Thursday, September 24, 2009

Announcing Fourth Annual Creative Competition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, an online literary journal, announces its fourth annual creative competition. This year’s theme, “Postcards” is sponsored by the Garden Island Arts Council.

This year’s competition differs from previous years in two distinct ways.

First, cash prizes will be awarded in the following manner: First place, $100; second place, $50; third and fourth place, $25 each. 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.)

Second, in keeping with the theme, written and visual entries must “fit” on a postcard. For writing, entries must not exceed 100 words. For visual entries, submissions will be evaluated based on their impact when viewed as 4”x6” images (either horizontal or vertical).

Writing form does not matter—essay, story (imagined or real), memoir or poems are all welcome.

As in previous years, entries must be relevant to Kauai, in some manner. Kauai Backstory is a venue for rigorous writing with a view about Kauai. We look for writing that builds understanding, not walls. We encourage writing and imagery that engenders respectful dialogue for we believe one way to build community is through conversation. values the expression of all voices and delights in words and images that shift thinking and open minds threading us ever closer together in this calabash of a world in which we live. Entries will be judged on whether they achieve this vision or not.

A student category will be created pending interest and writing quality.

Contest participants may submit one written entry and one visual entry; however, you may not submit more than one written entry or more than one visual entry.

The deadline for submitting entries is midnight HST November 1, 2009. Text entries must be pasted into the body of an email (no attachments) and sent to

Images must be sized to 4”x6” at 75 dpi and sent as a jpg attachment. is intended to serve as a timely, interactive forum. Readers are encouraged to visit often and post comments.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


by Sherilyn Lee

“Grandma,” I said, “Can we stop here? I'd like to get some taro chips.”

I had seen the familiar packages of taro chips at the market when I arrived on the island for my annual trip to see my grandparents, but I chose to purchase mine directly from the source in Hanapepe, just as my family always had.

“Oh sure,” she replied. Time is plentiful on Kauai .

I pulled off the two lane road and parked under the shade of a tree near a cottage thick with green and white paint. An empty wooden bench sat in the yard like a child just slightly straying from his mother's side. A carved sign below the window frames read, “Kauai Taro Chip Factory.”

We called out a “hello,” and as I opened the screen door, it was so light, I first thought I had torn it off its hinges. As the door closed behind us, we stood in the middle of the factory’s production floor, a large kitchen. An old, black stove sat along the far wall where during previous visits the blue gas flames blazed beneath the two large woks of simmering oil. Frying taro sounds like an island storm so thick with rain that even the windshield wipers can’t keep up.

By the time we arrived today, the kitchen was cool and quiet. An elderly Japanese woman greeted us, wiping her wet hands on her apron. She and my grandmother were about the same age and height.

“Are you done for today?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” she said smiling. She and my grandmother nodded slightly and smiled at each other, a respectful, friendly greeting among the locals.

The woman stood behind the table filled with clear, soft plastic bags filled with taro chips.

“My granddaughter,” Grandma said, touching my arm, “is visiting from Los Angeles . She likes your taro chips.”

A white and green “Kauai Taro Factory” sticker on each bag listed the ingredients, but not the irrelevant calorie count or fat content. Even though it has been fried, the chip remains white, with fine purple threads, like an embroidered potato chip. The bag doesn’t reseal. Once it’s opened, all of the chips must be eaten.

“Oh, Los Angeles ,” she said as if I had traveled all the way from Antarctica .

I asked her for two packages. As the woman wrapped them in a plastic bag, I noticed that her knuckles were still swollen from years of planting and harvesting taro roots, a task that must be done by hand while hunched over a humid, swampy patch. I learned from another visit that the years of this hard work made her back ache continuously.

“Where’s the man who greets the tourists?” I asked, “My father enjoys talking with him every time he visits.”

“Oh,” the woman said slowly, “He had a stroke. He passed away last year.”

“I'm sorry to hear that,” I wished I hadn't asked. The floor creaked beneath my feet as I shifted my weight and wondered what I could say next. I wanted to say something to make it better.

My grandmother asked, “Who’s this?” looking up through her bifocals at a photo of the old man who used to sit on the bench.

“That’s him,” the woman said, “my husband.”

“Is this your husband?” replied Grandma.

“Yes,” the woman nodded, “A tourist from the Mainland took that picture. It was one of the last taken of him. When it came in the mail, he put it right there.”

She pointed to the precious artifact on the old refrigerator, a magnet that still held his touch.

“I remember him,” said Grandma.

“You do?” asked the woman, her voice just above a whisper.

“You do?” I turned to my grandmother.

“Yeah, he used to sing at the Bon dances. Oh, he used to sing big! Sometimes, he made up words as he was singing them,” said Grandma, turning to me, laughing.

The woman nodded and smiled, “Yes, he did,” she added, “And when he sang, people would tape record him. They even videotaped him.”

“It’s not the same without him,” said Grandma.

Car doors slammed and a tourist couple walked towards the factory.

“Grandma, we'd better go, she has customers.”

The Taro Chip Lady handed me an extra bag of chips, “Omiyage.”

Omiyage (oh-me-yah-geh), a little gift for or from a visitor given in fondness and remembrance.