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Mahia te mahi

Christmas approaches and like Santa I need to deliver on time.


Two months into the writing schedule and I’m slow to catch up. Creative writing had a hiatus because I had three university assignments due in October that couldn’t wait. The delay was draining, humbling and yet weirdly it made me feel special.


Each day I tell myself, I can do it. Not sure how to achieve that or if the final project will be of a high enough standard to be considered for publication. I talked to Eboni Waitere, from Huia Publishers, at the October workshop and asked if it was similar to the Victoria University International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) program – write, write more, write till you drop to get the first draft done.


Ehara i te mea! Te Papa Tupu is the step beyond, the equivalent of editing and writing the second draft, perhaps even the third or fourth. I’m not there, but I knew that when I submitted the application. I circle around feeling overwhelmed and not wanting to waste the opportunity, clinging to I can do it, followed up with now damn well write. Life is passing by while I tap and drum away on the keyboard, eyes up and nose down, trying to put words and meaning into my characters’ mouth.



Witi Ihimaera speaks of letting go of ego, to get over yourself and just write – mahi i te mahi and that in order to write you must read and read widely.


My current reading list is not so wide and shaped by long term loans; two from my IIML 2019 cohort, Elaine sent me Auē and Tanya let me take Girl, Woman, OtherThe Bone People came from my sister Lesley’s St Helens Apartments library. Festival of Miracles is a Huia koha from years back, Waiariki and the non-fictional From Silence to Voice are from my day job and Contemporary Maori Writing was from my mother. Mum is the one I write for.


The long term loans are a blessing because of the need to have squeezed everything in around work and university study, as well as the sad reality that I’m now a slow reader who jumps between books, rereads, restarts and loses the plot.


Becky Manawatu was my mentor in the Tupuranga Journal-A Whole New World project and absolutely lovely. I wasn’t sure whether I could juggle full time work, part time study and this fabulous writing opportunity. Becky gently pushed me though, in between her full time employment and family commitments.


My Te Papa Tupu mentor is James George and he’s already having to send me reminders. Drat. His workshop talks are pretty damn special. Rawiri Waititi says Māori have superpowers and we’re unique. After being selected for Te Papa Tupu 2020 – I see you.


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