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Top entry evokes 'chicken skin'

By Christie Wilson

LAST UPDATED: 12:43 p.m. HST, Oct 29, 2012

When Donald Carreira Ching was a boy growing up in Kaha­luu, his mom used to caution him about going out alone on the reef to collect baitfish.

She never used the specter of a ghostly octopus lady to make him mind, but the memory of her warnings became the seed for his spooky story, "Aunty He‘e," winner of the Star-Advertiser's Third Annual Halloween Fiction Contest.

"It's completely fiction," the 26-year-old writer said of his tale, set at Heeia Kea pier. "I was born and raised in Kaha­luu, and my father and father-in-law are fishermen, so I've spent a lot of time in that world and decided to draw on that. I would go reef walking for bait, and my mother was constantly telling me never go alone."

Ching is pursuing his master's degree in creative writing and is seeking a publisher for his first novel, "Between Sky and Sea," described as a tale of "three brothers struggling to negotiate their identities in the wake of tragedy, addiction and the complications of growing up local."

For winning the Halloween Fiction Contest, he gets the $200 first prize, and his story appears on the cover of the Today section today. Christopher Dela Cruz's "No Pictures, Please" captured the second-place prize of $100; his story can be found at

Nearly 90 entries were submitted for this year's contest. Because so many of them came from students, some as young as 10, a student division will be part of next year's Halloween Fiction Contest.

This year's finalists were selected by Star-Advertiser staffers and presented to our three judges without the authors' names attached. The judges called Ching's "Aunty He‘e" a "fine narrative."

"The way the writer set up the story was effective in leading me into what happens next — describing the weather and power outage, using details to evoke smells and sounds," one judge said. "This was one of two (entries) where I actually got a bit of chicken-skin tingling, even on the second reading."

Another judge said, "I think this one is the most cohesive of all the stories … great transitions, clear story, just enough detail and, yes, very chicken-skin inducing."

Of Dela Cruz's second-place story, about a haunted house in Manoa, one judge praised the "language, imagery, subtle touches."

Also favored by the judges was "Rattled," by Janet Carpenter, about two women who decide to scavenge ceramic doorknobs from an abandoned plantation camp on Hawaii island. "To me, the doorknobs' rattling was perfect Halloween schlock, silly but just eerie enough to suspend disbelief," one judge said.

An untitled piece by Jay Chun, about the narrator's auntie who haunts a Las Vegas casino, "was dead-on for capturing the way people talk, and it's easy to imagine some ghosts of islanders ending up there."

Other finalists were Noelle M.K.Y. Kahanu, Jadine Nielsen, Klein Masutani, Ann Tamashiro, Jennifer Minke, Alan Hudson, Roy K.S. Chang and ReAnne Shinsato.

This year's judges were Carol Abe, a marketing specialist at University of Hawai‘i Press and former bookseller and buyer for Hono­lulu Book Shops; James Harstad, a retired English teacher from University Laboratory School; and Misty-Lynn Sanico, a freelance book reviewer for the Star-Advertiser and founder of

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