Saturday, 4 April 2015

China part 2 Tiz & Ott Beijing! The Bookworm Festival, and more surprises and delights

In my previous post I showed photos of about my first two days of of kids workshops and talks in Beijing at the generous invitation of the China Bookworm Literary Festival.
More words this time - about timing and serendipity and the Festival and more photos of Beijing to end with -  and hey, I had time to do one sketch!

After my Beijing Bookworm kid's workshop I go back to my beautiful zen hotel room at the Beijing  Opposite House (a room I'd like to take home!) 

Wow! In my room are two advance copies of my new book. Juliette my designer at the Tate Publishing in London has organized a speedy delivery across China from the printers in Shanghai..

 I check the gatefold.  
The ladder works beautifully!  Tiz Ott's Big Draw is real at last - 
and ready to hit the shelves in May 2015 
Here I am in China - the  other end of the world from where I drew and endlessly grew those two little characters, gathering doubts then finally the courage to show it to the Tate. 
Now the long wait for publication is almost over.  
I have to hurry to my planned meeting with Niu Shuo, the picture book publisher whom I met in our panel talk the first evening.   She travels two hours across Beijing to show me her lovely books and catalogue. Now I can show her my latest too!

 Niu Shuo, general manage of the Mengxi Jindian
holding my book.  And I am holding the first book she shows me. Surprise! 
It is the Chinese co-edition of a book illustrated by none other than Layn Marlow
my dear friend who is a mainstay of our picture book critique group in London!

Here is the cover of the Mengxi Jindian Culture Communication Co. publisher's catalogue.  
Niu Shuo explained that although China is a huge market, distribution is a problem. They also organize workshops to encourage interest in their picture books and co-editions across  communities of interested parents and child specialists.  

Niu Shuo was due to leave the next day for the Bologna Bookfair.  
She loved Tiz and Ott and told me that this end page

reminded her of Chinese calligraphy.  I replied that as a student I had spent two intense years studying Classical and Modern Chinese and culture.  I have forgotten most of the Mandarin I learnt so rapidly at 20,  but I loved writing Chinese characters. Fingers crossed there will be a Chinese edition of the book - as I want to return to China, improve my Chinese and do more workshops there! 
Among other more serious books by fellow authors, the Beijing Bookworm had a good selection in their shop of my books from France, the UK/ US and Australia to sign after my workshops.

Friends have asked me to write more about the China Bookworm Festival itself.   
It takes place in the Bookworm bookshop-library-bar-restaurant-event spaces  in three centres, Beijing, Suzhou and Chengdu.

I'm full of admiration for Peter Goff the managing director of the Beijing Bookworm, and Daniel Clutton in Suzhou and all those working for it.
"We’ve created Bookworm Literary Festival to be a forum for thought and dialogue – fundamentals of a progressive society. Literature is an ongoing, live, global discussion, and Bookworm Literary Festival is proud to be part of it."
I was proud to be part of the China Bookworm this year too!
This year writers as diverse as Tahar Ben-Jalloun,  Victoria and Ian Hislop (whom I didn't meet) to the venerable poet and  translator of Jose Luis Borges, Willis Barnstone (whom I was lucky enough to meet) came from all corners of the world.  I was sorry to miss Stephen Mooser,  writer and SCBWI co-founder.

Still I was delighted to a couple of talks with friend and fellow children's author-illustrator Frane Lessac from Australia.  More about our time in Suzhou coming in next post!

I am so grateful to Peter Goff and his team for selecting me out of an amazing international list of authors and illustrators, and for making me feel so welcome. 

Thanks too to Olivia Liu SCBWI China regional advisor, Angela Cerrito and Kathleen Ahrens  International SCBWI (all authors too) for recommending me and to my dear friend and desk sharer, author-illustrator Sally Kindberg who had gone through 3 years ago, for encouraging me to take up the surprise invitation that I received back in November. 
You can find more about the festival here.  Also a huge thanks to the volunteers and the sponsors for  their generosity.  Beijing Bookworm volunteers Carol Zhang, Naina, and Jack were perfect guides around the city when my work was done.  
Here are some of the sights they showed me.  You'll see I even managed time for one sketch!

After my school workshop, Jack showed me around the park of Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven.

There were families visiting from other parts of China 
 areas where  retired people gathered to sing or play board games,
as well as quiet areas where people read

or in this case play an ancient instrument - not for the tourists, just for pleasure.

My one free day in Beijing was spent with lovely Bookworm volunteer
Carol Zhang who showed me around....

the Forbidden Palace - La Cité Interdite.
What a huge place...full of tourists from all over China, but 

off the main drag, to the east and west

there were plenty of details to discover - I found the roofs fascinating 

and inside one building, people were trying on traditional palace costumes.

 They were tourists too - look at their shoes!
So many interesting contrasts of old and new!

I'm not a dedicated sightseer though.
I am happiest when I can find a table somewhere to sketch.

And I loved these yellow tables - even  the fake flowers in little baskets.  
It was the only snack bar we could see
in the Forbidden Palace -  somewhere to sit down at last!
Carol took photos while I went into meditative sketching mode... 
....painting a courtyard, above the tables on the east side of the Forbidden Palace.
Just wish I had had time to do more sketching!

Still I caught a few other moments on my Iphone before the battery ran out.

This garden courtyard at the north end of the Forbidden City, was particularly beautiful 

and I loved the square doors, and the colours...

And later, after I recharged my phone outside the Palace, 
Carol and I walked around a popular lakeside area.
Here's a cafe on the lake for Tintin fans...

Back near the hotel in Sanlitun, our hip area of Beijing, this father was playing a classical instrument.
They looked like they had travelled a long way.  Were they guest workers?

Another contrast,  close to the hotel entrance 
I found a fascinating key to some of these contrasts  thanks to a book I found at the Beijing Bookworm, China in Ten Words, by the writer Yu Hua,.

More to come about that and Chinese children's books, and the Suzhou Bookworm and wanderings.

Friday, 3 April 2015

China in pictures part 1 - first days at the Beijing Bookworm Literary Festival

My 10 days in Beijing and Suzhou (and a day in Shanghai) blew me away.
Here's the first part mostly in pictures of my story I was lucky enough to live -  of the kids, the places and people, the workshops, talks and fellow authors.
Over Mongolia - on the way to China...
to our amazing hotel designed by a cool Japanese architect
the Opposite House in Beijing.
The hotel is one of the 
Bookworm Festival sponsors and...

after a long flight from London the food and calm is like therapy before

my first Bookworm panel talk that same evening with old friend, the 
author-illustrator Frané Lessac over from Australia and... 
Anette Oster, author publisher from Denmark, Olivia (Liu) Chang of SCBWI China and Niu Shou, children's publisher at Beijing Menxi Jindian.

Next morning up early for my workshop for kids at the Bookworm library...

about illustrating characters, focusing on eyes and expressions...

to inspire stories and 

...the youngest child there manages a whole story 
in less than 20 minutes - beats me!
The following day up early for a long taxi ride through polluted Beijing,
past the China TV centre which Beijingers nickname The Pants ...

to what looks pretty forbidding until

I go down the  path and hear birds calling in the spring sunshine

and hey, I am pinned up in the school entrance hall!

There's a lovely library and school to explore
and brilliant bilingual kid's self- portraits 

and pictures with illustrated text in Chinese

and work by kindergartners (year of the sheep here!) 
right up to posters by 11 year olds.  I love this one about recycling.

Though there's limited time for me get to work with two groups of 6-7s and 8-11 year olds,  both groups really drew, and before they knew it, they were creating characters in surprising relationships to each other - a cast for stories they can write later!
A big cheer for all the kids and teachers - and the lovely technician - for welcoming me to
the happy bilingual Daystar Academy 
where 90% of the children
are Chinese and all are clearly talented writers and illustrators in English and Chinese!

And my gratitude too to Tahirih Senne-Linton for organising the day with the Beijing Bookworm Literary Festival 
and showing me around the school and its great Columbia reading and writing programme
Finally special applause to a 10 year old artist.
She handed me a folded paper after my session and told me to open it up after she left.
In it was this brilliant portrait of me she did during my session!