Professor Jon Jonassen inspired a room of around 40 people at the opening of the Cook Islands Writers Festival at Tereora College.
The Rarotonga native, who has written more than 40 books and 100 musical compositions, talked about his life experiences, lessons and discoveries.
If storytelling is about moments, Professor Jonassen has had many interesting ones.
He told a story about how firm, until he realised he was hurting people. In Japan someone asked, “if you shake someone’s hand to show love or respect, why do you want to hurt them?” It changed the way he shakes hands forever.
Another story was of his trip to Papua New Guinea, when he almost acquired two more wives!
The tribe he was visiting decided he was of such importance, that just one wife simply wouldn’t do. He admits he and his wife had different experiences of that trip, and they have not been back since!
From his stories to his advice on being a writer; he had his audience laughing and captivated.
Encouraging everyone to appreciate their culture, identity and language, the well-travelled professor exuded such pride when talking about his heritage.
"There is so much beauty in our language" he said, and referenced simple phrases like Kia Orana and how it expresses so many feelings of love.
Out of all the forms of storytelling, chants are those that have suffered the least impact from westerners, he explained. He spent over 20 years looking at chants and trying to make sense of the words, and talking to elders to understand the meaning.
When asked about the many poems and songs that he is written, he simply states: "I write to express myself, not to be published.”
Writing about moments that happen to you is what makes us unique. Most people dream of writing, but never actually write, and Professor Jonassen says "If you want to tell your story the way you want it to be told, you have to learn to write."
· Celebrating Writing and Storytelling, The Cook Islands Writers Festival continues on through Friday and is open to the public and free.
DR JON’S TIPS FOR TELLING YOUR STORY
* Know what you want to say
* Understand the power of words, and how important it is to use appropriate words
* As writers, we are never satisfied with our work – and our best piece is yet to be written