Haiku author aims to help others discover their voice

KAPALUA – Authors, agents and editors from across the United States gathered for the inaugural Aloha Writers Conference on Saturday at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.

The four-day event, which started Friday and will end Monday, gives participants the opportunity to converse with about 30 published authors and agents.

New York Times best-selling author and Haiku resident Rebecca Walker served as one of the keynote speakers and shared her reasons for why she writes.

“Why write?” she said to a crowd of more than 200 in the hotel’s Plantation Ballroom. “I think those of us who write have to ask ourselves why we do what we do and what’s important about it.”

Walker, whose mother is Alice Walker, the author of “The Color Purple,” traced her writing back to her childhood and remembered her parents as “gladiators” who “wielded their words like swords.”

Walker attributes much of her love for reading and writing to her mother but said it was difficult to see herself as a writer.

When her mother was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Rebecca Walker was suddenly the focus of several media outlets.

“Do you want to be a writer like your mother or a lawyer like your father?” she was asked at the time. “What was it like being the daughter of a great writer . . . a woman who changed the world with her words?”

Walker told the audience that she writes for a combination of reasons, including her desires to “change the world,” “digest the past” and “unearth the future.”

In a follow-up interview, she said that her goal at the conference was to help writers discover their voice and encourage their development.

“I wanted to support them in their process of finding their voice and let them know that, even though there are risks involved to writing your truth, it’s often worth it,” she said.

Walker, who has been living on the Valley Isle with her husband and son for the past seven years, said that one of the reasons she got involved with the conference was to do something for the local community.

“I just wanted to lend my experience to a community and contribute to building a literary community here on Maui,” she said.

Keiki O Ka ‘Aina, a nonprofit that develops educational programs for the Native Hawaiian community, is the sponsor for the conference, and Director of Development Vicki Draeger said that the arrangement was established in order to promote Hawaiian writers.

The Ritz-Carlton previously hosted the Maui Writers Conference, which lasted 17 years before moving to Oahu in 2009. The conference, however, was for profit. When it was discontinued on Oahu, Draeger said, the organization wanted to bring the conference back and hopefully use any of the proceeds to fund its numerous programs.

“This year we’re hoping to break even,” she said. “But we’re hoping as we build it up . . . that it will be a successful fundraiser for (the organization), but most importantly that it’s still putting an emphasis on literacy.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at