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Still life with speech, the Manawatu home, Wednesday 13 May. (Photo: Supplied)
Still life with speech, the Manawatu home, Wednesday 13 May. (Photo: Supplied)

BooksMay 13, 2020

The morning after at Becky Manawatu’s whare

Still life with speech, the Manawatu home, Wednesday 13 May. (Photo: Supplied)
Still life with speech, the Manawatu home, Wednesday 13 May. (Photo: Supplied)

Last night Becky Manawatu’s Auē won best first novel at the Ockham NZ Book Awards, which she knew about in advance – and the country’s biggest prize for fiction, the $55,000 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize, which she didn’t. So how’s today treating her? 

When I woke up this morning (if I can call it waking up lol cause I didn’t sleep just lay there sort of pretending to) the sky was red and I immediately went “uh oh”, and then I was like, “hey would you just cut it out and chill for once in your damn life”. 

Right now I am sitting in the lounge and on my coffee table is a collection of empty glasses. Three are wine glasses and four are coffee cups. We drank champagne from them. Champagne the incredibly gorgeous Mary McCallum had brought us to celebrate my win of best first book.

Last night we discovered there is not a single damn champagne flute in this lovely home.

This morning my mum called me and my husband was in bed beside me and he said: “This is all better than that other thing you guys went to that time” and we all cracked up.

Becky Manawatu and her acclaimed debut novel, Auē. (Photo: Tim Manawatu)

What he was referring to was a meeting where winners of a short story competition were to be announced. I had entered the competition a couple of years ago and I learned that the winners would be announced at an AGM meeting in Nelson where Mum lives.

The day of the announcement just happened to be the day Mum and I planned on celebrating Mothers Day. 

I decided that I would take her to the AGM to hear the winners be announced lol. Fuck I hate myself, but clearly on this day I felt quite highly of myself. Because I was so sure that I would have been in the mix somewhere (maybe even first place) and it would be like a gift to my mama. So me and Mum went and Mum was awfully confused by the whole thing. There were quartered club sandwiches and orange juice. No booze, which made us frown.

I didn’t tell Mum why we were here to listen to this thing and she just sat there smiling and I sat there smiling and thinking to myself it was going to be the best Mothers Day gift ever because she has always believed I was a writer and supported me so now: loook at me now Mum, winner of a short story taaaadddaaahhhhhhhh

Lol I hate myself.

So anyway they announced third and second and I’m like holy shittttt I might have actual won like this is just the best. Mum is gonna be stoked, I am gonna be stoked and then we will mingle have quartered sandwiches and go somewhere with booze.

So they announced the winner and it was not me and Mum was still smiling but I could see her face had a wtf look all over it. A like wtf are we doing here look, but she smiled and clapped and I did too, and then I think I said “Let’s go Mum”. 

We laugh about this day like alllll the time, and I am grateful I was such a dick cause it essentially gave us this gorgeous embarrassing story, like I can still see myself walking down the road like a petulant child wondering how the judges had not appreciated me, if not for my story, for my MUUUMMMM lololololol.

And that was the first thing we talked about this morning, red sky outside, cups and empty bottles over the tables downstairs. 

And a beautiful feeling of immense gratitude for so many people, and immense happiness for others, including my mum. 

Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press, $35) is available from Unity Books. Read the first chapter here, and a remarkable essay by Manawatu here.

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