Event Report: London Book Fair (2) by Kim Hutson

Last week we saw London Book Fair 2016 from the perspective of Janey Robinson. This week, Kim Hutson talks about the three events she enjoyed the most  at one of the biggest publishing events of the year. 

This was my second trip to the London Book Fair. I'd done very little planning in advance for my 2015 trip and had come away slightly shell-shocked, so this year (only able to go for one day again) I was determined to be more well-prepared. I went and planned all my sessions in the handy calendar on the website and, print-out in hand, approached London Olympia with slightly more confidence than last time. 

 I had a very busy day – but I'll concentrate on my top three events here as Janey Robinson covered the 'Write Stuff' event in her post last week 

 My first session of the day was in the Children’s Hub with ‘First Story’ – the official nominated charity of the LBF 2016. First Story provides schools up and down the country with writers-in-residence, who work with the students to develop and nurture their writing. The young people produce their own poetry anthology and are strongly encouraged to stand up in front of their families and friends and participate in public reading events which are not only empowering and transformative experiences for them, but give an incredibly important opportunity for them to feel vulnerable in front of their peers. They also give free books to young people, provide authors with paid opportunities and training and skills development opportunities for educators, librarians, writers and literacy professionals. 
First Story session
The session itself was facilitated by Roland Chambers (Twitter: @RolyChambers), a children’s author who works with First Story as a writer in residence at both a high achieving school in Pimlico and a Pupil Referral Unit called The Bridge in Fulham. He led us through a rather lovely poetry workshop where we were asked to write 10 things about coming home – to a house that was or is important to you – banal or exciting images, senses or memories were all fine. Then we were asked to turn our lists into a 2 nd person, singular poem 'dangerously close to a love poem' which had to start with 'You are.' We were then encouraged to read our work. Through a microphone. In front of industry professionals. I chickened out. But very well done to Andy, Mariella and Michelle who did – your poems were marvellous! 

 The session finished with an Alumnus of the project, Lewis Buxton (@LewisBuxton93) who participated in the First Story project at Highgate Woods and is now a member of the team, and a poet in his own right. The whole session was completely inspirational and made me want to charge right up and demand that they let me become a writer in residence! (See their website for more info if you want to get involved!) 
Judith Kerr
 As I ran from the Children's hub to the 'PEN English Salon' - not knowing where I was going, but knowing I was late for Judith Kerr – I realised that there was a scheduling issue going on. ​ Obviously the Fair is not tailored towards writers, but surely if someone has attended a session about children's writing, there's a good chance that they'd also like to hear from Judith Kerr. I skidded up behind a MASS of people. On tippy-toes I could just about see a halo of white hair in front of a screen and hear an indecipherable burble through a fuzzy PA system under the chatter. I elbowed my way through until I could actually see – but I still couldn't hear. I got as close as I could and although I couldn't make out much of what she was saying I got that strange inner-calm feeling that religious people say that they get when they're near the Pope. I laughed in all the right places and looked back at the faces of hundreds of book-types crammed in like teens at an impromptu 1D concert – all entranced – pleasant-smiled and gooey-eyed. 
 Judith. Kerr. 

When she finished and got up to go it got even more like an impromptu 1D gig... like one at school... where they turned up at lunch time and tried to go for dinner in the canteen. Except the teens were fully grown-up publishing professionals and writers, and the boy-band was a 93 year old woman. I struggled to take a photo without other people's smartphone screens in my shot. Elbows were sharpened and a single-file stream of people actually followed her as she walked to have lunch (at The Ivy – obvs.) 

 I was all goosebumps and giddiness for at least an hour afterwards. 

 We won't mention the most expensive egg sandwich in the world. The less said the better. It was nice enough – but just so you know, there's a Tesco across the street. 
I also attended a VERY useful panel discussion called 'Publish or Perish', which was a part of the Children's Media Conference. Three industry professionals; Stephanie Barton (Pan McMillan), Cally Poplak (Egmont), Jeff Norton (Author & TV Producer), were posed four possible scenarios for 2020 to discuss and it was an incredibly useful discussion. I wrote about seven-million notes on it with more on that to follow next week. 

I may well just be a massive geek who LOVES being immersed in all things bookish – but I have to say that walking into the Children's hub, with its buzz and enthusiasm for our wonderful little world is refreshing and in a lot of ways motivating. There ARE so many people who take us seriously – and they are thirsty for new books to publish and represent. 

 You may find it a bit of a lonely experience as there might be long periods of time where all you can do is look around, soak up the atmosphere and fight off the people who attack you with free ​ tote bags (I love them really – gotta love a free tote bag). But I'd say it's well worth doing – a good experience even if you only do it once. 

 My advice: plan your trip well – download the maps so you know where you're going, and wear comfortable shoes – I don't know how people do it for three days straight. If you're agented or have a publisher then arrange a meeting while you're there. Meet up with Scoobies. Enter The Write Stuff. Sieze all the opportunities. 

 You can soak your feet later.

When Kim isn't writing, she works in a Tudor manor house (with obligatory ghosts).  She has alsoworked in a video shop, at a theatre, for a concert promoter and as a Bookstart Officer. She has two degus, two frogs, a snake and beardy ginger husband. She won the Margaret Carey Scholarship 2014 and has a Masters in Writing for Children from MMU where she now works occasionally, mainly teaching poetry.



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