“Are your stories based on real experiences that have happened in your own life?” This is a question that I get a lot, and one that I’m sure a lot of writers get. I’ve been writing short fiction for a lot longer than I’ve been writing my (trashy) books and it’s been rewarding to see it published internationally. The first stories I wrote for publication were written because as a high school English teacher – I was frustrated by the lack of Pacific ‘flavored’ short fiction that could be used in the classroom. As a teacher of senior levels, I was looking for specific things when choosing material that I could study with my students. It had to :
• Be short – teenagers have short attention spans. Also an Eng period is usually only 45min long.
• Be set in an environment that my students could relate to, with characters that they could identify with and have situations that they themselves were familiar with.
• Have some of those “literary thingamajigs” that we Eng.Lit freaks love, like imagery, figurative language, and blah blah blah.
• Not suck. Not be boring or lame. Not be fake. Not be too simple or too complex or “fia deep”.
And yeah, that last one is the toughest requirement to meet because if there’s one thing I have learned from teaching teenagers? They have high standards when it comes to what they want to read, view and listen to. They have no patience with stuff that sucks. Oh and I gotta say that my 2 teens are the meanest readers ever. I give them something to test it, they will skim it for five seconds, make a face, roll their eyes and say, “Ugh, this is kind of awful.” And another one of my SUCK writing ideas gets relegated to the trash. Readers hate stuff that’s fake as well. Which is why most of my short fiction is inspired my own experiences in some way or another – or the experiences of people close to me. Here’s a breakdown of three of them,
*High School is a Jungle – Classic Lani. An English teacher’s first day on the job. Did I really drive a very loud V8 to school? Yes. Did I really wear stupid high heels to school? Yes, very stupid, very painful but daaayum I thought I was very hot. Did students confide their alien abductions and love dramas to me? Yes. Did boys really leave condoms on my windscreen and write BITCH on my car? Yes. Did I really tell them what they could do with the condoms in such a wickedly satisfying way? No. But I wish I had.
*Sina the Snake Killer – Sina confronts her phobias and fears and thus is able to right the imbalance of power in her (crappy) marriage. Am I married to a horrible chauvinistic pig like Sina? No. Am I terrified of snakes? Yes. Do I feel them slither all over me whenever I see one on TV? Yes. Do I go to extreme measures to make sure centipedes can’t get me? Yes. Do I find the whole afakasi girl vs. real Samoan girl conversation really funny? Hell yes. Do I know lots of women who endure crappy marriages and can surely use a little bit of Snake Killer confidence and power? Most definitely, yes.
*A True Samoan Woman – A NZ born Samoan has her idealized Samoa rocked to the core when she marries a ‘real’ Samoan and gets down with REAL life in Samoa. Do I get really irritated by overseas born Samoans who talk glowingly about how ‘precious and amazing and wonderful’ the culture and life is in Samoa when they havent ever lived it? Yes, I want to throw rocks at them. Do I really know someone who called their baby Peiosepua’a (looks like a pig)? Yes.
So yes, my fiction is based on fragments of my reality. And if you’re really close to me, you just might catch glimpses of yourself in my characters. Which reminds me of that quote –“Dont make a writer mad. Or else she might write you into one of her books and then kill you off. In the most painful way possible.”
Either way, I hope more P.I youth everywhere find my fiction worth being subjected to the next time they have to study short stories in a dreadfully dull English class. And I hope it doesnt get the dreaded eye-rolling, make a face because-this-sucks reaction.
Now, for this week’s question and giveaway: What book/story that you were forced to study in high school – did you REALLY enjoy? Why? How and why did it rock your world?
Everyone who gets in on this conversation with a comment goes into the draw to win ONE of the following prizes:
1. A copy of “Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi” By moi.
2. A luscious Frangipani coconut oil body indulgence set. (body oil, lotion, soap- all handmade from all organic Samoa ingredients.) Made by me, Ohmigosh can i get anymore clever…
3. A beautiful gift from the legendary design store Plantation House. A handblocked elei travel purse like the one below.
Leave a comment and be in to enjoy some great Samoan gifts.Winners announced on the 31st of August and given their choice of gift!