Jonah Takalua is Real!

jonah

‘What’s the name of the book we’ve been reading all term, Jonah?’
Empty stare.
‘How about I give you a clue? It starts with the letter “T”.’
Shrug.
‘How about you just give me any word that starts with the letter “T”? Can you do that, Jonah?’
Silence.
‘Do you even know what the letter “T” looks like?’
‘Don’t mess with me Miss, you’ll regret it.’
‘Oh regret it, will I! Get out of my class, Jonah, I don’t want to see you in here. Get out, now!’ 
from TV series, Summer Heights High

I enjoy working  with Polynesian young people. But I also have a lot of teacher friends, in NZ and in Australia, who find working with some Polynesian young people to be a real challenge. Jonah Takalua to them is not a fictional creation – he’s a real kid in the back row!

One of the biggest challenges is finding ways to connect learning in class with these young people’s lives. As a teacher of literature, that includes finding stunning reading material.

Read more here:

http://www.thebookchook.com/2014/09/reaching-reluctant-teen-readers.html

Good things take time

Honoured and proud to present a workshop with these awesome Kiwi authors – Maria Gill, Cath Mayo and Raymond Huber – at Bucklands Beach Intermediate yesterday. It feels like I’m getting closer to my dream of being a fulltime writer! Doing some of the things that writers do, like hanging out with writers …

.P1060201

Visiting schools to encourage young people …

IMG_1804

 

Signing books …

IMG_1817

Never thought I would actually get to live the life of a writer. I dreamed about it since I was 13 when I discovered the books of Barry Crump. Now decades later I’m seeing a dream begin to emerge, slowly, day by day. Good things take time.

Exploration has always been an important aspect of the arts and recently I’ve seen some awesome theatre in Auckland that has artists mixing different styles together. It’s inspiring because I know how brave these artists are to explore new mixes and ways of telling stories.

“Hoki Mai Tama Ma” – written by Tainui Tukiwaho mixes Maori theatre, kapa haka and classic Italian comedy Commedia dell arte. So cool to see the use of mask in New Zealand theatre.

Hoki Mai Tama Ma masked duo

“Skin” – a blend of spoken word poetry with Drama, written by the young poets and directed by Grace Taylor. Spoken word and Drama go well together and this is the first time I’ve seen spoken word presented theatrically. It reminded me of the work of Inua Ellams.

skin2

“Putorino Hill” – written by Chris Molloy and featuring Rob Mokaraka. Love the way Chris blends Maori legend/spirituality with contemporary stories. Always love to watch Rob Mokaraka perform, he’s an incredible actor!

putorino

 

It’s a really exciting time on the Arts right now and so awesome to think about ways of exploring storytelling by using new and different mediums.

‘Write RIP on the handball walls’

Sad to hear today that another great author has passed away. American writer Walter Dean Myers wrote more than 80 books for children and young people and is considered one of the best children’s writers of this time. If you haven’t read any of his work I really encourage you to check them out at your local library.

Walter-Dean-Myers-photo-for-Obituary2

Susan Katz of HarperCollins Children’s Books says that Walter “wrote books for the reader he once was, books he wanted to read when he was a teen. He wrote with heart and he spoke to teens in a language they understood.”

0-590-48668-3

Miriam Altshuler, his literary agent, said Walter “wrote about children who needed a voice and their stories told.”

game

Scholastic CEO Dick Robinson said Walter ” urged other authors, editors and publishers not only to make sure every child could find him or herself in a book, but also to tell compelling and challenging stories that would inspire children to reach their full potential.”

harlemsummer

The things written about Walter are so inspiring. These are the kinds of qualities we need in children’s writers. I’m hoping I can do those things in my writing. This is what Walter said about writing: “I so love writing. It is not something that I am doing just for a living, this is something that I love to do.”

0-590-68041-2

If you haven’t read any of Walter’s books before, how about trying Amiri and Odette: A Love Story. Here’s how Walter described it: “I had seen the ballet of Swan Lake as a child but it was as an adult,  that I first noticed how significant a part the ever-present threat of violence played. This juxtaposition of great beauty and grace with a backdrop of pure evil stayed with me for years. As a writer, I absorb stories, allow them to churn within my own head and heart — often for years — until I find a way of telling them that fits both my time and temperament. I asked myself if there were modern dangers to young people similar to the magic spells of folklore. The answer of course, was a resounding yes, and I began to craft a modern, urban retelling of the Swan Lake ballet.”

spread

 

Blessings and alofa to the family and friends of Walter Dean Myers. “Write RIP on the handball walls.”

Dance of Defiance

20140623-232859-84539677.jpg

I was inspired by watching Waka Huia on TV1 on Sunday. It was the first time I learned the importance of the eyes when women do the haka. Te Ataarangi taught us that the eyes represent defiance against oppression.

20140623-233128-84688879.jpg

She actually called it the “Dance of Defiance”. The spirit is saying “Is that so?” through the eyes. Its such a powerful expression of strength, that whatever life brings, our response is, “Is that so?”

20140623-233554-84954409.jpg

It’s an awesome goal this week to face challenges with the same spirit behind the “Dance of Defiance”. Happy Matariki everyone.

20140623-233920-85160607.jpg

Normal Amazing

where-the-magic-happens

Stepped out of a comfort zone on Saturday when I got to share a reading from my book We Are the Rock with families at the Auckland Art Gallery last Saturday. I’m used to working with Maori and Pasifika teenagers – that’s a comfort zone for me.

Really different to work with Asian and European parents and their primary aged children. I felt like saying “no” when the Art Gallery initially asked me to do it because doing public kinds of things is not something I feel comfortable doing. I’m really glad I did it though, feels like I grew  a little as an author and a person by stretching myself.

IMG_5414

 

I’ve got to keep saying “yes” to uncomfortable things that are on the pathway I’m taking – that’s where the magic happens. Thank you to all those people who continually encourage us to be brave.

This post is dedicated to Maya Angelou

amazing

 

Phenomenal Woman

Sad to hear that Maya Angelou has passed away at the age of 86.

Maya had a harsh childhood of abuse, poverty and segregation. But she overcame all that and became one of the great writers of the last 70 years.

She wrote poetry, novels, non fiction, plays and music. Amazingly she was working on another book at the time of her death. That’s really inspiring, even with all her success and at the age of 86 she still loved to write. I always loved sharing her poem “Phenomenal Woman” with students because it’s so encouraging and motivating.

Maya 2

For those interested to find out more about Maya’s amazing life here’s a great obituary:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/books/10095617/Poet-author-Maya-Angelou-dies-at-86

maya_angelou_heart_5481

What’s your favourite Maya quote?

KD MVP

KD MVP

KD MVP

Kevin Durant of the OKC Thunder won the NBA Most Valuable Player award today. That’s the team Kiwi Steven Adams plays for. Even if you don’t like basketball, this speech of appreciation for all the people in our lives, who help us become who we are, is so inspiring. Haven’t seen so many tears in NBA players’ eyes before. 

http://www.nba.com/thunder/video/channels/award_nominees/2014/05/06/20140506-durant-accepts-nba-mvp.nba/

Plant the seeds – see what happens

Had an awesome time on Thursday, invited by Mangere East Library to come  for an “author visit”. Always love encouraging young people and their families with their reading, letting them know reading can be fun and interesting. Much love and respect to all the librarians, teachers and family members trying their best to inspire young people. Humble, unknown work but you never know what will happen to those seeds you plant.

Mangere East Library visit