An institute for critical education in the South Pacific

A ʻAtenisi picture

Procession (2008)

June 2019 – Adam Johnson, Prize-winning Stanford Novelist, Conducts Master Class for Aspiring Writers

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In 2009 pacesetting Stanford University – anticipating future achievement – promoted him to professor of creative writing. In 2013 he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Orphan Master’s Son, uncannily set in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Two years later he bagged the National Book Award for his story collection, Fortune Smiles.

But on a visit to the South Pacific would such a literary celebrity agree to teach a master class at ‘Atenisi? Io 'aupito! On 10 June Dr Adam Johnson came to our campus to describe the art of narration to Tonga’s aspiring storytellers, with an emphasis on getting down with – and inside of – the lead characters of their stories.

“Novels can do something movies can’t do,” Johnson explained. “They can penetrate their characters and not only tell readers what the characters do, but what they think.”

Johnson opened the session by quizzing the audience regarding the role of fiction in society. The answers came quickly: to take the reader to unexplored environments, to trailblaze a more effective humanity, to reveal emotion in a fresh way.

After class, several aspirants lined up for one-on-one advice regarding how to resolve thorny challenges in the stories they were crafting for the page or the screen.