Alicia Ponder and I have just won ‘NorthWrite 2013: Collaboration’ contest with our short work Ahi Kā. This competition required writers to work together to produce short fiction written by two authors, comprising either:
- 2 short stories
- 2 poems
- or a poem and a short story.
We were placed first equal with another pair of writers. The results of the competition are at NorthWrite’s site.
Alicia and I had such tight schedules that we weren’t sure whether we should enter. Two weeks before the competition deadline, we decided to go for it, despite me being away with my husband for New Zealand’s Got Talent semi-final filming. With our combined poetry and writing experience, we decided that NorthWrite 2103: Collaboration was an opportunity too good to miss!
We wanted to collaborate. Last year’s contestants had mentioned that they didn’t have time to collaborate extensively, because they only started two weeks before deadline. We were determined that even though we also only had two weeks we would collaborate, COLLABORATE, COLLABORATE!!!
From other blog posts I’ve read about collaborative efforts, most authors seem to write one story then the other author writes a reply. Alicia and I decided we wouldn’t. Instead we brainstormed, spending over an hour on the phone to come up with our basic plot and characters. We didn’t fill in all the dots, but left enough concepts fluid that there was space to evolve. We were determined to write everything together.
One of us wrote the short story. Then we both modified and tweaked it, via email and editing while on the phone. Both were essential. Tweaking via email was great for clarity and tightening the prose. Discussing the story on the phone (while one of us edited the document), kept our ideas fresh and dynamic. We bounced our suggestions off one another until they rapidly snowballed. As a result, we utilised more dimensions than either of us could have written alone.
The poetry gradually grew as an extension of the story, until a sonnet was born, tinged with Shakespearean influence. Elements of Māori mythology were interwoven into our story. Incomplete stanzas of our poem were scattered throughout. We used Māori names that gave hidden layers of meaning to our story’s themes. Finally we added political elements as an undercurrent.
Our work will be live on the NorthWrite 2013: collaboration site soon. I’ll post a link to the winning entries when they go live.
Note: These translations may help when reading our work. Manaaki = hospitality, support; Ahi = fire; Ahi Kā = to keep the home fires burning; burning fires of occupation; gain a title to land through long-term occupation; hold influence over land and defend successfully against challenges, thereby keeping their fires burning. (Source Māori Dictionary online)
To understand our references to New Zealand mythology, see the Māori legend about how Maui bought fire to the world.
Congratulations to Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray, editors of Baby Teeth and friends of ours, who received an honourable mention in the contest.