·Yna Reyes, author of Imbisibol, shares with us the valuable role that children's book writers play in the lives of children and young people. Imbisibol is one of the twenty books that came to be during the Room to Read Kuwentong Musmos Worshop for writers and illustrators. It is illustrated by Mike Amante.
Why are you writing for children?
I have a personal reason for writing for children. I wrote all of my children’s books for my nieces and nephews. Now that they’re all grown-ups, I still keep writing for children because I know that children love stories. I want to help nurture their love for stories by writing stories that I hope they would love. Also, I believe that childhood is the season in a person’s life when the foundation of his or her character is being set and his worldview and core values are taking shape. That’s why it’s important to feed children with life giving stories that will not only sharpen their minds but shape their hearts. As a writer, I hope the stories I write would enrich the childhood of young readers.
· What is your Philippine Children’s Literature origin story? (How did you start writing for kids and getting published)
I’m an editor by profession, so I consider myself an accidental writer. I’ve been hanging around with writer-friends for years. I’ve been with the Christian Writers’ Fellowship since its birth in February 1986. In one of our monthly meetings, we invited Dr. Isagani Cruz to be our mentor for the day. A few weeks before the meeting, we sent him our works for review. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get a helpful critique from Dr. Isagani Cruz, so I tried writing a story for my 7-year-old niece. It was my first attempt to write a children’s story. I wrote it in Filipino so that my English-speaking niece would have her first taste of reading in Filipino. I made her the main character so she’d be thrilled to see herself in the story. My story got a good review from Dr Isagani Cruz. I was already with OMF Literature at that time. So, when OMF Literature decided to start the Hiyas brand a few years later, and the editor tasked to do it was looking for stories, she asked me if I would consider submitting my story for publication. Of course I was delighted! Ang Bagong Kaibigan ni Bing Butiki was one of the first five stories for children published under the Hiyas brand in 1993. The book is still available to this day, after more than 20 years since it was first published.
· Give three words or phrases to describe your Kuwentong Musmos Workshop experience.
Empowering, enriching, humbling learning experience
· What is the book you wish you had written and why?
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White. It’s my favorite children’s book. I remember reading it as a young girl and loving it so much. My heart went out to Wilbur. I felt I was one of his friends in the barn worrying for him; I saw myself in the story. Charlotte’s extraordinary love for Wilbur touched my heart. The ending of the story brought tears to my eyes. The story’s message of friendship resonated with me as a child. The memory of reading Charlotte’s Web has stayed with me to this day. Beautiful and powerful storytelling by E.B. White! No wonder it’s one of the best-loved classics in children’s literature. I wish I could write a story that children would love and remember through the years.
·What advice or tips can you give aspiring children’s book writers?
o Listen to the voice of the child in you.
o Listen to children, and respect their voice.
o Read as many children’s books as you can.
o Write, write, write. And learn the discipline of rewriting.
o Sharpen your craft through writing workshops. And be open to critique.
o Find a group (or create your own) of fellow writers who can meet regularly for encouragement and peer critiquing.
Yna Reyes is the publishing and communications director of OMF Literature. She’s celebrating her 30th year with OMF Literature on May 2. As her schedule allows, she finds time to do freelance writing, editing, and writing for children.