Chris Cheng in Manila, Saturday 2013 June 1

Last Saturday, 2013 June 1, SCBWI Philippines had the opportunity to host SCBWI Australia’s Chris Cheng at a special Booktalk on Children’s & YA Lit. Here we are below, from left to right: Heidi Anicete, Bernadette Neri, Beaulah Taguiwalo, Michaela Sarah De Leon, Bjorn Howard Von Possel, Nikki Torres, Mariel Vera Go, Sammy Pasamba, and Chris Cheng.

2013-06-01 book talk chris cheng 02

The Booktalk with Chris was held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pancakes Harbor Square, with the waters of Manila Bay about three meters away on one side and the world famous Cultural Center of the Philipines building on the other side. As usual, Nikki and I brought piles of children’s books so that attendees can pick a book to talk about. Chris took his turn with Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems. Here he is, below.

2013-06-01 book talk chris cheng 01

Afterwards, Chris also talked about one of his books, Sounds Spooky, which Mariel brought. Nikki talked about At Naghari Ang Katahimikan, originally written in Kinaray-a by Nikko Gabiano when he was 14 years old, illustrated by Joe Erick Davao when he was 13 years old, and published by Save the Children Federation Inc., in the Philippines. Bernadette Neri talked about Ang Ikaklit sa Aming Hardin, which she wrote and was illustrated by C. J. de Silva. The story won First Prize in the 2006 Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in the Children’s Story Category, but it was turned down by mainstream publishers because of its theme. I talked about two bright yellow covered books with a playful page layout and typography, and an affirming and empowering theme about being an artist: Because by Mikhail Baryshnikov, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky, and I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow.

We want to know what you think

Nikki and I are always interested in knowing how well our SCBWI Philippines events are helping published and aspiring children’s writers and illustrators, so we sent out a post-event Q&A to find out. A wonderful response came from Mariel Vera Go, one of the attendees. She has been a regular presence at at our SCBWI Philippines’ monthly Booktalk at Figaro Greenbelt 3 for more than a year now, so Nikki and I were especially happy to see that she really benefited from Chris’ on-the-spot critique of her manuscript. We appreciate her feedback about this particular Booktalk, as well as for making sure that we end up with photos, two of which are here, to document the event.  Here are Mariel’s answers to our questions:

SCBWI Philippines: What did you like best about the event/activity?

Mariel: The best part of the activity was having the opportunity to casually converse with the guest resource person, Christopher Cheng. The limited number of participants was comfortably intimate, allowing everyone to take turns, such that each participant’s work or opinion had the group’s undivided attention. Given the rare opportunity to share thoughts, openly discuss writing, illustration, book design or explore other aspects of the Children’s Book industry, people let loose and Chris gamely responded, even requesting a working break instead of devoting a whole hour to the meal, not wanting to waste any precious time. The conversation thus became more fluid, incorporating the FAQ originally reserved for the latter part into the current thread of conversation, enabling us to cover more ground in the course of the day.

Chris generously shared his multidisciplinary knowledge, amusing anecdotes, and valuable advice from a career spanning over 25 years of experience in practically every aspect of the industry. He treated us to expansive gestures, voice acting and a display of serious technical know-how. He even agreed to read and comment upon cold submissions ranging from a short-story-work-in-progress, to a story penned en route, and finally, a previously published local book. Normally, the professional fee for such a consultation would be out of reach for the ordinary Filipino. Or subsidized only at Conferences hosted outside the country. In those few hours, he condensed a lifetime’s worth of learning. Priceless.

SCBWI Philippines: What would you like to see more of in future events/activities by SCBWI Philippines?

Mariel: First Page critiques for writers, demonstrations or mini-workshops (in a specific style) for illustrators, mini-tours or onsite visits (ex. a publishing house, the children’s book section of a private vs. public library, gallery-museum focused on children’s lit), localized or out-of-town trips to an institution/area that promotes a specific advocacy (ie. mother-tongue literacy, mobile libraries, NGO book projects, etc), interaction with kids from different age groups (children to YA) and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Thanks again Mariel, we really appreciate your help.

Another response, very helpful and thoughtful, came from another attendee: Bernadette Neri the author of Ang Ikaklit sa Aming Hardin.

SCBWI Philippines: What did you like best about the event/activity?

Bernadette: Bagaman aksidental ang pagdalo ko Book Talk ng SCBWI noong Hunyo 1, 2013, natutuwa akong malamang may regular na pagtitipon ang ilang mga advocate ng panitikang pambata dito sa Pilipinas. Malaki ang maiaambag ng gayong mga pulong sa pagtatala at pagtatasa ng mga umiiral na akdang pambata dito sa ating bansa.

SCBWI Philippines: What would you like to see more of in future events/activities by SCBWI Philippines?

Bernadette: Nais kong imungkahi ang pagbibigay-tuon ng book talk sa panitikang pambata sa Pilipinas at ang pagsasakonteksto nito sa lipunang Pilipino. Makatutulong talagang pag-aralan ang umiiral na panitikang pambata sa labas ng bansa subalit dapat ay palagi pa rin nating maiuuwi ang usapin sa pangangailangan ng batang Pilipino. Kaya maganda rin kung magkakaroon ng bahagi ang book talk para sa pagkilala sa audience ng ganitong literatura sa konteksto pa rin siyempre ng ating bansa.

Nais ko ring imungkahi na kung magkakaroon ng espesyal na tagapagsalita para sa isang partikular na book talk, sana ay may kasama siyang manunulat/advocate din na mula naman sa Pilipinas upang maging balanse ang perspektiba pagdating sa talakayan. Mahirap kasing ilapat ang sitwasyong first world halimbawa sa isang kalagayang third world katulad ng sa atin. Sa ganitong paraan ay mao-orient din ang bisitang tagapagsalita sa partikular na kalagayan ng panitikang pambata sa Pilipinas na maaaring iba sa kanila.

Thank you, Bernadette. Nikki and I really appreciate this.

That’s it so far, for our Chris Cheng Booktalk. Nikki and I hope to see  more folks at our next Booktalk. That’s on Monday 2013 June 10, at our usual place Figaro Greenbelt 3. –BPT

SCBWI Philippines holds its Booktalk on Children’s & YA Lit every 2nd Monday of the month from 6 to 8 p.m. at Figaro, 3rd level Greenbelt 3, Makati City. It is open to SCBWI members and non-members who are 18 years old or older, are published or aspiring writers or illustrators of children’s and YA literature, and anyone who has a keen interest in children’s & YA literature. It is organized by the Philippine chapter of the Los Angeles based Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). For more information, email SCBWI Philippines Regional Advisor Beaulah Taguiwalo at or SCBWI Philippines Assistant Regional Advisor Nikki Torres at


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