Day 3 of the Asian Festival of Children's Content

Tuesday, May 11, 2010
On day 3 of the Asian Festival of Children's Content, I focused on all the events for the Asian Children's Publishers Symposium.

The first event was a panel presentation by Misako Ohnuki (a children's literature professor in Japan and the director of the culture division of the Asia/Pacific Cultural Center for UNESCO), Sayoni Basu (publishing director at Scholastic India, and Mra Hninzi (a translator of French and English children's books in Myanmar).

Ms. Ohnuki explained the production scheme that the ACCU uses for Asian children's books and came to the conclusion that a new mechanism is needed for providing and distributing children's content in Asia (I agree). Ms. Basu explained all the children's book business opportunities in India. Ms. Hninzi ended the panel presentation with an interesting and detailed history of children's literature in Myanmar. I learned, for example, that children's books in Myanmar are didactic (even religious) and that is what is needed and desired in their market.

The second event I attended was a presentation by Teri Tan, an international correspondent for Publisher's Weekly. I was really inspired by Ms. Tan's engaging and well-researched presentation. I loved her positive attitude and her explanation of how to respond to the challenges of publishing children's books in Asia. She gave amazing insight into and very specific advice for opportunities in children's book publishing in China, Japan, and Korea.

Did you know that in China there is currently no market for picture books with abstract concepts? And did you know that new picture book and young adult titles in China should be series? The market in China is growing significantly!

Here are a couple of pictures of the participants of the Asian Children's Publishers Symposium. :o)

There was a business forum between industry players in India and Southeast Asia. Literary agent Mita Kapur and publishers Sayoni Basu and Radhika Menon discussed the children's and young adult book market in India. Karina Bolasco, founder of Anvil Publishing Inc. in the Philippines, gave some strong arguments for Asian countries trading with other Asian countries. If we rediscover Asia, we rediscover ourselves (individual Asian nations). But Asian countries trading with other Asian countries is not just literary, educational, and cultural advocacy. It is also a LUCRATIVE business. Furthermore, Asian publishers of children's and young adult books must CONSOLIDATE in order to export outside of Asia.

Risuan Aramcharoen, president of the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand and managing director of Plan for Kids Co., Ltd., introduced us to the reading habits of children in Thailand and the children's book industry in Thailand. Teri Tan, who is a real champion for international literature, talked about how writers, illustrators, and publishers try to break into the US market and regard it as the Holy Grail of publishing. We must not forget that there is a publishing gold mine right here in Asia! Ms. Tan gave a lot of other general information on the children's book industry and market in Asia. She is truly a fountain of knowledge.

There was a panel presentation featuring Lynette Thomas (a children's bookseller in Australia specializing in multicultural books), Nathalie Beau (creator of the first children's bookshop in France and president of the Children's Booksellers Association in France), Kathleen Ahrens (the international regional advisor of SCBWI), and Irene Ying-Yu Chen (assistant regional advisor of SCBWI Taiwan).

Ms. Thomas shared popular children's books in Australia with Asian characters, settings, or themes (like Samurai Kids by Sandy Fussell). The very lovely Ms. Beau gave the highlights of children's book publishing in France and shared slides of really beautiful French picture books. (Wow, those picture books from France are so stunning and sophisticated!) Ms. Ahrens and Ms. Chen gave very helpful and specific information on how to submit to children's book publishers in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.

Dr. Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children's Technology Review, gave an inspiring and eye-opening talk on children's interactive publishing. He explained what made some technology for children fail and what made others succeed (both critically and commercially). And all throughout his talk it was clear just how much he really cared about children and their education and recreation.

After Dr. Buckleitner's talk, I was no longer hesitant about children's publishing utilizing new technology like the iPad. In fact, now I am really excited about new technology that can be used to tell stories to children!

The last event of the day was a lively and balanced forum between John Danalis (author and illustrator), Sharon Flindell (CEO of the peak body for the writing and publishing industry in Western Australian), Clive Newman (manager of sales, marketing, distribution, and foreign rights at Fremantle Press), Shamini Flint (author), Daphne Lee (children's book editor), and Fong Hoe Fang (founder of Ethos Books). (There was quite a bit of participation from the audience too.)

The panel discussed the business opportunities between Australian and Asian children's and young adult book writers and publishing houses. The remarks from most of the panelists were generally hopeful and optimistic, but it was tempered with reminders of the challenges of Asian books breaking into the Australian market and vice versa. (A good story is a good story is a good story, YES. However, discovering or drawing attention to good multicultural stories for children is difficult with all the competition out there. And unfortunately, bigotry still exists in the world.) I agree with the closing remarks of Mr. Newman though, "Keep working at it and it will change bit by bit." We can create win-win situations for Australian and Asian children's and young adult books. :o)

Day 3 of the festival gave me so much energy for working with Asian children's and young adult books!


Doret said...

Tarie - I am really enjoying these updates and learning a lot. I can't believe Asian publishing countries don't try amongst themselves.

How is the the Asian economy right now? Do you think it will support this call for more stories.

Tarie said...

Asian economies are strong, but insular. And language is a barrier. But now that more Asians are writing in English and there are more translators, we can work toward more regional trade in children's and YA books. * excited * :o)

Dr. Carmelita C. Ballesteros said...

Hi, Tarie.

Your blog is a treasure chest! Congratulations!

Thanks very much for your blow by blow account of the Asian Festival of Children's Content. I wanted to attend it, but I was caught up with work.

I have a blog too on children's lit, but I'm more of an occasional blogger.


Carmelita C Ballesteros

Tarie said...

I really hope to get to meet you at AFCC 2011, Dr. Ballesteros!

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