EVENTS The Bookseller Children's Conference


The Bookseller held its Children’s Conference on 26th September 2022, after a short hiatus due to the Covid pandemic. Author Eva Wong Nava reports.


I was honoured and fortunate to be invited as a speaker talking about why I do what I do — sensitivity editing — at The Bookseller Children’s Conference. This was my first children’s conference in the UK. I am looking forward to November, when SCBWI British Isles will be holding its conference in Manchester. Then I can tick number 2 in the conference box. Yippeeee!


The #kidsconf22 was held at the County Hall in Lambeth. I arrived at this imposing 20th-century historical building, designed in the Edwardian Baroque style by Ralph Knott, feeling nervous, excited and overwhelmed. All these emotions were a result of not knowing what to expect. But I was determined to have fun, learn and be part of history.


The theme of the conference was 'Conversations' and, as the theme promised, everything was up for discussion.


There were two strands:


  • How We Do It


  • Why We Do It

Kicking off the conference was Aimée Felone, managing director of Knights Of, an award-winning independent publisher. She was the keynote speaker on ‘Small and Mighty: How Independent Publishers Continue to Change the Publishing Landscape’. Knights Of is famous for many things and one of them was the publication of A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll.

Aimée Felone, Knights Of


Aimée spoke about the success of Knights Of and how the industry needs to be more representational and diverse. I couldn’t agree more. I was one of three Asians in the room. The other two were Alaina Leung, (BookTokker), and Sharon King-Chai, (award-winning illustrator). Aimée and Jasmine Richards, founder of Storymix, were two familiar faces. Together with some others who I don't know, there were no more than 10 Afro-Caribbean people who represented the Black community in the publishing industry.


I had the privilege of meeting Elle McNicoll in person. She was there to talk about why she writes. And if you’ve not read A Kind of Spark I recommend it because it is a dazzling read. Elle was just electrifying. Her speech was… awesome! As writers, we inevitably scribe ourselves into our stories — we can’t help that. Our stories are not about us, (unless you’re writing a memoir), but come from the depths of our imaginations and our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. And to understand the autistic community better there has to be more books written by and about people on the spectrum. Some people think autistic people lack imagination. Elle started writing to bust that myth and she does an amazing job at that. Her book empowers autistic people who may be disheartened by such notions.


Author Elle McNicoll

A panel discussion ‘Author Events in a Hybrid World’ discussed what children’s author events look like post-pandemic, with a particular focus on schools and libraries. This panel was made up of author Jasbinder Bilan, Emma O’Brien, a school librarian from Arden Academy, Rachel Fox, Children & Schools Programme Director at Edinburgh International Book Festival, and Ellen Grady, Senior Press Officer at Puffin. It was moderated by Annie Everall, Director at Authors Aloud, UK.



As authors who do school visits, many of us know only too well how the pandemic has changed the way we visit schools. A good thing about the virus is that now many schools are open to online author visits, which means that we can travel from the UK to anywhere in the world. Onsite visits are still preferred, of course, as students gain more from seeing the author in person. But we now have choices and so do the students.


In conversation with Philip Jones, Editor at The Bookseller, were Phil Earle, award-winning author of When the Sky Falls, and Charlie Sheppard, Publishing Director at Andersen Press. Sheppard and Earle discussed the editing process behind the writing of When the Sky Falls. It was interesting to hear about the author-editor relationship and to understand the insights that editors give to how a book is structured and written. My takeaway: this relationship is a friendly one.


In conversation with Philip Jones (right) were author Phil Earle (left) and Charlie Sheppard

Last but not least, my favourite panel has to be ‘Decolonising Historical Fiction’. This panel consisted of Sita Brahmachari, Sufiya Ahmed, Joanna Brown and Catherine Johnson. The conversation around this topic was hot. Brahmachari talked about her book, When Secrets Set Sail (Hachette Children's Group, 2020), and the importance of reading books about little known stories in history. Writing this book, she said, was her attempt to give voice to the many South Asian Ayahs, or nannies, “who couldn't return to their Indian homeland”. The book explores timely themes like immigration, migration, expatriation and, of course, the concept of home.


Giving a voice to lesser known historical figures is something very close to my heart. And the subject of intimate labour, (aka domestic help), is something I’ve also explored in my books. When Secrets Set Sail touched me in many ways, and to hear the author speak about her book in this panel was breathtakingly awesome.

 *Header image: Eva Wong Nava speaking at The Bookseller Children's Conference; 

*all images courtesy of Eva Wong Nava



Eva Wong Nava is a child of the diaspora. She lives between two worlds and is a citizen of many universes. She is the author of The House of Little Sisters, a YA Historical Fiction set in British Malaya about the fates of bonded servant girls called 'mui tsai'. When not writing, Eva is a freelance sensitivity editor, helping authors who write about East and Southeast Asian culture to polish their manuscripts for submission and publication.


Françoise Price is Deputy Editor of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact:


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