Far away from the publishing power centres in Mandalay and Yangon and only a three hour drive from the frontline of a malignant civil conflict Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State in the far north of Myanmar is not where you would necessarily expect to find a thriving literary group.
Northern Moon, named so due to their home in the north, was formed by a retired railway official in 1996. The 11 members still meet once a week at the bungalow home of the founder where they talk literature and read from recent pieces. Since 1996, the group has published 38 books, mostly short story collections, novels and history. With no commercial, secular printing press in Myitkyina, or indeed in Kachin State, (the Kachin Baptist Convention’s acclaimed Hanson Press is for religiously connected works only), the group’s books are printed in Yangon, driven to Mandalay then onto Myitkyina by railway.
Northern Moon are known further south for their twice yearly literary talks. Here, famous writers, such as Ma Ju, Nyi Pyu Lay and Ye Shan are flown in from Yangon and will address audiences that can reach over 1000. Often held in a local monastery, the only place in the town that can accommodate so many spectators, the talks are promoted widely, schools are invited, tv channels record them.