News in June

The Pikihuia Award finalists have been announced

The finalists for this year’s Pikihuia Awards for Māori Writers have been announced. Several familiar names appear on the list, but many new faces also attest to the fact that Māori writers are still very much alive and well.

Categories for 2011 were:

  • Best short story written in Māori
  • Best short story written in English
  • Best novel extract written in English
  • Best short film script written in English
  • Secondary School Award Category

>> Click here for the full list of finalists in each of these categories.

More than half of the finalists have been previously published, and appear once again on the finalists’ list.

One familiar name that has been selected for both the short story category and the novel extract category is Ann French, who lives in Tauranga. French has been selected as a finalist and published five times in HUIA’s collections of short stories.

When asked what she thought makes a good story, French commented, ‘A good story must have heart and touch the understanding and instincts of the reader. A good story is also about humans and all their fallibilities and strength. I think Māori people have great strength’.

Having been largely recognised as a short fiction writer, French is starting to enjoy the practice of novel writing and stated that, ‘It was the easiest thing to produce 5000 words for a novel because it came straight from the heart. I write from the heart and I write what I feel at the time.’

The Pikihuia Awards for Māori Writers, formerly known as the HUIA Short Story Awards, were established in 1995 to identify and promote Māori writers.  This has resulted in the publishing of hundreds of stories, including those by many award-winning writers.

For many established Māori writers, these awards are where they started. This year’s winners will be announced at a ceremony on the 27th of August where Huia Short Stories 9 will be launched, featuring the short story and novel extracts finalists.

The Awards are again sponsored by the Māori Literature Trust, Creative NZ, Te Puni Kōkiri, New Zealand Film Commission, Huia Publishers and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori.  The featured artwork for the Pikihuia Awards for Māori Writers 2011 was designed by Wiremu Barriball. His artwork will also feature on this year’s book cover.

Mark Sweet’s Online Journal

Mark Sweet wakes the sleeping Zhu Mao

 • July 5, 2010 •

Brian Bargh of Huia left a message. He asked I return his call. ‘It’s good news,’ he said. I went all goose pimply, and great gulps of excitement came tinged with fear.

I began writing Zhu Mao three years ago at the start of the Diploma of Creative Writing course at Whitireia Polytechnic. When I applied I submitted a short story, one of many, inter-connected, which I wanted to shape into a novel. But the opportunity to write a new novel was too much, and Adrienne Jansen encouraged my fresh idea.

It was based around two experiences of traveling in China in the 1980s. One involved infanticide of baby girls, the other, execution of criminals. The story grew and at times took on a life of its own. I spent a month in Wudangshan, the birthplace of tai chi, and found a setting for the story. I loved the process. In the end I rushed to finish and was awarded a C+. I was gutted and let Zhu Mao sleep for two years.

During that time I came to see my final assessment as fair. And learned a big lesson. Anna Rogers was my mentor, and assessor, but I took scant heed of her opinion. Now I see that all she told me was sound advice.

Late last year I met the author Elspeth Sandys, and asked her if she would critique my manuscript. She was encouraging but highlighted major problems with structure and genre; much the same as Anna.

I’d been dabbling at rewriting Zhu Mao for a few months, growing increasingly frustrated at my lack of editorial crafting skills, when my sister emailed about Te Papa Tupu incubator programme.

Being chosen for the programme is a gift for which I am deeply grateful. The opportunity to work with a mentor, and the means to concentrate on writing for six months, makes the completion of Zhu Mao an achievable goal.

My thanks to those in the Māori Literature Trust, Huia Publishers, Creative New Zealand, and Te Puni Kokiri, who have developed and promoted Te Papa Tupu.

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4 Responses to “Mark Sweet wakes the sleeping Zhu Mao”
  1. Mark, just talking about you and found you on the wonders of the internet.
    Do get in touch and we will update you on Bennett family sagas and life in general.
    Two Fats is still sorely missed in Glasgow.
    love Annaxx
anna and bob bennett said this on February 13, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  1. Likewise mark. Internet a wonderful thing. Glad u finally got rou d to writing. Taken you long enough. Be good to catch up. Prompted by fact my 18yr old son just won rugby scholarship to nz for 4 months from april2011.
Jennifer turner said this on March 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  1. This is most interesting. Is this you? Or another Mark Sweet New Zealander? Best wishes Andrew
Andrew Kincaid said this on April 9, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  1. Hi Mark – I think we knew one another in Glasgow in the early 90′s. I was hard work, you were inspirational. You will make supremely a gifted writer because you have a beautiful spirit and an inquiring mind. I wish you love and peace. Ramsay (as you knew me) x
Red Flint said this on May 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm |

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Planning a story to relish

 • August 2, 2010 •

Years ago I had a career change from commerce to cooking.

My first job was in a restaurant called The Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow. Quite quickly I determined their menu was too big, too many choices, and too many ingredients piled onto the plate, smothering and confusing the flavour of the primary fare, be it salmon, duck, or venison. I thought, too often they killed the golden goose, so to speak.

So I opened my own restaurant, and with the help of a fine chef, constructed menus that were short and fresh, and we pared down the ingredients so they enhanced, and never overwhelmed the primary flavour.

Now I’ve discovered that writing is a bit like cooking. Too many ingredients can spoil the plot.

With the help of my mentor, Alia Bloom, I’m now identifying the essential ingredients of Zhu Mao for the process of enhancing those that taste good, and discarding what detracts from the essential flavour of the book.

One of the most difficult aspects of running a restaurant is consistency. If you set a high standard at the outset your customers expect it to be maintained. If not, they may go elsewhere, and never return. So too with writing.

Alia has shown me that Zhu Mao starts out well, but doesn’t deliver on the promise. The reader may put the book down by page 50 and never return. I’ve done it myself with many a book. The challenge before us is to carry the momentum from start to finish. Over-cooked descriptions, under-done characters, or cold dialogue, and readers may never return.

Matching wine with food is a requisite of fine dining. It’s the waiter’s job to advise the customer which variety suits what dish. Merlot and fish don’t match, and Riesling doesn’t compliment the taste of venison. A writer being matched with a mentor is as important, and I’m confident Alia and I are complimentary, like Bluff oysters and Fino Sherry, I think.

Seasoned publishing professional Alia Bloom is currently mentoring Mark Sweet in Te Papa Tupu.

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Characters: hanging on to what matters

 • September 5, 2010 •

When I last met my mentor, Alia Bloom, we shared coffee in the sun on the terrace of her home, and I hesitantly agreed with her suggestion to dispatch Buddy Winter.

I created Buddy so it was only right that I be the one to destroy him. He was an awful man, but like a nasty old uncle who nobody likes, he was part of the family, and allowed everyone else to feel better about themselves.

Driving back to Hawke’s Bay I lamented that the loss of the man whose, ‘complexion was the colour of wet slate with hands so swollen his knuckles were mere creases beneath angry skin.’  By the time I reached Woodville I was having second thoughts. Without Buddy there would be no ranting about the Vietnam War, ‘Westmoreland was totally incompetent. He couldn’t understand guerilla warfare. None of the brass did. Carpet bombing. What a mess. I flew over Cambodia and Laos in seventy one. Where they’d bombed looked like a landscape from the moon.’

On the long stretch of the Takapau Plains Buddy fought for his life. ‘Who else will help Sam Yuan with an entry visa?,’ he taunted me. And, ‘If you dump me you’ll have to get rid of Danny too, and Mr Lau. What about Lau? You gonna kill him too?’  Buddy was ex CIA so knew all the tricks to seed doubt in my mind.

Fortunately I had Leonard Cohen on my side, ‘Everybody knows that it’s now or never, everybody knows that it’s me or you.’ So I cranked up the volume and Buddy shut up for awhile. But he was back again by the final verse, ‘And everybody knows that you’re in trouble, Everybody knows what you’ve been through.’

I stopped in Flaxmere to visit a friend. He’s got a ‘green’ reputation, if you know what I mean, and Buddy, being a raging opium abuser saw that as a way to play the moral high ground. He’s as cunning as a front bench politician, and by the time I reached Waimarama I’d conceded to his persuasion, that rather than kill him off, he played a diminished role.

About an hour into reshaping Buddy’s influence in my book, I heard my Mother cry out. The tone of her voice had me on my feet and up the stairs real fast. My Dad was slumped in his chair. ‘I think he’s dead,’ she said. I cupped his head in my hands. He was cold and blue. Did I think, ‘It’s Buddy that has to die, not you?’ I don’t know. But I pulled my Dad out of his chair and when he hit the floor I thumped his chest. He caught a breath. I rolled him into recovery position and we waited for St John.

After that it was easy to let Buddy die.

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How coincidences mean more than you think

 • October 5, 2010 •

Often this month I’ve questioned, ‘Why am I doing this?’

Not so long ago, a New Age shaped world view would have me think, ‘Oh, but writing seems to have chosen me.’ Now I can’t be so sure.

Back then, I might cite the time I went looking for guidance on what I thought was an original idea, a novel comprised of short stories. I’d written a bunch after an eventful summer and saw they could link together. First bookshop I visit and my eye catches my surname. I share it with Robert Burdette Sweet. Above his name, imposed on a broody youth was the title, ‘White Sambo,’ and, ‘a novel in stories’. The structure of the book was what I was looking for, and the themes in our stories uncannily similar.

‘That’s synchronicity giving a sign,’ I told myself. ‘Keep on writing.’

Now I have the opportunity to finish a book, with a publisher who’s taken an interest, and I’m near paralysed at times by doubt, the nemesis of synchronicity.

Carl Jung explained something profound and universal when he coined the word synchronistic to describe those events which seem like providence. My first conscious experience was on my thirty third birthday. I was in the middle of making a life changing decision; whether to stay in Aotearoa or take up an offer overseas. If I stayed I wanted to make a veggie garden and it was already spring, so hedging my bets, I went to the garden shop and bought lime, and blood and bone, and probably some seaweed magic. The cost was thirty three dollars and thirty three cents on my thirty third birthday. I didn’t listen. Instead I spent a miserable year in Taiwan.

A few years later I read The Roots of Coincidence by Arthur Koestler where he explained Jung’s theory of synchronically. I was sceptical, because although God wasn’t in the theorem, it still assumed an Invisible Hand. I talked to an uncle about it. He didn’t have an opinion. Then I told him I had a friend coming to visit me from Scotland. He asked where from, and I told him Loch Fyne. He said Jeez I had a girlfriend from there when I lived in the UK. What’s your mate’s name?. Turned out my uncle’s old girlfriend was my friend’s aunty. I gave him the book to read.

… a day has passed …

Driving home from town this afternoon I heard an interview on the radio about China celebrating the birth of Confucius for the first time since the Revolution, and how the new leaders are allowing a high degree of freedom in religious practice after 50 years of suppression.

Could this be synchronicity?  My book is set in China and a major theme is the preservation of the Daoist arts during the dark years of the Cultural Revolution. The interviewee talked about the tens of millions of Chinese openly declaring their faiths, unheard of even ten years ago.

So I gave praise to Carl Jung for quelling my doubts long enough to get on with the writing.

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Reaching back to find political purpose

• November 9, 2010 •

With the deadline looming a nagging sense of panic wakes up with me every morning. If I feed it not much writing happens that day. It got so bad a few weeks ago I went searching for what my motives were in wanting to write this novel, and casting about I found an essay I wrote ten years ago. There I found the politics which underlie my purpose. The essay is long, 10,000 words, but here’s the gist.

‘At the end of the second millennium we live in a shrinking world colonised by our technological achievements in communication and transportation. The changes are so rapid, none of us can be expected to keep up and many of us are utterly bewildered as the familiar structures which support our lives are stripped away. Our policy makers seem obsessed with rationalisation and organisation; their doctrines attempting to reduce what is human, diverse and multiple, to comprehensive unity.’

A long discourse follows outlining the rise of corporate power and ends by saying.

‘We have allowed our world to be controlled by a handful of men in a handful of cities who are interested only in profit. And while money has become more and more important the quality of goods it buys steadily gets worse and worse. Small businesses which took a pride in what they were making and selling, and spent their profits in the community, are rapidly being taken over by these 21st century highwaymen, who take pride only in their dividends, which often leave the country. Their masks of capitalism conceal the face of its greatest enemy, monopoly, and we are witnessing the pillage of our planet by a form of totalitarianism at which all sincere supporters of capitalist democracy should be appalled.’

I try to pin down the essence.

‘One of the cornerstones of corporatist ideology, and perhaps its greatest weapon in ‘dividing to rule,’ is the doctrine of ‘individualism.’ Ironically, the essence of this concept could be a catalyst for change. Basically ‘individualism’ sees us all being personally responsible for our own lives, and has been recognised for millennia as a path to freedom. Corporate individualism is only interested in personal responsibility for our finances, because money is the core of its existence, and in this context has encouraged greed and selfishness. Most destructive of all it has eroded our capacity for cooperation and solidarity. Taken sincerely, however, personal responsibility can mean awareness of our actions at every level of engagement, including the thought patterns which precede all action. This is clearly a near human impossibility but it does recognise that the greatest gift of being human is our infinite capacity for growth in consciousness.’

And I offer some amateur psychology.

‘Consciousness simply means being aware, but in the culture of corporatism that can be a difficult and painful experience. It begs us to examine our own role in the system, and our own connections with all mechanisms of power and control, both public and personal. When we’ve been conditioned to fulfil our desires instantly, and find gratification in possessing things, be it a car, a partner, or an idea, the shift to awareness can be traumatic. Becoming aware that we are manipulated and controlled to live our lives forever acquiring more and more, and better and better things, can mean we deliberately begin to discard some of those things, inviting all the anxiety and grief of bereavement. Our sense of identity can be stripped bare when we begin uncovering the layers of conditioning that motivate our behaviour. To realise that what is being manipulated is our fear can be more scary than the fear itself.  Discovering that the fascists we thought were without are also within can be deeply disturbing.’

But I did try to end on a note of hope.

‘There are no easy solutions or quick fix remedies to the dilemmas which beset us personally and collectively. No one of us can individually save the world but we can be individually responsible for how we impact on our world. Our escape from the psychic prison we have constructed for ourselves starts with awareness, applied moment by moment with diligence, determination and courage, to the myriad of experiences which comprise our daily lives. The path out of our predicament is a journey we take alone and nobody can walk it for another.  Only from individual effort can a new collective emerge, which shares the fortunes of our personal struggles, soundly based in a balance of imagination, intuition, common sense and reason.’

Expressing political opinion in a novel without blatant idealogical ranting is proving difficult but hopefully by 3 December I will have finished a story subtle enough to be a novel and not a manifesto.

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Beyond the ending

 • December 20, 2010 •

When Te Papa Tupu ended on Friday December 3rd at a hui held at the offices of Huia Publishers in Thorndon, it felt more like the closing of one process and the opening of another than an ending.

We were welcomed warmly into the Huia whānau, and Robyn Bargh explained their kaupapa of nurturing writers, which impressed me with her emphasis on writers and their work rather than the market place.

We were told what would happen next with our manuscripts: several readings; meetings; an offer to publish, or not; editorial meetings if accepted; further editing – about a six month process.

The day ended in a bar on the waterfront sharing a jug of lager with Larree and Jacquie. We met once before at the opening hui for Te Papa Tupu, exchanged a few emails over the months, and followed our respective entries on the monthly blog. Looking into the eyes behind the words, knowing there lay a person as mad as me, was a treat. I’m sure we do share a common madness: the madness of restless souls most soothed by playing with words and writing stories.

Later, I stopped on the City to Sea bridge to look at the new urban marae being built near Te Papa. I considered whether the sharp industrial roof design was a reflection from Futuna Chapel, or a statement for the emerging corporate Māori elite.

I was standing beside the brass plaque honouring Lauris Edmond.

It’s true you can’t live here by chance, you have to do and be, not simply watch or even describe. This is the city of action, the world headquarters of the verb.

The Papa Tupu programme gave me the opportunity to live in ‘the world headquarters of the verb’ for a few months so I could concentrate on writing, and with Alia Bloom as my mentor my novel has been developed as near to completion as I can achieve.

In saying goodbye to Zhu Mao and Mr Lau and all the troop, I’d like to thank those involved in Te Papa Tupu programme for their deeply appreciated gifts of time and guidance.

..

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2 Responses to “Beyond the ending”
  1. The day was a truly special day,and so glad to have shared the journey with like minded MAD folk.
    Best wishes mark for the year ahead
jacquie
jacquie mcrae said this on December 20, 2010 at 11:27 am |
  1. Love it!!
Hilary Hamer long lost friend said this on February 24, 2011 at 1:54 pm |

Larree Lust’s Online Journal

Larree Lust ponders purpose and narration

• July 8, 2010 •

The writing process.

Elation, anxiety, doubt, fear.

Despite which I am looking forward to this journey over the next six months to finish an ongoing project, a draft of a novel that has been languishing. The support of the Te Papa Tupu programme is an opportunity and a privilege to be involved with.

So, timelines, character lines, sketches, charts – the paint on my office wall is taking a beating.

And this journal is proving to be difficult. At least with a novel the author can hide in the story, a journal seems far more transparent.

Excerpt from project: novel

Boys wait, bundled together into the large bedroom above the front verandah. They sit three to a bed, against the window sill, squat on the floor throwing dice, toss cards into corners, wage pennies, examine the dirt under their fingernails. Jokes fall on silence, as they swear at each under their breath. The once teasing, jovial, blithe voices subdued into apprehension. Sarah slips into the room, Hone barks at her to get back where she belongs.

They wait, until one at a time they are summoned down stairs to the TV lounge turned interview cell. Some slink, others strut, a few saunter. Hands in pockets, held tight to their sides, in fists, sweaty palms wiped on the sides of their jeans. They stand, are stood, answer yes and no to questions they probably do not understand, asked by imperious men in suits and white shirts with slack ties, before being sent back upstairs with strict instructions not to discuss, with anyone. They did not need to be told. What did they have to tell? They mutter under their breaths.

In the kitchen Iri bustles from the tea urn to slicing fruit cake and cutting the crusts from tomato sandwiches. She serves the men in the suits; the uniforms help themselves from the sideboard in the front hallway. Pap says for her to sit down, it’s not your fault; let the girls get the tea. But Iri keeps her hands busy, her eyes down; it’s what she does best.

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Larree makes a stand on unsteady ground

• August 17, 2010 •

A few Sundays back we went to the Art Show in Wellington and I bought a picture. A small black and white print by Joe Wright of a figure standing on this very precarious base of branches like a kereru nest, holding a megaphone up to the sky, and out of the megaphone comes all these birds. I love it.

I love it because it says where I am with my writing, and coming to terms with being a Māori writer, standing on this very shaky base and trying to make a stance.

Later that day we were lucky enough to catch Donna Dean at Lembas Café in Raumati South. She is such an open and honest person, a very genuine singer songwriter musician. Her songs are straight forward and she just tells it like it is. It was an inspiring day.

I was very much reminded of my mentor’s – Reina Whaitiri – words. “The language should disappear for the reader… we forget we are reading. If you use language that insists on being noticed the story gets lost.” My recent experience with art and song writing are very apt examples, ie. KISS.

So, my own writing. I think how I am affected by art, songs, music, stories, and it’s the openness of the writer, artist that fades behind the work that captures me. Reina has given me a list of books and authors to read as points of reference. She has also suggested changing tense, using the present. Try it, she says, see what you think. So I have, and in some cases it works, other times I get confused. It’s hard to give up the preciousness of your work, but it’s a good lesson. Reina said she can be tough, she is, but she is also absolutely right.

The last few weeks have been about learning to let go, trying to rid the author from the writing, and let the narrator get on with the story.

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Tracing a writer’s whakapapa

• September 23, 2010 •

What I think about when I think about writing?

I think too much.

This came after reading Haruki Murakami’s What I think about when I think about running. He took the title of his book from Raymond Carver’s What we talk about when we talk about love.

Which led me to thinking about what influences writers.

When reading a particular writer whose works I enjoy I like to know who they read, who has influenced them, who they admire, who inspires them. These paths broaden my own reading and influences. Often these paths lead back to the same  names. For example, two of my favourite authors are Toni Morrison and Mario Vargas Llosa, who both cite William Faulkner’s writing as an influence, and Faulkner has cited James Joyce.

I love Faulkner’s work, but I struggle with Joyce.

It is sort of like a writer’s whakapapa, tracing the roots of their writing.

My own writing seems so out of touch. There is no harmony, the words don’t match, the sentences are ambiguous, the plot is confusing, the characters are shallow. Why do I bother? I am feeling a bit of a fraud. It’s not easy. And I have to write a journal and expose my phoniness. It’s scary.

My son calls, ‘it’s just a story, mum, come for lunch.’

Back home I sit at the computer and open my story. I am almost through another draft changing from past to present tense. It seems to read better. It is time consuming. I am also trying to find the answers to questions Reina has raised regarding the story line and characters.

Question: What my characters think about when they think about whānau?

Answer: …?

On Monday I get an email from my 5 year old grandson in Invercargill, ‘did you feel the earthquake, it was scary. Can you send my new fleece jacket before the summer weather.’

Novel excerpt: Interaction between main character, Beth, and her father, Mikey, after period of estrangement.

‘I don’t suppose you’d be able to put in a word for him.’ They had the same eyes, father and son. Her eyes. ‘He’s had a bit of trouble, before he came down here. But you know him; he’s not a bad boy.’ Then added, ‘He’s whānau, Beth, talk to him.’

That was strange coming from him now.

‘He won’t be going home tonight. Court in the morning, and he may not get bail then either.’

‘Let him know I was here, that’s all.’

Despite the trouble MJ caused, Mikey loves him, wants to help, wants to be seen as a father. But she needs him too, she is the first born, she is the good guy, isn’t she?

‘You all right, Beth?’ He leans forward and his voice drops. ‘I mean, this Kevin. He been giving you a rough time?’

This time he is looking at her hard. What does he mean? Screwing around, giving her the bash? like MJ. And what was he going to do about it if she wasn’t all right. ‘I’m fine,’ she says.

‘Ria will want to see you. How long you down for?’ He leans back from the table.

‘I’ll call. Hard to plan anything at present with all the different shifts.’

Outside the café they stand with their hands in their pockets. She yields first, moves forward to kiss his cheek, misses and her lips met the collar of his fleece lined jacket. He settles a hand on her shoulder.

‘Whānau, Beth, remember.’ He’d like to see you.’

***

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Living out loud: juggling life and writing

• October 19, 2010 •

Earlier this week I sent my five-year-old grandson in Invercargill his winter jacket, it’s a little further south than here, so the seasons arrive a little later, well that is my excuse, I wrote on the attached card.

He sent me an email back, ‘Thanks Grandma, but I’m a size seven now.’

In between everyday life I have been reading the Paris Review online and the writer interviews, and I copy a quote every so often, and paste and highlight in bold for inspiration. James Baldwin, Nina Simone, Richard Wright, they all spent time in Paris, even Faulkner, and Joyce, and Beckett, Proust is a native, that doesn’t count.  I am going to Paris, because Nina Simone was there, and her music inspires me.

‘It takes me forever to get it to sing. I work at the language.’  Maya Angelou on writing.

‘I look at some of the great novelists, and I think the reason they are great is that they’re telling the truth.’ Maya Angelou.

Email catch up to Reina. I have been a bit slack so need to get this thing moving. But not to worry about the outcome, just let it be, it is this… stay in the moment, this is the present and that is all that matters in the big picture.

Reina replies. Read it out loud to your husband, be a story teller, it might help to find those areas where you have concerns, think about your characters, do you like them?

I had to get my husbands attention, a place where he was sitting and still with no choice but to listen. Well with men, there is only that one place, and somehow it just did not seem appropriate. So I read to my dog Washburn. As a thirteen-year-old Labrador with a puppy brain and recently diagnosed with severe arthritis, it is not easy for him to get up and walk away. I moved his trampoline bed with its bio-mag mattress beside the fire and woke him each time he snored with Bomazeal treats. Some issues jumped out at me, Washburn cruised and slept, and nudged my leg when he wanted his ear scratched.

Bruce Springsteen’s birthday coincided with Washburn’s big day out.

I played ‘The Boss’ on vinyl in kind regards and memories.

Washburn came home with a doggy bag.

Bomazeal, Rymadil and opiates (for severe pain) along with an appointment card for the next three Saturdays regarding follow up injections, and he may not improve until the final one, after that an appointment every six months to monitor progress. Tonight he is stiff and sore from the limb manipulation necessary for the x-ray poses, but I don’t think he minded that, anything for attention, that’s our Wash. He is hurting now so we give him a Bomazeal treat with his tux, ‘mmmm,’ he grunts, ‘mmmm, I need to use the bushes, now.’ He doesn’t quite make it, but that’s what shovels are for. He limps back into his kennel and we say goodnight, he is too tired to reply, it has been a big day.

I don’t suppose Bruce had quite the same experience, but the man that still sings ‘Born to run’ is only 61yrs old; in doggy years Wash is 91.

Life is a present occupation, a juggling act, between writing and everyday stuff.

Sometimes I spend my time writing stuff that is just that, stuff… it’s a break, that’s all.

……..

‘I want to read you something,’ he says.

He begins, ‘Once there was a small boy…’ his voice has a gentle smoothness, it lulls her, she is not listening for the story but is beguiled by the sound of his voice, every now and then he asks her a question, she nods her head, sometimes she nods at inappropriate times, because that was not the answer to the question, and there is a flicker of exasperation on his face, but it doesn’t last and he resumes. She becomes sleepy, drifting on the ocean of his words, he asks again if she is listening and she shakes her head, still he continues, she wafts in the swell, he reads, she is floating face up, the sun is warm, like his voice, they become one, his voice her body, her breath is his, they breathe together, the ocean is everywhere all around, they are the ocean.

‘Well,’ he says, finally, ‘What do you think?’

Once there lived a small dog…

Their neighbours ask, does your husband write, is he a writer, what does he write, does it pay, where can we see his books, are they in the library, is he famous?

Once there lived a small dog…

‘I want to read you something,’ she says.

She begins, ‘Once there lived a small dog. His name was Maz, his tail was neither the full length tail that might have curled up over his back, nor was it a wiggly stump, but in between, like a half smoked cigarette…’

Her husband snores and wakes himself. She is gazing out the window, the ash from his cigarette drops on to the duvet; he hears a dog bark, a boy laughing, the neighbour’s car in the driveway. He hears her scream.

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Through to the painful end

• November 18, 2010 •

Last journal entry, and the months have flown by. I had hoped by this stage to be feeling rather satisfied and smug even, with a completed manuscript for a publisher, albeit for a little tweaking. When in fact I still have a confusing array of scenes and characters still at a loss to decide whether they are in the past or the present, and does it matter. But, some positives, with Reina’s input; firstly, many superfluous pages have been culled, for the betterment of the story, I think, secondly, I have a stronger sense of the background of my characters, due to the readings Reina has suggested, although much of this is not in my novel, it has helped the writer.

This is also the time to express gratitude to Huia Publishers and the Te Tupu Papa programme, brought about with the help of Huia, Creative New Zealand and Te Puni Kokiri. Without their support I suspect this manuscript might have remained a weekend pastime. Special thanks to Dominika for all her administration arrangements and the emails of support.

A heart felt thank you to Reina Whaitiri who tells it like it is, ‘I am sounding like a cracked record, Larree, but this is confusing.’ Arohanui, Reina.

So, write what I want or what a reader will want to read, it’s a hard line, for a wannabe first time novel writer, with a publisher prepared to offer their services. It is a difficult decision, my mentor, Reina, is being made to work overtime, I am wondering if she expected to be a counsellor as well. Do I want to get a book out of this, a solid hard copy that can be held and read in bed, on the train, in the library, or is this just an opportunity to see my name on a blog. NOT: I want a reader to read this, I want someone to pick my book from a library shelf, a book shop, a book club, and enjoy the read. It’s a hard line. Especially when you are new at this.

But the months have not been without their costs.
My ankle is strapped and I am foregoing the anti inflammatories, for now.
The pain should be perceptible, so we know what is going on, my physio says.
I can tell you what’s going on, my ankle hurts, I say.
So your ankle hurts because you have back pain. Sciatica, he says. Sit up straight, do back exercises, stop hunching over your keyboard, get a proper chair. Sit with your elbows at right angles, your knees below your hips, or you will do some irreparable damage, and you will not be walking in Spain.
Who mentioned back pain, but that does it. I follow his instructions to the T, and suffer the exercises.
I am going to Spain, whatever. I am going to Spain with his wife, so he needs to get me walking.

My friend invites me to go walking, that’s fine, a walk, the sun is shining I need to loosen up my ankle, I arrive at her place to pick her up, no, we walk from here she says, okay. Three hours later I am peeling my socks off at her back door to soak my feet in the foot bath she is preparing. Good, she says, while we relax with our feet in radox, you passed the test, I will book for Spain tomorrow, 800km is not so far in six weeks, 2 x 3hr stretches each day, what else is there to do but walk, we will be in Santiago before the scallops are rolled over by the tide.
I am looking forward to it, we will have an adventure, I say, and sincerely mean my words, despite my aches and pains.

The beginnings of a new novel, I think to myself.

Jeremy Latimer’s Online Journal

Jeremy Latimer and the Joys Of Writing

• July 14, 2010 •

Well – here is my first journal entry and for the first time I have no idea of what I want to write.

Oh, the joys of writing!

The whole experience has been a bit of a whirlwind affair, and the prospect of having a “completion date” is daunting. It’s funny to think that I have dreamed of this experience all my life – and now that the opportunity is a reality… I am terrified.

I have had good feedback from my mentor, and I know her ideas and direction will strengthen my story, but I am still in awe of the whole idea, and my fellow writers – where will we be come late December?

What will the reading public think?

Here is a taster of the revised version of my draft:

The wind-swept sands of the lonely desert caked the bloodied sword – its notched steely blade shimmered in the blistering midday sun, clutched in the grip of a masked warrior. Dressed in splendid silk-robes, the boy was barely in his teens, yet destiny had brought him to the edge of the oasis, where he faced his greatest rival. Standing opposite the boy was a dark assassin of immense size – covered from head to toe in black fabric that clung to his brawny frame to reveal a hardened physique – the enemy was none other than the “Scorpion Monk.”

Yes – my mentor approved of the opening lines, and my ego came alive – but it is still early days and the workload continues to mount – but the joy of writing never truly fades – it just changes direction from time to time.

Well – there truly is no rest for the wicked – and new ideas and possibilities are swirling madly about my head, waiting to be written and revised.

Until I write again…

__________________________

How Jekyll and Hyde help refine writing

• August 8, 2010 •

I am experiencing the dual identities of writing – which I affectionately think of as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – two different personalities sharing the one body. I refer to writing for pleasure – a sudden rush of great ideas in a story that lives and breathes as it passes from your imagination to the page, and the editing stage – the realisation your text is riddled with cliché and characters are short on personality – that some ideas will die horribly, to be removed from the document forever.

I was always aware of the schism, but never fully understood the eternal struggle of keeping both egos on a tight leash. Both characters are essential to completing my project, but they compete for attention, and however hard I try, I always favour one over the other – no matter that both personalities have something beneficial to offer.

I prefer Dr Jekyll – he may appear to be civilised and mannered, spending many years and large amounts of money training to become a doctor so that he can provide a service to the community. However, there must be an underlying madness in one who allows their mind to be subject to experimentation – and such is the way when you start out writing. You have the best intentions to craft an enjoyable book – ideas and words flow forth and your fingers furiously tap the keys, and days pass and pages mount. Yet in your heart, you know your ideas are out there – that deep down you have created a story you can no longer contain – so you develop a formula to help.

You call this formula editing.

It’s at this point we release Mr Hyde – the beast in its truest form. He is free from restraint and cares little for the world you develop – casually destroying ideas going nowhere, and removing characters who add nothing to the storyline. Yes – he appears uncontrolled – but he is the only side of your personality that speaks true. Very few people care for Mr Hyde, but it’s only his hideous appearance that creates the fear – how he reacts essentially distils bold ideas back to their purest form.

In essence, we should really fear Dr Jekyll, knowing that what appears on the outside is merely a shell that houses a disturbingly twisted and unrefined story.

Still, I know which friend I will be calling when a good story pops in my head… Am I wrong?

Until I write again…

__________________________

Suiting the taste of a target audience

• September 9, 2010 •

We are nearing the halfway mark of our journey and I have just completed the manuscript in its rawest form – the unformed clay if you will.

My mentor has allowed the following week to go over this first draft and begin the editing process, so I am a bundle of nerves. Even now, I am finding some of its words distracting and some themes underdeveloped, but I wonder if anyone else would feel what I feel when they read the book?

Would Michelangelo find fault in the Sistine Chapel? Probably … but could you? This is the lonely and painful art of writing – and with it comes an age-old problem – taste.

I have written my book with a target audience in mind, and the dream of attracting people who normally wouldn’t read that particular type of novel, but books are an acquired taste – what reads well for some does not often read well for others. There will be detractors of your work and fans alike.

I had dinner with friends the other night, followed by a glass of wine. I commented on its taste, and how much I enjoyed its flavour, but one friend told me that it was too sweet, and another said it had a strong taste of blueberry.

I swirled the wine about in the glass and asked myself, ‘What do I know about wine?’ and the honest answer was – nothing. I did not find it overly sweet and I certainly could not detect the blueberry – but I was adamant about one thing – I certainly enjoyed the glass, and quickly poured me another to prove the point.

It is the same with books – I know as much about wine as I do books – all I know is what I prefer. No matter how much a book is recommended, there will always be a polarisation amongst its readers. There are those who rave about ‘Treasure Island’… and there are those who, like me, have not gotten past the first chapter.

Like wine – given time we will discover if my book fulfils the desire of my intended audience – I only need to bottle it. When the cork is popped, I have to be satisfied in my work.

__________________________

All work and no play…

• October 6, 2010 •

Oh no – it’s The Shining – I swear…

I am sitting in my little office and the door is closed – but I hear children making noises, dogs barking, cars passing by and a party going on next door – with so many little distractions I can’t get a single word out of my head and onto the page.

I run a hand over my face and head – I haven’t shaven in days and my hair is long and messy, and I am eating irregularly… I am not feeling myself.

The sun has set and my computer is the only source of light and warmth. I’m hunched over the monitor like a man caught in a blizzard… struggling to survive the fierce elements. A line of dialogue suddenly sparks my imagination and I return to my seat, crack my knuckles and begin typing – but the words do not fit the book: I realise I have written out a shopping list. WHY?

I have been alone too long – this office is definitely too small – maybe the walls are closing in. I make my way to the door. The screen monitor blackens and the room becomes dark. My fire is dying – I can’t let that happen. I rush over to shake the mouse furiously and pray that it wasn’t a power cut. The screen brightens and heat returns, and the tower begins to whir and hum, playing that monotone song I find so damned intrusive… WMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

I strike the SAVE icon – twice to ensure I have done it right – a third time to be absolutely positive my document is safe. I close the document and hold my breath – I open it and – YES! – nothing has changed.

But wasn’t that the problem to begin with?

Someone knocks at my door but I ignore it – I pretend I’m not here. They inform me that tea is ready but I am not hungry… I only want to get off this page and move onto the next, but I am all out of words. I grab my pad and paper and jot down a list of ideas – but at a glance I realise I have written out that stupid shopping list again. WHY?

My coffee is half-finished and cold – how did that happen? What time is it? I feel like a cigarette – but I don’t smoke… and that stupid page is still up on the screen, teasing me that it will never leave until I change that one line of dialogue that slows the pace of the story. But maybe I don’t want to change it – maybe I like it… but it reads funny… HA! HA! HA! No – not that kind of funny, but ashopping list kind of funny – a sad kind of funny…

WMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM… I hate that song now. I shut the computer down and rub my tired eyes – it’s time to return to reality.

I struggle to walk away but the door opens and the smell of food arouses my appetite and my son rushes up to hug me, and my wife greets me with a warm smile and asks how my project is going.

I turn and smile, and reply – ‘We need to get laundry powder and corn flakes.’

__________________________

Legacies and Legends

• November 16, 2010 •

Well, this is truly the beginning of the end of the beginning.

As December draws near I look at my body of work and I am feeling quite sad – not for having the opportunity to complete my work under the guidance of professionals – but for the fact that I wanted to accomplish so much more in this time.

I set out on my creative journey when I was barely in primary school – my older brothers would read lots of books and comics, and draw amazing pictures – and it was from there that I began to write and draw.

I wish I had kept some of my earlier work – although I’m sure I’d be cringing at the crudity of my craft – but every journey has a first step.

What I never anticipated was taking another million steps from there – and still facing uncertainty. I thought a smaller, more unique country would allow better opportunities to realise my dreams – but it has been a struggle fraught with ignorance on my part. When you’re younger, you tend to wait for the world to come to you – for publishers to burst through your door, wanting to sign you up because you’re so damned special – and when that fails to happen you begin to door-knock. You don’t knock on everyone’s door – you kind of test the waters by dipping a toe – and when that first frosty reception alarms and frightens you, you withdraw from the water’s edge and bide your time.

So I’ve been sitting at the water’s edge, casting stones, and refining my work – but I should have been more aggressive and personal with my work. I can say that I have seen some of my ideas appear in other people’s work – not because they stole them, but because ideas are continually floating through the air – and are plucked and harvested by gifted people with a flare for creativity and a vision to achieve.

I’ve been sitting by the water’s edge too long.

I am part-Maori, part-Croatian, part-European – but if you look at me you would definitely say I am a Maori – and when people ask where I am from I say Pamapuria – not Scotland, Wales or Croatia. I am not rejecting that side – I truly embrace my unique heritage – but when I look in the mirror I see Maori, and when I step out into the world people treat me as Maori.

As a Maori, I have always felt like I needed to prove myself – like the world was measuring me up and waving the bigger stick. This was not bred into me by my parents – this was an internal mechanism that was triggered by years of watching the news and watching social events unfold. But I have always had a profound sense of pride in my history, and wanted to do more to lift my wavering spirit in the face of mounting statistics that told the nation Maori had higher levels of unemployment and less chance of success in the business world.

Sure, my mother and father provided for me as I provide for my children now, but I have always desired to achieve beyond everyday success – the kind of success I label “frequent-normalcy” – going to work, buying a house, putting food on the table and clothes on our backs. We don’t celebrate that enough – but I desire more.
When I was home and visiting the local cemetery, I asked my father about a headstone that bore our family name – he said it was a great-uncle of his but he could not tell me any more. I realised at that moment that for all the years this man had spent on this earth – whether good or bad – his experiences are lost for all time. He had become a chunk of stone propped up in the ground with hardly a memory to carry him on into the future.

Was this to be my fate – to be remembered for a generation or two and then fade into obscurity? To become a cold block of marble with faded letters?

We might mention some folk with fond memory – whilst others live on in books and history – but most will live in this life and fade from the world without leaving a trace.

Not me – I want to be remembered long after my great grandchildren join me in the next life, and I want to be remembered as someone who inspired others to do the same. For all our big talk and backslapping in admiration of our cultural identity, we have barely scratched the surface of what we can achieve as a people.

I can’t sit at the water’s edge and watch while others have all the fun – I’m going to jump in and get wet.

__________________________

“So long and goodbye?”

• April 29, 2011 •

Well, this is so long and goodbye, as I bow out of the Maori Literature Trust and Pikihuia Competition.

It is not without regret that I have been advised that my manuscripts have failed to attract attention amidst the crazy competitive world of publishing.

I have ascended the mountain, sustained some minor injuries, celebrated as we reached the top, admired the views, but failed to find somewhere to place my flag.

Am I disheartened? Probably, but I am not the fiery young individual I once was – ready to fight the world at any given chance.

No – time mellowed that fire a long time ago.

But the experience has had its moments – such as reading praise for one of my manuscripts from Patricia Grace herself. I remained enthusiastic during my mentorship under Huia Publishers, doing my best to remain creative and professional, but definitely struggled towards the end. I wryly expressed to my mentor that if I was fortunate enough to be published with this particular title I would probably cry because I was so tired.

Prophetic words indeed as I am now spared the heartache of one kind only to face another less-appealing prospect.

Where do I go from here?

I really honestly don’t know – I’m a lost sheep in the wilderness.

I had leaned on Huia so much, to guide me to the bitter end… and now that the final decision has been made I only hope that the powers-that-be release me with the same enthusiasm with which they received this unknown Maori boy from Glen Innes – and not some text saying so long and goodbye.

But for now – so long and goodbye.

Tania Butcher’s Online Journal

Tania Butcher builds on memories of Maketu

• 14 July 2010 •

Being selected to write from a large field of writers is a humbling experience and an honour. My manuscript is a journal reaching back in time to gather forward the triumphs and tribulations of Maketu warriors who fought in wars with honour and a belief that a better world can be made for their families and generations of descendants ahead in time.

The beginnings of writing the Maketu warriors’ story cropped up five years ago in a conversation with my cousin Huia Tapsell who wanted something concrete to remember all those men who lived in Maketu during the warring years.

At the time I was studying Defence and Strategic Studies at Massey University, my head was filled with battles and principles of warfare. I was very enthusiastic and promised my cousin I would return to Maketu when I completed my studies and discuss the prospect of writing a book about our warriors both Māori and Pakeha.

Here I am my dream a reality and a whole lot of work ahead of me. I am elated, exhilarated and energised to be working on an important project about my ancestors and their comrades-in-arms. I am very honoured.

Background on Maketu Soldiers

Maketu is a historical township which nestles in the elbow of the Bay of Plenty coastline between Tauranga and the East Cape. The Maketu landscape is an archival trove of past fighting chiefs and militarily enlisted warriors immortalised in headstones, memorials and war sites. – From working manuscript

Tania’s manuscript about Maketu soldiers focuses on their involvement in the wars of the twentieth century.

___________________

How small town Maketu took on the world

• 16 August 2010 •

World War II Maketu

 In September 1939 the outbreak of World War II gave many New Zealand men the opportunity to volunteer for active service abroad. Men living in Maketu signed up with the local Native Recruitment Office. The contribution of volunteers from some families was extraordinarily high; sometimes three, four or even five brothers enlisted in either the Māori Battalion or other New Zealand Battalion Infantry units. Whatever their reasons for joining the thousands of volunteers in answering the call to arms, the new recruits were following the same paths as their veteran fathers, who had fought in previous wars here and abroad.

There were frequent farewell hui held at the local Maketu Whakaue Marae[1] in honour of the men embarking on a journey into unfamiliar territory far from home.“Now and again my father Kouma Tapsell would orate a farewell eulogy…and then the last dance…The next day the soldiers would board the bus to wailing and tears….other soldiers would have their own transport to the Te Puke railway station”.[2] On 2 May 1940 most of the 28th Māori  Battalion of enlisted servicemen and non-commissioned officers began their journey as combatants, leaving from Wellington’s Pipitea Wharf[3]  on board the British troop ship Aquitania, bound for Europe.[4]

At first, the families remaining behind were relieved their sons and husbands were going to fight and save them from the Germans. However, as the months passed and war on the frontlines was brought closer to home through BBC war correspondence, Maketu people listened to wireless reports and watched weekly newsreels at the local picture theatre with mixed feelings.

“Our lives were governed by the war years….as kids we saw what was going on. There was a consciousness and awareness of the men overseas that they were in danger. The war was getting dangerous and we were always afraid that we would get a letter to say they were killed”.[5]

Māori  War Effort Organisation

In 1942 the New Zealand government paved the way for the formation of the Māori  War Effort Organisation (MWEO) to assist in recruiting Māori  for overseas service and the Home Guard.[6] Creation of the new MWEO coincided with the Japanese air raids on Pearl Harbour in December 1941.[7] Within the structure of the MWEO, tribal committees were formed with the responsibility of recruiting Māori  for the military services, the Home Guard and other essential wartime social and economic services. By all accounts Māori  conscientiously responded to the war effort. Huia Tapsell recalled as a child how the life in Maketu changed from a sleepy town to a place of industry and purpose. These tribal committees played a major role in bringing communities together throughout New Zealand in response to the war effort:

“As the war raged overseas the people rallied to help in the Maketu war effort for the soldiers overseas.”[8]

Agar seaweed Industry

In Maketu the remaining people at home, consisting of women, kaumatua and young children, set to work gathering agar seaweed.[9] “The rocky shoreline on the western side of Maketu’s Town Point was dotted with makeshift shelter for families who devoted their time at low tide gathering agar and filling flax kits. It was spread out on vegetation above the shoreline and at the bottom of the cliff.”[10]Once dried and crisp to touch the agar was bagged and taken to homes to be cleaned of broken shells and other sea debris. On a regular basis the carrier drivers would arrive to bale-up the agar and weigh the bags. The local gatherers received one shilling and threepence (13 cents) per pound.[11]  The agar was transported by carrier to Mangere in Auckland and sent on to Christchurch for refining into a food preservative, antibacterial iodine and seameal custard for the soldiers overseas.[12]

Shellfish kaimoana and finfish kahawai were dried and preserved in agee jars destined for the Māori  Battalion in the North African desert.  Lawrence Hemana recalls: “At the time I was about ten years old and all the kids, ten and eleven year-olds gathered and shelled pipis, the old kuias dried the pipis and mussels in their backyards”. [13]  The Motiti island whanaunga across the bay and separate from the mainland grew crops of vegetables and delivered them by rowing their dingies to Maketu:

“Boats with sails would appear on the horizon from the direction of a small island on the western shore of Motiti…from the Te Awhe Marae above the cliff, overlooking the estuary entrance we could see the boats coming across the sea… all the Maketu people would gather on the beach to welcome them…it was always a big occasion”.[14]

Lawrence Hemana recalled his grandparents’ role in Maketu as vital to the community’s war effort: “My grandparents were the driving force for sending parcels to the soldiers. They supervised the food destined for overseas…every day my grandparents visited the homes to collect parcels”. [15]


The fascination in writing historical events is very much like emptying a box of puzzle pieces and fitting them together to reveal the whole picture. In my search for answers regarding my ancestral rohe ki Maketu, I have rallied my whanaunga round me within Te Arawa. Their pieces of information like gems are spread out on my computer canvas and slowly I am putting them together to reveal the most intriguing picture.


[1] The Whakaue Marae beside the estuary was used for all hui while the carvers were still working on Te Awhe Marae situated on the hill above the estuary.

[2] Unpublished memoirs by Huia Tapsell, July 2010.

[3] http://www.radionnz.co.nz. Retrieved from website, 7 August, 2010.

[4] http://www.28th Māori  Battalion.com. Retrieved from website, 7 August, 2010.

[5] Interview with Huia Tapsell, July 2010.

[6] G.V.Butterworth, & H.R.Young, Māori  Affairs:Nga Take Māori . Wellington: GP Books, 1990, p, 83-84.

[7] The Japanese air raids on the United States (US) navy and airforce based in Hawaii brought the US out of Isolation and into the war, hence began the Pacific War between Japan and the US and allies.

[8] Interview with Huia Tapsell, July 2010.

[9] Prior to WWII Japan supplied New Zealand with agar seaweed. The industry developed in NZ when it was discovered red agar seaweed was growing in the coastal waters of the Bay of Plenty and East Coast.

[10] Unpublished memoirs by Huia Tapsell, July, 2010.

[11] Unpublished memoirs by Huia Tapsell, July, 2010.

[12] http://www.teara.govt.nz

[13] 81-year old Lawrence Hemana is the grandson of Hemana Pokiha and the great grandson of Ngati Pikiao chief Taranui Pokiha aka Major Fox. Te Arawa asked Taranui to lead the Maketu people during a period in the 19th Century. Taranui had a thriving community round him. He lived where the existing and rundown Te Awhe Marae remains today.

[14] Interview with Huia Tapsell, July 2010.

[15] Interview with 81 year-old Lawrence Hemana, 9 August, 2010.

________________________________

Hunting for truth in history

• 16 September 2010 •

Writing a true account of history is no easy task. Bias and perceptions may influence the story and to some extent can change the historical record. Unfortunately this bias will sometimes be replicated and assume a place in history as fact. As a researcher I look for several references to an account of an event. I enjoy the hunt for information and often, finding new evidence to an event is always a relief.

Essentially, the information sought by a writer of history exists in landscapes, memories and literature. The difficult task is providing a fresh approach and using new information to inform a description of a historical event. In my experience of researching past events and people, the gathering of information can be an endless task. At some point the research stops and the hard work of writing up the findings begins. Importantly, a filing system of documents and notes gathered save precious time for reference as losing vital information to a sequence of work is frustrating and time consuming.

The activity of writing is the moment when all is revealed. In my case I have learned from experience the value of structure or a clear outline for a historical account of an event. In this instance I consider myself very fortunate to have a very erudite and experienced mentor, Daisy Coles who has impressed on me the importance of a progress spreadsheet and organiser to assist me in achieving my goals. The spreadsheet also works as a tool to help me focus on the manuscript’s content and what I need to do to achieve outcomes for each chapter. My sincere thanks to the Huia Publishing staff for this opportunity to write an important account of history featuring brave and courageous men and women.

The following is an account of World War II that threatened to change our society with devastating consequences worldwide. Essentially some events of World War II are constantly changing as new evidence is uncovered and old perceptions of World War II are interestingly challenged. I have chosen to share some of my research concerning the Nazi ideology of women. There is nothing new in my account as I used references to compile my evidence and thus gain an understanding of German women’s society in the 1930s.[1] [2]

During Adolf Hitler’s rise to political power in the 1930s and the increasing influence of the Nazi Party in German society, the aspirations and dreams of higher education and individuality in German women’s society were eroded away by the formulation of the Nazi ideology of women. In the 1930s German women were compelled to study domestic science. Physics, foreign languages and science were the subjects for men alone.

The women in Nazi Germany were encouraged to become childbearers, and to achieve this they were forced to maintain physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle. Hitler introduced incentives to produce babies by giving women public recognition in the form of honour and medals. Young couples were also given government money to start a family. The breeding program included a medical examination ensuring a clean bill of health for the woman and a system of selecting male breeding partners from Hitler’s military ranks, the Shutz Staffel (S.S.)[3] and generals. Hitler’s grand plan for Germany included increasing the German population, and underpinning the breeding program, was his desire to build a large army and thereby achieve world domination.[4]

A ban on cosmetics and nail polish was a restriction introduced to further suppress German women’s individuality. The Nazi government had adopted a campaign against cosmetics and make-up in World War I. This ban was extended to include French and United States women’s fashions.  Mothers in the S.S. were forbidden to wear make-up and nail polish and women who did so were publically ridiculed. The Nazi theory of the ideal woman was a peasant wife devoted to work on the land and caring for her family. Women in the Nazi Party were encouraged to devote their time to working for Hitler and the Party as helpmates. Hitler’s innate theory of men as leaders in management jobs and public affairs further confined Nazi women to the home and reduced their position in society as second-class citizens of the Third Reich.[5]

Hitler enjoyed public forums where he could speak to the multitudes and promote his ideals for a greater German society. On 8 September 1934 Hitler addressed the National Social Women’s League[6] convention informing the members present of his plan for women:

 “… the women must be a complement to man, so that they can prevail as real fighters before our Volk and for our Volk with our sights set on the future…the two sexes will traverse this life fighting together, hand in hand fulfilling Providence:… the blessing of the Almighty will rest upon their joint struggle for life”.

Whilst he acknowledged the leadership role of women in the National Socialist Movement he also reminded the women that “there were innumerable women who remained unshakeably loyal to the Movement and to me”[7].  Hitler’s determination to increase the population of Germany through childbearing was tantamount, and through his speech he exhorted the women to focus on his agenda and on a “single item and this is the child, this tiny creature who must come into being and flourish, who constitutes the sole purpose of the entire struggle for existence”.

It is probable that Hitler directly assisted in the formulation of the Nazi ideology of women, although he claimed that this stemmed from the concepts of Nature and Providence. Hitler placed importance and value on the idea that German women (who were of Nature) contributed to German society in helping the men (who were of Providence) achieve their objective. The differences between the sexes guided the roles that they played in society. In reality these ideals did nothing but take away the individuality and freedom of thought of German women and thus subordinate and demoralize them, condemning them to the tenet that by her nature the woman was home merely to the power of feelings and the power of the soul.[8]  In Hitler’s philosophy the man was home to the power of recognition, the power of toughness, of resolution and of fighting morale; man strove for heroic courage on the battlefield and woman was there to give eternally patient devotion, suffering and endurance.

In effect, Hitler’s ideology of women reflected his inability to see women in diverse roles. It is probable that Hitler may have based his ideas on gender roles from the philosopher, Rousseau’s “But for her sex..” the Domestication of Sophie: which presented a model of “Emile”( man) as soldier, public office holder, and landowner and “Sophie” (woman) as protector of moral values and educational practices, confined to the home.[9]

Personally I have found that education is a perpetual learning experience. The human brain is like a microcosm of the universe that is forever growing and creating new stars of knowledge.

World War II and winning the war through the sacrifice of our parents’ and grandparents’ lives, has given us the freedom to shape our individual destinies – and let’s not forget the liberty that contemporary German women enjoy beside us.

 

 

 


[1] URL: www.educationforum.co.uk. Retrieved from the Internet, 16/8/10.

[2] Lawrence Rees, BAFTA-winning BBC TV series,  ‘The Nazis: A Warning from History’, London: BBC Worldwide Limited, 1997.

[3] Shutz =defense Staffel = echelon: Hitler’s  SS were an elite private army and secret service. W.L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History Of Nazi Germany, England: Book Club Associates, 1960, p. 120-121.

[4] Martin Kitchen, Nazi Germany At War, London: Longman, 1995, p. 142, 143-144.

[5] Third Reich was Nazi Germany 1933-1945.

[6] Nationalsozialistische Frauenschaft: W.L.Shirer1960, p. 120-121.

[7] M.Damarus, Hitler: Speeches and Proclamations 1932-1945, London: I.B. Taurus, 1990, vol, 1.pp.531-535. [Bismarck readings 148-331], p.531.

[8] Kitchen, Nazi Germany At War, 1995, p. 136.

[9]  Excerpt from Jim MacAdam, Michael Neumann and Guy LaFrance (eds), Trent Rousseau Papers, 1 35- 45. “But for Her Sex …”: the Domestication of Sophie.

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Preserving the mana of a fighting chief

• 14 October 2010 •

Maketu men have sacrificed their lives for 100 years in defence roles of attrition and peacekeeping in foreign wars and hot spots globally. The Boer War underpinned a familiar theme in the acquisition of land by force for Māori and Pakeha. The consequences since the South African war for Maketu was manpower involvement in 20th Century warfare. There is no surprise that those men had descended from Te Arawa and Ngati Pikiao, ferocious and highly skilled fighting chiefs who defended their territories against envious enemies. Pukaki was a fighting chief and a direct descendant of Whakaue and Tutanekai.

Pukaki survived into old age and died at Parawai leaving a legacy of land and descendants who continue to live in and around the Parawai paa situated at Ngongotaha [1]. As a direct descendant of Pukaki I also enjoy his legacy of ancestral lands.

In 1985 the Te Māori exhibition on tour in the United States of America, provided a visible showcase of New Zealand taonga and a brilliant example of a history recorded through carvings. One of the most unique aspects of the exhibition was the delegation of Māori elders who accompanied the carvings: they exemplified and explained the life-force generated by the taonga. On the return home Te Māori also provided an opportunity for New Zealanders to acquaint themselves with national treasures depicting Māori culture and experience New Zealand’s living history.

Since the 1985 Te Māori Exhibition, Te Arawa have shown interest in the preservation of Pukaki which was included in the selection of taonga that travelled overseas. The Iwi concern is in the maintenance of taonga for future generations and thus keeping alive the history of Pukaki in his time.

An appreciation of this taonga requires an understanding of its history. The taonga depicts a Ngati Whakaue, Te Arawa ancestor and fighting chief Pukaki embracing two sons, Wharengaro and Rangitakuku; there is a remnant of Pukaki’s wife Ngapuia between his legs.

During the 19th Century, Pukaki was a carved gateway towering at a height of five metres and facing the southern entrance to Ohinemutu on Pukeroa paa and current site of the Rotorua Public Hospital. In the 1830s Ngapuia and the side panels were removed and thus transformed the carving from a gateway to a tiki [2].

The main Ngati Whakaue concern in terms of the ongoing care and preservation of Pukaki is the prospect of deterioration. This concern prompted discussions with the Pukaki Trustees [3] and recently held discussions among descendants of Pukaki at Tamatekapua in Ohinemutu, Rotorua.

The decision was made to move our taonga from it’s present resting place within the chambers of the Rotorua City Council to a temporary location where Pukaki would be immersed in a preservative solution. After the process of preservation is completed Pukaki will be transported to the Museum in Government Gardens, Rotorua where an environmentally controlled room (currently being built) will contain the taonga and provide easy access for public display.

On 17 October 2010 at 4am the ceremony to move Pukaki will begin. Hopefully the fitness ability of the men who will be lifting and moving Pukaki has been considered in the planning of this important event. The success of this event relies on physical strength and nothing else. Medical checks would not go amiss in preparation for the occasion regardless of age. A daily swim to Mokoia and back to Ngongotaha where the fighting chief Pukaki lived out his life wouldn’t go amiss.

Hopefully, the future holds a Te Arawa Museum featuring all our taonga with a view overlooking Mokoia and the surrounding lakes. This would indeed be the last move for a taonga of significance to Te Arawa.

1. Paul Tapsell, Pukaki: A Comet Returns, Birkenhead: Reed Publishing, 2000.

2. Paul Tapsell, Pukaki, 2000.

3. The Pukaki Trust was formed with the taonga was returned to Ngati Whakaue: a memorandum of understanding was signed by: The Pukaki Trust: Auckland Museum Trust Board, Mr Peter Menzies; Rotorua District Council, The Mayor; The Crown, Chris. Finlayson; Ngati Whakaue, Paul Tapsell.

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Touring a nation’s past

• 24 November 2010 •

Since June 2010 I have been immersed in reading, writing and talking whakapapa to Te Arawa kaumatua and rangatahi in an effort to make sense of hapu and the connections that bind Te Arawa as a nation. The discovery and renewing of old ties between hapu members has been a thoroughly rewarding and very exciting journey. On the other hand, getting to know the subject matter of Māori warriors has been a constant battle for me as a writer operating within a belief system that ignores the warrior culture as mere folklore. “Why?” is a word I have been living with these past months as I visited the hapu of Te Uru Uenuku Kopako surrounding Lake Rotorua, Reporoa and Maketu, searching for answers.

The rewards have been knowledge and revelation, after meeting tribal members and whanaunga connected in many ways to the history of Maketu. I suddenly realise the ancestral links come with an embracing history, and somehow in this journey of writing a historical account of our warriors both ancient and new, I am feeling like a tourist with an invisible guide.

This morning, I am watching a colony of quail feasting on my lawn. Set apart from the colony is a magnificent male on guard duty and sporting a perfectly tailored feather plume. He need not worry, as paw-footed predators dare not walk near my house. In these precious moments, I am thankful my ancestors were magnificent and brave, as they have bestowed on me, a legacy of life and fierce pride and determination to ensure I protect and fight for the land they left in my care for succeeding generations. Hence, appropriately, this excerpt taken from the introduction to my manuscript is a summary of a Māori philosophical stance on the God of War.

God of War
The God of War is sometimes referred to as Tumatauenga or Tukaaniwha, although Elsdon Best acknowledged various different names used by tribes in reference to this god. For example, he notes that the personification of the ‘war-god Te Rehu o Tainui was a lizard’.
Percy Smith, author of The Māori Wars, said:
‘Uenuku was one of the great man-consuming or War God of Taranaki.’ These three lines from a Moteatea are in reference to the tangi for Taranaki Chief Mokowera, who was shot and murdered by Nga Puhi Chief Rewa:
The war god Tu should feast
The heavens should consume
And also Uenuku
The influence of Tumatauenga can be seen in the dedication of male children to the god through ceremony and protocol involving tohi, pure and karakia. These blessings ensure the child’s well-being physically and mentally, shaping and guiding him towards societal norms. Meticulous use and observance of karakia aim to invoke all the atua to strengthen the bones and shape the child. In explanation of the deep Māori understanding of Tumatauenga, I have included some examples borrowed from various Te Arawa men, both past and present, focusing on the importance and influence of Tumatauenga to mankind.
19th Century Te Arawa Chief Wiremu Maihi Te Rangi Kaheke said:
Na wai i homai? Na te pakanga i homai,
Na te riri i homai. Na nga tangata, i homai.
I homai ki a wai? I homai ki te kikokiko,
Kei te kikokiko
Kei te tini honohono
He Manawa ka
Irihia nei e Tu Matauenga.

E tu ka riri
E tu ka nguha
E tu ka aritarita!
E tu ite korikori
E tu ite wheta
E te ite whaiao
E tu ite ao marama

Translation:
Where did the binding, the strength come from?
It came out of war. It came out of fighting.
It came from the people.
Who was it given to? It was given to flesh. The flesh
The many people bound together
Their spirit is lifted up by Tumatauenga.

Angry Tu, raging Tu,
Burning up inside
Stand firm in the waving
Stand firm in the brandishing
Be established in light
Be established in full day light (MSS.81)

Aspects of reciprocity in association with utu
Utu is a term appropriated to revenge in warfare, explained by Elsdon Best in terms of a ‘sacred duty’ under the ‘aegis’ of Tumatauenga the God of War. In fact, utu has many facets of meanings, and is associated with Tumatauenga in many different ways. In traditional Māori culture, every aspect of nature was acknowledged from childhood to manhood and thus utu, can also have positive aspects, as an integral part of a child’s conditioning and tribal teachings: a right which is integrated with tribal history and survival. Another aspect of utu is the custom of koha between manuhiri and tangata whenua. Another aspect is the exchange of children or bloodlines integral to reinforcing a peace agreement made as a result of utu.
The utu of retribution was conducted in several different ways, as the following scenario shows:
In a case regarding ‘a man who mistreated his wife from a neighbouring tribe, the taua muru plundering party of the woman approached her husband’s tribe who lay out taonga as payment for the offence’.
Some waiata, moteatea and names given to children, commemorated different battles and loss of loved ones: this was also indicative of the principles of utu to ensure the events were not forgotten and retribution would follow.
An important role bestowed upon Tumatauenga was negotiating and influencing the seventy gods, including Whiro, the malevolent atua of poautinitini’, to make the first man, Tiki. To alleviate any misunderstandings or confusion concerning Whiro: In the Māori paradigm everything has a balance. The Māori philosophical meaning of Whiro necessitates his role within the realm of deities in the creation of Tiki, who is perceived to have been gathered and formed by the gods.
As an illustration of the influence and importance of Tumatauenga in our lives, I include an excerpt from a Tauparapara often used by Rangiwewehi Rangatira Tohunga Mita Mohi before he begins his whaikorero:
Te ingoa o to tupuna o Tu,
Tu whakaheke tangata
Ki raro, kia Tawhaki.
Translation:
The names of your ancestor Tu
Whose blood travels through the descendants
To Tawhaki.
Note: All tribes can lay claim to Tawhaki as an ancestor. His name originates from Hawaii.

20th Century Warfare and Māori
During World War I and World War II, Māori volunteered for service overseas with a sense of adventure and to see the world. In terms of utu in a modern context of war of attrition, Māori soldiers sought to restore a global balance of peace and justice.

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[1] Elsdon Best, The Māori As He Was, Wellington: National Museum, 1974, p. 167.

[2] Wiremu Maihi Te Rangikaheke was born 1815. He was a Te Arawa Chief of Ngati Kereru hapu affiliated to Ngati Rangiwewehi. He is the author of the manuscripts in Governor Grey’s New Zealand Māori Manuscript Collection.

[3] Elsdon Best, p. 167.

[4] Telephone interview with Eru Biddle, Tuhoe, Māori Studies, Waiariki Institute, Rotorua, 11/11/10.

[5] Interviews with Pat Mohi, Rangiwewehe  November, 2010. Telephone interview with Eru Biddle.

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A Christmas Letter

• December 21, 2010 •

These past six months had been an insightful and personally rewarding period regarding my research on war and its effects on communities affected by war. In the spirit of Christmas, family occasions were particularly remembered by the soldiers who gained comfort and feelings of optimism while facing the prospect of death in the line of fire. Christmas and Easter were particularly recalled with clarity by men on the fields of battle.

Family photographs, letters home and diaries written by enlisted Anzac servicemen had provided a treasure trove of memories. The following excerpt is taken from Bob Russell’s recollections from Tony William’s book: ‘Anzacs: Stories From New Zealanders At War’.1

There were many casualties on both sides and there was a lull in the fighting while both sides licked their wounds: It was Christmas and in 1941 there was no ham and Christmas pudding but “yummy” beef and rice: and for sweets, tinned fruit.

Private Christie Rolleston was a soldier writing on the battle fields of Greece. He knew his letters home to Maketu would provide comfort and solace to his mother and father. In the following excerpt written by Christie during the battle in Greece and dated 5 May 1940:

By jove mum I wish now that I was back at home for Christmas…you sure did have a party for the dinner…Margaret mentioned it in her letter, it made me feel quite home-sick, but above all , pleased to know that you people enjoyed everything. Be like that mum and keep your spirits up for I’ll be home shortly.

Christie Keretu Rolleston was born in Maketu to Maremare Rolleston and Te Ruru Ngawikau Tapsell. He was the 2nd eldest son of five sons who had volunteered for active service overseas. He was educated in Maketu and Hato Petera Catholic Boys College. During his youth he excelled in rugby and equestrian events. Christie and brothers, Pu and Sonny managed and worked a dairy farm at Maketu while the farmer, Major Bennett had travelled overseas.

In 1939, Christie volunteered for service overseas and enlisted into Te Arawa ‘B’ Company, 28th Maori Battalion. After training in Papakura in South Auckland and Trentham, Upper Hutt, the 28th Maori Battalion sailed for North Africa.

In his letter home dated 5 May 1940, Christie vividly described how the New Zealand 28th Maori Battalion and other allies in Greece were under an intensive attack and assault with no covering fire: terrible bombing, machine gunning and dive-bombing…from the combined German army, navy and air force: they(Germans) had no opposition. As a consequence the allies had evacuated to Crete and North Africa under the cover of darkness.

Christie wrote at length the experience of retreat endured by the allies. Despite their eagerness to remain and face the enemy, the order had been given from British High Command HQ in Cairo to meet the ships waiting to evacuate the troops and sail for North Africa and Crete.

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 1. Bob Russell, ‘He’s Alive, He’s Alive’, ed. Tony Williams, Anzacs: Stories From New Zealanders At War, Auckland: Hodder Moa Beckett Publishers, 2000, p. 164-165.

Jacquie McRae’s Online Journal

Jacquie McRae puts a dream into action

• July 12, 2010 •

For me, the whole process of writing has been a long journey. I thought about writing this book eighteen years ago. Somehow I got waylaid by life but on the way I kept adding to my dream: a writing correspondence course in 1994 (I only managed 10 out of the 15 assignments), one paper at varsity in 2000, a continuing education writers’ week in 2006 and a contemporary Māori writers’ paper in 2008.  

 I had a birthday that made me realise that if I didn’t commit to writing now and give it my all, it may always remain a dream. I read somewhere that a dream is just a dream but if you add action, it can become reality. I quit my job at the school library, enrolled in an e-learning course for a year at Wairiki. My point in telling all this stuff is that when you focus on something amazing things can happen.   

My entry for the Pikihuia Awards in the middle of last year was chosen as a finalist. This was incredible feedback to get. Up until this point, I think most people presumed I was just dicking around, as my husband said: “Being a writer is the perfect job; No one can tell if you’re working or not”.   

This past week I have been working on my project. It’s called Behind the Varnish but that may be up for review. Having a mentor onboard is invaluable. I am incredibly lucky to have Renée. I get the sense that she will get the best out of me, even if she has to wring it out! Getting feedback on your writing from someone who has knowledge and doesn’t know you keeps it real. A mentor will question all sorts of things, and if I can justify why it is there, I get to keep it.   

I have spent the week with all the characters I have in the book. I am amazed that I wrote several drafts of this book but failed to really know why the characters did what they did. If I didn’t know, then a reader is never going to work it out. I have to know what they eat, what they like to do, what their childhood was like – even if it never comes to light.   

By knowing the characters more it made the story change. I’m still not a hundred percent sure that I have the best possible storyline but will go with it for now. At the Papa Tupu hui in Wellington someone suggested reading The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. This is an amazing book about archetypes. I am only half way through but can see that most writers would benefit from reading this.   

Lastly, I would also like to say how grateful I am to be on the Te Papa Tupu programme and the sponsors, Māori Literature Trust, Huia Publishers, Creative New Zealand and Te Puni Kōkiri.  A lot of thought has gone into making this programme, as supportive, nurturing and inspiring as possible. A day spent in like-minded company, meeting my mentor and having Huia Publishers (in the shape of Brian Bargh) cheering us on makes the daunting task ahead seem possible.

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Learning new tricks (and old ones)

• August 11, 2010 •

This last month has been such a rollercoaster ride but I’m loving it. I’ve had to learn to be self-disciplined (I’m 46 and have never felt the need for it until now). I’ve learnt to say no to people when they want me to do something (something I should have mastered years ago) and that self-doubt is a thing to embrace.

Each week I send my pages to Renée (my mentor) for critiquing and each week she sends me back some positive feedback, and then writing that has red marks all over it. The red marks are not expressions about how wonderful my writing is but points to address. Every week she’s been right.

She is urging me to go deeper, more detail, show me don’t tell me. The ‘show don’t tell’ is a writing technique that has been around for a while, and one that I thought I had mastered a few years ago. On closer inspection of my writing I see that this is not the case. Learning something and remembering to use it all the time are two separate things.

I also thought that the story was not about me. The characters are different, the things they do are so removed from me but it actually comes down to universal truths. If I had to sum up my story, I would say it’s about authenticity and loss. The main protagonist loses herself in grief and isolates herself in an obsessive compulsive disorder. Even though the characters are different from the ones in my life, I share with them: grief, shame, and hope.

For me to write well, I really have to take myself to those places. It’s not nice but necessary. The lovely gift is that it’s also quite cathartic.

The tapestry of life still unravels around me. If I’m honest, I would rather be writing than doing all the other things that are expected of me, but that is not how it works. I am learning balance. I know this week I will struggle to find any time to write but this course means I will.

I am in awe of people that have written books without a mentor because after only one month I am so grateful to Renée who is my mentor and don’t want to ever let her go.

If you can, run out and find one!

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When the writing flow starts to congeal

• September 13, 2010 •

Robert Louis Stevenson was quoted as saying: Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.

At the moment I am planting lots of seeds but when I look at my fields the crops seem like poor specimens. Under nourished and not able to stand tall against strong winds.

I am in the middle of my novel and this is the bit that I find hard. When something is hard, I don’t want to do it.

Last week Renée kindly gave me the week off. I had a funeral as well as other things that needed my attention. I thought the break would do me good. Not so.

This week is even harder. I have had to glue my bum to the seat. I have had to wrestle every word, sentence and page and am still not finished. Even writing this journal entry. I suspect myself of procrastinating, again.

Half of me wants to find the easy way out. But, another part of me yearns for original and unique. I suppose it serves me right too. Up until this point the pages were just flowing. Easy even….People have been asking how is the writing. Fantastic. Loving it. No one has asked this week.

Writing, I now see as a relationship. I was happy when everything was running smoothly but now we’re being tested. For better or for worse.

So, I have to go back to the drawing board. Put in the effort and trust that I’m not just a fair weather girl.

Must go. I have writing to do!

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Detours create richer detail

• October 21, 2010 •

I went to a Rongoa Māori course on Saturday. I learnt a lot, but one of the most valuable things I got was a reminder of things we intuitively know. We just need to be still, watch, listen and all will be revealed. We often find things that we weren’t even looking for.

We are so often conditioned, to set off in pursuit of something and be so focused on that end that we forget to look for signs along the way. The wrong turns that we take are all part of the bigger picture. Instead of a delay in reaching our destination, they may well have something to offer us. We may arrive a little late but hopefully richer from the detour.

My writing the last fortnight has been flowing, maybe because I have let go of the outcome. I need to turn up and write and someone else can judge or do whatever they will with the words. I would never have been this confident in my first week on the programme.

Last week signalled the beginning of school holidays. A holiday that has two of my children having birthdays and an influx of extra kids. Eleven to feed one night and we live in the country! I was wondering how I would get my allotted words when Renee (my mentor) suggested we double my quota for the next three weeks. This was actually clever on her behalf because what I first thought was a daunting task seemed easy now she had doubled it.

The end part of my novel (which is now nameless but I have a few ideas incubating) has plants woven through it. A reoccurring theme with the traditional Māori medicine is: the more you get to know the forest and all the trees and plants within, they’ll tell you everything you need to know.

I am trusting this to be true with the characters in my book. At the moment Libby my main protagonist is sitting on the limb of a tree. I need to go and watch, sit with her a while, so I can see where she needs to go.

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Writing magic: an elixir to happiness

• November 30, 2010 •

We have only a few weeks left on the Te Papa Tupu programme. I am still grateful to have been picked for this programme and know that these six months have given me the tools and insight I need to be a writer for life.

I spent quite a bit of time over the past ten years reading about writers, attending writers’ festivals and writing a little bit. As much as that was fun, I know I was hoping to stumble on some magic potion that was going to turn me into a real writer.

In a roundabout way, I have found several of the ingredients that may help to make up the potion but I now know that it has to be mixed fresh every day and that some days, I’m just right out of what’s needed.

So what have I learnt?

Being totally committed to the project was invaluable. I wanted this book to be finished by December 3rd and at the beginning even though I had no clue how I was going to get to that point- that was my challenge.

Having a mentor has been like having a secret weapon. At the start I was all over the place, like when you ride your bike for the first time without the trainer wheels. But when I looked behind, I had Renee shouting at me to keep pedalling, just keep pedalling you’ll get there. I wish I was rich enough to have one for every writing project.

To be a writer: You have to write. Regularly. For some reason this constant writing changes how you write. Sometimes I don’t know what it is that is wrong with my writing, but because of the consistency, I know it is.

I have a friend that exercises most days. She said that when she doesn’t, she feels grumpy and pissed off. I am beginning to think that writing might be the same for me, but it does feel like it’s time for this project to be finished.

An invasion of teenagers has started to arrive for the summer holidays. Apparently something called Christmas is looming, and a house that hasn’t been cleaned properly for six months needs my attention.

My dream is to spend most of my days writing and hopefully make a living from it. This last six months has made me feel that much closer to my dream.

Eru Hart’s Online Journal

Te Papa Tupu ignites inspiration in Eru Hart

• July 19, 2010 •

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 re-runs. 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. The 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.   

Me too.

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10 Responses to “Te Papa Tupu ignites inspiration in Eru Hart”

  1. I love this Eru. I don’t know what your frightened of?? Sucess 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)
  2. I agree
    Tania Hinehou Butcher said this on July 20, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Reply (edit)
  3. Bloody good sir, bloody good.
    George said this on July 23, 2010 at 9:38 am | Reply (edit)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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 alls 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)
  8. 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)
  9. What a voice! – looking forward to hearing more of it.
    LW said this on October 17, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Reply (edit)

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Eru shares snippets of past and present

• August 22, 2010 •

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 cell phone.

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 awhile. 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.

“Ok then”.

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 -Hawkes 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 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 eBooks 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 watched 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 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 of 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 30-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 3rd, the Great and Terrible Day of Judgement approaches.

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4 Responses to “Eru shares snippets of past and present”

  1. 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)
  2. You are in the car on the way!!! Now that you are 30 you are driving, if get sidetracked by all the pretty lights – thats ok, it will make for a much more interesting ride!!!
    T said this on August 28, 2010 at 11:39 am | Reply (edit)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)

 

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A day’s writing with the Author and the Internal Editor

• August 22, 2010 •

Wakes up on the two seater loveseat. 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 loveseat 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 30. 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 wil 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 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 loveseat 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.

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4 Responses to “A day’s writing with the Author and the Internal Editor”

  1. Thats it!!! Now you are Dancing the bones off!! Love it!!!
    T said this on October 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
  2. wow.
  3. SD said this on October 12, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  4. Laughter one minute, tears the next. Eru you have something for everyone to relate to whatever our age, wherever we come from.
  5. LW said this on October 17, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  6. Great stuff EJ, gripping funny personal, how good writing should be!
  7. dom said this on November 24, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
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Shaking out the details

• October 12, 2010 •

Flying southward I was surprised to hear the pilot announce: “Good evening Guests, we’ve just passed the township of Kaikoura. 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 organizes 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 27 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 NZ 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 September 4th 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 maybe 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 weren’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 30 years.

*

I had booked my trip to Christchurch long before The Big One. Months in advance in fact (drat! Mums 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 on – 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 September 4. I so admired their adaptivity, their stoicism.

In these final 8 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.

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3 Responses to “Shaking out the details”

  1. 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 |
  2. 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.
  3. Sam said this on October 18, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  4. Wow! You’re brilliant! Your writing really grabs you right from the start – can’t wait for the book!!
  5. Bex said this on October 24, 2010 at 8:25 pm |

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 Judging a book by its back cover

• November 11, 2010 •

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, 26 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 December the 3rd 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. Times 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% love, 50% abuse and a 100% religious a child is born*. Angelus Tama is the 13th child of 17. 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% 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.

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2 Responses to “Judging a book by its back cover”

  1. Look forward to reading it cuzzy
Matua Tere said this on November 11, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  1. Hope I can get a copy in Oz!!
T said this on November 17, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
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