Thursday, December 29, 2016

Author of the Month: Lauren Macaraeg ( 1 of 2 )

Wacky Lauren having fun by the pool side.
The blog's Author of the Month is Ms. Lauren Macaraeg. Lauren recently won in the Aklat Awards 2016 as Most Favorite Writer for Children. In this interview, Lauren tells us of her goals and dreams as a children's book writer, the journey she took to become one and the euphoria of being voted as Most Favorite Writer for Children in the Aklat Awards 2016.

Why write for kids?

I write for kids simply because I love children's books. My fascination with kids' stories was born when I was a little girl and is still very much alive now that I am a kid pretending to be an adult.

There is magic and beauty in children's books. I am amazed at the ability of whimsical stories to whisk us away to new worlds and transform our view of the seemingly ordinary world.

There is also a form of truth and raw honesty in kids' literature that draws me to it. I rarely see pretentious writing in books for children. Perhaps it's because it's useless to try to impress young readers by using big, fancy words or gimmicky writing techniques. You need to tell children an interesting story, create characters they can relate to, and make them laugh or cry. Kids will simply like a book or they won't.

I also like how good children's literature manages to acknowledge that problems, pain and challenges exist in the world, while giving hope to us readers at the same time. Books were an important part of my childhood because they gave me happiness and hope. That's why I want to create books that will also bring new generations of kids hope and joy.

How did you come to be a writer for children?

I started practicing to be a children's writer when I was just a little girl. I used to sew and staple pieces of paper together to make my own books. It wasn't surprising that I became a bookworm because my parents encouraged me to love books. My mom Uni literally surrounded me with books since I was a baby. My dad Boy used to ship me boxes of poetry books while I was growing up.

However, I started to seriously consider becoming a writer for kids only when I was in college. I took up a children's literature class with my college barkada and I enjoyed it so much that I also enrolled in a children's writing class the next semester. Both classes, which were taught by Ms. Cyan Abad-Jugo, developed my writing skills and my appreciation for kids' literature. The epic brainstorming sessions with my creative, funny college friends – the Totaleclipsers and the Manangs - sharpened my wit and imagination.

Kindred spirits: Aspire to be to inspire others!
My involvement with the Special Education Society of Ateneo (SPEED) is another major factor that led me to become a children's writer. I was a volunteer teacher for children with special needs for most of my college life. (In case you're wondering, I don't have any formal training in special education. It was just something I loved to do). My time with the kids developed my creativity and deepened my wish to make a difference in the lives of children. My special needs students are actually my main inspiration in writing my book Sinemadyika.

I first started to write professionally when I worked for an educational publishing company. Practical matters led me to set aside writing, at least on a professional level, and work in a different field for several years. However, while I was recovering from a tonsillectomy years ago, one of my closest college friends, Pow, encouraged me to try freelance writing. With the guidance and help of my best friends and fellow writers, Pow and Jo, I started to write again on a freelance basis.

One writing attempt led to another until I eventually joined the 1st Annual Lampara Books Children’s Story Writing Contest in 2011. One of the perks of winning the said contest was having my story Sinemadyika published by Mr. Segundo “Jun” Matias and Lampara Books as an illustrated storybook in 2013. So you can say that a throat problem and a tonsillectomy led me to become a children's book author. Haha! God really works in weird, mysterious ways.

What does winning in the Aklat Awards 2016 mean to you?

It's an answered prayer in two major ways.

It's an answer to an important question! I asked the Lord earlier this 2016 if I should continue to focus on writing or to focus on something else in 2017. I know I may seem confident, but there are times when I get discouraged as a writer too. I totally didn't expect God to answer my question in this wonderful, unexpected way! For me, my surprise blessing of winning at the Aklat Awards 2016 is an encouragement for me to keep writing. 

Congratulations, Lauren!

It's also God's way to grant my wish of bringing joy to people through writing. I used to struggle with depression, although it may not be obvious to people who know me as a cheerful, outgoing adult. Books played a crucial role in my healing during my battle with depression. That's why I wish to write many books and articles and blog posts that will give hope to other people. Or simply to make them smile or laugh! Learning that I was voted as “Most Favorite Writer” in the Lampara Books category made me happy knowing that I brought others joy through writing. This blessing also makes me feel hopeful that I will have more opportunities of spreading happiness to others as an author in the future.

I am thankful to the Lord for this surprise. I am also thankful for all my family, friends, colleagues, and of course, readers for encouraging a newbie writer like me to follow my dreams.

Lauren Macaraeg can be reached online through these sites:


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