Bologna Children's Book Fair 2011

Illustrators in the illustrators cafe

Here is the promised (massive) post on the Bologna Children's Book Fair 2011. For those of you who don't know, the BCBF is the place where all publishers from around the world gather to sell publishing and translation rights for their latest kids books. That's the main function, but along with the buying, selling and trading, there are great exhibitions, seminars, and opportunities to talk to the decision-makers themselves.

As an illustrator, I attend the fair in order to see and be seen. I carry my portfolio and business cards, and make the effort to talk to the top editors/art directors of all the publishing houses I admire the most. Sometimes they are interested, and sometimes they're not. It's kind of like having job interviews all day long for four days straight. Even if one doesn't receive a contract (and few do), the art director's comments are usually insightful and inspiring.

I've gone two years in a row, and this year I was more relaxed than last year. Last year I felt compelled to speak to everyone and make a good impression. I was desperate to make contacts and show everyone my portfolio. This year I already knew a lot of the editors, so I felt more at ease.

My favourite place is the illustrator's cafe. It is a large carpeted area where illustrators can lounge in their down-time. Several times per day there are great talks and seminars for illustrators led by the best and brightest in the industry (think Brian Selznick).

Around the illustrators cafe is a large white wall, where everyone can leave their business cards. Below you see my business card on the first day...

And here is the same patch of wall on the last day...

Can you spot my diminutive card?

I met up with the London illustrator Amanda Pollard for a lovely dinner at a small restaurant near the piazza maggiore. She is just starting out in the children's book game, and was keen to learn the ropes and get her name out there. Bologna is certainly the place to do it, and I hope she was successful!

The town of Bologna loves the children's book fair, and puts on events and exhibitions to coincide with the fair. The public library had an exhibition called "ABC Africa Children's Books." It exhibited the best children's books about Africa.

Bologna is often called 'la dotta', which means 'the learned.' The university is the oldest in Europe, and one of the most respected in Italy. It seems that graduation falls on the same week as the book fair. In ancient Roman style, the graduates wear laurel leaf wreaths parade around the streets playing loud instruments.

And, of course, no post on Bologna would be complete without the obligatory picture of the fountain of Neptune. I just love the slightly risque sea nymphs/mermaids riding their dolphins.

Tomorrow I will post a few more sketches I did at the fair.