I was born in a city called Davao in the Philippines.

I like to say I wanted to become a writer from the moment I was born but looking at that baby picture, maybe that wasn't quite true.

I do remember when I was six realizing that words and paragraphs strung together made stories. That was a big AHA! moment for me.

That's me on the left. That's my big sister Joy, who became a rock singer. She bit me when I was a baby. The younger kids are my brother Randy who now directs films and my sister Mia, who is an architect.

Some baby brothers came along when I was a teenager which is why I have extreme nappy changing skills. Armand on the far left is now an animator and Andre (with the cake) is a teacher.

My first writing job was on Stork News, a typewritten newsletter edited by my younger sister Mia. She was seven years old. I must have been eleven. Mostly, I wrote about my dogs and my little brothers and life in Manila where I grew up.
We're all grown up now! Here's a picture of my family complete with husbands, wives, children, grandchildren .... and GREAT grandchildren (not mine, my mum's)
I went to an all girls convent school called St Theresa's College, Quezon City. We wore little blue neckties, navy pleat skirts, and dragged massive wheeled bags full of books. I became famous for decorating blackboards with chalk drawings. I was also the librarian's pet.

When I launched Tall Story in the Philippines, my classmates came along to celebrate!

They were just as noisy and giggly as they were when we were children. Some of my classmates came from as far as Paris, Shanghai and Washington to attend my launch! Thank you, classmates! Photo: Nelson Malabanan

I did become a writer but for a long time, I thought I was the wrong kind: working as a reporter for newspapers and magazines.

I didn't earn much money so I also drew a weekly cartoon strip for a women's magazine, and took photographs. I had a lot of adventures!

Pictured above is my press pass, that's me taking pictures in the Forbidden City in China, and that's a lion I got to interview (he said: "Roar"). And that cartoon is by the wonderful political cartoonist Jess Abrera. Photos clockwise from press card: Mandy Navasero, Bobby Coloma, Brian Allan, Rey Vivo.
The eighties was a great time to be a journalist in the Philippines. And I was so proud that, during the People Power Revolution, I worked for some really fantastic women who helped good history happen.

Eggie Apostol and Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc were publisher and editor, respectively, of the opposition magazine where I cut my teeth as a journalist. The two women, fed up with government control of the press, set up the oddly named Mr&Ms Special Edition which played a pivotal role in overthrowing the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. 
Then I realized that what I wanted to write was fiction. But it was too late. Children started appearing in my house. Three children in all. LOUD children.

Once my children didn't require my nappy changing skills any more, I began writing again. I edited a magazine called Filipinos in Europe, did a bit of journalism and wrote and presented a documentary calledMotherless Nation for BBC Radio 4.

Working on Motherless Nation

But mostly I was writing fiction for children. Trying. But getting published is a long, hard slog. To pass the time, I kept (and still do) a blog called Notes from the Slushpile. The slushpile is where editors dump manuscripts that they probably will never publish. A lot of my stories ended up there.

Luckily I joined SCBWI also known as Scooby. It's a group of writers and illustrators for children who spend a lot of time moaning about how hard it is to get published. Sometimes, they help each other.

Winners of the Undiscovered Voices Anthology competition

SCBWI had a competition for unpublished authors and published an anthology of all the winners. They chose Ugly City, my novel, as one of the winners. Which made me jump up and down for two months without stop and without water.

It was still hard work. But things began to happen.

I got an agent.

No, not this kind of agent. A LITERARY agent!

I sold a short story.

My short story How to Build the Perfect Sandcastle
appeared in this anthology published by Frances Lincoln 

I sold a little book of animal stories.

Animal Tricksters is an Oxford Reading Tree book

And then I wrote Tall Story ... and a publisher named David Fickling decided to publish it!

My lovely publisher

And that was it ... I became a proper author!

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay
Find out more about Tall Story 

Here's the video I made (with some cool kids) to celebrate!