As the overall winner of the 2017 Samoa Observer Tusitala short story competition, Samoan New Zealander, Liana Roberts-Letiu, is as intriguing as the title of her short story entry “An Elegant Tantrum”.
Based in Wellington, New Zealand, a city well-known for its wild winds and frequent earthquake activity, it is no wonder that Ms. Roberts-Letiu could write a vivid account about the actual night of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Kaikoura which happened almost a year ago in New Zealand’s capital city.
“My story is a dramatisation of that actual night and a dream or rather a nightmare about it that I had. I started from there,” she wrote.
“I started from there and wanting the image to be quite vivid and imaginable – perhaps even a little frightening – developed the metaphor of ‘An elegant tantrum’, I got quite lost in my own mind with that metaphor and the rest of the story just flowed and fitted around it.”
Having never entered a writing competition before, the 21-year- old saw the Samoa Observer Tusitala short story competition as an opportunity to put herself out there, despite hesitations about having her personal work critiqued.
Ms. Roberts-Letiu is not only a writer, but also a visual artist hoping to combine both mediums in the future.
“I have had splurges of writing over the years but never entered any competition like this before. When I was younger, I bound pages together with nylon string to make my own books, with cover illustrations and everything,” she said.
“I have loved to read since I can remember and that of course goes hand in hand with creating stories. A dream I have always had was to write and illustrate my own stories.”
“My college years were when I really got to explore my passion for writing and I was lucky to have some amazing English teachers at St Catherine’s College. I was quite into writing poetry for a while in my years after college.”
“This year I have had fantastic tutors at Massey University who have helped me to refine my writing skills and creative thinking. My inspiration to write comes mostly from own emotional experiences, although not usually the type of fear that inspired my story. “
“I also draw inspiration from moments like a landscape or something someone says. Sometimes I see a stranger and imagine a whole made-up life that they could have.”
Winning the New Zealand writing section and the Overall competition was a moment of validation for Ms Roberts- Letiu and a great motivator for the young writer to continue fine tuning her craft.
“Entering this competition was a small step towards getting into my writing and winning has been such a push of encouragement and a boost of confidence for me. It is hard to put yourself out there with something you’ve created because it opens your work to all kinds of good and bad critiques. I have come to realize that the only way to improve my writing is to keep doing it.”
Ms. Roberts -Letiu is in her first year at Massey University in Wellington studying for a Bachelor of Communications degree which includes some fiction and non-fiction writing papers that she is excited to delve into.