It's been a while since I was last in Singapore and the city continues to stun with its beauty and warmth and food and heat. Travelling for the Asian Festival of Children's Content (my first visit to the festival), I arrived in Singapore on the evening of Tuesday 2 June. The prettiness is everywhere!
My lovely friend, author Sarah Mounsey, collected me from the airport and dropped me at my hotel. It had been a long day, so I collapsed into bed pretty quickly, even with the siren song of the Singapore lights outside.
|The view from my room|
On Wednesday 3 June, I registered for the festival and met some people including organiser-extraordinaire, Alycia Teo. The theme for 2015 was China, and the entryway to the festival proper had a marvellous set up featuring Chinese creators.
The National Library of Singapore, right across the road from my hotel and host to the AFCC, is the most incredible building, and I was in awe of its facilities. You can see on the official brochure, below, the structure top left of the building--officially called The Pod--its glass walls provide a stunning view over Singapore and into Keppel Harbour.
In the Library's courtyard, trade stalls were in full operation, along with the festival's official bookseller, Closetful of Books, run by the amazing Denise Tan and her helper Kelvin.
How wonderful it was to see my books on the tables.
Both during and in between sessions, children performed on the courtyard stage while delegates grabbed a coffee or some morning tea or lunch (below left). They were fabulous and I loved catching a performance whenever I could. I also saw a lot of this (below right) as I dashed up and down this incredible multi-storey building, in search of session after session!
The first session of the day was Candy Gourlay on why Asia needs more writers for children and young people. Her session was engaging, on point, and impassioned. It's so fabulous to see writers insist on the need for stories for children of all cultures, and the importance of placing enjoyment and entertainment ahead of education. After all, how can children fall in love with books (and subsequently reading) if they don't enjoy themselves when reading?
The next session I attended was by fellow Aussie Wendy Binks, who presented on the fun and learning that can be achieved by using animals in picture books. I had to dash out of the session early to set up for my book launch for Peas in a Pod (see it here).
And just look at this launch poster done by Dave Liew. Too cute!
I missed the next session due to book signings and chatting too long (shock!), so I was too late to get into Sally Murphy and Steve Heron's session on handling traumatic topics in children's books, alas. But I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about working with literary agents in the session with Andrea Pasion-Flores of Jacaranda. Ying Chang Compestine also spoke in that same session, but spent it promoting herself and her work.
The First Look Illustration Critique, with three gorgeous talents--Naomi Kojima, Amy Ng and Catarina Sobral--was absolutely brilliant. I loved it. Illustrations were anonymously shown onscreen and the panelists critiqued each one, offering really helpful advice. There is such a hidden cache of talent and I hope to one day get hold of picture books featuring some of these illustrations!
|Illustration Critique - panelists far right, Amy Ng, Catarina Sobral, Naomi Kojima|
On Thursday 4 June, I was part of a panel--The Hybrid Author: Author Illustrator. It was absolutely brilliant, and one of my festival highlights. My fellow panelists were Naomi Kojima and Wendy Binks, and we talked about all manner of delights and challenges facing the author/illustrator. The session was held in The Pod (spectacular venue! two perspectives below) and Dave Liew created a poster with our panel quotes popping up all over it.
|Naomi, Amy, me, Wendy|
I missed another session due to chatting (!) but it was so fantastic to finally meet some of my fellow 52-Week Illustration Challenge friends--Dave Liew and Melissa Tan. Both were official festival illustrators, roving and creating visual content. The artwork they inked during sessions was simply extraordinary.
|by Melissa Tan|
I also met the gorgeous, deeply creative Amy Ng of Pikaland. I attended her session on Defining Illustration Style through Story and Sharing it with the World. Amy talked about other illustrators who've gone on to do fabulous things with their work, while still staying true to their vision, continually modernising and progressing themselves, and thinking outside the square. I LOVED it.
|Amy after her session with illustrator Dave Liew|
|Melissa Tan, me, Amy Ng, Wendy Binks, Dave Liew|
|Dave's illustration, with Wendy's and my heads in the audience!|
|Just one of the amazing images by Melissa Tan|
The second last session of the day was with Catarina Sobral, and it left me a little (a lot!) breathless. Featuring a long line-up of picture books that think outside the square and are breathtaking in production values and design, I left with an entirely new shopping list of European picture books. Pure heaven.
The last session of the day was Sally Murphy's--We Can't do without Children's Poetry and Verse Novels. Yet another festival highlight, eye-opening, engaging and, as ever, Sally made everyone laugh (and also shed a tear or seventy).
|Session poster by Dave Liew|
That evening, the local SCBWI chapter got together ...
|Just a handful of the SCBWI members who descended for dinner!|
... and headed down to Boat Quay for dinner, organised by Catherine Carvell and the vibrantly active SCBWI Sg.
|Enjoying a Singapore sling (as you do!) with Wendy and Amanda (AJ) Betts|
What a magical evening of delicious food and wonderful conversation, and I finally had the chance to catch up with friends Sarah Mounsey and Caroline Magerl.
|The view above my head at dinner|
On the walk back to the hotel, we wandered through the Raffles Hotel and marvelled at the divine architecture and the trees--oh the trees. So delish.
On Friday 5 June, the day began with making the most of your published book, with Wendy Binks in The Pod ...
... followed by the sessions of two more Aussies--AJ Betts and her insightful presentation on Love without the Gag Factor in YA Novels (AJ had us dissolving in both laughter and tears!) ...
|AJ takes us through the incredibly moving journey of Zac and Mia|
|Can you believe The Pod?|
|me, and two utter lovelies--Sarah Mounsey and Melissa Tan, after AJ's talk|
... and Mysteries and Metaphors with another fellow Aussie creator, Elaine Forrestal.
And here's that Pod again ... what a view.
|The omnipresent and oft-thumbed AFCC programme|
Before my main session, I remembered to pop down to the Illustrator Gallery to see some of my digital artworks on show.
I also continued to marvel at the architecture and views from the National Library--here is the view from the bathroom at The Pod. I mean--come on. Wow. Yes, I am Pod-obsessed.
My presentation was on the Boundless Creativity of Multimedia Picture Books. Dave Liew moderated and it was a lot of fun, with a great audience. I mean, who doesn't love thinking outside the square?? I then signed a few books and hung with some lovely people before dashing off to my next panel.
|Thanks to Ilona Tar for the photo|
|Thank you to Melissa Tan for the photo|
|By the amazing Melissa Tan|
|Post-session, with Dave Liew, Melissa Tan, Yvonne Soh and Ramia?|
My final session before going officially off-duty, was Unleash your Potential with Online Platforms ... a panel featuring a really cool and talented local contingent--Seriously Sarah who is both a ukelele player and Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo Singapore, JF Koh who is a web designer and organiser of 24-Hour Comics Day, Emily Lim who partakes in 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge, and fabulous moderator Felicia Low.
|Emily, Felicia and JF|
|me, Sarah, Felicia, Emily|
We discussed the many and variable benefits and rewards of creating and running online creativity platforms, including the 52-Week Illustration Challenge. At the end of the session, the ever-talented Dave Liew presented me with a set of caricatures from the panel. What a treasure. And thanks to Ilona Tar for the photos!
At the end of my session, I said a reluctant goodbye to some very special people, then dropped in to Closetful of Books to pick up my sales, and to sign two big piles of books that will stay in Singapore.
It was then back to my room to pack, order room service and have an early night.
On the way to the airport early the next morning, I was already reminiscing over a remarkable few days spent with people who are intensely passionate about creating great books for children. Being around people like this is a very good thing, and may this passion continue to ignite and advance children's literature the world over.
Thank you, Singapore, for an enlightening stay. I grew about 10 feet taller on this trip, and I won't forget it.
For now, I'm just happy to be home ... creating books for children.
Footnote: Stay tuned for my upcoming post on how to create and present engaging, on-point sessions and presentations at festivals (and schools).