‘More of a calling’

KILAUEA — Kapahi resident David Rosenberg loves the art of storytelling.

“For most of us, whether we are successfully published or not, writing itself is compelling enough that we keep doing it because it has something in it that we can’t get from anywhere else,” said Rosenberg, an instructional designer who makes his living writing and designing content for online classes.

Rosenberg is among 150 writers who are part of the Kauai Writers Festival, a series of presentations and lectures created to help develop the skills of writers of all levels.

“This is our third year, and we’ve grown from our first year of 50,” said Rosenberg, director of the festival. “It gives us the possibility for a nice size writers community but maintaining a level of intimacy that all the writers get the attention they need.”

On Tuesday, writers gathered at the Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens in Kilauea to listen and learn from award-winning writers such as Luis Urrea, a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction.

“It’s such a hard and lonesome journey that if you can have a craftsperson that’s gone before you that can say this is the way to go,” said Urrea, who spoke at the memoir master class on Tuesday. “I have a different view of it than a lot of writers do. I don’t think of this as a career. It’s more of a calling. It’s a ritual. I have had good teachers and a lot of sacred training for the books I’ve written and the things I was through.”

On top of writing professionally and organizing the conference, Rosenberg is working on his first novel.

“(Writing is) also about self-knowledge in telling a story where you’re plumbing the depths of a character and you’re putting a character through the kinds of problems that come up in everyday life,” he said. “It helps you figure yourself a little bit and understand yourself a little better.”

Most writers are everyday people, Rosenberg said.

“If you talk to nine out of 10 people here they’re like anybody else,” he said. “They go to work every day, but what they do is they add to it. Some dedicated writing time because they love the process. It is art, and it’s a really great way to create art. It’s just us trying to articulate our experiences in an artful way.”

Frances Doyle, a retiree from Methuen, Massachusetts, is a beginner writer working on the first draft of her dystopian novel.

“I always sort of liked it, but I could never figure out an ending for (my story),” said Doyle, a first-time visitor to Kauai and a fan of science fiction. “I’m still learning the technical (aspects of writing). I’m enjoying it.”

His wife, Hiyaguha Cohen, writes health articles and has ghost written for others. She said making a living from writing is a struggle for most people.

“The income flow is very inconsistent and very unpredictable; unless you get lucky,” Cohen said. “For the last 10 years, I’ve had a consistent freelance job, which I am very lucky to have. But I’m not getting rich from it.”

Being persistent, Cohen said, is key to professional writing.

“So what if you get rejected 70 times; it’s good training as a writer,” she said. “If you’re looking to publish a book, you need to be very persistent and have a really strong ego because it’s so difficult to get published — especially fiction. Go to conference, get all the help you can get, get in a writing group and get feedback. Your work needs to be as good as possible and you just have to love writing.”

If you’re looking to publish nonfiction, Cohen recommends having material to show.

“It’s really good to start a blog or just to send free things to the local newspaper, press releases, anything that can get you into print,” she said. “If you want to do freelance work, the Internet is your best friend. There isn’t a lot of work for writers on Kauai, but there is a lot of work out there.”

Master-class workshops continue today, while the conference takes place this weekend. For more info vist www.kauaiwritersconference.com.

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