Dianne Wolfer reports from Indonesia and Singapore

Dianne Wolfer represented Australia at the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) conference in Bali where she presented a paper on ‘Anthropomorphism in Children’s Literature’ before heading to the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) for the Singapore launch of Light Horse Boy.

IBBY has been referred to as the ‘foreign affairs’ of children’s literature. The truth of this became clear when I attended IBBY’s first Asia Oceania Conference in Bali. Things have certainly changed in the 20 years since I last visited Legian; taller buildings and a million more scooters, but the Balinese people are still as welcoming.

The IBBY conference was a great way to meet people who share a passion for children’s literature. There were 110 delegates from 25 countries at the conference, enjoying a range of presentations, discussions and book talks. Despite some differences, we have so much more in common.

Storytelling was a central focus and I was interested to learn more about the importance of oral stories, dance and folk tales, particularly in communities with a more limited book buying culture than Australia. I loved catching up with author-illustrator Naomi Kojima and hearing about her (anthropomorphic) singing clams story – a timeless classic.

There was also a large number of delegates from India. The Indian ladies were beautiful in their saris and kept asking me to come and speak at their conferences. They were so friendly, but unfortunately they’re unable to cover any costs. If any other authors are heading to India in 2014, they would make you very welcome …

After Bali, I flew to Singapore to attend AFCC. Singapore is a great place to visit. The skyline is changing quickly. There are remarkably creative architectural feats, alongside more traditional areas like Little India and the Arab quarter. This is the third time I’ve attended AFCC and each year it becomes better. The festival attracts inspiring speakers from across the world, with a focus on Asia. This year the festival moved to the centrally located National Library where I was excited to launch my new book, Light Horse Boy, with the help of award-winning author Meg McKinlay.

As an author living in regional Western Australia, AFCC provides a chance to hear inspirational speakers, but also a chance to catch up with colleagues from across Australia and Asia. I caught up on the latest plans for Susanne Gervay’s I am Jack movie script and moderated a ‘Book to Movie’ session with Wendy Orr. I also enjoyed thought-provoking conversations with New Zealand academic John McKenzie and enjoyed spending time with Adeline Foo, one of Singapore’s most successful authors. Having these meetings and discussions in person is so much more valuable than communicating via keyboard.

Dianne Wolfer attended AFCC and IBBY with the support of the WA Department for Culture and the Arts, IBBY Australia and the University of Western Australia.

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