WRITE FROM THE HEART — Alex London’s Advice to Budding Teen Writers

by Ms. Pier Angeli M. Basadre, HS English teacher
Alex London (4th from left), New York-based fiction author with the Gr. 8 English Team of Xavier School. [L to R: Ana Margarita Nunez; Barbara Magallona, High School English Department Head; Pier Angeli Basadre; Arianne de Asis; and Diana Alexandra de Ocampo, Gr. 8 Team Leader] Photo Credit: Barbara Magallona

Xavier School hosted an hour of entretien or casual exchange between an international, New York based, fiction author Alex London and XS Grade 8 students. The school’s Multi-Purpose Center was jam packed with about 370 students, teachers, and administrators who were all eager to know London’s life-journey from being a journalist to being a fiction writer at present.

London visited the Philippines last August 2014 to promote his recently published best-seller books Guardian and Proxy.

The highly energetic author gamely recalled how he had been reprimanded, sanctioned, and even sent to the Principal’s Office as a child due to excessive talking. “My friends laughed at my stories, which encouraged me to tell more stories, at the expense of being sent to the Principal’s Office for too much talking in class,” said London.

London admitted that as a child, he was not so fond of reading books. But almost instantaneously, he vouched that even as a child, he loved telling stories. “I tried to avoid reading the books assigned in school. Yet, though I struggled to read, I LOVED STORIES.” This deep love for stories prompted him to write his first illustrated, unpublished book “The Lizards Go To Camp” which he keeps as one of his precious possessions until now.

When asked what advice can he give to budding writers, London offered three specific tips:

1. Read, Read, and Read! “If you want to be a writer, read, read, and read some more. Even the most boring books can teach you.”

2. Write from the heart. “Don’t write to please. Write to express. Write from the heart as honestly as you can. Someone out there in the world will need to read that story you are writing.”

3. Practice writing everyday. “I give myself a quota of 1000 words per day. I give myself permission to write badly, even awfully. Do not judge your writing before it needs to be judged.  Don’t worry about writing it well. You can polish your drafts later. What is important is to put your ideas on paper.”

London stressed the importance of finding the personal style that works for each budding writer and encouraged each one to use writing as a tool to entertain and comfort people who may be experiencing all sorts of difficulties and trials in life. “There’s more to the world than suffering. By writing books, you build that universe inside people’s imagination. You can also give the people an armor to laugh on a hard day.”

London’s parting words must have struck the hearts of young, energetic, aspiring writers among Xaverians when he said: “Write powerful stories. You will be amazed at what these stories can do… With stories, you could travel, talk to people in the past.”

Right after their highly-animated exchange with London, two Grade 8 Xaverians approached their English teacher with so much fire in their eyes and asked: “So ‘Cher, who are we gonna invite next year: J.K. Rowling or John Green?”

London, in fact, is the third international best-seller author to visit Xavier School. Last year, the famous Mitch Albom also came to XS during his three-day book tour in the Philippines and talked with the Grade 10 students. In 2010, Candy Gourlay, a London-based Filipina author, likewise visited Xavier School and even did a book talk to selected Gr. 8 students about her book Tall Story.

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