Samoan internationally bestselling author Lani Wendt Young has been announced as the recipient of the 2022 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Youth Novel.
Ms Young said this was a great acknowledgement of the progress Pacific literature is making. Her stories take myths from Samoan and Māori traditions, adapting them for the contemporary world.
The Sir Julius Vogel Awards are awarded each year at the New Zealand National Science Fiction Convention to recognise achievement in New Zealand science fiction, fantasy, horror, and science fiction fandom.
“Awards like these help to shine a light on a diverse range of writers and their art, and help take our books to a wider audience. It’s an honor for me to have my book stand alongside so many other authors whose work I greatly admire,” Ms Young said.
“I believe I’m the first Pasifika author to win a SJV Award and I hope to be the first of many authors from the Moana to be celebrated this way.
“Fantasy and science fiction haven’t been genres usually associated with our writers, but we come from rich storytelling traditions where our people literally walk with demi-gods (aitu), where shape shifting and gender-bending is the norm in our mythologies, as are deadly curses and hauntings, where our heroes cross vast oceans and venture into other worlds.
“So really, we are made for writing speculative fiction!”
Her novel ‘Fire’s Caress’ is a fiery, feminist, fantasy novel set in contemporary Samoa.
Ms Young believes more Pacific women need to be encouraged to write. She said it can be difficult for Pacific women to safely speak their stories and share their voices.
“We all have a part to play in creating safe spaces for this in our homes, schools and communities. The internet has been amazing with making it possible to digitally publish and distribute our writing, on platforms like Amazon, and also helping to bring Pacific women writers together through social media,” she said.
“When I started, it was through my blog Sleepless in Samoa that I first built an audience and learned to refine my writing. But the internet is also a powerful tool for abusers seeking to silence us, intimidate and harm us.”
Ms Young represents the faces of many young Pacific people who are rising above the rest of the world and making the tiny nations of the Pacific visible.
She said Pacific writers need to know that writing is like a job and a career.
“Writing is work and it requires discipline and commitment. Like any job, it will have boring days, challenging times and then some rare amazing moments,” she said.
“If you want writing to be your profession then accept that it’s about so much more than only writing. Learn all the basics of how to package, publish, market, and distribute your writing.
“You have to be entrepreneurial, be creative about all the ways you can take your writing to your audience. And never sign away your rights to any of your work.”