Start 'Em Young

Manila Bulletin, February 5, 2011 | Go to article overview

Start 'Em Young


MANILA, Philippines - If the bestseller lists are anything to go by, the young adult novel means pretty big business.Just last year, "Mockingjay", the concluding work in Suzanne Collins bestselling "The Hunger Games" series, skyrocketed to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List and sold more than 450,000 copies on its first weekend alone.Even series that have long ended continue to earn big money for its publishers. Despite having been concluded for almost five years now, "Harry Potter" showed it was still very much in people's minds when the latest film adaptation, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1", grossed $125 million at the box office.And yet even with all this evidence that investing in young adult novels makes for good business sense, a bustling young adult community is very much absent among the local writing scene. The reasons for this, along with tips on how to grow that community here in the country, was the subject of discussion during "The Young Adult Novel", one of the forums held during Lit Out Loud, a conference organized by the National Book Development Board and co-presented by National Bookstore.On hand to discuss the nuances of the young adult publishing scene were local author and publisher Ramon "RayV" Sunico, Australian author Chris Cheng, and Andy Mulligan , award-winning author of young adult novels "Ribblestrop" and "Trash".Planting the seedsSunico began the discussion by talking about the short history of the young adult novel in the Philippines, which he says began around the 1970s."For all practical purposes, this current wave of Philippine children's books started only in the 1970s. Books were in English, written by people like Gilda Cordero-Fernando and Gemma Cruz-Araneta. Then Virgilio Almario began an initiative to put together picture books in Filipino," he recalls.When local publishing experienced a boom in the mid-'80s with the lifting of government censorship, young adult novels did not benefit from it as there was very few writing them. It was only during a seminar organized by the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) at the tailend of the '80s that the idea of writing a young adult novel was brought up."The seed was first planted when the PBBY and the Asia-Pacific Cultural Center for UNESCO in Japan sponsored a seminar on writing and illustrating for children. One of the modules was about how to write a young adult novel," says Sunico.Growing that emerging genre would face immediate - if indirect - opposition from the academia, says Sunico, who dismissed children's literature and young adult novels as the lesser sibling of "adult" literary works."As with many other countries, children's lit and by extension young adult, is sometimes dismissed as a poorer relation of literary writing. …

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