Three weeks after we moved to the Philippines I started taking Chinese brush painting classes from Professor Chen Bing Sun. Four years later, I could pretty well handle the basics. I’d learned to paint bamboo and plum blossoms, chrysanthemums and orchids. I’d moved on to animals, people, and landscapes. I ‘d done sketches of my kids and painted other non-traditional subjects.
But, just in case writing children’s literature turned out to be more difficult than I imagined, I signed up for a correspondence course from The Institute of Children’s Literature in Connecticut.
My timing was great. Rents in Makati where we lived had skyrocketed, and we’d moved to BF Homes, a new development far from every place we needed to go. We arranged semi-adequate transportation to the International School for our two older daughters. But we couldn’t find anything for our youngest who was about to start half-day kindergarten. It looked like I’d have to drive her there and back.
Having two-and-a-half hours to kill when she was in school, I came up with the perfect solution. I could go to the Metro Club, swim a few laps, and then sit at one of the poolside tables and work on my course from the Institute of Children’s Literature. It was lovely. Palm trees, a calamansi soda, a book, and a pen and paper … five days a week.
It was a fun course. I earned my certificate. And R moved on to first grade.
In a nutshell, here’s what I learned:
- Writing good children’s literature isn’t as easy as I thought.
- I enjoy the challenge of writing fiction.
- You still have to get your book published, though. And …
- Publishers prefer to choose their own illustrators.
Eleven years later finally I returned to writing. The time was right. Our two older daughters were in college and the third would be leaving soon. I signed up for a low-residency MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
It was a challenging, fun course. And … since we’d moved to the South Pacific by then, I was able to draft my stories in a variety of beautiful spots.
As a result:
- I graduated.
- I developed a passion for writing fiction.
- But I still find publishing a lot of effort.
- And I no longer aspire to illustrate my own stories.
Although I’ve never published a book for children, that course from the Institute of Children’s Literature was how I got my start.