Tihema Baker’s Online Journal
Te Papa Tupu Journal Entry 1 – Thursday 09 August, 2012
In 2009 I began writing a novel. It started as only a brief prologue, not even a chapter – just a tentative dig into this world that had slowly begun to take form in my head over the past few months. Eventually the first chapter was to follow, and I was amazed to watch this story flow my fingertips as I typed. The main character, Jason, seemed to come to life, as did his best friend Rory, and I quickly found myself returning to my laptop for hours at a time to continue the story. Soon, I had the foundations of Watched: Book One of The Watchers Trilogy, which follows the story of Jason Carter, one of the Watched, a handful of teenagers around the world endowed with special abilities. Taken to Castle Infinity by the Watchers, led by the enigmatic Chaos, Jason must learn to master his growing powers, as well as learn the truth of this mysterious Order.
I think a number of things influenced the creation of this story. A love of superheroes, for a start, and an interest in anything supernatural or paranormal. But I have always been a keen reader and a keener writer; I wrote my very first story at about eight years old, called The Magic Library. In it, a much cooler version of myself and my best mate stumbled upon a library, which housed books that sucked the reader into their stories, literally. And I guess that’s what I have always dreamed of doing as an author; writing a book that really draws the reader in, that makes them feel as if the world they have immersed themselves in is as real to them as it is to me.
I see Te Papa Tupu, then, as the opportunity to make this dream a reality. The first draft of Watched has been sitting on my computer, largely untouched, since I completed it at the end of 2010. The pressures of being a University student for the past two and a half years have clearly taken their toll, requiring most, if not all, of my time and energy. And yet, in that time, the story of Jason and the Watchers has never left my mind. If I could just find the time to get back to it, I kept thinking, if someone would have a little faith in it, I know it could be great. And now someone has done for that me. It was an extremely humbling experience to be selected for Te Papa Tupu, and something I am very thankful for. I will just take this opportunity to thank Huia Publishers, the Maori Literature Trust, Te Puni Kokiri and Creative NZ. Of course it’s a bonus to receive a writing allowance, but having been to the first Hui on the 20th July, being able to reach out to the Programme Manager for any queries, and receiving great advice my mentor, I feel very supported and looked-after, and after being away from my book for so long, this support is perhaps one of the main things driving my return to writing along. I am only excited to see where this will take me over the coming months.
Te Papa Tupu Journal Entry 2 – Friday 10 October, 2012
Two months into this Programme and I am beginning to feel the pressure of juggling both my studies and my writing. I always knew this was going to be the major obstacle for me to overcome; if I focussed too much on my writing, my studies would suffer, and if I focussed too much on my studies, then the opposite was true. For a couple of weeks I really struggled to find the perfect balance, and the pressure was only exacerbated by the knowledge that this half of the trimester would be the most busy – at least one assessment every week, among them three essays, as well as presentations and a bombardment of final tests at the end of the trimester. But, as always, I have found nothing but encouragement and support from my whānau and friends, an extremely comforting feeling with the massive workload I have undertaken.
The help I have received from my mentor, too, has been invaluable. For a while I had a little less contact than I would have liked with him due to his own busy schedule, but after a long skype I felt quite assured that I had his support too. Having been a student himself, as well as working at university, he understood how it feels to have deadline after deadline coming towards me, and reassured me that it was okay for me to focus on meeting those deadlines; his words to me were that this novel would always be there to return to whenever I felt able. This gave me a lot of encouragement, and so I decided that, with only a few weeks of uni left, I would focus on getting through all of that work, returning to my novel when I can, and once uni is done and dusted in mid-October, I will be ready to put absolutely everything into this novel, which I am really looking forward to be able to do.
That seemed to be the kickstart I needed; I immediately set about tackling the mountainous workload and found that I was well capable of handling it. I have been handing in essays and assignments well before their due date, and even found time to write. After a 2000 word essay, a critique, a ten minute presentation in te reo Māori, and a 3700 word essay on Rarohenga – which I absolutely relished in writing – I feel as if I have already climbed the peak of all the uni work for the trimester and am now on the home stretch. And I know that at the end, my novel will be waiting for me.