The basic premise of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) is to showcase and highlight masterful storytelling, artwork, imagery that is of Asian content and bringing it to the world’s children. This year, AFCC has upped the ante by doing a regional focus on the Philippines. This marks the beginning of a ‘global trek’ tradition that AFCC hopes to do every year.
Trajectories and Themes in Children’s Literature from the Philippines
The panel for this session was moderated by kidlit blogger Tarie Sabido from Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind. Four outstanding Filipino artists and writers were invited to be part of the panel: Candy Gourlay now based in UK, multi-award-winning author of Tall Story (a book that I loved and reviewed here); Isabel ‘Pepper’ Roxas, a very talented artist now based in New York; multi-award-winning storyteller Russell Molina from the Philippines (I love his picture book Tuwing Sabado [Every Saturday]); and the prolific and talented Jomike Tejido, award-winning illustrator and author.
In Russell Molina’s talk, he ‘introduced’ the Philippines as a country by sharing a few photos that illustrate the current meme used by the Department of Tourism with the theme: It’s More Fun in the Philippines. It was the perfect way to introduce the landscape of the country, the pool of talents, the amazing craftsmanship, and the wit, oh the humor, of it all.
I admit that I was not able to take extensive notes as I was just listening avidly to each of their 15-20 minute talk that I was simply riveted. Realistically the 60-minute session was hardly enough since each one has amazing stories to share based from their own wealth of experiences in children’s literature and YA fiction from the Philippines.
This is Candy sharing her experiences as a journalist back in the Philippines 20-odd years ago.
I was not able to take photos of the lovely Isabel Pepper Roxas during her panel presentation (I must have tears in my eyes by then as my heart soared with so much pride seeing Filipino talents and artistry on display), but here she is in all her cutie glory.
The greatest thing that I loved about the panel was that each one documented not only their own pathways as an award-winning artist/author but they also attempted to include a snapshot of the history of children’s illustration and storytelling. Such graciousness and generosity of spirit.
I am a proud teacher. The book on the right entitled Barako Baraking was included as part of Russell Molina’s talk, a picture book illustrated by my student and our featured artist this month Archie Geotina. Nice!
This, I believe, is one of the best advice that I’ve heard in the entire AFCC as shared by the indefatigable, bursting with so much energy and vitality, Candy Gourlay: Write who you are. Sounds scary? It is. But who says being an author is easy?
I am truly grateful that my second home, Singapore has given Filipino talents and artistry a distinct voice in the Festival. My spirit sprouted butterfly wings as I listened in rapt attention to the Filipino delegates’ solidly-created presentations. My eyes filled with unbidden and embarrassing tears as my heart swelled with pride at my countrymen’s oft-unrecognized talents, showmanship, and obvious fire and passion with their work. You have done our country proud.
The amazing Candy Gourlay (who does wonders) has just created this fabulous videoclip from the entire Festival. Do take the time to watch it. I have no idea how she manages to do this all, but the AFCC sure is lucky to have someone as talented and big-hearted as Candy doing this kind of documentation. Check out one of her blogposts about the AFCC here.
Art and Science of Writing Book Reviews: Online Vs Print
This panel entitled The Art and Science of Writing Book Reviews: Online Vs Print consisted of three book bloggers who also write for a newspaper: Daphne Lee, children’s book editor and newspaper contributor from Malaysia; Anu Kumar from India/Singapore, award-winning author and contributor for the Saffron Tree; and Filipino book blogger, Blooey Singson of Bookmarked! SumthinBlu fame and contributor as well for the Manila Bulletin. Moderator for this panel was still the dynamic and articulate Tarie Sabido.
The panelists shared the joys and perks of book blogging, the striking contrasts between writing something for one’s blog as opposed to writing book reviews in a newspaper, and some of the limitations/constraints they face in both platforms. They have also shared some of the dos and donts for publishers when they approach book bloggers for advance review copies of their books. Blooey’s presentation was chock-filled with photos, images, and clear pointers of her experience as a book reviewer while Anu has generously shared her detailed notes and insights about her own experiences as an author and a book reviewer.
The Use of Myth and Magic, History and Heritage in Writing for Children
With a title like that, how can you not attend this session? The lovely Anu Kumar has published historical fiction books and she listed down some of the literature that has influenced her in her writing. Candy Gourlay was her usual dynamic, vibrant self as she explores how mythology has permeated her narrative, particularly as she created Tall Story. These are some of the photos I have taken from her set of slides.
Some of the notes that I managed to write down during Candy’s talk are the following: Create characters with a real soul. Add a plot that keeps you reading. Don’t write parts that readers tend to skip. Mythology survives for as long as the stories are told. And a good story does not stand still. Goodness. Such wisdom.
Taking a Line for a Walk
I also attended Isabel Roxas‘ session with the charming James Foley from Australia entitled: Taking a Line for a Walk. As Isabel was doing her presentation, I was quietly applauding seeing how much experience and insight she’s gained as an illustrator over the years. Now based in New York, she is at the center of it all – the art, the publishing industry, the raw gritty possibilities of bringing her artwork to the entire world. But, she also noted, that the competition is tough, and that one needs to have persistence and tenacity of spirit and purpose. She came up with a list of pointers but I wasn’t able to take down notes since she noted that she’d be sending a copy of her presentation over to the participants who came to listen to her session, so let me get back to you on that.
The young, funny, obviously handsome, and highly talented (can you spell s-m-i-t-t-e-n?) James Foley also shared some of his own experiences as an Australian illustrator and author. One of the things he noted during his talk is this unforgettable line: “If you want to work on your art, work on your life.” (my heart, be still).
What is a Festival without Music?
Despite his extremely busy schedule, I was able to arm-wrestle one of the Philippines’ highly-respected and finest musicians, Noel Cabangon, to grace the festivities and to bring beautiful music into the festival. He had several performances as he serenaded the conference participants on several occasions. I was not able to take any photos during his actual session since I was his ‘assistant’ – making sure that the translations for the Filipino songs are seen from the slides. This photo was taken at the National Library Board (NLB) Pod during his performance for the SCBWI Dinner. Here is a video clip of Noel performing “Man in the Mirror.” Not as fab as Candy’s recording and editing, but good enough, I suppose. Hehe.
Theatre Presentation: There’s Soup on My Fly
My own ten year old daughter has a special involvement in the festival. Around three weeks before AFCC, her theatre school, Act 3 International emailed me to ask whether she could be part of several presentations for the Singapore Arts Festival (happening alongside the AFCC) and to do a similar presentation during the Singapore Children’s Literature Lecture and Awards Presentation of the AFCC.
Imagine my delighted surprise as her teachers did not even know about my involvement in the AFCC. As luck would have it, my phone died down and I was not able to take photos (I’ve been using my camera phone in these photos, thus the poor resolution). I did manage to record a fragment of their performance, and here it is. My daughter is the one wearing a blue and grey shirt. Hope you enjoy it!
** Special thanks goes to Frances Ong and all the other Filipino publishers who graced the occasion and made the Philippine booth look fabulous, and to the National Book Development Board of the Philippines, Ms. Neni Sto. Romana-Cruz and Andrea Pasion-Flores.