Friday, 29 July 2016
I never dreamed I’d become a writer.
I loved to read, loved the feeling of being pulled into a story, of immersing myself in the world inside those pages. I marveled over the immense creativity of authors like J. R. R. Tolkien, Neil Gaimen, and Patricia McKillip, just to name a few of my early favorites.
About twelve years ago, a friend and colleague planted the “writing” seed in my head. I still remember that moment. I had been telling him about my latest read, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. When I paused, he turned to me and told me I was a good storyteller and asked if I’d ever considered writing my own stories.
Well, no. I hadn’t considered it. It never occurred to me. Actually, my reaction was more like, “What? That’s nuts!”
Yeah, I thought it was crazy because, man, the idea of writing a story was HUGE, and not for an ordinary person like me, who was middle-aged, who had a full time job and a family to take care of. I couldn’t POSSIBLY consider writing, because my life was already full. Besides, I channeled my creativity in other ways, like quilting, knitting, and crocheting. I didn’t need one more thing to gum up the works!
Or so I thought.
The idea had been planted and it GREW (thanks a lot, Devon.) In fact, it consumed me. I could be an AUTHOR. But what would I write? Then, when I was at the bookstore with my kids, it occurred to me that there were no children’s books (in that store) that had Filipino characters or had anything to do with Filipino culture. So I began writing picture book stories. I joined SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and found an online critique group. I wrote on and off for the next three years, learning about the business of publishing and I admit, getting very discouraged. I almost gave up on writing.
Then in 2007, at an SCBWI Los Angeles Writer’s Day, I won an honorable mention for my picture book story, The Parol Maker’s Daughter. I thought, I can do this! But it was Lisa Yee’s (author of Millicent Min, Girl Genius and many other books) wonderful presentation of her journey as an author that inspired me to write my first novel.
I drafted CEMETERY CITY, a story about a homeless girl and her mother who live in Manila’s North Cemetery, that year and spent the next two years or so revising it with my generous and encouraging critique partners. I spent the next few years in the query trenches. In the meantime, I went to writing conferences and workshops, working on improving my craft. I drafted and revised my next book, a young adult novel.
In 2012, I received an offer of representation from my wonderful agent, Paula Munier. With her guidance, I revised both manuscripts and went on submission. After four years of Paula’s hard work and patience, one of my books have found a home!
CEMETERY CITY will be published Starscape/TOR! Diana Pho is my wonderful editor! I’m so excited for this opportunity to work with her.
Haha, it’s not the best picture of me but this picture does capture the exact moment I signed my contract.
Sigh. I’m still over the moon about it.
Where has life’s journey taken you?