Day 1 of the Asian Festival of Children's Content

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hi, everyone! I'm in Singapore right now for the first Asian Festival of Children's Content (AFCC). The AFCC is a combination of the Asian Children's Writers and Illustrators Conference, the Asian Children's Publishers Symposium, the Asian Primary and Preschool Teachers Congress, and the Asian Parents Forum. It's a four-day event celebrating children's content and this year's theme is "Asian Content for the World's Children."

The festival kicked off with an inspiring and truly welcoming message from Claire Chiang, the advisory board chairman of the festival.

The first keynote speaker was Kenneth Tan, chief operating officer of the Media Development Authority of Singapore. His speech was entitled "The Great Content Divide: Bridging the Gap Between East and West." Is there a divide? Is there more Western children's content in the East than Eastern children's content in the West? Mr. Tan explained how that divide is getting smaller and smaller. To close that gap, platforms such as the AFCC should be nourished and Asian creators of children's content should be given constant support.

I found Mr. Tan to be an amazing public speaker. (I wonder if he was a debater in his university days...)

The second keynote speaker was Nury Vittachi, a very popular children's book writer from Hong Kong. Mr. Vittachi was very funny and in his speech, "The Asian Invasion Starts Here," he talked about how Asians have a reputation for being very factual people who are not funny or creative. These labels are not true, but we must be funny and creative in new ways if we want to create entertaining and educational content for children in Asia and around the world.

The first session I attended at the festival was "What Publishers Look for in Children's and Young Adult Stories - The Real Score." The speakers were Sayoni Basu, the publishing director of Scholastic India, and Anushka Ravishankar, "India's Dr. Seuss." The session was a very interesting window into the children's and young adult publishing scene in India (which sounded similar to the scene in the Philippines).

The second session I attended was "Parallel Dimensions: Comparing Comics in the US and Asia." I don't know very much about comics and I learned a lot from this session. Jeff Yang, the editor of Secret Identities: The Asian American Anthology, went over the history of and the sales figures for comic books in the US and explained what was behind the success of manga in Japan, the US, and the rest of the world.

There were great writing tips shared during "Many Windows: How to Co-Write Across Cultures and Countries." Children's book authors Rukhsana Khan and Uma Krishnaswami shared the ups and downs of the creative process for and the path to publication of Many Windows. Ms. Khan, Ms. Krishnaswami, and Elisa Carbone (not present at the festival) worked together on the multicultural children's book.

Ms. Krishnaswami's talk "Local Content, Global Appeal: Introducing Customs and Traditions in Children's and Young Adult Fiction" was pure gold. Ms. Krishnaswami gave specific tips and examples for avoiding exoticizing Asian cultures when writing for the world's children. She discussed everything from retelling folk tales and using traditional elements in contemporary settings, to tradition as part of plot and using the endowed object in fiction.

Ms. Krishnaswami was ethereally beautiful and her tips and examples were both enlightening and practical.

In "Promoting Your Craft," Dr. Eddie Tay, children's literature professor in Hong Kong, and John Danalis, Australian children's book author and illustrator, discussed the importance of the various ways authors and illustrators can promote their work.

I loved the really fluid speaking style of Dr. Tay and I loved learning a little about the children's book scene in Australia through Mr. Danalis.

I think the most important piece of advice from the session was from Dr. Tay: "Do not be apologetic about being a children's literature author."

The last session I attended for the day was "The Imperative for Multicultural Literacy," by Lynette Thomas, a children's book author and a bookseller in Australia specializing in multicultural children's books.

Can you recognize the woman moderating Ms. Thomas' session? She's appeared on this blog before...

It's Irene Ying-Yu Chen, a children's book critic and the assistant regional advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators - Taiwan! I interviewed Irene here about children's books in Taiwan. It was really wonderful meeting Irene. She's even prettier and nicer in person. :o)

To get back to the talk: Ms. Thomas shared how Australian children are being introduced to Asian cultures and, of course, she talked about the importance of multicultural literacy for children.

I learned a lot and met great people during the first day of the festival.

That's it for this post, folks. I have a lot more pictures and information to share soon, so please watch this space!