19 July 2010: Te Papa Tupu Ignites Inspiration in Eru Hart
I was re-watching Star Trek: Generations this weekend. I was in that half-hazed, low-attention space that watching TV has become for me. It was a grey Wellington Sunday, and I was recovering from a night-shift at my weekend job.
The villain for this particular Star Trek movie is Soran, played by Malcolm MacDowell. He is a shadowy figure with a slow face but darting eyes. From the moment he is first rescued from his damaged ship, it is clear that he knows more than he is letting on. He is brooding and shady, half-shaven and evasive. He also has a British accent, which in the Star Trek microverse means that you are either a doctor or a villain. Or Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
Once Soran has had time to recover, the actual Captain Jean-Luc Picard descends onto the Enterprise’s bar to check on him. It is during this initial meeting that Soran utters the line, ‘They say time is the fire in which we burn.’ It roused me out of my stupor. Wellington continued to blur away in cloud and rain outside my window, but I felt suddenly clarified.
This book would never get written with me on my couch watching reruns. Time would burn the opportunity away. Day, by week, by month.
Naturally, I continued watching until the end. The brief inspiration congratulated itself with another afternoon on the couch.
Sunday ashed away.
I see several problems with turning the eager and hurried 20,000 word manuscript I submitted for Te Papa Tupu 2010 into a published novel.
My submission consisted of ten or so pieces written over a five-year period and one longer but desperately composed piece written in the final week before the deadline. The pieces were never intended to form one long extended narrative although there is one continual narrative voice linking them all, a half-fictional ‘I’.
I’ve found it convenient and organic to write from the first person because the starter for all the pieces was memory – that unreliable and emotional source. The recurring characters are members of my family and reappearing and vanishing friends. Looking back over my manuscript, the perennial themes are poverty, dislocation, identity confusion and anxiety. These may make for an interesting diary, but could they in fact be combined and revised into a novel (that noun that is so very frightening to the short story writer)?
In short, I just don’t know. I really don’t.
And it’s this uncertainty that I am battling with at the opening stages of this programme. The award is a fantastic validation, sure. I believe that all artists are hungry (in some circumstances starving) for recognition, regardless of what they tell you. Te Papa Tupu initiative, if anything, is recognition that at least someone is interested in hearing My Voice. Intrigued enough with the entrée to order the full meal.
I know I can write. It is one of the few constants in thirty years of flux. And I am truly grateful that someone has placed a value on six months of creative burning time – ever hopeful that heat will produce a result.
Ten Responses to ‘Te Papa Tupu Ignites Inspiration in Eru Hart’
- I love this Eru. I don’t know what you’re frightened of?? Success maybe. You just need to continue to write in this honest voice.
Jacquie2010 said this on July 19, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Reply (edit)
- I agree
Tania Hinehou Butcher said this on July 20, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Reply (edit)
- Bloody good sir, bloody good.
George said this on July 23, 2010 at 9:38 am | Reply (edit)
- Your style is so captivating,you humble me with your words. Mauri ora brother. Well done you.
J said this on August 2, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Reply (edit)
- You are an artist that leaves a lingering visualisation imprinted in my mind, it would be unfair not to get the chance to read your thoughts and enjoy your smorgasbord of talent!! Kia Kaha Mr Hart
T said this on August 15, 2010 at 3:04 am | Reply (edit)
- Kia kaha tonu Tuakana,
Whaia te iti kahurangi, ki te tuohu koe, me he maunga teitei
He tangata tino matatau ki te tuhituhi, pupurihia ou whakaaro, Kia tuhithuia tou pakiwaitara kaiora !
L said this on September 8, 2010 at 9:47 am | Reply (edit)
- Strike on, enough blathering about doubt and wasteful turmoil. Myself I can say this to you as I dither about so badly that I actually missed the date to even apply for this course, but all’s well that ends well, you have an excellent chance with this initiative and will come out of it well, that much is plain already. Myself I plan to be recognised as the greatest writer in NZ history, my ambition will not dull until the brain starts to close down. I imagine you must feel something similar.
Illya said this on October 10, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Reply (edit)
- or not, my ambition is my own of course. It is of course easy to imagine anything, as you well know.
Hope the words are flowing for you bro.
Illya said this on October 10, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Reply (edit)
- Well, you’ve had enough people tell you not to be doubtful – all I want to say is get on with the novel – I can’t wait to read it!!
SD said this on October 12, 2010 at 9:19 am | Reply (edit)
- What a voice! – looking forward to hearing more of it.
LW said this on October 17, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Reply (edit)
22 August 2010: Eru Shares Snippets of Past and Present
I’ve recently had broadband connected at my house. The digital revolution finally revolved its way to my place, flashing its light-speed optics in my direction. It was a bit of a mission. First of all, Telecom refused to set up an account in my name. I have a credit history as peppery as the spice trade, so I had to call Mum. From my cellphone.
From her bed – where she receives all phone calls – she considered my request. I lowered my bait in slowly. She agreed that it was nice to hear from me. It had been a while. She agreed that it’s great news I’m being paid to write a manuscript. She agreed that there would be a lot of emailing back and forth between me and my mentor. She slowly agreed that it was a bit of a hassle to have to email from work. She supposed that it would be much easier to have a phone line and internet connection at home.
Then we shared a pause.
‘So would you mind if I got my landline connected? ‘Cause of my … past it would have to be under your name, Mum?’
I’d asked her before, but she had been very reluctant. This time, however, I felt like I had some leverage.
‘This is my best shot to finally get a novel published.’
I heard the bed springs creak. The air grew rich with anticipation.
It seems Archimedes may have been right: ‘Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it. and I shall move the world.’
Mum’s gesture of support meant a lot to me. I do not come from a family of readers. Sure, we had lots of books in our home, but they fell into two categories: scriptures and commentaries on the scriptures. Reading wasn’t really a hobby or a pleasure; it was a duty – one to be carried out on the Sabbath and during weekly gospel study sessions. We escaped the ordinariness of everyday life through television or sport or food. Reading for pleasure was seen as a bit suspicious, a bit indulgent. I got the impression that the proper function of reading was to prepare oneself for The Great and Final Day of Judgement.
The only reading exception seemed to be Dad’s Herald Tribune – Hawke’s Bay’s daily paper. And it was definitely Dad’s paper. No one was allowed to even unfold the paper before Dad had carefully thumbed through it. He had a pair of scissors as long as his forearm and as sharp as his temper. He used those glimmering scissors to carefully snip out the articles of interest to him, mostly stock market reports on how well his tiny portfolio of Brierley stocks were doing and anything to do with the Meat Workers Union, of which he was a representative. When Dad was done, anyone was welcome to read the paper so long as they could hold it together with its dozen or so rectangular-shaped gaps. No one else read the paper. It was too much hard work.
I’m not sure, then, how I ended up as the family’s reader, the one child of seventeen who preferred to be indoors flicking through non-church-approved books. The one child of seventeen who seemed allergic to the outdoors but drawn to the inches-thick illusions between covers.
Fiction and secular non-fiction became the lever and fulcrum on which I shifted my world view.
So now that I have all the necessary shiny cables and light speed currents pointed at my house, I wish I could tell you that I’ve been very noble with my Broadband. I wish I could tell you that I’ve spent the last two months downloading pirated e-books on the art of writing. I wish I could tell you that I’ve set up RSS feeds to past Nobel literature winners. I wish I could brag at how many Booker prize winners I’ve friended on Facebook.
In truth, I’ve watched hours, probably days’ worth, of reality TV: Celebrity Rehab, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Flava of Love, Sober House with Dr. Drew and even Keeping Up With the Kardashians. I’ve devoured hours and hours of celebrities and ordinary folks lose weight and sober up. I’ve watched the famous and the forgettable falling in and out of love – with themselves and with each other. I’ve watched people climb on the dry wagon and fall off again only to be run over and crushed under wheels of hubris. And most of all, I’ve watched them fight: Jill vs. Bethenney, Danielle vs. Teresa or Sergeant Harvey vs. Fat Celebrity has-beens. I’ve streamed hours of quiet tension explode in moments of the loudest vile. I am ashamed to admit it, but I’ve loved seeing ex-lovers collapse into one-on-one war.
During the writing of this manuscript, I have often killed my own momentum with the question, What right do you have to tell this story? It has stopped me dead on several occasions.
I’m not the kind of author that could write the story of a seventeenth-century Dutch lesbian widow. As fun as it is to imagine myself outside myself, I doubt I could convince a reader. God bless the authors who don’t write from experience. I can’t. I am a doubting and easily wounded thirty-year-old single Māori. Experience has worn away my capacity to trust. I act with kindness not out of any higher moral calling but because it seems to disarm and pacify most other adults. I’d prefer to be arrogant and straightforward, but I’ve found I’m not pretty enough to pull that off.
I am pulling this manuscript out like a series of splinters. It is not easy, but some internal pressure is telling me that it is significant and necessary. Sometimes, I even chance across an unexpected and lovely paragraph. What I am making is part autobiography, part fiction and part fantasy. It is a crossover of scripture, Dad’s paper and what was left of the newspaper. You, the reader, will be expected to hold it all together, to keep the pages upright enough to make sense of it. The rectangular-shaped gaps will be both your challenge and your chance to hide away with me. The value of the Brierley stocks will be up to you.
December the third, the Great and Terrible Day of Judgement, approaches.
Four Responses to ‘Eru Shares Snippets of Past and Present’
- Too Funny Eru.
I am serious when I say, I can’t wait to read your book!!
Jacquie2010 said this on August 22, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Reply (edit)
- You are in the car on the way!!! Now that you are 30 you are driving, if get sidetracked by all the pretty lights – that’s okay, it will make for a much more interesting ride!!!
T said this on August 28, 2010 at 11:39 am | Reply (edit)
- Oh my gosh! You left me in stitches in one paragraph and then made me thoughtful in the next. I have no doubt you will publish a book whose texts entertain and provoke the world over!
SD said this on October 12, 2010 at 9:10 am | Reply (edit)
- EJ! I was just thinking about you and stumbled on this from your Facebook. Look at you! I am so impressed and I can’t wait to read it, obviously. Once you are done writing we should catch up on the last 5 years. XOXO from America.
Holly S said this on October 27, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Reply (edit)
22 August 2010: A Day’s Writing with the Author and the Internal Editor
Wakes up on the two-seater love seat. Alone. Feet dangle over the tiled coffee table. Wrapped tightly about in a duvet. Through the window, Thursday clouds threaten rain. Crosses fingers; that would be nice. Heads into the kitchen. Has to rinse himself a clean cup, dishes undone for a while now. Has to empty ashtray, but keeps the butts in an airtight jar – for rainier days. They are forecast. Returns to love seat and re-dresses in the duvet. Thinks of flipping open the laptop.
[ENTERS: Internal Editor]
No point, you’ve got nothing to say.
Reminds himself what Murray said: ‘Activity precedes motivation.’ Hopes that proceeding with typing words, any words, will activate motivation. Flips open laptop.
Isn’t Dr. Oz on TV about now? Today’s topic: foods that battle the aging process!
Reminds himself that he is only thirty. Opens a new document while the ancient laptop whirrs like an air-conditioning unit and heats his lap. Decides to begin with a title, seems to get the juices flowing and provide direction. ‘Finger Lickin’ Bad.’
You can’t use that. The Publisher will have to clear it with KFC first.
Steels himself, and continues: ‘I am not sure what stop to get off at. I’ve never caught this bus before. I pull the cord just before the hospital to be sure I don’t overshoot. There are two Chinese women behind me speaking to each other in their own language. My paranoia flares up.’
Two things here buddy. You don’t want to alienate the Asian community. I think they buy a lot of books for their kids. Secondly, you don’t want to come across as some kind of neurotic, paranoid case. People at your work are gonna read this. Slip something humane and compassionate in.
‘This better be worth it. I hope Hera appreciates this visit. He’s been such an ungrateful and demanding patient.’
Not even close.
Backspace, backspace, backspace.
Starts last section again: ‘I check my own thinking. Like Sally-Anne remarked, so much of it is automatic and reactive. Of course the Chinese women aren’t talking about me. They got on at the last stop with plastic bags stuffed with groceries. They’re probably talking about dinner. I feel myself relax. But then, as Porirua winds into view and the concrete towers of Kenepuru hospital rise over the low hills, I begin to feel panic. Dread. Something I think Sally-Anne would understand. I haven’t seen Hera for so many months. Just how unwell is he this time?”
You don’t have the right to tell this story. It belongs to your family. To Hera. Don’t shame yourself. Don’t shame them. Shame on you.
Becomes for a time despondent. The Thursday clouds which threatened rain now realise it. Mt. Victoria is ushered away in a gauze of rain. Fast drops drum against the windows. Flips closed the lid of the laptop. Makes a simple lunch. Does dishes. The idea of doing the washing exhausts him, but the idea of lying on the two-seater love seat wrapped in a duvet turns him on. Before giving up for the day, checks his email. His inbox contains a piece of spam from quotationspage.com. Opens it out of boredom and curiosity: ‘If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.’ (George Bernard Shaw) Takes a big breath. Flips open the laptop. Begins to type away, writing towards the fear: ‘Pulling the cord the bell rings and the bus slams to a stop. The two Chinese women squeal. Like it or not, I have to see Hera. I have to see my brother.’
[EXITS: Internal Editor]
Spends the rest of the weekend dancing with an old family friend.
Four Responses to ‘A Day’s Writing with the Author and the Internal Editor’
- Thats it!!! Now you are Dancing the bones off!! Love it!!!
T said this on October 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
SD said this on October 12, 2010 at 9:14 am |
- Laughter one minute, tears the next. Eru you have something for everyone to relate to whatever our age, wherever we come from.
LW said this on October 17, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
- Great stuff EJ, gripping, funny, personal, how good writing should be!
Dom said this on November 24, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
12 October 2010: Shaking out the Details
Flying southward I was surprised to hear the pilot announce: ‘Good evening, guests, we’ve just passed the township of Kaikōura. I can see in the distance the lights of Christchurch and it’s gearing up to be a clear and mild night.’ I didn’t know you could see Christchurch from that far away. In my mind, Christchurch is such an extraordinary distance from Wellington. And even further from Hastings where the bulk of my family live. Whenever Mum organises a visit to my sister in The Garden City, you’d think she was planning a trip abroad. She books months in advance and packs so much gear you’d think she was relocating. I’ve acquired many welcome and unwelcome habits from Mum: loyalty to family, the afternoon nap, hoarding and a taste for gossip. Yet as worldly as I like to consider myself, I also see that I have acquired her fantastic and false sense of distance. According to the pilot, Wellington is only twenty-seven minutes’ flying distance from Christchurch. Really? Is that all?
Much to my own disappointment, I myself had packed so much luggage I was charged an excess baggage fee.
As the plane descended and I greedily sucked my green Air New Zealand lolly to alleviate my popping ears, I considered the earthquake. The iron-flat bulk of the Canterbury Plains seemed enormous. The jagged Southern Alps and a slew of low-rise hills seemed to contain a basin that stretched forever. And this was from several hundred feet in the air. I contemplated the enormous forces from deep below and out of sight that had conspired on 4 September to shake this fabulously big area. I enjoyed a wonderful feeling of smallness.
I agree with the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle who moaned, ‘Writing is a dreadful labor, yet not so dreadful as Idleness.’ On many given days, the only worse-sounding idea than sitting still for an hour or two writing is sitting still for a day or two not writing. There is a quality of satisfaction I get after filling a few empty screens with nouns, conjunctions and adjectives that I do not get after any other activity. The sore point seems to be the doing itself – the mechanical process of teasing out memory and imagination via words. The payoff may be orgasmic, but often getting there is like a session of very average sex; only slightly more pleasure than pain. And that’s on a good day. On a bad day, it is more like having a groin accident. So why even bother? Because if I wasn’t a writer, I simply wouldn’t be me. And writers write. So I keep writing because I am starting to like me.
Hell, it only took thirty years.
I had booked my trip to Christchurch long before The Big One. Months in advance in fact (Drat! Mum’s influence is unstoppable!) When it struck, I kinda grossed myself out at how excited I was to be heading down there shortly to check out the lovely damage for myself. I even borrowed a digital camera for the occasion. My sister was to meet me at the airport. I feel so flash at airports – like a member of some kind of elite mobile class. I always feel like some kind of emissary. By the time our plane landed, night had dropped on a cooling Canterbury. My sister couldn’t afford the $6-an-hour airport parking so had been waiting in the Drop off/Pick up zone just outside the domestic terminal. For an hour. After a kiss and a squeeze, we sped off inland towards Lincoln.
Morbidly, I expected to see roads broken apart and Civil Defence operatives handing out flares. I expected to see lines of the homeless and evicted queuing for ration packs. I kept an eye out at railway crossings for tracks bent into unnatural S shapes. I even half expected to see the Prime Minister surrounded by a retinue of crisis management folk surveying gutted-out neighbourhoods. Or at least Bob Parker. There was nothing of the sort.
Instead, I had to content myself with my sister’s dry story about how her hot-water cylinder had cracked and leaked a bit into her hot-water cupboard. I’m not proud of it, but I think I am drama slut.
Good for you, Christchurch. Bad luck for the inner disaster tourist I suspect lurks in all of us.
It’s this hunger for bold and broad-stroked drama that held my writing back for a long time. I remember telling my sixth-form English teacher that to be a real writer, I’d have to go overseas first. You know, where the really big, important and exciting adventures go down. At that stage, I had no appreciation for the small. I didn’t know how strong a frail moment caught on paper can be.
While sitting in the Lincoln University library on Sunday, fingers tapping and face twisted in my frustrated-writer facials, the building began to shudder. Aftershock, nearly one month on. Shelves of books hummed tremblingly and fluorescent lights shimmered. I gasped, gripping my desk. But to my surprise, the Cantabrians continued – business as usual. Boys and girls in their tiny Canterbury shorts and stiff-collared Aertex shirts kept studying and chatting and Facebooking right through the micro-quake. They’ve had over a thousand aftershocks since 4 September. I so admired their adaptability, their stoicism.
In these final eight weeks, this last lap around the course, I learnt something valuable that day down there; southward. Life can’t possibly be all earthquakes. That isn’t lifelike. Plots may pivot around moments of large drama, but it is the ever-decreasing ripples – the aftershocks – that are the bread and butter of everyday experience.
I’m beginning to believe that the Devil lies in overlooking the details.
Three Responses to ‘Shaking out the Details’
- You have fought the fight, you can finish the race – the victor’s crown awaits you
LW said this on October 17, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
- Fetch you’re good Eru!!!! I have to say I am well impressed! Keep it up, I look forward to reading more of your work. Well done old chap. I have a new respect for you and your amazing talent.
Sam said this on October 18, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
- Wow! You’re brilliant! Your writing really grabs you right from the start – can’t wait for the book!!
Bex said this on October 24, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
11 November 2010: Judging a Book by Its Back Cover
‘I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.'(Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy)
So, twenty-six days before the manuscript is due. Let’s be frank: I’m sweating bullets. The good news is I’m close. The bad news is I don’t know how much work there is left to do. It’s an unknown quantity. Do I need to spend fifteen minutes each day until 3 December, or do I need to spend five hours a day? I really can’t tell. How exactly do you know when it’s ready or good enough or jut plain good? This is the beauty of having a deadline. The deadline forces you to admit that enough is enough. Hand it over. Time’s up.
I’m not sure if the publisher requires one, but I thought I’d write the back cover blurb as a bit of a self-indulgent exercise. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but they don’t say anything about the back cover:
‘In a home that is 50 percent love, 50 percent abuse and 100 percent religious, a child is born*. Angelus Tama is the thirteenth child of seventeen. His father is a High Priest in The Church. He’s not really sure which of the women is his mother. In a way they all are.
Follow his journey as he hits the Real World. Or at least the most commonly accepted delusion known as the Real World. He’ll discover that there are laws that can be broken and Laws that you can only break yourself against. Oh, he’ll also try to kill himself.
Sex, psychiatric wards, writers’ groups and alcohol abuse. This book’s got it all.**’
*The author is aware that this equals 200 percent and is therefore illogical, but the point stands. **Disclaimer: This book does not literally have it all.’
As for the cover, which you are not supposed to judge the book by, I’ve found someone to do that too. My high school friend has a sister, Angela Vink, who is an amazing graphic artist.
Things are falling into place, and hopefully, not apart. And I’ve saved the best news for last: I finally have a title. Get ready for it: Goldilocks & the Three Episodes. Available in all good bookstores.***
***Assuming the author meets his deadline.
Two Responses to ‘Judging a Book by Its Back Cover’
- Look forward to reading it cuzzy
Matua Tere said this on November 11, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
- Hope I can get a copy in Oz!!
T said this on November 17, 2010 at 11:40 pm |