Gabriela Lee is the winner of the 2019 Salanga Prize for her story, A Delicate Strength: The Story and Art of Araceli Limcaco Dans. She was awarded the PBBY-Salanga medal and cash prize last July 16, 2019 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines during the 36th National Children’s Book Day celebration. In this two-part interview, Ms. Gabriela Lee shares with us her thoughts about awards, tips for the aspiring writer and the crocodile that lived in her great grandfather’s pool!
1. How real was the crocodile?
The crocodile was real! Apparently, my great-grandfather had a tendency to bring back all sorts of animals back to the Manila house when he came back after travelling the Philippines. As far as Lola remembers, their house was a veritable zoo at that time.
2. What do you think of winning or losing in writing awards?
This is my first time winning a proper writing award, aside from scholastic things in high school and college, so it feels great. But I have a rather laid-back attitude towards writing awards - I think that they’re nice, if you get them, but ultimately you have to direct your art towards a purpose beyond just getting a medal and seeing your name in lights. For me, I joined the PBBY-Salanga this year because of the limitations of the topic, which is the biography. I wanted the world to know about my grandmother, who is a pretty awesome woman in her own right, and who promoted art education and visual literacy - something that I think is very important in this day and age. So it wasn’t about winning, but about Lola and her work.
L-R: PBBY President Tarie Sabido, Araceli Limaco Dans, Gabriela Lee and Cris Millado, Vice Chairman of CCP
In general, I think that it’s great for a new or beginning writer to test their mettle against others in a friendly competition, but it should never be the center of your writing life. Winning is great, but your writing should not be about just winning, but about other aspirations beyond the competition. And that’s a difficult thing to think about.
3. What tips can you share to the aspiring writer of children’s stories?
First of all, READ! You can’t write anything if you don’t read anything. Read things that you think will help you write - genres and authors and stories that share a kinship with your creative process. If you don’t read stories, it becomes very difficult to know what’s out there, and how your stories contribute to the bigger world.
Second, you need DISCIPLINE! Writing isn’t about talent or inspiration. It’s about showing up to the blank page and banging out words. The words might not be good at first, or they might be slow to come, but you just need to put one letter in front of the other until you find yourself building a story. Writing isn’t just about talent. It’s about doing the work and keeping yourself accountable.
Finally, FIND A READER! Preferably someone you trust and someone who is capable of providing concise and helpful criticism. It can be a friend, a teacher, a colleague, someone you meet over the Internet. Make sure it’s someone who you can rely on who will give you honest advice for revisions, and someone who knows enough about the field you’re writing within that they are also familiar with the conventions and techniques you are using.
Are you interested and inspired to read more of Ms. Gabriela Lee’s stories and essays? Visit her website atSometimes Sunlight. She is the granddaughter of Araceli Limcaco Dans.