I don’t remember which month it was last year that Mina posted an announcement about a Children’s Lit writing workshop, I just remember wanting to be in it. So much, that I was already playing with a concept in my head even before I officially signed up.
Maybe it’s because this was going to be my third MVE-facilitated workshop that I’ve come to expect a thing, something . . . like a parameter, a rule. For #SparkNA, it was being brave. And for #StrangeLit it was truth. I wondered what kind of theme #BayongNgKuting was going to have, and as I did so, I sort of abandoned that concept I’d been thinking of just so I could start with a blank slate, just in case.
Come January 9th, our first F2F (face-to-face) class, I learned that the theme was cats. Haha, I should have known. After all, our required reading was Bayong ng Kuting by Mae Astrid Tobias.
To be honest, I was kind of stumped. I also only had about three hours of sleep before heading to the F2F at UP Diliman that day, so you can just imagine how the little workers in my head were scrambling for ideas when we were asked to brainstorm among our little groups and then pitch it in front of the class.
The ideas thrown around were very cute, some with the potential to be really funny. With a requirement of only 1,000-1,500 words for the final manuscript, the mission at hand shouldn’t be that daunting, right?
First of all, brevity and I are not the best of friends.
Secondly, I found out during the writing process that it’s much, much harder to write for children than for adults. At least to me, it was. First of all, the language has to be simple enough for young minds to understand. And while my prose isn’t very difficult to read (at least according to reviews I’ve gotten for my other pieces of work), it doesn’t mean a child at the tender age of five will be able to easily grasp its meaning.
So did I finish my manuscript? Yes.
Was I happy with it? Not . . . quite.
I felt like it was lacking in a lot of aspects, but I only have myself to blame for it. My head was a mess while trying to finish it–trying to think of a good way to tell the story while pondering on how it should be drawn/illustrated might not be the best way to approach the project, but that was what I did anyway. In the end I finished with almost 1,500 words about a kitten who thinks the house bunny is her mother.
Anyway, time for . . .
(The #BayongNgKuting Edition)
- Just because you’re writing for children doesn’t mean you can write just anything. Or anything without structure. A children’s story is still a story, and it should still have the proper elements that make one, conflict most especially. That was what I was missing days before concept submission, and I got rattled thinking Shit, oo nga nasaan na ang conflict ko?
- It’s difficult to write for kids when you haven’t been around one (or a few) for a long time. At least this was what it felt to me as I was writing my own manuscript. I wanted to read the passages I wrote to a child or let them read it to me so I’d know if they are able to grasp the meaning of my words and understand the story, but alas, none of that happened. I guess it would’ve made it easier if I worked with a kid nearby, I’m not so sure, but I feel like it would have made a difference.
- Short sentences are best. During the initial editing phase, I found traces of my adult writing style: very long sentences. It’s difficult to shake off, but I tried my best to shorten them even if it kind of pained me to do so, LOL. Matigas talaga ulo ko, ganun lang.
I wasn’t able to attend the second F2F this weekend, which was too bad, but I’m happy to hear that we had a total of 38 submissions before the 10AM deadline on the 30th. That’s a whole lot of cat stories, and I wish everyone good luck!
Click here for a quick recap of what happened at the 2nd F2F.
And now I end this post with a photo of–no, not a cat–but our very own house bunny, my real-life Abu. Only he isn’t lop-eared, nor a doe. We love him just the same anyway.