikini clad walk, on Kekaha’s long wide soft champagne colored beaches can be enjoyed. Shawl of water fringed by waves lapping onto silky shores leads to foamy feast fondling naked feet.

The sound of the ocean: huhwash! and silence… Gahwash! Sh…sh and silence is the background music, as the watermelon-gold sun-orb drops behind the Forbidden Island, Niihau, huge whale-like silhouette, and slowly withdraws its energy in long rays that trail across the now pearly gray-mauve ocean.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Deep in the Heart of a Kauai Winter

by Laurie Barton

We watched Candace and Roy
exchange their vows in Hawaiian
on a beach whose name was changed
by a letter getting blown off a sign.

Anini Beach had heavy wind that day.
Waves were knocking hard against the reef.
Candace and Roy promised to stay together
though their parents hadn't
(and neither had most of our parents--
inundating us with partners, step-sisters,
second ex-wives.)

Candace's dad showed up in a sailboat,
telling big stories of the Baja Ha Ha
rally. Passing beers all around on the beach.
Candace's brother had sailed in, too,
the kind of guy who wanted solitude.
Pacing the shore,
keeping his eye on the ocean
that would swallow him up again soon.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Is Creativity the Answer?

by Hannah Rees

My heart is aching for all the senseless killings
that go on all over the world. Yesterday was
supposed to be a day celebrating love – the respect
and cherishing of one human being for another - yet
someone thought it would be impressive to re-create
the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and walked into a
lecture hall at Northern Illinois University – the
same university our daughter attended a few years
ago – and shot 6 students attending the lecture,
before shooting himself.

A few weeks ago 5 shoppers were shot down in front
of a Lane Bryant store in Chicago. We read of
suicide bombers and missile attacks all over the

As we bask in the aloha – the celebration of the
breath of life here on Kauai – I am saddened by
these news reports and by the anguish that must
reside in the killer's heart for his/her life to be
filled with the wish to destroy.

I have read that “creativity is the antithesis of
destruction” and I''m wondering if our consuming
world has negated the basic joy of creativity. We
are encouraged to opt for any ready-made product
instead of making anything ourselves. Our children
are often taught to be entertained, to play games,
to win, to use and to waste. And when the budget
gets tight, what do our schools eliminate from the
curriculum first - the art and music program! Of
course there are exceptions, but overall the
classroom is thought to be a stepping stone to
earning money to buy things. Things do not provide
one with the joy of self discovery found through the
process of creating.

Creating takes time and intention. Relationships
need both time and intention to develop, just as the
building of a house, planting a garden, keeping a
pet, cooking a meal or writing of a poem. Creativity
requires a person to invest of himself, his ideas,
his dreams. I wonder if more energy were used in
creating, perhaps the dissatisfaction that leads to
suicide and the destructive killing that is
encompassing our world would lessen.

One can only hope.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jungle Jam

by SistaG

Remember me?
I live here in Haena
under a tree
where I like to spend a
day at the beach
so I'm gonna send a
fax or an e
to get you here with me!

I have a little place
in Hanalei
a river runs thru
we could spend the day
walking thru the jungle
careful not to tumble
in the hila hila
I just wanna steal ya!

Come spend the day, baby
come spend the day
You'll love the jungle
you'll love the bay

Come spend the day, baby
into the night
Then in the morning
ahm onna take you chicken fight!

Take me down the coast
we'll sail to Wainiha
Park our little boat
out on the sand bar
build a little fire
pretend we're castaways
tell me what you require
to be led astray!

Come spend the day, baby
come spend the day
You'll love the jungle
you'll love the bay

come spend the day, baby
into the night
I'll feed you mangoes
you'll love every bite!

And then I'll dance the hula
and you'll dream the kama sutra. . .

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Biggest Cockroach in the History of the Universe

by Brian Doyle

Lives in a house on the north shore of the island of Kauai,
The one island never conquered by the old Hawaiian kings,
And you can see why, if there were insects the size of cars,
Which there are, and there are stories of roaches who tried
To catch and eat Hawaiian monk seals, and of even larger
Roaches who banded together to try to conquer Honolulu,
And of one roach, this was a heroic and mountainous one,
Who flagged down a truck and ejected the terrified driver
And tried to digest the truck, which is a phrase you never
Hardly hear, and there are still stories, and I believe them,
Of roaches who occasionally get such a yen for cable TV
That they break into houses and overdose on NBA games
And are found days later staggering around in the forests
Muttering about assist-to-turnover ratio and similar stuff,
But a story like that you have to take with a grain of salt.
Anyway the biggest cockroach in the history of roaches,
Periplaneta Americana is his name, lives in Hanalei Bay,
Right near Michael Crichton, who is the famous novelist,
But the people of Hanalei, they misdirect you on purpose
If you ask for where either of their most famous residents
Live, and you can understand that, it’s a form of affection
And respect really, so the thing is, when I tell you that the
Biggest cockroach in the history of the universe, an insect
Big enough to have its own area code and zoning precinct,
Big enough to change the weather, bigger even than Oprah,
Lives on the north shore of Kauai, well – don’t tell anyone.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Note on the Birds of Hawaii

by Brian Doyle

There is of course the ‘a, the booby with the red feet,
Says a tiny man at the Foodland, to whom I had said
Merely wow, is that a frigatebird over the parking lot?
And then of course there is your ‘akikiki, the creeper,
And ‘i’iwi and ‘o’u’ and nukupu, also honeycreepers,
And pueo, the little owl, and ‘io, the Hawaiian hawk,
And ‘ulili, the little tattler who wanders, and our ‘o’o,
She is the honeyeater, the cousin of the honeycreeper,
And ‘elepaio, the flycatcher, and ‘alala, old man crow,
And huna kai, the sanderling, her name is ocean foam,
And hoio, the shearwater, he lives in caves by the sea,
And ao, she is another shearwater, what a lovely word,
Shearwater, don’t you think? And then uau, the petrel,
And aukuu, the night heron, and koloa, he is our duck,
And of course you know nene, the goose, and ewaewa,
The tern, and kolea, the plover, he comes every winter,
And ukeke, the turnstone, and amaui, that is the thrush,
And the curlew who balances on one leg, she is ‘kioea.
Did you get all that? Are you writing down every thing
I say? Are you a book writer? Do you speak Hawaiian?
Do you want more names of birds? There is the mejiro,
That is the Japanese word for the little bird in the bush,
And piha’ekelo, that is the mynah, he comes from India,
And manumele, the canary, he comes from oversea too,
And shama, the thrush, he comes from elsewhere, India
Also I think, although I am not sure about that, I am not
Very knowledgeable about the birds. My dad, however,
He would tell us stories about birds he loved as a child,
Birds who are no more on any of the islands of Hawaii,
One was the mamo, who drank from flowers like a bee,
And another was a very tiny green one who ate crickets
But who never got a name because no one ever saw her.
That is all I can remember and say about our birds here.
Do you have any other things that I can help you with?
Yes sir, I say. I am curious about a word for this place,
May I ask what is the name for where we are standing?
Why, this is Foodland, he says, and we lose it laughing
And both go in to get whatever it was we came to buy.
By pure chance we cross paths a little later as we leave,
And he says here is one last name for you to remember,
That is ‘iwa, the thief, the frigatebird, and yes, that was
Her over the parking lot a while ago, isn’t she glorious?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Deep in the Heart of a Kauai Winter

It is way too quiet this winter at Kauai Backstory, so we are tossing out a writing prompt: Deep in the heart of a Kauai winter.

Use this as a place to start writing or photographing. Does it conjure up an image? Maybe write a poem, then. Does it conjure up a scene? Write a story, then. Does it make you want to preach about something? Write an essay, then. Or, get out in the blustery weather and take some pictures. Basically, take it and run. Have fun. Then, send it to us. We won't guarantee we'll post everything we receive, but if we like it, if it moves us, if we laugh, cry, scream or sigh, we just may publish it on Kauai Backstory.

We'll accept submissions on this theme through the end of winter--whenever we deem that to be or, more accurately, whenever Mother Nature deems that to be. Please send your submission to

As always, thanks for writing. Thanks for sharing. Be sure to visit often.

Gae, Kim, Pam

Thursday, January 31, 2008


by Kerith Edwards

When morning stands fresh
dilated cool with wind and sun
my heart—
having totaled rainy workadays—
remembers instead
long-sighted swell
watched to here!
wave mounted
ridden to low.
Lure me again, darling
yours today and forever,
my blue Kauai.