For anyone involved in children's books but particularly for those of us who tell stories with images, the Bologna Children's Book Fair presents a unique chance to see the industry at large and to discover where our work fits in. Because it fits somewhere. All within walking distance of the best ice cream imaginable!
Not every book we make will fit in with the same publisher necessarily, so the fair allows us to get a feel for what it is that each publishing house is about. If we are lucky we also get the chance to meet the people who define the character of those publishing houses. First time round, it was so vast, so daunting, embarking on this search of mutual selection. But every year gets better, faces become familiar and meetings feel more like conversations. Although every Bologna Book Fair is great, 2014 will be hard to top for me.
When I went to the fair for the second time in 2012, I knew more or less who I wanted to show my dummy to, although I did not have an appointment. Being part of the team who started our stand (Cambridge School of Art) gave me a sense of belonging, a backstage view of the fair, and a little bit of extra courage. All those beautiful books had been book projects once, just as mine was.
|With Bianca in front of the enormous poster of my book!|
Bianca Lazzaro is my editor at Donzelli Editore. She was the first person outside of the MA to see my dummy. From our first conversation I was completely at ease, she is an adorable person, as is Carmine Donzelli. So a great highlight of this fair has been spending time with them and getting to know them better. Both of them make me want to learn Italian more than ever as I can only touch the surface of what our conversations would be like if language allowed. But even with the language barriers and the difficulties that come with distance, working with them has been a real pleasure and a great learning experience. It was during this fair, however, with the launch of the book, that I've begun to see just how my book fits in with what else they do.
It is clear to me that Niente Pricippe Ranocchio has their full backing and their belief gives me immense confidence in my writing (with words and pictures). Carmine in this video gives an interview on monday, first day of the fair and mentions Niente from around minute 7:40
|Thanks for this photo Zack Rock!|
But particularly special was to sign books for Steve, Daisy, Suzanne, Vic, Martin and of course Emily all of who have known this book from when it was an idea. Drawing for them (and Catalina, Becky, Trudy, Zack, Sarah, Renata, Simona...) at the fair was the best bit by far. I dearly missed those who could not make it to the fair this year, but we will always have Bologna! The camaraderie encouraged in our course is consolidating into friendships and professional collaborations which will see us return to the fair year after year to support each other and to celebrate together our books. It was a real pleasure to see how my friend's publishers are backing their books: Steve Antony's amazing books The Queen's Hat, Please Mr Panda (with Hodder) and Betty goes Bananas (with OUP); Suzanne Barton's The Dawn Chorus (with Bloomsbury); and so many more in the pipelines!
|Thanks Emily for this picture!|
Outside of the stand (and the fair) it was great to meet new people, make new friends and get an even wider perspective of those who make and value children's books. And with old friends the luxury of hours and hours...
As for the next book and what the future holds, well, a conversation with Sunkyung Cho was very timely to see my book as a step in a path that will make more sense when I look at it retrospectively. I just need to keep a clear vision of where I aim to go, even if it is too far to discern in detail.
This has been the fair that launched my first book.
I called on Neil Burden on the last day, he is always so welcoming at Child's Play. He asked me what it was like now that I was a published author/illustrator, and even tough we talked about it then, I don't think the realisation hit me properly until Saturday morning. The sky was black turning into blue. I was riding alone in the back of the taxi heading for the airport and it was at that moment, with Bologna fading into a motorway, that I first though of myself as published. I don't understand why it happened then, but it did and it made me smile. Well, it still does.