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Literature: The loneliness of the long-distance writer


WHEN THE CROCODILE PRIZE kicked off in 2011 it was the intention of the organisers to involve as many Papua New Guinea businesses as possible in the process, including the printing and distribution of the anthology.

Following many problems with printing, it is likely that the 2013 anthology will be printed in Australia.  This is unfortunate but, under the circumstances, understandable.  Having the anthology ready on time and at a competitive price is only fair to the many contributors.

This development is one of the lessons that have been learned through experience, which is always a wonderful and pragmatic teacher.

Another lesson brought home firmly is that publishing in Papua New Guinea has no future in the short term.  Given the worldwide revolution occurring in publishing and the growth in popularity of the e-book the long term outlook is not very encouraging either.

This truth was not only demonstrated with the experience around producing the anthology but also through involvement with other books, like Sil Bolkin’s groundbreaking Flight of Galkope.

This means that the future for writers in PNG hoping to publish their work will be probably be electronic or nothing.  This is not as bad as it sounds.  Among other things it dramatically increases the potential readership.

I am informed that it is now possible to very economically digitally publish a book through avenues like Amazon’s Create Space.  An e-book can be run on Amazon for virtually no cost and hard copies produced through print-on-demand technology for authors to sell for an average price of US$6-8 each.

We will shortly be testing this system with Francis Nii’s new and confronting book set in the Simbu and Eastern Highlands Provinces.

However, it is not just in publishing that electronic and digital technology can offer viable alternatives to the traditional ways of doing things.

The recent writers’ bung involving Bob Cleland is a case in point.  More bungs are being arranged for Port Moresby and soon in Goroka.  This is great but it leaves a lot of writers outside Mosbi and Goroka out of the mix.

Michael Dom has made the point in PNG Attitude and in emails that interaction between poets and writers is an extremely valuable tool and can make the difference between motivation and despair.

Michael is a world class poet and has shared many of his ideas in articles in PNG Attitude and constantly logged supportive comments on other poets’ work.  Jeff Febi and Jim Drekore have been doing the same.

Despite their efforts it is noteworthy that articles and commentary by this golden trio seem to attract little remark.  I don’t think this means that people aren’t reading what they write.  Writing, particularly poetry, is a very personal affair and most writers work in isolation.  They read the comments, take them on board and, as is their wont as society’s silent observers, say nothing.

However, I think they also secretly appreciate interaction with their fellow writers and value their advice.  I know that one of the first things that I do when I’ve finished a major project is give it to all and sundry to read and provide feedback.  Sometimes I even take notice of what people say.

This sort of feedback is what is behind the idea of the writers’ bungs.  I can’t see why this shouldn’t also be possible to do by remote control electronically.

All it would need is for a bunch of writers, preferably members of the Papua New Guinea Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers, to exchange email addresses and volunteer to offer advice to each other.  They could do this in general terms or for specific genres.

It might be possible to get Keith to publish the list.

What do you reckon? Any takers?

And by the way, what’s happened to all those fabulous entries everyone was promising in 2013?

Times a-wasting folks!


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Bernard Yegiora

Marketing is also a big problem.

The Divine Word Unversity journal will stop the expensive process of printing hard copies because of the lack of readership caused by poor marketing.

This year the journal will be published online.

Michael Dom

Hi Bob, there may be some linkage SWEP can make with the National Arts Centre or Faculty of Creative Arts, who launched a journal last year.

Whether our objectives are aligned or not, I'm not sure, but perhaps we could get Russell Soaba's comment.

Bob Cleland

Phil - Your thoughts and mine are in parallel on this. Just this week I've been thinking about a PNG literary journal of some kind.

I'm working up a proposal right now which I was planning to bounce off you and Kieth when I had it sorted.

Your blog post this morning prompts me to go public a little early, but that's okay. At this point I just want to flag that I'm in the same paddock as you.

Your comments are appropriate and a little scary, but they're also a challenge I want to tackle.

I'll be in touch.

About bungs - I hope to do Goroka and Kundiawa next and later in the year, other centres where there are writers. I haven't made any firm dates yet.

I'll be very interested to hear your thoughts on a PNG literary journal when you're ready to launch them on a now suspecting world, Bob - KJ

Michael Dom

Phil, I appreciate your timely call very much. My participation, in whatever way, is a certainty. Poetry, to me, is an obsession or it is nothing at all.

Luke Fitzpatrick

Hello Father - I will pop around a little later today to start working on getting Francis Nii's book online.

In regards to what you have mentioned in this post, perhaps online educational platforms could be a resource which the Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers could explore in an effort to link geographically dislocated persons.

I use Moodle for all of my study through the University of New England and I believe a license can be purchased or leased, this particular platform gives the options of instant chat rooms, webinars, video posts, comments etc and all in a controlled environment.

Thinking of this a little deeper, perhaps it could be an addition to the Crocodile Prize, PNG Attitude or societies' own websites / blogs with unique logins for registered writers?

Lots of possiblities and, you never know, we may, with the help of a certain PNG Attitude administrator, be able to look at funding opportunities to get it up and running?

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