My Experience at AFCC 2017

The Asian Festival of Children's Content was held in Singapore from May 17-21, 2017. It is the only festival in Asia that brings together those involved in children’s publishing to celebrate and promote children’s stories. This year the Country of Focus was Indonesia.

I eagerly look forward to this five-day festival each year. The Writers' and Illustrators' Conference is held during the first three days followed by the Teachers' Conference during the next two, the last day coinciding with the Parents' Conference. 
Enlightening and stimulating discussions, the networking opportunities, getting a dip into another culture – all never cease to excite and amaze me.
This was the 8th AFCC and my 5th time attending it. Yes, 5th time. But a very special one because after all these years, for the first time I attended the conference as a published children's author!

Reading 'Pickle Mania'
Waiting for my teacher/librarian 'date'
at Speed Dating with Authors
Thanks to Closetful of Books, the festival bookstore, I had a book reading session and participated in 'Speed dating with Authors', in which authors and teachers/librarians met in rotation to have 5-minute 'date' meetings to discuss potential school visits. 

Speed dating with Authors.
Pic courtesy: Closetful of Books
The book launch of my picture book, Pickle Mania was another highlight!

The book launch of Pickle Mania

Like every year, AFCC was filled with a wide variety of sessions this year too. Some that I found particularly interesting were –

·    'Who writes Better Books - Introverts or Extroverts?', an entertaining debate by a panel made up of Don Bosco (Singapore), Cynthea Liu (USA), Angela Cerrito (USA) and Lee Battersby (Australia)
  • 'Is it Correct Politically to be Politically Correct in Children's Books?" by Sayoni Basu (India)
  • 'Folklore Finesse - Retelling and Synthesis of Contemporary Stories' by Tutu Dutta (Malaysia)
  • A panel discussion on 'Books Teachers Wish Authors Would Write' with Nadine Bailey (Teacher/Librarian-Singapore), Rilla Melati (Author-Singapore) and Myra Garces-Bacsal (Educator-Singapore)
  • 'Managing your Novel' by Holly Thompson (Japan)
  • The AFCC 2017 delegate bag

  • ‘Creating Books that Matter’ by James Mayhew (UK)
I also attended my favourite sessions which occur every year  - 
'First Pages - Writing Critique', where delegates submit the first 100 words of their manuscript which is read aloud to the audience. The author is kept anonymous, but must be present to hear the critique as provided by a panel of experts, usually publishers.
'Speed Pitching', where delegates pre-register to get a time slot with select publishers. They get 5 minutes to pitch or sell their manuscript or story idea.
'Duelling Illustrators', where two illustrators create their work live on stage based on a story being read to them.

Book launches at AFCC 2017
There were several launches of children’s books (including mine!). I could only make it to the ones by Varsha Seshan (Bholu and the Smart Card), Kavitha Mandana (Trapped) and Teah Choon Ean (Wonderful Lights & Wonderful Shoes).

The story of how Indonesian children
performed a folktale

The Country of Focus (Indonesia) sessions on ‘Performing a Folktale’ and ‘The Place of Young Writers in Indonesia’ provided a taste of the children’s publishing scene and storytelling in Indonesian schools. 

Wayang Kulit artists give a demo
Along with that, fantastic performances such as the Batu Badaong, storytelling of ‘Madeh and his Four Friends’, the Tarunajaya dance and a peek at Wayang Kulit puppets provided a little bit of a cultural immersion. 

Batu Badaong performance

Books at the Indonesian pavilion
I was also delighted to get familiar with Indonesian children's books at the Indonesia Pavilion. Thankfully, a few English translations were available. Of course, art (illustration in a picture book) has no language and I could read those not in English like a wordless book. Interestingly, I observed intercultural similarities that reaffirmed my view that however big the world seems, it is really quite small indeed!
For now, the post-AFCC effect has kicked in and I am inspired to connect online with those I met, enjoy the books I acquired, rework stories and of course, write new ones.
Until AFCC 2018...Selamat jalan! Goodbye!

The Plaza with the festival bookstore, book fair and Indonesia pavilion  


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