Grace Chong went to the University of the Philippines for her AB Speech and Drama. While there, she was a a DJ at DZUP and a staff member of the Philippine Collegian. Then she went to the U.S. to take up Mass Communications at Columbia College and after that, her MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Grace first worked at JWT as copywriter and then she moved on to Dentsu-Young and Rubicam (DYR), then to Adamson and Adamson as Marketing Services Manager, then back to DYR, till she retired from advertising completely.
Grace says she retired to do “new things”, which are basically writing, part-time teaching (“to finance and inspire the writing”), and part-time consulting (“to never forget advertising”).
Grace had no training whatsoever in writing. It was, to her, “just a childhood passion carried on through adulthood.” In all, Grace has won five Palancas, and her books have been finalists at the National Book Awards, Gintong Aklat Awards and Catholic Mass Media Awards.
Grace has three sons. One is a software designer/engineer who runs their family business (a school for medical transcription), one is a physician in the US, and one is a lawyer. She has a four-year-old grandson, “courtesy of the physician,” she quips.
MTP: I am sure that although we all make picture books, our reasons for doing so are as varied and as interesting as our stories. Why do you write for kids? What’s in it for you?
GRACE CHONG: After leaving advertising in the year 2000, I didn’t really set out to be an author. But a year before that, two young copywriters (knowing I love to write) encouraged me to join the Palanca. So I did with a piece entitled “The Boy who Had Five Lolas” (Bookmark, 2001) and I was surprised to win first prize. I thought then, maybe there IS life after advertising. I was privileged to have Bookmark publish it with you as the illustrator! (Remember that very first meeting in a coffee shop? Talking about the pictures to go with the words was a different kind of high.) You might say, I was bitten by the writing bug and never looked back.
Three reasons. Maybe it’s a guilt trip? I was too busy working that I never, ever, got a chance to read a book to my three sons when they were growing up. By writing, I am reading those stories to them through other young mothers who buy my books for their children. Or maybe as a mom I want to partner with teachers and young moms in inculcating good values to children? Or maybe I am writing for the child in me who loved listening to stories by my grandmother and reading children’s books sent by my uncle from the US.
MTP: Thank you so much for making time for my blog, Grace. It’s so wonderful catching up with you, after all these years.
Grace gets invited to do book talks in various parts of the Philippines. She has also conducted workshops on writing for children in Cambodia, Hong Kong and Thailand. She further fills her very busy schedule with her duties as one of five advisers of Compassion International, Inc. and as a trainor for Media Associates International where she trains “would-be writers in hard countries in Asia.”
Grace blogs every four days although she goes online daily on Facebook (“but is having difficulty with the new look and uploads”). “I have just finished a book on, hold you breath—retirement!” Grace says. “Not that I consider myself retired. I am busier now than I ever was. Happier, too.”
(Above) The best-selling “Oh, Mateo!” series from OMF Literature Inc.