When writing is an art form, like sculpture or choreography, as it sometimes is, it begins with poetry. When practical considerations demand a roomier mode of conveyance, in other words prose, we go to the non-identical twin offspring of poetry, fiction and essay—broad tales and persuasive talk.
I have practiced all these uses of writing and have managed to make a living from this practice. For the past decade I have been disproportionately involved with feature journalism for magazines. To my lifelong surprise, I find that I have been creating works largely within and for and about my own community.
My community is a goldmine for any true literary prospector—its voices, its histories, the weird comedy of it, the intensely important issues, the damaged land, the potential for a community model that is not Democrat-Republican but purely local and practical. We have great people and great causes.
But we have very few readers. And the publications are commercial. And few. I credit them all but let's be honest. Most of the readers are out there.
I wonder if those readers would be open to something other than Betty Boop hula in a Diamond-Head moonlight, or longboard beachboys drinking from coconuts, or Charlie Chan tiptoeing through a bogus Honolulu.
I test that question.
“His Majesty’s Ship”
The most opulent yacht of the early nineteenth century began as a pleasure craft in New England and ended up as the flagship of a Hawaiian king
Cleopatra’s Barge, America’s first luxury yacht, ended her life as the Ha‘aheo o Hawai‘i, King Kamehameha II’s royal transport. Hawaiian culture grappled with Western Civilization on her ill-fated deck.
“A Curious Craving”
Hawaiiana is more dream than reality, nostalgia for a past that never was. But who can argue with a dream?
What people call “Hawaiiana” has rather little to do with Hawai‘i. But this fantasy mixed-media art style has a century-old history, and it is not going away. This piece won an SPJ award, thanks to John Giordani’s appropriately garish design.
“Na Wai ‘Eha”
Four rivers flow from the slopes of Maui's Mauna Kahalawai-straight into a centuries-old struggle over who controls the water.
When you live on a volcano in the middle of the ocean, you need rainfall, streams, fresh water. Here’s a close look at how West Maui’s water is being managed and mismanaged.
Molokai's Trailblazer- Buzzy Sproat
Buzzy Sproat runs the Molokai Mule Ride treks down the world's highest seacliffs to the former "leper colony" at Kalaupapa. This profile of Buzzy won the Excellence in Journalism Award 2004 from the Society of Professional Journalists Hawai‘i Chapter.
"The Great Seduction"
A tale of passion, conquest, and Orchids
Orchids are slyly populating the planet. It wasn't so long ago that they invaded and captivated Hawai‘i. This tribute to the orchid family took the Excellence in Journalism Award 2005, Feature Writing, from the Society of Professional Journalists Hawai‘i Chapter.
"Surfing the Stratosphere"
The Pilots of Mauna Kea Soaring Club
Woodson Woods and his Mauna Kea Soaring Club were striving to catch the kind of aerial lift that could shoot their motorless sailplanes over the highest mountains on earth. I went along. This piece won Sports Reporting First Place 2012 from the Society of Professional Journalists Hawai‘i Chapter.
"Walking Among Ancients"
Hawai'i's Surviving WiliWili Trees
The last living wiliwili trees on the Big Island are gorgeous dinosaurs. What accounts for their survival in a desiccated landscape? Self-proclaimed wanderer Hai On wants to know. I wrote this at about the time (2013) that I was given the Travel Writer of the Year Award from the Hawai‘i Ecotourism Association
Hawaiian Family Values
There is no concept of "adopting" children in traditional Hawaiian culture. There is "hanai," however, which is a world away from Western-style adoption, both in meaning and in its honest kindness. This story was named finalist in Magazine Feature Writing 2007 from the Society of Professional Journalists Hawai‘i Chapter.
"Into the Remnant Forest"
A Good Walk Unspoiled
This report on a wilderness excursion snagged a Pa‘i Award 2008 from Hawai‘i Publishers Association, first place for Editorial Features. The judge's comment: "Writer Paul Wood undertakes a trek into one of the last true forests of Hawai‘i with a novelist's brush in his hands. Entries this year offered many adventures—sailing, rescuing swimmers, and discovering cultural icons. But Wood takes the art of writing into the deeper forests of his mind and makes connections to biology and the ghosts of the valleys to bring a beautifully written tale of a trail. He laments the passing of the great forests while enduring their vigorous challenges. It's a breathtaking read and breathtaking journey."
The Ingenious Life of Melbourne Smith
Biography of self-taught naval architect, his reckless life, and the astonishing historic vessels he has brought back to the high seas.
In East Maui's gulch country, the past is never what it used to be– if you can believe these comic, celebratory tales.
Sometimes the only way to get at the truth is to tell extravagant lies—or, as Huck Finn called them, "stretchers."
- 41 Short Stories on Maui.
A sensational—and true—prison escape story in the tradition of Papillon and Midnight Express.