At the Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story Competition prize-giving ceremony held at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel yesterday evening, the Observer’s editor in chief, Savea Sano Malifa, gave a brief presentation.
This is what he said.
Honorable Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.
Honorable Chief Justice, Patu Tiavasu’e Falefatu Sapolu, and your good lady, Iliganoa.
Members of Parliament.
Members of the Diplomatic Corps.
Members of the Business Community.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Writers, members of the media, and friends.
On behalf of the Samoa Observer publisher, Muliaga Jean Malifa, its editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa, and all our staff it is my privilege to greet you and welcome you all.
We want to thank you for accepting our invitation to be with us this evening, so that together we can celebrate what has been for us a fleeting dream, and for that reason it has taken all these years to become the reality as it is today.
That dream, as you are now well aware, has been the quest to achieve a goal that had been yearned for – and yet it proved to be quite elusive all that time – called the Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story Competition.
The idea then was to establish a competition in which both established writers and emerging ones from all over the South Pacific – including New Zealand and Australia – could feel at home with, and at the same time take pride in being a part of it.
This evening then is when we are going to present the inaugural prizes of this competition, in the hope that it will continue to grow so that years from today, it will become a tangible and a thriving annual event focusing on benefiting the region as a whole.
Briefly, the Samoa Observer short story competition started several years ago.
It began with the idea that everyone had a story to tell, so that those stories should be published, and writers were invited to submit them.
Over the years, stories written by students were published in the Samoa Observer, and then in 2002, some changes were made.
The competition was now open to both English and Samoan writers, under a partnership between Telecom Samoa Cellular Company and the National University of Samoa, and the theme at that time was: “Everyone has a story to tell.”
Launched by the then Minister of Education, Misa Telefoni Retzlaff, who wrote and read at the launching ceremony a story he had written, the competition proved quite popular at the time.
One of its contributors was Lani Wendt who was also one of the winners, and from there she went on to become a well-known author herself.
Two years later, stories picked from a number of competitions were published in a book titled “Tofa Sasa’a.”
Along the way writers continued to contribute.
So that over the years, young writers who contributed stories became columnists in the Samoa Observer themselves, and still others are writing for the paper today.
Some of them are LeGrande Lolo, Toalima Mulitalo, Layton Lolo, Quenjule Slaven, and Ariel Le Tagaloa Ioane.
They were all winners in previous competitions.
And then in 2014, the decision to move the competition to a regional level was made, and the Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story Competition was born.
That is the competition for which the inaugural prizes will be presented tonight
And so, if any one person is to be commended for making this competition the reality it has become, that person – undoubtedly – would be Marj Moore, the Samoa Observer’s literary coordinator, and the one who got everything planned done.
Thank you Marj.
And so once again, ladies and gentlemen, let me say thank you very much for making the time to be with us this evening, so that together we can celebrate the beginning of this new era in short-story writing, right here in Apia.
As for those budding writers out there, let them not give up on that talent that they believe is hidden inside them.
Let them pursue it instead by continuing to write those stories, while bearing in mind that the idea that they have made the effort to write, is the clear indication that they truly have the gift in them.
Let them not be easily discouraged then. Let them continue to nurture that gift by reading all kinds of books, stories in newspapers and magazines, while continuing at the same time to write until they’ve mastered the gift called the written word.
In the meantime, let them know that it is their responsibility to use the written word wisely for the good of all so as to build and create, and not to condemn, shame and annihilate.
And now on behalf of the Samoa Observer and its staff, I feel honoured to extend our congratulations to all the writers who took part in the first ever, Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story Competition.
In particular, it is my humble desire to declare that all winners should be given that special pat on the back. Well done to you all.
As for the rest, do not despair. Start working on those stories today and as you’re doing so, make the promise to yourself that next year is your turn.
We also want to say thank you to the parents of all those students for making it possible for their children to attend school, since it is only in that classroom that they are challenged by the spirit of competitiveness to do well, to excel.
As for the judges, we say thank you. We assure you that this competition would not be the success that it is today, had it not been for your kind support.
And lastly, a word of appreciation to our partners and supporters, who are:
the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, New Zealand High Commission, Samoa Stationary and Books Megastore, Samoa Commercial Bank, Bank of South Pacific, ANZ, Digicel, Vailima Breweries, Apia Bottling, Business Systems Limited, Ah Liki Construction, Ace Hardware and Samoa Builders, Signs Studio, Samoa Spare Parts, Le Well, Samoa Shipping Corporation, and Bluesky.
We are sincerely grateful to you all for your unwavering support over the years, so that once again, we say thank you.