Francis Nii tribute book is well underway
O’Neill's K15m Sydney home; sells another for K30m

Me & Francis

Francis Nii (top right) and Philip Fitzpatrick (bottom right) illustrated for the front cover of Phil's book about the struggle to develop a home-grown literature in PNG, Fighting for a Voice


TUMBY BAY - Francis Nii and I had a rather unique relationship based on our interest in Papua New Guinean literature and publishing, which I valued highly.

It began shortly after the troublesome 2013 Crocodile Prize competition. The organising committee had basically fallen apart and together we sought to salvage enough of the entries to produce an anthology for that year.

By then I had discovered Amazon’s CreateSpace publishing program and was learning to use it. The 2013 anthology was published using the program, as were the subsequent anthologies up until 2016.

Our first joint publishing effort was a revised version of his 2005 novel Paradise in Peril.  He was not entirely satisfied with the original version, which had been published by a company in India. The cost had been ludicrously high and there had been no editorial assistance.

I was still learning about print-on-demand publishing and the complications of Amazon’s program but we decided to tackle the revision anyway.

Now, it’s important to understand the tremendous willpower that Francis had. What I found with publishing books by Papua New Guinean writers was that they were inclined to accept both my editorial advice and the changes to their manuscripts without question. There was none of that with Francis.

The revision proceeded through a flurry of emails and every change and addition was preceded by much debate. Sometimes we exchanged emails over simple single word changes.

One of those words was ‘refulgent’, which I had never come across before and thought was a bit flash and might confuse some readers. There’s nothing worse than having to hunt up a word in a dictionary while reading a good book. Needless to say the word, which means ‘shining bright’, stayed in the book.

What we eventually came up with wasn’t perfect but it was a much more refined version of the original text. Later on we re-enacted the whole process for another rewrite, which is the one now currently available.

Over the next couple of years we worked on more books that Francis had written. Our collaboration followed much the same course as we had followed for that first book.

As we both developed our skills Francis started to explore setting up his own CreateSpace account so he could publish his own books and the books of other Papua New Guinean writers.

After he had set up his account he gave me his password. When problems arose, like dealing with USA tax laws, I would dip into his account, see what was happening and then discuss it with him by email.

We solved lots of problems that way. Sometimes it was some quirk in the publishing program and at others it was just some obscure administrative matter.

There came a time, of course, when Francis had mastered the publishing program and could happily do everything himself. Sometimes he gave me useful advice and guidance.

That wasn’t the end of our publishing relationship however. With many of his books I helped with a final edit. This is something that all writers need. Finding someone to do that final scan is often difficult.

What we ended up doing was an exchange of our work. I did it for him and he did it for me. Francis was the final arbiter of the last three Inspector Metau books for instance.

I would often email him seeking information on various matters related to the content of books I was writing. Among all those Papua New Guinean contacts I had Francis was the one reliable source where I could expect a response. Other people I contacted made promises but never delivered. Francis always delivered.

The two hardest books that we worked on together was his Reading Comprehension Textbook because of its elaborate layout and the need to get the information as accurate as possible. My knowledge of grammar has never been good and Francis had largely taught himself.

I think we eventually got it right but unfortunately, despite all the positive noises, the Education Department never took it up.

The other hard book that Francis and I worked on together was Philip Kai Morre’s book, Drugs and Their Dangers in Papua New Guinea. Francis thought it was a bit beyond him because of all the technical stuff and my scientific knowledge could only be described as abject.

That’s not a reflection on Philip. It is a very difficult subject. To collate the information he needed Philip had pulled in sources from all over the place and used lots of boiler plating, which threw the whole layout process into chaos. There were bits of Microsoft Word and other word processing programs lumped in together and none of them particularly liked each other.

Fortunately my sister’s husband has a PhD in chemistry and we used him to check all the technical stuff. It was really hard work but we finally came up with a final product. I did the cover and the internal layout and we published it. Francis encouraged Philip along the way and it was a real multi-person effort.

The last book we worked on together was Wake Goi’s autobiography, Flight of a Jungle Eagle. Francis did the bulk of the editing and I added a few finishing touches.

I don’t know what drove him but between becoming very ill and eventually passing he managed to publish the book. He died, as it were, still at the helm of his literary boat.

As I understand it there will be two more volumes of Wake Goi’s autobiography. I’ve indicated to him, through Emma Wakpi, that I will help with the publishing.

If that happens it will be like picking up the fallen torch and running with it, something I would be proud to do.


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Philip Kai Morre

Thank you namesake for your tremendous work with Francis Nii to publish my book on Dangers of Drugs in Papua New Guinea.

It's a tedious process requiring time and patience. I need to thank the learned chemist, your tambu for checking the technical aspects of my book.

Francis published the 2nd edition titled Effects of Drugs in Papua New Guinea before he passed away.

I ordered 300 copies and all sold to individuals and institutions. With the death of Francis Nii, I can’t order more including the 2nd edition. We normally order our books through Francis. You can help me to order my books.

Francis told me a month before his death that "if anything happens to me, I left all the responsibility with Philip Fitzpatrick, so deal with him". I never took this seriously but I realise after his death.

Francis left without any trace to follow, he died with his skills and knowledge leaving a big gap. It will take many years to find another Francis Nii.

We are yet to find a new editor to publish our books but Francis was unique, he has the characteristics and a instinct author.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Amazon won't currently ship your book to Australia Dominica but when it does I'll order a copy. In the meantime the description by Ed Brumby will have to do.

As a worthy member of a growing cohort of published Papua New Guinean writers and poets, Dominica Are brings to this anthology the particular perspective of a woman who has endured, like nearly all Papua New Guinean women, more than her fair share of tragedy, violence and loss. Yet, even while living, in her words, in an ‘oasis of chaos’, her indomitable spirit of optimism, strength and hope comes to the fore in these poems. Drawing on those universal motivators of mood, moment and memory, Dominica documents, in her individual style, her ever-optimistic response to the passing of family members and the departure of lovers; the yearning for the place of her birth; the joy of her children and her search for love.Despite many disappointments, she still manages to see ‘perfection behind flaws’, ‘beauty behind scars’ and ‘kindness behind a cold heart’ and she remains willing to share her ‘darkest secrets …. without shame’ to a prospective lover, even while knowing that more disappointment awaits. Even while acknowledging the beatings and bruises she has suffered, Dominica is able, through her strength of spirit, to find solace and hope and enjoy the ‘euphoria … of the cuddly bodies, yelps of delight and bear hugs’ of her children.There are, also, elements of irony in the title that Dominica has chosen for this volume.Apart from her children, so many of her ‘prized possessions’ are no longer within her physical reach and remained confined in memory - until they were released in this anthology. Dominica saves her best for last in this collection. Her finely crafted haiku provide vignettes of the joys, delight, concern and disgust that mark her (and our) daily life – a fitting conclusion to a most worthy collection of poems

Ed Brumby Education Specialist Melbourne, Australia

Dominica Are

Francis has radiated so much positive vibration to those he crossed paths with. And for that he will always be remembered and treasured.

He published my first poetry collection ( Prized Possessions) in March this year. I was looking forward to this journey as a published author with his guidance.

His guiding hand will always be in our shoulders. Thank you Francis!

Prized Possessions: A Collection of Poetry by Dominica Are

Kenny Pawa

So sad.

Thank you Phil

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