PNG economy: Is monetary policy on a very slippery slope?
“Someone has to stop it”: PNG’s tragic witch-hunts

On dictating to the reader & accepting criticism for my writing sins

Leonard Fong Roka, October 2014LEONARD FONG ROKA

I feel that September’s 2014 Crocodile Prize writers’ seminar held at the National Library’s American Corner did some justice to me as a struggling Bougainvillean author.

And visiting Australian author Trevor Shearston ahsd some welcome words for me as a lone Bougainvillean voice.

“Your writing is unique, Leonard,” he said to me, “but you only need to do away with trying to dictate to your readers what they should see in your texts or stories.”

As a lone mushroom, I sprouted in Bougainville’s Arawa High School in 1997, encouraged by my New Guinean teacher William Mania and Kiwi ornithologist and author Don Hadden.

The pair may have found some magic in me, but they are not around to guide the magic. I am alone in Bougainville.

I earned some funny tags as a result of this stance: 'a lone Bougainvillean voice', 'Captain Bougainville', and 'the Bougainvillean machine gun' being three of them.

I took of the 2013 Crocodile Prize for short stories and the 2014 award for Book of the Year. I am a writing icon of sort for Bougainvilleans.

Leonard Roka and Trevor ShearstonIn the inhospitable American Corner seminar room on 18 September, Trevor Shearston took me by surprise in telling me I had a certain literary weakness in trying to dictate what the reader should feel, see, smell and think in my stories.

Shearston found this sin of mine especially well established in a short story, The Bloody Frontier, which is in my second book, Moments in Bougainville.

Thankfully, according to Shearston, my Bougainville crisis memoir, Brokenville, has a low level of dictation to the reader.

Over time, these unique Australians Philip Fitzpatrick, Keith Jackson and Trevor Shearston have contributed greatly to my development as a writer.

But I am a learner and my journey will continue as long as I am still breathing the fine Bougainville air. 


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Ed Brumby

I wouldn't agree, necessarily, with Trevor Shearston's critique of your writing, Leonard and/but I do admire your willingness to listen and reflect. These qualities are vital for all of us and, especially, for those of us who want to write. Your final sentence said it all: we are all learners .....

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)