Victor is of Samoan (Iva) and Scottish (Dundee) descent. Since leaving Linwood High School in 1986 he worked as a journalist and studied acting at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School before establishing a career as a playwright. His plays include SONS (1995), MY NAME IS GARY COOPER (2007) and BLACK FAGGOT (2013), all of which have been published. His first short story, LIKE SHINDERELLA, was included in the Maori and Pacifica anthology BLACK MARKS ON THE WHITE PAGE which was co-edited by Witi Ihimaera. He has held several writing residencies throughout New Zealand and was the first Samoan Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago in Dunedin. He was also the Fulbright/Creative New Zealand Pacific writer in residence at the University of Hawaii in 2006. A long-time writer for Shortland Street (which he also briefly acted in), he currently leads the Maori and Pacifica creative writing workshop at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University and is attached to various film and television projects.
1986: my final year at Linwood High School (as it was known back then).
I already had ambitions to be a writer…but then I flunked an English test.
My diary records my dismay:
“What hope is there when I can’t even pass an English exam?” my 17-year-old self writes. “I mean, like, you read about people like John Irving and Jackie Collins not doing so hotly at school, but always coming top of their class in English – I can’t even do that; and what’s more, people who don’t even have literary ambitions do better than me.”
Despite that failed English exam and despite never topping my class in English, I still achieved my ambition of becoming a writer: first, as a cadet reporter on the Christchurch Star, then as a playwright, before moving into television and most recently into film and fiction.
I recently came across that long-forgotten diary entry when I dug out my old diaries from my parent’s hut in their backyard in order to take part in an event called Bad Diaries Salon, where writers read from their old diaries.
As I re-read my often-tortured teenage musings, I barely recognized myself: all that angst over my sexuality; the beginning of the sometimes-difficult move towards embracing my Samoan heritage; that sometimes overwhelming desire to simply fit in.
I suspect my time at Linwood was typical of many: a topsy turvy mixture of pleasure and pain.
Looking back now, as a 50-year-old, I think the best things to come out of my time there were the handful of close friendships I made back then: friendships I have maintained ever since.
And whenever we look back at our time at Linwood, we look back with fondness and with laughter – even when we are recounting the bad times Linwood, then, is a school that gave all of us plenty of good memories – and, more importantly, gave us each other.