Did you know that pigs cannot see the sky because they cannot look straight up? When author-illustrator Nicole Yulo found out about this surprising yet little-known fact, she was stunned.
"Pigs are smart, gentle creatures that pulled owners out of burning buildings," she told ABS-CBN News. "They are capable of so much and they couldn't look up? That wasn't fair, but I wasn't in a position to remedy the problem."
No wonder, Yulo created someone who could through "Patch of Sky," which marks her debut as a published author.
The picture book shares a tale of friendship between Pia and her pig, Patches. Pia wants to share the amazing beauty of the big, white sky with Patches, and she will do whatever it takes to make it happen.
"The character of Pia helped me flesh out the world and the kind of pig-friendship that might incite her to push limits and do something extraordinary," Yulo said.
"I wanted to write a protagonist that was able to recognize a problem, try to solve it, and persevere. Being a perfectionist myself, I wanted to show little girls that failure isn't the end of the story. Anything is possible with perseverance and a little bit of creative thinking," she stressed.
"Patch of Sky" was released worldwide last July 12. It is sold at Fully Booked in Manila and other bookstores, with the audiobook is available on Audible.
Although no succeeding editions of the book are being planned, there are other new titles coming up for Yulo in the near future.
DREAM COME TRUE
Working as a children's book author was a dream come true for Yulo, who discovered her literary agent, Alexandra Levick of Writers House, back in 2019.
"She showed interest in my work right away and I still consider myself incredibly lucky for signing with her," she shared. "We worked on the manuscript of this book for a few weeks and then went out on submission to publishing houses."
"The response was immediate and enthusiastic. Again, I consider myself very lucky. It felt like lightning struck twice. We sold the book in a four house competitive auction. I've been working with my amazing editor at Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House, ever since."
Yulo has been writing for as long as she can remember. However, it wasn't until she took a painting class in college that she realized she could pursue art as a profession, too.
"I have always been a great admirer of picture books and graphic novels," she said. "I feel so lucky that I am able to work in those spaces now."
It is not surprising that Yulo took her artistic inclination after her mother, theater veteran Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo. She has also dipped her toes into performing, playing Liesl Von Trapp in Repertory Philippines' "Sound of Music."
"It is very hard not to have all that passion rub off on you growing up," she said. "Most importantly, apart from her incredible talent, my mom is a very
hard worker. She instilled in me a kind of work ethic that continues to serve me well in my career."
"That being said, she will be the first to tell you that she can only draw stick figures, while I have always enjoyed doodling in my ever-growing collection of notebooks," she mentioned in jest, admitting that she does not sing "nearly as well" as her mom.
Yulo has been living away from her family in Manila since she was a teenager. She obtained her Fine Arts and Creative Writing degree from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.
After graduating, she relocated to New York for internships and more training. In 2014, she was accepted into the Columbia University Master of Fine Arts Film program for screenwriting and directing.
"I've lived in New York ever since. I love this city with all my heart. It feels like home," she said.
But while she enjoys her independence, Yulo admitted that it is hard to not be with her family and loved ones, especially amid the pandemic.
"It was challenging when the borders shut down. I didn't get to see my family for a very long time, as I'm sure many others experienced as well," she said.
Yulo added that the production of her book was affected by the pandemic as well: "The entire New York city shut down – offices, bookstores, printers, you name it."
"It was a very slow process that involved a lot of creative problem solving, but luckily, it all turned out well. I have my amazing publishing team to thank for that."