'The thief that stole my normal’ and other tales drive record entries
A record 1,315 students from Savaii and Upolu have spoken out about their experiences and feelings about the pandemic COVID-19 in entries to the annual Samoa Observer short story competition.
Students made submissions in English and Samoan at nearly double the rate of previous years to the ninth, annual which is open from Year 4 to Year 13 students.
Competitions in previous years had seen totals of around 600 entries.
Organising Committee member, Marj Moore said the Samoa Observer management and sponsors - Samoa Stationery and Books, Eveni Carruthers and Vodafone - are delighted and overwhelmed with this huge response from young writers.
“The competition started by [newspaper Editor-in-Chief] Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa has always had two objectives,” she said.
“One is to get all students writing based on the premise that everyone has a story to tell and the other is to look for those writers who have exceptional talent.
“We have certainly achieved the first objective and I am confident that after the judges have completed their tasks, the second objective will also have been met.”
Moore said that with the upheaval in Government, Mission and Private schools this year, the expected response to the competition had been difficult to predict.
“The theme of COVID-19 has certainly proven to be a catalyst and encouragement for our youth to speak out in a way we have never seen before,” she said.
As a long-time advocate for the importance of all students doing some form of written expression every school day, Ms. Moore said teachers and parents play a pivotal role in seeing this happen.
“Daily writing could be a poem, diary, essay, serial, descriptive or persuasive paragraph etc. Like any other skill, the more often it is practised, the greater the improvement of the skills acquired for this form of communication,” she said.
“As well as strong support from the three local sponsors involved in the competition, Moore said that Professor Mckeown from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland has expressed interest in publishing a book of the best entries next year.”
“We have also had online interest from a website which is eager to put some of the English and Samoan stories for a wider readership.
“These offers of support have only come about because of recognition that the opinions of our youth matter.
“Perhaps some of the innumerable surveys about COVID-19 might like to look at the stories of our students to get some frank opinions and feelings.”
But first, Ms. Moore said, there is the not insignificant matter of judging: this will take place over the next few weeks and will be followed by a prize-giving at a date to be decided.