Mark Panek

After graduating from Colby College over twenty years ago, Mark Panek arrived in Hawai’i on a one-way ticket with $500 and a surfboard. A year later he stepped off the plane in Tokyo similarly underfunded in search of fame, fortune, and fluency in Japanese. Letters home depicting his subsequent adventures on an around-the-world trip eventually led him into a graduate program in creative writing, where he produced his first book: a biography of Hawaiian sumo champion Akebono, which the Japan Times has called “the best sumo biography in English.” His second book, “Big Happiness: The Life and Death of a Modern Hawaiian Warrior,” won the 2012 Hawai’i Book Publisher’s Association’s award for excellence in nonfiction. His debut novel, “Hawai’i,” which takes on the legacy of James A. Michener in no-holds-barred Tom-Wolfe-ian fashion, has been called “our Bonfire of the Vanities” by the Honolulu Weekly. Panek was recently honored with the Elliot Cades Award for Literature.