“Sharing stories helps us to connect with other people and walk in their shoes,” said author Lani Wendt Young in her thought-provoking presentation to junior students at Long Bay College last week. Lani inspired the group with a discussion about the power of writing, as well as her experience gathering the people of Samoa’s stories in the aftermath of the 2009 Tsunami. She was approached to write the book, subsequently titled ‘Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi,’ shortly after the Tsunami and lept at the opportunity. She had always wanted to write but says, “Life kept getting in the way.” The disaster changed all that and kick-started her into achieving her life-long goal. Lani says she felt privileged to interview survivors, medics, rescue workers and others, “They entrusted me with the gift of their story.” She adds, “Stories of humankind are important – the best and the worst. It’s a way to learn about history, ancestors and cultures.”
Lani has now written 11 popular books, mainly for young people, and has brought a voice to the people and culture of Samoa. “I noticed there were no books with characters that were Maori or Samoan. I always wanted to see myself and my friends on a page,” says the Samoan-born writer who has won multiple awards. She encourages young people to think about the story they want to tell about themselves.
Lani presented at Long Bay College as part of New Zealand’s Storylines Festival where illustrators and authors tour the country speaking to students about books and reading.