Last month, we had the privilege of chatting with local writer Becky Bravo, just before her talk and book signing at Local Lit Fest 2019. We asked her a few questions about her life as a writer and a reader, not just of children’s books but of all sorts of stories. (Fun fact: she’s a big fan of Jane Austen!) Check out our conversation below.
What’s the one book every Pinoy should read?
George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” It’s the perfect metaphor for our present political situation. You can find local parallels for every character in the story as well as identify to which group you belong. It doesn’t end on a favorable note, but a rather ominous one, and it begs the question of whether we’re heading that way too.
What’s your favorite underrated book?
This question stumps me, because to tell you the honest truth, I’m not really all that well-read for a writer and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that one could call underrated. But if I have actually read a book the critics didn’t rave about, I wasn’t aware of it. I try not to go by what other people say when it comes to looking for books to read. Their taste often differs wildly from mine 🙂
What book or series would you consider your comfort read?
Helen Fielding’s “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (yes, really!). I discovered the book when I was going through a rough time, and it made me laugh, and maybe even saved my sanity. I actually have lots of things in common with Bridget (well, except for being ever so slightly overweight), and reading the book sometimes feels like reading about myself screwing up even though I’m doing my very best not to 🙂
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
When I write stories: “There was once a…”
When I talk: “Oh my gaaaaaad.”
What made you want to write?
I was terribly shy when I was growing up (I still am). I was skinny, awkward, and I had no confidence to put myself out there or even properly express myself verbally, so I resorted to expressing myself on pen and paper. I started with diaries and journals from the age of 7, and I guess it all just grew from there. It’s been a hundred years since I first picked up a pencil and wrote “Dear Diary,” but I still prefer to communicate through writing rather than through speech. It’s congenital, I’m afraid. The wiring between my brain and my writing hand just works better than the plastic twine and dental floss between my brain and my mouth 🙂
What’s the best thing about writing for children?
Oh, that’s easy. What’s the best thing about writing for children? I don’t have to think like an adult 🙂
What’s the most challenging thing about being a writer in the Philippines?
Getting people to choose your work over practically a sea of other foreign titles.
What’s your advice to aspiring Filipino writers?
One: whether you prefer to write in English or in Filipino, first and foremost, lay a solid foundation for your writing, and that means mastering the rules of your chosen language. Learning proper grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax…this is like basic training before you’re even allowed to graduate to writing actual literature. It’s especially important when you intend to write for children, because you won’t just be entertaining them with a story but indirectly teaching them the basics of language.
Two: Learn to recognize well-written books, pay special attention to how their authors use language to set your imagination in motion — their manner and style of stringing words together— and learn from them.
Three: Don’t get immediately discouraged if your work gets rejected by a publisher, loses in a writing contest, or gets torn apart by a panelist at a writing workshop. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad writer; it might just mean that you need to keep trying to improve yourself.
A Few Quick Questions with Becky Bravo
Becky Bravo’s books from Adarna House are available at Fully Booked branches. Email us for inquiries and reservations.
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