Hawaii Writers Conference provides boost to state's economy

John Tullius
John Tullius
Shannon Tullius
Shannon Tullius

By Diane Ako bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Can the state write its own ticket to economic success? That's what organizers of a Honolulu conference say is possible, thanks to a prestigious writing conference on Oahu. The planning is just starting for this fall's annual Hawaii Writer's Conference, but some say it provides a good business model that other conventions could follow.

Ron Howard's impromptu serenade; Princess Leia, up close and personal. These are some of the big literary names that have graced the Maui Writers Conference. In its 15 years on the Valley Isle, it attracted more than a thousand attendees a year.

Co-founder John Tullius said, "We've been called 'Best in the World' by Writers Digest. No other writers' conference in the world has the presenters we have.This year we have four Academy Award winning presenters, Pulitzer Prize winners, National Book Award winners, Tony Award winners like Greg Mc Guire who wrote Wicked. And 16 New York Times best selling authors."

Rubbing shoulders with authors like Putlizer Prize winner Dave Barry, or Tuesdays with Morrie author Mitch Ablom, is the big draw. "We bring in 1,500 attendees. They stay here ten days for the retreat," said Tullius.

His wife Shannon, the conference's co-founder, added that aside from the celebrity draw, the actual substance of the conference is amazing. What can you learn about? "Children books, journalism, fiction, non-fiction, memoir, mystery, suspense, screen plays, cookbooks, all those things."

Now the conference has a new name and a new venue: The Hawaii Writers Conference, and it's now on Oahu. Shannon Tullius explained that they moved it "to expand and to offer the conference to more people." Husband John projected, "We expect to double that in a few years being in Honolulu."

The writers may be investing in themselves- but they're also investing in the state's coffers. John TUllius detailed the economic impact: "They bring two and a half people per person so, we're talking about 5,000 people. The impact is $10 million a year for those people!"

It's not just impacting the tourism industry. It also helps Hawaii's literary industry. "There's hundreds of people who live here, that we got published here," beamed John Tullius.

The success of the conference will probably have others taking a page out of their playbook. The Hawaii Writers Conference has two components. The first is a retreat - an intense writing workshop- which takes place August 28 through September 3, 2009. Then the actual conference is from September 4 through September 7, 2009.