What in the world is a Diverse Author?

By Candy Gourlay

This time last year I guested on Luna's Little Library Diversity Month. Here's the piece I wrote.

Author Candy Gourlay holds dual British and Filipino citizenship but always describes herself as "A Filipino author living in London". She is the author of Tall Story, in which the Philippines and London get equal billing. Her second book, Shine, does not identify the country that her mysterious island of Mirasol is set in, but her heroine is a British girl of mixed race who can live an easier life in the UK but chooses to live on the island where her life is in danger. 

Several times now, teachers and librarians here in the UK have asked me to recommend diverse authors like myself to perform author visits to their schools.

I always oblige, with a list of lovely author friends who I can guarantee will give them a good show ... but it does give me pause to be called a "Diverse Author".

What in the world is a Diverse Author?

My Recommended Reads for Filipino American History Month

By Candy Gourlay

It's Filipino American History Month! I didn't know this until @sueYAHollywood referenced books by me and my fellow middle grade author Erin Kelly on the Hollywood News Source blog. Thanks, Sue!

The Filipino American community is the second largest Asian American population in the United States (19.7 percent of all Asian Americans according to a 2010 census).

In 2015, I had the privilege of appearing in the Filipino American International Literary Festival in San Francisco.

The Gr8 Book Debate - a message from me

By Candy Gourlay

I was thrilled to hear that Shine was one of the five books chosen for The Gr8 Book Debate, held between Ridgeway School and Sixth Form College, Isambard Community School and Nova Hreod Academy, all in Swindon. Here is a quick message to spur the debaters on for the grand finale on 6 July 2016. Thanks to LRC managers Sarah Day, Stella Rogers and Jacqui Fawcett for the heads up. Have an amazing time, everyone!

Fun Ways to Teach Tommy Donbavand's Scream Street

By Candy Gourlay

So my friend, the author Tommy Donbavand, is having a terrible, terrible time at the moment. His illness means he's had to cancel all his school visits, which is the bread and butter of children's authors.

Tommy has to be one of the most impressive figures in the UK children's book scene. He's got a majestic output -- he wrote the Scream Street books on which the CBBC TV series is based, he's written a Doctor Who book, he has written for Beano, and has written plenty of other hilarious, creepy, scary books that children love.

Not only that, Tommy used to be a CLOWN.

I will let that sink in.

One Immigrant's Story

By Candy Gourlay

Last week's referendum has revealed us to be a divided society here in Britain. Watching jubilant Leave voters on TV explaining that they wanted to rid the country of immigrants is not easy for someone who is exactly that.

Oddly enough, when I arrived in this country as a blushing bride twenty-seven long years ago, the thing that most astonished me about the UK was its incredible diversity.

We moved here from Manila, which at the time was pretty homogenous - my English husband and I suffered catcalls and rude comments because my fellowmen assumed that  any Filipina in the company of a Westerner had to be a prostitute. What a relief to move to multicultural North London where not an eyelash was batted at our two-tone relationship.

Having grown up in the Philippines where my only exposure to Brits was of the cinematic kind, I expected the UK's denizens to speak in round, well enunciated syllables ... the men pale and foppish like Michael York or dark and villainous like Oliver Reed, all the little children sweetly singing 'Whe-heh-heh-her is love?', and all the women twinkling like Vanessa Redgrave in Camelot.

"Candy was one of the best authors that we've ever seen. She never stopped talking." Plus: How not to take photos of children

By Candy Gourlay

 One of the best compliments I've ever received after a school visit!

Also loved this one saying that my Powerpoint was "well finished".
These were written by young people from St Mary's Primary School after I visited St Mary's and Middle Barton Primary School  as part of the Chiplitfest Schools Programme.

The Chichester Lit Quiz of 2016

Here is a photo-report of the shenanigans we got up to at the Chichester Lit Quiz. If it looks ever so slightly familiar, it's because the same authors were featured as last February's Portsmouth Lit Quiz apart from a shocking attempt to ... well you've got to watch the slideshow to find out!

This Quiz Lit was the very last one for quizmaster of many years Peter Bone, who is soon retiring, apparently to watch birds. Have an exciting retirement, Peter, and I hope to see you at the Lit Quiz (if I'm ever invited again, that is, after all the high jinks with the other authors).

Thanks to the author team, Ali Sparkes, Jeff Norton (who bunked Chichester for Hollywood), Kathryn Evans and the enchanting Dark Lord, Jamie Thomson (who is never without his little coffin). Thank you too to the team behind the Portsmouth and Chichester Lit Quizzes ... and the teachers who trawled through my photographs to check permissions.

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Portsmouth Lit Quiz 2016

I made a resolution this year to document more of the events I attend on my blog. I'm now behind by a month, but hey, better late than never! Here is a photo story about the Portsmouth Literary Quiz this year. It was such fun ... until the quiz began to ask questions about books written by the guest authors. Oh the humiliation!

Thanks to Peter Bone, School Library Service Manager of Portsmouth, Colin Telford of the Hayling Island Bookshop, my fellow authors Ali Sparkes (Carjacked), Jamie Thomson (Dark Lord: Teenage Years), Jeff Norton (Metawars) and the teachers and librarians who made the day work like clockwork!

Thirty years ago

By Candy Gourlay

My Facebook feed from the Philippines has been awash with throwback photos of the People Power  revolution. It made me a little bit jealous because I have no photographic record of myself being there. And then this photo appeared on my timeline. It was taken by a dear photographer colleague who died two years ago. And there I am, peeking over the shoulder of a soldier. I shared the photo on Facebook and I thought for posterity's sake, I should also archive that heart-felt post here on my blog. I have embedded the FB post immediately below, followed by the complete text. 

I can't believe it has been 30 years since the People Power Revolution which happened in the Philippines between 22 to...
Posted by Candy Gourlay on Wednesday, 24 February 2016
In the photo are photojournalist colleagues Alex Baluyut and Luis Liwanag (on the wall) and next to me in the check shirt, Joe Galvez. Click to enlarge

I can't believe it has been 30 years since the People Power Revolution which happened in the Philippines between 22 to 25 February 1986. My late friend Rey Vivo took this photo, which is the only one I've seen of myself during that time (you can see my glasses peeking out behind the soldiers). Here in the UK, keeping my head down to meet a deadline, that experience seems like a dream.

This photo was taken when tanks and APCs appeared on Ortigas Avenue near an area of posh gated villages. The air was filled with the smell of gasoline, oil and exhaust. The crowd immediately surged in front of the tanks, some people literally trying to push them back. Women clutching rosaries were sobbing, convinced that the tanks were going to run them over. And yet they didn't move away.
I was really scared and I stood to the side. So I didn't get into all the famous photos of Filipinos defying tanks that later hit the front pages all over the world. The APCs revved their engines to try to frighten the crowd away. It was a blood curdling sound. But nobody moved and there was a long standoff.

The army had yet to turn against Marcos and in the photo, these soldiers were doing what police controlling football crowds call "kettling". At some point during this time, I remember losing my rag as the soldiers shoved us around roughly. I was imagining the bloodbath that was about to happen, with me in the middle of it. I yelled at the soldier in front of me, 'We could be your family. I could be your sister. How can you treat us like this?'

But there was no bloodbath. To his credit, he showed no emotion and didn't retaliate. He could have just lashed out with the butt of his gun and everything would have been different. Such a contrast to the many demonstrations I'd covered as a journalist when it didn't take much for police to start using their batons, electric cattle prods, tear gas and water cannon against the opposition. As a journalist, I had visited detention centres and listened to the stories of torture and murder committed by the military under Marcos' command. I once visited a village burned to the ground because the people sympathised with the New People's Army. I've spent time visiting hospitals to count the casualties after violent dispersals of demonstrations.

I guess at the time, the military was already considering its position and were not going to allow things to go out of control. Soon after, the military declared on the side of the people.
When I think of this scene and remember the heat, the stench of so many people, the smell of the guns, I remember my fear. Later, I read all the complete sentences written by journalist colleagues and marvelled at how they could so neatly describe it all.

The Philippines is remembering those three days in February right now, in the midst of an election which includes Marcos' son, Bong Bong, running for Vice President.

Now I was not persecuted or tortured, like the brave souls who stood up against Marcos, but I was part of a passive, walking dead population that surrendered my rights and my future to the dictator. When Marcos fled, the catharsis was almost unbearable.

Thirty years on, the Philippines is marginally wealthier but still on an economic and political rollercoaster because of an impermeable layer of elites who prevent wealth from trickling down to the grindingly poor majority. It saddens me that the Marcoses and their cronies are still in power, with a well-oiled social media and marketing campaign to retrieve their reputations. Most of all, it saddens me that there are so many young Filipinos who discount that time and say that our situation was better under Marcos.

They don't know what it's like to feel hope for the first time in their lives.

More reminiscences about the revolution:

The last time I overthrew a dictator (February 2011)
A farewell to Letty Magsanoc who wanted to change the world one dictator at a time (December 2015)
She taught me writing is never about the writer (December 2015)

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Is the Calm Real? A Teaching Resource for Shine

World Book Day is fast approaching and I'm excited to say my days are going to be packed with school visits --  I can't wait! It's been a while since I last made a teaching resource so here's a brand new one - focusing on Shine. If any work comes out of this resource, do let me know via the contact form below.


This coming half term, I will be featured in the very popular Imagine Festival in the South Bank alongside lovely Laura Dockrill, author of Loreli (AMAZING read - go get it!) and the Darcy Burdock series. We're going to be talking about how realism and myth meet in young fiction. Emily Drabble, fastest children's journalist in the West, will be chairing our event. If you happen to be in London, do come and watch - we're on at 1 pm, 16 February, Level 5, Royal Festival Hall - you can book tickets here.

Laura's famous for her blue lipstick, so in an attempt to keep up here I am with ... er ... green lips.

I'm also participating in Dahl in a Day, basically it's a Matildathon - with authors and various others reading Matilda in a day on Thursday, 18 Feb from 10.30 am. It's FREE! The cast of Matilda the Musical is performing soon after 10.30 ... and if you're still around about 1.30, I'll be reading Chapter 19!

In fact, Laura and I were in the Guardian talking about the intersection between realism and enchantment in young fiction. Go read!


Today authors, educators and librarians marched on parliament to demand an end to the apathy and ignorance in local and central government that has led to the closure of many libraries.

I am an author today because a librarian helped me discover my lifelong love of books. Please, everyone, do what it says in the campaign: SPEAK UP FOR LIBRARIES.

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Children and Teens Who Want to Write

By Candy Gourlay

I visited Ormiston Bushfield School in Peterborough
yesterday as part of the Pop Up Schools Programme.
I wore these socks.
I get a lot of mail on Facebook from young people who are trying to write. They ask me: Will you read my manuscript? Will you help me finish my book?

Sometimes, they ask me: How do I get famous?

And when I visit schools, the question always pops up: How do I get published?

These are HUGE questions.

And before anybody says anything snarky, they are all questions that once passed my own lips on my own long writing journey. They are questions that deserve to be answered with kindness and consideration.

For a while now, I've been meaning to write a blog post for young people who want to write.

Lucky for me, former Writer's Digest publisher Jane Friedman beat me to it. Here are the links:

Jane suggests that mentors can speed one's development as a writer. I am glad though that she gives the following counsel: "Don't ask a famous person to be your mentor or give feedback on your work. You don't need someone really famous."

At this point, may I apologise to all the young people who have asked me to help them with their books. I just can't do it -- not just because of the sheer number of requests I get, but because I am working full time as a children's author, writing my own books and appearing in schools. 

'Mentors speed growth,' Jane writes. And to all you grown-ups reading this: do you realise that you -- YES, you! -- may already be mentoring a young writer?

You might be the teacher whose warm encouragement has inspired a student to explore his or her writing.

You might be a librarian who suggested the book that ignited that love for words.

You might be the parent who has unwittingly nurtured a writer by relentlessly reading aloud to your children at bedtime.

If so, you too have to skill up. Your mentee is counting on you. Do bookmark Jane's article on writing advice, there is a lot of really good stuff in there, including suggesting online writing communities like Figment and Wattpad (I suggested Wattpad to a young friend the other day who was wondering if she should set up a blog to share her writing -- if you're interested in sharing your writing, that's not really blogging ).

Not everyone has the drive to write however. But everybody loves a good story. When I visit schools, children never fail to astonish me with their creativity and storytelling ability. 

Yesterday, during a visit to Ormiston Bushfield Academy in Peterborough (part of the Pop Up Schools Programme), the children planned out novels in just thirty minutes! Here are synopses of the two books we made up. If children can do this in thirty minutes, think what other magnificent things they can achieve!

Twelve year old John and his parents live on Mars. It's a settlement of refugees who have fled the toxic wasteland that Earth has become. John is the only young person on the planet and he hates it. Not only is he lonely, he is forced to wear a survival suit at all times. He would do anything to leave Mars, but where would he go? One day he  stumbles upon a six year old girl hidden in a survival unit. There is an explosion and John and the girl end up in an escape pod that slingshots them to Earth. When they emerge, they discover that Earth is no longer toxic but it has been overwhelmed by wild animals. John, who had been desperate for young company, discovers that it is a great responsibility as well as he protects his new friend (who is a bit annoying) from the wild creatures. Now he just wants to go home. To Mars.

Christopher, a BMX biker, is plagued by strange dreams of apocalyptic scenes. The dreams never change, following a series of events that end with terrible destruction. It has gotten to the point that he dreads falling asleep. He is so distraught he moves into a remote forest, to get away from the places that he sees in his dream. One day, he discovers that one of the things that happen in his dream, the one that sets off a series of destructive events, actually happens. That night, the dream changes. A man, who had not appeared in the dream before, speaks to him. He tells him that his dream of apocalypse is going to come true unless Christopher crosses into his dream and stops the events from happening. At first Christopher finds it hard to believe. He returns to the locations he sees in his dreams and something makes him realise that the man's warning is true. He also discovers that he has no choice. If he doesn't enter his dream, he will die. In the final chase scene, he uses his BMX skills to escape the dream baddy.

With thanks to the children and staff of Ormiston Bushfield who made me welcome. And to Pop Up for having me on the programme. Thanks to Kyhiro for the badass apocalyptic creative commons image.

My Long and Winding Road Trip

Hello, readers!

I'm just back from a research trip to the Philippines with an SD card packed full of amazing photographs. As you may know, I'm desperately in love with photography ... so I'm testing out a Photo Essay site, Exposure.co, which allows you to post full width, high resolution images. Here are some photo stories about my recent trip. Hope you like them!

Long and Winding Road Trip by Candy Gourlay on Exposure

Sea of Clouds by Candy Gourlay on Exposure

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