Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Local Indigenous Authors to Publish Books

Indigenous authors excited to publish children's books
by Jojo Santo Tomas
Pacific Daily News
August 18, 2015

Five years ago, Jessica Iglesias used to take her twins to the library every Saturday. She sought local publications in Chamorro, to teach her 18-month-olds, Tano and Tasi, more about their language and culture.

"What I found was very limited, only a few books. I would have to go to outer branches to find material and they would let you see it, but you can't check it out," she says. "It became a constant search for material. I'd go to island fairs and things like that to look for material but there's not a lot out there."

Now that Tano and Tasi are 7, Iglesias is taking a direct approach to a solution. Along with technical adviser Rudy Villaverde, she is writing a book herself.

Iglesias is one of two dozen prospective authors who hope to get local children's books published in time for the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts, which is being held on Guam from May 22 to June 4 next year.

The authors have been meeting every Saturday since Aug. 1 for an Indigenous Children's Book Workshop, presented by the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency and the Forums, Workshops and Seminars Committee for FestPac. It is part of the "Connect Me, Create Me, Promote Me" Workshop Series sponsored by the Guam Visitors Bureau.

The weekend work is a stark contrast to Iglesias' daily grind as a customs officer and tax preparer. She has zero experience in writing and publishing, yet she feels comfortable and excited about the process.

That's due in large part to facilitator Rosa Salas Palomo, who put out a call for prospective authors in July. She was expecting 15 people to respond but almost double that showed interest. She managed to fit everyone in the workshop and has spent four hours each Saturday walking her fledgling authors through the basics of creating a story, working with local illustrators and designing a finished product.

Iglesias' story is about a young man going through a rite of passage, mastering the navigational skills necessary to travel from island to island in the Marianas. With Villaverde's wealth of knowledge, Iglesias is confident she will not only publish this book, she will develop future books in a series.
Another children's book author prospect, Arlene TaitagueTaitingfong, says she's going through an amazing time in her life. Using characters Téadora, a cat, and Bishop, a dog, she tells the story of a 'blended' family that learns how to accept their differences and learn how to respect each other.
"It's for elementary schoolchildren, and what kid doesn't like animals," she says. "Rosa Palomo has been very helpful, and makes the process sound so easy even though I know it's not. She's able to break it down to a step-by-step process that is easy to follow."

Taitingfong says attending the classes and being surrounded by so many like-minded people has helped her reconnect with her culture. She's starting Chamorro Language classes next week, for one, and is thinking even further ahead: she'd like to co-author a book with her brother David Shawn Taitague, who's an illustrator.

"All these good things are coming about since I started this workshop," she says. "I feel like I've hit the lottery."

Iglesias echoed her sentiments.

"I'm so excited, and I think it's great," she says. "All of us will be able to put out something that will be passed on for future generations. God bless Rosa Palomo for not turning anyone away."

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