by Nicai de Guzman

I met Ate Liwa in one of our workshops in Probe Media Foundation a few years ago, when I was still a young reporter of Kabataan News Network. As the years went by and I graduated from the program and eventually became one of the bureau’s managers, I started to facilitate these training workshops for young people alongside her.

Just last November, we were together for a writeshop by Educo and Council for the Welfare for Children, where we taught teenagers how to write for children. I could really see she was passionate about her work with children and writing so I decided to ask her what made her choose her profession and her experiences as a writer.

Liwliwa Malabed is a children’s lit author. Her books include 100 Questions Filipino Kids Ask and Handa Ako!, a manual for disaster preparedness for children.

How did you start in the industry? And what inspired you to be a writer?

I joined a contest. My first story, “Anya and Her Tears,” won in MMPI Dreamweaver’s Contest for original bedtime story and illustration (published in Family Reader Magazine). The same story got me a job as a staff writer for Eskwela ng Bayan, a curriculum-based children’s show.

How many books have you published? Do you have any favorites?

[I’ve published] 10 books. [Of them], I love Gusto Ko Nang Lumaki! Maybe because it’s my story. I always find bits of myself in stories I write. But this one is really all me.

What made you focus on writing children’s books?

Back in college, while finishing my thesis, I took up some education subjects on a whim. One of these was Children’s Literature. I enjoyed it so much I started collecting children’s books. When I decided to take up MA in Teaching in the Early Grades in UP College of Education, I was already hooked on children’s lit. I am a ferocious reader and I read all genres—fantasy, sci-fi, romance, horror but with children’s books, the experience is always complete. The cadence, the humor, the magic, it’s all there.

And the illustration! Storybooks and picture books are twice-told tales so the reader gets two pieces of the cake. I am always blown away by what the illustrations tell that my story couldn’t.

What are the challenges you encounter when you write?

I wish I can strike anywhere but I’m not a disciplined writer. I write when there is a deadline or when an idea that’s been on my mind is finally ready to come out. So to do this for a living, I need deadlines, lots of encouragement (I get discouraged easily), midnight snacks and, in a week, six nights of doing everything but write and one night of actual work.

Do you have any rituals when you’re writing books?

My desk has to be clean (being me, that’s hard). And my mind free from worries (this is way more difficult than the desk thing). I’m also a very linear kind of person so I need to finish #1 on the list before writing #2. I have a book to read waiting as a reward after every writing assignment but I always end up finishing the book first before the assignment, haha.

What is an unforgettable feedback you received about one of your books? Or what’s an unforgettable experience with readers?

A mom sent me a picture of his son asleep while hugging my book. ☺

What are your current and future projects?

This year, I’m looking forward to the launch of my first book for toddlers, and an e-book/app of one of my stories.

What is your advice to aspiring writers, especially to young women writers?

Listen. There are stories everywhere—at home, in school, from the lady sitting across you during a jeepney ride.

Read. Find out what is already out there—what is missing, what needs to be rewritten.

Write. Sit down and write that first story, novel, play or script. Be fearless, let the thoughts flow. ☁

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