Countdown to AFCC 2014


The Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) is an annual event that gathers content creators, producers, parents, teachers, librarians, and other stakeholders in quality Asian content for children around the world. The AFCC returns this year with a host of conferences, masterclasses and workshops, book launches, and other programmes to give writers, illustrators, publishers, agents, distributors, parents, children, teachers, and librarians the opportunity to meet, develop their craft, keep abreast of developments in the industry, and discover business opportunities.

Organized by the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS), the AFCC is slated from May 30 to June 4 at the National Library of Singapore.

As a reader, sometime  illustrator, and book blogger, the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) in 2012 was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I’m quite excited to attend AFCC again this year.


Here’s a rundown of the top ten things I’m looking forward to for AFCC 2014:

1) LITERARY SUPERSTARS. It’s really not a particularly good time for me to take a week off from work, but as soon as I saw Sally Gardner’s name on the programme, I knew I wanted to attend AFCC this year. I’m a fan of her historical novels, and meeting her in person was just too awesome to pass up. Aside from Sally Gardner, AFCC 2014 also showcases British author and illustrator James Mayhew (creator of the “Katie” and “Ella Bella Ballerina” and many other books); foremost American children’s book historian, critic and author Leonard Marcus; illustrator Il Sung Na; award-winning author Mitali Perkins, and so many other personalities lined up. The AFCC is the best place for spotting the movers and shakers in children’s books in the region, and not only can you get them to sign books; you get to interact with them as well!

2) NEW PROGRAMMES. This year’s AFCC introduces some interesting new programmes, especially in speeding up content creation. Quite interesting is the Speed Pitching Programme, where delegates can present their ideas — not just for books, but also for other media: TV, web or mobile, before a panel of judges for an opportunity to be commissioned. Among the judges are Eric Huang of Made in Me, a digital media company that produces and publishes award-winning apps and interactive content for children; Ervin Han of Robot Playground Media; and publisher Edmund Wee of Epigram Books.

There will also be an AFCC Rights Exchange, which gives publishers and agents a venue to network, sell or exchange book and translation rights, or negotiate co-publishing deals and other agreements.

3) INFORMATION, INSPIRATION. Whether for business or pleasure (yes, for kidlit junkies like me), the AFCC is the place to keep abreast of developments in the ever-growing children’s content industry and the concerns shared across the region. There’s also a wealth of information available for those actively creating (or those who plan to create) children’s content: professional and technical advice, expert insights, and inspiring personal experiences.

4) MASTERCLASSES. Speaking of inspiration, I’ve been meaning to get back to my illustration, which has been on the backburner for years now. I’ve enrolled myself in one of the AFCC masterclasses this year: “Finding Your Illustrator’s Voice” to be conducted by illustrators Frane Lessac and Javier Zabala. I had a tough time choosing among the masterclasses, as I also wanted the book design master class and the book review masterclass, and they’re all happening simultaneously! Eventually I settled on the illustration masterclass as it might just give me that push I need to get me started on my art again. (But seriously, I need a functioning time turner/ TARDIS/ vortex manipulator, pronto!)

5) INDIA! India is the country focus for this year’s AFCC, and with India’s long and fascinating tradition of storytelling and art and vibrant contemporary publishing scene, this should be quite a showcase. It’s also always interesting to see what’s in practice in other countries and pick up what we can adapt from them to grow our own industry.

6) FILIPINO PANELISTS. While India is the country of focus, several Filipino panelists are featured in sessions throughout the AFCC, including my friend and fellow book blogger Myra Garces-Bacsal; “Trese” co-creator Budjette Tan; Room to Read book publishing manager Al Santos; literary agent (and former NBDB executive director) Andrea Pasion-Flores; and Tony Lambino of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

7) DUELLING ILLUSTRATORS. Ack, another thing I won’t arrive in time for is the duelling session between illustrators James Mayhew and David Liew.The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) does this at the Bologna Book Fair as well, and the idea is, a manuscript is read out scene by scene and the two illustrators sketch their interpretation of the scene side by side. I’m bummed I won’t get to see this live, but there should be a video of it (anyone? please?!?), and I bet it’ll be fantastic. I hope we eventually see duels like this in the Philippines, among Filipino illustrators!

8) SABA.  The  Scholastic Asian Book Award (SABA), gathers unpublished manuscripts or translation of an original work in English, for readers 6-18 years old, by writers of Asian origin. The SABA winner receives a prize S$10,000 and is considered for publication by Scholastic. It is awarded each year at the AFCC, and though I’ll miss the awards presentation (it’s on the opening ceremony on the 30th) this year, I’m excited to find out who will win, particularly as the shortlist includes two entries from the Philippines: “What Things Mean” by Sophia Lee, and “Sula’s Voyage” by Catherine Torres (Aside: I believe I met Catherine a couple of years ago when she was working as a consul for the Philippine embassy in Singapore, during the lunch hosted by the embassy for the Philippine delegates of AFCC as we were the country focus that year). The other titles in the shortlist include: “Dragonhearted: The Fine Spell of Words Alone” by Thia Shi Min, Singapore; “Ergo Sum” by Aditi Krishnakumar, India; and “Robin and the Case of the Summer Camp Kidnapping” by Vivek Bhanot, India.

9) THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SINGAPORE. I’ve long been a fan of Singapore’s public library system, and while I’ve been to the community libraries my sister goes to, I have never been inside the National Library of Singapore so I’m quite excited to scope it out. (Plus, conveniently behind the National Library is my bargain book [arts and craft supply] haunt in Singapore, the Bras Basah Complex, wink wink! :D )

10) FRIENDS, OLD AND NEW. I’ve met a lot of interesting people through AFCC — fellow book bloggers, writers, illustrators, educators, agents and publishers, and after sitting out one year, I’m eager to catch up with old friends and make new ones, too. It’s an amazing experience to be in such privileged company, all united in the creation and promotion of Asian content.

I’m definitely glad to be going back to AFCC this year, and I’ll be covering the Writers and Illustrators Conference on this blog, so will have plenty of AFCC reportage in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, it’s not too late to register. See you at the AFCC! :)

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