Behind every written story, either retold or adapted, is a writer. For the longest time, they have been weaving words to make a tapestry of stories for readers to enjoy. Often, we get curios as to who they are. We wonder what kind of lives they lead and how awesomely they can conjure images and convey complex emotions through the characters and stories they create. While biographies and feature articles can feed the curiosity to know the writer behind the book, real life interaction with one living writer is a rarity.
If such is the case, then grade school Xaverians are a lucky lot. The doors of Xavier Grade School are always welcome to visiting Filipino writers (and illustrators) to meet and talk to grade school students. Last August 26, 2005, Hoofprint staff members had an enriching session with visiting writer, Ms. Mae Astrid Tobias. The GS LRC and the GS Student Activities Program collaborated to make this Author Visit program possible.
Ms. Tobias is currently connected with the University of the Philippines Information Office. She is a contributor to the Junior Inquirer, director and writer for Kids News Network (KNN), Manila Bureau and the President of Kwentista ng mga Tsikiting (KUTING), the premier organization of writers of Philippine Children’s Literature.
This was Ms. Tobias’ first time to visit Xavier School and she was very impressed with the school environment as well as the Xaverians she met that afternoon. She described members of the Hoofprint staff as active, engaging and full of questions. Her talk was brief, but substantial.
She focused on the importance of research in any given writing assignment or endeavor. As examples, she presented her books, namely, Guardians of Tradition: An Informational Book on the Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan Awardees and My Forest Friends. She spent a great deal of information gathering to complete and finish both books. She further explained that either writing fiction or non-fiction, having a good grasp of the subject matter one is writing about spells a lot of difference. The content of any writing piece should be whole and credible.
Ms. Tobias believes that research is a productive way of learning. Writing the researched information is a means to communicate it. Research is not merely a part of the writing process, but also a responsibility that writers, young and old, must take to heart. This brought her to emphasize on the importance of knowing the variety of resources that writers can use. A good knowledge of these resources and references helps the writer save time when writing. To access and locate it intelligently is another skill to master. She adds that aside from books, newspapers and Internet websites, personal interviews are also sources of inofrmation for writing.
The rest of the period was given to question and answer time. The boys enjoyed this part of the session with Ms. Tobias. When asked to give her “parting” words for Hoofprint staffers, she advised them to continue learning and to never get tired of reading. It is in reading all sorts of materials that fuels her to write, even the ones she dislikes and is not too keen to know about.
Through the GS LRC’s Author Visit Program, students are provided with the opportunity to discover how books and stories come to be; how writers shape their stories and understand the disciplined art of writing. In a way, the experience led students to appreciate reading and writing, two skills that they must master to survive and excel in an era where information, facts, the truths and the values we hold true are concealed and distorted by media and technology.
Ms. Tobias supports many advocacies, one of these is children in mass media. She won 2nd place for her story "Bayong ng Kuting" in the 2003 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, Filipino Division of the Children's Story Category. She is currently finishing her MA in Comparative Literature at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org