Why I'm just like Doctor Who

News Flash (Well, more like a News Glimmer because it happened a few weeks ago): My second novel Shine has won the Crystal Kite Prize given by the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in the British Isles and Ireland. It's my second Crystal Kite - Tall Story won it in 2012.  You can read about it here. Thank you so much to SCBWI for the honour. 

I wish!
When I go home to the Philippines to visit my family I feel a real affinity with Doctor Who.

I'm just like a time traveller. I visit one year, and a sister might have a new baby, a brother's daughter might have just started high school. I return again and all the young folk have turned into different people. The baby has turned into a walking, talking child and the niece has metamorphosed into a beautiful young woman.

Now ever since I saw Back to the Future back in the eighties, time travel stories have always been a delicious treat. But I'm not as blasé a time traveller as Doctor Who because I don't have the power to return to the intervening years that I've missed in the lives of the people that I love. And that's kind of lonely.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a lovely letter (yes! A real letter, in an envelope, with a stamp!) from a fifth grader in Virginia who wanted to tell me how much she enjoyed reading Tall Story. SD wrote:

I feel I can relate to Andi. I am half Filipino just like Andi. Like all Filipinos, I have a lot of family. Some of them I am really close to, some I haven't met, and also, I have a lot of people that are like my family, that I am not even related to. Sometimes, when I meet family members I get excited, but nervous. That is kind of how Andi was when she met Bernardo.

Thanks for writing, SD! I get such a buzz when I hear from readers. A letter like this reminds me of where I was when I was writing those chapters all those years ago. When I was creating the character of Andi, I was thinking of my own daughter, who is growing up here in London. My husband has a lovely family but there really aren't very many of them. Whenever we go home to the Philippines, my kids are overwhelmed by the number of relations they are suddenly surrounded by. I'll bet they feel exactly like you, excited but nervous.

My children with cousins galore (and that's not even everyone) . Photo: Randy Quimpo

They also feel very, very lucky. How cool is it to have family on both sides of the world!

Tall Story taught me a lesson. People sometimes judge people by things that don't matter, like the clothes that they wear. Bernardo was very tall and awkward. Everybody thought that he was strange just because he is eight feet tall, but he actually is very nice. I learned that it is really bad to judge people that you don't even know, and you should get to know somebody before you judge.

When I was younger, I was one of those awkward kids and I always felt it keenly when someone was unkind to me or said something uncomplimentary about my hair or my weight or how I dressed like a boy. I learned how to respond by being funny. As an old lady now, I don't seem to get that kind of treatment anymore, even though I'm more odd looking than ever. But I still remember keenly how it felt and relived it through Bernardo.

Thank you to S and to other children who've written me recently. Here's a random video to put a smile on your face (you might have seen it already but here it is anyway):

A Discussion Guide for Shine!!! Plus - Cool Young Bloggers and an Excellent Excellence Evening

I made a discussion guide for Shine!

It's really interesting revisiting the story and thinking of the different elements that came together when I was writing the story. I felt a funny twinge in my chest, remembering some of the traumatic things in the story (and why I put them there). Hope you librarians, book groups and readers enjoy this one. Let me know if I can add something more!


A few months ago, Google alerted me to a nice review of Tall Story. Turns out the blogger, Clara, is only 12 years old. I remember when I was 12, and I wasn't cool enough to run my own blog!

Anyway, Clara kindly did a Q&A on me. She was really interested in why I have that picture of myself dressed as Mrs Incredible. Apparently, her little brother actually LOOKS LIKE DASH in the Incredibles. That's just too incredible!

You can read the interview here. Do drop by and say hi to this brilliant young blogger.


Winners of the 'All of School' Awards - left to right: Luke Want, Jed Brandreth, Cameron Richards,  moi, Maliha Falim, Kirsten Seery and Ashleigh Curwood. Photo: Louise Brimble

I spent a day at Carlton Academy in Nottingham last week, doing workshops, talking to kids and hanging out with their cool and very handsome headmaster, Rich Pierpoint.

After a day of presentations, it was wonderful to sit around a table in the library with a group of keen readers. We talked about what they liked to read and then I took them through a workshop where they planned out a story of their own. Their ideas were hilarious, unafraid, comedic and even sharply satirical. It was an inspiring time for me - I hope it was the same for them.

In the evening there was an Excellence evening celebrating the achievements of the students. When the young people marched in to the applause of their parents, I have to say I had a lump in my throat, thinking how proud the parents must have been! How wonderful it was to see these young people rewarded for their brilliant work. The parents positively glowed, and the teachers clearly admired and enjoyed the achievements of their charges -- afterwards it was a joy to mingle and learn their stories. I felt just as proud as everyone else! Every school should do this!​

Till next time!

Happy Mother's Day (but not in England)

So today was Mother's Day - but not in England where I live. Still, my Facebook feed from all over the world is scrolling with Mother's Day greetings and celebrations. And one of my sons even texted: 'Happy Filipino Mother's Day, Mummy!' Which was lovely. Meanwhile, my daughter was suddenly in the mood to own a pet. Here's a comic about our conversation:

Happy Mother's Day to anywhere in the world where it's being celebrated!

Can I Keep a Comic Diary?

So when my classmates from high school learn that I got a children's book published, they assume that I illustrated it. 

This is because I was the one who couldn't stop drawing in class, as Miss Valdivia, my stenography teacher will attest. Don't get me wrong - I don't think I'm an art for art's sake artist. And I'm not a fine illustrator with all the years of training and art understanding. What I used to draw were comics - just more storytelling, but with drawings! 

But I put my love of comics on hold a long time ago, when I decided to try to make a living. I do sneaky comics now and then, but only for myself. I just don't think I draw enough to be good. I do a lot of wistful comic reading of the blogs of friends who are compulsive comic makers like Sarah McIntyre and Amanda Lillywhite.

Well, some illustrator friends recently told me off. If you want to draw, just do it, said my friend Bridget. So from last Thursday, I've started a class on Drawing the Graphic Novel with Emily Haworth-Booth at the Princes Drawing School in Shoreditch (thanks for the recommendation, Bridget!). 

Attending my first class was so liberating. The main thing I took away was: just draw and stop worrying about getting it wrong. Just DRAW! It is so liberating ... but can I keep it up?

So I think I'm going to have a go at keeping a comic diary. Here's my entry from yesterday, about waking up with a sore ankle. I'll tell you what: it didn't take me very long ... and it made me very happy. And drawing makes my brain think about my writing in a different way. Hey, this might be a good thing.