Forest Interregional Writing Contest 2021
- The Winners -
The esteemed judges of the writing contest, Verdant Haven, Chan Island and Uan aa Boa, have carefully read and considered each (anonymised) entry and together have chosen a winner for each category. They considered a number of metrics, not limited to word choice, structure and originality, as well as how each writer interpreted this year's theme, "Anthropocene", within their work.
Congratulations to the winning entrants, each of whom has been awarded the Forestian Literary Prize; while these honours are awarded to the OOC players for their writing skill, I have no issues if the winners want to also RP/worldbuild it as an IC interregional prize received by one of their citizens. Furthermore, all the entrants are invited to publish their own entry (or entries) now that the contest is over for all to enjoy as unfortunately it's not possible for me to share everyone's work.
Verdant Haven said...
"While it exhibits no attempt at a rhyme scheme, the author
definitely made some decisive word choices and wielded
them effectively. The recurrent usage of specific words is
done to great effect - words, rather than structure, define
this piece. The message is the important thing, and everything
else is in support of that message, rather than aesthetics."
Chan Island said...
"I checked this one in a plagiarism software because it felt
like it came straight from a Buddhist text! There's a
religious chant style that nonetheless conveys the deepest
insecurities of the Anthropocene's most prominent species.
Rereading this palpably enhances it too, reinforcing in
the reader the call to passion, care and ultimately action!"
Uan aa Boa said...
"From the title and opening lines I was expecting a criticism
of attachment in the spirit of Buddhism and its self-help
offspring, but instead we get a celebration of weakness as
essential to humanity that leads to a kind of call to arms,
ending with the declaration that despite appearances the
Earth is protected. Simple, yet intriguing; I’m won over."
Forestian Literary Prize for Drama
is awarded to
NO AWARD GIVEN
Will anyone be able to claim this honour next year?
Verdant Haven said...
"This story captures the plight of people facing terrible
circumstances in a very real way. The pent-up frustration,
sorrow, and anger filtered through the narrator's limited
understanding is a powerful tool, and the glimpse into the
grinding of bureaucratic wheels, where even the best
intentions can lead to bad results, is well-handled."
Chan Island said...
"Tuvalu has sunk under the sea, as predicted by scientists
studying the rising sea levels, and while New Zealand has
taken in the refugees, it's clear that the conditions are
less than stellar. This story paints a bleak world of
climate refugees, sea walls, discrimination and hot debates
on the politics of it all."
Uan aa Boa said...
"Having described one futile, preventable death it builds
to a climax of anger and another sudden death... and then
returns to its beginning with nothing having changed. It
also deftly throws in the rhetorical question of how one how
one can be defined as being a Tuvaluan despite having no
actual connection to the place. Masterful stuff."
Attachment is what gives us the greatest of dread
Fearing to lose what we are attached to is the greatest of fears
We are attached to our Earth
We are afraid to lose our Earth
Attachment is what gives us the greatest of love
Fearing to lose that love is the greatest of fears
We love our Earth
We are afraid to lose that love
Those who hold no attachments feel neither love nor dread
They are not afraid to lose our Earth
They are strong but not human
All humans feel attachment
All humans fear losing that
All humans have that weakness
All humans are amazing for that
All humans try and fight to protect what we love
All humans do that out of fear
Earth is protected by attachment because of that fear
Attachment gives us the dread that motivates us
Tupuna fafine tells me stories about Tuvalu. She tells me of her childhood, of the hot days splashing around in the sparkling blue sea, of lounging on the white sand in the shade of the coconut trees, of seagull cries and waves crashing into the shore. I've never seen Tuvalu, and I never will. For the last fifteen years - for my only fifteen years - my world has been concrete and iron. I haven't seen the sea, sparking blue or otherwise. I haven't felt sand between my toes nor drank from a coconut. We have seagulls though, they paint our little concrete boxes white, which I suppose is better than the grey. We also have hot days, we only have hot days really.
Tamotu says it's ironic, ironic that they keep us in concrete.
"Concrete's made from sand," he's told me more than once. "And that's part of the problem. Entire beaches disappear overnight... people taking the sand. Of course, that didn't happen to Tuvalu. But it's like what happened to Tuvalu, the sand disappearing."
I should be thankful. Or that's what the wardens say. They get sick of the complaining, many of us complain. I don't. Tupuna fafine says I'm too young to complain.
"Keep those thoughts in that messy little head of yours!" she orders before smiling her gappy smile and winking at me.
We should be thankful. The wardens tell us of the Tuvaluans down Dunedin way where they still sometimes have winter, and of the ones "six feet Down Under." They laugh.
Miss Manaia tells us the same thing, but more quietly. "I know it's not perfect, but it's better than the alternative."
"Better than being outside the bloody fence?" Iosua growls.
Miss Manaia doesn't say anything.
Iosua likes to make himself big. He's older than me, tupuna fafine says he's nineteen, but Iosua swears he is "basically twenty-one." Iosua looks after us younger ones, he only scares the agency people, like Miss Manaia. But we, all the other kids and me, we should look after each other, he tells us, "‘cause no one else will."
Miss Manaia is the sixth agency person I can remember. Iosua scared off the three before her. The one before Miss Manaia only visited once. Iosua made her cry and she didn't come back.
They all introduce themselves the same way: "Hello, my name is Their-Name. I work for the Climate Refugee Integration Agency, and I'm going to get you all out of here."
The wardens call them CRIAs. Since Iosua scared off the last one, we call them criers.
I spend my days playing with the kids. There's a hopscotch court painted onto the concrete, but the numbers have all worn away. There's a netball hoop as well, but we only have a football that doesn't bounce.
Iosua often asks Miss Manaia why we only have one netball hoop, not two. "Them netball courts are meant to have two, y'know? Where's the other?"
Every time Iosua asks, Miss Manaia looks over at the hoop and frowns. "That's a good point, Iosua–"
"I'll make sure to look into it," Iosua interrupts, finishing her sentence, before kicking some gravel and walking away.
Tupuna fafine taught me how to braid my hair, so all the little girls, and some of the boys too, will sit in a line and let me braid their hair. Sometimes I weave in some of the dandelions that grow in the cracks of the concrete.
Iosua told me that I stick my tongue out when I'm braiding the girls' hair, so I work extra hard to make sure I keep it in my mouth.
I play with the kids until 3 o'clock. The cartoons come on the TV at 3. The criers make sure we have a TV. It never gets turned off. We get two channels: Channel 1 and Channel 2. The adults watch Channel 1 most of the day, Channel 1 has the news and stuff. But at 3, Channel 2 gets the cartoons, so the kids get the TV until they're over. I like to watch the cartoons as well, but not when Iosua's around, he thinks they're dumb.
The adults watch Channel 1, but they don't like it. The news makes them mad. Tupuna fafine says I shouldn't watch the news, "it's for the grown-ups." But they sometimes talk about us on the news. I like to listen to what they say about us.
There's a room with a lot of people sitting in chairs, and the people are always yelling at each other. Tamotu says that's parliament.
The Blues say that we need to go away. To Australia or America or Japan. "Japan needs more workers! And we need fewer costs!" Mrs Blue says.
Mr Red is in charge of New Zealand. He says that they're being "good Pacific citizens" by having us here. He uses the word 'duty' a lot.
When I asked Tamotu what 'duty' means, he said it's "something they have to do."
Iosua snorted at that. "Have to keep us trapped in here?"
Tamotu shrugged and continued to watch the people yell at each other.
Eventually, Mr and Mrs Green were allowed to talk. They agree with Mr Red about duty, but say he's letting us Tuvaluans down.
Iosua always growls at Miss Manaia after they talk about us on the news.
"Why do we gots to stay in here?" he asks her.
Miss Manaia puts on her glasses. She sighs and takes them off again. "Aotearoa New Zealand has taken in ten thousand Tuvaluans. Finding homes for you all is difficult, not to mention expensive."
"No one's left here though, miss, 'cept for Big Pu'a, but the wardens say he went to jail. Can't you find even one house?"
Miss Manaia pursed her lips.
Tupuna fafine shuffled over in her sandals. "Leave the poor woman be, Iosua," she smiles. "She's not the Prime Minister."
Miss Manaia looks at tupuna fafine. Her lips smiled, but her eyes didn't. "Thank you, but I'm quite alright."
The crier turned her attention back to Iosua. "Homes are hard to come by these days, ours are being threatened by the sea," she explains.
Tupuna fafine's gappy smile disappeared as her face collapsed into a frown, eyes narrowing into a glare. She shook. "So were ours!" she hissed at Miss Manaia.
The woman mumbled something about the time and seeing us all again sometime next week before she hurried out the gate, past a pair of wardens, and back to her small silver car.
I couldn't remember the last time I had seen tupuna fafine so mad. I rushed towards her, but she smiled at me, waving me away, before toddling back to the shade of our concrete box while Iosua whooped and hollered at her, a massive grin stuck to his big face.
I like Mr and Mrs Green from the TV, they always say good things about us Tuvaluans. That's what they call us, "Tuvaluans." Miss Manaia calls us Tuvaluans as well, so do the wardens, but the wardens spit when they say it. Even tupuna fafine calls me a Tuvaluan.
Inside the room with the TV, the flag of Tuvalu hangs on the wall. Tupuna fafine tells me that the blue is the same colour as the sea she swam in and that the nine stars represent the nine islands of Tuvalu.
"It's funny," Tamotu says. "Tuvalu means 'eight standing together,' as in the eight islands emerging from the sea, but Tuvalu had nine islands. When it was named, only eight of the islands were inhabited, but the flag has nine stars for the nine islands. People eventually moved to the ninth island, but the name, Tuvalu, wasn't changed and still means 'eight together.'"
The flag hangs on the wall and I'm told stories about the islands by tupuna fafine and Tamotu and others, but I haven't seen them, or stood on them. I wasn't even born there. I was born in these chainlink fences. They tell me my mum and dad were Tuvaluan. They lived on the islands, but they didn't die on them. Mum died in the TV room, on the floor. Tupuna fafine doesn't like to talk about it.
Tamotu knows about this too.
"We tried to get the wardens to call the criers, to call a doctor, but they didn't. Not even when your mum started screaming. Big Pu'a got mad. Big Pu'a never got mad. He was always smiling and laughing, Big Pu'a was. Never even seen him squash a fly. But Big Pu'a grabbed one of the wardens, by the neck he grabbed him. Told him that if he wanted to see his kids again he was gonna call a doctor. The warden did call a doctor when Big Pu'a let him go, but he didn't get here quick enough. Your mum died, but the doctor managed to save you!"
Tamotu had smiled at me. The smile faded. "They came for Big Pu'a the next day. They told him to go with them and he did. He didn't try and run or fight or talk his way out of it. They pushed him into a car and drove him away. Big Pu'a never came back."
My dad was taken to Australia, Tamotu thinks. "But it's like the wardens say..."
Six feet Down Under.
Like Tamotu says, I was born in the TV room. I've never seen Tuvalu and I never will. No one will ever see Tuvalu again. Tamotu says that only four of the islands are still above water, but that the yearly typhoons are washing away what's left. But they still call me Tuvaluan.
Sometimes I hear the wardens talking. They talk to each other a lot, but never to us. They complain a lot. We complain about the heat, about our clothes, about the food, about the dirt. They complain about different things. They talk about banks and the climate and traffic. But they most often complain about the Wall.
"Waste of time and money," one of the wardens says.
The others nod.
I asked Tamotu about the Wall. "They mean the Auckland Seawall."
Auckland's a big city, more than two million people live there, Tamotu told me a while back. Three hundred of us Tuvaluans live in our concrete boxes and chainlink fences.
"Is two million a lot more than three hundred?" I frowned.
"A lot more, yes. More than you could ever imagine."
Tamotu says they're building a wall to keep the sea out of the city, like the sea came into Tuvalu.
I don't know how they're going to do that. Tupuna fafine told me that Tuvalu had a building with three floors. Like one of our concrete boxes, but with two more levels. The government building, she said. But Tamotu said that the sea and wind have been knocking that down for years. "It's probably not even standing anymore." I don't know how the Seawall could try and stop the sea if even a building with three whole floors couldn't stop it.
Now, whenever Miss Manaia comes, tupuna fafine starts shaking. She's never done this before. I've never seen anything bother her like this.
Tupuna fafine mutters to herself about "that stupid woman" and "the empty-headed crier". We try to take tupuna fafine away from Miss Manaia when she comes now, but she refuses. "I've got to keep an eye on that one," she says. "Don't want her teaching our kids more of her nonsense."
So tupuna fafine would sit in the shade, under a blanket, glaring as Miss Manaia would talk to us all.
Iosua talks to tupuna fafine a lot. She never used to talk to him before, but they're always together now. Whenever I try to talk to Iosua or tupuna fafine now, they tell me to go play with the other kids, but I've already braided their hair and played three games of netball.
Two months after tupuna fafine first scolded Miss Manaia, the crier visited us again.
Iosua was still eating breakfast, spooning his oats from his plastic bowl into his mouth.
"I'm sick of oats," he said. Then he tipped the last of his food onto the ground.
"Iosua!" Miss Manaia exclaimed. "Why on Earth did you do that? You're lucky to have that food!"
Iosua glared at the woman. "Every day since I could remember, you's fed us oats for breakfast. I want something else."
Miss Manaia pursed her lips. She put on her glasses and then took them off again. "You have the news on your TV, yes?"
"Yeah, so what?" Iosua grumbled.
"Then you must have seen all those poor people in India, starving in their camps, millions of them. You could be like that."
"This isn't India."
"No, and you have food, you should be grateful for it!" Miss Manaia hmphed.
"How dare you!" Miss Manaia's eyes widened as we watched tupuna fafine throw off her blanket and struggle to her feet. I could hear Iosua laughing.
"Grateful?" tupuna fafine screeched. "More than seventeen years we've been pent up in this cage!"
"Do not use my name, woman!" tupuna fafine spat, shuffling nearer. "For seventeen years we've been treated like pigs, penned up in here with nothing to do all day!"
Miss Manaia wrung her hands. "The TV," she stammered. "The netball court..."
"Two channels and half a court!" tupuna fafine was face-to-face with the trembling, white-faced crier.
"You say your job is to get us all out of here? No one's left. I bet none of us ten thousand Tuvaluans have ever left these camps! Even dear, old Pu'a! Prison, not freedom! Do you believe it's your duty to keep children locked up here until they're old and wrinkled like me?!"
Miss Manaia opened her mouth.
"Be quiet when you're being spoken to, Miss Mania! If I have to hear one more word about how this torture is good for us, I'm going t–"
Tupuna fafine collapsed. Iosua stopped laughing. Miss Manaia gasped and stumbled back. People rushed forward. Tamotu yelled at the wardens to call a doctor. The wardens listened this time.
I stood there. I watched people crowd around tupuna fafine as she wheezed on the concrete ground.
A few minutes passed while I watched and a wailing sound got louder and louder. Soon, two people dressed in bright yellow rushed into the camp and knelt next to tupuna fafine. The crowd backed off. They rolled her onto her back, pressed down on her chest, blew into her mouth, they even zapped her a couple times. But when I blinked, they began packing tupuna fafine into a bag and zipped her up. The bag was lifted onto a stretcher and wheeled back to their ambulance.
"They said it was a heart attack," Tamotu told me. "They tried everything they could."
I watched Miss Manaia run back to her little car and drive away, eyes red, while Iosua swore and kicked a concrete wall.
A week later, a man walked through the gate in the fence. He was tall, with grey hair and a long nose.
"Hello, my name is Mr Rudd. I work for the Climate Refugee Integration Agency, and I'm going to get you all out of here."
"All who?" I asked Mr Rudd.
He looked at me, confused. "All you Tuvaluans."
Lastly, I would like to express my own personal gratitude to everyone who took part in the contest! I think I speak for both the judges and myself when I say we thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the entries and were very impressed by the wide range of thought-provoking interpretations of this year's theme.
Thank you all so much for getting involved; we hope you'll join in again for next year's contest!
Culture Minister of Forest