11 Apr 2019

Cook Islander's story shortlisted for Commonwealth prize

4:14 pm on 11 April 2019

Writer Maria Samuela says Pasifika stories do matter and urges young Pacific islanders to share their talent of storytelling.

Maria Samuela's Bluey has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth's Short Story Prize.

Maria Samuela's Bluey has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth's Short Story Prize. Photo: Supplied

The New Zealand-based Cook Islander is one of 21 writers from 16 countries shortlisted for this year's Commonwealth Short Story competition.

Ms Samuela said her piece, titled Bluey, was inspired by her experiences including stories of her father's migration to NZ in the 1950s.

"I wanted to look at how this child perspective interprets the adult world. And so we get right inside Rosie's head and she tries to make sense of what's happened in her father's past and also what's happening in her life at that moment," she said.

Maria Samuela's stories are also translated into the Samoan, Tongan, Tokelauan, Niuean and Cook Islands languages.

Ms Samuela said Bluey is about a young Pasifika girl called Rosie who meets her Dad's mate Bluey.

"She's swept up in a journey that exposes some past truths," she said.

"Bluey makes sense of the adult world through the innocence of a child's eye and their ever-enquiring mind and that's what this story is all about."

Chair of the judges, British novelist, playwright and essayist Caryl Phillips said the vitality and importance of the short story form was abundantly clear in th impressive shortlist of stories from around the world.

"These authors have dared to imagine into the lives of an amazingly wide range of characters and their stories explore situations that are both regional and universal," he said.

Last year's winner was human rights activist Jenny Bennett-Tuionetoa, of Samoa, with Matalasi - a story she said is about difference, identity and the high cost of conformity.

Set in a conservative Pacific island society, Matalasi plunges the reader into the inner world of an individual forced to choose between identity and survival, Ms Bennet-Tuionetoa said.

Maria Samuela writes for children and adults and some of her work has been published in the School Journal.

Her stories have also been broadcast on National Radio, and her adult stories have appeared in Turbine, Sport, and Takahē.

She has a MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University and was the 2018 University Bookshop/Robert Lord Cottage summer writer in residence.

She lives in Wellington and is completing her first collection of stories for adults.

Screaming by Harley Hern, of NZ and Nightfall by Emma Ashmere, of Australia, make up the Pacific shortlist.