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ENTRY

The Fountain of Youth (and other Ideas)
October 10, 2008

Almost invariably, when someone finds out I'm a writer (that is, if I haven't scared them off describing what kind of books I write, see previous post), s/he asks where I get my ideas. My standard answer is that I get ideas everywhere, anytime.

Being more specific, I add I get ideas from watching or reading the news, observing people and eavesdropping on the conversations (I've gotten in trouble doing that), reading anything, meeting someone interesting (or utterly not, which to me is as interesting as interesting), making unlikely connections between disparate concepts, or just some random stray thought. Oh, s/he says. I'm not sure what they expect the answer to be. Dreams perhaps. I've never gotten an interesting idea from a dream (at least I don't think so.)

If s/he is still in the conversation (likely we're trapped together in a corner at a cocktail party), I talk about which ideas get turned into ones that are ultimately used. I rarely write them down. I used to, filling file folders with scratched notes, news paper clippings, business cards, photos. But I found I never looked at through file. Instead the really good ideas get stuck in my head. The Good Idea doesn't let itself be forgotten. It pops up occasionally demanding attention. The Good Idea wants to grow up. Like an adolescent. it wants to experience life, learn about the world, try out its wings, grow up and go off to college. So I no longer bother to record any of the ideas I come across.

Take an idea that I've been obsessed with lately. I live on Kaua'i, the northernmost main island in the Hawaiian archipelago. Kauai's an interesting place in itself, still fairly rural, even as tourist flock here and big buck mainlanders build big dollar homes in developments with Hawaiian names like Halemalu. There's a relatively small but strident undercurrent of resistance to this development. Any protests are relatively short-lived and unorganized and for the most part ineffectual. That is until a developer tried to build on a lot where there were several, dozens, of ancient Hawaiian burial sites. The builder was issued a building permit and asked to do a burial treatment plan, the usual course of action being to dig up the remains and rebury them.

Now there are burials all over the islands, of course, from eight centuries of Hawaiians living and dying on the island. But rarely has there been so many found on one relatively small lot. The issuance of a building permit and the burial plan, which allowed the home to be built over some of the burial sites, raised the outrage of a few kanaka maoli (native Hawaiians), one a mid-40ish woman named Ka?iulana Edens-Huff. She began to camp on the site to keep out the construction crews and raise awareness of the disrespectful way of the developer and agencies were treating the ancient bones.

I followed the story in the news paper during the months the occupation occurred. Lawsuits were filed, the police chief got involved, more meetings were held, trespassing arrests made. The idea for a story kept coming back into my head. Many details stuck to the big idea of the local woman, not rich, fighting for cultural practice rights over the rich developer. Finally I could no longer stand not working on this story and I contacted Ka'iulani. Now we are collaborating on a book. I'm sure I'll be talking more about it in future posts. It's a rich personal story with many broader, social, economic, and cultural issues. It's about personal and social identity.

So the ideas keep coming. But if the Fountain of Ideas ever stops flowing, I have a whole folder full of them.

#

COMMENTS

Number of comments: 2
click here to add a comment

Lee Witte
Funny! I just tell people "drugs."

Jo Reed
Sound like soemthing I'd say, Lee. But I tell people my agent has told me not to discuss my work. They go "ohhh" all knowingly.

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