I have two pieces of big news. First, I’m now being represented by Beth Marshea of Ladderbird Literary Agency! She will be looking for a home for my new novel, Sun Dogs, as well as handling my screenplays (I have one for my self-published novel, A Chant of Love and Lamentation, as well as The White Witch of Rose Hall, set in plantation-era Jamaica).
Second, I’m now the Fiction Editor for the literary journal Sand Hill Review. This was the journal who took my first published story (“Wild Horses”) and who nominated that same work for a Pushcart. SHR has been very good to me, and I’m happy to give back as they make some new exciting changes to their format.
Fellow writers, we are open to submissions! We have a submission fee, but (for now) as we begin the process of soliciting submissions, the competition is minimal. We’d love to see your work.
I touched on the issue of homelessness in A Chant of Love and Lamentation, as it has long been problematic in Hawai’i. The source of the problem runs deep into mental health, drugs, and the high cost of living, but homeless from other parts of the nation are often given a one-way ticket to Hawai’i. Sending them to the islands is often seen as a great solution because they end up in a place where they never have to worry about freezing temperatures, and those who send them probably think they are doing something good, but the fact that they can’t come back is obviously a major part of it. Hawai’i has lost most of its agricultural land to development, making it an import economy which is particularly dependent upon others, plus the notoriously high cost of living makes it very hard for someone without the right combination of education, startup funds, support networks, and job prospects to better their situation.
In Chant, the homelessness situation becomes rapidly worse following a one-two punch of economic and social disorder, and tosses fuel to the smoldering fire of unrest. This situation will only get worse before it can get better.
Behind the Spark: “You Can’t Do That in Short Fiction!”
Brian Lewis, editor of Spark: A Creative Anthology, started a new series discussing his reasons for selecting certain stories for inclusion in his literary journal, and chose to feature “Her Fruitful Shore” for the first entry! He starts with an examination of my story’s approach and the “rules” it breaks. After that is my response, where I discuss the story’s origins, evolution, and inspiration. I’m pleased to have been chosen for this, and think this series can be insightful for other writers.
As a member of a Hawaiian Sovereignty listserve, I received this interesting email today. The process of pushing for an independent Hawai`i is a lot less intense, abrupt, and fraught with human misery than in my novel, for sure.
For Immediate Release – August 10, 2012
Contact: Dr. David Keanu Sai, Ph.D.
Telephone: (808) 383-6100
Hawaiian Kingdom Protest and Demand filed with United Nations General Assembly against the United States of America and one hundred seventy-two (172) member-States of the United Nations
NEW YORK, 11 August 2012 — On Friday afternoon, August 10, the Ambassador-at-large and Agent for the acting Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom, H.E. Dr. David Keanu Sai, Ph.D., filed with the President of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York a Protest and Demand against the United States of America concerning the prolonged occupation of the Hawaiian Islands since the Spanish American War of 1898, and 172 member-States of the United Nations. All the named States in the Protest have treaty relations with the Hawaiian Kingdom either as States or as successor States to their predecessor. There are forty-six (46) States and one hundred twenty-seven (127) successor States that have treaty relations with the Hawaiian Kingdom.
The Protest was received and acknowledged by Dr. Hanifa Mezoui, Ph.D., Special Coordinator, Third Committee and Civil Society, Office of the President of the Sixty-Sixth Session of the General Assembly. The Protest was also received and acknowledged by the Executive Secretary of the G-77 at the United Nations, and the Executive Secretary of the Council of Presidents, a think tank of former Presidents of the United Nations that advise the sitting President of the General Assembly. One hundred twenty (120) of the named States are members of the G-77.
The Protest and Demand was filed with the General Assembly in accordance with Article 35(2) of the United Nations Charter, which provides, “a State which is not a Member of the United Nations may bring to the attention of the Security Council or of the General Assembly any dispute to which it is a party if it accepts in advance, for the purpose of the dispute, the obligations of pacific settlement provided in the present Charter.” The Hawaiian Kingdom is a non-Member State of the United Nations.
The Protest and Demand calls upon the United Nations General Assembly:
1. To ensure the United States of America comply with the 1893 Lili‘uokalani assignment & Agreement of restoration, 1899 Hague Convention, IV, the 1949 Geneva Convention, IV, and international law, as hereinafter described;
2. To ensure that the United States of America establishes a military government, to include tribunals, to administer and enforce the civil and penal laws of the Hawaiian Kingdom pursuant to the 1893 Lili‘uokalani assignment and Article 43 of the 1907 Hague Convention, IV, as hereinafter described;
3. To ensure that all member States of the United Nations shall not recognize as lawful the United States of America’s presence and authority within the territory, territorial seas, exclusive economic zone and airspace of the Hawaiian Kingdom, except for its temporary and limited authority vested under the 1893 Lili‘uokalani assignment and Article 43 of the 1907 Hague Convention, IV, as hereinafter described;
4. To ensure full reparation for the injury caused by the serious breach of obligations and internationally wrongful acts in the form of restitution, compensation and satisfaction, whether singly or in combination.
The Ambassador-at-large and Agent for the Protest, Dr. Sai, served as lead Agent for the acting Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom in arbitral proceedings before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom, 119 International Law Reports 566 (2001). The Arbitral Tribunal in the Larsen arbitration comprised of Professor James Crawford, SC, Presiding Arbitrator, who at the same time was a member of the United Nations International Law Commission and Special Rapporteur on State Responsibility (1997-2001); Professor Christopher Greenwood, QC, Associate Arbitrator, who now serves as a Judge on the International Court of Justice since February 6, 2009; and Gavan Griffith, QC, Associate Arbitrator, who served as former Solicitor General for Australia. The jurisdictional basis of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom was a dispute between a State and a private person. Dr. Sai also served as Agent for the acting Government when a a Complaint was filed against the United States of America with the United Nations Security Council on July 5, 2001, under the Presidency of China.
The Hawaiian Kingdom will withdraw States named in the Protest and Demand, with the exception of the United States of America, when these States shall declare, whether individually or collectively, that they will not recognize as lawful the United States of America’s presence and authority within the territory, territorial seas, exclusive economic zone and airspace of the Hawaiian Kingdom according to Article 41(2), Responsibility of States for International Wrongful Acts (2001), except for the United States’ temporary and limited authority vested by virtue of the 1893 Lili‘uokalani assignment, Article 43 of the 1907 Hague Convention, IV, and international law.
The Hawaiian Kingdom achieved the recognition of its independence as a sovereign State on November 28, 1843 by joint proclamation from Great Britain and France and by 1893, the Hawaiian Kingdom maintained over ninety (90) Legations and Consulates throughout the world. The Hawaiian Kingdom has been a Member State of the Universal Postal Union since January 1, 1882, which is currently an agency of the United Nations.
This case arises out of the prolonged and illegal occupation of the entire territory of the Hawaiian Kingdom by the United States of America since the Spanish-American War on August 12, 1898, and the failure on the part of the United States of America to establish a direct system of administering the laws of the Hawaiian Kingdom. There are currently 119 United States military sites throughout the Hawaiian Islands encompassing 230,622 acres of land under the command and control of the United States Pacific Command whose headquarters is situated on the Island of O‘ahu. These military sites have been illegally established within the territory of the Hawaiian Kingdom and have consequently placed the Hawaiian State and its population in grave danger from military attack by foreign States, e.g. Japan’s military attack of United States military sites on the Island of O‘ahu on December 7, 1941, and the threat of missile attacks from China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the Russian Federation.
The United States disguised its occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom as if a treaty of cession annexed the Hawaiian Islands. There is no treaty. For the past 114 years, the United States of America has committed a serious international wrongful act and deliberately misled the international community that the Hawaiian Islands had been incorporated into the territory of the United States. It has unlawfully imposed its internal laws, by Congressional legislation, over Hawaiian territory, which includes its territorial seas, its exclusive economic zone, and its airspace, in violation of its treaties with the Hawaiian Kingdom, the 1907 Hague Convention, IV, the 1949 Geneva Convention, IV, and international law.
The Protest and Demand and Annexes will soon be available on online at:
 Bederman & Hilbert, “Arbitration—UNCITRAL Rules—justiciability and indispensable third parties—legal status of Hawai‘i,” 95 American Journal of International Law 927-933 (2001).
 Patrick Dumberry, “The Hawaiian Kingdom Arbitration Case and the Unsettled Question of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s Claim to Continue as an Independent State under International Law,” 2(1) Chinese Journal of International Law 655-684 (2002); and David Keanu Sai, “A Slippery Path towards Hawaiian Indigeneity: An Analysis and Comparison between Hawaiian State Sovereignty and Hawaiian Indigeneity and its Use and Practice in Hawai’i today,” 10 Journal of Law and Social Challenges 68-133 (Fall 2008).
Folks have been asking what happened at the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, which I attended in Seattle a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a synopsis of the trip.
In the days leading up to the trip I was growing increasingly anxious, for two reasons. First, I knew I had to speak for several minutes about the inspiration for A Chant of Love and Lamentation, and then read a portion of it. I’m no public speaker, and often find my voice clenching up in nervousness when trying to explain something friends. Second, so much was hanging on an unknown that I was growing anxious about that alone. A few days before departure, I finally pinned down the selection I was going to read at the ceremony — the end of Charlie’s section in Part One, the scene where he has killed the boar and is running with a torch through the night jungle. I chose it because I liked the evocative imagery (reminiscent of Lord of the Flies), and because it is a good moment in the book. I also wrote out a bunch of notes from which to deliver my speech. This was necessary because I didn’t want to be flailing around up there, searching for words. Under pressure, my mind has a tendency to shut down.
Rae and I have a toddler, so we needed someone to look after her. Thankfully, Rae’s mom Jeannie volunteered to stay at our house for a couple of days and do the honors. There were a couple of other complications: We were to leave mid-afternoon on what is literally the last day of school at Rae’s job, and upon returning on Sunday I had to spend hours reading and submitting grades for my college composition course.
We flew to Seattle, a short trip on a tiny plane. When we landed, we were met at the baggage carousel by a chauffeur with my name on a sign. This was a real first for me, one of many. He drove us to the downtown Seattle Hyatt in a Lincoln towncar. As Rae and I checked in (the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in, by the way — what a lobby!), the counter rep said I had a couple of packages. The first package was a long white box courtesy of my mother, stepfather, and grandmother. In it were two lei, one for Rae and one for me. I wore the long lei with the maile vines and purple flowers after the ceremony, and Rae wore the white rose lei.
The other package was a “swag bag” from Amazon/Penguin, containing several trade paperbacks from various authors. Notable among them was the Young Adult winner from last year’s ABNA contest (“Spookygirl”) and a hardback version of Kerouack’s On the Road. But to my shock, the bag also contained a Kindle Touch! Both Rae and I have wanted one for a while. Up to now, I’ve been reading my downloaded Kindle books through my iPod, so this was pretty sweet.
Our room was gorgeous. There was a large King-sized bed, a wonderful view, and a marble bathroom with a huge tub and glass shower. In fact, the bathroom alone was worth half the room’s price, I’m sure. I didn’t want to leave on Sunday!
Another entrant in the General Fiction category, Alan Averill, had kindly set up an informal dinner + drinks for everyone at a restaurant near Pike Place Market, a short walk away. This is where we first met everyone. Rae and I sat at one end of a long table where we got to chat with Charles Kelly (my other General FIction “competitor”), Rebecca Phillips (Young Adult entry: Out of Nowhere), and her husband Jason. Great conversation over a delicious meal is one of life’s pleasures.
We retired to our hotel room and got some sleep. In the morning, our host from Amazon, Thom Kephart, brought us all to breakfast at a posh restaurant. How posh? Posh enough to serve octopus for breakfast. Also on the menu: gravlax, a source of much puzzlement for all of us. At breakfast we got to meet folks from Penguin publishing — at our end of the table was Kent, a great guy who is Penguin’s go-between with Amazon.
Following breakfast, we all had several hours to kill in Seattle. I used to live there, and Rae has been several times, so we didn’t feel the need to fill the hours with touristy things. Instead, we walked around Pike Place Market looking for a gift for Jeannie and to enjoy the morning. We did a little more shopping, then retreated to the hotel room to get some rest. By this point our nerves were jangling and we could hardly do anything else. I practiced and polished my speech and tried my best to keep my mind off it all.
Then we all met in the lobby once more, filed into a white van, and drove to the Olympic Park’s PACCAR Pavilion for the ceremony. By this point all of us were beside ourselves with anxiety, excitement, and wonder at the strangeness of the experience. Inside the large, glass-walled room there was a podium, wine bar, and three food stations, plus a dozen large round tables. Already there were people waiting for the event to start, and even more arrived as we stood around, too nervous to know what to do with ourselves. We met quite a few industry people, from both Amazon and Penguin, as well as the winner from a couple of years ago who had come to speak at the ceremony.
We tried our best to eat, and somehow I managed to get through a plate of food. Then the speeches began, first from distinguished guests, and then from us contestants. They went through Young Adult first. It began with Cassandra, who was both fortunate and unfortunate to be selected first. Then Rebecca spoke and read, and finally Young Adult ended with Regina. I think everyone enjoyed her speech, which compared the way children continually try to get their parents to “look” with the same impulse in writers. She should write that up as an essay, actually.
General Fiction got underway, starting with Alan. By this point I was having a hard time focusing on the actual content of the speech, so I remember very little about what Alan said. Charles came next, and what stood out to me was how confident he appeared, but more than that, how he seemed to have his entire passage memorized, because he almost never looked down at the paper while reading!
At last it was my turn. Mine was the closing presentation. I admit I had tunnel vision as I went up to the podium and began to talk, and I thought my nervousness was apparent, but Rae says I looked very sure of myself while speaking and reading, and this was supported by video of my speech. I attribute it to preparation, as well as over ten years of classroom teaching experience, which went a long way to lessening my terror of public speaking.
Once I sat down, Thom Kephart took the podium again to announce the winners. Regina won for Young Adult, then went up for a thank-you speech. Then they announced the General Fiction winner: Alan Averill, for The Beautiful Land. I felt a moment of disappointment, but this was assuaged by the fact that Alan is a great guy who also deserved to win. In fact, as Rae and I discussed in the days leading up to the event, it’s a shame there couldn’t be three winners, and losing to either Alan or Charles wouldn’t be a terrible thing.
The ceremony over, we all rode back in the van to the hotel. I would have liked to go out some more, but I think all of us were wrung out by that point. It was the last we saw of each other in person (though we are now all friends and remain in contact). Rae and I ventured out that night for some late-night pizza, then slept like babies in the huge bed, relieved that it was all over, one way or another.
The next day we were driven in a towncar back to the airport and flew the short trip home. As I mentioned, I had to immediately retreat to my office upstairs and start grading, which wasn’t done until midnight. Not my preferred way to end such a trip, but at least most of the grading had been done long before.
As a coda to the trip, Alan and his wife came to Portland the next day, a trip they had planned long before he even knew he was a Finalist. I got to spend a couple of hours chatting with them and having drinks and just generally getting to know Alan as something other than an opponent. He’s a great guy and we share a lot in common, as it turns out.
So: No, I didn’t win. But making it to Finalist was, in itself, like winning. I’m now seeking representation from agents and starting to think about my next novel.
I encourage anyone thinking about entering the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award to give it a shot. For one, it’s free — already putting it apart from other contests out there. It also has a great support network in the discussion boards, and it draws big names in the publishing field. Even if one doesn’t win, contestants who make it into the second and third rounds receive feedback and a review which can be used to help direct their editing efforts.
What an adventure! Making it to Finalist was surely one of the biggest events of my writing career.
Also, there was this awesome crystal award…
In less than 24 hours the winners of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award will be announced. I’m writing this in the king sized bed in our swank Hyatt room in downtown Seattle, where Amazon has put us up for the event, and I can’t stop thinking about how all the waiting and anticipation over the last four weeks is about to come to an end.
It’s a bit like that classic Schrödinger’s Cat experiment, where an unknown outcome is not determined until observed. In that experiment, a live cat is placed in a box with a device that will release deadly cyanide gas into the air if a certain radioactive particle decays within a certain period of time. According to the theory of quantum physics, the cat is neither dead nor alive — thus the outcome not determined — until the experimenter opens the box and observes the state of the cat.
Like that poor kitty, for the past two weeks I’ve been in an uncertain state. When the voting period for ABNA ended, the radioactive particle either decayed or didn’t, and I’ve either won or lost already. In fact, for the last two weeks I’ve already either won the contest or lost it, and now I’m just waiting to open the box and find out which it is.
Despite all the nail-biting anticipation and yearning to know the outcome, at the same time these last few weeks since being told I am a Finalist have been dreamy and full of hope, and for that I am going to miss them.
Tonight all six winners, along with their guests (my wife, Rae, in my case) went out to a place by the iconic Pike Place Market to have dinner and drinks and finally meet each other. They are wonderful people and I wish we could all win. It’s been an honor being able to make it so far in this competition. The next time I update this blog will most certainly be after the winner is announced at the end of the 3-hour awards ceremony tomorrow night. Wish me luck.
Last week I was interviewed by Steven Mark of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, who wanted to do a story on A Chant of Love and Lamentation reaching the Finals in the ABNA contest. This morning I received a Google Alert telling me about 1 new result for “a chant of love and lamentation.” The article is up in the Sunday paper today. Here’s the link. You might need a subscription to view the whole article. I’ll see if I can post it after some time has passed.
I was interviewed by Steven Mark two times, both for about half an hour, and he asked very probing and insightful questions. The article discussed the competition, then provided a little background on my history with Hawai`i and my thoughts on the sovereignty movement. He had also asked about the process of writing the book, how it had changed, and where some of my ideas came from, and a few of my answers were included in his article. For example, when he asked why I had chosen to focus on so much conflict, I told him that I don’t think one could see change happen quickly without some extreme deprivation, and conflict is interesting and makes for a better read than slow political progress.
Steven Mark also mentioned my time as a cab driver and other local experiences that helped me flesh out characters. He ended by pointing out that I’m aware of the delicate nature of the topic, but that I wanted to tell the story.
It was exciting to see a mention in the paper! To this day I don’t know how “locals,” those of Hawaiian descent, sovereigntists, or any combination of the above will receive this novel. I have a fervent hope that they will see that violence is not glorified in “Chant” — in fact, the way real freedom is won is through the political process by smart and driven characters, and those who commit violent acts are shown as remorseful, cowardly, or damaged. I’m a firm believer in self-determination for kanaka maoli, and hope this novel resonates with readers.
So the big news is actually already a week old: I am a finalist in this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. This contest is held every year, and 10,000 writers split between the categories of Young Adult and General Literature can enter their novels for a chance to win a publishing contract and a $15,000 dollar advance. The judging involves several rounds of elimination, and entrants have to have a pretty solid pitch and excerpt if they hope to beat out their competition.
I entered A Chant of Love and Lamentation last year and didn’t make it past the Quarterfinals. Following that, I put Chant through a pretty extensive reworking, where I even took a primary character and shifted her back to become a secondary character whose POV we never enter. That was a great change because I just couldn’t get her “right” for some reason. Maybe that’s because she is female, maybe because she is young, maybe something else. Whatever the reason, it just wasn’t happening. I also trimmed down the first part to make a more streamlined excerpt.
As mentioned in my earlier blog posts, I put it up for sale on Smashwords and other sites in December. Then in January I decided to enter the ABNA contest again on a whim. Unlike last year, I swore this time I wouldn’t let it get under my skin. I’d enter my novel and let it go and see what happens.
Well, as I passed through each round it became harder and harder to ignore it. Finally, when I was on the list for the Semi-Finalists, limited to 50 people in each category, it suddenly became all too real.
This stage is perhaps the hardest, because there are so few people and yet only three get to move on. Those lucky three are actually notified a week before the official Amazon press release, because there is a raft of paperwork that must be filled in — quickly — and anyone who fails to do so gets left behind in favor of the next person. Amazon needs a little buffer period so they know for sure that their selections will be available.
When I got “The Call,” I was in southern California, in the little desert town of Victorville, visiting my mother-in-law. At first, when the woman on the phone said she was calling from Amazon, I thought someone had made a customer complaint (I also sometimes sell used books online). But my wife, Rae, knew instantly what it was about and started jumping in elation. The woman started telling me the process of what would happen and I did my best to listen and write it down. Then the brief call was over and I was left floating around all afternoon, giddy and terrified.
The next day, just as I was finishing a sandwich, the phone rang again. This time it was a conference call with several bigwigs over at Penguin headquarters in NYC. They wanted to interview me and ask some questions about the book. It’s a good thing I didn’t know that call was coming, because I would have been terrified. It’s also a good thing I had enough caffeine so I could think quick enough to answer their questions.
For another week we couldn’t say anything, and keeping it under our hat was very hard. I had to scramble to print out, sign, and fax all the paperwork back in time. Then when they finally made the announcement, it became real.
As of this writing it has been two weeks since I got “The Call,” and I’ve been very busy. For one, I had a bunch of student essays to read and critique for the online composition course I teach through Chemeketa Community College. I also wanted to revisit this site and do a bunch of remodeling work. There has also been the slow work of getting the word out about the competition.
It’s now just after midnight, Wednesday, June 30. That means there is less than 21 hours left for voting in the contest. Once that voting period ends, I will be both relieved and more anxious — relieved because I can start worrying about things other than the votes, and more anxious because then fate has been decided for one of us (the three General Literature entrants: Alan Averill, Charles Kelly, and myself). But we won’t know who was chosen by popular vote until June 16th.
On that date, we will all be in Seattle for the awards ceremony. From what I’ve gathered, each of us will present a short excerpt from our novels and talk about its inspiration (my heart already wants to skip a beat at the thought of this). Once we’re all done, the winner will be announced. Something I read in the account of a past year’s winner leads me to believe Amazon will have a poster — maybe even a cover mock-up? — under a sheet, and they’ll pull off the sheet to announce the winner. So, you know, no stress or anything!
Already being a Finalist has brought some attention. Some of this has been in the form of good reviews, which you can see in my “News & Mentions” section. But I’ve also been interviewed by bloggers and members of the press, and have received other attention. I hate to be all mysterious about that, because I always hated when other writers became evasive about what is happening to them, but now I understand why. Some of this stuff can be sensitive and I’d hate to blow anything by running my mouth.
So, that’s the update. It’s funny that I never said a peep on this blog about the process as I made my way through the contest, or even about other matters. I’ll try to be a little more present, especially now that things are heating up.
Thanks for your support.