ONE of the things I took away from the Buk bilong Pikinini authors’ seminar earlier in May was the excitement generated during its three days in Port Moresby.
I particularly enjoyed using the brush and water colour to paint an object representing a letter of alphabet.
The illustrations were later arranged into alphabetical order. Then a camera image of the paintings was captured and transferred to computer.
Alyson Lester, award-winning Australian illustrator and writer, gave the participants a quick tutorial on how to illustrate children’s books.
She showed us how to do amazing things with illustrations to capture the reading audience in the target group of five to seven years olds.
On the second day an alphabet book was produced using the illustrations we made. It was a wonderful and enriching experience.
The Buk bilong Pikinini organisation must be congratulated for initiating the writing for children authors’ seminar held in the Paddy’s Bar at Boroko.
Linda O’Neill, the prime minister’s wife, provided the venue.
Australian author Drusilla Modjeska, writer-illustrator Alyson Lester, book publisher and photographer Andrew Kelly, publisher of Birdwing books Russell Jackson, founder and publisher of Stella magazine Amanda Donigi, and I informed the participants about what we do as writers, illustrators, editors, and publishers.
Andrew Kelly shared the experience of working with photographs to develop children’s stories. He also shared critical information about book publishing and the importance, as a writer, of working with editors and publishers.
Buk bilong Pikinini was set up to encourage a reading culture in Papua New Guinea. To get there the organisation set up libraries in strategic locations in city and country.
Buk bilong Pikinini programs are free to all children below school age. The organisation has since set up several libraries with the support of corporate sponsors and private individuals in PNG and Australia.
Buk bilong Pikinini has a centrer at UPNG, Port Moresby General Hospital, Lawes Road, Six Mile, Nine Mile and at the Hohola Special Education Centre.
It also has established libraries in Lae, Goroka, and Alotau.
The organisation itself is also driven with incredible personal motivation and enthusiasm by founder Ann-Sophie Hermann and support staff like Elizabeth Omeri.
It is an organisation going from strength to strength to reduce the gap between literacy and illiteracy in PNG.
The Port Moresby seminar was a learning experience for most of us.
Russell Jackson, publisher of Birdwing books, introduced his company and what it publishes. It was inspirational to many would-be children’s writers that Birdwing Publishing is a PNG company. A number of books that Papua New Guineans have written are now published and circulated in PNG schools.
Amanda Donigi, founder and publisher of Stella magazine, shared her experiences in finding a niche in the magazine publishing industry in PNG. She began with hardly any knowledge of the business or money.
She knocked on people’s doors to get them to advertise in Stella magazine, and later recruited agents to sell it. Now Stella includes contributions not only from PNG but from Pacific Islands such as Solomons, Fiji and Tonga.
The three-day Buk bilong Pikinini writers’ seminar had participants praising the organisers. It was clear that the organisation is receiving overwhelming support from the Australian government, business and private individuals.
Thank you also to Linda O’Neill and prime minister Peter O’Neill for providing the venue for the seminar.
Ann-Sophie Hermann works out of her Canberra office and communicates with teachers and support staff in Papua New Guinea. She has committed herself to seeing her baby organisation develop into one that can walk the distance.
In the short time it has existed, Buk bilong Pikinini has done incredible things. Elizabeth Omeri the Buk bilong Pikinini Literacy Manager and her teachers deserve praise and congratulations for staging an historical seminar.
The seminar has been a plus in my life as a writer, editor, educator, and publisher.
This was highlighted in our visit to the Koki Buk bilong Pikinini library where the children read, sang and shared their experiences with us.
We also read our stories to them and assessed our own abilities to write the books for children. It was an incredible experience.
It is hoped the many teachers, librarians, writers, illustrators, and others who attended the seminar will write many books for PNG children. It is time for Papua New Guineans to become children’s book writers, illustrators, and publishers.
Buk bilong Pikinini sponsors the Writing for Children Award in the Crocodile Prize national literary contest