Mark Sweet Wakes the Sleeping Zhu Mao

Brian Bargh of HUIA left a message. He asked I return his call. ‘It’s good news,’ he said. I went all goose pimply, and great gulps of excitement came tinged with fear.

Mark Sweet
Mark Sweet starts his writing journey in China with the draft novel Zhu Mao.

I began writing Zhu Mao three years ago at the start of the Diploma of Creative Writing course at Whitireia Polytechnic. When I applied, I submitted a short story, one of many, interconnected, which I wanted to shape into a novel. But the opportunity to write a new novel was too much, and Adrienne Jansen encouraged my fresh idea.

It was based around two experiences of traveling in China in the 1980s. One involved infanticide of baby girls, the other execution of criminals. The story grew and, at times, took on a life of its own. I spent a month in Wudangshan, the birthplace of t’ai chi, and found a setting for the story. I loved the process. In the end, I rushed to finish and was awarded a C+. I was gutted and let Zhu Mao sleep for two years.

During that time, I came to see my final assessment as fair. And I learned a big lesson. Anna Rogers was my mentor, and assessor, but I took scant heed of her opinion. Now, I see that all she told me was sound advice.

Late last year, I met the author Elspeth Sandys and asked her if she would critique my manuscript. She was encouraging but highlighted major problems with structure and genre; much the same as Anna.

I’d been dabbling at rewriting Zhu Mao for a few months, growing increasingly frustrated at my lack of editorial crafting skills, when my sister emailed about Te Papa Tupu incubator programme.

Being chosen for the programme is a gift for which I am deeply grateful. The opportunity to work with a mentor, and the means to concentrate on writing for six months, makes the completion of Zhu Mao an achievable goal.

My thanks to those in the Māori Literature Trust, Huia Publishers, Creative New Zealand, and Te Puni Kōkiri who have developed and promoted Te Papa Tupu.

7 thoughts on “Mark Sweet Wakes the Sleeping Zhu Mao

  1. Erena says:

    So inspiring Mark 🙂 and congratulations for all your achievements. I am looking forward to entering this year. Erena.

  2. Jim eddie says:

    Hi Mark … Remember me .? Big Jim Eddie from Glasgow …..Glasgow Fishmarket ! When are you coming to Glasgow ?

  3. Julie says:

    Hi Mark
    Yes this is most interesting to read your blurb about your novel. I can’t wait to read it.

  4. Red Flint says:

    Hi Mark – I think we knew one another in Glasgow in the early 90’s. I was hard work, you were inspirational. You will make supremely a gifted writer because you have a beautiful spirit and an inquiring mind. I wish you love and peace. Ramsay (as you knew me) x

  5. Andrew Kincaid says:

    This is most interesting. Is this you? Or another Mark Sweet New Zealander? Best wishes Andrew

  6. Jennifer turner says:

    Likewise mark. Internet a wonderful thing. Glad u finally got rou d to writing. Taken you long enough. Be good to catch up. Prompted by fact my 18yr old son just won rugby scholarship to nz for 4 months from april2011. I’m on Facebook. Xx

  7. anna and bob bennett says:

    Mark, just talking about you and found you on the wonders of the internet.
    Do get in touch and we will update you on Bennett family sagas and life in general.
    Two Fats is still sorely missed in Glasgow.
    love Annaxx


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: