Friday, May 14, 2010

Women Writers of Color at the Asian Festival of Children's Content

I was in Singapore last week for the inaugural Asian Festival of Children's Content (AFCC). The AFCC consisted of four programs: the Asian Children's Writers and Illustrators Conference, the Asian Children's Publishers Symposium, the Asian Primary and Preschool Teachers Congress, and the Asian Parents Forum. I attended events for the Asian Children's Writers and Illustrators Conference and the Asian Children's Publishers Symposium and learned SO MUCH about Asian children's and young adult books.

I'd like to share pictures I took of some of the women writers of color who were speakers, presenters, and panel moderators at the AFCC.

First up are pictures of popular Indian children's book writer Anushka Ravishankar. Anushka has won national and international acclaim for her verse-tales published by Tara Books. Rights to her books have been bought for the US, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Korea, Italy, Japan, and Spain.

Rukhsana Khan is an award-winning Pakistani Canadian author for young readers. Her books include stories set in India and the Middle East.

Uma Krishnaswami is an Indian American author for young readers. She is part of the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Author/illustrator Naomi Kojima was born in Japan and grew up in the US. She currently resides in Japan. Her picture books have been published in the US and Japan, and have been translated into French, Swedish, and Indonesian.

Dr. Murti Bunanta is the author of fifty children's books in Indonesia, five of which have won international awards. She is the president and founder of the Society for the Advancement of Children’s Literature and the Indonesian Board on Books for Young People.

Misako Ohnuki is the director of the culture division of the Asia/Pacific Cultural Center for UNESCO (ACCU). She has written picture books and textbooks for children, and is a professor of children's literature at Japan Women's University.

Mita Kapur is a freelance journalist and literary agent in India. She is the founder and CEO of Siyahi, a literary consultancy.

Teri Tan is an international correspondent for Publishers Weekly. She has worked for Simon & Schuster (Singapore), Prentice Hall (Malaysia), Thomson Learning (Singapore), and Pearson Education Asia.

Shamini Flint writes children's books with cultural and environmental themes and crime fiction for adults.

Daphne Lee is a children's book writer and editor in Malaysia. She has a weekly column on children's and young adult books in The Star. She also heads The Dram Projects, a non-profit organization that uses bibliotherapy to reach out to marginalized youth.

For more about the AFCC, check out my blog posts:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

If you have any questions about the AFCC, please leave them in the comments below. It was an incredibly inspiring conference and I would love to discuss it with all of you!


MissAttitude said...

The Asian Festival of Children's Content looks/sounds like it was amazing! I'm so glad you got to go :)

Sadly I haven't read any books by the authors featured here, but I have heard of most of them.

Can you share with us two things you learned from the conference? I don't even know what to ask except in a general way.

tanita davis said...

Tarie! WOW. This would have been incredible just for the speakers -- I would love, love, love to hear Ms. Krishnaswami in person. Lots of fangirling moments, for sure. (Also: really cute shirt on Shamini Flint.)

Did they talk about the creative process any? How they deal with the ideas they get, and what kind of research they do? Because they discuss cultural issues in their books, this is especially interesting to me.

Tarie said...

Hi, Ari!

I learned at the festival that it really isn't common for Asian countries to sell their children's and YA books to other Asian countries - because of language barriers and because they are trying to break into the US market instead. Also, books from the US are cheaper because they have larger print runs. So there are price wars.

Part of the goal of the festival was to get Asian publishers to trade with each other. There are one billion children in Asia! Trade within the region would be a gold mine! This is especially possible now that more and more Asian writers are writing in English and there are more and more translators available.

I also learned that many Asian markets for children's and YA books still prefer didactic (even religious) or educational books, but there is a strong and growing market for fiction that is not didactic. :o)

Keep the questions coming! Hahaha. I also learned about specific markets within Asia. :o)

Tarie said...

Hi, Tanita!

Yes, they discussed their creative process. And I got to attend THREE of Ms. Krishnaswami's talks. =D She was amaaazing.

One thing from her talks that really struck me was how writers should not put "gee whiz" moments in their stories - those authorial intrusions explaining customs and traditions. Customs and traditions should be treated like something normal in the story so that young readers will treat customs and traditions different from their own as something normal!

A good writer will be able to set up context in ways that will make sure the customs and traditions are not confusing. Also, we should TRUST that young readers will GET IT. Otherwise, we really risk exoticizing cultures.

Tarie said...

And oh oh oh! Check out the link below. It's a presentation on multilingual picture books from the Asian Festival of Children's Content.

Doret said...

What was the turn out like?

Tarie - After reading for post about the event. I releazied there aren't many books by Asian author's from Asian countries are sold in the U.S. Was this discussed?

I checked out the slideshare. My favorite line - "language is not seperate from culture.

Thanks so much for bringing this to us. Though, next time less pictures of food.

Tarie said...

Hi, Doret!

There were around 600 people from countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the US, France, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Myanmar, the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Thailand, Japan, and many more. :o)

No, there aren't a lot of Asian books being sold in the US. And yes, this was discussed. The main reason is because publishers are afraid American children cannot relate with Asian children. * hollow laughter *

But there are some Asian books that made it to the US market. Their US rights were bought and then they were translated to English. Examples include picture books published originally in Korea, then published in English by Kane/Miller in the US. Another example is the Moribito series. It was from Japan and snapped up by Arthur A. Levine in the US and translated to English.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tarie,

I'm sending the link to my writers' association mailing list...

Tarie said...

That's great, Nathalie! Thanks. =D

susan said...

Love the photos and your New Crayon post.

Tarie said...

Thank you, Susan!