Asian Content for the World’s Children

Christopher Cheng with the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, H.E. Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta

by Christopher Cheng, Prolific writer in print and digital formats, Australia

For the second year, I have had the privilege to present at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content and it is delightful to see that this festival is increasing in content and participation.

The highlight for me was attending the inaugural Singapore Children’s Literature Lecture presented by the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, H.E. Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta where he talked very passionately about books and culture. These were inspirational words from a country leader. What a privilege for the recipients of the inaugural Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award and the Scholastic Asian Book Award, which were also announced to be presented with their awards from the President.

The similarities and differences between the creative communities (the authors and illustrators) and the publishing industries as they exist today in our two countries was again enlightening – the difficulties in publishing a physical title (from both the creator and the publishers perspectives), the trends in meeting the needs of the buying communities and the business side of writing are a few of those.

For both countries, it is the digital publishing phenomenon which is making great inroads and also levelling the playing field. It is new, its reach is worldwide and this is where rapid advances are being made. More sessions on the processes and the powers of digital publishing will enhance the festival.

The breakout sessions were enhanced by the many international speakers and panellists. Some examples were agent Kelly Sonnack (Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc.) and digital technology whiz Warren Buckleitner (Children’s Technology Review). Continued attraction of people such as these will only increase the prestige of this festival.  Home grown Singapore talents too were proudly on display with well-attended sessions on taking book projects to animation, cultural tales and graphic novels.

As in any authentic literary festival of this kind there were discussion panels, seminars, a gallery of illustrator’s works, book launches and it was a delight to be able to attend the launch of locally published titles. May there be many more.

The topics of marketing, where ideas are born, the publishing process, the desires and needs of the reading (and the writing) communities throughout Asia, the idea behind the story, the way illustrators work, the crafting of works … are all sessions that were addressed within the festival from local and international speakers and have long been essential components of many literary festivals. But the additions of sessions on blogging, on digital illustrations, on digital and self publishing are all more recent developments in the publishing scene that were also integral to the success of this festival.

A new and popular addition to the festival (judging by the numbers of people sitting in the audience) this year were the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) hosted critique sessions, First Look and also First Pages which are stables of SCBWI conferences worldwide. These two sessions provide the opportunity for writers and illustrators attending the festival to promote their work, and have their first pages, or first illustrations evaluated in front of a panel of accomplished international authors, illustrators, agents and publishers. At SCBWI conferences there have been FIRST PAGES, and FIRST LOOKS that have led to eventual publication. 

This year’s enhancements included clearer programming and the dedicated media stream and the next year dates has been set for 26 – 29 May 2012, which will make promotion of this event across the Asian Pacific region much easier.

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