Meet WIPO’s first IP Youth Ambassador: Santiago Mena López
By Natalie Humsi, WIPO Academy
Award-winning writer, Santiago Mena López, is WIPO’s first Intellectual Property (IP) Youth Ambassador. Recognized as Peru’s youngest author, he published his first novel, Encogidos (The Shrunken) at the age of 14. As an IP Youth Ambassador, Mr. Mena López will help promote IP education among young people in the Latin American and Caribbean region under the WIPO Academy’s IP4Youth&Teachers project. The young author talks about his novel and shares his views about the importance of IP to creators and the need to raise IP awareness among young people.
What prompted you to start writing?
I started writing because of a strong desire to share my perception of the world through the ideas and stories that are developing in my mind. I also want to encourage young people like me to read more.
Where do you get your creative ideas?
The things I see and experience in my daily life inspire me. I get my creative ideas from the news, people’s stories and conversations with family and friends. My stories always have a message. Either I build the storyline around that message or the message emerges from the storyline.
Tell us about Encogidos. What inspired you to write it?
In writing my first novel, Encogidos, I drew inspiration from stories I came across in the novels I read and the TV series and films I watched. That’s how the idea of creating a novella with a science fiction slant started to take shape. I wanted to create a storyline where a range of distinctive characters break stereotypes and enrich their personalities.
Literature is a time vault. Books, short stories, novellas and poems are where we store the experiences and thoughts that we consider valuable and worthy of preservation.
Encogidos is about a socially-awkward and nerdy young boy named Lucas who is bullied at school by a group of fellow students. In an attempt to stand up to them, he sets about creating a chemical formula to make himself bigger and stronger than his peers. But his experiment goes wrong and he ends up shrinking both the bullies and himself. The story recounts their experiences of life when just 2 millimeters tall and how they overcame their differences and put their heads together to find a way to return to their normal size.
What do books represent for you?
Literature is a time vault. Books, short stories, novellas and poems are where we store the experiences and thoughts we consider valuable and worthy of preservation. In writing them down, we turn them into a source of knowledge for all those who seek to be captivated by them and the beautiful language used to express them. A book offers a gateway into the mind of the author, a bridge to another time. Reading is a wonderful way to acquire knowledge and explore experiences that took years to collect, in a matter of hours. As the saying goes, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.”
What does creativity mean to you and why do you think it is important?
For me, creativity is humanity’s way of taking previous knowledge and relating to it in an entirely new way. It is the ability to build new ideas based on what we have learned from the past. Creativity is linked to the very essence of human nature. Critical thinking or reflection on more profound issues is impossible without creativity. It is extremely important for human progress.
About the IP4Youth&Teachers Program
IP4Youth&Teachers is an educational program launched by the WIPO Academy in 2018. Through interactive learn-as-you-play games covering topics such as patents, copyright and trademarks, the program supports students and their teachers in learning about IP. The solutions-oriented program approaches IP teaching from the perspective of cultivating creativity, inventiveness and entrepreneurial thinking with emphasis on building on students’ talents and group work.
The IP4Youth online course targets school children between the ages of 4 and 17. The IP4Teachers training course and teaching guide are designed to support the work of educators and policymakers in ministries of education responsible for developing academic curricula and implementing education policy. IP4Teachers also includes an annual face-to-face training course to build dialogue among educators, policymakers working the field of education policymakers and IP offices.
Do you have a favorite book or author?
My favorite book at the moment is The Humans by Matt Haig. It is a beautiful story. The author uses a wide range of science fiction techniques to analyze humans and life in society from the perspective of an outsider, outlining its contradictions and flaws, but above all, highlighting its successes and its beauty. The reader, like the main protagonist, falls in love with humanity.
It is impossible for me to choose an all-time favorite book, but my two favorite authors are Julio Ramón Ribeyro and Gabriel García Márquez. Julio Ramón Ribeyro has an ability, like no other, when writing short stories. His work is raw and immersive, and full of irony, hidden meaning and symbolism. He also tackles the real issues facing Peruvian society. Gabriel García Márquez captivated me with his fascinating stories that are full of magic and traditionalism, and his discontinuous narratives that challenge and stimulate the reader. His work explores searing themes in Latin American society. It is incredibly compelling.
Why is copyright important to you as a young author?
Copyright is a way of protecting and recognizing the work that you have created. It is an essential tool for young authors to allow them to add value to, and defend, their work, which is an exhausting labor of creativity. Copyright is a key input in the creation of new works. It recognizes and rewards the author for their effort and ensures that their work is available to anyone interested in reading it.
What did you learn about IP through your experience in publishing a novel?
I have learned about the tremendous importance of copyright and all that goes with it. It is very important for authors like me in terms of having our work recognized and valued, and in enabling us to continue to invest our time and energy in developing new works.
Do young people know enough about IP and its potential benefits?
No, unfortunately, there are very few education programs for young people that deal with intellectual property. And this means we are losing many valuable opportunities to develop the ability of young people to create new stories and new knowledge that enrich the cultural landscape, and to earn a living from doing so.
What do you think needs to be done to make young people more IP savvy?
More spaces need to be created for young people to show and promote their own creations and to be recognized for their work. And IP should be considered a key pillar of the school curriculum. Classes that explain the importance and value of IP in schools are the only way to cultivate real interest in the subject among young people so they can get the most out of it.
Creativity is linked to the very essence of human nature. Critical thinking or reflection on more profound issues is impossible without creativity. It is extremely important for human progress.
What do you wish you had known about writing and publishing a novel before you started?
I would definitely like to have been more knowledgeable about copyright and intellectual property in general. This would have allowed me to better value my creative work and would have made it easier for me to protect it and make the most of its value.
What is your favorite school subject and did it help you become a writer?
My favorite subject is history, but it didn’t necessarily help me become a writer; it was my study of Spanish language and literature that led me to become a writer. The support I received from many of my teachers at certain points in the writing process was essential and I am eternally grateful to them.
What can teachers do to encourage young creative individuals like yourself?
I think it’s really important that teachers give their students a grounding in how to be creative and give them the space to be creative. Teachers can play a critical role in cultivating students’ interests and supporting them in their learning. It is simple to say, but very difficult to accomplish without guidelines to support and enable teachers to do so. Those teachers who succeed in empowering the creativity of their students are unquestionably the best and are worth their weight in gold. You remember those teachers for the rest of your life because you formed a great bond with them. There are few things as valuable as a teacher who takes you and your work seriously.
IP should be considered a key pillar of the school curriculum. Classes that explain the importance and value of IP in schools are the only way to cultivate real interest in the subject among young people so they can get the most out of it.
What’s your next project?
I plan to continue writing short stories and poems and to start working on a new book.
What advice would you give another young person who is creative like you?
First, believe in yourself. If you have something in your head that needs expression, whether it’s an idea, a work of art, a story, a song, a poem, or a dance, give it a chance to be and give yourself a chance to recognize how valuable it is and what you can do with it. Second, seek support. You don’t have to do it on your own. There is always someone, somewhere, who can see your potential and cares enough to help you improve, grow, and reach your goals. And third, do not give up. There are always going to be difficulties along the way. Believe in yourself and the value of what you have to show.
What can readers do to support you and other young authors?
Read our work, share it, and respect our intellectual property rights. That alone is a huge amount of support.
This year’s World Intellectual Property Day campaign highlighted the need to support innovation for a greener future. How can young people contribute to building a green future?
I want to believe in a future that is saved by this generation. A future where, thanks to the spaces opened up for young people to create, innovate, think and decide, environmental awareness becomes widespread and allows us to move towards preserving life and the riches of our planet. To achieve this, innovation, creativity and intellectual property are absolutely essential.
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