Interview with Albert Wendt: 6
12 August 2002
Brandy Nālani McDougall
B: What kinds of educational facilities, programmes or support networks do you think need to be in place in order to enable more of our young people to write?
A: You’ve got to have people in the community who are either teachers or writers themselves, organising things like writing workshops, small publications, and this and that for the writers to publish. From there, young writers can form their own groups, get their work published, and then if they reach a certain stage where they find it hard to get published on their own, then you find them a publisher. So, they could use the help of some people.
The writers, themselves, usually find their way. I’ve had to do a lot of that by myself. At this stage in my life, all I want to do is my own work. I would have published a lot more if I was like most writers and spent my time only on my own work. But I’ve been more interested in helping other writers, and now I’m very fortunate. I have a whole network of friends who happen to be writers all around the Pacific and all around the world – and not only writers, but also, artists.
I’ve now redeveloped my interest in art, so it’s all coming back to me very quickly. And that’s another interest that’s become somewhat overwhelming.
B: You mean, the art focus in your latest book, Book of the Black Star?
A: Yes. This art thing just came upon me like a flood. I would come in and teach and then go home and work all night. Sleep an hour, come to work, mark examinations – go home and get back in it. No one was allowed into my house while I was working. And that’s when I felt really alive.
B: What do you believe makes potential Pacific writers hesitate to enter the writing scene?
A: They either aren’t given the opportunity at school or they don’t think they’re ready, yet. In the creative writing course, the statistics are incredible. You make it 15 students who are selected for the course – I tell them right at the beginning: one or two of them will continue writing for the rest of their lives, the rest of them won’t. They look very disappointed, and I say, “But that’s statistically what I have found over the last twenty years of teaching.”
B: Yes, I remember you saying that. (laughing)
A: But that’s the way it is. And it’s not dependent on whether or not the writers are very gifted, what it is dependent on is whether they’re driven. They might not be as good a writer as the other ones, technically in the way they use language, but there’s something in them that compels them to keep writing. They eventually will become better writers as well. Of course, you always want to get writers also who still continue writing even when they’re not published. It’s a compulsion that you can’t explain. And you run into these kinds of people throughout the world – it doesn’t matter what culture you’re in. They’re the ones, even in oral cultures – the culture has ways of identifying them, whether they’re good at carving and so on and they’re the ones who continue the tradition. It’s not the ones who are very gifted at it but don’t have a passion or the quality of being driven.
I’ve tried to stop writing, myself. For a while I was not interested in it and feeling very unsettled, until my family said to me I better go back to it again.
|© Copyright 2008 Brandy Nālani McDougall & Trout.|
|This issue of Trout is sponsored in part by UNESCO.|