Maria Samuela (Writing for the Page, 2017)
To other Pasifika writers out there, or other writers of colour, who think they want to do this course too: DO IT.
Maria writes: 'When I got into the MA, I kept my expectations low. Work hard and pass were my main goals at the start, because I know first-hand what a writing life can look like. Poverty mainly and then rejection. Sometimes publication, but usually fraught with disappointment along the way. Keep it real, I'd tell myself, don’t give up your day job.
'There were good days when the stories begged to be written and bad days when I could barely leave my bed—exhaustion, self-doubt, more exhaustion. I worked twenty hours a week on Mondays and Tuesdays and spent the rest of the week on course work for class. In between that, I worked on my folio, writing several drafts of the stories in my collection.
'I met some amazing people, like my brilliant teacher, Emily Perkins, and my uber-talented classmates. Victor Rodger was our writer in residence and, as a Pasifika writer myself, his presence in that house showed me what could be possible. We laughed a lot in that workshop room, but also there were tears. Making shit up would become our class mantra, and we even had the tote bag to prove it! I grew more as a writer in those intense nine months, alongside my generous classmates and teacher, than in ten years of writing intermittently on my own.
'I was introduced to new authors. I discovered genres I didn't know existed. I was exposed to experiences and characters so unlike my own and the people I know. And I'm a better writer, and reader, for it.
'If I could change one thing about the year, I would've worked fewer hours in the day job. Be careful what you wish for—I no longer have the day job. If you're thinking about doing the course, make sure you're ready—financially, mentally, emotionally. It takes a lot out of you, but the gains you can make as a writer are worth it.
'To other Pasifika writers out there, or other writers of colour, who think they want to do this course too: do it. Know why you want to be a writer in the first place. Write the thing you want to read that no one else has written. Write the thing only you can write. Write what you know and write what you don't know. Just write. And read. And push through any fears. Ask for help when you need it. Your readers await.'
Bio: Maria Samuela lives in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, and is of Cook Islands descent. She's had stories published in various journals and anthologies, shortlisted and longlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize, and read on National Radio. She also writes stories for children, some of which have been translated into five Pacific languages. She's held residencies at the Michael King Writers Centre and with the University Bookshop and the Robert Lord Cottage, and she's received a literary research grant from the New Zealand Society of Authors and Copyright Licensing New Zealand.
In 2022, her collection of stories, Beats of the Pa'u, was published by Te Herenga Waka University Press.
'Beats of the Pa'u' on RNZ's Short Story Club (2 August 2018)
'Love Rules' (RNZ's Page Numbers, 2018)
'Bluey’ (Adda, 2020)
'The Peach Tree' (tākahe, 2022), longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize
Beats of the Pa'u (Spinoff review, 2022)
Beats of the Pau (Newsroom review, 2022)
Beats of the Pa'u (Landfall review, 2022)
Stories worth telling (e-tangata, 2022)
NZSA/CLNZ 2022 research grant media release, 2022