A sense of loss: The disappearance of traditional bilas
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Writing for PNG Attitude – a cornucopia of ideas

The first archived issue of PNG Attitude in the National Library of Australia from mid-September 2009


TUMBY BAY - I like to write. I don’t really know why. Sometimes it’s easier to write than talk. Perhaps it’s because I find writing is a way of mustering and sorting my ideas. Maybe it’s just a way of blowing off steam. Who knows?

I’m nosey and I’ve got a wide range of interests and I write about most of them. I published my first piece in 1970 and haven’t stopped since.

What continues to surprise me is that, despite the demise of many traditional outlets like magazines and journals, I can still find people willing to publish what I write.

These days I like to write books. Writing books, both fiction and non-fiction, is an amazingly leisurely way to explore ideas.

Lately, the emergence of print-on-demand has meant that if I can’t find a publisher I can do it myself. That’s a wonderful freedom.

I don’t get many readers in Australia but do reasonably well in the USA and Europe. I can’t explain that either.

One of my principal interests is Papua New Guinea. This is because it has occupied a big chunk of my life. It helps a lot that it is a captivating place with a fascinating people.

Writing about Papua New Guinea is a little different to writing about my other interests. This is because it is essentially a two-way street. It is a two-way street mainly because of PNG Attitude.

PNG Attitude is more than just writing. Writing for PNG Attitude is actually like engaging in a conversation.

I don’t know whether Keith intended it to be so or whether it simply evolved that way. I suspect it is a combination of both.

If you write for PNG Attitude you are liable to get extensive responses in the Comments section. Sometimes what you write will attract article-length rejoinders, themselves worthy of considered responses. Some topics can extend for days and weeks. Some even find reactions years later.

I can write an article and then engage in the comments process and end up with a contrary view to the one I originally presented. That’s a liberating experience.

I haven’t seen many other places where this happens, either in digital or traditional media.

In most digital media, responses to essays and articles are usually short and often vituperative. Playing the man and not the ball is common. Keith will have none of that. Neither will he allow the sort of profanities common to social media to intrude unless they possess some literary merit.

Very few topics are disallowed. As long as they have some relevance to Papua New Guinea, the editor will entertain them.

This is something you don’t see in other media outlets. Generally they only have a limited range of interests and subjects they will publish.

Keith is left-leaning but he doesn’t discriminate against opposite views.

I like to use this freedom to occasionally present provocative and unorthodox ideas. It is a way of laying a trap to elicit responses that would otherwise remain hidden but which I think need exposure.

Keith goes along with this because he knows what I am up to and is also probably interested in the responses. It is a great way to generate debate on important issues.

The multiplicity of ideas and topics on PNG Attitude also provides other opportunities. One of these is the recording and sharing of Australian and Papua New Guinean history, both as it has been and as it is happening.

If you flick through the PNG Attitude archives you’ll come across a great deal of history. I can’t think of anywhere else where such a treasure trove exists.

It has created an abiding interest among many Papua New Guinean readers. I sometimes find it remarkable that younger Papua New Guineans have never been exposed to the history of their country and are ignorant of it.

It is one reason why the National Library of Australia retains digital copies of PNG Attitude dating back to September 2009 and now refreshed in mid-October each year.

Sometimes PNG Attitude reports history as it is being made. Just like it attracts writers like me, it attracts writers, academics, journalists and first-hand participants from Australia and Papua New Guinea who are much more erudite, informed and expert who can shed light on events as they occur.

Another major contribution of PNG Attitude is the publication of Papua New Guinean writers who would otherwise have no outlet for their work.

This process also gives outsiders a great view of what people in Papua New Guinea are thinking. If it wasn’t for PNG Attitude where else could you consistently read work by Papua New Guinean writers?

PNG Attitude has ‘discovered’ a remarkable number of talented writers from Papua New Guinea. A few of them have become legends in their own right.

I was reminded of this power when Keith recently published some excerpts from a soon-to-be published high school anthology from Bougainville. The response of those students seeing their work on PNG Attitude was heartening. Maybe one or two of them will emerge as great writers later on. Who can tell?

I could go on and on but if you are a writer who needs an outlet you should consider PNG Attitude. I’m sure Keith will accommodate you and it’s a great way to hone your skills.

Try it.


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Dominica Are

I'm happy I stumbled upon PNG Attitude. Great articles/work shared here. In fact I have learnt a lot through the information , history, comments , tips etc that's been shared.

It's true I don't know where else I would read the work of astounding PNG Writers and also get feedback/comments on our work.
Some of us has our own collection of writing which we keep to
ourselves because we don’t know the avenues where we can share our work and talent. PNG attitude has opened a whole new world for us.

Phil and Keith, really appreciate your help, support and dedicated commitment.

Nihon Vida

I'm a expat in PNG, probably only here for a few years, and I read PNG Attitude to try to understand some of what is going on in this incredible country. Keep it coming!

Philip Kai Morre

PNG Attitude is the best media outlet. I contribute more articles to the Post Courier and The National newspapers which will rarely publish them or, if they do, cut them and leave them not looking good. I feel pride in being a regular contributor.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I've edited a lot of PNG writing since we started the Crocodile Prize Baka and in Keith's defence I can say that sometimes it is very hard to work out exactly what PNG writers are saying. I've stared at a lot of sentences for a very long time before I fathom what I think is their meaning.

No reflection on PNG writers. Most of them are writing in a second language. Some of my tok pisin misses the mark too.

Both Keith and I are happy when the writers of PNG Attitude go on to different things and we don't regret helping them along the way.

Alphonse is a gem. You probably appreciate how hard the work she has done has been. We need more teachers like her I reckon.

Baka Bina

Phil - Gutpela tru toktok bilong yu.

If we be civil to each other in our writing, this can go a long way. However I fear for the time when Facebook standards creep in. Thankfully KJ has maintained a good balance though sometimes he corrects and puts out unintended meanings when he edits some of my contributions.

All PNG contributors should try to improve on their contributions in structure, content and wordings. My writing have immensely improved as I try to reflect on how the reader will receive this rather that this is what I want to say. I am now writing for an audience of another person rather than KJ.

Congratulations to Kerata Adventist College and Alphonse Huvi for the students'' writing.

Vanessa Gordon

I enjoy your writing Phil. I totally get the “”it’s easier to write than talk”
PNG Attitude is the first thing I read every morning and usually the last thing I read at night.

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