PHILIP Fitzpatrick confided to me on several occasions about winding down Pukpuk Publications at the end of this year.
And, when he made his intention public in an article recently, I received the news with both sadness and a sense of challenge.
Phil Fitzpatrick and Keith Jackson paved a literature revival pathway for Papua New Guinea which manifested in a literary renaissance of unprecedented magnitude since independence.
Everything they had done was well documented in Phil’s book, Fighting for a Voice, which you can download free of charge here.
If you spend time reading this historical account, you will get to understand and appreciate how Phil and Keith conceptualised a problem and, having followed it through with a solution, came up with another idea and many more.
It started with the PNG Attitude blog, then the Crocodile Prize, then Pukpuk Publications and, later, mentoring emerging authors.
As this chain of innovation matured, we Papua New Guineans were able to write for publication, get our work published and reach out to Papua New Guinean readers telling them Papua New Guinean stories.
To keep the momentum going, Keith also instigated other projects like Val Rivers’ writing for peace and harmony and more recently the McKinnon-Paga Hill writers’ fellowships.
Many Papua New Guinean writers including me have benefited from these initiatives and shutting down Pukpuk Publications closes one chapter of this great effort.
Although it is sad, we are all mortal beings and at some stage in our lives we have to quit doing things we love because we don’t have the strength, energy and adroitness we used to have.
Phil’s decision to wind down Pukpuk Publications and transfer the publishing job to a PNG entity or individuals is an inevitable one that we have to respect, taking on the challenge he has presented us.
Editing and publishing a manuscript in a form that is internationally acceptable are not easy tasks, especially if you are doing them for others on voluntarily basis.
It can be back-aching, tedious and time consuming and this is what Phil has been doing for us voluntarily since the conception of Pukpuk Publications. It demanded guts and a lot of sacrifices behind the scenes that many of us would not know. Although Phil was confronted with these dilemmas, not once did he ask any author for something in return.
Some of us took his services for granted and threw very rough material at him which he laboured through without complaint. It is now time for Phil to have a well earned rest and relish the memories while we take on the challenge.
The Simbu Writers Association has a pool of talented individuals in the likes of Mathias Kin, Jimmy Awagl, Jimmy Drekore, Arnold Mundua, Roslyn Tony and others who can tackle the task. But the question is who will voluntarily want to do these tasks that demand so many sacrifices?
That’s where Phil has confidence in me. After three years of voluntarily editing, formatting and designing the covers of several Pukpuk Publications books, of course with Phil’s input, I feel confident I can handle the job with relative ease. I haven’t tried assembling a publication on CreateSpace yet but I have a good idea on how to go about it.
Whether I do it or someone else is doing it, there must be a small fee involved to compensate for the energy, time and professional input, Phil and I have discussed this. That’s the way forward after Pukpuk Publications officially winds down. All authors and potential authors should be aware of this matter in their publication planning.