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<p>Darien Gee</p>

Darien Gee

Quote of the Week: “Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.” Moshe Dayan

Writing Exercise of the Week: Write about the first car you ever owned.

It’s the Fourth of July. Hot dogs, watermelon, corn on the cob, huli huli chicken. And don’t forget the long rice, boiled peanuts, pork pasteles and spam musubi for the kids.

Independence Day fare is different in Hawaii than on the mainland. You might find apple pies cooling on someone’s window sill, but more likely you’ll find squares of rainbow jello with layers of sweet condensed milk or homemade malasadas being packed into coolers or picnic baskets right now. Hawaii, ever the melting pot, celebrates with cuisine that reflects the cultural and ethnic diversity of those who have made the islands their home. When the fireworks explode overhead later tonight, take a moment to marvel at how people, situations, and a myriad of decisions have converged to bring you to this moment.

And then write about it. You knew that was coming, didn’t you?

In 1994, a teacher named Erin Gruwell faced a classroom of sullen, unmotivated students at Los Angeles’ Woodrow Wilson High School. These were the kids who had been written off or considered unteachable or delinquent. Most were not expected to graduate. With Erin’s help, they began chronicling their lives. They wrote about the adversity they faced, they wrote about their hopes and fears. They dubbed themselves the “Freedom Writers” (it inspired a movie by the same name starring Hilary Swank). These students not only graduated high school, but went on to publish a book, attend college and graduate school, and mentor others. Writing freed them, both figuratively and literally, to tap into their hidden abilities and gifts, and then allowed them to find ways to share their gifts with others.

So what do the Freedom Writers have to do with Hawaii, food and the Fourth of July?

Permission to explore. The freedom to write. When we talk about a Fourth of July feast in Hawaii, you know it’s going to look different than a Fourth of July feast anywhere else. Your life is no different. Look at the bounty and diversity that surrounds you and then create whatever you want from it. Regardless of what your life is currently like (or the direction it seems to be heading), know that writing can set you on another path altogether. It doesn’t mean you have to be a full-time writer, but writing will help you clarify what you want. This beautiful place is also an intensely creative place (just cast your eyes toward Kilauea, our active volcano, if you have any doubt). You can do anything, even with the odds stacked against you. Begin anywhere. Don’t wait.

An invitation: Share your writing exercise on the North Hawaii News Facebook page!

Darien Gee is a national bestselling author based in Waimea. Her most recent novel is The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. She also writes under the name Mia King. Visit her at or

This fall, Gee will be teaching memoir, writing and publishing classes through Waimea Community Education. Visit for more information.