9/22/2013

The White Shoes

As a young reader, I used to hate authors writing about their books' back story. I wanted to keep books pure in my mind.

But in later years, I started reading reviews. Now I read reviews before I buy a book.

After I had become an author myself, I learned to google and discovered that back stories actually make books even more interesting! 

So now I am about to write one. It is not my intention to turn off readers who, like I once did, hate back stories.  

“The White Shoes” came to me like a flash flood. I was busy threshing out book ideas piled in my head, and I had just decided never again to join any writing competition—it is a stressful preoccupation. (This will be explained in a separate blog post.) 

But Rose, my friend and co-teacher, and I were idly chatting one day about our uncomfortable high-heeled shoes in school. She mentioned her friend, Eva, who was so poor she only owned a grubby pair of black shoes. So Eva had to scrounge around for her graduation white shoes.

Deeply affected by the story of Eva's youth, I scribbled on my little notebook some key words. As soon as I got home that night, I fleshed out those words.

From that day, I wrote and re-wrote a story now begging to be told. I took liberties with Eva's shoes—twisted, turned and tangled details—and got my first draft done. (It takes a long time for my writing lamp to burn. Unlike some writers who are able to whip up a story in a day, I agonize over every character, scene, and word, sometimes for months.)

When I finally had the guts to let Rose read my draft (5th or 6th), she sniffled, “I love it!” I wasn't prepared for that reaction; her tears bothered me. I wanted the story light, not mushy or a tear-jerker. I simply wanted children to be grateful for what they are blessed with. 
 
I revised the story many more times and again, showed it to Rose. She smiled through all the pages—but still wiped a tear. One tear, I thought, isn't so bad. Kids are less generous with their tears anyway.

That was also a moment of decision—I sent the manuscript (probably my 56th revision) to the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards 2012. More flash floods, like flash grace, came after that:

It won first prize; it would be published by OMF Lit who chose Sergio Bumatay III as illustrator. I am a fan of Serge, who has, to date, reaped many international awards.

Serge, however, couldn't work on “The White Shoes” till after five months. Joan, my editor, and I decided to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait.
                                                  ooo
                                                         
Seven months later, inside the OMF Lit booth at the Manila International Book Fair, I saw for the first time the printed book, in “Kraft” paper, symbolic of shoe boxes. I caressed every page, seeing how much of Serg's heart is in the story:  

Eva poignantly looks down all the way till the end when she finally looks up, surrounded by shoes of all kinds, and smiles.

I likewise looked up, surrounded by books of all kinds, and smiled to thank the Source of books and shoes. I prayed that young readers would always be grateful for their blessings.

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