A time for advancement in PNG’s literary community

GENESIS NAKE | Tingting Bilong Mi Essay 2020 entry

The first Crocodile Prize Anthology 2011 was brought in to the country with the help of donations from PNG and Australian contributors through Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude blog.

I am sometimes, too much of a bookworm. I prefer time alone, with a good book over any day out with friends. Experiencing new feelings, exploring new places, becoming a different person is something I crave. And I know I am not the only one who craves this. I read a lot of Mystery, Romance, Young Adult and Crime novels and like everyone who wants to check out a new book, I spend a day at a second-hand store reading through blurbs of multiple books, searching for the right one, excited asking myself, ‘what adventures will these books take me on this this week, or this month?’

Knowing these books were written by authors all around the world is gratifying. It diversifies what I read as environments and situations are different for every author. What is obvious, pretty much to every book or novel enthusiasts in PNG is that, we find it difficult to locate PNG authored books on the shelves on most book shops. Which is rather unfortunate because we have a lot of great authors in PNG.

But PNG authors are not given a proper platform to get their books exposed. And I do not mean a small gathering promoting a book, I mean making sure the books get directly on to every bookshelf. If they were, bookshelves in schools, shops and homes would be littered with PNG authored books.

I believe this can change with the help of the government. The government can purchase books from our talented local authors and distribute in bulk around the country.

But how do we convince the government to step in and help?

Here are my main reasons as to why, I think the PNG Government should buy PNG authored books and ways it can improve the literature industry in PNG.

First of all, it would surely boost our local economy. Back in 2010, the media had published an article about a shipment of 20 containers containing books shipped from Australia to Port Moresby (The National 2010, accessed 19th February 2010 www.thenational.com.pg/book-flood-without-png-authors/). These books were going to be distributed to primary schools and teachers’ colleges around PNG which is good. From newspaper reports, around 539,000 books were shipped over at a cost of around K20 million, which is massive, inclusive of shipping and distribution costs.

The book purcahse was funded by Australia through its AusAID program in consultation with the Division of Education and distributed using respective agencies.

This all sounds good and beneficial for our education institutions, here, right?

However, would it not have been fair if some of that money was put aside to purchase books here in the country also? And purchase from local writers who have definitely published resource materials ready for use in schools?

PNG’s economy is mainly dependent on mineral resources, agriculture and farming, and small businesses. Supporting local authors puts money back into our community especially bookshops and this money will circulate. And even better, books purchased by the government can be sold online and shipped internationally too to be sold overseas thus bringing money into the country. These days, books in the form of e-books are sold online. What better way to take advantage of the online market and help our local authors get their work out there? The government should have an open mind when it comes to the economy.

Secondly, support should be shown to our local authors for it not only benefits country, but our English handicapped Nation. In the same article (The National 2010, accessed 19th February 2010 www.thenational.com.pg/book-flood-without-png-authors/), several local authors had expressed their disappointment over the government purchasing story and resource books, overseas, that have little relevance to the local culture and society.

These days PNG writers are writing books and having them published with no support. And the ones that do are the ones that manage to come across kind charities, or have pulled out bucks from their own pocket to get their books out there. These writers are not searching for free hand outs. They are not on the streets, begging, submitting to petty or major crimes for money. They are trying their best, utilizing a skill, at the same time giving service to many by improving people’s illiteracy and widening their knowledge.

Not only that, PNG authored books, both resourceful and just for literacy skill building, can help us relate. As the local author that penned the book may have included his former experiences. Experiences that the reader can understand and relate to much more easily.

Authors love what they do. If they did not, the would not be as patient when drafting up something new. The more support local our local authors get, the more likely, they are to stay and build a literary community that inspires interesting, imaginative, and thoughtful stories.

So, how is this beneficial to readers?

We are also inspired. The better, more varied, and more personal stories we read, the more things we have to think about with each other. But in the case that some, start to see no support, no income, no change, we slowly start to bury their gift. A priceless gift.

Lastly, we can share our neighbourhood culture with the world. According to a guest column (Writer’s Digest 2015, accessed 16th March 2015 www.writersdigest.com/.amp/write-better-fiction/the-top-10-elements-of-a-book-people-want-to-read), readable books are crafted on three distinct but intricately connected levels. The surface of structure, the level of style and voice and importantly the content level where the fictional world comes to life. This applies to books, as well as resource books.

The kind of content we have in our local authored books is unique and unheard of. People around the world read about the same things, just different situations, which at times is unamusing.

Books like Sibona, authored by ‘Emmanuel Peni’, or The Floating Island and The Case of the Missing Professor, both authored by ‘Philip Fitzpatrick’ are amazing books and I come directly from PNG.

Imagine the recognition our authors would get for their talent and creativity. We mentioned if the government assists local authors, they can have their books marketed overseas, through respective agencies. These books can range anywhere from story to resource books. Our community has some jaw-dropping stories to tell. But would it not be amazing if everyone else know that too?

The world needs stories about different people, living in different places, it is what allows them to make best use of their imagination. This can only happen if our books can make it to a proper platform. Books can transport us, without us having to leave home.

This argument, I am sure will not stop here. And I do think this is a problem. We all know how reluctant the government is with investing into anything. It is really difficult. It takes a long time. But I know we with the government, will be able strike up a solution, in the near future, if we keep on carrying out programs like this.

We have a code to support local business men and women, local sports, local infrastructure what about our local authors?

Investing in local bookshops is one possible SME idea. There is a lot more reasons why the government should buy PNG books. Maybe some I did not mention here, will be mentioned somewhere else, but we are all in the same battle, fighting for the same thing. For a more beneficial literacy community here in the country.

REFERENCES

www.writersdigest.com

www.thenational.com.pg

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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