Kauai People, Kauai Stories
PAMELA VARMA BROWN uses her amiable demeanor and gracious personality to make it easy for strangers to open up to her and share some of their most precious stories. She’s heard so many intimate tales throughout her years as a journalist on Kauai, she felt moved to put them in a permanent format, resulting in her self-published series.
“When I’m writing a story, I get really excited to share it. I feel like I’ve unearthed some fabulous gem,” she says.
Her first book, Kauai Stories, released in 2012, is filled with these personal tales told by kama‘aina.
Sue Kanoho, Kauai Visitors Bureau executive director, has known Brown for more than two decades and was honored to be a featured storyteller in both of her books.
“I’ve seen Pam shine and thrive in her world of writing, and am so proud of her Kauai Stories series that perpetuates the special people of Kauai,” she says.
Brown finds Kauai residents unique and worthy of writing about in so many ways, including their inherent sense of adventure.
“If you can look at Kauai on a map and not get freaked out, you have a little more daringness — a little speck in the ocean surrounded by water; it takes a certain kind of person,” she says.
The California native, herself a brave soul who made the move to Kauai 26 years ago after visiting the island, has her own tales to tell. She wasn’t much of a writer until later in life but remembers always using her imagination to create fictional stories about other people. While her relatives would have “adult” conversations, she’d hide under the kitchen table and thumb through the phone book they gave her to keep quiet.
“I remember turning the pages and making up stories as if I was reading a real book,” says the self-proclaimed childhood bookworm.
Brown went on to major in journalism and attended California State University-Northridge and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. She did little with it professionally until 2003, when she decided to write “for real.” She was in her late 30s at the time and understood that embarking on a new career path like this would not be easy.
“I had clips from college, but they were pretty moldy by then,” admits Brown, who also is an insurance broker.
She submitted articles to The Garden Island and penned profile pieces for a former publication, The Kauai, at no cost.
“Somehow people on the island noticed because they started calling me and asking me to do other stuff,” she says.
Her writing career took off and eventually earned actual paychecks. She has been composing stories about Kauai people for various publications ever since, including Kauai Midweek in its early days.
“I think we all like to know about other people,” she says. “Sometimes it’s just fun, and more than that we get inspired by other people and what they’ve been able to accomplish. There’s usually more to people than we know.”
Each story has been memorable for Brown.
“I really feel like I fall in love with each person I write about,” she says.
But some stand out, including Harry Yamanaka, who actually had Brown publish his own book Kauai … In My Heart, filled with short stories about his life growing up in Rice Camp, a small sugar camp at Kipu Plantation. Japanese World War II veterans also have struck a sentimental chord with Brown.
“They were put in such a tough position that most of us can’t even imagine — to be told by your own county that you weren’t trusted — yet they still went to war.”
Preserving stories like this is what it’s all about for Brown.
“So that other people can feel what it’s like to live on Kauai, even if you’re sitting in Topeka,” she says.
“It’s the people of Kauai who make this island so special, and having their stories immortalized in her books means their stories will live on forever,” says Kanoho.
To learn more about Pamela Varma Brown’s books, visit writepath.net.