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Athabasca University

Christian Writers Association of Melanesia (CWAMEL)

In 1971, the students of Glen Bays formed the Christian Writers Association of Melanesia (CWAMEL), along with individual writers' clubs for union members. Acting on experience with the Christian Writers Association of Africa and the World Association for Christian Communications, Bays directed the establishment of the Association at a December 1971 Creative Training Centre (CTC) course. He had been able to secure a year of funding for it from a church in Arlington Heights, Illinois, so no memberships had to be paid.

The goal of the Association was to keep writers from the different CTC courses in touch with one another. To this end, local writers' clubs were formed, the first one being at Madang Teachers College.

CWAMEL operated as a sort of Christian Literature Bureau. It was meant to publish a "journal containing articles of help and encouragement to writers, maintain a manuscript counselling and placement service, and help in getting educational materials to those studying writing methods at home." The organization was to be ecumenical and open to anyone who "writes, edits or translates religious matter for print, broadcasting or film" (PNGW 8 [1972]: 19).

The journal was called Precept; it was written in English and first appeared in May of 1972. Its name derived from two sources. The first was the four precepts to good writing: simplicity, brevity, sincerity, and originality. The second from its denotation -- right teachings.

The first issue of Precept in 1974 acknowledged the debt Christian writers in PNG owed Glen Bays and pledged not only to continue publishing the journal, but to

assist writers and beginning writers to learn techniques of good writing. Workshops have been planned....a writers library is being organized at the Regional Office of the United Church....we are reprinting articles on basic writing techniques which the staff can send, free....(Precept 1 [1974]: 2-3)

Precept assumed most of its audience were rural teachers and that most were beginners. It also assumed that these teachers would encourage writing among their students. It urged them to obtain the best writing possible as models:

not cheap, exciting-but-worthless romance, cowboy or war stories. Get outstanding literature. Write to librarians -- at your college, the university, the Public Library in the capital city. Ask them to list the 50 or so best short novels, biographies, histories and travel books from the libraries. (5)

The pages of Precept were filled with confessional literature and parables, exempla and patriotic poetry. Yet the journal encouraged translators to write, as well as collect from their students, oral literature: legends, myths, etc. For publication possibilities they were encouraged to contact the Education Department, DIES, or the Literature Bureau (6).

After Glen Bays left the colony in 1973, the United Church took over the whole CWAMEL programme.

Updated October 13 2016 by Library Services