THOSE ASPIRING WRITERS who have already checked out the information for the 2014 Crocodile Prize will have noticed a couple of changes in the various categories for which prizes will be offered.
They will have noticed that the prizes for both women’s writing and student writing have been dropped and a new category for a full-length published book has been added.
With respect to the women’s prize, which was offered in 2012 and 2013, it has become abundantly clear to the organisers and judges that female writers in Papua New Guinea are more than capable of holding their own against their male counterparts. In fact, they are outclassing them!
In the 2012 competition, for instance, women took out five of the total number of six categories in which prizes were offered.
It seems that within the field of writing, unlike many other aspects of life in Papua New Guinea, women are very definitely not second class citizens and don’t need special privileges, thank you very much.
The reason for dropping the student prize is slightly more complex. In essence it is because of the realisation that adult and student writing is not easily mixed, especially in something like an anthology.
Many of the entries are very much adult-only material and to publish this in one volume, along with student writing, which the students will naturally want to read, creates problems.
Another reason is the age range of the student entries. This ranges from sub-teen children to ‘children’ still in high school who are often 18 years and older. With only one prize on offer the older entrants have a distinct advantage.
The winner of the 2012 student prize, although in her teens, wrote a short story about the rape of a minor by a relative. If we hadn’t known better we would have assumed that the writer was an adult. To attempt comparing a story like that to something written by even the most talented sub-teen is extremely difficult.
Clearly, any competition for student writing needs to be divided into both subject and age categories. However, the complexities that this introduces don’t sit well with the present format of the Crocodile Prize.
We are not currently in a position to run a separate student competition and, on this basis, we have decided to put student writing on hold for the 2014 competition while we work out a better way of dealing with it. Suggestions are welcomed.
The new category of a book prize, be it fiction or non-fiction, may come as a surprise to some people. Many will think that Papua New Guinea doesn’t produce enough published books to make such a category viable.
This may very well be true. What we are doing here is testing the water – throwing a hook in the pond to see if anything bites.
We know that two of the Crocodile Prize winners this year have recently published books. We also know that another of PNG Attitude’s most prolific writers has a book in the final stages before release.
Paulius Matane has produced another book this year and the Pacific Adventist University has begun publishing a series of monographs.
We have heard rumours that UPNG is purchasing a print-on-demand machine and might soon start publishing. So there is a small but steady stream of Papua New Guinean writers being published. These books emanating from PNG need more profile and that’s what we’ll give them. The book prize in 2014 is the bait to lure them into the open.
We think that, if there is a prize on offer, including the prestige and sales enhancement it brings, those people undecided and on the verge of publishing might be pushed over the edge and actually do it.
If that happens and we get a reasonable field of entries and nominations we could be on the verge of Papua New Guinea having its own version of the Booker Prize. Wouldn’t that be something?
A direct finger to both the Papua New Guinea and Australian governments who have pointedly ignored support for the Crocodile Prize for the last three years.
And wouldn’t it say something about the state of literature in Papua New Guinea? It has to happen sooner or later and we reckon sooner is better than later.