TUSITALA FIAPOTO – WRITING CHILDREN’S STORIES

More than 15 million children’s books are sold in Australasia each year. Worldwide, more than $2.5 billion worth of children’s books are purchased annually, and more than 75% of publishers welcome children’s material. Thats  A LOT of books. A lot of stories. A lot of writers writing stories for children. You could be one of them.
Welcome to the first edition of  TUSITALA FIAPOTO where Pacific ( or otherwise) writers of all genres and all flavours can come together to share insight, experiences and tips as we seek to get our work published, recognized, read and shared. Today’s focus is on writing stories for children. The full edition of this feature has been emailed to all those who expressed an interest in the FIAPOTO network. It contains – tips on how to write stories for children, where to go for help, where to submit your work and more. If you have not received a copy, please comment with your email address and one will be sent to you. Next week’s edition will focus on Writing Poetry. ( Something which I know nothing about.) NZ poet Maryanne Pale will share her experience and other Pacific poets will also be featured. If you have work or thoughts that you would like to share on the topic please contact me!
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I  write stories for children which are published by the Learning Media NZ School Journal Series. School Journals are used extensively in schools throughout NZ and the Pacific. Anyone who went to school in Samoa or anywhere else in the Pacific islands will remember reading school journals in class sometime somewhere way back when!  There are different journals for different age groups ranging from the ‘Junior Journal’ to the ‘Ready to Read’ series to the senior school journal.  Many acclaimed authors have written stories for the Journal series, including NZ  Margaret Mahy, Janet Frame and Joy Cowley.  Two Samoan women writers and academic leaders who have always been a source of inspiration for me; Dr Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop and Dr Emma Kruse-Vaai have had their stories published by the series as well and a long time ago, they were the first to suggest that I write stories for the School Journal.  Every writer needs a starting point, and this could be yours. Why should you write children’s stories for the NZ School Journal series?
1.    Money. (Because I’m shallow and poor enough that this is a great reason to write stories.) If they publish your story, Learning Media (LM) pays between $400 to $650 NZD for a story. That’s not bad for a 2-page piece of writing. IF your story is then adapted and used for an alternate format, you are paid more. ‘Shark Day’ was my first story published by LM in the Junior Journal. It was then translated to Samoan and re-published in the Samoan journal series . A few months later it was audio recorded and put on tape for classroom use and then later again, it was put on CD Rom with work activities for students to use on the computer. I was offered a new contract and received further payments for each new format. Reminder, even though LM pays you for the use of your story, you still retain the copyright and can publish it in future collections etc.
2.    Demand. They are urgently looking for stories with a Pacific flavor. LM is one of the largest suppliers of curriculum materials to NZ/Pacific schools. A recent study pointed out that there was not enough material in their Journals about Pacific people and what WAS there  – primarily showed Pacific islanders involved with food/eating. Umm stereotypical much?!  By writing stories for the Journal series, you can help to provide positive images for our Pacific youth, just by creating stories they can relate to about experiences they themselves are having. In particular, they are looking for stories about Pacific Islanders living in contemporary NZ. 
3.    Build up your publishing record and profile. Most of us are not able to write all day 24-7. We have to juggle family and work and everything else and somehow find time to write. Short fiction and esp REALLY short fiction for kids is an ideal writing project. For multi-tasking women especially. Writing a novel will take months. But writing a 2-3 page story can take a few days. Polishing and editing it can take a few days more. Writing short fiction can be such a satisfying thing because you can finish it that much quicker and if an editor likes it, you can add that to your writing portfolio and resume. The first ‘book’ I ever sent to a publisher 8 years ago, was a collection of my short stories. The publisher very politely told me that there was no way in hell they would consider a collection from an unknown idiot like me. They encouraged me to get my individual stories published in literary journals and magazines, to build up my writer portfolio. I was grateful for the advice. I have been slowly submitting my stories all over the place since then. Two weeks ago I saw my work ‘pay off’ when two publishers offered me contracts to publish my short story collection. A collection which included several of the pieces previously published by the School Journal series.
      Three good reasons why you should be writing children’s stories. Three good reasons why you have no excuse for NOT being a published author…*smile*.   And for you poets and playwrights out there? School journals also feature poetry and plays for children.   Happy writing everyone!
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6 comments

  1. WONDERFUL post lani!. I think TUSITALA FIAPOTO is a great idea. Will be reading along with your fellow P.I writers as the weeks progress. Wishing you well.

  2. Thanks, this is a great newsletter! I will have to see if LM accepts contributions from outside of NZ. I had been looking towards NZ to send PI stories since they were not so much in demand in Aus. I have only recently been in touch (with your help) with a group who are starting a project to put together children's stories from different cultural backgrounds and they are finally including Samoan stories! So now the demand is slowly building in Australia (mainly Sydney & Brisbane) but it's still tricky to hunt out the project managers. For those who are interested, check with local schools and PI community councils for possible leads.

  3. hi Elizabeth – YES they defn do accept contributions from overseas based authors. I first wrote stuff for them when i was living in Samoa. And I have seen other Aust writers as contributor. Defn go for it!

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