An Interview with Te Papa Tupu Writers

An Interview with Te Papa Tupu Writers

MĀORI LITERATURE TRUST

Geraldine Warren, Jade Kake and Zeb Nicklin are among the six writers selected for this year’s Te Papa Tupu mentoring programme. They share a bit about themselves, their writing background and what they hope to get out of the programme. Hopefully, you enjoy reading this post, feel inspired to follow the writers on their Te Papa Tupu journey and stay motivated to continue your own writing journey.

Geraldine:
Ehara taku maunga a Hikurangi i te maunga nekeneke.
He maunga tū tonu.
Ko Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Maniapoto ōku iwi.
Kei Manurewa taku kainga.
Kei Tāmaki Paenga Hira taku tūranga.
Ko Geraldine Warren ahau.

I am currently employed in the GLAM sector at Auckland War Memorial Museum and studying part-time for a Postgraduate Diploma in Museum Practice at Victoria University, Wellington. I live in South Auckland and went to Tangaroa College in Otara. 

Jade: Tēnā koutou. My name is Jade Kake. I’m from Ngāpuhi, Te Arawa and Te Whakatōhea on my mum’s side, and my dad is Dutch. I grew up in Australia but now live in Whāngārei. My education is in architecture, which is still what I do for work, albeit in a bit of an expanded field that includes writing, policy analysis and research. Above all, I’m a kaimahi for my whānau and hapū – which usually means doing whatever is required at that time (but I try to stay in my professional lane as much as possible).

Zeb: He nui aku runaruna, ā, ko te tuhituhi whakaaro tētahi o aku tino i roto i te reo Māori tonu. He pī ka rere tēnei e whāia ana tēnei ara kia kite atu kai hea tōna pito, he ara kore pito rānei tōna. Wai ka hua otiia, e takahia ana e au kia kite ai.

Tell us about your writing background and the moment you decided to apply for Te Papa Tupu.

Geraldine: Years ago, while working in a library, a koro wearing a beanie asked me if I was a writer. He seemed familiar, and in that moment I wished I was a writer, but I had to reply no.

In 2010, the Auckland Matariki Festival offered a Newbie Writers Workshop by Banana Boat Pasifika and Māori creatives, David Mamea, Jenny Heka and Leilani Unasa. Then, I attended a poetry workshop led by Robert Sullivan and enrolled in the creative writing programme he established at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT). In 2019, I was delighted to find in my International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) fiction writing class that David Mamea was in the playwrights stream.

Jade: When I was a kid, I was constantly reading and writing. At nine (I think), I won third prize in a local poetry competition, and at eleven, I was published in a young writers’ anthology. We spent time workshopping our stories with published writers, who pushed us to develop our writing and get our stories ready for publication. John Marsden launched our book, which was pretty exciting, and I met Australian authors Melina Marchetta and Morris Gleitzman. I continued writing through high school and wrote a novella for my Extension 2 English class, for which I received full marks. Until now, these were the heights of my literary achievements.  

As a young adult, I kept writing, but I had no connections, and I really had no idea how to go about getting anything published. My advocacy and research work in the areas of Māori housing, architecture and design provided opportunities for technical writing and to publish commentary and research papers, which led to journal articles, book chapters and, eventually, the opportunity to write a non-fiction book for BWB Texts (Rebuilding the Kāinga, published in October 2019). I started venturing into creative non-fiction and was fortunate to work with some great editors who helped me improve my writing.

Around two or three years ago, I had an idea for a fiction project. After watching the anthology-film Waru with friends, I found myself wondering what story I had to tell that would provide a new perspective on what it means to be Māori. I worked up an outline for a project around Māori identity in the diaspora and the connections we make to people and place. I worked on the project a lot in the first few months, and in stops and starts in the years that followed. I was fortunate to be awarded an Emerging Māori Writers Residency at the Michael King Writers Centre in June 2019.

I first heard about Te Papa Tupu in 2018. I wanted to apply then, but at the time, I thought I was headed overseas for work and wouldn’t be able to commit to the programme (in the event that I was selected). I almost didn’t apply this time because I thought what I had written so far wasn’t good enough, but I pushed myself to submit anyway because I knew I’d regret it more if I didn’t even try. I still can’t quite believe I’ve been selected, but I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and am going to work hard to prove I deserve it.

Zeb: Nō te ngahuru tau ki muri kātahi anō ka hīmata ake taku āta aronui atu ki te tuhituhi, ki te kukuhu ki ngā whakataetae Pikihuia mō ngā pakiwaitara poto a Te Waka Taki Kōrero me Huia Publishers. I whakatauhia e au i te miniti whakamutunga kia tonoa ki Te Papa Tupu, ā, waongōhia ana.,

'I almost didn't apply this time [for Te Papa Tupu] because I thought what I had written so far wasn't good enough, but I pushed myself to submit anyway. I knew I'd regret it more if I didn't even try.'

Jade's beautiful surroundings in Whāngārei
Jade's beautiful surroundings in Whāngārei
Zeb wins at the Pikihuia Awards 2019 in 2019. He is with Mike Ross and Poia Rewi.
Zeb wins at the Pikihuia Awards 2019 in 2019. He is with Mike Ross and Poia Rewi.
Geraldine's encouraging writers pen
Geraldine's encouraging writers pen

What is your writing process and how do you stay motivated?

Geraldine: Writing, for me, is the equivalent of ongoing homework or a voluntary part-time job. I borrow other people’s energy, drive and organisation to push me along because without a goal, I’m a reader. A lazy one! The writer’s pen is a graduating koha from Sue Orr, my supervisor at MIT and later IIML, to encourage more writing.

Jade: I like to write detailed outlines and then just let myself write without referring to anything. I try to highlight words or paragraphs or leave notes if I need to fact check or look something up so that I don’t lose the flow of writing. After I’ve finished, I try to set it aside for a bit (a day or more if possible) before I self-edit. If it’s a commissioned piece or I’m pitching it for publication, I’ll then send it off to the editor. If it’s for myself, it just sits on my writing folder in the cloud (or in the notes app on my phone, which is where I usually write poetry) until there’s a reason for it to emerge. I stay motivated by treating writing as a job and setting myself targets. I like to write in blocks of two–three hours (unless it’s a shorter piece) and then let myself have a break. I find walking or running is good for clearing my head.

Zeb: Ko te mahi tuatahi he whakatau i ngā āhuatanga o ngā matakiri me ngā hononga ki waenganui i ngā matakiri katoa kai roto i te pakiwaitara. Ka ngāwari ake te rere i ōku whakaaro ki roto i te mahi tuhituhi inā hoki kua mōhio kē au ki ngā āhuatanga o ngā matakiri i mua i taku whakairo i te kupu. Mā ngā matakiri o te pakiwaitara e kawe, ahakoa he aha te uho, te kaupapa huna.

'Writing, for me, is the equivalent of ongoing homework or a voluntary part-time job.'

How did you learn about Te Papa Tupu?

Geraldine: Te Papa Tupu had been on my radar since MIT. I had heard of Whiti Hereaka, Mark Sweet, Shilo Kino and Ataria Sharman and been gobsmacked that Steph Matuku had two debut novels.

Jade: I’m not sure how I found out about Te Papa Tupu – maybe social media? But because I first heard about the programme in 2018, I closely followed the progress of the successful writers, including reading their blog posts and articles for other publications. So I think by the time I applied, I had a reasonable understanding of the programme.

Zeb: Ka rongo tuatahi ai au mō Te Papa Tupu i te pō tuku taonga mō ngā tohu Pikihuia, e toru tau nei ki muri. E mōhio ana au he kaituhi rangatira kua puta i Te Papa Tupu, ā, he nui te pai o tēnei kaupapa hai whakatipu i ngā kaituhi pī ka rere.

'E mōhio ana au he kaituhi rangatira kua puta i Te Papa Tupu, ā, he nui te pai o tēnei kaupapa hai whakatipu i ngā kaituhi pī ka rere.'

What do you hope to get out of Te Papa Tupu?

Geraldine: My aspiration for Te Papa Tupu is to meet the challenges in many small steps in order to improve my writing and produce a piece of work that I enjoy and am proud of. A writing project that it is new, fresh, believable, in my voice and not a tired cliche.

Jade: I’m really hoping to be pushed to develop my skills as a fiction writer. I’m quite confident in the kind of plotless creative non-fiction I write as well as technical and academic writing. In my non-fiction writing, I’ve benefited from working with great editors, who have really challenged me by asking the right questions and pushing me to think deeper and articulate my thoughts more clearly. But I’m less steady when it comes to fiction. I know my fiction writing needs a lot of work, and I’m looking forward to learning from people who know a lot more than I do.

Zeb: Ko te pae matara he whakaputa pukapuka otiia, kia pahawa me akoako, me aro, me whakatakoto mahere, ā, me ūpoko pakaru rānō.are

What book are you reading right now?

Geraldine: At the moment, I’m reading Resurgence from the Foreigner series by C. J. Cherryh. 

Jade: I’m currently reading The Future of Silence – Fiction by Korean Women, an anthology spanning five decades and featuring a diversity of women’s perspectives. It also has a really nice preamble that explains the history of women and literature in Korea, which is helpful for international readers.

Zeb: Ko Te Kaieke Tohorā te pukapuka e pānui ana au. He mea whakamāori nā Tīmoti, nā Witi i tuhi.

Ngā mihi nui ki ngā kaituhi mō ō koutou kōrero. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and all the best with the programme.

Every Monday morning throughout the programme, we’ll share posts from Te Papa Tupu writers. In the next three weeks, you’ll hear from Ashlee Sturme, Deborah Williams and Olivia Aroha Giles, who are the other writers on this year’s Te Papa Tupu programme.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it, and if you have other questions for the writers or any thoughts you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment below.

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