22 Jun The Runaway Hermit.
Somebody said to me the other night – “For a hermit, you sure do f’ing get out a lot!” She had to yell it at me because we were at a very loud n rowdy nightclub in Apia at the time. I was about to launch into a rousing rebuttal, explaining that OF COURSE I’m a hermit dammit but then I paused to reflect on what’s been keeping me busy over the last few months, and keeping me from blogging regularly. And I realized that yeah, for a hermit – I have been getting out quite a lot lately. All of it because of this writing gig, a job that was always a dream of mine. I feel very blessed to have these opportunities and especially to have a supportive partner that helps make my travel possible and is willing to step up and solo parent so I can do these writer events. #CheersForTheHotMan!
So what have I been up to outside the cave?
I went to Wellington to do a workshop on writing stories for children for the NZ School Journal Series. A long time ago, a shamahzing woman who I greatly admire, Dr Emma Kruse Vaai – told me about writing for the Journal and encouraged me to submit my work there which is how I got my first publishing opportunity. The Journal has featured my stories and also had several translated for the (now defunct) Samoan version, Folauga and converted to CD Rom and audio for use in the classroom. There aren’t a lot of #BrownFolk in the Journal and the company that produces it wants more stories written by, about and for Maori and Pacific Islanders so I was invited to be a mentor to several other Pacific Islander writers. The mentors for the Maori writers were Witi Ihimaera, Patricia Grace and Joy Cowley. (This is the part where you must envision me falling down on the ground in awe because that pretty much describes how I felt to be not only asked to mentor alongside these legends of literature, but just to be in the same room as them.) So yeah, lots of trepidatious feelings going to Wellington which made me extra grateful that one of the writers I mentored was my fantabulous friend Sisilia Eteuati. She’s a writer, poet, lawyer, mum and generally awesome person, go check out her blog here: TeineSamoa Thanks to her I was a lot less apprehensive about the trip.
The workshop was great. I doubt anything I said was very illuminating but I certainly listened and learnt a great deal from everyone there. I’d met Witi before but wasn’t sure he would remember, because, hello, the man who dreamed up Whale Rider meets kazillions of people all the time…but hallelujah, he did remember me! And we had a very useful and enlightening chat about books being made into movies and he was generous with his advice and experience regarding the process. I’ve been reading Witi’s stories since I was twelve years old and to meet an author you greatly admire and find them engaging, approachable and funny – is a rather magical experience.
I was only in NZ for the weekend but it was a jampacked two days. I also met with producer Karin Williams (who’s optioning Telesa for film) and my fiery friend, Director/Producer Letti Wickman, otherwise known as half of the Pani and Pani duo. It was a chilly evening in New Lynn as we sat under the stars and talked #TelesaMovie #TelesaTVSeries possibilities and plans. (With much laughter, because hey, it’s Pani after all!)
Much alofas to Sisilia for letting me stay over and hosting dinner with my #BestieFromBrisbane (who now lives in Aukilani), Gau Nautu. She brought sinful chocolate banana cream pie AND cinnamon rolls for dessert and then made us talk and laugh too too much, until 2am. (If you were at the Brisbane Launch of the second Telesa book, you will recognize Gau as the hilarious masterful MC who carried out this gripping interview of Ezra Taylor (A.k.a Daniel Tahi) )
Aaaand I got to hang with my #BestieFromForever (who also now lives in Aukilani), Elena Peteru. Me and her both have driving issues…as in we’re dreadful at it – so we talk on the phone constantly but rarely get to meet in person. (If you’ve read The Bone Bearer, you’ll know that book is dedicated to her awesomeness.)
The whirlwind weekend to NZ was rather exhausting, then it was a few days back in Samoa before taking off to the RT Book Convention in New Orleans, USA. Thanks to my very wise Big Sister, I was much better equipped for the long haul travel and avoided some of the DERWIT mistakes I made last year when I went to RT in Kansas City. This time I had power converters and phone battery chargers, comfortable yet chic shoes, and a wardrobe that fit into one decent sized suitcase rather than two bulky ones.
I had a blast. Catching up with “old” friends and connecting with new ones. I had the opportunity to meet Samoan author Tracey Poueu-Guerrero (Gravity) and NZ author Charlotte Harumi who roomed with me for a couple of nights and it was a thrill to not be the only Samoan writer at the convention. #Represent!
So good to spend time with some of the women who share my writing journey and have welcomed me so generously into theirs. If not for them, I wouldn’t be able to travel halfway round the world to (scary strange) book conventions in new places – because I’d be too chicken to leave the cave. I only go because I know they’ll be there. Thank you Elizabeth Hunter, Steph Campbell, Angie Stanton, Elizabeth Reinhardt, Nichole Chase, Abbi Glines, E.L James, Tina Reber, Jamie McGuire, Elizabeth Reyes, Tamara Webber, Tracey Garvis-Graves. Missed you Killian McRae!
In my one week in New Orleans, I went to some fascinating author panels and learned stuff. I ate lots of divine food and fell in love with beignets, ravioli, sweet potato biscuits, Louisiana Cajun shrimp, ravioli, strawberry shortcake and pecan pie. I consumed (what tasted like) rocket fuel moonshine berries and fried alligator. (Alligator tasted quite nice but I kept remembering that it was a large reptile with really big teeth and I felt yuck so I didn’t eat it all.) I was entranced by the street performers and all the different accents everywhere. I was a bit mindboggled by Bourbon Street and its madness, with alternating voodoo shops, strip clubs, bars, cafes, art galleries and nightclubs. I haven’t walked so much in one week for a long time. And when it was all done and I was making the long trek home vi Houston, via San Francisco, via Auckland – my brain was on fire with writing ideas and enthusiasm. Which is the best marker for whether or not a book convention has been worth it.
Now I’m home in Samoa and I don’t want to do anymore travelling for a long while!