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It's the right moment for PNG writers, says Croc award winner

Winner - Joycelin LeahyKEITH JACKSON

JOYCELIN Leahy is a proud Papua New Guinean who believes that the people of PNG are born storytellers.

And, as her Crocodile Prize win shows, Joycelin is not only a great storyteller but a very fine illustrator as well.

Her win in the Paga Hill Development Company Award for Writing for Children was a wonderful outcome for the Wau-born artist.

Joycelin left Wau as a baby and was raised by her single-parent mother in Wagang village, Lae.

“I learnt English when I went to school at six. I had already spoken Bukawac, Pidgin and Yabem,” she said. “As children, we always pretended we spoke English, Chinese or other foreign languages and acted and mimed various scenes in jokes and storytelling.

“Almost everyone in my family and village is a storyteller, but my grandmother was the greatest. Each night after food she would tell us a few stories - about her and my grandpa’s adventures, stories she was told by other people or stories about our ancestry and history.”

Joycelin learned her story-telling skills at the knee of her grandmother and the influence of custom and heritage can be seen in her writing. Here’s an extract from her memoir telling the story about her grandmother raised her aunt Giuc.

“Her [Giuc’s] mother had died. She did not cry like babies needing their mothers. The nurses took Giuc and wrapped her in a dirty, bloody cloth. She was the size of the old short coke bottles. You held her with one hand. No one said she would live, until I held a teaspoon of sugar lime to her lips.”

“Writing is a skill that could be almost called a superpower,” Joycelin said. “No matter where you are or what you write, the words you put together into a story will influence someone.

“In this digital age, we Papua New Guinean writers are in the right moment to influence and make changes amongst our people. Writers have more support now than ever before and most of this is free and online.  If you need help – ask.

“Given the opportunity offered by the Crocodile Prize awards, we can learn from each other while documenting many important stories that need to be told.

“We can create our own literary industry for PNG.”

Transition - Only in PNG (Joycelin Leahy)Joycelin said the Crocodile Prize has put a new and powerful energy into many PNG writers. “The award has created a vibrant community for writers and readers.

“PNG almost lost its literature industry. There was no development, growth or expansion. There were limited avenues provided for writers. There needs to be interaction between writers and readers, book stores, publishers, community reading and writing classes and more.”

Joycelin said she is very grateful to the Paga Hill Development Company for giving PNG writers an opportunity to write and develop a literary culture for PNG children.

“Paga Hill has planted a seed and, in doing so, will develop many future PNG writers. It is at this tender age that PNG children come to love stories and develop their minds.”

Joycelin is currently busy with a number of literary projects. She is developing some children’s storybooks, a book of short stories and her memoir. In addition, she is creating a professional platform for story writing and storytelling.

“I have resources I can share with other PNG writers to develop their writing. It would be good to have other PNG writers and the Crocodile awards linked to that project. Ultimately, for children, I want to create digital story and enable them to learn to develop their own stories.

“Our culture nurtures story telling. We must use modern tools to develop opportunities for writers in PNG. What our government does not realise is that a PNG writer will soon become one of the most valuable resource persons to have. We can’t keep relying on imported content forever.” 


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Robin Lillicrapp

A great achievement and good comments, Jocelyn.

Roslyn Tony

Congratulation to all the winners. It's an achievement to walk away with the 2015 Crocodile Prize Award in the National Literary Competition. Well done.

All those who participated entered the competition too well done. We look forward to another literary year in 2016.

For the all winners - ketz ketz long mountainous Simbu September.

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