By CAROLINE EVARI – PNG Attitude Blog
PORT MORESBY – Caroline Evari interviews writer Samantha Kusari about her story of a young boy growing up in a village in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea in the years just before and after independence in 1975. The story is loosely based on the early life of Samantha’s father.
Caroline – Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, education, culture and hobbies?
Samantha – I am from the Fore speaking tribe in Okapa District, Eastern Highlands Province. I graduated with a Bachelor in Arts majoring language and literature from the University of Goroka. I’m currently teaching English, language and literature to Grade 10s and 11s at Paradise College.
Why did you choose the title of your book?
In writing When the River Destroys I chose the river as a literary symbol. It symbolises every major event and turning point in the story.
Tell us briefly about the process you took to publish it. How many drafts did it go through? How did you get editorial help? And who did you publish with.
I did two drafts myself. Then I sent it to Phil Fitzpatrick for editing and publication. And it was published with Pukpuk Publications.
What was your first reaction or feeling when you held the book?
It was one of the happiest moments in my life. Writing was and is my leisure hobby and I love writing but I never thought I could publish a book.
In summary, what is your book about?
It is a very simple book but addresses a very sensitive issue faced by many children not only in PNG but around the world – child abuse and ill-treatment of less fortunate children. In the book I also highlight some important aspects of my culture that are no longer practiced today like male initiation. There’s also a little bit about the first missionary contact in my area.
Who are your target audiences?
My target audience are primary and lower secondary school students in PNG. Age range 10 – 15 years.
From my Dad.
What messages can readers take out of the book?
Basically, two messages. The first one is to appreciate and uphold our identity through various cultural practices. Secondly, it has a message for people to treat children with the respect they deserve.
Were there any challenges you had to overcome while writing the book?
Not really. I wasn’t a mum yet and I was still at university so I had free time to myself to complete my manuscript. I also decided to make the story plain and simple and it was based on a real-life experience so I didn’t have a hard time looking for characters (except for names), creating the setting or trying to make the plot fit perfectly.
How can your readers get a hold of your book?
They can contact me on email [see above] or buy directly from Amazon.
As a PNG female writer, what do you think is greatest challenge for writers in the country?
The greatest challenge lies in two questions: how many people are reading the books and who is reading it? Every book written has a message to convey. It is a waste when the book does not serve its purpose.
Do you have any suggestions or recommendations on how these challenges can be addressed?
Do awareness. Advocate for PNG-authored books. The recent petition we signed is a great start.
What would be your advice to aspiring writers?
Just write. Create your own library. It does not matter if the entire population in PNG does not read your work. Better written than unspoken.
Are you writing another book and when do you expect to publish?
I am just working on scripts. Just random scripts. I plan to put them together sometime soon and work a little bit more on it as it is a fictitious one.
Any final comments?
Just a suggestion, and I plan to run an article on this on PNG Attitude soonish. There should be a registered PNG Writers Society club or association where writers and aspiring writers register with a small fee to become members and every year we should hold a workshop or conference where like-minded people get to share ideas and present papers. I am not sure if there is already one. This has nothing to do with Crocodile Prize although we may collaborate.