Pukpuk Publications to join PNG Attitude in a last farewell
21 December 2015
Includes the complete list of all 33 Pukpuk titles
PUKPUK Publications was one of the unforeseen spin-offs of the Crocodile Prize.
In 2011 and 2012, in line with our desire to make the competition a Papua New Guinean affair, we organised a local publisher in Port Moresby to print the Crocodile Prize Anthology.
This turned out to be extremely expensive and the end product, especially the 2011 anthology, turned out to be below par. On top of that, and on both occasions, the publisher only just managed to get copies delivered in time for the awards night.
Clearly, the expense, uncertainty of delivery and lack of control over the quality of the end product was not sustainable, especially given that we had limited funds and absolutely no help from the Papua New Guinean government.
Around that time I had begun experimenting with Amazon’s relatively new self-publishing program called Createspace. I used it to publish the first Inspector Metau book.
Createspace offered a viable alternative for the anthology that was considerably cheaper and had the added advantage of having an international outlet via Amazon Books and Kindle.
Added to that was the fact that we could get books printed only as required rather than being lumbered with cartons of the things that would require storage. On top of that it would be available as long as we kept it on our Createspace account.
As I refined my skills using Createspace, not an easy thing given my general computer ineptitude, I started thinking about the possibility of producing Papua New Guinean books other than the anthology.
The logic there was that I would work with Papua New Guinean writers who would pick up editing skills and familiarity with Createspace so that they could strike out on their own. I figured that if I could do it there was nothing stopping anyone in Papua New Guinea doing it.
One of the first projects was a re-publishing of Francis Nii’s novel, Paradise in Peril.
That was a learning experience for both of us. We re-edited the text to bring it up to date and designed a new cover. The end product wasn’t totally to our satisfaction but it ensured that a worthwhile publication could assume a new life.
After that more publishing projects rolled in and I tackled them with enthusiasm, learning and refining my skills all the time.
As the titles began to grow I had a few enquiries from Australian expatriates who had written memoirs that they couldn’t find an Australian publisher for or couldn’t afford to publish themselves.
One of the first of these was Chips Mackellar’s Sivarai. Chips is a master story teller and very particular about his work and we parried for quite a while before we had a product that satisfied us both.
Another Australian memoir was Graham Taylor’s, A Kiap’s Story. This was a complex book with lots of photographs, maps, diagrams and artwork. By the time we had finished I was ready to murder Graham but it was, nonetheless, a very useful learning experience.
Somewhere along the way I also produced a couple of books by Leonard Fong Roka. Leonard was pretty easy going about the editing but it was a tightrope negotiating his complex and compelling writing style to produce books acceptable to a wider general audience.
Of those books his Brokenville was the most interesting and disturbing I had ever tackled. It wasn’t long or technically complex but the subject material was particularly raw. As is his wont Captain Bougainville didn’t hold back on the details.
As we progressed Francis Nii had been refining his editing skills and had come up with the idea of publishing an anthology of work by students at Ku High School in Simbu. This year we did another high school anthology.
They weren’t complex works but they were revealing of the latent writing talent that seems to lurk in Simbu Province. I’m guessing that the same could probably be said of other provinces but without encouragement by organisations such as the Simbu Writers Association might lie dormant.
This year I had the pleasure of publishing another new writer, Emmanuel Peni. Manu’s novel Sibona is a stunning piece of work and reminded me very much of Baka Bina’s Man of Calibre. Manu wasn’t a compliant writer and politely and determinedly exacted his own ideas about the final product. That in itself was reassuring and augurs well for the future.
Both books mentioned above, along with Francis Nii’s reworked Fitman, Raitman and Cooks: Paradise in Peril are of extremely high quality and I would guess in time will become Papua New Guinean classics.
I’ve got two more books in the pipeline. One is an entertaining collection of essays and memoirs by the veteran Engan journalist Daniel Kumbon. The other is a fascinating memoir by Norma Griffin about life as a kiap’s wife at Saidor in the late 1940s.
Also on the near horizon is the 2016 edition of the Crocodile Prize Anthology. I’ll be coordinating it with Baka Bina but hopefully it will be produced by him on his own or an alternative Createspace account.
After that Pukpuk Publications will cease to exist.
With the demise of PNG Attitude in February and the hopeful assumption of the Crocodile Prize by people in Papua New Guinea the need for it will end.
There are now quite a few people in Papua New Guinea who have mastered Createspace and similar programs and hopefully they will take up the baton.
Any hope of assistance by the Papua New Guinean government is still pretty forlorn and hopeless.
It has been fun, albeit hard work, but like Keith I am running out of steam.
33 titles - Pukpuk Publications remarkable publishing history, 2011-16
A Bush Poet's Poetical Blossom – Jimmy Drekore
A Kiap's Story – Graham Taylor
Bougainville Manifesto – Leonard Fong Roka
Brokenville – Leonard Fong Roka
Daddy Two Shoes – Diddie Kunaman Jackson
Dee's Longs & Shorts – Marlene Dee Gray Potoura
Drugs and Their Dangers in Papua New Guinea – Philip Kai Morre
Fitman, Raitman & Cooks: Paradise in Peril – Francis Nii
I Can See My Country Clearly Now – Daniel Kumbon
In Search of Heritage in the Midst of Change - Bomai Dick Witne
Inspector Metau: The Case of the Angry Councillor – Philip Fitzpatrick
Inspector Metau: The Case of the Missing Professor – Philip Fitzpatrick
Ku High School Anthology 2014 – Francis Nii
Lost in His Land – Winterford Toreas
Moments in Bougainville – Leonard Fong Roka
My Journey – Jimmy Awagl
My Struggle – Jimmy Awagl
Reading Comprehension Texts – Francis Nii
Remember Me and Other Stories From Enga Province – Daniel Kumbon
Saidor Story – Norma Griffin
Sibona – Emmanuel Peni
Simbu High & Secondary School Anthology 2015 – Francis Nii
Sivarai – Chips Mackellar
The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2011
The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2012
The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2013
The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2014
The Crocodile Prize Anthology – 2015
The Crocodile Prize Anthology – 2016
The Floating Island – Philip Fitzpatrick
The Pomong U'tau of Dreams – Leonard Fong Roka
The Resonance of My Thoughts – Francis Nii
When the River Destroys – Samantha Kusari
That's very generous of you Mike.
Lightning Source wasn't around when we started publishing but I looked at it later and can confirm that it operates in a similar way to Amazon but without, perhaps, the reach. It does have the advantage of printing its books in Melbourne, thus eliminating the costly expense of freight.
What is really needed in PNG publishing is new blood, preferably of the younger and more sustainable kind.
Even if you only published two or three quality PNG books a year it would be a vast improvement to what went before.
There are some interesting rumblings among the ladies over Lae way and I'm hoping they might get together and do something with women's literature. Perhaps you should contact Rashmii and Marlene, two very talented writers.
I also think Francis Nii and the Simbu Writers Association will keep going and Daniel Kumbon in Wabag might be able to get the Enga writers organised.
Then there are Baka Bina and Emmanuel Peni in Moresby and Vanimo respectively. They are both exceptionally talented and need outlets for their work.
All seeds that with a bit of water and some tlc will thrive.
An article in PNG Attitude about Nenge and Lightning Source before it closes would be a good move.
Posted by: Phil Fitzpatrick | 24 December 2015 at 08:43 AM
It's been an honour to have known and worked with you, Phil, on the various projects under the Pukpuk banner. Your humbleness, understanding, tolerance and above all, selfless sacrifices have been the driving factors that pushed me to the limit of my energy and capability to achieve not only our goals but the best quality that we could come up with.
Pukpuk Publication will soon go out but you and I are not down and out yet. We'll keep in touch.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Posted by: Francis Nii | 23 December 2015 at 11:59 PM
Keith and Phil, sad to hear of the decision to conclude PNG Attitude and Pukpuk Publishing, these have been of great service to PNG in so many ways in developing the scope and experience of PNG writers, and freedom of speech. But I appreciate when the slowing down process catches up....
My concern is that the network of people who are Attitude contacts is still kept intact, especially PNG writers, so that information can be disseminated easily through that network. How might that be possible?
I'm very willing to consider publishing PNG writers under NENGE BOOKS publishing (subject to content policy etc), which I established in 2014 to publish my novel, The People of the Bird. I'm now continuing to use it to publish other materials that I am writing or editing for PNG.
I'll put information for interested PNG writers on the website http://nengebooks.com (note, no www). I use Lightning Source, a "print on demand" alternative to Amazon, who have print facilities in several global locations including Melbourne, Australia, where I have been getting mine printed. Their process is very simple, and set up costs almost nothing. In the end, authors will only pay a minimum cost price for the books they order, and can market through Ingram networks globally.
Best wishes for retirement, or is that re-retirement?
Posted by: Mike Jelliffe | 23 December 2015 at 08:13 PM
Go talk to Francis Jimmy - he might put your mind at rest.
Posted by: Phil Fitzpatrick | 23 December 2015 at 09:37 AM
Thanks Phil for your laborious help to enhance writers for their publication.
Once you are gone we will be all gone, dead in the literature world.
Most of our writing will be collecting dust in the cupboards.
I am too saddened to read such an article.
Posted by: Jimmy Awagl | 23 December 2015 at 12:38 AM
Publishing on CreateSpace is challenging, depending on the complexity of the project (e.g. pictures, diagrams, paragraphing and etc) but not too difficult as to be daunting.
The real challenge is in editing and proof reading the material to arrive at a product that is worth the readers attention.
Diamonds are more valuable after they have been cut and polished - that requires a master jeweler.
Posted by: Michael Dom | 22 December 2015 at 12:21 PM
I think that PNG writers as a group owe Phil a debt of gratitude for being a publishing trailblazer for them.
He has shown a true entrepreneurial spirit by undertaking the arduous and largely thankless task of organising the publication of works that might otherwise have languished, unread and unappreciated, in a cupboard somewhere.
But a much bigger challenge now lies before any prospective PNG author: how do I get my work published in the future?
The answer lies in either self publishing using the Createspace system provided by Amazon or finding a local publisher with the will and capacity to do the work, very probably at a loss in most cases.
There is a vast industry devoted to the publication of books but it is clearly oriented towards the writers and markets of the developed world. PNG, as a small, obscure and developing country is not on that industry's radar.
Despite this formidable problem, Papua New Guinean writers enjoy at least one major advantage because most are literate in English, one of the world's most widely understood languages. Thus there is a potential readership of in excess of 1 billion people if they can find a way to connect with them.
If the world is ever to hear the authentic voices of PNG's many cultures, it really needs a local hero to take up the task now being set aside by Phil.
The PNG government could do much worse than set aside a relatively modest sum to promote indigenous writing even if that sometimes causes discomfort for the PNG political and business elites.
English literature has a long and proud tradition of writers using their creative talents to simultaneously entertain and offer a critique of their societies.
Great creative writing has many times forced people across the world to look at themselves and their conduct in a mirror of fiction, sometimes to their great discomfort.
So the works of Swift, Dickens, Orwell, Vonnegut, Solzhenitsyn and many others have, directly or indirectly, helped change the world.
It is no accident that the authoritarian governments of this world are so keen to tightly control what their citizens can see and hear. Their fear of mere words is mute testimony to the political power of creative writing and even simple communication.
There is an awful lot that needs changing in PNG and writers can play their part in that process, so there should be a major incentive to develop a vibrant writing and publishing industry.
So, who will rise to the challenge?
Posted by: Chris Overland | 21 December 2015 at 09:03 PM
Thank you Phil for giving Papua New Guinea 33 books in a space of six years. That's about five or so books each year. Like Keith, I acknowledge your immense contribution to PNG literature and mentoring of PNG literary talents during those years.
I had a look at the Inspector Metau series (downloaded through PNG Attitude) and I believe they are classics. I believe PNG writers can learn something from your style and use your work as a reference point in fiction writing.
From the 33 titles, I've only read the Kindle version of Sibona and I think I've picked up something from Emmanuel Peni and his style through his portrayal of life in modern PNG society.
Like Keith, your exit now would be a big loss for everyone wanting to write about their PNG experience using Pukpuk Publishers, both PNGeans and Australians writers.
Hopefully, those you and Keith have mentored regarding editing and publishing can carry forward your (you and Keith) vision and shine the light for PNG literature to thrive, rather than wither, in the years to come.
Thank you again, sir, from me and my family.
Posted by: Raymond Sigimet | 21 December 2015 at 07:50 PM
Phil, I was stunned when I read your piece this morning. I waited all day to see what other PNG Attitude readers might say.
But it seems Paul Simon's words of 1964 rings true. The 'Sound Of Silence' is deafening indeed for me. Below are the 3rd and 4th verses of that 1964 classic hit
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dare
Disturb the sound of silence
“Fools” said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grow
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence
It seems to me many of us in PNG:
Can talk but cannot act
Listen but cannot embrace the message
Have brilliant ideas, but cannot explore the possibilities
Can feel our skins burn but cannot react
Will we act after PNG Attitude and Pukpuk Publishing are gone?
Posted by: Daniel Ipan Kumbon | 21 December 2015 at 06:54 PM
Thanks for all your great work, Phil.
Posted by: Daniel Doyle | 21 December 2015 at 03:16 PM