The SCBWI Conference coincided with the children’s book fair Salon du Livre et de la Presse Jeunesse, running from 1st-6th December in the Parisian suburb of Montreuil.
This was my debut at this fair. Though I’m perhaps a bit of a Bologna Veteran now, this was something else altogether. I found it an incredibly rewarding, though exhausting experience. The sheer number of stands at the Fair alone was amazing considering it only covered one area of publishing of a single nation, two large floors and an exhibition hall were tightly packed with every genre of children’s literature imaginable. All together there were 292 stands, plus an animation theatre, lecture hall and other smaller associated events. Children’s publishing in France is very dynamic!
French publishers can pull this off because on the one hand there is there a strong graphic tradition in the country that supports sophisticated picture books. But also the Fair, unlike the LBF and Bologna, is not just about professional deals, the books are all on sale to the public. The first day I attended was the ‘open’ day and was absolutely packed with people of all ages, though I can’t say I noticed any significant decrease in numbers on the subsequent professional-only day! Because of this the Salon du Livre is a book festival as much as a trade fair. It was all very lively and inspiring, it was marvelous to see how creators, publishers and public are drawn together in such a vibrant way.
Virtually every stand ran illustrator signing sessions, there were an incredible 1,153 illustrators signing over the 6 days of the fair, many of them in multiple events, some repeatedly at more than one publisher stand. To call them ‘signings’ though is a misnomer, illustrators were there to create on the spot fully rendered original drawings (and sometimes paintings), embellishing the title pages with artwork as well as signing. Buy the book (sometimes with freebies like posters etc thrown in), talk to the creators, get it signed and illustrated with original art. What an incredibly inspiring way to encourage books and reading!
Most of the artists and all of the books were French, but a few creators from other countries also contributed, including SCBWI members Constanze Von Kitzing (from Germany) and SCBWI’s International Illustrator Coordinator Bridget Strevens-Marzo, who ran two signing sessions on the Bayard Jeunesse stand. I know how exhausted she was at the end!
And of course, there were the books. There were far too many to absorb everything in the two all-too brief days I attended, several I fell in love with and intended to go back to buy later, but didn’t get chance. As well as familiar names seen at Bologna I was particularly impressed with Editions Sarbacane, Editions du Rouergue and l’Atelier du Poisson Soluble, all producing very fine and often uniquely innovative and sophisicated titles. In the end I only bought one book – Tout Autour de Moi (All Around Me) by Clotilde Perrin, a beautifully rendered chaotic dream fantasy, from the very busy stand of Rue du Monde. Fabulous work!
Will I go back to the Fair again? Definitely, given the chance. Next time hopefully a little more prepared!