Saturday, September 27, 2014

10 Tips on How to Raise an Author or Illustrator

I have shared in my previous post that our family attended workshops during the recent Manila International Book Fair. One of the workshops we attended was conducted by Zarah Gagatiga, a children's book author. I initially thought that the workshop was for adults but we found out on the day itself that it's for kids. Still, we were glad we went to attend it with our eldest son.

As I've mentioned in my previous post, the workshop became a one-on-one activity between the author and my eldest son because the other kids who bought copies of her books left right away. We, however, lingered even after we had our copy signed.

I think it was a blessing in disguise that I made a mistake and thought that the workshop was for adults and that the workshop became a one-on-one activity. I eventually discovered that the activity had a big impact on my son. But before I go ahead and tell you why, let me share what Yanthy and Zarah did during the workshop.

First, Zarah showed him some slides when she was younger and she showed him some picture/illustrated books as part of her presentation.

Then, she taught him the basic elements in writing a story: the beginning, middle and the end.
My 5-year-old pondering on what story he would write.

After that, she gave my boy a bond paper, a pencil and some coloring materials. She folded the paper and wrote page numbers on it. She also wrote on the 'book cover.' She explained to Yanthy that the 3 pages would be the beginning, middle and end of his story.
Then, she asked Yanthy what he wants his story about.

The story that Yanthy thought of that morning was about their toy dog. He shared his idea with Zarah and she in turn encouraged Yanthy to draw/illustrate his ideas. She also helped him out in illustrating his thoughts. After sketching/drawing on his 'book,' Yanthy colored it with crayons. 

Yanthy obviously enjoying the activity. Mateo looks on.
After the activity and after I found out that there is an adult version of the Children's Book Writing Workshop in the meeting room upstairs that afternoon, my husband and I decided to make time for that workshop. We went there right after the storytelling and book signing activity of another children's book that my kids like.

Zarah Gagatiga's turn to speak.

There were three (3) speakers for the workshop but we got there late so we were able to listen to only two (2) speakers. The speakers were also children's book authors. The third one was Zarah Gagatiga, children's book author, school librarian, storyteller and President of KUTING or Kuwentista ng mga Tsikiting.

The 3 speakers during the workshop.
I thought that it was only me and my husband who learned and were inspired by the workshop. The second speaker (Eugene Evasco) spoke mainly in Filipino and some or many of the words he used were too deep that my husband and I had difficulty understanding some of the materials discussed. My husband even joked days after the workshop that there should have been an English subtitle in his slides. Still, his presentation was so rich that we were very grateful that we attended the workshop. My sons kept reading the new books we bought at the fair (downstairs) during the workshop. Sometimes, they would look at the screen and the speakers. I did not think that he and his younger brother were really paying attention because the speaker was speaking in Filipino that is quite challenging to understand.

Below are some of the slides used in the workshop by the second speaker.

We went back to the book fair right after the workshop.

Yanthy's book cover.
The following day, my son got a piece of bond paper again and he had it folded in the same way that Zarah folded it for him. He also wrote page numbers on the three pages. He said that he will write a new book. I was pleasantly surprised!

I observed him and engaged him in conversation.

Since it has been raining in the past days and the news was about floods, Yanthy thought of writing a book about the rain and flood. I interviewed him about what he plans to write in his new book.

I noticed that he was working confidently on this project. I think the one-on-one workshop served him well. He was imitating the steps that they did. He also got some of our new books and looked at the front covers. He used them as his guide or reference for his book cover. He said that he wanted to be an author and at the same time illustrator like Kuya Jomike Tejido. Jomike Tejido is the children's book author and illustrator of Jepoy the Jeepney Series whom we met at the book fair. We also learned in the workshop that we attended that he has already illustrated many books. The second speaker showed some of the books he has illustrated. I discovered that Yanthy was paying attention to the presentation/talk also because of his comments while he was working on his latest book. I was also amazed that he noticed that the book authored by Zarah Gagatiga (My Daddy! My One and Only!) was also illustrated by Jomike Tejido. I missed that detail but my boy took note of that. He even reminded me and showed me the book so I would remember.

Yanthy's latest story.
Yanthy finished his new book and proudly showed it to me and his Dad. We took pictures of it. Then, when my mom came to visit us days later, my son proudly showed 'his books' to her, telling her that he authored and illustrated those books.

Let me now share some tips that I have learned so far from my own personal experience as an author and as mom of this aspiring author and illustrator.

1. A future author usually starts as a book lover or an avid reader. I think this is the first thing that usually happens. A child falls in love with books first and learns to appreciate the illustrations in the books that he/she reads.

2. Parents can help develop this love for books and reading in young children even at an early age by providing for them an environment where books are easily accessible. 

3. Let your child's imagination soar through pretend and unstructured play and storytelling activities. I spent a lot of time imagining and daydreaming when I was a child. I wove many stories in my spare time. I used my journals or my toys as I wove these stories. I see this happening in my child as well. He makes his own stories as he plays pretend on his own or with his younger brother. I actually enjoy listening to him as he plays and tells his stories. You'll learn a lot about how your child thinks and processes information by simply listening to his stories.

4. Make papers, pencils, crayons and other drawing and coloring materials accessible also for your kids. Let them doodle and draw to their heart's content. My son and I both grew up having writing, drawing and coloring materials available for us. I spent many hours in my childhood sketching whatever caught my fancy. My son gets to write or doodle a lot. There was even a phase when he would draw and doodle on our floors and walls.

5. Let them enjoy creating their own books. Let them make mistakes in the process. Just observe them work. Do not criticize their work. Refrain from correcting their work (grammar, spelling, punctuation, storyline, illustrations and colors of objects). Too much criticism at an early age can discourage a child to explore and try out this adventure. Let him/her work on his story first. Editing and refinement can come later. Remember that authors can always hire editors afterwards.

6. Give your child opportunities to meet authors and illustrators. Although, my son sees me work at home a lot, it also helped and inspired him to meet other authors and illustrators, especially of children's books.

With children's book author, Zara Gagatigia.
The boys with Kuya Jomike Tejido.
7. Let your child attend workshops where he/she can develop and hone his/her skill. You'll never know how a workshop or seminar would impact his future career.

8. Praise your child for trying even if his/her work is not exemplary. Offer constructive feedback gently and at the appropriate time when the child is older and ready. Don't give this too soon so as not to discourage the child. Give the child a chance to dream and have fun dreaming and pursuing his dream first. The next stage is gaining the skills necessary to fulfill his/her dream.

9. Support your child's interest by providing the materials that he requests for his book projects. 

10. Make the adventure child-led. Don't pressure your child to pursue this path. Let him take the initiative/lead in pursuing this path. Take cues from him. Although I'm an author, I do not force my son to follow in my footsteps. I let him pursue his own dreams. If he wants to do the same things that I do, it's up to him. So far, he shows interest in the kind of work that I do. He likes the same activities that I engage in. I take cues from him. If he wants to learn more and if he shows readiness, I provide whatever he needs and wants at the moment. 

Yanthy and me during my book signing activity
for Breastfeeding: A Journey Worth Taking.
Hope these tips help you and your aspiring author and illustrator!   

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