By Iriani Wanma
Some people know early on in life what they’re good at, while others discover what they’re good at later. I’m in this second group.
Arnold Mundua wrote that he didn’t think he could ever become an author. I never planned to be one either; I just knew I liked to write – a joy I discovered as a teenager through the simple act of composing letters to my family and friends.
It’s amazing how one thing leads to another. In 2014, my story Oa the grasshopper & Kaipa the caterpillar, won the Crocodile Prize for children’s writing.
I can recall the moment of disbelief and then uncontrollable excitement when I read Keith’s email informing me I had won.
For me, having my entry included in the Crocodile Prize Anthology that year was an achievement in itself and I was absolutely delighted but to win first prize in the category was definitely the cherry on top.
Then Buk bilong Pikinini decided to publish Oa the grasshopper & Kaipa the caterpillar as a stand-alone storybook. It took two years to publish and it was an unforgettable experience for me – from the first rough drafts of illustrations to seeing the actual book itself, which was launched last month at a book fair at the Murray Barracks Sports Hall in Port Moresby.
I was beside myself with excitement when my copy arrived in the mail. Once more, I was in disbelief as I held the book in my hands. I was so happy I almost cried.
I felt it, hugged it, smelt it, I ran my figures over the illustrations while flipping through the pages. I will be ever grateful to the late Marlon Kuelinad for putting his heart into bringing my characters to life, characters I affectionately refer to as my ‘babies’.
It is unfortunate that Marlon and I never got to meet each other as he passed away a couple of months before the book was launched. I am also immensely grateful to Anne-Sophie Hermann, my editor and the founder of Buk bilong Pikinini, for her effort to have my story published. I also want to thank Andrew Kelly, Donna Rawlings and Neil Conning; people behind the scenes, whom I am yet to meet, who contributed to the making of the book.
My newfound journey as an author has been a fun and nerve-wracking at times. The anxious part came at the launch when I had to do a live reading on stage to a group of children. Likewise with media interviews. I know I will get better with more experience.
Oa Grasshopper & Kaipa Caterpillar
By Iriani Wanma
Winner of the 2014 Award for Writing for Children
ONCE upon a time in a garden there was a little green grasshopper named Oa and a little green caterpillar named Kaipa.
Oa and Kaipa were best friends. Kaipa was much slower than Oa so Oa would always visit Kaipa. Oa and Kaipa lived on an aibika.
Every morning after Oa woke up he would hop over to Kaipa’s leaf and they would eat breakfast together then tell stories. Oa would tell Kaipa about his adventure and Kaipa would listen with great interest.
“You’re so lucky, Oa,” said Kaipa. “I wish I could go on adventures like you. I wish I could see new places like you do.” “Don’t worry, Kaipa,” said Oa. “You keep eating and I’m sure one day you’ll grow legs and wings like mine; and be able to hop and fly like me.”
As the weeks passed, Oa and Kaipa began to change. Oa became big and strong – his legs longer, his jumps higher and his flight better. Kaipa became fatter and much slower. “Oh Oa, I’ve been eating and eating aibika like you told me to but nothing has changed,” cried Kaipa.
He wiggled his legs, “My legs are fat and wobbly and they sure can’t hop… and I have no wings,” complained Kaipa. “What’s the use?! I’ll never be like you!” Kaipa hung his head. He was sad. Oa kept quiet. He didn’t know what to say to his best friend. He walked over to Kaipa and put his arm on his best friend’s back to comfort him.
One morning Oa hopped over to Kaipa’s leaf to have breakfast like he always did. “Kaipa? Kaipa, where are you?” said Oa. “Down here,” said Kaipa. Oa climbed down the stalk to a lower leaf of the aibika and looked up and there was Kaipa – hanging upside down. “Hey Oa,” said Kaipa.
“Why are you upside down, Kaipa?” questioned Oa. “I don’t know. I just felt like hanging upside down lastnight so here I am,” replied Kaipa. “Are you going to come down and have breakfast with me?” asked Oa.
“I’m not hungry but you go ahead and have some aibika,” said Kaipa. Oa munched away at the aibika leaf while Kaipa hung upside down listening to him talk about his adventure yesterday.
The next day Oa came over for breakfast, Kaipa was still fast asleep so he ate breakfast alone not wanting to disturb him. For three days straight Kaipa was asleep when Oa came over in the morning.
On the fourth day he decided to wake Kaipa up. As soon as Oa woke up he made his way over to Kaipa’s leaf. “Psst… Kaipa,” he whispered, not wanting to be rude. But Kaipa didn’t respond so he decided to yell, “Kaipa! Wake Up!” Not a single movement came from Kaipa. He flew up onto Kaipa’s leaf and hopped up and down, “Wake up, wake up, wake up, Kaipa!” But still there was no sound and no movement from his best friend.
Two weeks went by and Oa had stopped going over to see Kaipa. He was very sad that Kaipa didn’t speak to him and they didn’t have breakfast together anymore. He didn’t like his grasshopper friends; he just wanted his best friend, Kaipa, back.
One beautiful sunny morning as Oa opened his eyes he saw a bright yellow butterfly infront of him. “Hey friend,” said the yellow butterfly with a big smile. “Ah! Who are you?! And why are you on my leaf?” shouted Oa, frightened of the butterfly.
“Oa,” said the yellow butterfly as he walked towards him. “It’s me – Kaipa.” “Kaipa?” Oa moved closer to inspect the yellow butterfly. “You look so different.”
Kaipa grinned. “I know. And look, I have wings now, Oa,” said Kaipa joyfully as he flapped his big bright yellow wings. “We can go on adventures together now.”
“Oh Kaipa, I missed you so much!” cried Oa.
The two best friends had breakfast together like they used to but this time on Oa’s leaf. And after breakfast they set off for their very first adventure together.