samoa writing

Taking Your Clothes Off

jasonBack

I’ve been kind of quiet on the writing front because I’ve been working on three different projects and unsure which one was going to be done first and ready to release. I’m thrilled to tell you that one story has basically got me falling in love and if all goes well – this next book will be out in the next few months. This novel doesn’t have a title yet but it’s a blend of contemporary romance and women’s literature, and most definitely NOT for children or young teenagers. So, no it’s not a TELESA Series novel. (That’s coming later in the year, I promise.) I’m having a lot of fun writing this one because  I can identify with the characters in very different ways from TELESA. There’s a strong brown female lead (of course), she’s got a sarcastic witty way with words (which means I’m laughing a lot as I write her scenes) and she struggles with very complex relationships with her very opinionated, very dysfunctional family. She’s in her mid twenties and goes to Samoa for her little sister’s wedding…which leads to all kinds of drama. This novel is giving me the opportunity to explore conflicted sibling relationships, the dynamics of sisterhood, AND all the wacky wonderful ways that we Polynesians organize our gigantic (nightmare) weddings. And, because it’s a love story…of course, there’s a hot male lead. Or two. Or three. (This character has me brown-girl-blushing when I write some of his scenes..) Anyway, enough already. I just wanted to share because I’m excited about this next book. And I haven’t felt this way about my writing in a long time.

A piece:

The parking lot is crammed with cars. But no people. I’ve chosen my time well. They’re serving dinner and nobody in their right mind would be missing out on their chance to attack the feast on array. The night air is a welcome relief from the sticky confines of the crowded hall and I take a moment to breathe.

Aaargh, my feet are dying in these stupid shoes. And the fat squeezer is impeding my circulation in horrible ways. I throw a cautious look over my shoulder. No-one’s around. I slip my shoes off and hobble over to stand on the grass, wriggling my toes in the cool wet greenness. Now for the torture girdle. I move into the shadows, put my hand up under my dress, a squirm, a wriggle and then an unpeeling of Spanx, down…down. The greedy fabric doesn’t want to let go of my fat folds and it hurts to drag it down my legs and step out of it. A quiet exult, “Yes! Free at last.”

“Isn’t that my job?”

His quiet voice from somewhere behind me has me leaping a few feet into the air with a muffled shriek. “What the freakin’ hell are you doing, creeping up on people like that?!”

He’s standing there with his hands in his pockets, moonlight glinting on the silver grey elei shirt. And the gleam of his smile. He’s laughing at me. I want to scream at him again but I remember I’m holding a crumpled piece of spandex. I quickly hide it behind me. “What are you talking about?”

He walks closer and I back away, bump into a tree. Can’t move any further. Dammit. He’s standing right in front of me now. Close. Too close. I’m breathing heavily and trying to stop my guilty chest from heaving up and down in such an obvious fashion. This close and he smells delicious. Doesn’t this man ever smell bad? Why just for once, can’t he stink? Of stale BO? Garlic? Onions? Old socks? Cigarettes? Please…And then he brings one hand up to lightly brush loose strands of hair away from the side of my face and I can’t think about smelly things anymore.

Because all I can think about – is him. Everywhere, all over me.

He leans in to whisper in that raspy tone which sends delicious shivers through me, “Taking your clothes off. Isn’t that my job?”

When Your Husband Runs Away From You

asics

I used to say that the only way I could ever get a holiday from my Demented Domestic Goddess duties – was to get pregnant. Because then I would have to go live in New Zealand for a few months before and after the baby busted out because I have a small problem with sustaining an alien lifeform (I nearly die every time.) A rather extreme way to get a little ‘me-time’…

Now, the Hot Man is our resident ‘Demented Domestic God’ for a few months and he’s decided to cross a few things off his bucket list while he’s at it: a triathlon and a Half-Ironman.  So in between laundry and dishes and making sure everyone brushes their teeth – he also bikes, runs and swims a lot. It makes him very tired. And a little grouchy too because he has to reach a certain weight so he can’t eat what he wants to.

He’s been doing a fabulous job with the Domestic Duties though, making it possible for me to write lots. ( And eat lots…) Until he tells me that he has to go to Samoa to run in a half-marathon and get some training done in the humidity there. He’s going away for ten days, he says. So I can acclimatize, he says. It’s essential preparation for the Half-Ironman in August, he says.

Okaaaay, I say.  So he makes his flight bookings. Excitedly.

Then he tells me, when he comes BACK from his half-marathon, he has to go BACK to Samoa nine days after that so he can do a triathlon there. And be there for another ten days. So I can acclimatize, he says. I can’t do the Half-Ironman later in the year if I don’t do this triathlon first, he says. You know the roads there are very different from here in NZ, I’m taking my racing bike so I can get used to the terrain there, he says. We don’t want me to have any accidents in the Half-Ironman, he says.

No we don’t want that, I say.

So he makes his flight bookings. Gleefully.

I watch him pack all his gear. The bike, the protein powder, the carbo bars, the energy gels, the shoes. He’s excited and I’m excited for him. For the most part. It would help if he didn’t look so damn happy about the thought of escaping from us and the laundry and the dishes and the making of school lunches…

I wish I’d won the lottery  so I could afford to go with him. (Actually purchasing a lottery ticket would probably have been helpful with that.) I wish we didn’t have five children who needed looking after so I could go with him. I could drive alongside him while he runs on the road, blasting encouraging music, throwing water at him – all while I eat panipopo from Siaosi’s shop. While he’s recovering from his event, I could be meeting up with my girlfriends, Kristin and Kathy  for sundaes and gossip at McDonalds. ( okay, so we’re too old to be ‘girlfriends’ but you get the idea…) What a shaaamahzingly awesome trip it would have been. If I had gone.

But I didn’t.

Because I’m not the one who’s an athlete. Because I’m at home with the five children I gave birth to just so I could go on ‘holiday’ each time. And get a break from the rest of the children.

I’m such an idiot –  what I should have done  – is take up running. And run AWAY instead.

 

The Kiss. (Daniel Speaks)



In honor of Valentine’s Day, a gift for TELESA readers – a piece that may (or may not be) Daniel’s thoughts on kissing. And that kiss. Hope you enjoy it!
Why is that guys are supposed to have kissed tons of girls – or else they’re designated “losers”? While girls are supposed to only have kissed one or two people at the very most – or else they’re designated “sluts”? That never made much sense to me at all. But then there’s a lot about kissing. And girls. That has always eluded me.

When guys get together they like to talk about girls. Which usually leads to talking about who they’ve been kissing lately. Or wanting to kiss lately. Me? I like to adopt a ‘man of mystery’ approach to the whole thing. I tell them that according to my Grandfather, ‘a gentleman never kisses and tells.’ Which of course makes it sound like I’m getting it on with loads of girls. Ha. When really? The truth? I’ve only ever kissed two girls. And I’m not sure forced mouth-mashing actually qualifies. Samantha Matu kissed me in Year 5 when the girls were playing ‘Chase the boys and Kiss Them.’ (Okay, so she was a faster runner than me, but damn, have you seen her? That girl was a giant compared to the rest of us and nobody could escape her. The kiss she plastered on my clamped shut lips was vicious.)  My second kiss wasn’t much better. In Year 8 a girl called Malia liked me. So her best friend told my best friend to tell me that I should  meet Malia at the back of the school hall. Well, I did and after standing there in total silence for ten minutes, we both had the same idea and kind of smushed our lips together for all of two seconds. Which left me wondering, ‘what the heck is the big deal with kissing anyway?!’


The day I kissed Leila gave me the answer to that question – and then some. We had gone running together at the SamCo field and she had basically killed me in the fitness and endurance department. (Shh, don’t tell Coach.) It was getting dark by the time we were done, so the field was empty. Just me and her with the stars coming out. I remember she was wearing blue running shorts and a white singlet with this black sports halter top kinda thing inside it. She was flushed, sweaty and laughing, really loving the fact that she had just kicked my ass on the track. She smiled up at me. That’s all it took and everything came to a crashing halt, like someone had taken me out with a killer tackle. No air. No sound. Nothing. Why had the world stopped? Why couldn’t I breathe or move or feel anything?


I looked at her. Really looked at her. 


I had seen Leila without a shirt before, so I knew that under the clothes she wore with awkward unease – there was a body that dipped and curved in all the right places. In unforgettable ways. (And believe me, ever since the night I had surprised her at the midnight pool, I had been trying not to remember it.) It was easier when she was in the orange and yellow school uniform everyday, but that night, her workout clothes clung to her with sweat in a way that I bet would have made her really mad if she had known. I tried to focus just on her eyes – but my memory was filling in all the tantalizing gaps. The long legs that went on forever. The slight slouch to her shoulders because she was always trying to hide the fact that she was taller than most everyone around her. Her hands that she would wave around all over the place when she was trying to get her point across. The thick rope of hair that I wished I could loosen from its braid, just so I could see if the sandy highlights would catch fire in the moonlight. Her black onyx eyes that could knife through a guy when he was dumb enough to debate with her. Or soften to a midnight ocean velvet when memories entangled her. Or glint with chipped diamonds of laughter when she was teasing me…Are you sure you’re man enough to risk losing a race to a girl? I think I saw you struggling to keep up there for a few laps!


I looked at Leila. And that’s when it hit me. Damn. She’s beautiful.’ 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I thought she was ugly before that. No, it’s just that up until that moment, I had been too busy trying to figure her out. Everything about Leila both intrigued  and infuriated me. From her anger to the sadness that she drowned in when she talked about her Dad to her ever-readiness to believe the worst of me. Any encounters with Leila inevitably had me feeling like I wanted to smash stuff. Or like I needed to go for a long, hard swim in a icy cold pool. Or both.

But that night, Leila wasn’t making me mad. Or confused. She was just smiling and laughing and talking. And being so damn beautiful that it hurt.  A lot. In my chest. My head. And everywhere else that a guy feels stuff.
We sat and talked but I couldn’t tell you what we talked about. I just hope that I made legible sense. I can tell you that she sat beside me on grass that was still warm from the fast fading day. We were barely close enough to touch but every breath I took tasted of her. Chocolate. The savor of roasted koko beans with lots of brown sugar. And hints of vanilla spiced with the burn of chilli. We talked but all I could think about was how beautiful she looked in the moonlight. And wonder… how angry would she be if I tried to kiss her?

And then she ran her fingers along my shoulder, tracing the patterns of the tattoo on my arm. Her touch burned. It was a struggle not to jump up and run a mile in the opposite direction. Because I wanted to touch her back. Hold her. Taste her mouth on mine. And I knew I couldn’t. Shouldn’t.  

For the barest of moments, I did try to halt the tidal wave of heat that was sweeping me towards her. I tried. And then I wasn’t trying anymore. Because then a thought, a longing had melded into a moment. I breathed a kiss on her cheek. Her skin was hot. Sweet. And then her lips were opening under mine and I wasn’t thinking anymore. Because I was sinking, melting, drowning in a pool of hot chocolate. Everything splintered into flashes. Swirling like in a kaleidoscope.

Hot. Mouth. Velvet sky. Stars gleaming. Tongue. Searching. Hands. Tugging my hair. Skin against skin. Hard. Sweat. Pulse. Hot. Electrical current wired from earth to heavens. Heart beat. Sweet. Hot. Fire. Raging. Kiss. Faraway ocean roars. Crash. Foam. Leila. Hot. Hot. Fire. Hot. 

Too hot. Shit! Ouch.

“Leila, what’s happening?”

She pushed me from her with a strength I didn’t know she had. “Daniel, get away from me!”

And then, the girl who had set me on fire with a kiss – exploded and burst into flames.

Writing with Seti Matua – The Journey

A long time ago, I promised you a ‘Tusitala Fiapoto’ series for and about Pacific writers- and then promptly got very busy with writing and edits and book tours and sick children and more. So I’m super happy to have as a guest today, a Samoan writer/blogger /editor, SETI MATUA, sharing his thoughts on his writing journey.
When I was approached by my friend Lani to write a guest post for her blog I was ecstatic for a number of reasons but largely because, who wouldn’t feel flattered to write a guest post for a published author whose wit and warmth have already made her one of the Pacific’s premier writers?
I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of Lani’s “Tusitala Fiapoto” series and hope that my path towards authorship will inspire and give aspiring writers a broad template to base their own writing dreams upon.
In the beginning
Years ago my parents had a dream of immersing me and my siblings into the Samoan language and culture. That dream came to fruition for them when they moved the entire family to Samoa. Their dream became our nightmare – I mean, how can you expect an American teenager weaned on KFC and Slurpee’s to survive on taro, palusami and mangoes? And why am I being forced to wear the same button down shirt andflowing ‘skirt’ as everyone else in the school? Do they not understand that I am trying to find myself and this uniform stuff is stifling my inner Michael Jackson? Why are all these local kids SO happy and why do they insist on laughing and joking all the time?
These were the typical rants of my American teenage mind. It was a mindset that culminated in a journey of acceptance, a humbling of the spirit and a love for my native homeland, its eccentricities, music, language, beaches, pace and especially its people – my people. My short-lived (seven years total) experience in Samoa prompted in me a desire to document in journals my life’s progression from angry teen to a Samoan man and in doing so, Samoa is where I developed a passion for writing.
My process
If there is a process it’s broken – and this exercise with Lani is helping me to eliminate the mental block and complete the book that has been several years in the making. Like most writers I believe that we all have stories and that they are all worth telling. Whether it’s a short piece about world peace, a blog post about your daily doldrums or a complete young adult series filled with romance, the process for me is generally the same.
As a blogger and feature writer my primary goal is to establish and develop a lasting connection with my target audience. Anything could trigger a thought or an emotion that lingers like the sweet scent of frangipani tangled in the cobwebs of your mind, long after you and your love have parted under a crescent moon. It could be a word uttered in disgust, an empty pill bottle or an ink stain on the pocket of a Ralph Lauren polo that triggers that thought and initiates what I refer to as my ‘writing spasm’. It is during these throes that I do my best writing and create a framework for a project.
From that point I begin to build upon the story, piece by piece. Initially, it is an organic process with no real form or function. Once I have jotted down all of my thoughts on the matter, I begin organizing the blocks into more manageable, edible pieces. In other words, I break it down to the point that my readers don’t have to grab the mango that I’m offering them and swallow it whole, but rather enjoy it bite by bite and make their own conclusion of whether they, the recipient, appreciate and relish it as much as I, the giver, did in creating it.
Understanding your audience is significant. In one of the book projects that I’m currently working on my primary target audience is a young adult crowd with a secondary audience in the middle age range. The subject matter is light-hearted, romantic (still not sure how that happened) and hopefully insightful and thought-provoking.
The same can be said of the columns, features and blog posts that I write where the audience is a bit older, they are generally parents and they are at a point in life where the retrospection and foibles of a middle-aged Samoan man is at times comical, quizzical other times and for the most part brutally honest. The subject matter runs the gambit but I typically I try to stay with the basic themes that are important to me and my audience.
Obstacles
Time – If time is critical to aevery profession in the world, it is much more serious to a writer, especially one who wants to make it an industry that gobbles up and spits out its talent faster than a kid can upchuck asparagus. I typically set aside at least four hours each evening to reach my goal of two thousand words in my book or to write a blog post. But with a very active family, a full-time job, obligations to church and other community volunteer events that I participate in, it can be pretty difficult to get it done. But time can not only be a deterrent for your book it can also be a crutch that is enabling your inactivity. So manage your time well and get that project started!
The future
Not a lot to say except this – The future of my writing depends largely on my ability to finish a book. My goal since I was a boy in Samoa has always been to be a published author. I am confident that that goal is now in sight thanks to the support of my family, friends like Lani who give gentle encouragement and my mentors. Beyond that, I will continue to perfect my art and publish, publish, publish.
Pacific Island Literature
Since childhood I have always been fascinated with Pacific Island culture, linguistics and people. At one time I thought I might consider a career in anthropology, sail the Pacific and document my travels and interactions with people.  But those were just the yearnings of my youth and I quickly saw the difficulties of a lifestyle that did not include my other lifelong dreams of being a husband and a father. So reading books and writing are my escapes. I am an avid (perhaps even rabid) fan of PI literature and authors. One of my very first novels from a PI author was “Leaves of the Banyan Tree” by the Albert Wendt, which helped to cultivate my passion for lands and titles issues in Samoa as well as following the efforts to preserve our culture, lands and natural resources.
I wholly agree that PI literature is an untapped resource with a wealth of secular and spiritual knowledge waiting to be explored. I am excited for the future of PI literature and hope to be a part of this growing, powerful group of PI artists.
Seti Matua is the former editor of South Pacific Insider Magazine and PolyNation Magazine. He has contributed to numerous print and online publications for more than a decade including published pieces in SPAsifik Magazine, Samoa News, Samoalive.com and PacificEyeMagazine.com. He is a Project Manager specializing in computer software, an industry he has worked in since 1994. He resides in Lehi, Utah with his wife Jennifer and their five sons. Writing is the “other woman” in Seti’s life. He posts regularly on his blog, www.LeFolauga.com

I Need a Man of Steel

So I’m a full-time writer now. What does that mean? It means that every morning, the Hot Man drives me to the library and leaves me there until 7pm at night. But first, I make him stop at the bakery up the road so I can get my lunch. A brown bread corned beef sandwich, a chocolate lamington, a Diet coke. And a packet of dried mango from the saiga fruit shop. (Don’t even ask why I don’t make a packed lunch from home, okay? It has something to do with the fact that there is no corned beef or chocolate lamingtons in my house…laziness figures in the equation somewhere too.) At the library, it takes me at least 30 minutes to get comfortable. Unpack laptop and boot up. Plug in earphones. Choose fabulous writing songs for the day. (This week its Enrique I like how it feels. On full blast. My eardrums may not survive the writing of this next book.) Zone in and zone out. Find what hot pivotal scene I feel like diving into first and then I’m away for the next six hours. (So next time you’re at the library and you see a strange chick humming and dancing in her chair at a laptop in the corner, or laughing to herself or exclaiming, ‘Ha! die fool!’  That would be me, having an imaginary conversation with Simone OR refereeing a show down between Daniel and Keahi. Just walk on by…do not engage…no sudden movements…)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – the Hot Man is managing a house full of our children and our rellies children who are currently living with us. Total children? Ten. Ranging in age from seventeen to three. In the beginning, I worried every day that by nightfall, I would come home to find them all locked in the basement with their mouths duct-taped shut but I have been pleasantly surprised. Not only is the house cleaner than I’ve ever seen it but the children are showered and fed, the dishes are done and dinner is ready for me when I walk in the door. Wow and wow. The Hot Man’s home management skills are surprising me.

His skills are also making me look bad. Do you know how the Hot Man ( a civil engineer and steel fabricator by trade) cleans a toilet? He gets his toolbox and takes the entire toilet to pieces. He then uses three different cleaning products and several gadgets (steel wire brushes, a sander, and something else I don’t know the name of) to painstakingly scour every dismantled piece, nut, bolt and screw. It’s a very precise operation. (And don’t ask me where everyone goes to the toilet while they’re waiting for him to be done, because I don’t even want to think about that.) Then he puts everything back together again and that toilet is almost frightening in its gleaming wonder. My usual domestic efforts with a plastic toilet brush and a squirt of Jiff seem rather lame in comparison.

Sparkling, shiny truth be told, I’m almost disappointed that the Hot Man and the Fab5 are coping so well without me. I mean, heck, nobody even looks sad at all when I leave the house in the morning. Hello, I’m going now! Yeah, yeah just go already. Nobody actually misses me. I thought I was good at my home and family management job. But in comparison with the Hot Man’s efficiency and organization of his troops, my domestic reign (upon reflection) looks a little sloppy. We may as well rename him SuperMan.

Damn. I hope I’m good at this full-time writing thing. Because I’m not sure the Fab5 want to forsake the Man of Steel and go back to life with the Demented Domestic Goddess in charge.
So we know Henry Cavill can kick Immortal butt. (And look hot at the same time.)

And we know that he will save the world several times over as Superman. (And look hot at the same time.)

But could you leave him at home alone with ten children all day? Would your bathroom look like this?

And would he still be hot and sweet? Or would he look like he’s totally losing it, like this?
Sorry Henry Cavill, I think the Hot Man tops your Superman title this week.

Seven Essentials for Self-Publishing

             

 If you’re a writer thinking about taking that leap into the publishing world, what do you need? (according to my very limited experience!) Warning, this is a long blog post. Only read it if you really want to know what is required to publish your writing…

1. A well-written book. (duh) How do you know it’s well-written? Because you’ve spent a lifetime reading lots of books and you know what you like, what’s good and what’s crap. Because you’ve slaved over it. And you’ve had others slave over it. As in…editors. Beta test readers. Proof readers. People who like to read the kind of stuff you’ve written. Find what works for you and get your book finished. Rewrite and refine it until its the very best book that you can make it.

2. Belief. In yourself. In your book. I sent Telesa query letters to 15 different agents and publishers. Most said no thank you.  ‘US readers won’t connect with it…NZ readers won’t connect with it…blah blah.’ One asked for the whole manuscript. I waited for 6 months before they replied ‘No.’ A book about a teenage couple in Samoa? Spirit mutant type women in Samoa? Who’s going to want to read that? You’re kidding right?!  It’s gut-wrenching when your book gets rejected. So tempting to shelve it and agree, ‘yeah, you’re right. This sucks.’ I could have been patient. Kept trying to submit everywhere. Rewriting to get that perfect query letter. But I couldn’t afford to. I had a limited window to write full-time before I had to go get a ‘real job’. I already had one published book and several short stories win international awards so I decided to take that leap of faith and publish Telesa myself. Two months later and I am so grateful that I did, because otherwise I would still be searching for an agent to  believe in my book. Instead I’ve just returned from an exhausting successful book tour in Samoa, I’m looking forward to the Auck Launch which is being hosted by the Auck Univ of Tech and Auck Univ. I’ve been invited to speak and launch in other cities in NZ and Australia. Telesa will be featured in SPASIFIK magazine’s Jan issue.  Every day, somewhere in the world, another person is discovering Telesa and loving it. Today the book that agents said would have no audience – is number three on Amazon’s Top Rated Fantasy Romance List and number 9 on Amazon’s overall Romance List.  Thank you to all the readers for taking it there.

3. A willingness to learn. A year ago, I had never heard of e-books, visited Amazon.com, seen a Kindle, or contemplated publishing my own stuff. My first book was published in Samoa October 2010 and my sister asked me about things like…’e-rights…websites…e-book version…etc’ I turned to Google ( the source of all wisdom) and a whole new world opened up to me. I have spent hundreds of hours researching this phenomenon called ‘Self Publishing’. I continue to spend countless hours learning from publishing masters – indie and otherwise. People like Kristen Lamb  Bob Mayer. Amanda Hocking. Joe Konrath  All who are great examples of publishing success and also so generous with sharing their experience. However, I have had to figure some things out thru trial and error because unlike these giants, I am a Samoan woman writing for both a local and global audience. Some stuff that the pro’s recommend doesn’t work for me and my potential readers. (And thats a whole other blogpost.)

4. A Blog. Not one that you only update when your DVD player breaks down and you’ve got nothing better to do. A blog that you maintain consistently, that engages your readers, shares your writing ‘voice’, and slowly but surely builds a following. I’ve been Sleepless writing for two years now, posting – on average – 3 to 5 times a week. Did I blog because I knew I was going to publish a fiction novel? No. I blogged because I love it. Because I wanted to develop the discipline required to write EVERYDAY. Because I enjoy getting feedback from people, engaging with readers on a daily basis. I also follow many amazing bloggers (and their writing is a huge daily distraction to me, LOL) Through my blog I have made friends who uplift and inspire me, make me laugh and keep me company in the blogoverse. The first people to take a chance on my Telesa book, were my blog readers and my fellow blogging sisters. And they were the first ones to spread the book news.

5. Business Brains. I’m sorry to tell you that a writer who chooses to self-publish must recognize that she is running a business. One where she is the only employee and the employer. One where she creates the product, packages it, markets it, sells it, promotes it, and then makes some more of the product. All at the same time. She must be an accountant, an advertising guru, a speechwriter, a designer, a PR specialist and so much more. If you are not prepared to do this, then forget self-publishing. It is not for you. This is my weakest point and the one where I bet most writers struggle the most. Because in a perfect world, we would just sit in our caves and write wonderful things. And little elves would take our books away and the world would magically read them and shower us with the money we need to keep hanging out in our caves. (Santa, are you reading this?!) I won’t  tell you how many times I have called up to make an appointment with a book retailer to discuss Telesa with them…and then chickened out and hung up. And I’m embarassed to tell you what a shocking mess my accounts and publishing files are. It’s not easy to market your own book. Get help if you need to, get business savvy – or get out of the publishing game.

6. Money. It is a mistake to assume that self-publishing is ‘cheap and easy.’ Yes – if you want to release a crappy book with a crappy cover, filled with sloppy errors. A book that only you and your 5 friends will ever buy. But if your goal is to release a book that can stand proudly on a bookstore shelf looking and reading ‘just like a real book’, then you will need to invest money to make it so. My mother is a powerhouse businesswoman who has run her own successful design store for over 20 years. Her fave saying is, ‘You have to spend money to make money.’ This is true for books too. I was fortunate to have many amazing people give freely of their time and talents on behalf of the Telesa project – from the cover models to photographers, designers and the book trailer producer, book launch organizers, dancers and performers. Editing and proofing were professionally done at a heavily discounted price. Yes, uploading an e-book on Amazon is free. But we chose to also have books printed and took out a loan on our home to do so. Posters and other promotional materials all cost money. It was important for Telesa to be launched in Samoa, its ‘birthplace’ – more money was required. Was it worth it? 500 books sold in three days, yes. Have we paid back our initial loan? Yes. Are we making a profit yet? No. But I’m hopeful that I will by the next printing. (Or at least before I die as a penniless author…)

7. Endurance and Hard Work. Just ask my children how many hours a day I spend not looking after them. Because I’m writing, proofing, editing, blogging, updating three different social media sites. Emailing printers, designers, shipping agents, and booksellers. Co-ordinating the book sales/posting/packaging stuff. JKonrath said  “publishing is a marathon, not a sprint”. I’ve been the watergirl to the Hot Man’s marathons enough times to know it takes guts and determination to keep going forward – even when there’s another hill to stagger up. And other runners passing you. There are days I question why I’m doing this. When I doubt my book. When I wonder if everyone will suddenly ‘wake up’ and realize that actually Telesa sucks…and they can’t wait to throw rotten eggs at the second book. I think about the money I’m not earning at a full-time job. The teaching career I’m not furthering. The non-fiction projects (aka job offers) I have turned down so that I can write this fantasy romance about a girl who bursts into flames when the boy she loves kisses her. And I fight the temptation to quit this rather crazy author dream. If you want to publish your book – be prepared to endure for the long hard slog.
Self-publishing –  it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. But after only two months into it, I can say with complete surety, it’s worth it and I am thankful for the opportunity to be living my writing dream. Even if it is kickbutt, exhausting hard work.

The Samoa Launch of TELESA:The Covenant Keeper.

Every book is borne from the creative fire of the writer who dared to envision it but it represents the love, sweat and tears of many people. Tonight I pay tribute to those who helped spark the fire of my writing dreams, and who’s encouragement gave fuel to their intensity.  As my first fiction novel is launched with fire, I speak to you of some of the elements required to nurture the flame of creativity – in our children, in our youth, in ourselves.
The foundation for that fire can be first be provided by  parents. I was blessed to grow up in a home filled with books. My mum read to us when we were little and my Dad would take us to the Nelson library every week so we could borrow stacks of books at a time.  From a very young age then, I have known the joy to be found in books. I have walked in the world of stories, soared through the wilderness of imagination and lingered in the realm of dreams.
The fire of creativity can be sparked by teachers.  In std4, my teacher the late Mrs Agnes Stewart read my story about a mango tree – out loud to the class. She told everyone that I had a great imagination and I should be a writer. A  spark of a dream was lit on that day. I wrote a letter to my famous Uncle, the author Albert Wendt, asking him what should I do to be a writer? He actually wrote back to me and said ‘if you want to be a writer then you have to write a lot. All the time. About everything.’ He thanked me for writing him such a lovely letter and included a 20 dollar note for an ice cream.  I was very encouraged by this, especially the money for ice cream. Wow, I thought, surely this would be the start of many more dollars to come, many more ice creams to come from my writing!  (If only.)
The creative fire can be fuelled by mentors and role models.  As a young teacher at Samoa college, I was fortunate to be on a team of exam markers of PSSC English, led by Dr Emma Kruse Vaai. She reminisced abt about marking my exam papers many moons ago. Emma asked me if I was still writing and suggested I write stories for the NZ School journal series.  And so that sleeping writing flame was reawakened and many short stories followed. Over the years, Emma continued to take the time in the midst of her own career to ask after my writing, offer advice– nudging me, harassing me about getting things written and published.
The creative fire can also be fuelled by literary patrons, successful people in the business community who see the possibilities even when you can’t.  In 2009, Mr Hans Joe Keil commissioned me to write a book about the 29/09 tsunami. He wanted it written within the space of 8 months. Even though I had never written a book before, Mr Keil still had the confidence to  entrust that project to me. Albert Wendt spoke at the NZ book launch, and called Mr Keils decision – a foolishly brave one. I am grateful for Mr Keils foolish bravery – because of the “Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi” book, I developed some of the discipline and endurance required to start a book and finish it.
There are particular challenges associated with being a woman and trying to be a writer. I belong to an online network of Pacific writers/bloggers. Most of them are women. Many of them are Samoan. Some of them are here tonight. All of us are trying to raise families, be supportive partners, pursue careers that actually bring in money for ice cream – and then late at night – we are trying to write. Blogs, stories, poetry, books.  So many things intrude on a woman’s attempts to voice the stories within her.  That is why, it is so vital for a woman to write with the encouragement of her family – her partner, her children – because they are the ones who must be patient when theres no dinner cooked, the house is messy, or when a mother is grumpy because she’s been up all night writing. My children were the first ones to read pieces of the TELESA bk and they fuelled my writing with their enthusiastic enjoyment of it

My parents, various teachers throughout the years, mentors, role models and  patrons, my fellow Pacific women bloggers – all have helped to make this book possible and I offer them my gratitude. Thank you.
 However, TELESA is primarily a love story, and so it is dedicated to the one person who teaches me daily, how to love with faith, fun and fire –  my husband Darren. I am only able to write because of his patient support. He could not be here with me because somebody has to take care of the five children when the mum is away, and so this night of TELESA book celebration is somewhat incomplete for me. There are not many men strong enough and courageous enough to fully support a woman in the pursuit of her dreams and I am so thankful to have a partner who loves me enough to believe in my writing choices.
There are two  things that I hope you take away from this nite, two things I hope that reading TELESA will impress upon you.
*Our Samoan writers need our support. As parents, spouses, educators, as a business community, as a nation – we all have a part to play in nurturing those voices who will speak our stories to the world.
2.     *You can never be too young, too old, or too busy – to embrace the creative fire that burns within you.  Perhaps your fire is stories, perhaps it is poetry like Henrietta Devoe AhChong who will soon launch her first collection, or  maybe its photography and design like Tim and Efi Rasmussen and Jordan Kwan who’s TELESA photos and trailer amazed us at the start of this evening, it could be the intricate artistry of bone carving like Beau rasmussen, dance, music, fashion, whatever.  To all those who have a quiet creative spark within them, I say, dare to dream. Unleash the creative fire that burns with you and set the world alight with the beauty of your god-given talents.
Faafetai tele lava. Thank you.

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!

Calling all Pacific Writers. Even ones who haven’t written anything yet.



Let’s Join Forces.

Who am I? I’m confused. I’m a…

Commissioned Author. A year ago, my first book was published. “Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi” was written on commission – which means that I was paid a weekly salary plus all expenses to research and write a book that would then belong to my employer. The Australian Govt Aid Program then paid $120,000 ST (approx $45,000USD)  to publish the book.

Self-Published Author. A few weeks ago, I self-published my first fiction novel “Telesa:The Covenant-Keeper” as an e-book and a print book. I have spent the last eight months writing, editing, proofing and formatting my own manuscript. At the same time, I also put five short fiction pieces on Amazon and Smashwords. I wrote in and around moving to NZ, settling into a new life, being a full-time mother to the Fab5 and managing a home. I worked with copy editors, proof readers, photographers, super-awesome cover models like Ezra Taylor and more, cover artists and graphic designers, to prepare the book for print. Me and the Hot Man invested a sizeable chunk of money (that we didnt have) into getting books printed. In 2 weeks I will go to Samoa for a book launch. AUT University will host an Auckland launch at the end of November. I am now racing to finish the second book in the series and get it published  while keeping up with ongoing promotion of the Telesa series. It’s exhausting but exhilarating work. I’m loving it.

Contracted Published Author. Last month, a collection of my short fiction (submitted back in January) won the USP Press Fiction Award. The prize money also came with an offer to publish the collection. Once the news was announced, I was contacted by an award winning (Super Rockstar) NZ publishing company about the collection. They have since offered me a publishing contract as well. I’ve sold children’s stories in the past to  Learning Media Publ, but this will be my first time working with editors on an entire fiction book. I’m sure that I will learn a great deal. I’m excited but nervous.

It occurred to me that I can now reflect with some small measure of (sweat and curse-laden) experience on three completely different paths to being a published writer. And that maybe, there’s some other writers busily writing away in a corner that might like to know a bit more about this stuff – so they don’t make the same STEWPID mistakes I did. And maybe, in particular, there’s some Pacific writers out there who have a hankering for getting their work published the non-traditional way and might want to chat some more about this. SO….every Wednesday I will do a Writer post about something writer-ish. Hopefully we can get enough Pacific writing chat going that I can put together a regular  newsletter (with writing stuff from all of us) that gets emailed out to anyone and everyone who’s interested in subscribing. The name of this splendiferous newsletter is: TUSITALA   FIAPOTO. (Yaaay!)

(Oh, and in spite of its name, this writer group thing is serious, I’m not kidding.) To get it started, I would love to hear from you. Pacific writers of all kinds ( even if all you write right now are shopping lists…but you’ve got stories dying to get out, yes, even you)  – What writing topics do you want to discuss? What are your questions about getting your writing published? Even if I cant answer your question, I bet somebody else on here can share their writing experience and shed some light on it. If you’re an anonymous blog stalker and you would like to get the Tusitala Fiapoko newsletter, be brave and speak up now. Or stay in the shadows and email me directly at LaniWendtYoung@hotmail.com. Looking forward to your thoughts on this people…

Thank you for helping my blog host a record 18,000 visits last month. My YA urban fantasy romance Telesa:The Covenant Keeper is now avail. from Amazon for US and intl readers. Check out the reviews and see if this is a fire you would like to read more of…

                                               EBook – $2.99      Print Book – $14.95 USD
NZ and Aust readers can order from these links: $24.95 NZD  and $22.95 AUD

The Cleverest Woman in the World.

I am a daughter of the cleverest woman in the world. The most capable, most multi-talented woman in the world. My mother can sew, cook, pickle, bake, preserve, paint, knit, embroider, crochet, write stories worth reading, give speeches that move you, weave, fashion design, sculpt, screenprint, dance ballet and tap, sing, ice skate, re-upholster a chair and make a three course meal worthy of serving to the Queen – using only a lettuce leaf, a can of herrings and a sniff of mint. (just to name a few of her skills). There is nothing my mother cannot create. Indeed, whenever I see something beautiful in a shop/art gallery/museum/a Vogue magazine – I know that my mum can make the same thing. With her eyes shut. And using only her left foot.

Yes, if I rewrote the dictionary, you would see my mum’s name under the definition of “Creative”. But you would also see it sidenoted under: impatient, exacting, and downright mean. Because – it is not easy to be a daughter of the cleverest woman in the world. (As at least three other women would tell you.) Nothing you do can ever be wonderful enough – because your mother has always done it all before. Waaaaay more wonderfully than you ever could. She is impossible to buy presents for because of course she’s made everything under the sun – so how could you hope to find her something she hasn’t already imagined? You’re trying to raise five children on a tight budget? HA – she ransomed her soul to bring up SIX ungrateful little beggars AND provided for everyone while her husband studied his way to a doctorate degree at Cornell University. ( See my dad’s certificate hanging up there on the wall? It should have my mum’s name printed on it. First. In bold type.) My mum holds each of her daughters up to a very high measuring rod because thats her name right up there at the top of the rod.

Which is why I have to put on my armor of self-confidence when I talk to her about my writing ‘career’. Because…
*When I get invited to speak at a Writer’s Conference, she says “why did they ask you for? Couldn’t they find any real writers?”
* She asks me how many hits Sleepless gets and then replies, “You got 700 visitors to your blog today? Well, that’s not very many is it? I mean how many people are there in the world and THATS ALL that want to read your blog?”
 * She complains about having to sell my tsunami book in her store, “I only make a few dollars on each book you know. My stocking ‘Pacific Tsunami’  is not a very lucrative investment because its not as if its going to sell as fast as a real book.”
*I tell her TELESA is the first YA urban fantasy fiction book by a Samoan writer ( or any Pacific writer for that matter) and she says, “Ha, well that’s not necessarily something to be proud of is it?”
*She wants to know how many e-books have sold since release date and scoffs, “Oh that’s probably all your family and friends buying it.”(Never mind that I only have like two friends in the universe or that NO my family isnt buying it, because news flash…’Mum have you bought one?!’ No, I didnt think so…)
*She reads the glowing Amazon reviews and rolls her eyes, “What do they know about good books?”

My mum believes that it’s her job to keep us kids humble. Make sure our feet are firmly planted on the ground. “I dont want you children to get all ‘up-yourselves’. And besides, Im just pointing the facts for you in case you missed them.”

No, I am not worried that I will ever become one of those ‘puffed up’ prideful, gloating, self-loving overachievers that strut about, Yes, Im wonderful, thank you very much. Because I have my mum. And she’s keepin it real.

Thanks Mum.

I would like to accept this award by first thanking my mother for always encouraging me to do better by using reverse psychology. And I want to assure her that none of my friends or family members were voters in the Academy Awards. Honest. 

Thank you for helping my blog host a record 18,000 visits last month. If you enjoy  my writing you might want to check out the reviews for my newly released YA urban fantasy romance 
Telesa:The Covenant Keeper  which is now avail. from Amazon, and see if its a fire you would like to get in on. (Even tho my mum is doubtful anybody on Amazon knows anything good books…)
                                               EBook – $5.99      Print Book – $14.95