Author/Illustrator Interview: Edna Cabcabin Moran, part 2 of 2

Hi there, here’s part 2 of Edna’s interview. You’ll be hungry by the end of it.

One of the latest books you illustrated, Can You Catch a Coqui Frog, published in 2009 by BeachHouse Publishing, takes the readers on
a discovery journey of the animal kingdom in Hawai’i; it is also a tale about family
and friends…

The Coqui Frog book is a light rhyming picture book that introduces the animals of Hawai’i. When I read the manuscript, I envisioned a secondary story featuring children from different places around the island, having a connection of sorts with the animals
highlighted in the book. I also wanted the page spreads to share something special
about the animals in their habitat.

I found this book tricky to illustrate because the animals ranged in size from the wee little happy-face spider to the large, very rotund monk seal. I wondered how to give each animal its due attention plus keep the “wordless” tale going. I was able to find a happy solution with the creation and use of “borders” for each two-page spread.

On your path to publication and as a multicultural author/illustrator, what is the
most valuable lesson you’ve learned?

I’ve learned a number of lessons but here’s a key one: Do your homework about the culture or tradition. There are reasons why stories are told a certain way. Take the time to find out why. When I first started my research for The Sleeping Giant, I came across many different versions. I wore the hat of a sleuth, half the time, at the beginning as I tried to uncover as much as I could about the story’s origins. It was an enriching experience that led me to many wonderful sources such as the Kupuna (elder) storytelling program in Kapa’a, Kaua’i. Also, a good retelling does not imitate another’s voice or copy a tale verbatim. I liken it to sculpting with clay–massaging tale and shaping it with your own touch. So, develop a solid perspective and write in your own voice.

Are there any resources you would recommend to writers and/or illustrators
working on multicultural stories?

The public library is full of excellent multicultural books and folk tales. Also, check out: Tarie Sabido‘s multicultural literature blog, Into The Wardrobe, articles on writing multicultural stories by award-winning PB author Aaron Shepherd; and which introduces and reviews multicultural kid lit.

What are your current projects?

I’ve several illustration assignments in other book genres, a couple of illos and book dummies for several PB’s (not yet contracted) and WIP’s for a number of stories and poems.

You are in Kaua’i with three of your favorite writers or illustrators. Who are they and where do you take them?

This is a difficult question to answer as I have many, many favorites! Off the top of my
head, I’d love to spend a day with Maurice Sendak (he’s the reason I fell in love with
picture books), Naomi Shihab Nye (her words are paintings) and Yuyi Morales (her
paintings are poetic).

I’d take them on a hike into the forests of Mt. Wai’ale’ale where
we would listen and look for the native ‘i’iwi bird, explore the plants and enjoy a picnic
lunch. Next, we’ll break out our sketch books and draw and paint whatever we wanted.
Then we’ll talk story for a while–but they’d do most of the talking because I’d love to
hear about their writing and illustrating adventures.

Any Hawaiian dish and drink you’d recommend? 🙂

A must is fresh poi~just scoop it up with your fingers! 🙂 I really like it with lomi lomi
salmon (a fish salsa type of dish). Another favorite is Chicken Lau Lau which is
prepared with butterfish and chicken, wrapped with ti or taro leaves and steam cooked
to perfection. Yum. I’m getting hungry just answering your question. As for a drink… try
drinking the water straight out of a coconut. It’s very refreshing and delicious.

Last but not least, is there any question you wish I had asked?

Nathalie, 🙂 These questions are perfect. Mahalo nui loa!

Edna, thank you again for your time and for sharing your experience with us. I wish you the best in your current projects, and look forward to your next books.

To keep in touch with Edna, visit:
o Edna’s website
o Edna’s blog, Just Sketch

Author/Illustrator Interview: Edna Cabcabin Moran, Part 1 of 2

Edna Cabcabin Moran was one of the first persons to comment on Multiculturalism Rocks! I consequently visited her website and fell in love with her technique and colorful illustrations. In addition, I purchased one of her books, The Sleeping Giantpublished by BeachHouse Publishing, and had ever since dreamed to interview her.

I’m normally mindful of keeping the questions to a reasonably low number, but with Edna I was eager to chat about both her art and her life in Haiwai’i; therefore this interview is divided in two parts. Enjoy! 🙂

Edna, I’m excited to welcome you on the blog. Thank you again for your time. You are of Filipino descent, and you grew up in Iceland and California. You later moved to Hawai’i. Iceland and Hawai’i seem so culturally different…

If I may ask, what impressed you the most in both places? What inspired your move to Hawai’i?

Iceland and Hawai’i are geologically and culturally striking–their volcanic landform
along with a rich tradition of stories from the sea-faring settlers beg to be recorded in
our hearts and minds. Almost everything about Iceland and Hawai’i permeates the
senses in broad strokes. How could I not be impressed?

My memories of Iceland are are largely based on its unique environment. I spent a lot
of time playing outdoors, picking wild blueberries which grew near our house, building
forts and houses from rocks and “boulders” and admiring the northern lights.
When I visited my family in Hawai’i, I was blown away by the beauty of O’ahu. The
Leeward side of O’ahu wasn’t very developed then. I recall a deep blue ocean vista
beyond a wide stretch of pineapple fields, spending the night in an old Plantation
house in Ewa Beach and hanging out at a halau (school of hula). I was obsessed with
returning to Hawai’i to live. So, I did. 🙂

How long did you live there?

After graduating from UH Manoa, I lived and worked in Honolulu for seven years.

How did your experience in Hawai’i prepare you for and influence the work you’re
doing today?

It inspired my love of color. Ironically, I went through a black & white phase while in
school. My work was dark (not gruesome)—just pychologically tense and “emo.”;-)
When I moved back to CA and started building my portfolio, I tapped into memories of the lush greenery, sky-scape and ocean blues surrounding the islands.

What makes Hawai’i so unique?

Hawai’i is unique in many ways. You will find flora and fauna here that you won’t find
anywhere else in the world. Historically and culturally, Hawai’i is the only state that
was once an industrialized nation with a history of monarchy which, sadly, was
overthrown by a business coup backed by the USA (a story rarely discussed in school
cirruculum.) The rich cultural and artistic traditions of Hawai’i are world-renowned but
greatly modified for commercial consumption. For example the “Tiki” is not of Hawaiian
origin but an imitation of Hawaiian and pan-Polynesian sculptures and religious
artifacts used for decorations at trendy bars. Modern Hawai’i is a melting pot of people
and cultures.

If cultural shock there was upon moving back to the U.S., how did it manifest?

In Hawai’i, I had a relaxed, low-key island pace of living and walking speed. I resumed my fast walking speed when I returned to the mainland. Eventually, I grew used to the dull palette of colors in the city scape of the Bay Area compared to the sunny, colorful palette of tropical Hawaiian life.

In your book, The Sleeping Giant, you mention two different types of Hawaiian
storytelling: Mo’olelo and Ka’ao. Would you, please, tell us what they refer to?
(personal note to Edna: your book gives such a wonderful explanation…)

Ka’ao storytelling is akin to tall tales and stories told for pure enjoyment and entertainment. Mo’olelo pertains to traditional stories and legends tied to the island’s cultural history.

My PB, The Sleeping Giant, is similar in plot to other ka’ao but it differs greatly in its premise and it contains themes and details of my own spinning. For instance, an earlier ka’ao version tells of a mysterious girl who shows up, out of the blue, and saves the day. My story makes the girl a familiar face–she is given a name and is introduced early on in the tale.

In a mo’olelo version of the Sleeping Giant, a key battle takes place between Kawelo
and the ruling chief of the time, Aikanaka. Using the art of stone-fighting, Kawelo
becomes the victor and takes over the island domain. Chiefs Aikanaka and Kawelo
are actual figures in Hawaii’s history. They are remembered though mo’olelo tales
passed down from one generation to the next.

Have you learned as much as I did? Ready for more? Read the second part of the interview tomorrow. 🙂