From SCBWI Winchester conference to the children's book fair in Montreuil, Paris

By Bridget Strevens

The buzz from SCBWI Winchester conference is still ringing in my head:  Debi Gliori's heartfelt keynote speech and workshop,  Eric Huang's enlightening explanation of Transmedia, hosted and reported on here by Nick Cross,  useful branding tips from author Justin Somper and PJ Norman of Author Profile, performance training from school visitor extraordinaire Steve Hartley, author-actor Mo O'Hara, and finally the best ever group book launch hosted by the inimitable  Lin Oliver co-founder of SCBWI.

Three days later I was on a (thankfully restful) train to Paris, preparing for more buzz at the Salon du Livre et de la Presse Jeunesse, the French national kids book fair.

Hilarious comic illustrator, author and cartoonist friend Sally Kindberg who is also published at Bloomsbury, came with me -  an ideal travel companion.
We lodged close to the fair thanks to another friend, the illustrious Doug Cushman, fellow author and illustrator at Hen & Ink.
When we arrived Doug was painting a watercolour of an owl in his Paris studio.

A couple of hours later Sally and I went to the grand opening of the French kids book fair.   

Sally took a pic of me in my spotty jacket holding a pile of bumpf about the fair. 
Over 300 children's publishers show their year's output and more, in stands across two huge floors of an industrial building in Montreuil, an eastern suburb of Paris.   
Over 150, 000 visitors brave the trip to look at and buy books and attend events for kids and publishing pros
I'll confess I blogged last year too about this mecca for illustrators, authors, kids and book lovers.  I just can't resist going on about it!
What is it about this particular children's book fair that stands out from any other?    

Aside from incredible standard of art in French kids books, and the daring formats and subjects, one big difference is that kids can attend, not just publishing pros.  
Babies to teens roll up in families or schools, often armed with a few euros of their own to spend.  They queue up to watch illustrators and authors sign their books.  
And there's a buzz around books which older kids notice.  Yes books are cool here!

Another feeling you get strongly here is real pride in the produce.  It speaks for itself. 
There's not so much glitzy corporate marketing and hard sell.   
Yet it's a fair that seems to help even the smallest publishers survive.   From the huge variety of books and inventive formats it seems they can afford to take risks and publish the books they love.   This year it was great to see Nobrow come from London who also take pride in publishing stand-out books.  

Sally loved this beaked tight rope walker on the wall of a publisher's stand.
ish we had noted the book it was from - anyone know?
The opening night is not all about bribery with food and drink..
Little girl and appetizers at one send of the Tourbillon stand

wine and tasty canapés at the Bayard stand -
where there was a real buzz this year...
There is more than enough to entice children, parents, librarians and booksellers into buying mounds of books before Christmas...

A book of historical maps to make kids love maps forever
from publisher Rue du Monde 
Telling kids stories of  WW2

one shelf in the BD (comic / graphic novel) section
for teens, a newspaper-like fantasy in pictures

"What are swear words?" asks this article in a Bayard kid's magazine
(Not sure such graphic visuals would be tolerated in some other countries I can think of!)

 The day after I took Sally to my French publishers, Bayard.  They've moved to a huge modern building south of Paris in the suburb of Montrouge.  It's a long walk from the book publishing end to the magazine end of the building.  As we got to the offices of Belles Histoires and Tralalire,  I noticed a couple of old posters I'd done a while ago were up on the walls.

Notice the washing line of illustrations up in the Belles Histories / Tralalire offices!

And here is Sally again, with Marianne Vilcoq, an illustrator herself and the hard-working Belles Histoires art director - just before we took off.    

My only regret is I didn't have time to catch up with more friends in Paris.  
Still Sally and I had a hilarious meal at L'Atmosphère by the Canal St Martin, with some of the other Hen & Ink authors and illustrators,  all SCBWI members too,   Jeanne de Sainte Marie,  Sarah Towle,  Mina Witteman from Amsterdam, and a more recent SCBWI member, Jion Shebani whose illustrator portfolio had been judged the most promising just a few days before at the SCBWI Winchester conference.


  1. A fantastic write-up Bridget! It seems like you had a brilliant and inspiring time. Very envious!

    I'm constantly amazed at the sophistication and quality of some books in France. Not least yours of course.

  2. Thanks John - just saw your comment in this new setting of the Words & Pictures blogzine!
    Hope lots of us will write up about quality and the look of books across the world. Would love to see some of the kids bookshop shelves next trip to Japan - and some of your own amazing books there?


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