The just-concluded Asian Festival Children’s Content (AFCC), which ran from May 30 to June 4 in Singapore, hosted around 100 speakers from 16 different countries. Held at the National Library Building, the festival, with its slogan, Asian Content for the World’s Children, offered 85 talks and six masterclasses. Three other libraries across the city-state also served as venues for programs in the three mother tongue languages of Chinese, Malay and Tamil.
Nearly 6,000 people attended the various tracks (teachers congress, parents forum, writers and illustrators conference), and listened to speakers such as author, critic and historian Leonard S. Marcus, James Mayhew (Katie series), Il Sung-na (A Book of Sleep), Junko Yokota (Professor Emeritus of Reading and Languages at National Louis University, Chicago), and Cathy Hirano (translator of the English edition of YA series, Moribito). Lebanese author Fatima Sharafeddine, two-time nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Award, was the distinguished speaker at the festival with her lecture on The Book as an Interactive Tool Between Child and Language in the Middle East.
This year also saw about 40 book launches, including Ken Spillman’s The Circle, Nury Vittachi’s Magic Mirror, Elieth Sardinas’s Dear Mister Cat, Mariko Nagai’s Dust of Eden, Susanna Goho-Quek’s Fun at the Opera, and Anupa Roy’s Travels of Little Rice Grass, and Noella Menon’s When I Grow Up. Singapore's former president, S. R. Nathan, also launched the Chinese, Malay and Tamil editions of his picture book The Crane and The Crab.
Jointly organized by National Book Development Council of Singapore, AFCC “is a place and time where everyone involved devotes themselves to one goal—the development and celebration of good and quality children’s content,” said Claire Chiang, chairman of the AFCC board of advisors. “In previous years, AFCC sought to break new ground in key areas of children’s content development. Through focus on transmedia, young adult fiction, bilingualism and children’s literary translation, this festival has made significant strides in priming a new generation of writers and content creators to tackle these goals with an eye for Asian content.” It is now in its fifth year.
India was the country of focus for this year’s AFCC, and for festival director Kenneth Quek, “working with the National Book Trust [NBT] of India has been an eye-opening experience. NBT has brought many prominent Indian authors and illustrators to our event and introduced to our attendees numerous books penned by the country’s finest children's authors.” Some of India’s well-known writers and illustrators at the festival included Deepa Agarwal (Caravan to Tibet), Atanu Roy (soon-to-be-published Magican Indian Myths from Penguin/Puffin) and Manjula Padmanabhan (Different series).
This year, Quek’s team introduced Speed Pitching to authors a maximum of five minutes to pitch their ideas directly to publishers, literary agents and producers. “While the eventual goal of Speed Pitching is to realize the ideas of content creators into actual works, we also face the question of authors and publishers with existing works. So, AFCC relaunched Rights Exchange as a place to sell or exchange book rights and translation rights, and negotiate co-publishing deals.”
For Quek, AFCC 2014 “was a great success, and we look forward to reaching more Asian diaspora writers, illustrators, and readers in the years to come. We want to develop AFCC into a venue where collaboration between professionals of both publishing and media industries can take place to create works that increase the quantity of quality Asian content in the world.”
The Scholastic Asian Book Award, with a prize of $8,000, was also announced during the festival. This year’s top honors went to writer Sophia Lee from the Philippines for What Things Mean.