Whakawhetai Gratitude author Hira Nathan’s plans for a mindfulness journal for tamariki

Hira Nathan, author of Whakawhetai Gratitude journal. Photo / Supplied

After a “pretty nuts” year in which his bilingual gratitude journal, Whakawhetai Gratitude, has been a regular entry in the New Zealand bestseller list, Hira Nathan (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngā Puhi) is looking forward to “kicking back” with whānau over the holidays and next year releasing a special tamariki-focused mindfulness journal.

Whakawhetai hit bookstores earlier this year and “every week since we released it bar one” it has been in the top 10 best non-fiction selling titles in the country, says Nathan.

“The first week it was out it wasn’t in the top 10, and the following week it was and it hasn’t left. It’s gone pretty nuts really,” he says.

“We’ve been in the top 10 for, I think, 29 weeks this week. At one stage, it was the second bestselling book overall. The only other one that was doing better was an international bestseller.”

The 42-year-old Auckland electrician says it has been surreal to discover just how many people have got a copy of the journal.

“Everywhere I go people are like ‘oh yeah, I got one’. I did a course at AUT and the tutor had one, and I did a competency refresher at the job I work at and one of the people there had one. We went to a neighbour’s for dinner - and it was the first time we’d sort of hung out with her - and they had a couple.

“So it’s pretty nuts, it’s going everywhere and everyone’s got it. All the feedback has been awesome.”

The journal’s success is beyond what he ever imagined.

“I never really, I just made something that I loved, you know. And then I thought, if some other people are going to get some value off it, that’s cool.

“I got an email from the publisher the other day and we’ve just ordered another 4,000 copies and then that will be 25,000 copies printed. Not sold, printed. That’s how many the publishers printed out.”

Mindfulness journal

Nathan is currently hatching a plan for a new publication with his friend, Jessie Eyre, which they are “pretty stoked” about. The two are collaborating on a journal for 8 to 10-year-olds that, he feels, have a more challenging young life than he did growing up.

“We’re looking at a kids’ mindfulness journal to come out probably sometime next year,” he says.

“Kids they’ve got it a bit tougher than I had it, I guess. There are so many different things distracting them and so much pressure from social media, and they see the best of everyone’s lives.

“When I was growing up, everyone was broke. You didn’t see friends going on trips to Hawaii and they didn’t have the latest gears – everyone was broke. So you didn’t have those unrealistic expectations because you didn’t see it.

“Whereas they see everything, and they see these kids living amazing lives, and they think that’s normal. So they have these expectations that they’ve got to live up with,” says Nathan.

“I feel like kids these days do it a bit tough, so I was like they need something to get them off their phones and get them thinking about life a little bit differently.”

“Jessie, she came along and she’s a school teacher, and she said ‘why don’t we do a kids one?’ I was like ‘sweet, let’s do it’. So I’ve been working with my friend.”

The journal designed for tamariki will have a similar bilingual, te ao Māori dimension like Whakawhetai, says Nathan.

“Yeah, similar but with lots of different activities they can do by themselves or with whānau.”

‘The people in my life’

There is much to be grateful for in his own life, says Nathan.

“I’m always, the thing I’m most grateful for in my life is the people. It’s always everything, I’ve got such good people in my life, amazing people.

“My partner, she’s pretty amazing, and my mum and my sisters. My dad, he’s passed away, he was pretty amazing too. Whenever I think about what I’m most grateful for it’s definitely people.”

Nathan says he is also immensely thankful for his publishers Allen & Unwin who took a chance on him when he sent them an email out of the blue all those months ago, when all he had was a self-published version of the journal that admittedly had done incredibly well off the joint efforts of him and his partner.

“I was really lucky to link up with Allen & Unwin, they’re amazing. They’re so cool and so kind. They love our journal - and they probably love it more than I do.”

‘Kicking back’

Nathan says he plans to spend time with whānau over the holidays. He is from Hawke’s Bay and his partner is from Invercargill. They take turns visiting with whānau each year.

“This year it’s her family and they’re all coming here so we’re just kicking back in Auckland really.

“Then we’re going to go up to Kai Iwi Lakes in Northland. It’s stunning.

“Hopefully, Tāwhirimātea doesn’t come and ruin it,” he laughs.