The Path to Possibilities: How Stories Can Reach a Global Audience by Scholastic Asia

October 17, 2017
, , , , , , ,

It was my very first time to attend The Philippine Readers and Writers Festival. Well, it was already late because I was able to visit during the last day. I just heard about it through Scholastic Asia. The invite that I received excited me so much because it was laden with informative workshops and talks by reputable and award winning writers, best selling authors who came over for "meet and greet" and book signing activities. Of course, it was my chance again to have a productive day off joining individuals who had the same passion as mine: to read, write, and somehow contribute to the society in the best way that we could through the fruits of our labor. 

The Philippine Readers and Writers Festival was a three day event. Everyday was filled with workshops hosted by different publications which you could attend for free. Just register and you would be given a free pass to all the ballrooms where the workshops were held plus free entrance to the 38th Manila International Book Fair. This event encouraged aspiring and current writers to learn and be good in their craft. 

Due to my limited time, I had a chance to sit on a 2 1/2 hour workshop, "The Path to Possibilities: How Stories Can Reach a Global Audience" by Scholastic Asia and facilitated by five experts in the field of education, reading, editing, publishing, writing, and coaching. Let me give you their background and the insights that they imparted to inspire aspiring and current writers, bloggers, educators, students, and even parents to instill in themselves, to their kids and others the pointers on how to create a good story and love reading. Here they are:

Barry Cunningham

Barry Cunningham is  the publisher of Chicken House Books, has had an impressive career in publishing. He has worked with the great names in children's books including Roald Dahl during the most popular years of his career. He soon became one of the best-known names in publishing after he signed up J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. In 2010, he was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in the Queen's Honours List for services in literature.

Mr. Cunningham prepared this video while on vacation. He was so enthusiastic to share his expertise and expressed his regret of not being able to see us in person. (Courtesy: Scholastic Asia)

According to Mr. Cunningham, the following insights could make a story appealing for kids:

- "Focus on the fight between good and evil. Let goodness prevail."
- "Quantify the importance of the villain. He must be highlighted."
- "Dialogue is important. Don't just narrate it. Let the characters describe it."
- "Treat emotions in writing. Feel the rage, joy, injustice, have roots of real emotion."
- "There must be action."
- "Friendship is love and magic. Friendship and power of love make the story beautiful."

Professors Sangil and Villanueva amazed the audience as they shared their insights. (Courtesy: Scholastic Asia)

Anne Frances N. Sangil

Professor Sangil is a full time Assistant Professor at De la Salle University Department of Literature where she teaches art appreciation, Philippine Literature, popular culture, and a literature elective on J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. She has participated in numerous Harry Potter conferences abroad, most recently at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland for a Brand of Fictional magic: reading Harry Potter as Literature. She is the Deputy Headmistress of Pinoy harry Potter (Hogwarts, Philippines) and also serves as a Chapter Organizer for their group in the Harry Potter Alliance.

She  discussed about Harry Potter and the Global AudienceAccording to her, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter is a hit among readers, the young and the old alike because...

"J.K. Rowling knows when to tell too much details and learn to withhold.
Characters mature as the series continue. The progression of characters is non-static, predictable. and relateable.  Readers grow with the characters and  it is the secret of the success Harry Potter."

Vic Villanueva

Fondly called Teacher Vic, has spent 24 years doing literacy work in various roles. He was an Assistant Professor in the College of Education, University of the Philippines Diliman, Executive Director of Wordlab School, Judge of National Book Development Board, Consultant of Wordprime, Founder of Read Ability Literacy Improvement Center, and School Director of The Builder's School. He is currently a Senior Educational Consultant of Grolier Scholastic Philippines, Board Member of The Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY), and Reading Assessment Specialist.

The following are the key points that he has mentioned in "Reading Landscape: What Readers Look for in a Good Story?"

"What do kids want? Why do they want to know? Your answer depends on the hat that you are wearing. Are you a teacher, parent, publisger, writer? This drives our actions, motives, 

"You have to know what do Filipino Readers read? According to the study, 22% read non school books weekly, 22% doesn't read, 91% for info and knowledge, and 9% enjoyment. Obviously Filipinos read to learn information. The question is what info do they want?"

"Know what children need then write the stories for them. This is the hierarchy of what kids want:
security, love and be loved, to belong, to achieve, to change, to know, to have beauty and order."

" Don't just concentrate on the highest percentage of what Filipinos read. Dapat balanse rin. Target all in one story as much as possible. It is writing for the child in you. Children can recognize the child in the book."

"You can't teach children to be good. The best you can do for your child is to live a good life yourself. What a parent knows and believes, the child will lean on.” 
 (Bruno BettelheimThe Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales)

"Getting these key points in mind can truly keep us engaged in following your dreams to conceptualize, write, and influence the world."

"As advocates, we have to get people to read for their humanity. Weird is better than normal when people find you weird when you read."

Sophia Lee

Sophia grew up in the Philippines. She wanted to be many things growing up: doctor, teacher, ballerina, ninja, crime-fighting international spy, wizard, time traveler, journalist, and lawyer. She likes to think that she can be all these things through writing. She loves words and the meanings behind them. Her favorite word is chance. What Things Mean, a Scholastic Asian Book Award Winner, is her first book.

Sophia Lee spoke to us live through Skype. (Courtesy: Scholastic Asia)

Here was Sophia's answer to the question, "How can stories reach a global audience?"

"Embrace your culture, your uniqueness, the color of your skin.
Create a voice, don't be afraid to commit mistakes. Create a character who tells your own story."

Catherine Torres

Catherine is a diplomat and writer from Manila, Philippines. Her work has taken her postings in New Delhi, Singapore, and now, Berlin, where she lives with her husband, a Korean scholar and translator, and their son, Samuel. When foreign affairs, as well as domestic ones, permit, she voyages around the world on boats made of words. Her book, Sula's Voyage, is a Scholastic Asian Book Award Finalist.

The Skype video call of Sophia Lee was followed by Catherine. (Courtesy: Scholastic Asia)

Catherine answered the question, "What are your tips to aspiring writers out there?"

"Do something that inspires you. Attend writing class and read writing books. Submit your manuscripts or stories. Take advantage of those who accept submissions. Join writing contests."

"Deadlines are important for writers. Get in touch with yourself as a Filipino when you write. In my case, I have three months to write and edit. Find time to write and create your own schedule."

"Instilling the love for books at a young age can lead to a love for writing. Join the school paper. Express yourself through writing. Writing can be a password to the world. It can open doors for you. If you start writing stories about culture and diversities, the problem in the world can be lessened."

Learning from the speakers could be refreshing and recharging. Even if we are writing for a couple of years now, learning should not stop. After all, we don't have the monopoly of knowledge.  All the insights that they said would mean that great writers started from reading at a very young age. They found it easier to express themselves effectively due to their exposure to good vocabulary, other writers' ideas through the books that they read, and most of all through their own experiences. 

All the tips that they've shared may sound easy but being great not just in writing entails a lot of hard work, enthusiasm, and perseverance. Furthermore, experience makes perfect and permanence. Learning is part of our lifetime and it shall only end as we die.

Related Posts


Thanks for stopping by!
I would love to know your feedback!

Blog Archive