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Waitangi Day Award for Samoan author

Samoan author, Lani Wendt-Young, has been recognised with a Waitangi Day Literary Honour by the New Zealand Society of Authors.

She has been honoured alongside Scottish-born author Liam McIlvanney. The NZ Society of Authors said they are excited about the honours.

“The selection of Lani Wendt-Young and Liam McIlvanney as recipients of the 2019 New Zealand Society of Authors Waitangi Day Honours is exciting,” said society president Siobhan Harvey.

“Both are very well accomplished authors. Lani is an inspiring Samoan/NZ YA author, journalist, editor and publisher; Liam is a well-respected academic and a crime writer with a growing international reputation.”

In a written statement, Ms. Wendt-Young offered words of support to other women authors and artists, telling them to have faith in their work.

“To all my sister storytellers out there, weaving words in between the chaos of jobs, children, faalavelave, (and the possible frowning censure of your aiga!) ...loto tele,” she said.

“May we speak our truth, even when our voices shake. May we find joy in every dream we dream and every story we tell - as we rewrite the world.” 

The author of the bestselling young adult Telesa Trilogy is the 2018 ACP Pacific Laureate, selected by the African, Caribbean, Pacific Group of States.

In August, she will join the 2019 Storylines National Festival Story Tour in New Zealand, visiting schools in the Auckland region over five days to share her work.

“As a brown woman who writes - oftentimes from the margins and smashing gates as I do so - I have seen the transformative power wrought by stories written by us, about us, and for us, as our communities the world over revel in books they can see themselves in, that they can embrace as their own,” Ms Wendt-Young said.

“This literary honour is testament of that power, and emphasises the ever present need for more of us – to write, publish, and have the support we need to take our stories to an international audience.” 

She said she is grateful to her readers and supporters for making an award like this possible. In her early days as a self-publishing author, Ms Wendt-Young knows the impact of a supportive audience

“I think no matter where you are in the world, our people are always positive and encouraging to other Samoans doing good and creative work, and that is really special,” she said.

Last year, Samoan poet and 2016 Commonwealth Poet Selina Tusitala Marsh was made the Honorary Literary Fellow during the annual Waitangi Day honours.

Ms Wendt-Young said she is honoured to have been selected for the honour by her peers, and to be listed alongside people like Ms Tusitala Marsh, and 2013 Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton.

“Writers can be pretty tough on each other, so I am really grateful to them,” she said.

Honours recipients are offered membership to the New Zealand Society of Authors, which come with benefits like advice, advocacy, professional development mentorship and opportunities for research and writing grants and awards.

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