Arts Corner Asian Festival of Children's Content (AFCC) Conferences and Events

AFCC Final Update: Rukhsana Khan, Margarita Engle, Panel on Award-Winning-Books, and Planning for AFCC 2013!

I’ve been meaning to write my last update about the Asian Festival of Children’s Content for the longest time, and finally here it is. This would simply be a collection of my favorites throughout the Festival rather than an in-depth feature/write-up about each of the remaining sessions I attended.

Love to Rukhsana Khan

I thought that the festival’s energy was several notches higher this year, and we owe much of that to the presence of feisty, fiercely-intelligent, and passionate speakers. One such speaker during the festival was Rukhsana Khan. While I was not able to attend Rukhsana’s panel on Using Multicultural Books to Teach Your Child About the World We Live In (which I heard was intense), I had the privilege of hearing her share her stories during her own session: Writing for the Muslim Community. I learned a lot as I saw the world through her eyes, valuing her perspective, dipping into the darkness of her past, sensing her struggles and tasting her triumphs. One thing is for certain, I’m going to find her books and find the space to feature them here. If you wish to know more about Rukhsana, click here to be taken to her official website.

All abuzz about Awards: What makes an Award-Winning-Book?

This panel, hands down, was my favorite in the entire Festival. As you all know, I have a fascination with award-winning-books, thus our hosting our very own reading challenge this year!

I was privileged to be the facilitator of this panel which was jampacked with a lot of participants (it was standing-room-only in the Living Room at the Arts House). I also had chills simply introducing the panel whose works I know quite intimately: the amazing Ken Spillman (whose works we have featured here), Margarita Engle (our favorite multi-award-winning novelist-in-verse, and whom we have also featured here), the versatile and highly creative Nury Vittachi, and the indefatigable Professor Nancy Johnson, my co-Programme Director for the Festival.

Ken Spillman and Margarita Engle
Margarita Engle and Nury Vittachi

It was a thrill to hear their varied perspectives since each one has something unique to share. I truly felt that I was in the presence of greatness that day. Ken Spillman, a prolific author himself, spoke about his experience judging the Scholastic Asian Book Award and he spoke about looking for the ‘soul’ in the manuscript which makes it exceptional, standing out from the rest. He also implored the listeners to not just write because of the intention of winning an award but because they truly want something to share with the world.

Margarita Engle, on the other hand, was coming from the perspective of a multi-award-winning author and how the ‘call’ from the Newbery Committee, informing her that she won the Newbery Honor for The Surrender Tree changed her life. She also shared with candor that having your books receive multiple awards is no guarantee that your future works will not be rejected or that you would always have a lot of people show up during book signing. One thing that I distinctly remember her saying is that one should not be drawn to writing about something that ‘sells’ or writing about themes that would most likely receive an award. She reminded the audience to write about something that matters to them.

Nury Vittachi is the co-founder of the Man Asian Literary Prize and is recently the Chairman of the judges of one of the world’s largest literary prizes. He is also the Chief Judge for the Scholastic Asian Book Award 2012, and has been part of SABA since its inception – the winners usually announced during the AFCC. He is also the founding editor of the Asia Literary Review. To say that he is one of the most distinguished and reputable people to talk about award-winning-books would be an understatement. He talked about how he was able to convince institutions/corporations to support his vision of coming up with a literary prize in Asia because, as he pointed out during his Keynote Speech during the very first Asian Festival of Children’s Content – the future is here in Asia. 🙂

Professor Nancy Johnson has been part of the Newbery Committee several years back and is now among the panel of judges that will award the Caldecott for 2013! As she was talking about the books gradually coming to her house in boxes, brand-new yummylicious picture books, with their distinct smell and the fluttery feel of their pages, I could swear I felt myself swoon. She gave a hand-out to the audience (which sadly, I wasn’t able to get a hold of) and she spoke about some of the criteria that they look into in coming up with the decision as to which book will ultimately be the recipient of awards. She is in-the-know! And it was such a scoop simply knowing about a few details that the layperson or the ordinary author wouldn’t really know about. I tell you, it was truly amazing.

I love this photo of Nancy looking at Nury. See that sharp, considering gaze! And check out the books on the floor. Margarita Engle’s novels!

Meeting Margarita in Singapore

Photo sent by Margarita Engle

It was so amazing to finally meet Margarita in person. I felt really bad that I missed her session YA Novels in Verse: Finding Poetry in History but I heard that it was also one of the most popular and highly-attended talks during the festival. It warms my heart knowing Margarita as I naturally gravitate towards poets whose sensibilities and lyrical words never fail to move me. I am also happy that Margarita has sent these lovely photos. She mentioned in her email how much she loved visiting Singapore and that she had a lovely time during the Festival.

This lovely photo was taken by Margarita’s husband and I am so grateful that she has sent me a copy of these two photos to be featured here in GatheringBooks. Muchos gracias, Margarita.

Planning… Plotting… and Planning Some More: AFCC 2013

Mr Rama Ramachandran, Festival Director and Father of AFCC; the soft-spoken and very Zen-like fellow bibliophile Kenneth Quek, Festival Manager; and little ole me

This photo was taken before the AFCC 2012 as we were planning and discussing what should be in store for the Festival this year. It’s too bad that Nancy wasn’t able to join us here in our meeting session (on a Sunday, no less).

Mr Rama, Kenneth Quek, my geeky self, and Nancy Johnson

This was our post-AFCC 2012 meeting as we talked and shared our insights about how the Festival went this year. And as per usual, because this is Singapore, and we plan way ahead in advance, we started plotting and talking about AFCC 2013! Oh yeah. Kidlit lovers are hardcore that way.

I hope you all had a blast this year and looking forward to meeting you in AFCC 2013! If you blogged about AFCC, do leave a link in the Comments section and I’d make sure to drop by and visit.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

4 comments on “AFCC Final Update: Rukhsana Khan, Margarita Engle, Panel on Award-Winning-Books, and Planning for AFCC 2013!

  1. It does look as if your time at the conference was wonderfully spent, Myra. All those talks sound great. So many books…


  2. What an amazing experience!


  3. Pingback:   Three full revisions and it’s still only taken me 9 months… by Khanversations

  4. Pingback: [Monday Reading] Red Lollipops and Kite Flying – A Rukhsana Khan 2-in-1 Special |

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