lani wendt young

I am a Coconut.

So Amazon opened a Japanese division a while back, selling ebooks and stuff. I was looking through my (sad) sales reports and saw, “Hey! I sold a book in Japan!” Sooooo cool. Then I noticed they bought it for $339.00. Double-take. Say what? Do they love me that much in Japan? I get a little excited. Okay, a lot excited. Wow, maybe my book is super expensive there because it’s in such demand or something! I have wild visions of heated auctions for my book where crazed fans are battling for a copy of Telesa. It’s madness. It’s amazing. It’s so incredibly awesome.  I love you too Japan! Big hugs and kisses Japan! With chocolate chip cookies and donuts on top!

Then I connect the dots. That’s not 339 dollars. You idiot. It’s 339 Japanese yen. Which is about four dollars.

I am such a coconut.

Back to life, back to reality.

So yeah, I’m excited my book has attained this wonderful milestone. Thanks to Amazon, my little Samoan book written on a little island in the South Pacific and uploaded as an e-book, has been purchased by some very nice person alllllllll the way in Japan for the very first time. Yay for digital technology and yay for taking Samoan stories to the world!

But I’m still such a coconut.




Snakes, Cakes and Cars

Quick update from Sydney… I’ve been doing book stuff in Australia for the past week. Started in Brisbane last week and am just finishing up here in the beautiful Sydney. You can read about it here: Samoa News

Lots of new experiences for this Hermit as she gets out and about…like –

1. Telesa Book Cakes in Sydney. A special surprise from Sydney launch sponsors,Nia and Sean of  LNS Mobile Mechanics. Made by Melicious Cake House. I’m embarassed to tell you that I felt a bit tearful to see them. As a cake-addict, how awesome is having your books recreated as cakes?! (cue girly scream here.)

2. You know those super-cool cars that rappers (and gangsters and mobsters…cough cough) drive? The ones that bounce and adjust up and down, making noises like the Transformers? They’re called ‘low-riders’ but I like the name  “Flow-Riders.” Me and the Hot Man got transported to the Sydney launch in style by the Uso Car Club, courtesy of Poreta Mariner. Everywhere you go in one of these cars, people stop and stare. And when you pull up to a red light and the driver starts making the car do that UP-DOWN move, people start filming the car and cheering and getting rather excited.  It was a defn first for me. I must confess tho that riding in such a vehicle is NOT conducive to fabulously styled hair because they drive with the windows down and the wind is blowing everything to bits. And the padded ceiling in the car is really low and your head keeps getting knocked about and all the hairspray in the world cant stop that hairstyle from getting messed up. I arrived at the launch party looking like a storm had swept through me….

3. In Brisbane I was reminded why – as a kid – I always said I would NEVER go to Australia…snake phobia! The fabulous and funnny M.C for the launch night, Gau had a snake trying to crawl into her garage on the night we met up for a planning dinner. All she had to do was show me this picture and I was trying NOT to leap up onto the table, just in case one had decided to slither all the way into the city…into the restaurant…into the pot-plants next to us.  I was on high alert for the rest of the trip.

More updates to come…gotta go out for dinner on our last night here in Sydney.

The Hermit Leaves the Cave to go on Television

We all know I’m a social recluse. With rather pitiful social skills. Which are sorely tested whenever I have to leave my cave and do stuff like an interview on the TVNZ Good Morning Show. So how did it all come about?

Blogging is a miraculous thing. And social networks can be far-reaching and super connecting things. A while back, a lovely woman called Nadine read my book ‘Pacific Tsunami-Galu Afi.’ She wrote a Goodreads review about it that brought tears to my eyes. I messaged her and thanked her profusely. We each noted the other was a blogger. We connected with each other’s blogs. (Check out her insightful and funny 5InABus here.) She read about my Telesa Trilogy books on here. Unbeknownst to me, she used to work as a producer at TVNZ. She wrote to her friends there and told them about my books. She may even have given them the link to this blog. TVNZ got in touch with me about the possiblity of having me on their Good Morning Show around the anniversary of the 2009 tsunami. I sent them copies of my books to check out. They said, ‘cool, lets do it.’

TVNZ sent me a list of 15 questions they “might” ask me. I didnt want to sound like the nervous nitwit that I am so I spent hours and hours composing possible answers to those and every other possible question they could ask me. (and then Mr Ron Cheeseman only asked me five of the fifteen questions and I was so nervous I couldn’t shut up anyway…GET THIS WOMAN A MUZZLE!)

In the days before I  asked them ‘umm..what do you think would be alright to wear?’  A super-cool TVNZ woman with a sense of humor replied, ‘Just dont wear a gold spandex onesie and you’ll be fine.’  I emailed back, ‘Dammit, and I was getting extra glitter stuck on my bodysuit specially for the show.‘ It was comforting to know TVNZ people knew how to be funny and sarcastic.

So I got my hair done at the hairdresser ( which explains why I TOTALLY dont look like me at all in the video), put on my precious new MENA puletasi that I was saving to wear during the Australia book tour ( and now my five Australian readers have probably seen it and they will feel extra sorry for me that Im so poor i have to wear the same clothes everywhere I go.) And I drove myself to the city. An hour early in case I got lost. ( because we all know the statistical probability of THAT happening…)

At the TVNZ studio I got to sit in “The Green Room” where guests wait – but which is not colored green at all.  They had snacks and lovely comfortable sofas. (But sadly, no Diet Coke or donuts.) I met a nice young man ( who looked alot like Liam Hemsworth by the way…I exagerate you not)He was waiting there for his girlfriend who was one of the models doing the fashion segment.
He said, “Wow, you look great.”
I said, “Ugh, I cant wait to take all my clothes off.”
He looked surprised. I said, “I mean, I cant wait to get comfortable and relaxed.”
He looked alarmed. I said, “I mean, its very nice of you to say so, but Im not used to wearing real clothes and this outfit is killing me.” I cant recollect exactly, but I may then have babbled stuff along the lines of…”I’m sorry for sounding like an idiot, but its because I  have lots of children and never go anywhere and I’m nervous as heck about being on the show and did you know you look like Liam Hemsworth?!”
He exited the building very shortly after. Heaving a great sigh of relief to escape me, no doubt.

 Then a nice lady took me to get my makeup done. A semi-evil makeup woman got irritated with me when I made a yuck face at the hot pink blush she wanted to put on me. And she said the f-bomb when I freaked out about wearing mascara. It’s safe to say that the makeup woman at TVNZ dislikes me intensely.

I met some more very nice people from the show who do fashion, cooking and crafts. Then I did my interview with Ron Cheeseman. Talking about the tsunami stories rips me up inside, even three years later and I nearly got lost in the emotions and cried. I was glad when the interview was over. All eight minutes of it.

The relief to be done with it was so huge that I felt like hugging everyone in sight. (which is an unusual feeling for me because Im allergic to body contact and hate hugging people.)

Back in the Green-Room-thats-not-Green, I bumped into actor Rena Owen and almost fell on the ground in awe. She was gracious and friendly and was nice enough to tell me that “I saw you on the Tagata Pasifika show and I really want to read your Telesa book.” Of course I gave her my copy immediately, trying not to fall on the ground in awe that Rena Owen was actually going to hold a copy of my book in her hands and take it home with her. ( Hopefully not to throw it in the rubbish.)

And then my visit to TVNZ was over. I was feeling pretty exultant after that. I had done it. I had left the cave, spoken on television, met Rena Owen, and apart from freaking out the boy who looked like Liam Hemsworth – I hadnt made a complete fool of myself, yay! My exultation lasted the entire 45 minutes that it took me to sit in the carpark and try and map my way back to the motorway. I got a little bit lost but nothing too bad.

So there you have it, to all you other hermits out there? Take heart, it’s possible to break out of the cave once in a while, interact with other humans and then still safely make it back unscathed.

I Vlogged! (Can I get anymore CLEVER!?)

Ok, so I tried this vlogging thing. You dont even want to know HOW LONG it took me to figure out the blasted video tech stuff. Ugh. Anyway, here it is. The first in the “Fiapoko Woman” series where I talk about writing stuff, answer your TELESA questions and generally ramble about random things (when I should probably just keep my mouth shut.) In this one, I take on a reader question: ‘Where did you get the inspiration to write about telesa?’
If you watch it – be nice okay? Its my first time on this thing!

How Much Attention Should Writers pay to Bad Reviews?

“Do me a favor and don’t waste your time reading this book…the story line is awful.”
 “I wish someone else had written this book because I think it could have been great if written by a better storyteller.”
“The writing and dialogue were VERY bad.”
“The main character completely ruined the book for me. She’s bipolar, jumping from one emotion to the next like its nobody’s business. If I had been the male lead I would have punched her in the face and never talked to her again.”  (A selection of less than stellar reviews for Telesa.)

Book reviews. Bad book reviews. They’re inevitable for an author. Especially in this electronic day and age when anyone can read a book and then tell the world what they think about it. Right away. All over the internet. The first rule of wanting to be an author is – make sure you are tough enough to handle it when people hate your writing. Remember that, If there aren’t any peope that hate your work – then you arent reaching enough people. Embrace the haters. The second rule is – make sure you are strong enough NOT to respond/react publicly to a bad review. Don’t rant, rave, scream or hunt down that reviewer and kill them. (Can you tell these are Lani Young’s rules and very unlikely to be found in any writing manual?) The third rule is – make sure you are objective and discerning and grateful enough to look at each bad review and find the constructive bits in it. Ask, how can that crappy review be helpful?

I am a new author. I have four published books in the universe and lots of short stories in the universe. But I am still very new and have lots to learn. About writing. Publishing. Distributing and promoting my books. I am new enough that every review of my writing – gets read. Every review – either makes me happy. Or sad. (Especially reviews that say I don’t know how to speak or write English properly. Ouch.) I have read a couple of hundred reviews of my books thus far. Every time someone takes the time to write their feedback, I am grateful. EVEN IF THE FEEDBACK SUCKS. Because I am now experienced enough to realize that there can be value even in the haters.  Particularly when you take the time to be constructive / specific in your feedback about WHY you enjoyed the book. Or WHY you hated it.

There are over 100 reviews on Amazon for the first book in the series, Telesa:The Covenant Keeper. 129 of them are 4-5 star. 3 of them are 2-star. I found the reviews to be extremely useful while writing the second book. Many people also write to me with suggestions and helpful hints about typos, characters, plot and more. Your reviews and feedback help me write. Some examples:
* Simone. I never expected there to be so much overwhelming response to this character. A common thread in book feedback was how much you all loved Simone and wanted to see more of him in the next books. Another reviewer contacted me with suggestions about Simone using fa’afafine specific language terms to help make him a more realistic character. You spoke and I listened. The reason why Simone has a bigger part to play in When Water Burns  is because you wanted him to.
*Leila. You found her to be a frustrating character at times as she struggled with issues of identity and trust. Some of you were understanding and said that “she’s a typical teenager and has been through a lot so I could understand why she behaved the way she did” while others just wanted to beat her up, eliminate her from the scene and then step in to “comfort Daniel.” I hope readers will find that in book two, Leila shows more maturity and development as a character. (and no, sorry Daniel doesnt need any comforting from any helpful volunteers…lol)
*Pace of action/plot/storyline. While some luxuriated in the detailed build-up to the Covenant Sisterhood powers and plot, others felt that the book was “slow” Particularly  in the beginning. I did lots of writing research on how to make books flow faster. Make the action more gripping and intense. I wanted book two to be a book that you could NOT put down. Big Daughter warned me somewhat apprehansively, “you better be careful Mum, theres so much explosive stuff happening in every chapter that readers are going to complain the book is too fast…”

I dont know about other authors, but I’m very glad that readers can instantly put up book feedback online. Your reviews, emails, FB and twitter messages help me in this writing journey. I hope you will enjoy the second book (and the third…) And please, keep those reviews coming. Even if they suck.

You Made Me Cry

What a week it has been. It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting here, exhausted and just a little bit stunned.

1. The electronic book version of ‘When Water Burns’ was released on Amazon on Thursday. I asked for your help with getting this book into the rankings and you responded. You bought 380 books in a single day.  I woke up on Friday morning to find that ‘When Water Burns’ was number ONE on Amazon’s Movers and Shakers List – which tracks books that move the most on the listings in a single day. Overall ranking, #379 out of 1, 190, 929 books. Number 1 on the People and Places Fiction List, Number 1 on the Mythology List, Number 5 on the Children’s Hot New Releases List. You made history for a book written by a Pacific author. You did that.

2. Today I went to Otara Market in South Auckland for a book signing event organized by Rasmus Pereira and the Shop Samoa team. I had never been to Otara Market before. (Rasmus is pretty sure that this was a first for Otara Market as well – a book signing.) Many companies and individuals worked together to sponsor the event and make it happen. Like SUGA Magazine, Levi Plumbing, DJ Meex, Keila Records, Yolande Ah Chong, Tatau Dance Group, the Te Ariki Vaine Dance Group, Miss Samoa-NZ – and more.  I was expecting a low-key morning with a few people in attendance – and the chance for me to check out the market shops and sample some of the food that Otara Market is (in)famous for. That’s not what happened. From start to finish, I was overwhelmed. There were masses of people wanting to get books signed. Wanting to have photos taken. Wanting to meet the cover models. Wanting to share their excitement and enthusiasm for the books and the characters. Not only that, but the organizers had worked together with different sponsors to host a great array of gifted Pacific artists. From dance groups to music artists and radio hosts and more – the day was one that celebrated Pacific talent and creativity. But the day was truly about you. It was possible because of you. The readers. The supporters. You that have embraced these books and these characters and gone out of your way to encourage a Samoan writer that is trying to write and publish her books on her own. Today was about YOU. You made it memorable. Special.

Mothers, daughters and grand-daughters celebrating a book together.

A professional athlete and an actress giving of their talents to bring a book to life.

A beautiful couple. 

A mum bringing her children to meet an author.

A community coming together.

Connecting with great friends.

Dancers sharing their talents ( and tattoos) with a captive audience.

Dancers sharing their fiery flair and beauty. 
Inspiring examples of Pacific women.
The next generation of readers…and writers?
A rugby superstar making the time to support a Pacific author – and our youth.

Dedicated fans showing their enthusiasm for the book (and for Daniel) via their T.Shirts.



Thank you for all that you do to make this writing and publishing journey possible. The last few days have shown me just how much you love these books. Just how much you are willing to do to encourage and uplift a writer of fiery Pacific stories. I’m humbled and grateful for every day that I can be living my writing dream.  Thank you for all that YOU do to make it happen.

(Ok, and now, I’m going to cry. Thank goodness you can’t see me. It’s past midnight, I’m really tired, looking at the pictures from the Otara event and I’m crying because you all blew me away with your support. I had no clue you were going to make a day like today happen.) 

And yes, in answer to those who have already begun asking me about book three…I am going to get serious about finishing work on the next book. ‘The Bone Bearer’ is in the works. And so is the Daniel novella – much of book one retold from Daniel’s perspective. Your support of my books makes it possible for me to write more. It’s that simple. This week, YOU made history. Today, YOU made my very first visit to Otara Market – an absolute joy. And tonight, reflecting on it all – YOU made me cry.

Thank you.

Google Loves me More than My Mum Does.

What Big Son is wearing this week. 

You know what I hate? The law of the universe which dictates that your child
* will only ever have a volcanic raging fever – in the middle of the night. Play all day, run wild outdoors then clock strikes twelve? Pumpkin coach explodes. Fever, crash and burn.
* will only ever be mortally wounded – in the middle of the night. Climb a tree in the moonlight because they think ‘it’s fun’ and rip their leg open bad enough that they need emergency surgery.
* will only ever suffer a life-threatening allergic reaction to their pain meds – in the middle of the night. Play X-box all afternoon. Sleep. Eat. Play more X-box. BAAAAAM, ‘I’m dying, help me.

I also hate that secondary law of the universe which dictates that all of these bad things will only ever happen to your child when your partner is an ocean away in Samoa/Australia/NZ.

Last week, Big Son had his wisdom tooth extracted. There was crying involved. From me. There was pain, suffering and swelling. For him. He was doped up with 3 different types of medication. By the second day, he was feeling worse than the first. I soothed him and told him ‘this too shall pass. Be strong. Be patient.’ By the third day, he was feeling super worse than the second. I was a little irritated with him. Because of course, I am a busy multi-tasking mother who has way more important things to do than coddle a seventeen year old who’s practically a MAN already. I brushed him off and told him ‘you’re exaggerating. Get over it.’ He went and played X-box. An hour later he came to tell me “I feel really weird. Dizzy. Breathless.” I told him, “X-Box has that effect on people. Its a scientific fact. Go away. I’m very busy.” Night time comes. Big Son staggers over to me and shows me a google page printout. “I think you should take me to the emergency room. According to Google, I’m having an allergic reaction to codeine.” 

I am ashamed (now) to tell you that I rolled my eyes. And complained loudly. All the way to the afterhours A&E. And I muttered words like…’hypochondriac…bloody Google…giving sooky teenagers ideas…’ as I thought about all the writing that I WASNT doing because I was taking this kid to the doctor. My annoyance  continued right up until we got to reception and I noticed that Big Son’s face now resembled that of a lopsided blowfish. And he was red in the face. And struggling to breathe. And doctors rushed him down the hall, hooked him up to machines, pushed the panic button, loaded him into an ambulance and drove away.  Huh

“What’s happening?” Your son is having an allergic reaction. We need to get him to the hospital immediately. Just like that, Big Son went from being ‘Annoying Big Sook Son who is Fiapoko enough to google imaginary illnesses’ – to Big Son who Might Die and All Because His Horrible Selfish Mother didn’t Look After Him Properly. 

Some hours later, Big Son was alright. Disaster had been averted. And I had to deal with the next awful challenge. Telling his faraway-father-in-Samoa what had happened.  Saying, “But he was playing X-Box all afternoon and he looked just fine dammit!” was a little bit helpful for my case. But not much. Especially not when Big Son tells his Dad on the phone ( in a very weak, sad voice) “It’s so lucky I turned to Google.” Because my mum ignored me. Google loves me more than my own mum.  “It’s a good thing I kept asking mum to take me to the doctor and didn’t give up.” Because my mum is a cruel heartless creature. I could have passed out on my bedroom floor and she wouldn’t have noticed I was dead until rats started gnawing on my body.

I want the universe to witness that I have apologized profusely to my son. All this week, I have been creeping in to his room when he’s asleep to check that he’s still breathing. (I havent done that since he was a little boy that believed I was the smartest, bestest person on the planet.) I have also stopped complaining about how much I miss living in Samoa. Because I’m feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for excellent medical care in NZ. I am also very appreciative of the majesty and wonder of Google.

Can I just say though, that it’s been a week now and Big Son is STILL workin that guilt trip? “It would be nice if you bought me some ice cream/gave me an extra ten dollars/excused me from chores…you know I could have died last week? Remember how you didn’t listen to me? You didn’t care? Remember that?”

Parents everywhere, let this be a lesson for you – Never ever be too busy to pay attention to your sick kid. Because if he has to end up Googling his own symptoms? Then he will NEVER let you forget it.

Fifty Memories of Samoa for Fifty Years of Independence

Flags flying in Samoa for Independence. Photo by Leone Samu.

Today Samoa marks the 50th anniversary of achieving Independence. For me, the story of Samoa’s last fifty years is also my family’s story because my parents were married in 1962 and they celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary this year as well. My parents chose to stay in Samoa and raise their six children there, even though the lure of distant shores was strong. My mother came to Samoa from New Zealand, as a very new, very ‘refined’, very beautiful young bride ( wearing white gloves no less), and thankfully for us children – never left. One of the greatest blessings in my life, has been the privilege of being born and raised in Samoa – by parents who have always worked hard to strengthen their marriage and value their family above all else. I pay humble tribute to the land that nurtured me and to the parents who love me. Thank you. Here’s fifty of my favorite memories of growing up in Samoa. There’s a million more for each one listed and of course, each of you will have your own unique list!

1. Weekends at Lefaga, staying in a house on the beach. Spending the day in the water (after doing all the assigned chores of course), showering at a rusty tap by the mangrove swamp, playing cards by kerosene lantern, going to sleep with the sound of the ocean (and mosquitoes), waking up and doing it all over again.
2. Reading Narnia books while sitting in a mango tree. Sticky sweet juice on your face. Hoping nobody finds you and gives you chores to do.
3. Getting dropped off at the Nelson Public library for the entire afternoon – the only place I was allowed to go all by myself when I was eight years old – and not worrying that a psycho child abductor was going to grab me. Really nice librarians bending the rules and allowing me to borrow twenty books at a time.
4. Hot German buns. Deliciously sweet, caramalized coconut insides.
5. Classroom monitor duty, sweeping classrooms with a salu-lima. Trying to tell naughty boys what to do because I’m just boss like that. (and because I was class captain. Don’t mess with my power…)
6. Finding excuses not to play softball. Or netball. Because everybody shrieks with laughter when you make a mistake. And yells at you when you’re awful. Samoa never believed in ‘every child’s a winner on the field’. If you sucked, everyone told you.
7. Glutting yourself on whatever fruit is in season. Making a basket with your shirt and filling it with mandarins. Or passionfruit. Or crab apples. Running really fast to escape the security guard. ( We lived on an agriculture Univ campus and students had fruit orchards everywhere which we weren’t really supposed to be helping ourselves to.)
8. Hoping the neighbor’s dog wouldn’t bite you.
9. Hoping your own dog wouldnt bite you.
10. Picking frangipani so we could make ula for Culture Day at school. Sap sticky fingers, sore from all the careless needle pricks.
12.  Sunday Toona’i at my grandfather’s house. Getting to eat all the food that our palagi mum refused to make. Chop suey. Oka. Pisupo floating in oil. Taro.
13. Saturday morning cartoons at my grandfather’s house because we didn’t own a television and he got TV stations from American Samoa.
14. Eating red baked lopa seeds. Making a mess with all the shells everywhere.
15. Eating sugar cane. Making a mess with all the spit up, chewed out mouthfuls.
16. Eating lolesaiga. Making a mess with all the leftover seeds. Our mum getting mad everytime she stepped on one by accident.
17. The whole school practicing for hours in the sun everyday so we get our sasa JUST RIGHT.
18. Being in the B-group for Samoan language with all the palagi kids because we never spoke Samoan at home, because my Dad believed that English was the language that would take us places. At the time – he was right.
19. School detention for being late too many times. Mean prefects making you weed vaofefe prickle grass in the blazing hot sun. While they stood in the shade and watched. (So unlike Daniel who cuts grass BESIDE you when you’re suffering through your punishment.)
20. Traipsing around after my big brother while he catches eels at Lefaga, using an empty plastic bottle, suctioning them out of their hiding places in the lava rock pools.
21. Practicing our lines for White Sunday. ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.’ Papa getting annoyed because the Mormon kids ( us) were really bad at memorizing scriptures.
22. Driving real slow everywhere. Stopping to allow really big pigs to meander across the road.
23. Swimming at Vaiala at least three nights a week. My Dad throwing me up in the air, silver spray scatters.
24. Ice-cream cones after swimming. Sitting in the back of the pickup truck, wet and wrapped in a towel, feeling like life cant get any more perfect than this.
25. Hot pani popo from Schwenke’s bread shop. Rich, creamy and delicious. The tall cute boy serving behind the counter who I’m SURE had a crush on me because he always gave me EXTRA coconut buns. (yeah, you know it. Twelve years old and getting free coconut buns with my smile. Woo hoo!)
26. The heady fragrance of golden mosooi flowers.
27. Dancing the siva all the time. Getting called on to be the taupou every time my Dad had some kind of village matai event because the REAL taupou of the village ( aka, my big sister) was at school overseas. Somebody needs a taualuga? No problem, ‘Lani, go siva.’
28. The dreaded report cards. The parent’s responses, ‘You only came first in THREE subjects? What about the other two?’
29. The high school socials. Held in broad daylight. Everybody dressed up with no place to go. Dancing in the school hall with sweat trickling down your back and teachers breathing over your shoulder.
30. Taking empty Coke bottles to the store so we could buy PK chewing gum.
31. Eating eleni and hating it. Even when its cooked a million different ways by our Martha Stewart mother. Eleni fishballs with sweet and sour sauce. Eleni ‘meat’ loaf. Eleni baked with aubergines. Yuck.
32. Three hours of church every Sunday. My little sister giving her Sunday school teacher a heart attack, telling her ‘I’ve decided to be an aethist.’
33. Evening lotu prayers at Papa’s house. Every night. The roads closing. All traffic forbidden from six to seven because everybody is supposed to be at home. Singing hymns. Praying. Reading scriptures. Or else you get fasi’d.
34. Visiting Great-Aunty Ita who named me, who tells everyone, all the time,  that I’m going to do amazing things  – become a nun, marry a pastor, or be a lawyer.
35. Visiting Great-aunty Ita who named me, always without my mother, because Aunty Ita called her a ‘daughter of pigs’.
36. Reciting the Lord’s Prayer at school. Every morning. Every day.
37. Working in our mum’s shop every day after school . All day Saturday. Getting paid one tala for our troubles. Rushing to blow it all on lolesaiga. Or a fizzy Fanta in a glass bottle.
38. Reading books while we’re supposed to be working in our mum’s bookshop every day. Missing it when a stealer grabs three of Mum’s silk-screened t.shirts and runs out the door. Getting told off by our mum for being slack shop security.
39. Being scared whenever Evaliga came into the shop in her colorful assortment of draped fabrics and a red turban on her head. She would sit and read a dictionary for half an hour, muttering to herself while we wondered what we would do if she decided to take it. Fight Evaliga? Hell no. Breathing a sigh of relief every time she left the store. Without the dictionary.
40. Buying all the coconuts from Maria – the little girl who lugs a basket of them into the store everyday. Making her sit down. Giving her some snacks. Wishing you could pay for her school fees. And then regretting it a little bit when she comes back the next day with another basket AND three friends who all have baskets of cabbages to sell as well.
41. Being a ‘young adult’ and going dancing at the clubs – the Playground, Margreyta’s, Evening Shades and even the Mt Vaea. Our favorite DJ, Corey Keil who always played the bestest sounds.
42. Having your boyfriend get hit on by very boisterous, very bodacious fa’afafine. Hoping he’s not interested because daayuuum how can you compete with such splendors of fashion and dance?!
43. Planting a massive vegetable garden with your brothers and sisters. The nuisance of having to weed and water it everyday. The wonder of eating fresh golden corn on the cob once everything actually grew.
44. Buying a plate of BBQ from a roadside stand. Chargrilled mamoe, a chicken leg that seeps with redness, saka fa’i, and a dollop of potato salad. Loving it.
45. Peka ( our babysitter/Nanny, our other mother) crying those rare times our mother smacked us with the wooden spoon. Telling our mother she was never coming back to work again.
46. Feeding chickens and collecting eggs every day. Being scared of the psycho rooster that charges at people, wanting to scratch your eyes out.
47. My Dad doing the dishes with the lights turned off because he didn’t want anybody to see him from the road. Because ‘it’s very shameful for all of you if people see the matai of the family is washing the dishes.
48. My Mum lending her creative flair and fierce drive and determination to community service groups. Organizing stunning fundraising events for the local IHC. Dressing up as Zorro to ‘kidnap’ the bank manager in broad daylight and hold him for ransom. Wearing a fluffy skirt to dance the cancan on stage with eight other women. Lip synching ‘Jump for my love’. Whatever my mum does – she does with style.
49. Making my little brother push me around in the wheelbarrow while I give orders to the little sisters as we make scarecrows to put in the yard. Which never scared any birds. (Nobody told the Samoan birds they were supposed to be scared of raggedy clothes hung on sticks.)
50. Waking up early on Independence morning to go watch our big brother and sister march in the parade. Eating homemade cinnamon rolls and drinking Milo in the darkness while we wait for it to start. Getting our ears and hearts blown to bits by the 21 cannon salute as another year of Samoa’s Independence begins.
  Happy and blessed Fiftieth Anniversary Samoa – and my Mum and Dad.

"When Water Burns": Telesa Vasa Loloa

That’s when the world changed. Irrevocably.

 The banded sleeve that marched up his arm and spread over his shoulder. The fire tattoo with my name imprinted at its heart. All of Daniel’s tattoos began to burn, to light up with eerie blue glow.

 “Daniel?” The urgency of my voice had him raising his head to look at me questioningly.

“What is it? What’s wrong?”

As he straightened up, I caught my breath, eyes widened as I stared at his body. All his tattoos, all of them were glowing with the same blue fire. Through the rippling water I could clearly see the markings of his pe’a, even the patterns on his lower leg, shimmering with iridescent blue. “Your tattoos, what’s happening to them?”

He held up his arms and looked at them in astonishment. “I don’t know.”

As we both stared wide-eyed, the water around us began to bubble and swirl as if a mini tornado was building up. Fear caught at me as it always did when I was in water, away from my power source. The earth that gave me fearlessness and unbridled power. “Let’s get out of here.” I slipped off the rock shelf, into the water, stumbling over rocks as I moved towards the poolside, to the safety of the rocks beside it. But he didn’t follow me. Instead he stood there in the center of the pool, raising his hands in wonder, regarding his glowing blue markings. I spoke his name sharply, but it was as if he did not hear me. “Daniel!”

The pool was now a raging broiling mass of white as the water churned and in its heart, stood Daniel. He smiled. But not at me. At the water around him. As tendrils of liquid began to rise from the churning surface, snaking its way around his body, along his outstretched arms, silver ribbons of mercury. Ripples of glass. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The pool  heaved with some unseen force and the water lifted like a platform of white surf, lifting Daniel with it so that he stood a few meters off the surface.

I screamed his name and this time he turned his head to look at me. But it wasn’t Daniel. Not the Daniel I knew. Not the Daniel I loved. His eyes glowed with the same blue light as that which highlighted his every tattoo and ropes of water were coiled around his arm. The arms that had held me, carried me. He raised the hands that had caressed me, that had traced the outline of my face with love and shook them, as if trying to loosen the ropes. They responded to his motions and from that slight impatient shake of his hands, a whip-like wire of pure water, lashed the surface of the pool, reaching to the earth on which I stood, lashing it with deadly force, ripping up rocks and plants as it scythed along the ground only inches from where I stood. I was too stunned to move and shattered fragments of rock, sprayed against my face. If there was pain , I didn’t feel it. I just stood and stared at the one I loved. 

Telesa vasa loloa.

A Rare Good Day to be a Writer

                                                           Let’s live dangerously…

So this morning my cousin in New York, Facebooks me – “Congratulations on your prize! Awesome!”

 I message her back. (Somewhat shamefacedly.) “Umm, I didnt get one. But thank you! I wish I did…”
 She then forwards me the email announcement that her sister sent her (who works in Fiji for the University of the South Pacific) The announcement of the winners for the USP Press Awards, 2011. And what do you know? I did get a prize! Not only that, but my uncle Prof.Albert Wendt ( who as we know is the ‘Father of Pacific Literature’) took out the grand overall winner prize. And that’s how a (mixed up) Samoan-Maori writer living in New Zealand finds out that she won the USP Press Fiction Award via a cousin in the Big Apple, via Facebook, via another cousin in Fiji… Cool. 
I entered the competition back in January and then forgot all about it in the TELESA book chaos. What did I do when I got the news? I jumped up and down. Screamed a little. (Ok, I screamed a lot. I’m so uncool.What can I say, I’m so unused to winning things) I called the Hot Man so I could share the joy. I must have shared a little bit too much  S C R E A M I N G because he nearly crashed his car on the motorway. Pulled over, panicked, thinking I had been in an accident. What is it? Is it one of the children? What’s happened? Are you alright?
I told him my wonderful news. And he said, Dammnit, I thought one of my kids got hit by a bus or something. That’s not really the response I was looking for. Once he had established that all the family were alive, he hung up the phone. Buzz-Killer.
So thats why Im sharing my news with you my blogger world friends. (None of you are in danger of being distracted by my screaming and then crashing your car are you?) I’m letting you know that a collection of my short fiction ( some of it culled from Sleepless in Samoa blog posts) has won the Fiction Award and will be published by South Pacific Press. The collection is called…wait for it… ‘Sleepless in Samoa’! I know, I know my creative originality astounds even me. Not.

Its not often that a writer gets to be buzzed about their work. Let’s face it, it can get a little quiet and claustrophobic in our hermit caves…So, if any of you would like to be a little jubilant with me then please feel free to crack open a Diet Coke and slip in some Kahlua, grab some Boston cream donuts and go a little wild. I’ll be that chick dancing on the table to my current fave song, Cheers to the Freakin Weekend by Rihanna.
Thank you USP Press and congratulations to all the winners!

                                                    USP PRESS AWARDS
The USP Press wishes to announce the winners of its International Competition. Close to 100 entries were submitted to this competition. (Cash prizes are in US dollars)
USP Press Literature Prize for Overall Winner ($3,000):
‘Ancestors’ by Albert Wendt (collection of short stories)

Fiction ($1,000): ‘Sleepless in Samoa’ by Lani Wendt Young (collection of short stories)
Commendable Mention ($300): Maiden Fiji by Samantha Peckham-Togiatama (novel)

Poetry ($1,000): ’14 Degrees South’ by John Enright ($500)
and When Things are Dirty ($500) by David Howard

Drama or Screenplay ($1,000): The Cycle by Andrew Porteus
Commendable Mention ($300): The Visitors by Larry Thomas

USP Press Non-Fiction Prize for Overall Winner ($3,000):
Mystery Islands: Discovering Ancient Pacific by Tom Koppel

History/Autobiography ($1,000):
My Memories of David by Ilaisaane Kakala Taumoefolau

USP Press Best Children’s Book ($2,000):
Killer Waves by Sereima Lumelume
Commendable Mention: Hair Raising Cut by Emma Kruse Vaai ($300)
Welcome to Our Islands by Leslie Hayashi and Lori Philips ($300)
and Friends of Joji by Nicole Daniels ($300).

The USP Press will publish the winning titles. Congratulations to the winners and many thanks to the panel of judges and everyone who made submissions.
Professor Vilsoni Hereniko, Chair, Editorial Board of the USP Press