What were you self-conscious of when you were at intermediate?
Your height, body odour, your hair?
Poems and stories from 14 Palmerston North intermediate-age students capture not just pre-teen challenges but provide insights into Pasifika experiences.
Voices of the Pacific was edited by Massey University writer in residence Feana Tu'akoi and launched last week.
Students read their work to an appreciative audience.
Amazing Fa'atasi wrote about Samoan Easter celebrations. The 11-year-old from Roslyn School wrote people stare at her, "like a glass eye and a mad bull", when she is playing the violin because not many Pasifika churches have a violinist.
'Ana Palelei from Ross Intermediate School wrote about Tongan funerals. The 11-year-old's self-titled poem includes these lines:
Quiet when nervous
Chatterbox when brave
Nothing but air
Fonotele Lokeni wrote about developing confidence and the challenges of blending in because he hates being the centre of attention.
"Weird sensations take over my body and control my mind ... I feel as if my hot, sweaty face is surely changing colour and that a huge and dangerous earthquake wants to shake me off my feet."
The 12-year-old with Samoan heritage also shared how much he has grown since being at Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School.
Fellow PNINS student Vallene Banga shared the joys and tribulations of being the eldest child and how her brother, Hakai, at times infuriates her. "I refuse to acknowledge his messy cuteness."
The 12-year-old with Samoan heritage ends her story with the comment to always love your mother and cherish the family she has helped to create.
Esther Folaumoeloa shared how nervous she was performing a traditional Tongan dance. In her self-titled poem, the 12-year-old Monrad Te Kura Waenga o Tirohanga student wrote "long frizzy hair, stressy overthinker".
Laifone Liuvaie wrote about his two great-grandfathers who were Niuean soldiers. The 11-year-old from Roslyn School describes himself as "a brown giraffe, combined with an elephant".
Liam Qiokata, 11, wrote about his first Cook Islands holiday and spending time with family. For his poem, the Monrad student wrote:
hair like Medusa
smells like lost property
skin like dry sand
built like a burger
Vea Folaumoeloa wrote about being a Tongan kid. The Monrad 11-year-old's poem includes these lines:
My spit jumps up and down
inside my mouth,
like kids in a bouncy house.
The other zine contributors were Camille Togisia, 11, Samoa, from Ross; Celia Hala, 12, Tonga, Ross; Daniel Fuafiva, 12, Samoa, Monrad; Kalisolaite Fonongaloa, 12, Tonga, Roslyn; Kilauea Petero, 12, Tokelau, Roslyn; and Sontel Liuvaie, 12, Niue, Roslyn.
Sontel also designed the cover.
Tu'akoi is married to Sione Tu'akoi, who is from Tonga. She said when their four children were preschoolers, nearly all the children's books were Palangi-centric. She couldn't find any with Tongan characters, ideas, situations or even legends.
"As far as books were concerned, kids like ours didn't exist."
She said the zine confirms to the contributors that their stories do matter and we want to read them.
Sione Tu'akoi did the Tongan welcome. He said emerging Pasifika writers add flavour and value to New Zealand literature. He urged them to keep writing because we need their stories and voices.
The Massey writer in residence programme is run in conjunction with Palmerston North City Council and Square Edge Community Arts.
Mayor Grant Smith said the artist in residence programme had gone from strength to strength. The city has a large and valued Pasifika community and it is important the children's stories go wider than their own communities.
Copies of the zine can be found at Bruce McKenzie Booksellers and Square Edge Community Arts shop. It can be borrowed from some public and school libraries. While it is free, donations to the Tongan tsunami relief fund are encouraged.