My name is Ataria Rangipikitia Sharman and I am one of six Māori writers who have 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 thirty 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 that 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 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.