So, you want to write for children? Some tips for newbie writers.

1960022_10152010259691045_1946113946_nMar152014_7477Especially for Prof. Hazelle Preclaro Ongtengco’s EDR 121 class.

Write for a specific child. She may or may not be real, but it helps to fix this child in your mind as you write your story. What makes her happy? What makes her sad? What scares her? What are her dreams? Knowing the answers to these questions provides us with a clue as to which details we need to include as we flesh out our story. The Devil is in the details, as they say. They spell the difference between a blah story and one that will resonate with the reader. Talking to a specific child, you also learn to eliminate details which are unnecessary. Sometimes writers cull details from their lives, and most of the time, these details from personal reminiscences which are so meaningful to the writer are totally useless or irrelevant to the reader. Some writers try to get around the problem by writing footnotes which explain details in the story, but unless it is a biographical or historical story which allude to certain events, writers will do better to avoid bothersome footnotes.

Fixing the age of your target reader helps you decide the storytelling style, as well as the diction. Stories for preschoolers hardly have plots.  Because they are read to or are just beginning to read, the vocabulary and syntax are simple. Middle readers, on the other hand, are more sophisticated readers and look at reading as an adventure, and enjoy thicker, more complicated plots.

The child in you is always the best audience. It’s the child you know best; you know her even better than your own child.

Help your reader along. When you decide to write for children, you take on a huge responsibility. Inevitably, your stories will help shape your readers’ view of the world. Take it upon yourself to teach, explain and enlighten–but the challenge is how to do these creatively, and without talking down to your audience. Incorporate your explanation as naturally, for instance, in your descriptions, or in your character’s moment of insight.

Avoid ambiguity in your writing. All too often, clarity gets sacrificed for the sake of style. Always strive to be clear first, before being clever.

Show, don’t tell. When writing picture books, bear in mind that the book is also visual, so you don’t really need detailed descriptions. The less words, the better for picture books. When you’re writing for older readers, remember that you can always employ dialogue to advance the plot. Do not make your story too cut-up-and-dried by narrating and explaining everything to your reader–unless, of course, you want to make for a boring read. Always engage your reader.

Avoid mentioning real people, company or brand names. Instead, make up names that evoke similar associations in the reader, especially if the specific name is central to the plot. Using made-up names helps you avoid the problematic issue of inadvertently defaming real people or organizations.

Make sure your main character undergoes a transformation. To make your story a worthwhile read, your main character should always be a different person by the end of your story. It helps if you know more about your character than you will actually use in the story. The amount or quality of transformation your character goes through also depends on the age of your target reader. For younger readers, needless to say, the character is transformed by as little as a change of opinion about a certain thing. For instance, a character who is scared to go to the doctor at the beginning of a story might conclude, by the end, that a visit to the doctor is not so bad after all.

 

Featured Writer: Karen Patricia M. Reyes

Last March 15, I was invited by Prof. Hazelle Preclaro Ongtengco to be guest lecturer at her EDR 121 class at the UP College of Education. Rather than talk about the process of writing, I made the students experience the process themselves by giving them what was supposed to be a 30-minute writing exercise. (Some of the students asked that they be allowed to take home their stories so they can polish them.) I wanted to prove to the kids that it is possible to think up and write a story in as little as 30 minutes.

I am featuring one of those stories. I found this story by Karen Patricia M. Reyes very charming and engaging–a heady, exhilarating magical ride back to childhood.

madyik sofa illus

Illustrated by May Tobias Papa

Pagkagising ko, bumangon ako kaagad. Dali-dali akong tumakbo papunta sa kuwarto ni Kyle, ang nakababata kong kapatid. Agad kong hinila ang kamay niya at sumigaw nang, “Uy, gumising ka na! Laro na tayo!”. Bumuka yung mata niya pero pumikit ulit. Hinila ko ulit yung kamay niya sabay sigaw nang, “Uy, gumising ka na sabi, eh! Mauubusan tayo ng oras niyan.” Sa wakas ay bumangon na rin si Kyle at sabay kaming bumaba ng hagdan.

May dalawang mahahabang sofa sa aming sala. Yung malapit sa salamin ang kanya at yung mas malapit naman sa pinto yung akin. Agad naming tinanggal ang 2 kutson ng aming sofa at iniligay ang mga ito sa gilid ng sofa para magsilbing mga pinto ng aming sasakyan.

“Ay, nakalimutan natin yung kambyo!”, sabi ko kay Kyle. Agad siyang umakyat para kunin ang dalawang pahabang alkansya na gagamitin naming kambyo. Ang mga unan naman ng sofa ang nagsilbing manibela namin.

“Saan ka pupunta ngayon, ate?”, tanong ni Kyle.

“Hmm… Baguio, siguro.”

“Dala ka ng jacket kasi malamig doon,” muling wika ni Kyle.

“Ah, tama!”, sabi ko naman bago tumakbo paakyat upang kunin ang jacket ko sa aparador. “Eh, ikaw?”, tanong ko naman kay Kyle pagkababa ko.

“Sa ibang planeta. Pero isasama ko sina Dinosaur at Elephant sa pagpunta,” sagot naman niya. Umakyat muli si Kyle upang kunin ang mga laruan niyang isasama niya sa paglalakbay pero bago siya makalayo ay sumigaw ako nang, “Kunin mo na rin si Bear para maisama ko sa Baguio!”.

Nang handa na ang lahat ay bigla naman kaming tinawag ni Yaya Yolly para kumain ng almusal, “Kakain na. Mamaya na ang laro.” Kaya naman iniwan muna namin sina Dinosaur, Elephant, at Bear sa aming mga sasakyan upang kumain ng almusal.

Pagkakain namin, dumiretso kami sa aming mga sasakyan. Nagpunta kami ni Bear sa Baguio at binaba ko ang mga bintana para makapasok ang malamig na hangin. Sina Kyle, Dinosaur, at Elephant naman ay tumungo na sa ibang planeta. Pagkaraan ng ilang minuto ay nainip na ako sa Baguio. “Parang masaya doon sa ibang planeta ah. Lagi nalang kasi akong pumupunta dito sa Baguio. Eh kung sumama nalang kaya tayo kina Kyle?” tanong ko kay Bear. “Kyle, sunduin niyo naman kami dito! Naiinip na kami sa Baguio, eh”, sigaw ko kay Kyle.

“Ang hilig mo kasing pumunta diyan, eh,” sagot ni Kyle habang tumatawa. Nang lumipat kami ni bear sa sasakyan ni Kyle ay tawa kaming nang tawa dahil ang sikip na sa loob. “Ang dami kasi natin eh,” dagdag ni Kyle.

Tumuloy na kami sa paglalakbay at tumigil sa isang berdeng planeta. Bumaba kami ng sasakyan upang mag-ikot. Bigla naman kaming sinalubong ng mga alien na kamukha ng isang karakter sa isang TV cartoon. Nakipagkilala kami sa kanila at nakipaglaro pagkatapos. Habang naglalaro kami ay tinawag muli kami ni Yaya Yolly para naman kumain ng tanghalian kaya naman nagpaalam muna kami sa aming mga bagong kaibigan. Inimbitahan rin namin silang bumisita sa aming planeta sakaling magka-oras man sila. Sumakay na ulit kami sa sasakyan at naglakbay pabalik ng aming planeta upang kumain.

Pagkatapos kumain ay bumalik kami sa aming sasakyan. “Naku, Ate, wala na tayong gas,” sabi ni Kyle.

“Doon nalang tayo sa sasakyan ko,” sagot ko naman sa kanya. Kasama sina Dinosaur, Elephant, at Bear, lumipat kami sa aking sasakyan.

“Saan naman tayo pupunta ngayon?”, tanong ni Kyle.

“Umikot-ikot nalang tayo sa kalawakan para pagmasdan yung mga bituin,” sagot ko sa kanya. “O sige, pero magbabaon lang ako ng Krunchees para kapag nagutom tayo doon. ”Pagkakuha niya ng baon ay ipinaandar ko na ang sasakyan patungo sa kalawakan.

“Ate, o, mukhang aso yung mga bituin!” wika ni Kyle.

“Yung isa naman mukhang kamay”, sabi ko sabay turo sa isang parte ng sala. Nang wala na kaming magawa ay kumanta nalang kami ng mga kantang itinuturo sa amin sa paaralan. Nahiga kami hanggang tuluyang nakatulog sa aming sasakyan.

Pagkagising namin ay napansin kong medyo dumidilim na sa labas. Kinain muna namin ang baong Krunchees bago maglakbay muli pauwi. Nadaanan namin ang planetang berde pauwi at nakita kong kumakaway sa amin ang mga kaibigan namin doon. “Kyle, nag-bababay sa atin yung mga alien, o!”, wika ko.

Binuksan ni Kyle ang bintana at kumaway pabalik sabay sigaw ng, “Babalik kami bukas. Hintayin ninyo kami!”. Pagkarating namin sa bahay ay bumaba na kami ulit sa sasakyan at nakipaglaro pa kina Dinosaur, Elephant, at Bear. Maya-maya ay lumabas ulit si Yaya Yolly mula sa kusina upang tawagin kami para maghapunan.

“Tara na, Kyle. Ayusin na natin sa dati yung mga sofa kasi parating na sina Mama,” sabi ko kay Kyle. Ibinalik na namin ang mga kutson at unan sa dati nilang kinalalagyan sa mga sofa. Ibinalik na rin namin ang alkansya at mga laruan sa kwarto. Bumaba kami muli upang kumain ng hapunan. Habang kumakain ay nagkwentuhan pa kami ni Kyle tungkol sa mga lugar na napuntahan namin at sa mga kaibigang nakilala namin.

“Ate, punta ulit tayo doon bukas, ha?” sabi ni Kyle.

“Oo naman!”, sagot ko.

Adarna House’s “A Christmas Treat for Readers Year 2″

Guess what, Adarna House’s Christmas Sale already begins this Friday, November 15!

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But Adarna House wants you to block off December 7, Saturday, from 2:00 to 5:00 PM, for a special meet-and-greet with the authors and illustrators of Adarna House. Chat with them and have your books signed by them over complimentary snacks and refreshments. Be among the first 100 to arrive, and receive a copy of this special edition Ang Pambihirang Buhok ni Raquel notebook!

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Check out the Adarna House Blog for a full list of all the authors and illustrators you’ll see on December 7.  See you there!

 

A review for “A Day in the Market (Araw sa Palengke)” at Digital Storytime!

scaled_MarketDay

 

Published in print in 2008 by May Tobias-Papa, A Day in the Market won the Philippine’s National Children’s Book Award for Best Reads in 2010. As a digital app, it has light animation and some nicely tailored interactivity. There are also a couple simple games that tie into this charming narrative, exploring a traditional market in Southeast Asia. The story is told in the first person by a young Filipino girl who is excited to travel with her ‘nanay’ (Filipino for mommy/mummy) on Market Day. The pair rides a bus that bounces along before exploring the crowded stalls of fresh meats, fish and produce.

Beautifully illustrated pages and a lovingly crafted narrative expose young readers, ages 5 and up, to the sights and sounds of a busy marketplace. The excitement and bustle of the day are fun to explore from the child’s vantage point. The games could be more educational with a bit more development of the theme of cooking and traditional Filipino foods, but they are certainly engaging to the target audience. It would also be nice to see highlighting added with the narration, along with hints to explain the interactive touch-points.

Read Carisa Kluver’s whole review here.

 

Rommel Joson draws out his inner child.

Rommel has been drawing ever since he could remember–he even got a Dean’s Award for Visual Arts back in college–but it took some time before he finally went into the business of illustration.

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Armed with his Business Management degree from Ateneo de Manila, he got a job as an advertising account executive in an ad agency. A couple of years in the ad business made him realize that he really wanted to be in the creative field,  so he went back to school, this time at the University of the Philippines, to work toward a degree in Fine Arts. Turns out that drawing really was his first love, and it wasn’t unrequited at all. He finished with magna cum laude honors.

After that, he promptly went back to advertising, this time as a creative. But then he found out after a couple of more years that he felt more passionately about other things aside from advertising, so he quit advertising all over again to focus more on drawing and painting.

Rommel has gotten some recognition for his advertising and design work–a silver and a bronze in the Philippine Araw Awards and a silver from the 1st Adobo Design Awards–but he says that the awards he got from painting and illustration are the things that bring him the most satisfaction.

In painting, Rommel placed third in the Oil/Acrylic Category of the Shell National Art Competition and finished as a semi-finalist at the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence Competition. In comics, Rommel won third place at the Neil Gaiman-Fully Booked Graphic Competition. He was included in Rogue Magazine’s feature on Top 16 Filipino Illustrators way back in 2007. For his work as an illustrator for children, he snagged a couple of honorable mentions at the PBBY-Alcala Prize.

MTP:  How do you keep busy every day?  Is illustrating a full-time job?

ROMMEL JOSON:  

I only started to seriously illustrate children’s books two years ago. So far, I have six books under my belt with three more on the way this year (2013).

I do it part-time though.  I work three times a week at Studio Dialogo (http://dialogo.co) as a designer/illustrator. We do design for print and web. Currently, we’ve been doing a lot of annual reports, calendars and identity design for a variety of clients.

The rest of the week, I devote to my personal projects such as painting and children’s book illustration. I currently wrapped up a two-man show with Sergio Bumatay III. Aside from book illustration, gallery work will be something I’ll be getting into more in the coming months.

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MTP: Why do you illustrate for kids? What’s in it for you?

I wish I could give some profound meaning to why I illustrate for children. I’ve thought about this many times before but never could get at a satisfactory answer. I don’t think “enjoyment” is quite the word I’d use. Maybe it gives me satisfaction. I think I draw to satisfy the child in me.

I grew up reading comics and children’s books and over the years I’ve come to admire a lot of people involved in making these things. I think there comes a point in a fan’s life where reading and enjoying the content isn’t enough anymore and you just want to make stuff yourself and be part of that whole tradition of making stuff up that people can enjoy. Then you realize that maybe you have a knack for it and just keep on doing it because other people seem to enjoy the work that you do. Then, maybe that’s when you decide that “hey, I’ll just keep on doing this”.

MTP:  Thank you for making time for my blog, Rommel!

See samples of Rommel’s wonderful illustrations here.

We’re in for a treat. Rommel takes us on a privileged tour of his wonderful studio.

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Rommel: Over a year ago, I decided that I had to have a legitimate workspace for my art projects as well as proper spaces for the books that had grown like shaky towers inside my room. So I sequestered an unused space in the house, had shelves made and bought a big, sturdy table. 

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My table that can fit two to three people working at the same time. This is where I do my digital work as well as small painting projects. For large-scale paintings, I have an easel where I can prop up my canvases.

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I also have a drafting table with a lightbox for projects that require some tracing.

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My studio is my favorite part of the house because I love looking at my books all lined up on the wall.

 
 
 

“No, the thing is, we all love storytelling, and as a writer you get to tell stories all the time.”–Joyce Carol Oates

downloadable reading girl

This is my original artwork. Please feel free to download or print for personal use, but please do not remove my URL. You may not use this image for commercial purposes; you may not sell or pass it off as your own. Thanks!

A star from Kirkus!

Kirkus Star

This morning I woke up to wonderful news on my Facebook wall.  My publisher Adarna House tagged the developer (Agno Almario), the illustrator (Isabel Roxas) and me in a most incredible status update: our “Araw sa Palengke” app just got a starred review from Kirkus!

From the Kirkus review:
“Based on an award-winning picture book from the Philippines, this charming app brings the sights, smells and tastes of a traditional Filipino market to a wide audience.”

Read the rest of the review here.

araw front cover

If you haven’t downloaded it yet, get your free app here.

Even before I published my first book with Adarna House back in 1995, I had stories from childhood I kept in my mind and heart, and I wondered what good they were for, apart from telling them someday to my children and hopefully, my grandchildren. And “Araw sa Palengke” was one of those stories, which my publisher, Ms. Ani Almario of Adarna House, happily allowed me to share with the rest of the world. My eternal wholehearted thanks to Ani and Adarna House for the wonderful privilege. My gratitude as well to Isabel Roxas for the amazing and super charming illustrations, and to Agno Almario for bringing the book to digital life.

Manila Art in the Park 2013

photo-16Lately, I haven’t been writing much. So I’ve been doodling a lot.
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Shared booth space with incredible artists Kora Dandan Albano, Jimbo Albano, Beth Parrocha-Doctolero, Ferdinand Doctolero, Bernadette Wolf, Patsy Alejandro-Paterno, and Lito Yonzon, at the 2013 Art in the Park last Saturday, March 16.

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It was scorching hot all morning. Then, as the art fair opened, it rained!

Here were my artworks featured at the Sheerjoy booth.YollyBeverlyHyacinthBea Violet and Reg Tessa and Tina Lila

When I was little.

Hula girl with drawin

Found the oldest entry in my portfolio, which I must have drawn when I was only 3. I still remember the title I gave this drawing, it’s “Crying Princess”. My mom included it in my baby album. I made it after watching a Nora Aunor (notice the mole) movie where she was a princess. The other pics on this page are gone, save for this pic of me in a hula skirt taken when I was one year and three months old.