Crushingly Close Blog Tour ~ Author Interview: Stella Torres

Hello, Stella! I’m so happy to have you here at Cinderella Stories. Welcome to my blog and thank you so much for granting me this interview. First of all, congratulations on your new book, “Crushingly Close.”

– Thanks, Jho! I’m glad to sit down with you for this interview. I hope that I can share more about the book with your readers 🙂

1. Would you please tell us about your book Crushingly Close? How long did you write this?

Crushingly Close started out as a story written for #buqosteamyreads in 2014—at that time, I had this concept of a news producer and an anchorman working late nights and butting heads at work before realizing that they were meant for each other. I ended up not being able to publish at that time (for reasons related to my PhD) but I had the chance to rewrite it later in July of that year as a novella for Camp NaNoWriMo. This time, I was able to expand the story because I had just come back from a trip to Indonesia, and I was also into soccer and the World Cup.

It took me one month to finish the first draft, and two more years of polishing and rewriting in between my PhD coursework, but I managed to get it out—and here we are!

2. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I guess I’ve always known I wanted to be one ever since I was in elementary school. I liked telling stories, and I would always do things like rewrite fairy tales or draw “comics” with cartoon characters in adventurous situations. It wasn’t until I was in sixth or seventh grade when I realized that I wanted to write fiction, and I tried to work on my first novel back then. I was so ambitious!

3. Ms. Stella, you’ve got a ‘day job’, what is your work schedule like when you’re writing? How does that work? Do you have a daily word count goal?

Because my PhD is my “day job,” I’m lucky that I get to take semestral breaks to concentrate on my writing. For the remainder of the year, however, I’ve structured my days in such a way that I would have “office hours” where I would concentrate on my coursework and research during the daytime on Mondays to Fridays, so I can write fiction on nights and weekends. There are times when I deviate from the routine—say, when I have an important presentation that needs more of my time—but most days I can manage to get things done.

As for word counts, I had a goal of at least 1,000 words per day when I wrote this for Camp NaNoWriMo, since I wanted to come up with a 30,000-word story by the end of the month. The great thing about my Camp NaNo experience (as opposed to the regular National Novel Writing Month experience in November) was that I was able to set my own word count goals so I could take the pressure off myself. It’s good training when you’re starting out and writing your first draft.

4. What is your writing process, do you work on an outline first or just go write without one?

I used to write without an outline; the initial draft for my first book (Save the Cake) was written without one, and so were the first 30,000 words of Crushingly Close. It wasn’t until I started with the rewrites for Crushingly that I realized that the system wasn’t working for me: the plot was a mess, the characterizations didn’t make sense, and the scenes weren’t as funny or exciting as they were when I came up with them inside my head.

I had to go back and write a whole new outline for the book to guide me through the rewrites and check on how every aspect of the story worked together. The rewrites got easier after that, and now I can’t imagine writing (or at least rewriting) without an outline. My next two (!) books have outlines now, and they’ve made writing easier for me.

5. What is one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

One of the most important revelations that occurred to me while writing this book was the power of characterization. It wasn’t enough for me to say that my main characters were in a high-stress environment; I had to feel every emotion and every ounce of tension that they held in their body.

When I put this book through revisions, I worked on getting under my characters’ skins to figure out their motivations—what turns them on, what makes them tick, what keeps them awake at night. It got to the point where they were talking to me about where they wanted to go in the story. And I had to listen, because I felt like the story didn’t go anywhere when I had complete control over everything. That felt very freeing for me.

6. What do you think makes a good story?

That’s a good question! I’ve been reading non-romance books lately, and I find that the best stories are the ones where the author can make the reader care about what’s happening. The characters don’t always have to be likeable, but the plot must be steady and the writing has to be consistent. Also, the ending has to make sense—no use going all the way to the end of the book only to say, “What the hell did I just read here?”

7. Do you have other works in progress?

Right now I have an unfinished story that I wrote for another class, which I didn’t finish in time for the deadline but I’m planning on querying in the future for publication. It’s about a long-distance relationship between a call-center agent and a guy who works twelve time zones away—nothing too complicated, but it’s sweet and romantic and gives all the feels.

I’m also planning on joining NaNoWriMo again this November, but that story is still in the outline stages and I won’t be sharing any details about it until later this year. Of course, everything will depend on my academic schedule and how much I’ll be able to take for the next two years, but I’m hoping to have complete drafts for both of those stories by this time next year.

8. Your tips for aspiring authors?

Read, read, read! It’s the best way to discover who you are as a writer. You can learn a lot from other writers, not just in your genre, but from other genres as well. Don’t just study the “classics” in every genre—take them apart, piece by piece, so you can figure out why they’ve endured for years.

Also, don’t worry too much about what other people will say about you while you’re writing. It’s all background noise. Finish the book first, and everything will take care of itself.

Jho-sigstylediv

Book: Crushingly Close
Release Date: July 19, 2016
Author: Stella Torres

About the Author: Stella Torres is the author of Save the Cake and the short story “Be Creative” from Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Arts Academy (Vol. 1)). She has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and worked briefly in public relations, but has chosen to pursue her post-graduate studies in the field of education. She loves dark chocolate, hates flyaways, and is constantly in search of comfortable shoes.

Connect with the author:

Blog: http://thegreatbigjump.blogspot.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/StellaTorresAuthor
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheStellaTorres
Instagram: http://instagram.com/stella_meimei

About the Book: At twenty-four years old, Agnes Escueta has risen from the ranks to become a producer for Sports Tonight. No one can touch her, it seems—not even crush-worthy anchorman Daniel Ferrer, who she gets to work with every single day. When a road trip to Indonesia throws Agnes and Daniel together, they find themselves working in close quarters. It doesn’t take long before Agnes finds herself being charmed by Daniel, and her defenses start to melt with his touch. With deadlines looming and a big game coming, Agnes must figure out how to let Daniel into her life without risking her professional reputation—and without breaking her own heart.

Links:

Amazon (pre-order): https://amzn.com/B01I5IXL9U or https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01I5IXL9U/ref=cm_sw_su_dp

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EXCERPT

“Anything you want with your coffee?” Daniel said. “Cream? Sugar?”

My gaze fell on the containers of sugar and creamer that Daniel had taken out of the cupboard. “I thought you took your coffee black?”

“I thought I’d take them out for you.”

I may not swoon at the feet of Daniel Ferrer on command, but I wouldn’t deny that he was handsome. His hair was short enough to keep the emphasis on his almond eyes and sharp cheekbones. His skin had the kind of glow that came from running at the break of dawn, which he always talked about as part of his regular-day workout routine. And while he cut an impressive figure whenever he showed up in his suit and tie on-screen, the jeans and polo shirts that he wore to work showed off his lean muscles, especially in his arms and chest.

And his abs.

And his butt.

There, I’ve said it. Daniel Ferrer had a hot bod. But his body was beside the point. First and foremost, he was a co-worker, and co-workers weren’t supposed to think of each other that way.

Right? Right.

He smiled like he knew how his presence would affect me. “You look like you’ve got a lot of things on your mind.”

Of course I had a lot of things on my mind. We had a show to produce tonight, and a meeting in two hours about our trip to Jakarta for the football friendly between the Philippines and Indonesia. Not to mention the text messages that I wasn’t getting from my mother and brother…

“You make this face whenever you’re worried,” Daniel said.

“What face?”

He pointed to my mouth. “See that? Your lips curve downward when you press them together.”

“No, they don’t.”

“You’re making that face again.” He cocked his head to the side and leaned forward. “See? Your lips press hard, and your eyebrows scrunch in the middle of your forehead. Then your eyes go blank, like you’re spacing out.”

“I don’t space out.”

“Really? Then why haven’t you stirred any cream and sugar into your coffee?”

I looked down into my cup, and—just as Daniel said—my coffee was still black.

“It’s getting cold,” he said. “Here, have a spoon.”

Book Review ~ Bumasa at Lumaya 2: A Sourcebook on Children’s Literature in the Philippines Blog Tour

My rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 out of 5 stars

Bumasa at Lumaya 2 is a resource and reference book on children’s literature put together by the the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY). The first one was published in 1994 and it wasn’t until this year, twenty-one years later, that the second book in the series came out.

Bumasa at Lumaya 2 indeed is a reference book on children’s literature. It discusses the status and history of children’s literature in the country from 2000 to 2013 and how far it had come since especially in the advent of picture book apps and ebooks.

It also contains a chapter titled The Writer’s Heart which basically discusses the things a writer must keep in mind when writing a children’s book, who the children are, and how they think. It also enumerated the challenges we face in retelling stories from days of old like the Filipino folk tales, myths, fairy tales, and Filipino legends.

Another chapter was dedicated for the various writer fora titled Writer’s Speak which mainly discusses how one became a writer, when, where, and how one writes; their influences and the publishing process; and most importantly the state of the publishing industry today. A section discussed how to write nonfiction books for the children.

A chapter on The Bookmaker’s Art makes the readers appreciate the growth of the children’s books in terms of illustration and design, the milestones in children’s book illustrations, the recognition that the talent and skill of Filipino illustrators has been getting, the support gained for illustrators throughout the years, and how – with the advancement of technology – everything had become a lot easier. A section on comic appreciation was also included and it discusses the Philippine Comics Industry, the Digital Revolution, recommended titles on comics for children among others.

Being a reader, my most favorite part of the book is The Reader’s Part. It has two sections: For Love of Reading – which discusses how we can encourage and nurture the love and habit of reading. It also discussed the challenge of getting children to love reading and the staggering realization that  how will they love reading if we don’t have books to learn to read with in the first place? To make these books available, Library Hubs was born in 2006 as did various other programs that encourages love of reading such as Sa Aklat Sisikat and Inquirer’s Read-Along Sessions with celebrity readers.

The next section for this chapter discusses the ways in which a librarian and other interested parties can organize a school and home library. This part I also loved because as a high school student, I dreamed of having my own library someday that I can share with the public.

The last chapter titled Book Reading and Learning shows a conversation with reading education advocates where they discussed the gaps in children’s literature, the lack of nonfiction books, the importance of using children’s books in the classroom among others.

I love this book because it delivered everything it promised. It is for the readers, the publishers, artists and illustrators, educators, librarians, authors.

Bumasa at Lumaya 2 shows us that we’ve come a long way but at the same time it also shows us how far we still have to go.

Five stars for Bumasa at Lumaya 2. Here’s to hoping that years from now, when the third book comes out, it will show how closer we’ve come to reaching our goals but for now, let’s celebrate the birth of this book – the one that will serve as everyone’s guide in getting us closer to that elusive goal.

About Bumasa at Lumaya 2

“Twenty-one years after its first ever resource and reference book on children’s literature in the Philippines, the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) again offers readers a second look at where Philippine children’s literature is today: the huge strides it has taken and the many more fascinating destinations it has set its sights on.”

Contributors: Eugene Y. Evasco, Rene O. Villanueva (+), Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, Lara Saguisag, Christine S. Bellen, Ramon C. Sunico, Luis P. Gatmaitan, Mailin Paterno Locsin, Russell Molina, Carla Pacis, Augie Rivera, Zarah C. Gagatiga, Jomike Tejido, Beth Parrocha, Perpilili Vivienne Tiongson, Lin Acacio Flores, Ruben de Jesus, Liza Flores, Paolo Chikiamco, Ani Rosa Almario, Leonor Diaz, Dina Ocampo, & Felicitas Pado.

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Bumasa at Lumaya 2: A Sourcebook on Children’s Literature in the Philippines Blog Tour ~ Author Interview: Zarah Gagatiga

Hi, Zarah! I’m so happy to have you here at Cinderella Stories. Welcome to my blog and thank you for granting me this interview. First of all, congratulations on your new book, “Bumasa at Lumaya 2: A Sourcebook on Children’s Literature in the Philippines.”

1. Would you please tell us about your contribution in the book “Bumasa at Lumaya 2: A Sourcebook on Children’s Literature in the Philippines.” How long did you write this?

My contribution to BL2 is an article on setting up libraries and reading centers for young people. It took me two years to finish the piece. It’s the shortest piece in the collection but I labored in revising it. I think, if my memory serves me right, I wrote three articles. The first one was very academic and sounded like a paper meant to be presented at a conference for librarians. It received comments that, to this day, give me shudders. I tried my best to reframe my mindset. I removed myself from the article but I kept the comments of the editors to heart. Nasaktan ako, symepre. I had doubts on my capability to write a decent article. But my editors are, first and foremost, my friends in the industry. They always have the best intention at heart. It was then that I realize how lucky I am to have true friends in the industry. This is what I learned early on. Never compromise the quality of work over the personal. The ideals we aspire to achieve, the standards we envision to meet and the integrity we bring to our craft should be over and above our personal interests.

So I went back to the writing table.

My second article was epistolary. I used the persona of Pilar Perez, one of the Philippine’s prominent and influential librarians who championed children’s library services. In the letter, she gave tips to her nephew who is a new librarian and how he can serve children better.

It was rejected.

Because life happened, my final article was written sometime in 2014 with much coaching now, from Neni Sta. Romana-Cruz. I worked on the comments and followed through and it ended up as a DIY article. Very practical and easy to do.

Am I happy with what I wrote? No. Because, I just recently discovered a better way to approach the organization of library and reading centers. This came later on when one of the editors, Rayvi Sunico, engaged me in a convo over at Messenger with a friend who needs tips to organize a school library as she was a teacher with no library and information science background. It was Rayvi too, who pointed out that my tips were more appropriate for the BL2 collection. He encouraged me to go back to it and try sending it as an additional piece.

But, again, life happened.

I still hope that this “convo” piece will see the light of day. I have partially blogged about it. But putting it in a printed book is a different experience. Am I proud of what I wrote for BL2? Yes, to some extent.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I read Judy Blume and SE Hinton. There was something in them, especially on Blume, that made me dream to be one. Blume gave me hope. Hinton showed me possibilities. I was 14 years old then.

3. Why write children’s books?

It’s fun! It’s a lot of hard work too. You learn from your team: the publisher, the editor/project coordinator, and the illustrator.

STARSkinder

4. What is one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I learned how little I know of the world of children. I learned to respect children more. I am always humbled to go through the process of creation. So every work or story I put out there must be carefully produced. Well thought out and lovingly crafted. But, book publishing can be messy.

5. What do you think makes a good story?

A good story speaks the truth of the reader – which changes from one reader to the next. A good story finds its place in the heart of both the young and the graying. A good story stands the test of time.

6. Do you have other works in progress?

Yes. I have two picture books in the works and laboring on two series for early readers.

7. Your tips for aspiring children’s book authors?

Find the stories that changed your life. A significant human experience. Tell it aloud first. Several times. Over and over. Then, write it.

We can talk about the messy part of workshopping a story and the steps into publishing later on. For now, write. Just write your story.

About Bumasa at Lumaya 2

“Twenty-one years after its first ever resource and reference book on children’s literature in the Philippines, the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) again offers readers a second look at where Philippine children’s literature is today: the huge strides it has taken and the many more fascinating destinations it has set its sights on.”

Contributors: Eugene Y. Evasco, Rene O. Villanueva (+), Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, Lara Saguisag, Christine S. Bellen, Ramon C. Sunico, Luis P. Gatmaitan, Mailin Paterno Locsin, Russell Molina, Carla Pacis, Augie Rivera, Zarah C. Gagatiga, Jomike Tejido, Beth Parrocha, Perpilili Vivienne Tiongson, Lin Acacio Flores, Ruben de Jesus, Liza Flores, Paolo Chikiamco, Ani Rosa Almario, Leonor Diaz, Dina Ocampo, & Felicitas Pado.

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About the Author

Zarah first learned the magic of storytelling from her maternal grandmother. Her first reading teacher was her mother who also introduced her to the wonder of books. She married her first love and they live in a small house near the city. Her first born is a budding musician and her daughter always wants to be the first in everything she does.

Zarah blogs at https://lovealibrarian.blogspot.com

List of Works:

INTERNATIONAL PUBLICATION

Tales From the 7,000 Isles: Filipino Folk Stories by Dianne de Las Casas and Zarah C. Gagatiga, ABC CLIO/Libraries Unlimited, 2011

The archipelago nation of the Philippines is comprised of more than 7,100 islands on which over 170 dialects are spoken. This is not surprising given the many ethnic groups that have settled in the Philippines, each bringing traditions that have been assimilated by the Filipino people. One way to understand this varied nation is through its colorful folklore.

Purchase Link:

http://www.abc-clio.com/ABC-CLIOCorporate/product.aspx?pc=A3276C

LOCAL PUBLICATIONS BY LAMPARA HOUSE

A Tale of Two Dreams: a parable from Mindoro (2013)
Illustrated by Bernadette Solina Wolf

Two childhood friends meet again after many years of being apart. One stayed on the island while the other had adventures in far away lands. They chose different paths but both discovered the meaning of home.

My Daddy! My One and Only! (2013)mybooks_2016
Illustrated by Jomike Tejido

A narrative in verse celebrating the joys and delights of fatherhood. Tejido’s clean and colorful illustrations extend and further develop the context of the narrative.

Dear Nanay (2014)
Illustrated by Liza Flores

mybooks_2016

A little girl writes a letter to her mother expressing how much she misses her every day. This is an homage to the OFWs and their families they left behind.

Big Sister (2015)
Illustrated by Ruben de Jesus

A little boy ponders on how much his big sister (Ate) means to her despite the many ways she annoys him.

Start Right Reading Series Kindergarten Level (2014)
Illustrated by Bernadette Solina Wold

A learning package with resources and teaching materials for Kindergarten students, teachers and parents. It has 12 story books with accompanying teachers’ manual and parents guide. Ideal for classroom use and homeschooling session.

Bumasa at Lumaya: Celebrate the 33rd National Children’s Book Day with PBBY

bumasa at lumaya

The month of July is dedicated to the promotion of children’s books. The National Children’s Book Day (NCBD) is celebrated every third Tuesday of this month. With this year’s theme, Bumasa at Lumaya, the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) will be having a string of events to honor book creators and to promote reading among the young.

National Children’s Book Day
In partnership with the National Book Development Board (NBDB), the 3rd National Children’s Book Awards (NCBA) will be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on July 19. This highly-anticipated event recognizes the excellent works of children’s book writers, illustrators, and publishers. Another highlight of this day is the awarding of the 2016 PBBY-Salanga and PBBY-Alcala winners.

Book fair and Children’s Literature Talks
The Book Fair and Children’s Literature Talks will be held on July 23 at the Xavier School in San Juan. The fair shall feature local children’s book publishers. Aside from selling selected titles at a discounted rate, publishers will also hold simultaneous storytelling sessions. A special package of all winning NCBA titles, from 2010 to 2016, may also be purchased at the fair.

The culmination of the NCBD celebration is the Children’s Literature Talks. The program will start with the book launch of Bumasa at Lumaya 2, a Sourcebook on Children’s Literature in the Philippines.

This whole-day event will also be a gathering of writers, illustrators, students, storytellers, teachers, librarians, and parents. For a registration fee of PHP800.00, participants may choose to attend among discussions on writing sensitive stories, body positivity on young adult fiction, the evolution of children’s book illustrations, raising multilingual readers, and more. Award-winning author, Augie Rivera (Alamat ng Ampalaya, Isang Harding Papel); illustrator, Liza Flores (Chenelyn! Chenelyn!); and reading advocate and educator, Victor Villanueva (Reading Association of the Philippines) are some of the industry experts who will be sharing their knowledge on children’s content and reading. Organizations such as The Learning Library and The Learning Basket will also share their expertise on multilingualism and homeschooling respectively.

For inquiries about the Book Fair and Children’s Literature Talks, you may e-mail ncbdph@gmail.com or call 352-6765 loc 204.

Book Fair and Talks

PBBY Fact Sheet

The Philippine Board on Books for Young People

The PBBY is a private, non-stock, non-profit organization committed to the development of children’s literature in the Philippines.

The PBBY is the lead agency in the celebration of National Children’s Book Day (NCBD). This is celebrated every third week of July to commemorate the anniversary of the publication of Jose Rizal’s “The Monkey and the Turtle” in Trubner’s Oriental Record in London.

The PBBY is composed of permanent and institutional members and individuals representing different sectors. The institutional members are The National Library, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and Museo Pambata. The individual members represent educators, researchers, librarians, book reviewers, writers, illustrators, storytellers, publishers, booksellers and mass media.

Officers

  • Tarie Sabido (Chair)
  • Dina Ocampo (Vice-Chair)
  • Ani Rosa Almario (Secretary-General)
  • Victor Villanueva (Treasurer)

Permanent Members

  • The National Library
  • Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) represented by
    Hermie Beltran
  • Museo Pambata represented by Dr. Nina Lim-Yuson

Sectoral Representation

  • Emily Abrera (mass media)
  • Karina Africa-Bolasco (booksellers)
  • Tarie Sabido (book reviewers)
  • Dr. Luis Gatmaitan (writers)
  • Victor Villanueva (educators, basic education)
  • Ramon Sunico (educators, tertiary)
  • Dina Ocampo (researchers)
  • Fran Ong (publishers)
  • Ruben de Jesus (illustrators)
  • Zarah Gagatiga (librarians)
  • Rey Bufi (storytellers)
  • Inquirer Read-Along (reading advocacy)

Honorary Chairman

  • Dr. Lucrecia Kasilag †, National Artist