Last weekend, Playmarket provided a one-day clinic for We Are Many, a newish play inspired by the Womens Mau Movement who continued passive resistance against the New Zealand occupation in 1930s Samoa.
The clinic was followed by a public reading where tears were shed — a good thing for a writer seeking audience emotional engagement, even at ‘just’ a reading — and feedback was gratefully received.
This is the view of Wellington from the International Institute of Modern Letters’ work room:
Contrary to The Lovely Wife‘s opinion of Wellington weather, this was how the city looked most days I met with my fellow scriptwriters.
What can I say about my year in that work room?
We all worked hard to be in there.
We continued to work hard. We shared work stories, war stories, and horror stories. We all wanted to write. We wanted to be inspired by who and what we admired and aspired to be like.
We wrote whatever the hell we wanted — prevailing and imminent zeitgeists be damned! — and Ken gave us the space and support with which to do so.
We all went through the pain of creating — actual wattage varied with each writer — but the work room was a haven where we could confess and share and not feel alone for a two to three hours.
This year was a treasure. I got what I wanted out of the course: a project I knew would be challenging — it almost got the better of me several times, I tell you — and, one month on, I’m just glad to see the back of it. I also got to know and admire and respect nine other writers, most of them half my age, all of them talented and motivated story-tellers, each with a recognisable voice — each I’m glad to know is out there writing.
So. That was my year.
Time now for a little lie down as the festive season approaches.
Late last year, I had the brilliant idea of doing a Master of Arts in Creative Writing.
The University of Auckland offers an equivalent MA and is only a couple of hours drive south of Fortress Mamea, but there was a certain je n’ais se quoi that an MA from the International Institute of Modern Letters at the Victoria University of Wellington held for me. Part of it was the cachet IIML has. A larger part of it, to be honest, was that the IIML is in my hometown.
The Lovely Wife, gods bless her cowboy boots, arranged her whole year’s work schedule so I could commute between the winterless north and the windy city. I planned a sub-48-hour travel itinerary for each of the 24 workshops that were spread between March and October:
3:30am–6:30am — drive from Fortress Mamea to Auckland Airport
7:30am–8:30am — fly from Auckland to Wellington
8:30am–9:45am — buses from Wellington Airport to Victoria University
10:00am–1:00pm — Tuesday workshop at IIML
10:00am–12:00noon — Wednesday workshop at IIML
times varied according to cheapest flights booked but —
bus to Wellington Airport
fly to Auckland
drive to Whangārei
— with arrival times as early as 7pm and as late as midnight.
I looked at that itinerary and thought, How hard could it be? It’ll be fun — I’ve got several years worth of podcasts to catch up on. It’ll be a blast!
The novelty of that commute wore off after the first week. Six and a half hours of travel each way will do that. But I did it, and I’m here to blog about it.
On the very first day, programme director Ken Duncum had a bunch of portfolios to show us greenhorns what we’d be producing by year’s end. One of them was for my favourite New Zild television show:
I took it as a sign that — commuting aside — I’d signed up for a year of awesomeness.
I suppose it’s an annual pilgrimage: as Matariki descends upon this lush nation, I take myself to my hometoon of Wellington for a bit of colour and culture. The Lovely Wife didn’t accompany me this year as our schedules didn’t work out (and we’d been down this way only a few weeks earlier).
Speaking of nerves, the extended Mamea aiga attended the opening night: our Stern but Loving Parents, Awesome Sister and her girls, and Staunch Bro and his family. They said they enjoyed the show and I can’t ask for more than that. The Lovely Wife was not called on to take one for her husband so it was quite the lovefest and very validating for this writer.
It’s all “Still Life”-this and “Still Life”-that, some of you are carping. I can’t help it. It’s a big thing for me.
It’s a week out from the show’s Wellington premiere and my anxiety has increased considerably.
Why the nerves, you may ask, when 1). box office returns must be pretty good, and 2). touring is the fun part of being a playwright. Yeah. Well. I’m taking my mother to the premiere next Wednesday and I’m experiencing a very familiar feeling like I’ve done something very bad and I’m going to have to own up to it.
Mrs Mamea with one of her brood, 2012. (Photo credit: Christina Mamea.)
It’ll be fine, my siblings have been telling me, our mother’s gonna loooove it. But I recognise the tone in their voices: the kind of tone where they know I’ve done something wrong, too, and I’m going to have to take my lumps, and boy are they glad they’re not me.
I shall hold onto a couple of thoughts over the coming week: how Simon Wilson describes the play best as a hymn to [my] mother; and how The Lovely Wife will be on my arm at the premiere where, if necessary, I can use her as a shield.
I saw Ghost in the Shell the other week. It was fun: it had gunfights, sci fi techy stuff, Beat Takeshi and flashes of me oul’ hometoon of Wellington under layers of set dressing and CGI.
Victoria Street, Wellington. (Photo: www.imfdb.org.)Victoria Street, Wellington. (Photo: www.filmnz.com.)Victoria Street alley, Wellington — in a previous life, I worked in the building on the right there. (Photo: www.atlasofwonders.com.)
[French explorer de Bougainville marvelled at the skill of the Samoan sailors who knew] how to use the sun and stars as a guide and how to take advantage of prevailing winds. Furthermore, they seemed to have a wonderful sense of direction that would tell them the right direction of travel no matter what strange surroundings they were in. And, like a bird of migration, the Samoan sailors unerringly returned to the island from which they had set out.
And I flashed on this early exchange:
WELLINGTON -- 2008
Our PET WRITER and his GODDESS seek directions from the writer’s AWESOME SISTER.
We just want to find the nearest supermarket.
Easy-peasy: you take the first left and you’ll see a KFC on the corner. Drive past it for three blocks until you see a McDonalds, take a right before the golden arches, and you can’t miss it.
... I have no idea what you just said.
It’s okay, I got it.
(off writer and his sister)
... It’s an island thing, isn’t it?
Pet Writer and Awesome Sister try not to smile patronisingly at her.
Wellington, 2008: there’s a KFC two blocks down to the right there.