Bologna

At the end of April I visited the Bologna Children’s Books Fair. This event if primarily for publishers to agree foreign rights with other companies. Not many authors attend but I’ve been going every now and then ever since I first started writing professionally – this was my fourth Bologna and my mother’s eighth.

We shared a room in a hotel convenient for the station and the bus to the fair and had meetings during the day with our various publishers, colleagues, agents and friends. The fair takes place in a convention centre on the outskirts of the city and occupies several large halls. In addition to stalls for every major publisher in Europe and the US there are exhibits of illustrations, talks, awards and parties.

During the fair I was hosted by various publishing companies including Frances Lincoln (publishers of Lines in the Sand and Arena (German publishers of Hex). I took a lot of photographs using my new digital camera – enough that I really think I should get some kind of Flicker account or similar photo uploading facility.

One of the most useful aspects of Bologna for me is the opportunity to see what publishers are promoting, how and why. Philip Pullman’s legend continues to loom large with the forthcoming film of His Dark Materials and although I didn’t see Philip at the fair we ran into him quite randomly on the train back from Florence. Random House were making a big thing of the sequel to Stargirl across their stand but, try as I might, I couldn’t determine what the title was. I saw a lot of interesting looking Gothic fantasies and an awful lot of princess-themed stories of one kind or another. My mother is promoting her new Grace title – Princess Grace, a subversive take on the idea of being a Princess – and was keen for us to spot all things pink and princessy. But spotting a stall without its pink princesses would have been a tougher challenge.

The greatest pleasure came from spotting the cover of Bad Blood prominently adorning the OUP stand (see left and on my photos page) and later attending the OUP party, to celebrate their centenary of children’s publishing, and having various people tell me how much they enjoyed the book. Everyone who’s read it so far has found it compelling and frightening in equal measure and we’re all looking forward to publication day.

After the fair a number of the attendees traditionally take a few days holiday in Venice or Florence – my father came to join my mother and me in Florence for a couple of days. We visited the Bargello museum, the Boboli gardens and various other impressive cultural edifices. But we also found time to stroll the streetmarkets and successively evaded a pair of thieves who targetted us while we bought shoes. Escaping with shoes and existing possessions intact, my parents treated me to several fine meals and I bought Italian flag pasta and Grisbi biscuits to take home for family and colleagues.

Sadly England has been dismally rainy ever since but Italy was in the high seventies when we visisted and I’m still carrying the high of the sunshine, fine company and enthusiastic publishers.

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