I missed a pretty awesome opportunity a little while ago. A series of workshops for children’s book authors and illustrators was being offered. If you had an interest in creating children’s books and could commit to all the days of the workshops, the opportunity was available and it was funded through a grant, making it free for participants. I was definitely interested, but sadly could not commit to all the days of the workshops, because like many local artists, I have a day job. – Just a side note, I switched jobs twice last year. It was a year of … transitions.
That was a major bummer until I got a message from a friend, asking me to call her. Victoria Lola Leon Guerrero is the managing editor of University Press, which just created a branch, Taiguini Books, that focuses on publishing cultural books. As it turned out, Taiguini Books decided to choose a few of the stories that were worked on at the workshops to produce in time for FestPac. They picked four stories to publish. At the time of the selection the authors had already chosen illustrators. Lola called me because one of the illustrators had backed out and she needed an illustrator who could turn it out really quickly, like a month. Yeah. Despite the deadline anxiety I enthusiastically agreed. A lot of that enthusiasm was brought on by the story and the fact that I could relate too it.
Guaiyayon Na Trongkon Mansanita is about young siblings and the Mansanita tree that they grow up with. Delores Indalencio Camacho, the author, wrote the first draft of this story over a decade ago. She’s been holding on to it in her mind even longer, since it is in fact the story of her, her sisters, and their mansanita tree. My cousins and I grew up with a siniguelas tree at our grandparents house. It shared a similar life and fate as the Camacho’s mansanita tree. Children played in it’s shade, their laughter carried by the wind through it’s leaves. They climbed it’s branches and were treated to the fruit it lovingly produced. I think a lot of people who grew up in Guåhan, at least my generation and earlier, can relate to this story.
It ended up taking a little over a month to complete the illustrations. It was a fun filled journey. I spent most Mondays in Lola’s office with her and Ms. Camacho going over sketches, the line drawings, and finally the colored and completed illustrations. I’ll explain more of the behind the scenes details in a future post. It was a truly great experience. A lot of that had to do with the support that Taiguini Books provides through Lola’s hard work. I’m honored that Ms. Camacho agreed to have me illustrate a story that was so very special to her.
Guaiyayon Na Trongkon Mansanita was written by Delores Indalencion Camacho and Illustrated by myself, Andrea Nicole Grajek. It is written in CHamoru with english translations in the back of the book. If you’d like to purchase a copy they are available at MARC at UOG, as well as the UOG bookstore. You can also purchase them at Bestseller. They are $17 each. You should also check out the other three children’s books that Taiguini Books published. They would all make a great addition to your children’s book shelf.
In the coming weeks I’ll be posting about the illustration process, the importance of literature for Pacific children, as well as my experience working with the author and publisher. So look out for that.