She started out by helping with the textbook side of her family business, St. Matthew’s Publishing Corp. Six years ago, she set up their children’s book imprint, Kahel Press, after attending an event in Singapore where she realized that children’s books could make a difference in the lives of children and even big kids like ourselves.
Kahel means orange in Filipino, both the fruit and the color. Combining the passion of red and the happiness of yellow. They have a lot of authors who use Kahel Press as a platform for their different advocacies.
“Sometimes, when you’re working on an advocacy, they can have their unique challenges. So we bring that happiness/lightness of yellow to be able to carry out that message in a lighter, easier, more fun way to the readers,” Wowie states.
Wowie is an advocate for restorative justice. In her university days, she was part of an organization called Balik Laya. It was a prison service program and orange is the color of the organization. Orange is often associated with prisoners.
She volunteered to be an usher at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) a few years ago. She had been hearing good things about the event and wanted to learn about combining events and publishing.
During the festival, she attended a talk given by Saleemah Ismail where she talked about a reading program for kids called The New Life Stories that works with incarcerated women (mothers) in Singapore. Many of the women were generational offenders, meaning their parents or grandparents committed crimes and were often in and out of prison. These women were asked to write stories. They also recorded their voices to tell the stories for their kids. After they started their program, they did not have repeat incarceration anymore.
This experience was what she had been looking for. To know that children’s books can make a difference and have an impact through what the mothers were doing for their children. Simply reading and using books and stories to connect to their children.
They launched three picture books and three guidebooks for kids in their first year. They want to get into middle-grade books, believing that this is an underserved market.
What Writers Need to Know
There have been a lot of people who want to contribute to kids, especially during the pandemic. There were a lot of manuscripts being sent in.
Guidebooks – middle grade. They have hobby books on topics such as gardening, cooking, reading and writing baybayin, pet care guides, and creative writing in Filipino, to name a few. There are many different types of books to help kids discover what they are good at.
Biographies for young leaders – for Bayani biographies, Wowie started working with historians Natasha Kintanar, John Ray Ramos, and Xiao Chua. They started with the Philippine Revolution against Spain. They needed the historians to help find the correct and even updated information about these heroes.
Here are the questions she asks authors when they send in their manuscripts:
- What are your goals/objectives for the book? – This is what drives her to select the story. She always checks if the story is aligned with their objective.
- What is the story behind the story? – to get to know the authors more
- Who is the story for?
All the picture books are bilingual. The prominent language is whichever language the author submitted it in, and then we get translators.
Everybody can relate to children’s books, so there is always a market. People want to give their kids a good start, so people still look for books for kids for their development.