Of Asia and Children’s Books: The Role of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC)
Featuring R. Ramachandran, Executive Director of AFCC,
and Bolormaa Baasansuren and Ganbaatar Ichinnorov, SingTel Asian Picture Book Award Winners for Old City
on Friday, January 10, 2014
Contributed by the SCBWI Japan Blog Editorial Team
Photos by Annie Donwerth Chikamatsu
When we received an email from R. Ramachandran that he would visit Tokyo in January, we were all excited, for he is not only the Executive Director of National Book Development Council of Singapore, he is also the Executive Director of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC). He is a highly regarded librarian who has received numerous accolades for his work in promoting literacy.
Always held in Singapore, AFCC’s vision has been to provide the world’s children with high-quality Asian content so that they may learn about Asian cultures through multimedia. Its mission is to foster excellence in creation, production, publication and promotion of children’s materials in Asia since 2010, and for a decade before while the festival went under the name of Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference (ACWIC). The number of faculty, participants and attendees has grown over the years, and the festival’s workshops, exhibitions and media mart attract preschool and primary school teachers, parents, writers and illustrators, librarians and media specialists (producers, publishers, etc.), providing them a place to learn and to share ideas and materials about the region. The country of focus for 2014 is India, and the conference features a line-up of experts and authors from India and beyond.
Many SCBWI Japan members have presented at past festivals; our very own Holly Thompson, Regional Advisor of SCBWI Japan, and Naomi Kojima, Illustrator Coordinator, gave keynote speeches for the 2013 AFCC, while Alexander O. Smith (publisher and translator), Avery Fischer Udagawa (translator), Yoko Yoshizawa (illustrator), and Trevor Kew (writer) gave presentations on various aspects of children’s book publishing in past festivals. Mariko Nagai, the Assistant Regional Advisor, has been invited to present and launch her book at the 2014 AFCC.
In his 45-minute presentation, Ramachandran emphasized again and again that Asian children often grow up reading books from Europe and America, and that there is more need to offer affordable and accessible Asian-themed books to children in Asia. In the past, when the festival was called ACWIC and only writers and illustrators participated, “nothing happened”, he said, though it was a great opportunity for writers and illustrators to gather and celebrate their works. By bringing teachers, parents, writers and illustrators, librarians and media specialists together, they can create practical synergy to the entire publishing process—from inspiration to publication to distribution and promotion. He shared with the audience several publications that resulted from the AFCC festivals, and emphasized that AFCC is interested in providing bilingual (English being one of the languages) high-quality yet affordable and accessible books with Asian content. The audience—one of the biggest SCBWI Japan has had—was composed of Japanese writers, illustrators, editors, librarians, and people from book-related museums and foundations who were eager to hear about opportunities at AFCC. After the presentation, we had time for Q&A, when various questions were asked—from the definition of “Asia,” to the economics of publishing and distribution, to translation, to English as lingua franca.
AFCC hosts the Scholastic Asian Book Award for authors of Asian descent, and the SingTel Picture Book Award is open to picture books depicting an Asian theme from authors and illustrators worldwide. Bolormaa Baasansuuren and Ganbaatar Ichinnorov, the husband-and-wife writer and illustrator winners of the 2013 SingTel Picture Book Award, presented their picture book, Old City. Moving from illustration to illustration, the book provides a wonderful journey into the past from present-day urbanization. Bolormaa and Ganbaatar shared the story of when they first conceived the idea back in 2006. At that time, they did not know how to write a children’s book, but with the helpful feedback from SCBWI Japan (namely, Holly Thompson and John Shelley), they rewrote the book. We had the pleasure to see the dummy that was submitted to the award, as well as hear them talk about their process of working both together and individually on this book. Their talk was done in Mongolian, which was first translated into Japanese, then into English. It indeed embodied the international spirit of SCBWI and the event itself!
Overall, it was a wonderful night of insights, inspiration, networking, and laughter.
This year’s AFCC will take place in the National Library Building in Singapore from May 30 to June 4, 2014. For further information about the Asian Festival of Children’s Content see AFCC.com.sg