Monday, July 28, 2014         


 Print   Email   Comment | View 0 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

Hawaii Writers Conference shuts down after 17 years

By Lee Cataluna

LAST UPDATED: 11:31 p.m. HST, Jun 22, 2010

The Hawaii Writers Conference, formerly known as the Maui Writers Conference, is dead. Less than a year ago, stories touting the annual event were placed all over local media. The Advertiser gave the organization full-page ads for free. But the demise of the glitzy 17-year-old event has been, thus far, kept quiet.

The Hawaii Writers Conference website is blank except for a letter from Honolulu bankruptcy attorney Steven Guttman dated May 14.

"We are assisting the Hawaii Writers Foundation, a Hawaii nonprofit corporation doing business as the Hawaii Writers Conference, with winding up its business operations," the letter begins.

"The directors of HWF, John and Shannon Tullius, regret events and changes in the economy have forced them to make the unwelcomed decision to terminate HWF and cancel both the retreat and conference scheduled for August 2010. In light of its termination, there will be no further HWF-sponsored retreats or conferences in the future."

Those who had already paid to attend the 2010 conference may end up losing that money.

"As of this date, there are no assets available from which to refund the monies that were remitted," the memo states. "However, funds may become available in the future depending on the resolution of certain financial matters."

John Tullius filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection on April 29. Shannon Tullius filed for divorce on May 5. Guttman did not return messages asking for comment.

It is a surprising plot twist for an event that has been big on positive promotion and name dropping. Past presenters included Ron Howard, Mitch Albom, Dave Barry and Aaron Sorkin. Supporters have included Linda Lingle and numerous Hawaii business leaders. As recently as last year, there were still the sunny stories about what a great thing this event was for Hawaii's economy.

The Maui/Hawaii Writers Conference was where aspiring writers went to pitch their ideas into best-seller stardom. It was always more about selling your writing than about writing itself. After all, nobody is going to pay to learn how to be a starving but brilliant artist. (I attended in 1998. I learned a lot. I didn't sell anything, but I didn't really have anything to sell.) A 10-day stay through both the conference and retreat could cost several thousand dollars, and in a bad economy, no one has money to spend on dreams.

When the event was moved from high-priced Wailea to more affordable Waikiki, it was spun as a way to reach out to more writers. A few years ago, the operation morphed into a nonprofit, and publicity stressed the educational and literacy mission of the event, though it was still mostly for people with money to pay for time slots with book agents.

Singer Norah Jones is in line to serve as a scapegoat. A fundraiser concert for HWF featuring Jones was canceled last August for lack of ticket sales. Jones' contract provided for her to keep a $50,000 deposit if the show were canceled. Tullius told ticket holders he tried unsuccessfully to get the money back and had taken a big hit when the fundraiser didn't happen.

"We have been paying our bills for the last 17 years, and we have every intention of paying back each and every person who bought tickets," he said last year.

This year, well, that's another story.

Lee Cataluna can be reached at lcataluna@staradvertiser.com.

 Print   Email   Comment | View 0 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

You must be subscribed to participate in discussions
By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. Because only subscribers are allowed to comment, we have your personal information and are able to contact you. If your comments are inappropriate, you may receive a warning, and if you persist with such comments you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email commentfeedback@staradvertiser.com.
Leave a comment

Please login to leave a comment.
Latest News/Updates
Political Radar
`My side’

Political Radar
‘He reminds me of me’

Bionic Reporter
Needing a new knee

Warrior Beat
Monday musings

Small Talk
Burning money

Political Radar
On policy

Warrior Beat
Apple fallout