Salusalo para kay Kuya, the book I co-created with awesome Inkie JC Galag, is out! This post is about the events, and the people, that helped create this book. (Spoilers ahead.)
I think this story got planted in my head as soon as I started working for Adarna House in 2007. Even then, it was part of my tasks to write copy for all our online stuff, which included calls for submissions. That year, and for many years after, when Adarna still specified topics for picture book submissions, the call encouraged submissions to help kids deal with difficult issues—or assist adults in helping kids process concerns that can be frustratingly confusing—such as death.
I didn’t really start writing anything until 2012. Author Nanoy Rafael and illustrator Hubert Fucio were facilitating a workshop on creating picture books for children, and I was assisting them. In an idle moment, when the participants were busy working on their task to make storyboards, I decided to join in and create my own. Maybe it was because the story had been stewing in my brain for half a decade, maybe it was because of the lingering memory of past events, or maybe (probably) Nanoy and Hubert were that inspiring, but for reasons that will forever remain a mystery, this story appeared to me complete—from start to finish, scene to scene to scene.
A month later, after some revisions, I submitted the manuscript to Adarna House. A month after that, I received a rejection letter with some editorial advice from the great Ani Almario. (Yes, it was all very formal.) I took the advice to heart, made further revisions over the next six months, at the end of which period I submitted the manuscript as an entry to Palanca. Four months later, I receive the good news that the story actually won something. I shared this revised version with Ani as a thank-you for her generous feedback.
Soon, I would receive news that the quest for an illustrator was in progress. Yehey!
The thing I love most about the picture book format is its potential for transformation. A manuscript exists then gets transformed into something new and given depth through the interpretation and/or interaction of another. I’m not sure whether it would be self-serving if I heaped praise upon illustrator JC Galag. I am, after all, complimenting another person. But the praise is directed at illustrations in a book that also happens to bear my name, so I might end up sounding really hardsell. Maybe you can just let me say that when I saw the finished art for our book, the crazy happy-happy-joy-joy I felt was because of JC’s cute, funny, and can-I-say sobrang gandang illustrations. (Oh there. I’m sorry. I can’t help it. The book is really cute!)
I’ll stop here lest I make the book less adorable with my beaming pride. Let me just shout out a few thanks to Nanoy, Hubert, Ani, and JC—you guys rock! It’s mentioned in really small type on the copyright page of the book, but I want to also say that this book is dedicated to Tanya, my (the!) best friend in the whole time-and-space continuum, and to the memory of her kuya, Leandrei Fritz Menor, who made art out of being a brother, son, and friend.
You are forever missed, Lean!