“At times the participants were so involved in writing their stories, they didn’t want to stop to eat lunch!”
This testimony from language worker Julie MacKay communicates the enthusiasm and commitment of Teop speakers at the Writers Workshop held in the Tinputz District of North Bougainville.
The group began the workshop by making some critical decisions about their writing system. After they came to an agreement on how to write silent vowels and where to place word breaks, they developed a spelling guide that would not only help them be consistent in writing their stories, but would also serve as a guide for local translators.
Once this foundation was established, the team launched into writing. Their goal was to write stories and publish books in order to expand the limited supply of reading material available to emergent Teop readers. They adapted some stories that had been written by others and created stories of their own. By the end of the week, 24 book titles were drafted, typed, edited and formatted.
The books covered a range of topics. Some were fiction stories for young readers, such as “I’m Bigger” and “Lizard and Wild Dog.” Another genre, stories from the New Testament, included titles such as “The Greedy Rich Fool” and “Jairus and His Daughter.” Others, including “Drying Mangos” and “Avoiding AIDS,” were instructional in nature.
Not only were they preparing reading materials for others, but the participants themselves became better readers through the workshop. Several mornings they all read aloud in unison a chapter of Mark in Teop. At first, the reading was a bit awkward because “their mouths were heavy” and sometimes they would break out laughing at their reading mistakes. But they improved as they practiced reading aloud in a group, and several of them used their free time to read independently.
Two elementary teachers and several writers from the workshop returned after the sessions officially ended to outline phonics primer lessons and type up more stories. Julie and other facilitators are hopeful that this is just the beginning of the creation of a miniature library of books in the Teop language.