There are two kinds of people: people who stay, and people who leave.

I’m not judging people who stay. Someone needs to keep the home fires burning. Close ties and family must come before travel for many. I am grateful that my brother has been here to keep connections to whānau alive. On my last visit to my daughter’s grave I saw the chunks of streaky pounamu and black pakohe, Whanganui River stones, that he’d been leaving over the years. Deep aroha tinged with guilt rose up within me.

Still, staying wasn’t for me. If the world is like a book, why would I only want to read the first page?

I have a vivid memory of being ten years old and gazing at the green hills that surrounded Hautu Village where I lived, and feeling like I couldn’t breathe. I felt a visceral, profound yearning; a lump in the throat that was almost painful. I wanted to get out, get away from those verdant hills hemming me in and see something, anything, different. Even at that young age, I felt like I was trapped in a box and everything in it was too familiar. My family were poor, so international travel seemed like an impossible dream. I didn’t even get to the South Island until my early twenties. But then, the Fates intervened, and at twenty-five I was offered a lucrative opportunity to be an exoticdancer in Tokyo, flights and accommodation paid. I took it. I didn’t accept the job due to a lack of education. I had a bachelor’s degree, wasthe valedictorian of my year at art school, and had landed a respectable job in arts administration. I was simply tired of working hard for peanuts and was eager to have an adventure, and at the same time make some real money.

I left in 1999 and came back in 2016. Since my return, I’d only been out of New Zealand once toto organize shipping all my stuff from NYC that had been in storage for months while I travelled around, figuring out my next move.These past two and a half years have been the longest I spent in one country, since I first left all those years ago. That old emotion of feeling stifled by “home” began to resurface. I knew I had to escape before I lost my tiny mind, so this month I went to one of my favourite places in the world, the Kingdom of Thailand. Siam. The Land ofSmiles. Sawadee ka!

The moment of take-off is a deep release. That feeling of leaving everything, your life with all its petty hassles, behind. It’s not only transportive, it’s transformative. Up there, above the clouds, no one can reach you.

It’s my last day in Thailand today. I spent six nights in Koh Samui at a five star resort and three nights el cheapo styles in Bangkok. Or as a fellow New Zealander we met on a boat trip called this energetic, delicious, snarling metropolis: Bangers.My hotel is steps away from chaotic Asoke intersection which is choked with scooters, tuk tuks, and taxis that take traffic signals as suggestions only. I’m in love with the massive shopping mall, Terminal 21, designed to look like an airport with each floor named after different parts of the world. I spend most of my time inside this air conditioned consumer’s wet dream, constantly snacking. The food market here is just like depachika in Japan, those magical wonderlands of gourmet delights found in the basement of department stores. Skewers of succulent meats and vegetables. Sweet sticky rice with mango. Cups of fresh tropical fruit ready to be blended into delicious smoothies. All kinds of Thai street food, including the lightest, freshest and reputedly the best PadThai in Bangkok for $2.50 NZ. Coconut soft serve? Don’t mind if Ido! Can I possibly avoid saying that this place is a feast for the eyes? There is even a Japanese bakery where, joy of joys, I procure my favourite Japanese treat, mitarashi dango: glutinous rice balls on a skewer glazed in a sticky soy sauce syrup which reminds me of the spoonfuls of malt extract my mother would make me eat when I was a kid. I didn’t particularly like the taste back then but now, drizzled over rice mochi I can’t shovel it in my fat face fast enough. I know how much I will sorely miss this vast array of cheap, tasty, and plentiful food options when I’m inevitably confronted by bulky paninis and the same cafe stodge everywhere back home. $20 NZ dollars for lunch in AKL would get me four lunches in BKK. Not for the first time I think, why didn’t I move here?Bum around South East Asia for a year or two? I love you New Zealand but you’re too damn expensive, which is hard to understand when you’re basically a giant farm. NZ produce often sells for considerably lower prices overseas. We’re all getting royally fucked at the supermarket cash register. Why?

I decide to have a night out, and head to Soi Cowboy, a short pink and red neon-lit street packed with go go bars. A friend suggestedI head to trendy Thonglor instead because its nicer, but I am hungry for some red-light realness. You can take the girl out of the club etc… I stroll around looking for a place to hang out. Suzie Wongs, Deja Vu, Kiss, TheDollhouse… Clusters of scantily clad women mill around, waiting for business. I sit down outside at a bar called Lighthouse, and a woman with a worn face sidles up and says “Drink for me?” She is wearing a white strapless cocktail dress with a sweetheart neckline. It has some lace on it and looks kinda 80s, like something Molly Ringwald would wear to the prom.

I could use some company, so I motion for her to sit, and light her cigarette. From my hostessing days in Tokyo I know her drinks will be more expensive than mine and that she is trying to make a little extra cash at the beginning of the night until she gets a real customer. She must be a prostitute, as she isn’t dressed like a go go dancer or hostess and looks too old to be either. She tells me her name is Nong and that at 40, she is an old lady. She laughs when I tell her that I am 44. Nong makes a joke in broken English that I think must be about anal sex because she acts out being fucked from behind. I chuckle along with her to be polite. A dancer sits down and asks for a drink too. She is pretty and has honey colored hair. I check the price first, and agree. Nong tells her friend that I am 44, and she says to Nong that she looks ten years older than me, which makes me feel sorry for Nong.

“Why you look so young?”

“Because my mind like child,” I say, and tap the side of my head. She wouldn’t understand the word “immature.”

We discuss Thai boob jobs, and the dancer invites me to feel her fake tits. They are very soft. I ask where the bathroom is and Nong takes me inside, where aUV-lit stage is packed with young women dressed in white bikinis wearing numbers. She leads me upstairs, where the floor is glass and you can look down at the girls on stage below. I try to surreptitiously take a picture through the glass but Nong catches me. I feel bad, like a sleazy farang, and offer to delete it from my phone.

“It’s okay,” she says. “No one see.You my VIP.” 

Colleen Maria Lenihan (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi) is a photographer. Upon returning to NZ in 2016 after fifteen years in Tokyo, she began writing short stories. In 2017, Colleen received an Honourable Mention for the NZSA Lilian Ida Smith Award, and a scholarship from The Creative Hub and Huia Publishers. She is thrilled to be selected for Te Papa Tupu 2018.

I Have Always Been a Bookworm

When I was a child my mother worried that I didn’t get out and spend enough time with friends, but who needs friends when you have books?

I’m joking! I’m joking. I have many wonderful friends.

But I also have many wonderful books.

I spent a lot of my childhood embedded in pages. Mum didn’t need to worry, the books were taking very good care of me, leading me on all kinds of adventures through this world and countless others.

We come from a long line of avid readers, so the whole bookworm thing wasn’t really a surprise. However, my choice in books was a puzzle my mother could never solve. Our extensive, extended family library was mostly composed of science fiction and fantasy, and while those are genres I adore, it’s horror that really captured me.

It still does.

I love that breathless sensation you get when you think something bad is going to happen. The way the skin at the back of your neck tingles and your shoulders shrug into your ears as if you can save yourself – save the characters in the book – with that movement. The way your feet lift off the floor, subconsciously tucking underneath you because who knows what’s hiding in that space beneath your seat. As if these little movements will protect you from killer or monster, from the unknown, the unknowable.

The way that even after you’ve finished the book you might hear something and it triggers that gasp, that inhalation, that rush of adrenaline you need to get the hell out of there and somewhere safe.

Oh yeah, I love horror.

So, it’s no surprise that I love to write things that creep people out. The vast majority of my short fiction has elements of horror woven in. Which brings me to Butcherbird, because it was the first time I set out to do this in a longer format.

You see, I’d been writing a lot of romance and the need to creep someone out was overwhelming, an itch that needed to be scratched; I needed horror. Not the B grade slasher film type (not that there is anything wrong with that. I love a good B grade slasher). I’m more into the subtle chills, the rising levels of discomfort and fear than I am blood and gore. I want the creepiness that lingers, the one that’s kind of familiar and could be waiting for you around the next corner, in the next person you meet. The one that follows you home (the creepiness, not the person, though that’s creepy too).

“I want the creepiness that lingers, the one that’s kind of familiar and could be waiting for you around the next corner, in the next person you meet.”

I had this idea, and it hit me in the way the best ideas do, which is to say while I wasn’t looking for it at all (I was actually playing Minecraft with the kids… Seriously, ideas can come from anywhere). I was walking through a wheat field, water up to my knees, and it took me back to all the games we’d played in the rushes of the swamp on my grandparent’s farm. Birds swooping overhead, the sun blocked out suddenly by clouds, the drop in temperature that follows.

Once I’d scrawled down that initial flash of imagery, I set to work expanding this idea for a book and decided to fill it with all the things I love, and to set it on a fictional version of my grandparents farm, the very same place I spent so many years playing out stories with my cousins as a child.

And I couldn’t bring them to life – this book is not those stories, it’s a thing of its own – but all my memories of the farm, all my love of tales about family and secrets, of rural New Zealand, and that slow build fear that tickles the back of the throat are in this book.

These things aren’t perfectly honed yet, but they’re getting there with the help of my mentor, Whiti Hereaka. She’s making me think harder about all the elements I put in from the smallest reference to a book or object, up to much broader things such as character motivations. I’ve spent these past weeks researching and reading, and all this background work means I’m coming back to my book and finding new ways to breathe life into the story, to add touches to dialogue and setting, to ramp up the worldbuilding and make the whole thing shine more.

“I’m coming back to my book and finding new ways to breathe life into the story.”

It’s been really enriching to be forced to sink into research, to be directed towards specific texts to grow from, and to pick my own as well – and a real challenge being told not to work on the book itself for weeks. My fingers were itchy for the craft by the time I was allowed back to writing.

I’d been slacking a bit on my reading goals, and this has all been excellent incentive to drown myself in books again.

This bookworm has taken her reading game to a new level.

Cassie Hart (Kāi Tahu) is a writer of speculative fiction and lover of pizza, coffee, and zombies (in no particular order). She’s had short stories published in several anthologies and been a finalist for both the Sir Julius Vogel and Australian Shadow Awards.

Creating is a Wonderful Thing

It’s 12 pm on Saturday night. I am ecstatic, my cheeks red with exhaustion and exhilaration at the same time. No, I am not clubbing or at a party with friends. Here I am, sitting alone at the wooden dining room table, my heart pumping in my chest. I’ve decided that being a writer is isolating. It’s just you and the keyboard of your computer. Except perhaps for the friends I’ve discovered in the magical worlds I create through the use of words. Mōrena Pēpi Kiore (cute baby mouse). Kia ora Keatangata (cute baby Kea). As you can see, I like cute native animals in my storylines.

“I’ve been reading books written by writers on their creative process,”

I’ve spent five months and too many days to count, writing this novel. Waking up early every morning, my laptop open and the unnatural light of the screen searing my sleepy eyes. I’m lucky I have the flexibility of being a university student, as this week I’ve spent two entire days writing. My weight has increased as the amount of exercise I do has decreased to zilch, zero, nothing. If I could show it to you on a line graph (I can’t. I’m a writer.), you would see the line representing my level of physical exercise plummet dramatically. My natural tan has become steadily more vampire-like. Sometimes when I arrive at university for ‘mahi’, I go straight to the postgraduate student cafe and order a herbal tea. There I sit with my laptop and write for a couple of hours before I get into my Master’s thesis (also an imminently approaching deadline). Shoot me now.

I’ve been reading books written by writers on their creative process, including Terry Brooks Sometimes the Magic Works and Elizabeth Gilberts Big Magic. From Talisman Terry, I’ve learnt that taking the time to draft an outline for your novel is a good idea. I realise I might have been over-estimating my writing abilities by creating my plot on the run. As Terry says, “now on top of that you want to mess around with trying to figure out your plot? Who do you think you are – Houdini?” Ouch, that one hurt Terry. So, I write a quick outline for this novel and then find my writing output increases tenfold because when I sit down to write, I now know where I am going and how far I have to go.

“… if inspiration is allowed to unexpectedly enter you it is also allowed to unexpectedly exit you.”

From Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth, I’ve learnt that sometimes ideas magically ascend to those of us with living a creative life and therefore must be grasped fully with two consistent hands. Otherwise, it may flutter over to someone else who cares for it more deeply, “because this is the other side of the contract with creativity: if inspiration is allowed to unexpectedly enter you it is also allowed to unexpectedly exit you.” I am thankful I cared deeply enough about this story, so it didn’t leave me for someone else. Two-timing manuscript.

I binge-watch two documentaries on the creative process of Hayao Miyazaki, the celebrated Japanese film director and co-owner of the fantastical Studio Ghibli. I learn about work ethic from koro Hayao of Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke fame, who even at the age of 72 was still working on his movie The Wind Rises from 11am-9pm Monday to Saturday. As a writer, those long and consistent hours would seriously churn out some big books and fast.

I am astonished to find out that koro Hayao draws the entire storyboard of his movie by hand. Every single, painstaking second of his movie, drawn by hand. Sheesh, writing is an easy gig compared to old-school animating. He makes up the storyline as he goes. Often the entire studio doesn’t know the outcome until the completion of the entire storyboard. What I find most impressive about this is the faith that the million dollar financiers of his movies must have in his abilities. I imagine a conversation between koro Hayao and his investors.

“Will you spend millions financing my movie?”

“Sure what is the storyline? Who are the characters?”

“I don’t know; I make it up as I go.”

“Please take my money.”

I read online articles on the creators of manga that inspire me, like Rumiko Takahashi and her Japanese mythological tale Inuyasha. All this so that my mind and body can be enthused with the kind of magical creative energy that will help me to complete this novel, or so I fervently hope.

So here we are. The first book I have ever attempted to write and the first book I have ever completed, all in one fell swoop. All 74,250 words, 343 pages and 35 chapters of it. I can see my characters Hine and Pakū in my head, or maybe they are in my heart. I wonder about the second book of the series that I hope to be able to write and how it might tie into the first. My eyes tear up as I reread the last chapter. I know this book is good. The ending worked out well, the characters grow and develop as they should in a coming of age YA novel.

“I realise that I’ve become someone who contributes creatively to literature rather than just another reader who takes without giving back.”

It feels almost sad like the magical, hair-raising, exhilarating, awe-inspiring journey is over. But then I’m also proud that I wrote my own magical story, rather than just reading someone else’s. I realise that I’ve become someone who contributes creatively to literature rather than just another reader who takes without giving back. Like Terry, Elizabeth, koro Hayao and Rumiko. But perhaps what I am most excited about is the story that I’ve written for me.

It is true; this story is the one I wish I could have read when I was a child. All aspects of it, the Māori goddesses, the wars, the animals, the battles, the beautiful and glorious nature. All of it is exactly what I like in a novel. A compilation, an accumulation of the favoured preferences of the lifetime (so far) lived by one precocious adult. It’s magical; it’s special, it’s loving. I realise what this feeling is. It’s pride. Like the pride, one feels when their child learns a new skill. This book is my baby. And my baby has grown into a teenager. She’s still got a way to go, a bit of editing, a lot of re-writing, moving things from here to there. But she’s on track.

I hope my bubble of happiness won’t be burst when I receive feedback on the completed transcript from my mentor. But for now, I feel proud. I thank my mentors Terry, Elizabeth, koro Hayao, Rumiko and of course my Te Papa Tupu mentor Simon. I pat myself on the back (figuratively) and go to bed, my mind still racing from the adventure I created solely from the colourful recesses of my mind. Which in itself is amazing.

Creating is a wonderful thing.

Ataria Rangipikitia Sharman (Tapuika, Ngāpuhi) loves writing. Sometimes what she writes is good and sometimes it isn’t. But she persists nevertheless, in the form of essays, poetry and articles. Ataria’s writing has been published on E-Tangata and you can follow her poetry on Instagram @atariarangipikitia.

The Hardest Thing About Being a Writer

I packed my bags, hopped into my orange Nissan and I drove. A picturesque town where locals walk around in jandals holding surfboards all year round was waiting for me. My new home. The opposite from the big city lights of Auckland. Paradise.

And yet it was chaos. Finding a new home. Changing jobs. Adjusting to a new job. Not to mention, the week before I moved, having my wisdom teeth removed. Probably not the best timing. One day out of work is all I need, I told myself. I was, of course wrong. Drugged up on medication with blood coming out of my mouth meant I couldn’t do much for a week except lie in bed and eat coconut yoghurt while dozing in and out of consciousness.

But all of the above? No one cares. The world doesn’t stop. And unfortunately, my book isn’t going to write itself.

In fact, if the world was on the brink of destruction, I still must put pen to paper (or in my case put my fingers to my keyboard). I still must write.

And that is the hardest thing about being a writer.

Honestly, I’ve always wanted to be an Author. It’s cliché and cheesy but ever since i picked up my first book as a little girl, I was hooked. Back in my day (I feel so old) we had a television with three channels that mum never let us watch anyway. It was either go outside and play or read a book. I chose the latter.

Twenty years later and here I am.

And I am close. So close. But the last few months has also been a reality check.

You sit at your computer for hours by yourself. Writing.

And you don’t even know if it’s good.

Actually you don’t know if your entire book is good or if it’s really just a piece of crap. It’s not until your mentor gives you feedback and some encouragement that you realise you are actually a decent writer.

It’s almost like writing a book has little to do with writing and everything to do with diligence. And consistency.

Forcing myself to write even when I’m not in the mood. Suffering from ‘writers block’.

Forcing myself to write even when I’m hallucinating from very strong medication.

Forcing myself to write when I just worked a full on day for my new job and all I want to do is come home, kick my feet up and watch the new movie on Netflix everyone is talking about.

And of course you have all the other personal challenges and trials handed to you that I don’t need to talk about.

Every day disappointments. Sickness. Fatigue. Personal relationships. The list goes on.

But I must write.

I am constantly reminded the things in life that are of the most worth are always going to be the hardest to obtain.

That’s what diligence is. Steady, consistent and earnest effort.

And perhaps that is what I am learning.

I know all the work I am doing is worth it.

Shilo Kino (Ngā Puhi, Tainui) is a journalist who previously worked for Fairfax Media and has had stories published in Huia Short Stories. She speaks fluent Mandarin from serving a volunteer mission in Hong Kong. Shilo is delighted to be selected for Te Papa Tupu 2018.

What it Means to be a Māori Writer

Shilo Kino with Patricia Grace and Robyn Bargh at the Pikihuia Awards in 2013.

Don’t call me a Māori writer.

I am a writer who is Māori.

Yeah, there’s a difference.

I tell stories. Stories I hope will shape perspective. Give life more meaning. And as cliche as it sounds, provide a voice for the voiceless.

My Māori culture means everything to me. It is, of course, part of my identity. In fact, it is every part of who I am.

But one thing I have learnt from the Te Papa Tupu is that we are simply not just ‘Māori’ writers.

We are writers who offer a Māori perspective, but our perspective is not the same. We share a gift of telling stories but that’s where our similarities end. We were not chosen because we are Māori. We were chosen because we are writers.

I want the other five recipients to be successful, just as much as I want to be successful. I am in awe of the support, love and inspiration that comes from the other participants and my mentor. It is refreshing and a change from a world often consumed by egotism and selfishness.

My book is a piece of my heart that I am laying out bare. I wrote it three years ago, in the space of six months.

The story lived inside my head for years. Niko, the 13 year-old protagonist in my story, nagged at me every minute of the day to write.

After I finished my manuscript, I went and served a mission for my Church in Hong Kong, a noisy, bustling city that gave me perspective. I came home and dug out my manuscript.

And now I’m here, a part of something special. But this is a lot harder than what I expected it to be.

Shilo in Hong Kong

I recently got a new job and I’m moving three hours south to a new place. In between a new full-time job, moving houses and juggling my social life, church commitments, family time and exercise… I have no idea when I’m supposed to write.

And if I’m not careful, writing becomes a chore rather than a joy.

But I write because I love it. I love being a writer.  I’m proud to be Māori. There is a deep satisfaction and pure joy in my soul when I write.  And I’m incredibly grateful to be apart a programme that encourages me to do what I love.

But do not expect my story to be the blanket ‘Māori’ perspective. There is no such thing. I am one voice among many.

Shilo Kino (Ngā Puhi, Tainui) is a journalist who previously worked for Fairfax Media and has had stories published in Huia Short Stories. She speaks fluent Mandarin from serving a volunteer mission in Hong Kong. Shilo is delighted to be selected for Te Papa Tupu 2018.

A Story to Tell

Tēnā tātou katoa. He uri tēnei nō Ngāti Hine, me Ngāpuhi. Ko Tokerau te maunga, Ko Taumarere te awa, Ko Waiomio te whenua. I tipu ake ahau kei Tāmaki Makarau ki te tonga i te taha o tōku Māmā – no Ingarani ia. Ko Wallasey te whenua, Ko Cheshire te rohe, Ko Mersey te awa. Nō reira, he Māori, he Pākehā ahau. Tokotoru aku tamariki, kei Porirua mātou e noho ana.

He mihi maioha ki te kaipānui.

All my life I’ve wanted to write fiction. Not sci-fi or fantasy, but the kind of fiction that’s believable. Characters so real that when you’re finished with them the reader is convinced they exist. A few years ago, living in Abu Dhabi as an expat and stay at home Mum, I had the opportunity to give this dream a shot. Every day, after dropping the kids off at school, I sat down to write. I wasn’t entirely sure of the plot or the characters so I started with exposition (fancy word for blabbing-on). It sounded brilliant, but by the next day I could see it for what it was: a yawn-fest.

I moved on to writing scenes. I used my kids as inspiration. These stories were better, with the added bonus that the kids loved them. Each day they’d jump in the car and ask if I’d written another chapter. They’d argue with each other about the story arc of “their” character and push me towards outrageous and implausible plot-twists. But it was hard to get these fictional characters to do what I wanted them to do. The caution I had to exercise to protect my kids’ feelings was like writing in a cage. I was more captive than captivating.

Eventually, I gave up writing and started reading. Not leisure reading, but the kind of reading that takes hours and hurts. I deconstructed passages of my favourite novels the way an architect might eye up a building to see how it’s put together. The more impressive the novel, often, the more invisible the author.

One weekend, enrolled in a writing workshop, a teacher asked us all a question:

Who feels as though they have a story to tell?

I didn’t dare put up my hand. In fact, I suddenly felt ridiculous. I had no story to tell, and this frivolous dream of writing a book became apparent for what it was: self-indulgent and egotistical. I finished the workshop and went home and not long after that we came back to New Zealand.

I returned to what I knew: policy and research. The thing is, I didn’t stop writing. Instead, I stumbled into a genre I didn’t even know had a name: Creative Non-fiction. To me, I was just writing introspective, rambling stories about the things I cared about: my reo journey, my kids, education issues and a few long-winded pieces on identity politics.

E-tangata gave me my first break in 2015, publishing the first essay I sent them. From there I had a few other things published and I won a couple of awards (thanks NZSA and Michael King Writers Residency). Then along came Te Papa Tupu. I thought for a long time before throwing my hat in the ring. Resurrecting the dream of writing a book was something that filled me with unease, not just because I was scared of failing (again), but because I wasn’t really sure if I was ready.

Most of the essays I’ve published up until now have been pretty formulaic – 1500-word think pieces pivoting around a single idea or theme. They’ve tended to explain rather than explore. They’re persuasive essays intended for an online audience but they stop short of deep introspection. The manuscript I sent in to Te Papa Tupu was something quite different. They’re still essays, but they’re longer and more personal. They don’t deal with just one idea or theme, but multiple. The stories are about people and relationships as much as they are about issues.

This is the real reason I was afraid: because in telling my story, I invariably end up telling the stories of everyone else close to me. My whole family gets implicated. Fiction seems so much safer, because you can hide the truth behind a veil. But these aren’t made-up characters, they’re real people and they all have a stake in what I have to say.

I wasn’t sure what scared me more: that my manuscript would be rejected, or that it would be accepted.

In the end, I’m so glad it was. I feel like I’m exactly where I need to be to work through these doubts and fears. The first workshop emphasised manaakitanga as a foundation of this programme. As well as creating the conditions necessary to become a better writer, we’re supported through strong relationships. My mentor is Paula Morris, someone who I’ve admired and looked up to for a long time. I get the sense that she’s going to be tough, but I know that the quality of my work depends on it. I’ve also been fortunate enough to spend some time with John Huria, whose feedback has helped me see so much more potential in this genre than I’d ever seen before. In addition to our mentors, we have each other – five other writers going through a similar journey.

It’s early days, but my unease has already begun to dissipate. I’m beginning to feel more excited than nervous. Outside the restrictions of the formulaic 1500-word essay, I can sense a freedom to explore language and ideas and to weave history and research into the narrative. I’m keen to challenge myself in new ways and in new directions. Best of all, I can see all the skills of fiction that I spent all those years trying to master, finally coming into play.

I’m looking forward to writing about this journey here on the blog. I’d like to use this forum to discuss the mentoring process and to share some of the highs, lows and general insights. If you’re interested in reading some of my essays, please feel free to stop by my website: nadineannehura.co.nz. You can also read a more in-depth piece about Te Papa Tupu which I wrote for The Spinoff, here.

And if you’re reading this feeling as though you might have a story to tell, and wondering if Te Papa Tupu could be for you, chances are it is! Don’t let the doubts get the better of you. Keep writing, keep reading – and one day it’ll be your turn to write this blog.

Noho ora mai.

Like many New Zealanders, Nadine Anne Hura (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine) has grown up with a foot in two worlds: Te ao Māori and Te ao Pākehā. She joins Te Papa Tupu eager to work on her manuscript of essays about identity, language and belonging. She has three children and lives in Porirua.

Hi, I’m Hone Rata

Hone introducing himself at the first workshop in Wellington. 

I’ve always found introducing myself a little strange. “Hi, I’m Hone Rata.” Handshake. Eye contact. Smile. So that’s my name but it’s doesn’t say a lot about me. “I’m 43.” That’s new information, so a 43 year old male, probably likes sports (nope, well not enough to follow any team). Oh so doesn’t like sports, probably likes Star Wars (check), and wrote Star Wars as two words with the correct capitalisation, so probably like Star Trek as well (check).

So he was a teen in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Probably likes Guns and Roses (check, well the pop songs anyway) and Def Leppard (nah), and Queen (sure). Oh well must love grunge (well yes, but that came later, because my wife introduced me to Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains). So he’s like a Gen-Xer then, so he loves his old morning cartoons, and the Goonies (yes and yes, but nothing back then holds a candle to Gravity Falls).

So my name and number might tell you some things about me, but none of the important stuff. Like my wife, Janine is the single most influential person in my life. That my kids are what get me out of bed in the morning (sometimes literally). That I love to paint, and draw and make kids birthday cakes. That I love to sing, but am terrible at it. And that, perhaps most relevantly to this blog, that I love a good story.

Birthday cakes Hone has made. (Image supplied)

I always have. Movies, songs, TV, plays, games, jokes, a well-crafted lie, tales told round the camp fire. I love them all. I love the imagination they display, the creativity, the emotion, the thrill of them. But books, books are the best, I’ve always read, immersed myself in other people’s stories. Watched the movies that flicker in my imagination when the written word really draws me in. Because that’s their real power, they ask you to set the scene, to cast the actors. You choreograph the fights. You care, or not, about the characters. The author give you hints, titbits, a shadow on the wall and you add the detail, the colour and the tears.

I’ve loved to tell stories, to re-tell stories. I love the discussion about the movie as much as the movie itself. I love sharing the laughter and the exciting parts of the narrative, however it came to me. I love sitting down with a friend and sharing a story together. I love lying in bed at night and reading with my wife, listening to her laugh, to delight in a story, even as I read another.

I’ve carried tales in my head for years. Peopled by characters, and ideas. Whole worlds that exist only in the firing synapses in my brain. And they are precious to me. They are the children of all these other stories. Influenced and guided by the artists I love. R A Salvatore. Jane Austen. Stephen King. Neil Gaiman. Bob Kane & Bill Finger. R A Heinlien. Gene Roddenberry. Akira Kurosawa. Markus Zusak. Chuck Palahniuk. Nick Cave.

But I never wrote one. I never took the time to sit down, take a tale I’d woven and write it down. I was always afraid of it, of not being good enough, of not being able to live up to those examples listed above. Of not having the skill to do the story justice. In spite of encouragement from my friends and family, especially my wife, I was afraid. Not that I ever really framed it that way myself, I don’t have the emotional intelligence to read myself that well in the moment, but in hindsight that’s what it was.

30 Days in the Word Mines
The birthday gift from Cassie.

Then a friend of mine, Cassie, bought me a birthday gift. A book, about writing, and setting the challenge to write every day for 30 days. The timing was perfect. I’d written a story at work, about going for a jog at lunch time, and one of my workmates, an ex-creative writing tutor, told me that I should write more. A wise neutral voice gave me that little bit of faith I needed. So I took up the challenge. Every night for 30 days I emailed a supportive group of friends my nights writing. And most of them didn’t read it. And that’s OK, I just needed an audience to keep me accountable.

And I loved it, every night was a new adventure. I started writing out a story I’d told my children at bed time. Then a brief piece about myself. Then I thought I should try something a bit larger. I looked into my internal idea library. Looked for a story that I wasn’t too invested in. One that I could use to learn the craft of writing. An image flashed into my mind, of a boy walking with a huge clay golem. Hand in hand down the street. The boy was a teenager, but the golem was so large that he looked like a father walking with his toddler.

That was it, that single image. The genesis for a story. So I sat down, with no real idea who the boy was, or who the golem was. Or what kind of world they lived in. And it just flowed out onto the page. Every night was like watching the next episode in a series, or reading the next chapter of a book, except that it was coming out of me instead of going into me. I never knew what would happen next. I was shocked and surprised and saddened as things I never knew would happen, never knew could happen, came to pass. Slowly this small throw away idea became a world. I began to care about this boy and this golem.

With the continued support of my family and friends I moved on beyond those first 30 days and kept at it until I’d finished this story. My first novel. 78000 words that had never been placed in this order before. It took me about a year, then another year of editing and re-writing before that same friend Cassie pointed me at the Te Papa Tupu programme and suggested I apply. So I did. And I was accepted (and so was she! What are the chances???). It’s hard to explain the feelings that run through you when you have someone on the end of the phone telling you that they see promise in your story. You start to think that maybe you are an author after all. Everything since then has been a bit surreal. The first workshop was so amazing. Sitting with these five other gifted authors. Being surrounded by the staff at Huia and the Māori Literature Trust, and by the mentors. Being steeped in this passion for story, for books, for authors and for the Māori voice. What it can say. The worth of that voice and the necessity of it.

It’s all incredibly humbling. And I still feel like a bit of an imposter. A bit undeserving. Because my words aren’t all that flash. They are not worthy of those authors and story tellers that inspired me. But maybe with the help of my mentor Whiti Hereaka, and the staff at Huia, maybe then my story will have a place in their shadow. Maybe then I can introduce myself by saying “Hi, I’m Hone Rata. I’m an author.”



Hone Rata (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Ruanui, Taranaki) is an aspiring author currently embroiled in the fraught journey that is preparing his first novel for publishing. Hone is pleased to have been selected for the 2018 Te Papa Tupu writing programme. He is excited to learn new skills and apply them to his novel.


My name is Ataria Rangipikitia Sharman and I am one of six Māori writers who has been selected for Te Papa Tupu.

I am also a tangiweto.

How do I know this? Well… I cry. A LOT. But how is this related to the writing journey that I am so excited to be a part of?

The story that got me selected for Te Papa Tupu (and therefore really wants to be written) is a fantasy-adventure about young Hine and her brother Pakū who are transported to a magical realm where the ātua, giant moa, patupaiarehe and fearsome taniwha still exist.

It all started when the news release was sent out announcing the six writers’ names for Te Papa Tupu. This very quickly went viral on Facebook. I opened my Facebook one morning and had 30 notifications. So, I did what all normal people do (not) and immediately closed my Facebook and chose not to look at it for the rest of the day.

Picture the Ostrich with its head in the sand. Always a good way of dealing with things.

A few minutes later I receive a phone call from the lovely Waimatua at Huia Publishers.

“Te Arawa FM want to interview you as one of the selected writers of Te Papa Tupu.”

This time my heart jumps into my throat. Immediately I begin to muse about how as a writer, I prefer to communicate through writing. Talking or speaking is not my favourite thing to do. The shield of a written piece of work is so comforting.

There is no shield in a live-radio interview!!!!! However, being a sucker for punishment as well as annoyingly accepting of the well-known fact that it is good to go beyond the (extremely) comfortable boundaries of my comfort zone, I nervously agree to talk to Rawiri. Rawiri the kind and charismatic host of Te Arawa FM. The interview is scheduled for tomorrow.

TOMORROW. Dun. Dun. Dun.

Skip to the next day and I am waiting anxiously by the phone for a call from Te Arawa FM. My partner is on his computer next to me. He has chosen today to work from home. To thoroughly set the scene – I am a complete and utter mess. I have this innermost feeling that I am going to cry on the phone call.

I know that if Rawiri asks me about my connection to Te Arawa I will have to talk about my great-nanny Rangipikitia who grew up in Te Puke. The thing about nanny Rangipikitia is that I am named after her and I literally cry instantly whenever I talk about her because of the aroha I feel for her. This is so not good.

Unfortunately, this creates extra nervousness because literally WHO THE F*** CRIES ON A RADIO INTERVIEW ABOUT THEIR SUCCESS??

So, I decide to have a pre-cry, pre-radio interview. I jump under the covers of my bed, curl into a ball and attempt to cry. My thinking at the time was if I just get it all out then I won’t choke up on the radio. In his singular, laser-like, man-focus skills Te Piha doesn’t seem to notice that I am hiding under the covers of the bed like a mole. Or maybe situations like this are normal for him.

I manage to swallow my heart back into my chest and do the interview, which goes well. I always was a good actor in drama at school. I knew school was good for something. Then after I hang up the phone call – I break down.

It goes like this. I throw the phone dramatically across the room where it hits the wall and forgivingly flops onto the bed. Then I take a run up and jump into the arms of Te Piha (who is sitting in his computer chair trying to get his mahi done) and I begin to sob into his manly-man chest. The fear of speaking about my success and then subsequent relief at having done it had completely and utterly overwhelmed me.

Was this to the end of Ataria the tangiweto? No.

Fast forward to our first workshop. It’s an amazing experience and we are all going around the brightly-lit white room and introducing ourselves. The lovely and amazing Robyn Bargh is there as well as Brian and Eboni from Huia Publishers. Our mentors are also in attendance as well as my fellow writers-in-crime. We (the writers-in-crime) are here because our creations were selected by two judges who saw huge potential in each and every one of them. We go around the tables to introduce ourselves and I can feel in the pit of my stomach… not again… this feeling that I am going to cry.

The thing is it’s normally not a sad cry. In fact, most of the time it is a feeling that comes up when I am feeling full of gratitude and aroha. Complete gratitude for being given this opportunity and aroha for those who will be with me sharing that journey. It wells up into my body.

It’s my turn. I stand up nervously and introduce myself. “Ko Ataria Sharman tōku ingoa, ko Ngāpuhi me Tapuika ōku iwi…” Then I get to the end of my kōrero and say something about how I feel like already we are a whānau. Ohhh the cheesiness of that sentence and yet I mean every word. The gratitude and aroha of it all overwhelms me, but I manage to hold it together. I awkwardly finish my kōrero as I begin to choke up a bit with emotion. I sit down. I didn’t cry. But I did feel the feels.

Does more crying await Ataria the tangiweto on this epic Te Papa Tupu journey? Who knows… I certainly don’t. You’ll have to read the next journal to find out. Maybe the next one will be about writing.

AtariaAtaria Rangipikitia Sharman (Tapuika, Ngāpuhi) loves writing. Sometimes what she writes is good and sometimes it isn’t. But she persists nevertheless, in the form of essays, poetry and articles. Ataria’s writing has been published on E-Tangata and you can follow her poetry on Instagram @atariarangipikitia.

Highway to Heal

When you were a little girl, books were your refuge. You learned to read before you went to school. You would read the newspaper everyday, on the floor with the sheets spread out. You read everything in the house: a set of Childcraft books, The Thorn Birds, Benét’s Reader’s Encyclopedia (the Illustrated Second Edition).  You read in the car even though it made you ill. Your library card was always maxed. Mum would scold you for reading at the dinner table.

‘You read too much.’

At primary school you wrote: “When I grow up I want to be an author.” You forget about this. At twenty-five you leave NZ for money and love and you don’t come back for sixteen years.

One summer, you return. You are an outsider. You need something to do. You write.


You are sick of your stories. You don’t know if they are any good anymore. You lock them away in a drawer next to your bed where they languish for weeks. Someone sends you a link to an intriguing opportunity: Te Papa Tupu. You check it out. Hmm. Looks legit. You mentally blow the cobwebs off your manuscript. You follow George Saunder’s advice while doing a line edit: imagine there is a barometer in your brain, and wherever the energy drops in your writing and the needle dips, change it. It’s all about the micro choices. You do this with vigour and vim. You flex your writing muscles. You write a new story for your short story cycle. You fill out the required forms. Name: Colleen Maria Lenihan. Iwi: Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi. You print out your manuscript in triplicate and put it in the post. Bam. You tell your mentor that if you don’t get selected, you will quit writing. You tell yourself that you believe in your work. You tell yourself you got this. On the day the recipients are due to be notified, you watch the clock, pounce on every email that dings in your inbox, wait for the phone to ring. By 4pm you start to have doubts. By 4.30 you think surely you would have heard by now. By 4.45 you are lying on your bed in the fetal position. Yet another crushing rejection to get over.  At 4.55 you are railing at God if she even exists and hating your pathetic life when there is a ding. You check your new message immediately. It is from Huia Publishers: What is your contact number? You leap up from the bed. You punch the air and shout YATTA!

Later that night, you remember what your child-self wanted to be and think, Jack Kerouac was right. First Thought Best Thought. It’s just taking you a really long time to grow up.


DSC_0421Colleen Maria Lenihan (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi) is a photographer. Upon returning to NZ in 2016 after fifteen years in Tokyo, she began writing short stories. In 2017, Colleen received an Honourable Mention for the NZSA Lilian Ida Smith Award, and a scholarship from The Creative Hub and Huia Publishers. She is thrilled to be selected for Te Papa Tupu 2018.

I am a Writer. I am Māori.

I come from a family of storytellers; they seem to be able to spin the spoken word into magic. Put me on the spot and my words get tangled in my mouth and become something awkward and heavy. I can never quite seem to articulate my thoughts that way, but give me a pen? Give me a pen and everything changes.

I’ve always made up stories. I used to develop worlds and characters for my brother and cousins so we could play out vast adventures across our grandparent’s farm. I shared my writing with friends and family and had a few things published here and there.  It’s so much a part of me that I couldn’t imagine life without it.

I am a writer.

I wasn’t sure about applying for Te Papa Tupu though. I almost didn’t. It was such a big, wonderful thing, a thing I really felt I needed to help next level my writing. And I was petrified of not getting in. I managed to make myself apply by lying to myself – because I’d encouraged a couple of other friends to enter, I had to do the same in solidarity.

Aside from wanting to improve my writing, I was starving for connection with Māori writers. We’re spread out and we don’t all look physically Māori, we’re not always identifying ourselves as Māori on social media etc either. At the same time, I felt like maybe I wasn’t Māori enough to join the few groups I knew of.

Te Papa Tupu is the first time I’ve ever applied for anything where being Māori was a requirement. My whole life I’ve had that voice in my head that I’m white enough to pass, to get all the benefits that are available to Pākehā, so I should just not. And that on the other hand was the fear that if I claimed I was Māori people would tell me I wasn’t Māori enough. I was stuck in that place of not feeling like I was being entirely myself, but scared of discovering I was somehow doing my heritage wrong. I don’t look it, I don’t speak it, I don’t know where the macrons go half the time.

The reality is that I am Māori, and it’s only my fear that’s held me back. Fear, and lack of knowledge. Lack of connection.

I’ve been working on that barrier for a long time. About a year ago I added the word ‘Māori’ to my twitter bio. It was such a small thing, and yet I deliberated over it for days. It felt like I was revealing a hidden part of myself. Coming into the open. I’m not sure what I thought would happen – what does it even mean to be a Māori writer? Do people read your work in different ways? Is there an expectation of what Māori will write about? Will people see things in my work that they didn’t before because they are looking at it through a new lens? I didn’t know, and it made me anxious. But I took that step anyway.

Applying to Te Papa Tupu was a much bigger step, and it’s already opened my eyes to how supportive, inclusive, and amazing the community is once you find it. Since getting accepted there has been a lot of ‘I didn’t even know you were Māori!’ (in a positive/sorry for not realising way) and not a single ‘you’re not really Māori/not enough’ not even a ‘you don’t look it’.

Sometimes taking those big leaps is really worth it, and I’m still grinning ear to ear about being selected.

I swear it took me a week to believe I got in. Two. Hell, it might not have been until we were on the plane to that first workshop that it sunk in. Maybe not even until I was in the room with all the mentors, the amazing folk from Huia and the Māori Literature Trust, and the other mentees – each of them looking as exhilarated and nervous as me. Eager to soak up wisdom, to learn and grow.

I feel so fortunate to have been chosen for this round of mentoring – thrilled that I get to work with Whiti Hereaka, who has already had such an impact on my writing. I’m so grateful to all the individuals and organisations involved in making this happen, and I can’t wait to see how our books look at the end of this process.

I am a writer, and I am Māori. And I tell you what, if you are both of those things? (even if you’re not confident in those things). Reach out. There is a whole world waiting for you, and it’s shiny and wonderful. I’m only sad it took me so long to dive into it – and now that I’m here? I’m going to make the very most of it.

DSC_0238Cassie Hart (Kāi Tahu) is a writer of speculative fiction and lover of pizza, coffee, and zombies (in no particular order). She’s had short stories published in several anthologies and been a finalist for both the Sir Julius Vogel and Australian Shadow Awards.