2019 Indie Best Award Long-List: Freckled: A Memoir of Growing up Wild in Hawaii.

Shelf Media hosts the annual Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition for best self-published or independently published book. In addition to prizes, the winner, finalists, long-listed, and more than 100 notable books from the competition are featured in the December/January issue of Shelf Unbound.

We never call it homeless. We’re just “camping” in the jungle on Kauai… We live in a place everyone calls paradise. Sure, Kauai’s beautiful, with empty beaches, drip-castle mountains, and perfect surf…but we’ve been “camping” for six months, eating boiled chicken feed for breakfast, and wearing camouflage clothes so no one sees us trespassing in our jungle hideout. The cockroaches leave rainbow colors all over everything from eating the crayons we left outside the tent, and now a tractor is coming to scrape our camp into the river. Standing in front of the tent in my nightgown, clinging to my sister as we face the tractor, I know my own truth: I just want to be normal.

But Mom and Pop are addicted. Addicted to Kauai’s beauty, to drugs, to surfing, to living a life according to their own rules out from under their high-achieving parents’ judgmental eyes. I’m just their red-headed, mouthy, oldest kid. What I want doesn’t matter. But I’m smart. I will make a different life for myself someday if I keep up my grades no matter what happens. No matter how often we run out of food. No matter how many times I change schools…or don’t go to school at all. No matter how many bullies beat me up for the color of my skin. I might be growing up wild in Hawaii, but I have dreams I’m going to reach, no matter how crazy things get.

About The Author: TW Neal

TW Neal is the nonfiction writing name for USA Today bestselling, award-winning author Toby Neal.

Neal, a redheaded, freckle-faced clinical social worker and mental health therapist, grew up on the island of Kaua`i, inspiring her memoir, FRECKLED: a Memoir of Growing up Wild in Hawaii.

“Everything that happens in our lives is the stuff of story,” Neal says, “and sometimes the best stories are true.”

You can get TWO FREE award-winning, full-length Toby Neal fiction novels by signing up for her email newsletter!


“I enjoy hula—like ballet, it’s a physical challenge, and I like physical challenges. I like the percussion of the ipu, the rhythm of the chant, the good feeling I get when we are all coordinated as a group.

After class one day, Kumu puts her hand on my shoulder and tells Mom, “Toby’s picking it up really well. She’s got a feel for it, and she works hard.”

Mom knows it has been difficult socially. She says cautiously, “Toby doesn’t feel like the other girls accept her.”

I want to look down and hide, but make myself look at Kumu. I need to know if she thinks the hassling from the other girls is okay.

Kumu’s expressive black brows come down in a fierce frown. I like watching her mobile, golden-skinned face with its wide nose and fine-cut, plump lips. You always know exactly what she’s thinking, and I like that. “Who stay giving you trouble?” she asks me.

Complaining about the bullying is being a rat and only makes it worse. “The nail that sticks up gets pounded down,” Mrs. Harada says in my mind. “Keep your head down and don’t draw attention to yourself, and maybe they’ll forget we’re here.” Pop’s version.

I’m still trying to make that approach work. “Nobody, Kumu. It’s okay.”

“You tell me if anyone gives you hard time. I want you to keep dancing,” Kumu says. I’d do anything to make her smile like she does, looking at me.”

Continue Reading…

Article originally Published in the December/January 2020 Issue “2019 Indie Best Award Winners”

Continue Reading.