An Author’s Perfect Gift

Yesterday I promised to tell you the story of Traveling MWA.

Ever since my book, Managing with Aloha was published in November of 2004, there has been one gift which delights me like no other, and it has been my enormous blessing to receive it several times since then.

My gift is to see my dog-eared book in the hands of a reader who has tabbed it, highlighted it, and marked it up in the way I intended it to be used. I want MWA to be that friendly reference a manager can turn to in the times they need to trust in themselves, and their capacity for being ever better. When they open it up ”“ yet again ”“ I hope that they see my words happily mingled with their own, our thinking blended into mana‘o kākou, collaborative thought.

So deep was this wish of mine for marked up books that I incorporated it into the design. I insisted on a hardcover that would stand the test of time, and three printings later I still resist the cost engineering of a soft-cover edition. The paper binding inside may give way, but those hardcovers will sandwich the insides no matter what shape they turn to, with a nice thick rubber band or length of ribbon keeping it all together. I chose the paper specifically from samples I had riddled with all variety of pens to find the one type that would bleed ink the least and dry the fastest. I instructed my copysetter to be sure that the outer margins were twice as wide as the inner ones to increase the reader’s blank canvas even more. Then, I wasn’t shy about stating my hopes outright in a section of Managing with Aloha’s Introduction called, “How to read this book;”

“There is usually a blank space at the end of each chapter to entice you to write down your thoughts, and more blank pages at the back. I strongly encourage you to mark up this book, allowing it to be a canvas for your own self-expression. In so many ways, management is a hands-on, personal love affair. My suggestion is that you write your first reactions in the margins of the text itself as different values and their concepts speak to you. Use the blank page to write down what you will do; spell out the action steps you will take to put the lessons of Managing with Aloha into practice. It’s an unlined page so you can draw pictures, design whiteboard lessons of your own, or log promises you’ve made to yourself. Pencil in a windowpane grid and design a storyboard for the future you will create. If you are one of those people who has never marked up a book and just can’t bring yourself to do it, that blank page is a terrific slate for post-it notes. Whatever style you choose to write down your thoughts, Ho‘ohiki: keep those promises you make to yourself, for everything will start or end with you.”

All of this careful planning was about a year before I discovered my first blog, Scott Hodge’s .:WeEbleLaNd:. Little did I know, or barely even imagine, that these online wonder people called bloggers would one day send a copy of Managing with Aloha back into my hands that took my version of “marking up” to a heavenly state of nirvana.

They called it The Traveling MWA

Early in 2005 I sent Dave Rothacker, author of Rothacker Reviews, a copy of Managing with Aloha as a gift, for he had become a cherished friend to me as blog comments grew into email conversations and then into phone calls. Dave bought more copies for friends, and as I packed his box I could see that one more book would fit inside perfectly, keeping the whole from moving too much in shipping, so I added it in as another gift he could give.

That was only the first 4,600+ miles the book would travel.

As I sealed the box, the book would begin the first of thirty one trips to nineteen different states across the USA. In between were stops in Canada, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Those were the homes of the first thirty-four bloggers of the Ho‘ohana Community. Dave, with Stacy Brice of Virtualosophy & AssistU as his very willing accomplice, had decided that a properly marked up MWA at the hands of the Ho‘ohana Community would be a good Christmas gift for me. A private Google Group was started to track the book’s progress, password protected so that any ego-surfing I’d do wouldn’t allow me in, and the surprise would be kept intact.

At one point, I discovered a Flickr page of Todd and Terry Storch, but knowing that Todd had my book I didn’t think too much of it.


“Picture of me (Todd is on the left) and my brother Terry (on the right) holding Rosa Say’s book, Managing with Aloha. You can check out Rosa’s blog at”

But poor Dave! I later read this on the Google Group:

“I almost choked when I saw the picture of Terry and Todd at Talking
Story…holding Rosa’s book!   I thought Rosa had infiltrated our
project.   LOL!!
The pressure and anticipation is driving me nuts.   It is all good!”

Traveling MWA didn’t make it back to Hawaii for Christmas, but it was far better than Christmas for me when it did, lovingly wrapped and hand-delivered by Dr. Beth Robinson of the Malihini Journal. It had fallen apart at the binding, but I cannot imagine owning a more perfect book. I open it up often, and I lightly touch my fingers to the words my HOC ‘Ohana had written for me with the most profound outpouring of aloha one can experience, and I think to myself that an author couldn’t possibly be more fortunate, or a person more loved. As I first wrote in part, when finally let into the Google Group back in January;

There is something extraordinary about seeing everyone’s
handwriting after all the conversing we do via our keyboards. Your
personalities truly do come through in your penmanship! Every time I
pick the book up -which has been near constantly today- I cannot
resist running my fingers over the ink, as if I were touching your
faces, your hearts.

—Then there’s the way in which you contained your thoughts so
neatly, to keep enough room for everyone within the front and back
covers; you had such respect for each other!

—I have been so moved by the bookmarkers you included, and the
passages within the book you took care to mark, letting me know they
were your favorites or meant something to you. No author could possibly
ask for more acknowledgement that their final draft somehow was good

—I look at your pictures on frappr, I go back to hugging the book
against my heart, and I long to hug you all.

And what you have all gone through to coordinate this! The
turn-arounds, the concern and worry, those dollars lovingly spent at
the post office and in global mail … 178 emails Adrian? Auwe! I have
imagined the meet-ups that happened and smile, and I promise you: more
will come.

This is a story of aloha that will go in my next book.

But more importantly, it is a story of aloha that will influence my
life forevermore” the aloha spirit you had captured for me within these covers keeps radiating and inspiring me to be better than I am, for you.

It was, and still is, the perfect gift.

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  1. says

    It was a privilege to be part of the Travelling MWA. To discover how you treasure every mark, line, and dog eared page makes the book’s journey through so many loving hands, that much more special. You share so much with all of us that it’s wonderful to know that we were able to give just a tiny bit back.

  2. says

    Dearest Rosa..
    I was thinking about the Traveling MWA just the other day, and remembering fondly all the twists and turns the project took as the book made its way to you.
    How I wish we had something as precious to offer this year! Ok…maybe community, friendship, unconditional positive regard, and love will just have to do, huh? :)

  3. says

    Rosa – that experience was so rare and rewarding from a collaborative perspective. But to fully realize its impact on you? That goes down as something branded to the soul and fused to the heart; something…forever.

  4. says

    Mahalo nui loa; thank you Wayne, Stacy, Dave and Dick. I continue to be warmed by the aloha you all poured into Traveling MWA for me, and I know this community has barely dipped into the wonder which will still emerge between us all.