Library For All Australia is committed to encouraging writers to share their diverse cultural stories as part of our growing library of e-books. We will soon be launching our library in Papua New Guinea, so it is crucial that we include stories that mirror the lived experiences of PNG kids.
One way of generating more local stories is to run workshops for writers where they can hone their writing skills and discuss their work with each other. LFA's PNG Content Co-ordinator, Gretel Matawan, facilitated a recent workshop in Port Moresby. Here, she reflects on the successes and challenges of that experience.
Gretel Matawan shares her experiences of the recent workshop held in Port Moresby
The Writer’s Workshop was held on the 13th and the 14th of March 2018 in Port Moresby at the World Vision PNG office. This was a two-day workshop which had been advertised on our Facebook page - Library For All PNG. We had an overwhelming number of people interested in attending the Writers' Workshop, which tells us that we have many potential story writers here in PNG. We had 20 participants confirmed to attend the event. Unfortunately we only had 11 participants attend on Day 1 and 10 participants attend on Day 2. Despite the decrease in number of participants, however, the Writers' Workshop was a success, particularly in regards to getting the participants to understand the level of language needed for elementary readers.
We had participants from many different backgrounds and experiences. We had a few participants that were experienced writers and have had their work published in anthologies and independently. We had a participant that had won the 2017 Cleland Family Heritage Writing Category in the 2017 Crocodile Prize National Literary Competition, Jordan Dean. We also had two participants that were from CIMC, a partner in the Together For Education consortium in which Library For All is also a partner. We had a few stay-at-home mums and dads, too. It was exhilarating for the participants to be a part of such a workshop, and they expressed as much. It was an opportunity for them to expand their writing skills, as well as to understand the different type of readers that we are writing for (that is, the elementary level).
As we all may know, PNG is rich in oral stories, legends, and myths based on beliefs. PNG is a country with a strong culture and customs. The Writers' Workshops serve as a platform of inspiration and stimulus to get participants to contribute stories from each of their different provinces and cultures. Attendees at this Workshop were encouraged to share stories about their different cultural identities, with enthusiastic responses by all participants.
It was very interesting to see the discussions between the small groups where they pieced together points from brainstorming sessions to form story plots. They then went on to create draft storylines. Participants were asked to adhere to the Papua New Guinean context and keep the stories relatable for a PNG child. The stories needed to be simple and easily understandable for a child in the elementary school level. A few participants informed me that the Workshop was an eye-opener for them, as they were used to writing for older readers. They also said that it was fun to be able to interact with others from different provinces and learn about their cultures from listening to their stories.
The “I Am PNG” series template was presented to the participants of the Workshop. I Am PNG stories will become part of a larger LFA book series called "I Am ... Stories From Our Global Village", which shares the similarities and differences of life for children around the world. It was easy to see the growing enthusiasm on our writers' faces as they wrote down their own stories in line with the template. Hearing the descriptions and expressions of the different cultures of the participants was amazing. Participants were encouraged to submit stories after the Workshop via our LFA PNG Facebook Page, following our submission procedures.
All in all, the latest Library For All Writers' Workshop was a great opportunity for those aspiring writers that needed a little push or encouragement in the direction of writing for children. It served as platform for writers to better understand the level of writing and language needed for readers of a much younger age. It was an exciting experience for myself as the facilitator to step into the minds of the different writers and encourage a mutual platform where everyone could feel comfortable to share and adopt ideas for their different story plots and storylines.
Our message to new and emerging writers is that everyone can write a story! You do not have to be a professional writer to be an author. Everyone has a story inside them waiting to be told and written down. LFA wants to develop that potential and encourage the writer in everyone to come out.