Pacific literature, samoa writing, Seti Matua, tusitala fiapoto

Writing with Seti Matua – The Journey

A long time ago, I promised you a ‘Tusitala Fiapoto’ series for and about Pacific writers- and then promptly got very busy with writing and edits and book tours and sick children and more. So I’m super happy to have as a guest today, a Samoan writer/blogger /editor, SETI MATUA, sharing his thoughts on his writing journey.
When I was approached by my friend Lani to write a guest post for her blog I was ecstatic for a number of reasons but largely because, who wouldn’t feel flattered to write a guest post for a published author whose wit and warmth have already made her one of the Pacific’s premier writers?
I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of Lani’s “Tusitala Fiapoto” series and hope that my path towards authorship will inspire and give aspiring writers a broad template to base their own writing dreams upon.
In the beginning
Years ago my parents had a dream of immersing me and my siblings into the Samoan language and culture. That dream came to fruition for them when they moved the entire family to Samoa. Their dream became our nightmare – I mean, how can you expect an American teenager weaned on KFC and Slurpee’s to survive on taro, palusami and mangoes? And why am I being forced to wear the same button down shirt andflowing ‘skirt’ as everyone else in the school? Do they not understand that I am trying to find myself and this uniform stuff is stifling my inner Michael Jackson? Why are all these local kids SO happy and why do they insist on laughing and joking all the time?
These were the typical rants of my American teenage mind. It was a mindset that culminated in a journey of acceptance, a humbling of the spirit and a love for my native homeland, its eccentricities, music, language, beaches, pace and especially its people – my people. My short-lived (seven years total) experience in Samoa prompted in me a desire to document in journals my life’s progression from angry teen to a Samoan man and in doing so, Samoa is where I developed a passion for writing.
My process
If there is a process it’s broken – and this exercise with Lani is helping me to eliminate the mental block and complete the book that has been several years in the making. Like most writers I believe that we all have stories and that they are all worth telling. Whether it’s a short piece about world peace, a blog post about your daily doldrums or a complete young adult series filled with romance, the process for me is generally the same.
As a blogger and feature writer my primary goal is to establish and develop a lasting connection with my target audience. Anything could trigger a thought or an emotion that lingers like the sweet scent of frangipani tangled in the cobwebs of your mind, long after you and your love have parted under a crescent moon. It could be a word uttered in disgust, an empty pill bottle or an ink stain on the pocket of a Ralph Lauren polo that triggers that thought and initiates what I refer to as my ‘writing spasm’. It is during these throes that I do my best writing and create a framework for a project.
From that point I begin to build upon the story, piece by piece. Initially, it is an organic process with no real form or function. Once I have jotted down all of my thoughts on the matter, I begin organizing the blocks into more manageable, edible pieces. In other words, I break it down to the point that my readers don’t have to grab the mango that I’m offering them and swallow it whole, but rather enjoy it bite by bite and make their own conclusion of whether they, the recipient, appreciate and relish it as much as I, the giver, did in creating it.
Understanding your audience is significant. In one of the book projects that I’m currently working on my primary target audience is a young adult crowd with a secondary audience in the middle age range. The subject matter is light-hearted, romantic (still not sure how that happened) and hopefully insightful and thought-provoking.
The same can be said of the columns, features and blog posts that I write where the audience is a bit older, they are generally parents and they are at a point in life where the retrospection and foibles of a middle-aged Samoan man is at times comical, quizzical other times and for the most part brutally honest. The subject matter runs the gambit but I typically I try to stay with the basic themes that are important to me and my audience.
Time – If time is critical to aevery profession in the world, it is much more serious to a writer, especially one who wants to make it an industry that gobbles up and spits out its talent faster than a kid can upchuck asparagus. I typically set aside at least four hours each evening to reach my goal of two thousand words in my book or to write a blog post. But with a very active family, a full-time job, obligations to church and other community volunteer events that I participate in, it can be pretty difficult to get it done. But time can not only be a deterrent for your book it can also be a crutch that is enabling your inactivity. So manage your time well and get that project started!
The future
Not a lot to say except this – The future of my writing depends largely on my ability to finish a book. My goal since I was a boy in Samoa has always been to be a published author. I am confident that that goal is now in sight thanks to the support of my family, friends like Lani who give gentle encouragement and my mentors. Beyond that, I will continue to perfect my art and publish, publish, publish.
Pacific Island Literature
Since childhood I have always been fascinated with Pacific Island culture, linguistics and people. At one time I thought I might consider a career in anthropology, sail the Pacific and document my travels and interactions with people.  But those were just the yearnings of my youth and I quickly saw the difficulties of a lifestyle that did not include my other lifelong dreams of being a husband and a father. So reading books and writing are my escapes. I am an avid (perhaps even rabid) fan of PI literature and authors. One of my very first novels from a PI author was “Leaves of the Banyan Tree” by the Albert Wendt, which helped to cultivate my passion for lands and titles issues in Samoa as well as following the efforts to preserve our culture, lands and natural resources.
I wholly agree that PI literature is an untapped resource with a wealth of secular and spiritual knowledge waiting to be explored. I am excited for the future of PI literature and hope to be a part of this growing, powerful group of PI artists.
Seti Matua is the former editor of South Pacific Insider Magazine and PolyNation Magazine. He has contributed to numerous print and online publications for more than a decade including published pieces in SPAsifik Magazine, Samoa News, and He is a Project Manager specializing in computer software, an industry he has worked in since 1994. He resides in Lehi, Utah with his wife Jennifer and their five sons. Writing is the “other woman” in Seti’s life. He posts regularly on his blog,

4 thoughts on “Writing with Seti Matua – The Journey”

  1. Wonderful guest post Lani. I enjoy his blog writing and am always interested to learn more about the way people go about creating their work.'Leaves of a Banyan Tree' was also an inspiration of mine. Look forward to reading more of Seti Matua's work, and more Tusitala Fiapoto columns.

  2. Wow, there's so much that I want to say in response to this guest post and yet I find that I can't. It's like Seti has said everything I've ever wanted to convey about writing but never had the eloquence to. I found myself nodding to so many points, especially the obstacles. I'm suddenly very motivated.

  3. Lani – Thanks again for allowing me the opportunity to write this guest post for you and your Tusitala Fiapoto Series. This has really motivated me to get that long overdue project dusted off and ready for publication. I really enjoy what you are doing for PI writers and look forward to more of your work in the VERY near future.

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