by Hazel Mitchell
This year I visited the Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy and I wanted to share my experience and the benefits of visiting this prestigious event.
The Fair was celebrating it's 50th year. It was my first visit to Bologna and I combined my visit with a trip home to England (where I was born) and also the Paris Europolitan SCBWI conference.
I was lucky enough to hook up with the SCBWI Illustration Co-ordinator for Europe (Kirsten Carlson who is a wonderful artist! and we shared a cute little apartment that was VERY reasonable compared with hotel rooms, right in the heart of the old city. We could walk everywhere or easily get the bus/taxi. Restaurants were on every corner and it was easy to buy groceries etc.
Bologna is the most fabulous city. The architecture is beautiful, the food amazing and the people so friendly and accommodating. This was my first trip to Italy and I am longing to go back!
I felt very safe there walking around on my own, even at night. There are so many museums, shops, art galleries, so if you go, try and give yourself a little time to get around the city as well as the fair.
Every 2nd year the SCBWI have a booth at the fair and it's a good idea to go in that year, (if you're an SCBWI member), because there will be lots of people to connect with, hangout with and go to dinner with! Find out more at http://www.scbwibologna.org/ - they will have a booth there in 2014 and lots of SCBWI happenings.
The fair is HUGE. In reality it is very much about selling rights and watching the business happening on the floor is fascinating. The halls are many and filled from wall to wall with publishers from every region of the world. It's an education to look at books from other cultures, too. You'd do well to study the guide before you get there and find out where the publishers are that you'd like to visit.
Make sure you have comfortable SHOES, stay HYDRATED and take RESTS. It's fun just to stop, find a resting place and watch the book world go by.
So why go? For me, I was curious to visit this legendary book fair and to network with publisher's from around the world. There is also a very big contingency of illustrators attending and events for illustrators. So if you are an illustrator it makes complete sense to go.
I have to say if you're a writer, it's a big investment for what will be a great experience, but much harder to network. Having said that I know plenty of writers who've been and there are many, many editors and agents around to chat with if you network hard.
In this pic you can see the famous 'illustrator's wall' behind me where everyone leaves their postcards.
Bologna Fair website. It's very interesting and usually includes many avant garde illustrations from across the globe. This year there was also an exhibition of Peter Sis' work and Peter gave many talks throughout the Fair.
Peter Sis talking about his life and career in the Illustrator's Cafe. You do have to listen to the Italian translation though, which can make the sessions a wee bit ... long. Take a sketch pad!
There's lots of other great things going on, like the digital cafe which ran great panels and discussions. You will find a plethora of panels and talks to attend.
The fair runs for 4 days. It's not terribly expensive and illustrators can apply for a discount voucher to reduce the price.
Nearly all day the big publishers are in meetings and it's hard to get on their stands unless you have an appointment ...
Some of the publishers will see portfolios and they announce this on their stands for particular times during the day. I do have to say, though, standing in line with a bunch of what mostly seemed to be art students for hours didn't seem to me to be a good use of my time, but I'm sure some people are discovered that way! For me, I was happier browsing the stands and chatting to marketing/editors/art directors if available and giving them a card and taking one to follow up later.
There is a LOT to see and much of it is great fun and a visual feast. I did two days at the fair and didn't see all of it! Here's a tip .. after the exhibition officially closes, many of the booths have drinks parties (and food!) so seek these out,
eat cheap and meet contacts and new friends! But for goodness sake, remember those comfortable shoes!
Here are some MAD MEN ....
If your publisher is there, maybe you'll find your book on display too! There are very few signings at Bologna, it's not that kind of fair. It is all about the selling.
One thing there is a lot of at Bologna is wonderful food, even in the cafes at the convention centre. This was a lovely light lunch I had on one of the days.
And, of course, after all the walking and talking was done, there was dinner and wine and FRIENDS!
"One Word Pearl" coming Fall 2013
Click here for my events diary