Find your voice, tell your stories, British diplomat tells young writers

British High Commissioner to Samoa, David Ward, has encouraged young Samoans to find their voice and tell their stories.

Mr. Ward made the call when he spoke as the keynote speaker at the prize giving of the 9th Samoa Observer Schools Short Story competition at the SSAB conference room, Togafu’afu’a, on Friday.

The theme of this year’s competition was the Covid19 Pandemic where writers were asked to write a real or an imaginary story about their experience with Samoa’s State of Emergency lockdown. 

The competition noted a record number on entries with 1315 young writers from across the country submitting stories in Samoan and English. Mr. Ward congratulated all the writers, their teachers, parents, families and supporters.

“It was Robert Louis Stevenson himself who said, “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean.”   That’s because to write what you mean, you have to know what you mean, and to know what you mean, you have to know yourself,” Mr. Ward said.

 “That is how you find your own voice. Perhaps he did succeed in writing what he meant, as people still read his stories today and find meaning in them.   I hope you also succeed in writing what you mean, for the world needs stories.  The world needs your stories, and needs your voices.”


From his experience, the High Commissioner said he has always "envied those who can write stories."  

“You bring joy, happiness and understanding to your readers.  Your stories help us understand each other and the world, and learn how to get along with each other better,” he said.

“Reading stories helps us know how others think, why they think that way, and to imagine how we might think in their place.  Your stories help us not just to live together better, but to live more fully.”

As a child, the diplomat told the young writers that he used to go to the local library every Saturday to choose five books to borrow.  

“It was through reading that I learned about the world.  At first I enjoyed the animal stories of Beatrix Potter, the stories of Sam Pig, and of Dr Dolittle,” he said.

“I liked the adventure stories of Tintin as he travelled around the world.  Later I read some of the classic stories, and at Christmas my parents gave me books, including Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, one of the most well-known residents of Samoa, a book I still have.  Little did I imagine then that I would be here today where he, the Tusitala lived, celebrating the fact that his art of story-writing is thriving still in Samoa.”

Mr. Ward was appointed British High Commissioner to Samoa in December 2019. His remarks was followed by an announcement that the University of Edinburgh in Scotland has offered to provide funding for the publication of a book of the stories from the students, as part of a project that centres around the Robert Louis Stevenson book, "The Beach of Falesa".

The English and Samoan writing competition was inspired by Editor-in-Chief of the Samoa Observer, Gatoaitele Sano Malifa. He was concerned that students weren’t thinking, reading and writing enough. He wanted to see young people read for enjoyment and write freely about their thoughts, ideas and opinions.

It was sponsored by Samoa Stationery and Books (S.S.A.B.), Eveni Caruthers Samoa and Vodafone Samoa.


This is what Mr. Ward said:

 Fa’afetai I le Atua mo lo outou soifua.  O pa’ia ma mamalu, o le a ou le o’o iai. Talofa, Talofa lava.

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to be here today at the presentation of the 2020 Samoa Observer Writing Competition prizes.

Writing stories is one of the foundations of civilisation. From the fables of Aesop to the novels of Zola, stories are works of beauty that inform, educate and entertain us.   Writing stories is a way to pass on news, views and wisdom, to store them up and hand them on to those not there to witness things for themselves.  Telling and reading stories are ways for us to understand the world around us, and pass on that understanding to others.  It is thanks to the stories of the parables that we understand how better to live together.  Stories help us to escape our own concerns and imagine and understand what others think.  Writing stories is an art.  And I congratulate today all those artists who have come here, some from nearby, some from far away in Savai’i, to collect your prizes.


I have always envied those who can write stories.  You bring joy, happiness and understanding to your readers.  Your stories help us understand each other and the world, and learn how to get along with each other better.   Reading stories helps us know how others think, why they think that way, and to imagine how we might think in their place.  Your stories help us not just to live together better, but to live more fully.

As a child, I used to go to the local library every Saturday and choose five books to borrow.  Really, it was my mother’s way to find somewhere to leave me while she went and did the shopping.  But it was through reading that I learned about the world.  At first I enjoyed the animal stories of Beatrix Potter, the stories of Sam Pig, and of Dr Dolittle.  I liked the adventure stories of Tintin as he travelled around the world.  Later I read some of the classic stories, and at Christmas my parents gave me books, including Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, one of the most well-known residents of Samoa, a book I still have.  Little did I imagine then that I would be here today where he, the Tusitala lived, celebrating the fact that his art of story-writing is thriving still in Samoa.


Every year new stories are written and published.  That is because we never stop needing new stories.  For the world never stops changing, and every generation needs new stories to help it understand the new world around it.  And every generation has new ways to tell its stories.  Once, people had to write them on paper with a pen, then send them off to the printer.  But now you can write them on a screen, and send them out the moment you write them to all the world at once.  I hope that all of you here today will not just continue to read stories, but also continue to write them, and to find the best way to tell the stories you have to tell.  I hope that you will be able to touch people on the other side of the world with your stories in the same way that Tusitala Robert Louis Stevenson did, and that you in turn will grow by reading the stories of others.

Today I want to thank you, and all of the writers of the 1,315 stories that were entered in this competition; also the families who have supported you; the judges who read all the stories; the Samoa Observer for organising this wonderful competition; and the generous sponsors – SSAB, Eveni and Vodafone – who have supported it.

It was Robert Louis Stevenson himself who said, “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean.”   That’s because to write what you mean, you have to know what you mean, and to know what you mean, you have to know yourself.  That is how you find your own voice.   Perhaps he did succeed in writing what he meant, as people still read his stories today and find meaning in them.   I hope you also succeed in writing what you mean, for the world needs stories.  The world needs your stories, and needs your voices.  I wish you the best of luck in your future story-writing.

 

 

 

 

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