If you visit this blog regularly, I must apologise for my recent lack of posts. I do, however, have a great excuse: I’ve been in Singapore! I’m not sure one post is enough to cover everything that I did there, but I’ll start with one and see how I go.
The purpose of my trip was to attend (and speak at) the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC), a wonderful annual conference organised by the National Book Development Council and bringing together authors, illustrators, publishers, teachers, librarians, parents, the media and children from across Singapore, across Asia, and across the world. I thought I would have a wonderful time, but nothing could have prepared me for just how amazing the festival, and Singapore itself, would be. I think I’ll post separately about Singapore and what I saw beyond the conference, but, for today: the festival.
Day 1 opened with an amazing opening address by Candy Gourlay. I already knew of Candy through the online world, but as she spoke, I fell in love with her! She is witty, insightful and very intelligent. And she was singing my song. She reminded us all that books – and reading – should be about pleasure first and foremost. She was concerned about the perception in Asia that reading should be for education, stating very firmly that this is wrong: reading should be for pleasure, and when children read for pleasure the educational benefits volume. (As an aside, I have been working all year on a journal article which attempts to say the same thing far less eloquently about children’s poetry). Candy also reminded us that every child needs to find herself/himself in a book and, as a result, the popular hashtag #weneeddiversebooks needs an Asian equivalent: #weneeddiverseasianbooks .
I could write a whole post about Candy’s talk. But after that I went to lots of other wonderful sessions, including a session about Nonsense by Michael Heyman, the launch of friend Tania McCartney’s new book Peas In a Pod and the amazing chance to meet new people too numerous to mention – in sessions and in breaks in the trade fair.
Then, in the afternoon, my first session. I was part of a panel discussing how and why we address difficult topics in children’s books. Fellow panellists were fellow Aussie Steve Heron and US writer/illustrator Fred Chao, and our moderator was the delightful Don Bosco . Our session was full – in fact some people were turned away, which was sad, but also showed how important people found our topic. The session was wonderful: we talked, we laughed, we cried. Here we are after the session being very serious:
That’s Fred in the back, Don in the middle, Steve in the front and, of course, me.
Day 2 included more amazing more sessions, more talking, meeting people, listening to people. In the afternoon I had a solo session about the importance of children’s poetry, an particularly why pleasure comes before education, echoing what Candy had said in her session. I was blessed with an amazing audience and, though it sometimes seems wrong to choose a favourite audience member, I must confess I had one: amazing illustrator and all round nice guy David Liew. David completed this life-sketch of my session, summarising my main points and capturing me sooooo well:
Day 3: more wonderful networking, talking, laughing. I attended Wendy Binks‘ session in the mazing Pod venue. This must the most amazing place to present in the world. Look at the view:
and yet Wendy had us all enthralled:
In the afternoon I was again part of a panel, discussing the role of the reviewer, alongside the wonderful Genevieve Loh.
The closing night was called China Night, because China was the featured country for this year’s festival. Marking the closing of the festival with speeches, music, food and wonderful company was lovely. For me the highlight was perhaps the music of the Teng Ensemble. Although this video is not from the night, you can get a glimpse at what they do and how amazing they are.
Although the festival was officially over, I still had a full day’s work, because on the Saturday, I presented a full day masterclass (to 30 participants) about reviewing children’s books. I have never given such a long class, and was a little nervous but had an amazing day telling the class pretty much everything I know about book reviewing and also learning from them.
There is so much more I could tell you about the most amazing festival ever, and, time allowing, I will do so soon. But in the meantime, suffice to say I had a ball. The best bit was the wonderful people I met from all over the world.
Life is good.