Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Joyful cheer and festive felicitations to all my friends and readers!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Salon du Livre

The SCBWI Conference coincided with the children's book fair Salon du Livre et de la Presse Jeunesse, running from 1st-6th December in the Parisian suburb of Montreuil.

Ground Floor of the Fair
This was my debut at this fair. Though I'm perhaps a bit of a Bologna Veteran now, this was something else altogether. I found it an incredibly rewarding, though exhausting experience. The sheer number of stands at the Fair alone was amazing considering it only covered one area of publishing of a single nation, two large floors and an exhibition hall were tightly packed with every genre of children's literature imaginable. All together there were 292 stands, plus an animation theatre, lecture hall and other smaller associated events. Children's publishing in France is very dynamic!
The Rouergue Stand
French publishers can pull this off because on the one hand there is there a strong graphic tradition in the country that supports sophisticated picture books. But also the Fair, unlike the LBF and Bologna, is not just about professional deals, the books are all on sale to the public. The first day I attended was the 'open' day and was absolutely packed with people of all ages, though I can't say I noticed any significant decrease in numbers on the subsequent professional-only day! Because of this the Salon du Livre is a book festival as much as a trade fair. It was all very lively and inspiring, it was marvelous to see how creators, publishers and public are drawn together in such a vibrant way.

Signing Illustrators
Virtually every stand ran illustrator signing sessions, there were an incredible 1,153 illustrators signing over the 6 days of the fair, many of them in multiple events, some repeatedly at more than one publisher stand. To call them 'signings' though is a misnomer, illustrators were there to create on the spot fully rendered original drawings (and sometimes paintings), embellishing the title pages with artwork as well as signing. Buy the book (sometimes with freebies like posters etc thrown in), talk to the creators, get it signed and illustrated with original art. What an incredibly inspiring way to encourage books and reading!

Most of the artists and all of the books were French, but a few creators from other countries also contributed, including SCBWI members Constanze Von Kitzing (from Germany) and SCBWI's International Illustrator Coordinator Bridget Strevens-Marzo, who ran two signing sessions on the Bayard Jeunesse stand. I know how exhausted she was at the end!
Clotilde Perrin's dedication to my daughter
And of course, there were the books. There were far too many to absorb everything in the two all-too brief days I attended, several I fell in love with and intended to go back to buy later, but didn't get chance. As well as familiar names seen at Bologna I was particularly impressed with Editions Sarbacane, Editions du Rouergue and l'Atelier du Poisson Soluble, all producing very fine and often uniquely innovative and sophisicated titles. In the end I only bought one book - Tout Autour de Moi (All Around Me) by Clotilde Perrin, a beautifully rendered chaotic dream fantasy, from the very busy stand of Rue du Monde. Fabulous work!

copyright: Clotilde Perrin & Rue du Monde

Will I go back to the Fair again? Definitely, given the chance. Next time hopefully a little more prepared!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Paris Conference From Idea To Book

Recently I was in Paris to run a workshop at the SCBWI France Conference and attend the Salon du Livre Jeunesse (Children's Book Fair) in Montreuil.

It was actually touch and go whether I'd get there at all, as services on both sides of the English Channel were crippled by severe winter weather. My Eurostar train was cancelled, passengers for all journeys were left in a first-come-first served queue that stretched almost outside St.Pancras Station. After a two hour wait I was finally able to get on a later train that crawled across country, only for it to break down at Calais. I eventually reached Paris five hours later than scheduled after midnight, fortunately with a place to rest (thank you Erzsi!).

After these trials the SCBWI Conference From Idea To Book was a tonic. Held at Parson's Paris School of Design, it had a notable leaning towards illustrators. I opened the proceedings by giving one of two evening talks (the other was led by presentation expert Sandra Carey). The theme was portfolios, and was gratifyingly well attended despite the cold weather, everyone was very responsive.

The following day was the main quantum of the conference and hinged around two publishing professionals flown in specially from New York for the event. Patrick Collins (Creative Director) and Noa Wheeler (Editor), both from Henry Holt Publishers. Other presenters were UK-based agent Stephanie Thwaites, and my dear friends agent Erzsi Deak and author-illustrator Doug Cushman.

The two Holt presenters first gave an overview of the stages in the production of picture books from first sketches to finished product, using books illustrated by Doug Cushman, Steve Jenkins, J Rutland, Gennardy Spirin and Ed Young as examples. It was fascinating to compare the different processes of the artists and production issues they presented to the editors. From completely re-formatting one book to incorporate text (Spirin's Life in the Boreal Forest) to reworking colour (Rutland's Alligator Wedding), the evolution of the final product was explained in compelling detail. Doug joined in to talk about his latest title with Holt, Halloween Good Night, a book I helped with in a truly miniscule way, and was honoured to be included in the dedication.

L to R: Doug Cushman, Patrick Collins, Noa Wheeler, Stephanie Thwaites and Erzsi Deak
A panel discussion on the collaborative process finished the morning.

In the afternoon Stephanie Thwaites of Curtis Brown Literary Agency gave a comprehensive talk on the market, with particular emphasis on the development of digital media, e-books and Apps. I seem to be of the minority of illustrators who've so far resisted the temptations of the iphone and ipad so some of this went above my head, but bafflement aside Stephanie's talk was a thought-provoking call-to-arms into catching up with digital media... or risk getting left behind. At least I know what Christmas present I want this year!

Patrick Collins critiquing submission by Constance Von Kitzing
Afterwards I looked in on Patrick's workshop Sketches to Final Art. Prior to the Conference attendees had been asked to choose one of four very different picture book stories and illustrate a spread. Sketches had been submitted to Patrick for comment some time before the conference, then final art was critiqued on the day. Each submission was given the same detailed and thorough feedback from Patrick, it was an excellent project which I may approach art directors in the UK to try.

The final event was First Look, where four of the guest speakers gave immediate and penetrating feedback to sets of 3 illustrations or text excerpts submitted anonymously by attendees. This had first been tried with great success at Bologna just with illustrations, it was interesting to see how story excerpts were incorporated into the framework and the reactions of the panel to the broad range of work.

The one-day-plus-evening Conference was packed from start to finish and was an energising experience for staff, speakers and attendees alike. My deepest thanks to Conference Organiser Dana Carey, SCBWI France Regional Advisor Tioka Tokedira, and International Illustrator Coordinator Bridget Strevens-Marzo.