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A snowballing pukpuk & a computer with constipation

Crocodile_ice_sculpturePHIL FITZPATRICK

IT snowed every winter in the place where I came from.

As kids we used to climb to the top of a nearby hill, make a big snowball and send it rolling down the slope.

As it rolled it picked up more snow and got bigger and bigger until it finally crashed in spectacular fashion in the valley below.

It may intrigue you that I was once caught in a snowstorm in Papua New Guinea.

It occurred east of Bolibip in the Star Mountains. We were crossing over the Dap Range into the Murray Valley and the pass was close to Mount Faium, which sits at 11,000 feet.  For someone dressed in shorts and tee-shirt it was an edifying experience.

But I’m talking about a metaphorical snowball. The growing queue of book manuscripts that is building up in the bowels of my geriatric computer. The poor old girl has had a couple of bouts of indigestion lately and is protesting about ingesting anything more for a while.

With the noise of her grumbling in the background, I’ve decided it’s time to take stock and maybe rationalise Pukpuk Publishing’s output.

This is a tricky situation because quite a few of the manuscripts I’ve received are extremely good.  There are, of course, a lot of duds in there too.

I’m still trying to figure out why so many Papua New Guinean writers think that 25-30,000 words constitutes a book. Generally, a short book is 75,000 words and a decently average length is at least 100,000 words.

I’m getting a bit weary of reading decidedly mediocre collections of stories. While there’s nothing wrong with a good collection of short stories or essays, the key word is ‘good’. 

Random collections compiled from stuff published on blogs isn’t necessarily good.  A good collection needs a theme and coherence and needs to be fresh and innovative.

Finally, I’m really tired of editing work that is poorly put together and formatted.  I don’t know how many manuscripts I’ve received where the style and format changes several times. Double parenthesis suddenly become single and italicised language chops and changes with gay abandon.  That’s just sloppiness and laziness.

What does this all mean?

Well, for starters, I’m going to cut back on the number of titles that come out under the Pukpuk banner. Maybe six new titles a year tops.

I’m also going to be a lot more finicky and strict about what I accept and publish.

As a general rule I’ll be giving first-time writers preference. Pukpuk Publishing is not a commercial publisher but a mechanism that evolved to kick start writing in Papua New Guinea. That’s what the Crocodile Prize and Pukpuk Publishing are all about.

The rate that I’m receiving manuscripts and causing my computer uncomfortable constipation suggests we have reached a tipping point where there is enough writing being undertaken in Papua New Guinea to support a few more players in the publishing game.

Daniel Kumbon reports that some enterprising individuals are now buying Papua New Guinean books cheaply off Amazon and re-selling them at inflated prices.

If they are smart enough to figure that out they should be smart enough to know that the digital technology is there and they will make even more money if they actually publish stuff themselves instead of ripping off the hard work of others.

That might see a nascent publishing industry born in Papua New Guinea, even if it is only a cottage industry.

One can only hope.

Comments

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Baka Bina

Phil - gutpela man. I do not understand the silence on this matter by those of us in PNG.

We have one person who does not have to but is putting the hard yakka for this one aspect in PNG and mipela olgeta ino givim tingting.

Is this reserved for the very few that will congregate in Kundiawa in a fortnight?

If you will not get to Simbu, can we make a contribution here to the lamentations raised herein.

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