writer

You Can’t Handle The Truth.

I was invited to speak at a Youth Careers Evening where two of my Fab5 would be in attendance. In other words, the possibility of embarassing my children was very real.

Big Daughter’s advice – “Tell them about going on book tour and all the people that line up for you to sign their book. Tell them you work with gorgeous cover models and designers.”

I said, “But that only happens when I release a new book. As in once a year. The rest of the time Im sitting in my cave eating donuts and writing.”

Look of horror, “You cant tell them the TRUTH! Then they’ll know what a boring job you have and how uncool you are.”

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You Is Beautiful

A message for the Single Ladies from Samoa. (But not the skinny ones.)

I got in to New Orleans at 1am and went straight to the hotel which is in the French Quarter. Couldnt sleep because I’m on Samoa time and at 7.30am I was up and out for a walk, doing the tourist thing as the city slowly woke up.
There’s feathers and gators, blues and horses.

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As a donut freak connoseiur, of course I had to go to Cafe du Monde and get beignets. Which I then savored scrumptiously while sitting in Jackson Park and enjoying the sounds of a street jazz musician.

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Then this happened: Walking along Canal Street, an elderly gentleman stopped me.
“Can ah please ask whea you from?”
Me – “I’m from Samoa.”
“Whea is dat?”
I explained. He then asked, “Ahh hope you dont mind me aaskin, but ahh you  married mizz?”
Me – “Yes I am.”
“Aahm sorry to hea that.” Shook his head sorrowfully. “You aah so beautiful, ahh seen you walkin by and aah aint nevah seen anyone look like you befoah, aahh just had to find out whea you from.”
Me – “Thank you.” What a fabulous city this is! Random compliments on a meandering morning walk!  So he looks about sixty years old but hey, one is grateful for gracious compliments whenever one can get them.

“Do aaallll the wimen in Saamowah look like you? Can you please tell dem to come hea to Nawlins? Coz you married but can your single sistahs come visit?”

Me (laughing, because, y’know… I’m beautiful and it’s a beautiful day in a beautiful city) – “Sure, I’ll let them know.”
#FeelingGood cos #YouIsBeautiful #YouIsImportant… Pharell Williams is singing real loud #BecauseImHappy

Then he added. “Yeah tell the beautiful ladies in Saamowah we would really appreciate dem hea. Y’know, beautiful ladies like you with meat on dem. Curves. We dont like dem skinny girls, all dem bones.” He grimaced. “No dont like dem skinny wimmen.” He held his hands out wide and repeated. “Beautiful with some meat on ’em.”

WTH?!  #BecauseImHappy song scratched abruptly. Did he have to hold his hands out THAT wide?!  Dammit.

Me, not laughing anymore – “Okay thank you. Bye now.”

Then I went and ate another beignet. Because you know, that’s what beautiful women ‘with meat on dem’ do when they’re in New Orleans.

But I’m passing on the message – single ladies from Samoa who are not skinny? You will find great beignets and random 60 year old admirers here. Come quickly.

Swamp Snakes and Alligators

I’m packing for the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. Last year it was in Kansas City Missouri and involved various escapades with snowballs, biscuitsngravy and getting reported for excessive noise (ie. Raucous laughter and DietCoke drunkenness) while hanging out in E.L James suite.

This year RT is in New Orleans Louisiana. There wont be any surprise snow but I will get to meet up with fantabulous author friends again, attend workshops and hear from some authors whose work I’m entranced with – like Charlaine Harris (any True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse fans in the house?!), Nalini Singh, and husband and wife writing duo Ilona Andrews, just to name a few. I shall try very hard not to fall on the ground in awe when I see them.

This will be my first time to Louisiana. I’m not looking forward to the heat and sweltering humidity because HELLO I live in sauna Samoa. (I would have preferred some snow to be honest…) But I’ve heard great things about the food, the sights and the sounds in New Orleans – so I’m excited.

I have a free day at the convention so I thought I would do some sightseeing. I looked up a few tours and chose The SWAMP TOUR. Where you go with a guide on an airboat into the swamp and look for alligators, snakes and other assorted wildlife. How supercool would that be!!?? I had visions of me…bold and brave, communing with nature of the reptilian variety. In these visions I kinda sorta looked like Angelina Jolie-Lara Croft’s big brown sister. (Emphasis on big.)

But then I told the Fab4 (we are minus one because Big Son has run away to university…sniff sniff) – and the Fab4 didnt share my vision.

Big Daughter scoffed because “You’re scared of snakes on TV. What are you gonna do if one leaps into the boat?”

Bella said NO WAY because “Only my dad can do exciting fings. You can’t run fast away from alligators. You will come back and say See this is where my leg used to be. A alligator ate it.

Little Son laughed. “You’re going to fall off the boat and drown cos you cant swim. Ha ha.” (Just because he’s done three kids triathlons now he’s all smug and thinks he can mock his non-swimming mother. #Brat.)

Little Daughter cried. Because “you might die. Please don’t go on a swamp tour. Please mum. I will pray hard that you change your mind.”

Well, that was the nail in the swamptour coffin. I could ignore scoffing and mockery – but not tears. And prayers.

So yeah. I’m going to New Orleans but I wont be going into any swamps. Which is rather sad because I reeeally did want to be Lara Croft’s big brown sister.

Be Worthy

2013 PIPA Graduates. Photo – Letti Wickman.

A Keynote Address given at the 2013 Graduation ceremony for the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts, Auckland.

I’m delighted to be here with you young and restless graduates, and with your families and friends, as we celebrate your achievements. I stand in awe of you. Not just because you’re done and you’re graduating but because of the industry that you’re committing to. Performing Arts – nobody gets into that because they want to earn a lot of money. And it’s not an industry known for the guaranteed stability of a regular 9-5 job.

So, yes I am in awe of you. You’ve finished. You’re on top of the world. Excited, nervous, and possibly a little drunk on this moment that you’ve been working so hard for, for so long. That’s exactly how I felt three years ago when I finished writing my first novel, Telesa. Looking back over the journey since then, I’d like to share a few things with you that you may find helpful as you set out into the big bad world.

1.Don’t be afraid of rejection. Let failure be your fuel. It took me a year to write Telesa in between work and five children but that book was the culmination of a life-long dream. Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to write stories that hopefully, people from all around the world would read. Telesa was rejected by more than 30 different publishers and book agents. They said, “there’s no market for a fiery Pacific romance.” (Not even for one with a boy as dalashious as Daniel.) I was tempted to chuck that manuscript in a drawer and forget all about it but this was my lifelong dream. You don’t give up on those. You don’t trash what you’re passionate about, the thing that sets your soul on fire. I turned to digital publishing on Amazon which is the world’s largest book distributor. My husband and I took out a mortgage on our home so we could print several  thousand books to supply the NZ and Pacific market. I’m so grateful I have a partner who believes in my dream enough to bet our house on it. That was pretty scary. But that’s what you do when you have a dream – when gatekeepers say no, you work hard and you give your all to carve your own gate way.

The support for these books has been phenomenal and so very humbling. I’ve done book events throughout NZ, Australia, Samoa, American Samoa, Hawaii and several in the USA. Telesa is a required course text at universities that study Pacific Literature and recommended reading in many high schools.  To date, the book that publishers told me would not have an audience – has been avidly read and embraced by thousands of people of all ages worldwide. And not just by Samoans and Pacific islanders. I get emails from palagi readers in America and Europe, asking me for the recipes to the yummy Samoan food, asking where can they learn more about our unique cultural heritage, asking for recommendations of places to stay, telling me “I had never heard of Samoa before, but now I can’t wait to go there.” My journey has shown me that rejection and failure are merely an opportunity to start again, in a new and wiser direction.

2.Be adaptable and innovative.  Be willing to adapt your dream, learn new things and work hard to make it happen. Especially in the face of failure. I’m grateful my novel was rejected so many times. Without that challenge, I would never have turned to digital publishing and now have the independence that comes from being the boss of my own book career. My dream was always to be an author but to realize that, I had to adjust my vision and be willing to go way outside my comfort zone. Before Telesa, I’d never read an e-book and I didn’t own a smartphone. The only thing I used the internet for was email and my blog. My children will tell you I’m technologically clueless – I can’t work the Xbox and I don’t know how to turn on the DVD player. I spent months reading books about digital publishing, hundreds of blogs and online articles about it, teaching myself how to format an e-book and do all the other stuff involved with self-publishing. I was blessed to make wonderful friends in the indie writer community who generously shared their experience with me. My clever sister showed me how to use social media. I had to become a cover designer, a businesswoman, learn about marketing and all kinds of stuff. Being a writer and publisher is hard work, but I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be a full-time writer and have a job that I love.

Each of you has made the bold choice to pursue that which gives you joy. That which allows you to do what you love – and get paid for it. Be prepared to go out of your comfort zone, take risks and work hard to make your dream happen.

3.Be strong enough to be vulnerable.  You will produce your most powerful work when you speak from your deepest hurts, sorrows, joys and passions. It is then that you will have the greatest impact on others. Whether it’s to make them laugh, bring them joy, uplift and inspire or to advocate for change. But to do that, to access what’s within, you must first be strong enough to be vulnerable. Because sometimes the stories you tell will be the stories that your family, and your community will want left untold. It is my hope you will be strong enough to stand by your work in the face of criticism and say, “This is how I think and feel – and I am not ashamed.”

4.Be worthy. I speak at many high schools and at one, a young girl came up to me after, “Thank you for coming to our school. Now I know that Samoans can write books, not just white people.”

I attended a book convention in Kansas City and a young Samoan man invited me to lunch with his extended family. He said, “I read anything and everything about our country. Your book gave us so much pride in our culture and in our people. I was so proud to be Samoan when I read it. You’re taking our stories to the world.”

A Tongan mother brought her two children to a book signing, aged 6 and 8. She said, “I want my girls to meet you so they will know a Pacific Islander woman can work hard and make her dreams come true.”

In California, a young woman studying fashion design based her entire final portfolio on the Telesa Series because, “These books inspired me to design for the goddess within. To honor my Pasifika heritage.”

A teacher in Nauru sent me her poetry – handwritten because she doesn’t have a computer. She wrote, “Your story motivated me to start writing again, the stories of women in Nauru.”

A soldier in Afghanistan sent a photo of himself with a copy of Telesa. “I get homesick and your book really helps.”

 A woman in NZ, wrote “I have made decisions in my life that halted my dreams of becoming a film-maker. But inspirational Samoan people like yourself give me the motivation to pursue my dream and make the sacrifices that are needed to fulfill the ultimate goal of becoming a Samoan film-maker.”

My dream was to be a storyteller and write stories people all over the world would enjoy. I never anticipated how my dream could help fuel the fire for other people’s creative dreams.

So what do I mean by “Be worthy”?

The incomparable Albert Wendt said of Pasifika, “We need to write, paint, sculpt, weave, dance, act, sing and think ourselves into existence. For too long, other people have done it for us – we have to tell our own stories.”

Each of you has a responsibility. You’ve been given the tools, skills, and resources needed to be a teller of stories – through film, music, dance, theatre and production. You cannot take that lightly. You must be worthy and live up to that responsibility. Every time a young brown teenager turns on the TV and sees a brown face that’s not in the news for being a criminal or a social welfare fraud – that young person is empowered. We are more than world famous rugby and football players. Every time we see and hear ourselves portrayed in diverse and meaningful ways in the media and in the arts – we are all empowered. When you go out there, you’re not just an individual flying solo, you take with you the stories of your family, the collective stories of your community. Because the cold white fact is that there aren’t enough of us telling our stories and owning them. There’s not enough of us in positions of decision making when it comes to the media and the arts. You have the responsibility to do that and be that. For one day, some young person can come up to you and thank you, “Now I know Niueans can work on television…now I know Tokelauans can be producers…Tongans can be broadcasters…Fijians can be actors…Samoans can be directors and playwrights… not just white people.”  And thanks to the power of digital and social media, the reach and influence of your story can go far beyond just us here, far beyond little New Zealand.  Think bigger. Dream global.

That feeling you have tonight of excitement, hope and celebration  – you hold on to that. That belief in the fiery potential of your creative soul – it’s precious. It will power you forward on your journey of unlimited possibilities and challenges. But be ready to back it up with hard work, a willingness to adapt and be versatile in an ever-changing industry.  Be fiery, be fierce and fabulous.

But above all – be worthy of the trust you’ve been given as our storytellers.

I want to stab someone.

So if you’ve read any of my books, or more than one of my blogs, or you have the misfortune to be friends with me on Facebook – then you know I have a soul-wedded affinity with Diet Coke. As in I drink too much of it and write too much about it. As in, I really think that the makers of Diet Coke should pay me sponsorship money because I talk about it so often. (Or they could at least send me a few free crates of the stuff…)

No, I don’t drink it because I’m on a diet.  I drink it because it tastes good, isn’t too sweet, kickstarts my brain and generally makes me happy.

BUT, I am well aware that it’s bad for me. And many kind and thoughtful readers and blog supporters have sent me horribly informative articles that explain in disgusting detail, just why Diet Coke is so bad for me.

So with that in mind, I decided to quit. Because Im getting old and I want to be reasonably healthy as I creep into my senior years…And because the Hot Man is a freakin Ironman MACHINE with all his biking and swimming and running everywhere. It’s rather irritating actually just how dedicated he is to the whole endeavour. Especially if you’re just sitting here eating donuts while he runs and bikes and swims his Iron self everywhere. I mean, when we’re eighty I wont be able to count on him to help me cart my oxygen tank around because he will off swimming somewhere and my mobility scooter wont go fast enough to keep up with his bike. #SoSad.

So with better health in mind, I made quitting Diet Coke the first item on my checklist. After that I’m supposed to tackle replacing Twinkies and other chemically baked goods – with broccoli and carrots. Then, I’m going to learn how to ride a bike so I can be the Hot Man’s mobile water girl. (That way I can go back to Hawaii in the foreseeable future because his dream is to do the Kona Ironman and he will need a support crew, right? And who better to support him than his Diet Coke-clean and donut-free wife?!!)

That was the plan anyway. I quit six days ago. The first  48 hours were so painful. All I could think about was how much I wanted to kill people. By running them over with a truck filled with Diet Coke. (And lots of ice.)

Day three was better. I found that by watching non-stop episodes of the Walking Dead, I could distract myself from visions of popping open the lid of a chilled can…the way the bubbles would fizz and hiss as you pour the liquid over a stack of ice…the sweet satisfaction of that hit as caffeine and aspartame floods the system…oh the joy…the bliss. No, I wasn’t missing it at all. I had hope I would make it.

Day four I had a headache. Like someone stomping through your head and kicking it with steel-capped boots. I decided to have JUST ONE can. But there was none in the house so I asked Big Son to go buy me some from the corner store. He refused. Because he’s very unkind. And then the teenagers proceeded to lecture me. “If you have a headache then take a Panadol. Stop behaving like a drug addict.”  I was not happy. When they went to bed, I contemplated sneaking out and going to buy some coke secretly. Only, it was 11pm and laziness was at war with caffeine withdrawal. Plus, I had a headache and what if I crashed the car? So then I thought about ordering pizza delivery…just so I could get them to bring me Coke. But then I remembered Dominos only has Pepsi. Heck no!

Day five I was saying mean things to random strangers everywhere. On Facebook, Twitter. And at the petrol station. Sometimes just in my head because I’m chicken like that. But generally, I was thinking bad thoughts about everybody and everything.  I wanted to stab people. Especially if they were drinking Diet Coke.

And today? I bought a can . And drank it with lots of ice. And I was happy. High and floating in a blissful peaceful zen-like state.

I will try again tomorrow to quit. I promise. Or maybe quitting donuts and Twinkies would be easier place to start?

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.

 

 

 

 

Snowball Dooms Samoan Author’s Dreams

Reporting to you live from Kansas City Missouri…   So it snowed for 24 hours. And it was beautiful. I went out in it. I took photos of it. I put photos of it on Facebook. (As you do.) And when a TELESA reader in Sydney, Australia challenged me to wear a lavalava and jandals in it – I did. (Because I’m stupid  cool like that.)

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But that snow proved to be my undoing, the reason why I will most probably NEVER EVER dazzle a New York literary agent or score a contract with a Big Six NY Publisher.  Yes readers, years from now when I am a haggard, worn creature riddled with regrets, I shall look back and see this as that defining moment. The one that destroyed my promising golden literary career. What happened?

A snowball.

Huh? What?

The snow wasn’t sticking and there was only a very light layer on the ground. I wanted to film myself making a snowball to show Bella. (Because that’s what Bad Mothers do when they leave their children to go gallivanting about at book conventions – they find cheap-as creative ways for presents.) The nice doorman told me to check the snow late that night for better snowball consistency, but warned the temperature would be going back up by the next morning. So, I dutifully ran downstairs at about 10pm and out onto the grassy front of the Sheraton Hotel.

Picture it….

It’s cold, windy and wet. The snow isn’t a very impressive layer and its really muddy out there. And really cold. But hey, Im a DEVOTED mother and I’m making a snowball for my kid, dammmit!   I realize too late, its rather unpleasant to make a snowball when you’re not wearing any gloves. And its tricky to make a snowball when you’re trying to film yourself making a snowball. I drop to my knees in the wet and start scrabbling snow together with one hand, holding the phone camera with the other hand and talking the process through with a fake cheery voice so Bella will think I’m having bucketloads of fun making her present. I am so focused on my task that I barely notice the sleek town-car that pulls up in front of the hotel entrance. I don’t see the stunning stiletto heels that alight, or the beautiful people that are wearing them. No. Because I’m on my knees muttering to myself in the mud.

And then I hear a loud, Alabama-accented exclamation of surprise, “Laaani! Is that you? What arrrrre you doin in the mud?!”

I look up.

Remember those fabulous author friends I mentioned that I was coming to the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention to meet? Well, some of them are #Number One New York Times bestsellers, and they had gone out to dinner with their editors and literary agents. And returned just in time to see me looking like a homeless woman or a little matchgirl pawing at the ground in the wintry wind.

Everyone – authors, editors and publishers alike –  look at me, astounded. (Okay, lets be honest, it’s more like horrified and faintly pitying.)  I say, “Umm, I’m trying to make a snowball?”

Of course my friends think that’s hilarious and proceed to express their hilarity with extremely loud American-accented-ness as they explain to their publisher, ‘She’s Samowen and her kids haven’t seen snow…’ And then they take pictures of me kneeling there in all my muddy beggarly glory. Because that’s what friends do.

I can see the fancy publisher people shaking their heads as they all walk inside where it isn’t snowing and muddy and wet. Because that’s what you do when its snowing and muddy and wet. You go stand inside and reflect on the idiocy of people who are wallowing in the snow, mud and wet. Oh, and don’t forget, you take more pictures too. And I’m laughing like crazy at that point because what else am I going to do?

It was a moment that outranked most of my hideously hysterical (shameful) moments. But then, I could be wrong. There’s been quite a few of those moments along this journey of Bad-Mother-Author-Wannabe.

So I’m pretty sure I didn’t make the right kind of memorable impression on any editors or agents or publishers in Kansas City last night.

BUT I did get a snowball-making film clip for Bella. So I think I deserve some kind of Kickbutt-Mother points in heaven for that.

Right?

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The Guilty Snowball

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The Pictures that Friends Take of Friends’ Snow-Shame Moments

Mormons are Satan Worshippers

Somebody asked me the other day, “how come you don’t blog/write about being Mormon? Are you trying to hide it?”

It never occurred to me that anyone would construe my NOT blogging about being Mormon as an attempt to ‘hide it.’ Just like, it never occurred to me to blog about my Mormon-ness purely for the sake of telling my five blog followers that I happen to be Mormon. I mean, does anybody care -what religion an author/blogger is? I know I dont… It drives me nuts when people discuss the Mormon symbolism in Twilight…or debate whether or not Stephanie Meyer is a ‘good’ Mormon because of what her sparkly characters do. Do we know what religion JK Rowling is? Do we care?

But I digress.

In the interest of full disclosure, I shall blog once and for all about my religion. Yes, I am a  Mormon – a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints otherwise known as the LDS church.  My parents are also Mormon and they tried their bestest to teach us and raise us according to LDS gospel principles. Some of us frequently run amuck but we’re all trying, learning, falling over, and getting back up again. I now try to raise my own children as ‘decent’ Mormons – and mess up more than I succeed – which is why NOBODY should ever see my blog as an example of a “good Mormon Mom Blog”….*ducks head in shame*

Some of you may be wondering, what’s a Mormon?  I could quote you a list of doctrinal descriptors and belief statements and direct you to the nearest missionary near you…but instead, Im going to do what I do best – and relay a waffly, possibly humorous, potentially offensive story from my salacious past.

Once upon a time, when I first started “dating” the Hot Man (as much as a young couple in Samoa could ‘date’…) someone in his family was very happy. She said, “What a good choice! Mormon girls are good girls. Lani is a good girl!” She said this because Mormons (supposedly) do not have sex until they’re married, don’t drink alcohol, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, don’t go to nightclubs, and don’t wear revealing clothing. I will neither confirm nor deny at this time, if all those things were true of my nineteen year old self because my teenagers might read this blog and we all know how dedicated they are to seeking out evidence of their parent’s misdemeanors so they can justify all of THEIR stupid choices... I will however say, that IF all those things were true of me, then, in her opinion, that made me a far superior choice compared to SOME of the girls the Hot Man had been going out with. (Naming no names…pointing no fingers…)

So yes, the Hot Man’s mother was very happy we were dating. But then we got married. And a year or so later, the Hot Man decided to get baptized and become a Mormon. My mother-in-law wasn’t so happy then. Especially when her son – much much later – became so committed to his faith that he went to the Mormon temple. She didn’t like it one bit. “I heard that Mormons worship Satan. They don’t believe in Jesus…they’re a cult…they do strange sexual things inside those temples…there’s a man wearing a horned mask talking to the Devil in there…” I guess she only liked nice Mormon girls when they dated her son. Not when they married him and took him over to the Dark Side of the Force.

Which is why, it was beyond hilarious to me when she came to ask for my help one day…with composing a prayer. Yes, that’s correct. She had been assigned to recite/say the prayer in her congregation and wanted me to write one for her. Why me? “Because in your church, everybody prays all the time, even the little kids can say their own prayers. Only the priest/pastor says the prayers in our church. And besides, you’re a writer so you can write something nice for me to pray.”

Anybody want to guess how tempted I was to open my prayer writing with: “Dear Satan…o blessed forked tailed one”?

But I didn’t. I composed a nice prayer and she was very happy with it. And the Hot Man was very relieved I chose not to address the Dark Lord.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

The End.

What do we learn about Mormons from this story? (according to Lani anyway) Let’s separate fact from fiction.

1. Family unity is very important to Mormons. We believe that families can be together forever in the “afterlife” so it makes sense then that we would want to build strong families and actually LIKE the people we’re stuck with by familial ties. Tolerance for other people’s beliefs is also important (and keeping your cool even when others think you’re an acolyte of Lucifer.)

2. Contrary to exciting rumors, Mormons do not have more than one wife ( at a time.) We are not polygamists. The Hot Man is only ever going to be married to me. (Until I get hit by a bus and then he can choose another wife from a list I have lovingly prepared for him.)

3. Practising/active Mormons live by what we call the Word of Wisdom which is a guideline for healthy living. We don’t drink alcohol, coffee or tea. We don’t do drugs or smoke. We’re supposed to eat a diet that’s heavy on the ‘harvest of the field’ – grains and vegetables/fruits and light on meat.

4. We do believe in Jesus Christ. And  frown upon worshiping Satan.

5. We have a Law of Chastity and try very hard not to have any kind of sex unless you’re married. (doesnt always work but one can only try) We’re also supposed to dress in a modest fashion. Which works better for some than others. Big Daughter hates to wear skirts above the knee while I adore them…

6. We go to church for three hours on Sunday. We don’t have full-time clergy. Everyone is called upon at different times to serve in a particular ‘job’ ranging from being the Bishop to teaching Sunday school to being a Youth Leader. Right now, I’m a teacher in the women’s organization called Relief Society and the Hot Man is a leader in the Young Men’s youth program – so he gets to do fun stuff like take teenagers on hikes and do yard work service projects.

7. And yes, we are rather good at praying. (So if YOU ever need a prayer composed, ask a Mormon to help.)

My faith is important to me and super-helpful as I try to be a wife and a mum. I don’t actively try to put my spiritual beliefs into my books or my blog but because they are an essential part of who I am – then I guess some of it is going to find its way in there somehow!

BUT if I ever see a critical essay written on “Mormonism in the TELESA Series”, I’m going to vomit all over it. And call on the Dark Lord to set it on fire.

You have been warned.