Winner of Short Story in English 2013
I love stories. That love of stories sprang from my dad’s bedtime reading of tales from the likes of Roald Dahl and C S Lewis and stories other children possibly weren’t hearing such as Journey to the West. I couldn’t get enough, and I always begged to hear more. As a child, I grew into a fervent reader, devouring any book I came in contact with, and – in an almost natural progression – I began to write my own stories. I had always loved reading and, to me, writing just seemed like inside out reading.
I discovered Huia Short Stories 8 a month too late to enter the ninth competition. The book excited me, the stories touched me, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Being a biennial competition, I had a long time to wait. During that time, I was inspired to test myself. I entered a few competitions to push myself and set deadlines to work towards. But when I saw those first few fliers advertising the opening of the Pikihuia competition, they awakened an excitement in me that I can barely explain. I knew I wanted to be published in that book. Of the various writing competitions I had entered, this one meant the most to me.
I don’t write in a straight line. My ideas just don’t flow that way. I’ll jump around between the beginning, the middle and the end, flitting around the story and cutting and pasting to make it work on paper the same way it does in my head. So when I was trying to make a decision on what I should send in for the Pikihuia competition, I had four or five stories to choose from. The story that ended up winning hadn’t originally been on that list. It was based on an anecdote from my partner’s childhood that ended up trailing off with no clear ending, so I left it in the back of my pile. I opened it up months after I had first written it, and all of a sudden, the story just flowed. When that happened, it felt wonderful and strange. But wonder and strangeness are some of the things I love most about writing.
When I got the phone call that I had made the shortlist I was thrilled. That was all I had wanted. All of a sudden, I was a published author. Winning was just the cherry on top. And the chocolate sauce. And the sprinkles.
There are many reasons why I write. I write to explore things – to climb into someone else’s skin and see things the way they see them, to feel and experience things from someone else’s perspective. I write to make sense of the world and figure things out. Sometimes I achieve that and sometimes I don’t, but in the times that I don’t, at least I get another story out of it.
Storytelling is an extremely powerful instrument that we have as humans to communicate and motivate. The fantastic thing about it is that everyone has stories to tell. Stories can entertain us, teach us and move us. The only advice I can think to give anyone contemplating entering the Pikihuia competition is to tell stories only you can tell. Write stories to figure things out in your world. Write about things that matter, and remember, even the small things matter.
I’m still at the beginning of my writing career, but already, the Pikihuia Awards have been both a highlight and a stepping stone. Doors are already opening. As Māori writers, we are so lucky to have Huia Publishers behind us, supporting us and tapping at those doors. We must make the most of these wonderful opportunities. So go on, take a peep through that door.
Toni Pivac is a twenty-seven-year-old writer from Whāngārei. She gained a Bachelor of Communication Studies from Auckland University of Technology in 2005 with the plan to earn a living as a journalist before deciding that creative writing was far more her forte. She currently works part-time as a self-employed transcriber and public relations consultant and full-time as a mother to two young children.
Between her family, work and life in general, Toni is working on a variety of short stories, with a novel in the pipeline. While she is writing, no one can stop her from being a writer.