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Niece of Albert Wendt privileged to write book

APIA, Samoa, (Samoa Observer, Jan. 6, 2010) - A book about different experiences during and after the tsunami is being written.

Scheduled to be released on the first anniversary of the tragedy in September, Associate Minister of Commerce, Hans Joachim Keil has commissioned award-winning writer, Lani Wendt to put it together.

"It is not a documentary type book with straight retelling of facts but rather the weaving together of different people’s experiences," said Ms. Wendt.

The niece of iconic Samoan poet, Albert Wendt said Mr. Keil, who was deeply touched by the tragedy of 143 people killed, wants the book to remember the stories of the tsunami not just from the victims' perspective but also from people who helped.

The book, with a name yet to be decided, will contain interviews from victims, medical officials, fire and rescue workers, relief team workers, Disaster Management Office staff members and more.

It will also include statements from American Samoa, Tonga, Niuatoputapu and other islands affected.

"We go out three times a week to do interviews and we record as we go," Ms Wendt said.

"There are a lot of great stories out there and I’m working to put them in the book."

Ms Wendt, who has been working on the project for two months, said she is interested in how the tsunami has affected people not only as individuals but as a community.

The 36-year-old is married to Darren Young. They have five children.

"Writing has always been my passion," she said.

Her education started in Samoa. She finished high school in Washington DC, before studying English Literature and Women’s Studies at Victoria University, Wellington.

Later, she studied for a diploma in Teaching at Wellington’s College of Education.

She returned to Samoa where she became an English teacher at Samoa College, Pesega Church College and Robert Louis Stevenson School.

Her writing career was launched when the National University of Samoa initiated a short story competition. She won.

"That’s when I thought; I am good at this and should carry on," she laughed.

Since then, her work has been published in collections out of New Zealand, Australia and Samoa.

Her fiction for children has been published in the School Journal Series in New Zealand.

"I also write articles for the newspaper occasionally," she said. "And of course I have a blog/website like most other writers!"

Ms Wendt is hoping her uncle, Albert Wendt, can help out.

"Hopefully he is able to come around and do some proof reading for me," she said. "(Writing) runs in the family."

"It is a privilege to be involved in this project," Ms Wendt said.

"Mr. Keil is to be commended for his vision, and commitment to ensuring that people’s stories are preserved. I am grateful for all those who have been willing to share their stories with me and I hope that this book will adequately honour their strength and resilience."

The book is a non-profit project, Keil said. All proceeds will go to the tsunami relief funds.

"The book will be affordable to everyone, as many were affected by it. We want everyone to read it," said Keil.

"This incident is a once in a life time experience."

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