“If we show emotion, we’re called dramatic,
If we want to play against men, we’re nuts
And if we dream of equal opportunity, delusional.
When we stand for something, we’re unhinged.
When we’re too good there’s something wrong with us.
And if we get angry, we’re hysterical or irrational or just being crazy.
So if they want to call you crazy? Fine. Show them what crazy can do.”
(Tennis icon Serena Williams as narrator in ‘Dream Crazier’, Nike commercial ad)
BRISBANE – Each month Philip Fitzpatrick releases figures on book sales to all authors with titles under his Pukpuk Publications imprint.
And each month ‘My Walk to Equality’, first published to coincide with International Women’s Day two years ago, registers a few more sales.
Social media coverage has been instrumental in marketing the book and keeping it in front of readers. On a recent Saturday morning an email from individual in Canada informed me excitedly that her copy had just arrived in the post.
The modest royalties received from the sale of these books remain with Pukpuk Publications and are used to support the publication and distribution of titles by other PNG authors.
The walk to equality is a continuing journey.
A few weeks back ago, the MWTE Project received a $10,000 grant, courtesy of Paga Hill Estate’s CEO, Gudmundur (Gummi) Fridriksson, towards staging a readers and writers festival in Port Moresby later this year.
This had been envisaged as an outcome of last year’s Paga Hill MWTE Writer’s Fellowship, which had followed the publication of ‘My Walk to Equality’ and enabled me to develop a concept for the event.
For each occasion Mr Fridriksson has been a generous benefactor, I have maximised the opportunity by sharing my learning and experiences with others, especially Papua New Guinean girls and women. This has been assisted by PNG Attitude, the wide-reaching online blog has taken my words to PNG, Australia, other Pacific nations and beyond.
A readers and writers festival for Papua New Guineans is an ideal opportunity to showcase what Paga Hill Development Company’s investment has been able to do in encouraging a nation of readers and writers.
Since its inception, the MWTE project has functioned as a stand-alone enterprise.
Like most voluntary projects, it did not start with an enviable financial endowment. Relationships were sought, rapport built and nurtured, communication reciprocated, transparency and accountability at regular intervals have underpinned the longevity of the project.
But its vision has remained clear: to offer a space for PNG girls and women to participate in dialogue through writing. Always. There is no hesitation to reiterate boundaries, debate influence or disengage with destructive attitudes unhelpful to fulfilling the project’s goals.
Being referred to as ‘crazy’ is an unfortunate yet persistent descriptor I’ve experienced since being first published on PNG Attitude but especially so in my voluntary role as chair of the MWTE Project since 2016:
‘Crazy’ is managing the demands of your private life whilst devoting all your spare energy to immersing yourself in the craft, and making an effort to participate with the public community.
‘Crazy’ is being observant and having no illusions about who is genuine about contributing to your personal vision, and making a conscious effort to nurture open dialogue, mutual respect and a respect for the individual visions of those in the relationships.
‘Crazy’ is understanding the opportunity created for you and committing yourself to maximise positive outcomes for others and yourself.
‘Crazy’ is acknowledging your privilege at all times, irrespective of the situation, and using it to help others.
And yet, the MWTE project has demonstrated what is possible for contemporary PNG-authored literature because:
‘Crazy’ is taking ownership and responsibility for the leadership role you voluntarily insert yourself in.
‘Crazy’ is paying attention to those who have invested their time, attention and inviting them to guide you with mentorship.
Crazy’ is ensuring that every email, phone call or social media interaction that enquires or participates as a contributor to your vision is reciprocated.
‘Crazy’ is recognising that constraints are everywhere; irrespective of your location, trying, failing then trying again with different strategies is the only way obstacles are minimised.
‘Crazy’ is delivering every time by undertaking, delegating and completing tasks, attending meetings, delivering expected outcomes, writing articles and submitting project reports.
‘Crazy’ is being nominated as PNG’s country project for the United Nations Girls and Women’s Education Prize 2018.
But at Serena Williams has said, “When we’re too good there’s something wrong with us”.
A large number of individuals in the PNG writing community have been persistent in their diatribes against writers of the Papua New Guinean diaspora, especially women. It’s been an unfailing attack to perhaps rationalise or deflect from stunted domestic literary efforts whilst conveniently failing to acknowledge the diaspora’s role in impacting readers, contemporary writers and an audience, domestic and internationally.
But let me be clear….
‘Crazy’ had a vision, sought and received the full support of a dedicated team, and delivered a milestone book project in three months. On-schedule, transparent and accountable, no excuses made.
‘Crazy’ has worked hard to build, maintain and nurture relationships based on mutual respect.
‘Crazy’ has published articles, spoken in radio interviews and participated in Australian literary festivals to promote and encourage the purchase and readership of PNG-authored titles.
‘Crazy’ produced project reports detailing the expenditure and fulfilled expected outcomes of financial sponsorship. Every time.
‘Crazy’ has used the platform of the MWTE project to spend time sharing knowledge with the students in rural PNG primary schools, distributing books and bringing other issues of PNG social inequity and inequality to public discourse through action and regular, published writing.
‘Crazy’ has played a significant role in consistent monthly book sales over a two-year period, and remains committed to assisting all PNG writers through anthology royalties.
‘Crazy’ remains dedicated to supporting PNG girls and women writers, including their additional creative endeavours including audio podcasting, film, photography and blogging.
I have requested (and it has been agreed to) that the $10,0000 Paga Hill Development Company grant be diverted to PNG’s national literary competition, the Crocodile Prize, to enable its revival and literary efforts in 2019. And I hope and believe a readers and writers festival can be created along with this enterprise.
Not if it reinvigorates and rebuilds Papua New Guinea’s best attempt yet to sustain a national literature.
After all, there can be just a short footstep between crazy and inspired.