Hey ya!

I’m back after a week in Singapore, so much to take in from the Asian Festival of Children’s Content. It’s an unique festival, combining not just writers and illustrators, but also people from TV, web/apps and game creators, as well as editors, publishers and lecturers too. Just like Singapore itself, this mix just works and I realised that the book industry in Asia is booming, and I want to be a part of it haha.

So here are a couple of things that I learnt while I was sitting in the sessions over the five days

Make the most of festivals! While deals can get inked at these events, it’s really a stepping stone towards that deal if you meet the right people. Yes, networking sounds a little callous sometimes but it’s just about putting yourself out there. I got to meet some awesome creators and perhaps our paths will meet soon. I mean, I only found out the AFCC through someone I met at Bookaroo in India back in 2014 hehehe.

Awards are a big deal here: I mean, I always saw awards as bonus recognition but it’s something that really push out here. If your book hasn’t won an award in something then it’s not worth looking at from a public’s point of view. If you keep getting rejected with awards, then make one yourself, help out the industry by making people aware of those distinct voices out there.

We need diverse books: Not just culturally diverse books, but books with all kinds of different families and backgrounds. Singapore may not be as open as Australia in one sense, but slowly boundaries are being pushed and more kinds of different books are being accepted.

But kids aren’t being themselves in their stories…Maya Thiagarajan spoke about how Asian kids are writing about characters who are white and in western countries. Why? Because they think their life is boring? I don’t know if the same thing is happening here in Australia, but I’m going to pay close attention in workshops from here on in. The consequences is that they value their own cultural stories less and then we won’t see those diverse books out there. It goes hand in hand with my second writing tip, write about your life!

Reading for pleasure is beginning to be accepted: It’s a given in Australia right? Well kinda, because while Singapore boasts high academic success, reading for examination squeezes the fun out of reading (and writing too). I checked out those examination textbooks for creative writing and they make me weep. But it’s beginning to turn around, with academics and studies all pointing to reading for pleasure as being beneficial for your intelligence. Ha! Take that maths haha. Just kidding Maths, you know I love you

It’s all about values…while in Australia, we tell writers not to hammer down the morals in a story, it’s explicit in Singaporean books, to the point that they have labels or stickers saying what the morals/lessons will be. I know it happens in some books here, or in teacher notes but not to this extent. I guess we write the book first and the themes will come out of that, no matter what they’ll be.

I hope to be back in Singapore someday soon, I know it’s humid and all but it’s a wonderful place. I have a long list of books with Asian lead characters in them, and that’s the greatest souvenir I got hehe.


About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree

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