Winning writer shares inspiration

You don’t have to look far for inspiration to write, it is right under your nose. 

This was what drove Papali’i Momoe Malietoa von Reiche to complete a story that was announced the winner of the Samoan category and the overall winner for the 2018 Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story competition on Friday. 

First of all, she didn’t think “Avea – Taken” was going to be considered because it almost did not reach the 5,000 word count.

Besides, she is a poet and an artist – something she saw different from a novelist.

“I think to win a writing competition for me it’s an honour because am not a novelist, I’m a poet, I like writing short imagery and get to the punch line fast,” she told the Sunday Samoan. 

“I think the adage that we poets live by is: brevity is the soul of wit - that we arrive to a conclusion faster, than if we write a novel it’s a very stretched out imagery.

“Avea – Taken”, the author said, is about looking at life from a point of view of a young girl, as the author says a young person is more aware of things that surround us than adults do. 

“This was an inspiration of my childhood. Short stories I write about are mostly based on facts,” she said. 

“We were all brought up on these stories; people were taken from their villages. I think it’s a fabric that runs right through the Pacific.  This is part of our belief system, although we do have Christianity and introduced beliefs, but we still revert back to our own spiritual beliefs.

“I think it would be a mistake if we do not pay attention that we do have such beliefs, the spirit world in our lives.  It is part of what telling stories is about and make story telling more interesting, and these were the stories we were brought up on when we were little kids.

“They say that they saw this woman sitting on a tree branch deep in the forest and one of the girls from our village was taken by the spirit and she was never the seen again. I mean who knows what the real story is, maybe it’s fantasy or imaginary, but it’s still good material for story writing.”

Papali’i said in those times there were no televisions and her grandaunt, who was blind, would be the storyteller. 

“We used to take her from one of our family members home to another ‘oh it’s our turn tonight because she is going to tell us the end of the story she told us last week’, she was taken from one house to another, and sometimes when people in our own family knew that she was going to come to tell the stories that night, then they would all come. 

“They would like to lie down and listen to the story, and the darkness that’s when the imagination is very vivid because you are lying in the dark.”

The announcement of her win came as a surprise because she thought a writer from around the region would win the competition. 

“I didn’t know that we won from our country because normally it’s somebody from outside like last year, it was a girl from New Zealand, and well I feel they are better writers. So it was a bit of a shock for me,” Papali’i said. 

“I was once a judge for this short stories competition but then I decided I wanted to write because I have been writing short stories for a while. I have been shy to present any of my short stories because I don’t think they were good enough. The first one last year went in and they accepted, and I said oh, might as well send in the second one, so I sent in this one. One of my stories is in the new book.”

With her prizemoney of US$2,000, Papali’i plans to publish her poetry book collections that she is soon to complete. 

“The poetry book is almost done but I didn’t have the money to print it, now I plan to have it published before Christmas this year or early next year. Also get some materials for my studio and artwork.” 

Papali’i acknowledged the Samoa Observer and organisers of the competition for the providing a platform for people to tell their story through writing. 

(Read more on page 15, 16 and 17)

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