Pacific Literature

A New TELESA Novel.

“You know this isn’t healthy right?” Jake asked the question without recrimination. Simply stating an indisputable fact. “The anonymous financial support of her education, the long-distance stalking of her career – these are not signs of a balanced individual, a man who’s made incredible progress in therapy. You’ve come so far. But this? Is the last chain holding you back.”

” She’s not the only one that my Fire Foundation supports. So what, it’s a crime now to do charity work?” argued Keahi.

“It is when it’s accompanied by 24 hour surveillance. When are you going to let her go? What are you afraid of?”

Keahi’s only response to that was to start attacking the kick bag. Jake raised his voice over the jarring sound of blows.

“How do you feel when you think about letting her go? Stopping all the security?”

Keahi halted his assault, battling for control of his raging emotions as Jake’s question got him thinking – against his will – of letting her go.

No more cameras. No more bodyguards. No more weekly reports. No more knowing where she was, what she was doing, if she were alright…

He swore. Loudly. Turned and kicked a chair, sent it hurtling across the room. Jake sipped at his green tea and adjusted his glasses. And waited. He was used to this.

“You didnt see the footage,” Keahi argued. “If my guy hadn’t been there she would have been mugged that first year of art school. And then that apartment she was in? A pit. A health hazard. The landlord was in violation of twelve different building codes. She couldnt stay there in those conditions. All the stuff I do?  Im just looking out for an old friend.”

Jake raised a questioning eyebrow. “Is that what you call it? Buying the whole building so you could get her apartment renovated? Oh, and installing a gym and planting a martial arts instructor in the apartment block in the hopes she would take up classes? All that comes under ‘looking out for an old friend’?!

“You make it sound like I’m a psycho.” Keahi’s shoulders slumped. “I’m not hurting her. I would never hurt her.”

“She’s not the one I’m worried about,” replied Jake. “This obsession hurts you. Your fixation prevents you from moving forward. She’s not your sister. Nothing you do can bring Mailani back or make up for what happened twenty years ago. You need to let go of the guilt or you’ll never find peace.”

“Peace is overrated,” snapped Keahi. He resumed his attack on the bag.

Sometimes Jake – with all his degrees and experience – could get it wrong. Because Keahi knew without a shadow of a doubt that Teuila was not Mailani. And nothing about her made him think of a sister.

“She’s not a chain holding me back Jake,” he said quietly. “She’s the reason I’m not dead in a ditch somewhere. Or still picking fights in seedy clubs.” He motioned with outspread arms to the opulence around them, the stunning penthouse view of the cityscape. “She’s the reason I sorted myself out and  fought for all this.” A sly grin. “She’s why I got a therapist in the first place. You owe her your exorbitant fee.”

“Touche,” laughed Jake.

*****************

Keahi thought about that last session with Jake as he wandered through Teuila’s latest exhibition, coming to a halt in front of a piece fashioned of black river rock – a woman with her arms crossed around her legs, drawing them up close to her torso. Her face looked up to the heavens in supplication. Reverence. Flowing curves and contours, supple and liquid like midnight water. It was entitled;

For thou art fearfully and wonderfully made.

Critics the world over were alternately baffled and awed by Teuila’s style. She delighted in taking the toughest, most immovable of materials and fashioning sculptural and design pieces that spoke of fragility and lightness. Many had an ethereal quality about them but one that rested firmly on a foundation of strength and endurance.

One reviewer wrote: ‘In her hands, rock becomes silk, poumuli wood is butter and ore is water. One cannot detect even the hint of a chisel or the cut of a blade in them. The strength required to hew such materials, particularly in the mammoth-sized works, boggles the mind. How does she do it?

Because he had experienced Teuila’s unique gift for himself – with electrifying results – Keahi knew the answer to that question.

Teuila came up beside him and he turned to her with a cautious smile.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“Psalms 139, verse 14.”

Her face lit up. “You know it! That’s my favorite scripture and the inspiration for my key piece…”

Keahi interrupted, “In your Ragged Soul exhibition at the end of your final year at the Academy. I know.”

Confusion. “But how?”

“I went to see it on one of my trips to New York.” He shrugged at her look of incredulity. “I was there doing media stuff and I stopped by.” He could see she still didnt believe him. “Fine. I have a friend who’s an art freak, goes to all the latest shows. He knew about my connection to Samoa so he told me about this brilliant new artist from a tiny island in the South Pacific that everybody was raving about.”

It was the truth, just not the whole truth. He left out the part about Jake recognizing Teuila’s name because he’d already heard about her in his sessions with Keahi.

“You didnt want to say hi?” asked Teuila.

“I didnt want to get in the way. You had all that press around you and a bunch of stuck-up art crowd, so no, I just hung back and watched you do your thing.” A grin. “You handled that asshole critic really well, the one who was talking smack about your work while trying to look down your dress at the same time. Pretentious prick.”

She gaped. “You were there that day?!”

“Yeah. I looked at all your pieces and gotta admit I didnt understand it all.” A sheepish laugh. “But the bits I did get? Blew me away.”

She was suddenly shy. “Really?”

“Some of it scares me.”

“Why?”

“It’s so honest. That takes courage I dont have.” He wanted to tell her that he’d bought ten of her pieces. They were everywhere in his office and in his house. He wanted to say that he’d read every critic’s review of her work, every write-up about her in every magazine. He’d watched every interview she’d given over the last two years and even taken an online Art Appreciation class because he wanted to understand her work that continued to intrigue and challenge people everywhere.

But he didnt. He couldnt.

Because how could he explain the power she had over him – when he couldnt explain it to himself?

**************

Its been ten years since the concluding events of The Bone Bearer. New paths have been forged, gifts unleashed in unexpected ways, everyone has made new lives for themselves. But some things are stronger than time and distance.  Keahi’s tie to Teuila is one forged by shared childhood pain but is it an addiction that can be transformed into an enduring love? Or will it destroy them both? Especially when an ancient force is awakened- the Heart of Vaea – and they must subdue it before it consumes them all.

The next book in the TELESA Series is a stand-alone contemporary novel written for a mature audience. Coming July 2014.

 

The Mata-Lulu Model

This writing thing has given me the opportunity to have some pretty awesome experiences. Like get DietCoke drunk in E.L James hotel suite  in Kansas City with a fabulous group of women writers. Ride to a book launch in Sydney, in style in  sleek low-rider cars and have specialty cakes and donuts made #TelesaStyle. Go back to my old high school Samoa College and talk dreams and books with young people that these books were written for. Meet some of my Pacific Lit idols, chat with them and learn from them. Be hugged by a twelve year old girl who’s read all four Telesa books…”eight times each. I can quote whole sections for you. Because of your books, I love reading now!” Read stories and English homework assignments from high school (and University) students who have studied my books. Receive photos of #TelesaReaders in the Armed Forces, who have taken their books with them on deployment to Afghanistan. Do the first ever in history, author book signing at Otara Market, and be overwhelmed by the alofa, Pasifika creativity and spirit at its very finest. Get handwritten letters from women in Nauru, thanking me for my books and for lighting their writing fire, sharing their poetry with me.

Okay, I could go on and on, but the purpose of this post is to scream about a fantabulous experience I had in Hawaii. ( No, not the Point. No, not late night missions in search of Diet Coke with LOTS of ice. No, not Sunday drives through epic scenery. No, not endless boxes of donuts. No, not the Polynesian Cultural Center. No, not bookChat with Tahitians.) – All that stuff was equally as fantabulous but THIS blogpost is about something else. Or SOMEONE else.

Her name is Jenn Lemalu Meredith. She’s from the same village as me in Samoa but we didn’t really know each other until our blogs collided two years ago. She’s a supermum who lives in Hawaii. And in between finishing her Masters, being the megaBankBoss at her work , raising her family and blogging – she started a photography business a while ago. You can see her work here: http://www.jennphotog.com/

http://www.facebook.com/JennLemaluPhoto

Jenn has been a vital supporter of the Telesa Series from the beginning. She was one of the first people to volunteer to read the Telesa book and put her review up on Amazon. She’s been a #DanielTahi  and #JasonWilliams advocate with her friends and networks AND she’s made me laugh along the way with her FB and Twitter conversation. (and she was NOT happy with what happened with Jason…) She was a key part of the Hawaii Organizing team for my recent trip and had me do a glamour photoshoot with her.

What did that entail? First, she brought her wickedly talented makeup/hair artist, Chantel Kiana Suaava to the house and had her do magic with my sad face and hair. (no easy task, let me tell you…) There’s a reason why my nickname at school was ‘MataLulu…Owl-Eyes, MataOmo’ and its not because my eyes are stunning ‘midnight pools of beauty’. Ha. #WhatDoesTheOwlSay?! ….Chantel was up to the task though and was able to do HarryPotter type wizardry so I basically looked nuthin like myself.

Then we dashed to two different locations for the photos. My Hawaii-Sister Janice Faitala was the very patient assistant who never once rolled her eyes or said bad words. ( ok, she may have thought them silently…or texted them to her bestie but hey, she was the epitome of diplomacy and friendly support, so for that I thank her!) Jenn makes you do all these really weird and painful poses that require a certain amount of fitness and athleticism…okay, I lie. She makes you stand still, kneel, bend, smile, angle your head a certain way, stick your butt out, squish your boobs together ( in my case, non-existent butt and boobs) and smile some more. But because we all know I am incredibly lazy and possess not the slightest bit of fitness or athleticism, I was rather out of breath and faintly dizzy and sore after all the posing. In other words, I would never cut it as a supermodel. *sigh* (Yeah, because I’m not athletic enough. That’s the ONLY reason *wink, wink, nudge nudge*) But Jenn was very professional and encouraging and patient with my whingey, whiney, unfit self because the woman is a genius photographer and can make wonderful things happen – even if her subject is whiney and unathletic. (And matalulu.)

It was a huge relief when the photoshoot was done. Yay! Jenn rushed off to be with her family. Me and Janice rushed off to eat a well-deserved lunch in some air-conditioned comfort. (Sidenote random story…we were reeeeally sweaty by that point, so the priority was the coldest air-con we could find. We walked into four different food places and then walked out again because their air wasn’t cold enough. In Taco Bell, we went so far as to allllllllmost order food but then I wasn’t convinced it was the coldest option available so we left again. Janice was rather embarrassed, “The poor service lady was waiting for our order. I felt bad walking out on her.” I waved my hand at her worries, all fia- blase, “Aagghh dont worry, we’ll never have to see her again, so its okay.” Then 4 hours later, who did we meet at the book signing that night? The lovely friendly woman from Taco Bell who asked, “Were you in Taco Bell today? I recognize your beautiful necklace!” And Janice gave me the #IToldYouSo look…#sorry!! Blame it on stunning necklaces from my mums shop Plantation House!)  Anyway, I spent the rest of the weekend wishing I didn’t ever have to brush my hair or wash my face again…wishing I could just walk around forever looking like a makeup guru worked on me everyday…. *dreamySigh*

Then Jenn showed me  the photos.

I’m a writer, so I’m supposed to know lots of words for every feeling and every occasion. But I’m just gonna shut up and let the photos speak for themselves.

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Lani (1 of 1)-4

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Lani (1 of 1)-3

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Thank you Jenn for a memorable experience. Now I have visual evidence that even a matalulu non-athletic girl can take some decent photos.

Now I’m back in New Zealand, back to reality…as I scrub two weeks worth of sludge off the shower walls, and reflect on my fun all-too-brief fling with glamour photography!

I helped write a MOOC in Philadelphia. (WTH??)

I’ve been travelling and book touring (and eating lots of delicious new foods while I’m at it…) so my poor blog has been rather neglected! I’m all done though with book launch stuff and back to full-time parent duty because the Hot Man has moved to Samoa for work. So I’m ready to get into my favourite first writing love: blogging. Prepare for lots of ranting, raving, meandering blogposts to come.

But first, some of the highlights of my travelling. Which may not be that super-fascinating for those of you who are accustomed to a jet-setting, high society lifestyle because of course, it doesn’t take much to excite me or impress me because I never go anywhere or do anything…

1. I went to Philadelphia because I was invited by the Commonwealth Education Trust to take part in a planning committee that’s putting together a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on teaching how to write for young readers. The 12 week free course will be hosted on the Coursera platform to a global audience. I got to meet and work with a fascinating group of people who are all involved somehow with writing and are experts in their particular area. We wanted to design a course that would provide some basic skills and tools for those with a writing dream, as well as encourage them to draw on their unique cultural settings to enrich their stories. The Bio list of the other participants was rather daunting for me to read because they are such a talented and accomplished group of experts (and so my teenagers were asking, ‘Umm so why did they ask YOU to be on the committee Mum?!’ Thanks a lot for the confidence boost kids…) I learned heaps. You can read more about it from two of the other participants, Uma Krishnaswami (India/USA author and Creative Writing Professor) : http://umakrishnaswami.blogspot.co.nz/2013/10/the-commonwealth-education-trust-moocs.html

And Summer Edward (Trinidad/USA Writer, Consultant and Editor of Anansesem, The Caribbean Children’s Literature Magazine): http://www.summeredward.com/

While I was in Philly, I tried Taco Bell for the first time. #LikedIt

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Was very impressed with the hotel conference room we were meeting in for 8hrs every day because it was always fully stocked with LOTS of Diet Coke and buckets of ice.

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How cool is that?! Was intrigued by rocking chairs everywhere at Philly airport.

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And enjoyed writing and book chat with this insightful group.

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I didn’t get to see much of Philly because I was in a workshop all day but what I did see was beautiful. If I ever am forced to go back to University, I would like it to be Univ of Pennsylvania because its a breathtaking campus.

It was an exciting opportunity to be a part of the CET course planning. It has so much potential to light writing fires in countries all over the world and help get more stories written and published that provide unique insight into all of our different cultures. I’m particularly buzzed about its application to Pasifika. Because the course is free and all one needs is internet access – I am hopeful that it will be instrumental in getting more stories written about us…for us…and by us. I know lots of you blog readers have stories to tell, so I will keep you posted on the course development so you can all sign up once it goes live!

(Hawaii was so jam-packed with fabulousness that its going to require several blog posts…)

The Next Book in the Telesa Series

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I don’t know who this model is, but he was on Pinterest and he reminded me of Keahi….

I’m working on a new book in the Telesa Series – that picks up the story of Teuila, Keahi and a few of the other characters, about eight years after ‘The Bone Bearer’ story finishes. I don’t have a title yet and its very much a work in progress, but I’m excited about the new direction for some of my favourite characters and wanted to share an excerpt. Enjoy!

That’s when he sees her.  It’s her but it isn’t. He knew she wouldn’t be the kid he’d left behind, but he’s not prepared for this. For her. She’s listening to some man who’s standing way too close to her. She’s smiling up at him.  A surge of anger. Why is she smiling at him? Followed by confusion. Why does it matter? He downs the glass of tepid wine. Ugh. Wishes it was a bottle of Vailima beer instead. Studies her.

She’s cut her hair short so it barely skims her neck, so that the line of her back is clearly visible in that emerald green dress she’s wearing. A muttered curse under his breath. What kind of dress is that anyway?!  It clings to her body in fascinating ways, a body that has a ripeness to it that wasn’t there eight years ago. The man beside her leans forward to whisper something in her ear and she laughs.

A slice of fury cuts him deep.  This was a mistake. He shouldn’t have come. Should have just phoned in his auction bid from the hotel. Better yet, he should have stayed in Los Angeles and had his agent deal with it. He didn’t need to be here. He didn’t need to see her, talk to her. What did they have to say to each other after all? He grabs a bottle from a passing waiter and takes a gulp of the fiery liquid, savouring its bitterness. Eyes still locked on this girl – no, this woman – he has come so far to see.

A crowd buzzes around her, wanting to congratulate her. She greets them all with a quiet confidence and surety, thanking them, flushing lightly at their compliments. A warm heat builds in him then and not from the alcohol. He is proud of her. His gaze sweeps the room, lingering on the art pieces that bear her name on the placards. She’s done all this. She has worked hard, come so far. He’s kept track of her. The international art awards, the accolades for her solo shows in Sydney and New York – he has it all committed to memory. He remembers the darkness that used to live inside her,a darkness he understood all too well – and he is happy. No, he’s done the right thing coming here tonight. He’s going to celebrate her journey, toast her achievements, add his congratulations to the others. And then he’s going to turn around, walk right out of here and go straight to the airport where a private jet waits for him.

Well, that was the plan anyway…

Keahi had become a master of self-discipline. One doesn’t rise through the ranks of the UFC and the world of MMA cage fighting without discipline. He’d come here tonight with a plan and he was going to stick to it.

Until the man beside Teuila brought his hand up to lightly dance his fingers along the bare skin of her spine.  A confident caress of possession. Which immediately had her stiffening and shifting away. It was slight, but it was there. No-one else noticed it, only Keahi. But it was the look in her eyes which had him clenching his fists. The fear and panic that she tried to clamp down and replace with lightness. It was only a fleeting glimpse but it was enough to take him back to a long ago day when a sullen, fourteen year old girl had asked him if he could teach her how to fight back.

‘What do you want kid?’ His words were harsh but his tone wasn’t. Keahi had spent enough years as a beat up little kid to recognize another.

‘Can you teach me?’ The request took supreme effort. She didn’t like asking for anything, especially not from a boy.

He stopped his rhythmic blows to the workout bag. ‘Teach you what?’ He looked at her. Just a slight figure of a girl, wiry hair pulled back into a thick braid and dark eyes that hinted of hurt. He’d noticed her in his classes here at the Center. Always hovering on the edges of the lessons, pretending not to pay too much attention but every nerve attuned to his instructions, her eyes greedily memorizing his every strategic throw and twist. And now here she was. Still cautious. Still poised for flight at the first sign of threat.

He took his time unstrapping his gloves, not making any sudden movements. It came instinctively to him because he had lived a lifetime in her shoes after all. She waited till he was done. Until he had tossed the gloves lightly to the side and she had his complete attention.

‘Teach me how to kill someone.’

If she thought to shock him, she was disappointed. Keahi gave her a casual shrug. ‘Sure. Be here tomorrow afternoon. I’ll give you lessons three times a week.’

Then he got his bag and left. He didn’t see the way she looked at him, the almost-reverential awe. He never did. He wouldn’t have recognized it even if he had seen it. Keahi didn’t know what gratitude looked like. He was a stranger to hero worship. All he ever saw in Teuila was the fear that fought with the strength and the angry courage that had been beaten down far too many times.

Here now in this glittering, colourful night of celebration, Keahi didn’t like seeing that relic of the past in Teuila’s eyes. It had him gritting his teeth, jawline tensed taut and his gaze locked on the scene before him. Teuila sidled away from her male companion but he was oblivious to her discomfort because he only moved closer. He reached again for her, this time to take her hand in his, bring her fingers to his lips.

Keahi didn’t breathe. Just ground his frustrations into the bottle he was holding. The sound of glass shattering had the entire room catching their breath. Heads turned his way. Keahi swore – which only added to the spectacle.  A passing waiter leapt to assist him. ‘Sir, your hand. Let me clean that up for you.’

Keahi knelt beside the helpful attendant who was cleaning up the broken glass. “Sorry about the mess.”

The conversation in the room resumed and everyone turned back to their party chatter. Everyone that is, except Teuila. She looked and their eyes met, caught. A flash of recognition and all emotion drained from her face. “It is you,” she whispered. She was no longer listening to the crowd around her, her gaze was locked on the man across the room, on his knees amidst a scattering of glass. Keahi was caught. He couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. For a moment he was lost and a rush of memories assailed him. Memories of a young girl who’s soul sang with butterflies and called to the living earth. A girl who stood with him on a scorched battle field and set him alight with her strange gifts. A girl scarred yet still defiant, a girl who didn’t exist anymore because there she stood now, a grown woman.

An achingly beautiful woman in an emerald green dress, staring at him with shocked recognition.

And then the moment was gone. The waiter handed Keahi a napkin for the blood on his hands. A petite woman in sky-high heels and a pink slip dress tugged at Teuila’s arm, demanding her attention.  Teuila turned away unwillingly.

‘Can’t put it off any longer. Here it goes…’ Keahi muttered under his breath. He rose to his feet and strode towards the center of the room. He was oblivious to the admiring glances from the women in the crowd and the murmur of questions. Samoa was a small place and strangers always stood out. Especially strangers who looked like Keahi.

He wasn’t overly tall but he moved with a compact power and strength that simmered of restrained fury. Tonight he wore dark slacks and a red patterned elei shirt. The jewelled tones emphasized his cinnamon  skin tone and close cropped dark hair. Eyes lingered on the muscled symmetry of his arms and neck covered in tattoo markings and if you studied him closer, you could see the faint scar tissue underneath. Even dressed in casual island elegance – no-one could mistake Keahi for anything but a man of wrath. One who had fought, bled and hurt others. He smiled as he came up to his target, but it was a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. It was a smile of calculating confidence as he made his way towards Teuila – and the man who had sparked fear in her eyes with his touch.

But before he could reach them, a woman exclaimed, “It’s him! I don’t believe it. It’s Keahi Meredith the actor.” An excited buzz as others joined in her admiring chatter. Keahi’s path was blocked now as a cluster of women surrounded him.

A woman in a ruffled purple sheathe grabbed at his arm with sweaty fingers. “I told my friend it was you but she didn’t believe me. What would he be doing here in Samoa, she said! But it’s you. I loooove your movies.”

The tight smile on Keahis face was automatic as he shifted into celebrity mode. It was second nature to him now. Ever since his success in the UFC had led to his first breakout role in a gritty prison drama, his acting career had been on hyper-drive. The past seven years had been an often bewildering journey which so far, spanned five movie roles and even netted one surprise awards nomination. Polite chatter and ready grins were what these women wanted. It’s what they always wanted. That and more. Sometimes he gave it to them. But not tonight. He answered questions, signed autographs and obligingly posed for photographs – when all the while his every nerve was poised on edge, aware of the woman across the room.

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.

 

 

When Daughters Drive you Nuts

Sometimes, daughters can drive you nuts.

Big Daughter is a writer and a poet. She is a disgustingly intelligent child. I can even concede she is far more intelligent then I will ever be. (Not that I’m biased or anything. What do I know, I’m just her mother.) I am very proud of Big Daughter and grateful I can be her slave mother.

But sometimes, I just want to smack her up’side the head.

The Samoa Observer newspaper was doing a series of feature articles for the week of Mother’s Day where people wrote about their mums and what they thought of motherhood in general. They ran an article from Big Daughter. It was an insightful, clearly expressed, and very ‘mature’ piece of writing. (Not that I’m biased or anything.) If I were still in my English teacher days, I would have given it an A. I read her article in the Samoa Observer and I was very proud of her and grateful I can be her slave mother.

Then a few days later on, I just wanted to smack her up’side the head.

My Uncle – otherwise known as Professor Albert Wendt – was specially awarded and recognized at the recent Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. There was an evening of readings, music, and tributes to celebrate him. I took two of my daughters with me to the event. So they could have a culturally aesthetic and artistically uplifting experience. Broaden their intellectual horizons. Get their brain synapses zapped in a way that maybe Hannah Montana just isn’t zapping them?

We went. We listened. We clapped. Ten minutes in and Little Daughter was half-lying down in her seat. “What’s the matter with you? Sit up.” I hissed at her.

“I’m bored,” whined Little Daughter. I considered giving her the pinch of death. You know the one where you smile lovingly at your child for all to see – all while pinching their arm and muttering threats of dismemberment if they don’t bloody well behave? But then Uncle Albert came out on stage and she perked up immediately. Thankfully he was scintillating and funny enough that even an eleven year old didn’t need to lie down on the floor and take a nap.

Then it was time for the music. There was a glorious opera number which transported us all to heavenly places.

Except for Little Daughter. Who had her fingers stuck in her ears and her head down in her lap. I poked her. “What’s the matter with you? Sit up.” I hissed at her. Again.

“The song is so loud it hurts my ears,” she whined. “She’s not singing English. How am I supposed to like her song when I don’t know what she’s saying?”

By then, the ruse was up. There was no way ANYONE in the audience could possibly mistake us for artistically literate individuals or connoisseurs of the fine arts. Please forgive us, we are savages who never go to the opera.  I glared at my child and didn’t bother hissing. “Stop being rude. Sit up straight, be attentive and smile. Or you’re going to get it.” She didn’t need a translator, she knew what “it” meant.

The child behaved herself for the rest of the program. Then it was time to wait in line to  congratulate Uncle Albert and “mingle”. In a manner which denoted our good breeding and exceptional manners. Except someone forgot to tell Big Daughter that patience and something called a SMILE are essential ingredients for aforementioned breeding and manners. I chatted to people I knew from the TELESA publishing journey, took photos – and Big Daughter looked surly and mean. “Why do you have to talk to so many people?” she complained.

Little Daughter said hopefully, “Can we go home now? If we drive fast, we can still watch XFactor on tv.”  Koekiki oe e…

Then some lovely ladies exclaimed, “Is this your daughter Sade Young? We read her article in the Samoa Observer. Wow, such a great piece…blah blah.” They were enthusiastic and generous with their praise. I was happy for Big Daughter. Now she can see it’s not just me who thinks she writes good stuff! What nice people giving her positive feedback!  I beamed.

Big Daughter said “thank you.” With a surly, disinterested teenager expression. One that said, ‘I’m sooo bored listening to your chatter and I have far better things to do with my time. Like watch XFactor. Or taking a Hannah Montana general knowledge quiz.

I wanted to smack her up’side the head.

And so it continued throughout the night. Later, when I asked Big Daughter why she looked like a bored brat when she was being given compliments, she was shocked. “No I didn’t! I was shy.”

Little Daughter’s justification for (almost) passing out during the program was, “I think I’m too young to go with you to book stuff. It’s way past my bedtime. Next time, you can leave me at home.” So I can watch XFactor.

I went home and told the Hot Man I wanted to smack his daughters up’side the head. He said, ‘Don’t be silly. You can’t do that.’

There’s no hope for us. I’m apologizing in advance. If you ever meet my daughters in public and they seem surly / bored / disinterested. It’s because they are shy. Out past their bedtime. And I can’t smack them up’side the head.

 

 

 

 

What’s More Exciting than Donuts?

I love getting email. Especially when its not spam. Not my electricity bill. Not an overdue library books notice. But nice email from really nice people who have read TELESA and actually liked it enough to write and tell me so. Emails that light up my day. Emails like that are more exciting than a six pack of Boston cream donuts.

I got an extra nice one last week. From a librarian in Levin who was buying a copy of the ‘I am Daniel Tahi’ novella. She asked if I could please sign it to three students. She explained, they had never enjoyed reading until they discovered my TELESA book. They devoured the first two books and went to show her with great excitement – that another book was available from my website. This librarian was happy to fuel their reading fire by buying a copy for them AND emailing me to ask if I could please sign it to the girls by name.

I want to take a moment here to tell you ( in case you didnt already know) that librarians ROCK. And school librarians who really care about their students and their reading buzz REALLY rock. I wrote back immediately to thank her and let her know I would be including some book swag extras in the mail as a special gift to the students and posters for the library.

This is not the first time that I have been awed by dedicated readers, librarians and teachers working together. I have been grateful for the opportunity to visit with schools in New Zealand, Samoa and Australia – many times, those visits were instigated by a student. Last year, two students at Kelston Girls High school in Auckland discovered the Telesa book and shared it with their librarian. She took the initiative to not only purchase copies of the books for the library, but also contacted me and found out that I live in the area. She engineered an invite to their Book week where I got to speak to the school and hang out with the students who had recommended TELESA in the first place. In an ideal YA book-reading world, this is how things would work. Young Pasifika readers would work together with educators and librarians and authors – and we’d all get together and make books even more fun.

The greatest compliment an author can receive (in my opinion) – is to find out that her book has ‘clicked’ with a “non-reader”, someone who’s NOT a book addict. Someone who doesn’t usually live in imaginary book worlds. I have often said in my school author visits, that I did NOT write TELESA for people who already  love to read. In particular, I wrote this book for Pacific women everywhere, young and old who want to read stories from our part of the world, stories about us, for us and by us.  I’m super thrilled to know that in a faraway school at the other end of the North Island – there are three young women named, Taofi, Debrah, and Silivia – who enjoyed my books enough to read them. Enough to share them with their librarian. Enough to rave about them. Connecting with the young people who were the initial audience I had in mind when I wrote TELESA is an epic feeling. Your enthusiasm helps to fuel the writing fire for MORE books. Thank you!

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In Sydney, Australia

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National University of Samoa

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Chifly High School, Sydney

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At Samoa College.

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Kelston Girls School, Auckland

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Telesa Sisterhood, Brisbane, Australia