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 has published stories for children and adults. Her children's stories have been published in the School Journal, read on National Radio's Storytime, and translated into five Pacific languages—Cook Islands Māori, Samoan, Tongan, Tokelauan, and Niuean. She also has a collection of stories, The Secret Game Plan and Other Stories. Her stories for adults have been read on National Radio and published in Turbine. An excerpt from an early draft of Beats of the Pa'u, a novella written on the course, was discussed on National Radio's Short Story Club in 2018. Maria was the 2018 University Bookshop Summer Writer in Residence, in association with Robert Lord Writers' Cottage Trust. Her story 'Bluey' was shortlisted over 5000 entries for the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

She is of Cook Islands descent, and she writes stories she hopes Pacific Islanders can relate to and all people can enjoy.

Read more:

Turbine 2017

'Love Rules' on RNZ's Page Numbers, 2018

'Beats of the Pa'u' on RNZ's Short Story Club (2 August 2018)

'Bluey' on 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize shortlist