21 Oct The road to AFAKASI WOMAN

Confession – seeing this pic from my publisher got me a bit teary as I had a blast from the past memory…

In the months before I turned 30 (a very long time ago 😂), I did an assessment of my life thus far, a kind of WHERE AM I GOING AND WHAT HAVE I ACHIEVED AAARGH!? I was a school teacher in Samoa and mum to two young children at the time, and always tired and frazzled. I had a mini-panic at the realisation that, ‘Im going to be THIRTY which is sooooooo old, and I havent done anything to achieve my lifelong dream of being an author. Hurry up Lani!! Time is running out!’ So I decided that before I turned 30, I was going to submit my writing to a publisher. (Because for some weird reason I thought 30 was the cutoff point and then my dream would die after that?! 😛)

I started writing stories, frantically and furiously, and looking up contact details for publishing companies in NZ.

On the day of my birthday, I printed out 6 copies of my collection of 12 stories, went to the Samoa Post Office and mailed them to different publishers. I was so proud of myself for meeting my bday deadline.
I rejoiced that I was officially a (30yro) writer! I celebrated with ice cream.

I only ever heard back from one of those publishers. They thanked me for submitting my collection, but said they didnt publish story collections from unknown writers. They suggested that I start by submitting my stories to different magazines/journals and contests, building up my reputation and making a name in the writing world. “We cant sell a collection by an unknown writer,” they said.

I was glad they wrote back to me, and thankful for their advice. (Of course my fiapoto self didnt agree with their assessment entirely, because I thought SO WHAT IF IM UNKNOWN. MY STORIES ARE KICKASS AMAZING! 😂 ) But I wasnt discouraged, because I had that firm belief in my storytelling gift. So what if those publishers refused to see it?

I kept writing and yes, I did submit my individual stories to different places. I wrote newspaper articles and columns. I wrote childrens stories for the NZ school journal. I entered stories in contests. I wrote blogs and then finally, I wrote a few novels too. And when THOSE were rejected, I published them myself. Those novels havent done too bad!

Sixteen years later, my collection of short stories is being published by OneTree House Press NZ. Its a very different collection than the one I submitted to publishers a long time ago on my 30th birthday. Because I’m a different person and my storytelling has come a long way. It has a beautiful cover with art by a brilliant Samoan artist – Nikki Mariner – and its going to be sold in bookstores in different countries. And when it comes out next month and I get to hold this gorgeous collection in my hands, I’m going to celebrate with ice cream!

What have I learned from this?
1. Dreams don’t have an expiration date. And youre never too old to work on making a childhood dream a reality.

2. Thirty years old is actually really young. I dont know why the heck I was panicking for!

3. Deadlines are crucial for making things happen. If I hadn’t set myself that bday deadline, I never would have written those first dozen stories that set me on the writer road Im on now.

4. If you want to be a writer then you have to write. Lots of things. Write rubbish. Write exquisite art. Write funny. Write sad. Write angry. Write long. Write short. Write for kids. Write for grownups. Write for yourself. Write for an audience. Write to make sense of the world. Write to understand yourself better. When your work is rejected, write more. When your work bores you, write better. The more we write, the more our writing improves, and the easier it gets.

5. Ice cream is really good for celebrating stuff.

6. A little bit of fiapoto goes a long way 😉. Especially in tough times when the so-called experts try to tell you that your work isnt good enough or that nobody will want to read it.
Be stubborn.
Believe in you.
Dont quit.
Work hard.
(Its kinda satisfying to prove them wrong.)

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