an interview with Roberta Tonar
POETRY | A Collection of Poems by Robert Tonar, 2021 | SIMBU
With the theme 'Experience of Independence', Writers Exhibiton PNG46 by Hibiscus Three saw Papua New Guinea's 45th Independence Day celebrated online, hosted by the independent publisher's website.
Heeding Ignatius Kilage's clarion within the foreword of 'My Mother Calls Me Yaltep', Hibiscus Three invited Papua New Guinean writers from in-country and abroad, to submit original writing so that their words could be read, considered and appreciated by other Papua New Guineans. To do so on 16 September, Papua New Guinea's Independence Day, seemed only fitting.
The work of ten (10) writers were featured in the two-day online exhibition, where visitors to the website had an opportunity to reflect on the early contributors to literature of Papua New Guinea; many of whom have an impact on today's generation of emerging and established writers and their showcased writing.
With the inaugural exhibition now concluded, Hibiscus Three shares conversations had with the PNG writers featured, allowing an opportunity for exhibition visitors to learn more about the writer behind the prose. For this post, Writers Exhibition PNG46 featured writer, Roberta Tonar, shares with us:
Hibiscus Three: Can you remember the moment you knew that you would pursue, and share your creative writing with others?
Roberta Tonar: Truthfully, I was very hesitant to share my work on a public platform. I often write my stories and post it on my Whatsapp statuses. I had a very small group of people (mainly friends and family) that would read my pieces and comment. A close friend of mine suggested that I should share my pieces on Instagram and encouraged me to do so. I later on posted a few of my pieces on my Instagram stories and I was surprised with the amount of feedback that I received from my followers. From reading the encouraging words that my followers said and the support that they had of my writing really gave me the extra push in sharing my creative writing with others.
HT: What do you write about, and what are the common reactions you’ve had from readers?
RT: I mostly write poetry and short stories. For poetry I tend to write about tragic loses, dark romance and many more. Honestly, I don’t stick to a certain kind/ type of genre regarding poetry. I write anything that comes to mind. It is the same with my short stories as well, I gain inspiration from anything that captures my eyes and attention. Most of the short stories that I write are leaned towards Children’s literature. A lot of my readers have complimented the style and uniqueness of my writing, especially those that enjoy my poetry.
HT: What piece of writing of yours are you most proud of, and can you briefly outline its message and its significance to you?
RT: I am currently working on a Children’s Novel titled Mangruwai and I am very proud of how it is coming along. I can’t give away too much information about the book but it’s about a young boy who lives in Simbu with his family during the year 1960, the book talks about how this young boy’s life and his views on how his culture and community is changing due to colonial influencers. It’s significant to me because the main character of the book is inspired by my late grandfather, Bubu Frank and my father. Their stories of how they grew up has always played a significant role in my life.
HT: If you had to sustain your creativity with only 3 books for the rest of your life, what would these books be?
RT: The Rainmaker by James Peterson, Lord of the flies by William Golding and The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe.
HT: What is the one thing you can’t do without when going to write?
RT: I love coffee and I can never go without it especially when I’m writing. A nice big cup of coffee definitely helps me to write better.
HT: Encouraging a thriving literary culture of writers and readers in Papua New Guinea – what does this look like to you?
RT: With time it can be achievable. I was a former literature student at the University of Papua New Guinea and my lecturers have always emphasized on the importance of having an active reading culture in Papua New Guinea. It does not only benefit the reader but also those that have the ability to write, it gives them a platform to voice out their thoughts and words. Hopefully with platforms like Hibiscus Three, The Crocodile prize etcetera it can allow many writers to share their work and encourage more people to read. Having an active reading culture can increase the nation’s literary rate greatly which is also a key factor for development.
HT: What is the one thing you haven’t written yet that you’d like to eventually get to, and what inspires you to keep this as a goal?
RT: I would like to write a Trilogy about Gods, Witches, war and the dark arts. I have certain drafts for the story and it has been read by my friends and family members. I have received positive feedback. My mum and followers have motivated me to pursue my passion in writing and if it wasn’t for them I don’t think I would’ve been able to take a leap and submit my entries on sites like hibiscusthree or share my stories on my social media accounts. They inspire me to keep on writing.
Hibiscus Three: Where can readers find your writing?
RT: You can find my writings on my Instagram story highlights, my username is _apai98_. I share my writings mostly on my instagram account.
Thank you for the inspiring conversation, Roberta. Hibiscus Three encourages readers to follow @_apai98_ Instagram highlights to follow writing by Roberta.
Stay connected with the Hibiscus Blog in the coming days to meet more of the featured writers of our recent online event, Writers Exhibition PNG46.
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