Spring time is Bologna time!

March 18, 2010

It’s gradually coming back. I can feel it approaching.
My mojo is just around the corner!

Mojo – aka zest, energy, life force etc etc – and I parted company about a week ago in a storm of sneezing, tissues, DayQuil and thumping headache, mixed with all the dreariness of jetlag after my London visit. Here I sat this week, squinting at my monitor through red, running eyes, trying to deal with all the volumes of stuff needing urgent attention at this extremely busy time of the year.

Why so busy? Because there’s something else that’s just around the corner, over the horizon, and that is . . . . .


If you’re an old salt in this children’s books world you’ll know that the Bologna Book Fair is the annual trade event/selling opportunity/networking convocation/bonding extravaganza/gossip-fest/eating marathon/sleep-deprivation test/jamboree of the international children’s books industry. Held every year in the ancient and beautiful university city of Bologna in northern Italy, it is always an exciting few days – presenting and pitching your wares (if you’re a seller rather than buyer), reuniting with old friends and making new ones, spotting emerging trends, catching up with who’s arrived and who’s gone, who’s doing something new . . . . and generally reaping all the benefits of almost every publishing enterprise in the world being represented in one place at one time. Top international editors, audio publishers, movie scouts, artists, bestselling writers, apps experts, agents . . . they’re all at the fair, sipping tiny cups of espresso in the halls or laughing around enormous dining tables in the city’s fabulous restaurants and bars. You never know who you might bump into when you visit the restroom!

Best of all this year? Both the Americans and the Brits seem to be back in strength, after a bleak fair last year when so many companies didn’t send people. Why is this good? It means there’s a sense of buoyancy and optimism in the business. And that has to be positive news for us all.

But before I touch down at the actual fair, I’ll be in Bologna a little early for the annual SCBWI Bologna symposium, along with other agents such as Rosemary Stimola, Kristin Nelson and Marcia Wernick. Take a look at this link and you can see more about it – and also interviews with all of us: My contribution is simply a first-pages panel on Monday morning, but I’ll also be dining with the faculty on Sunday and the delegates on Monday night.

So it’s all go here. Our author/books list for the fair (ie, the rights we have on offer) is all prepared and printed out, and includes a number of new authors and titles, which is really exciting! We only talk about manuscripts which we’ll be able to send out within a couple of months of the fair, but we have some great new work to present, as well as rights to sell in different territories on our more backlist books. You learn a lot about how to pitch a work (and if it really has a hook) when you sit across the table from a different publisher every half-hour for two days without a break. What catches their attention and what doesn’t? Does this story have legs – or not? It’s all in their eyes as they listen to you, and you’d best beware because some publishers will make it abundantly clear if they’ve switched off!

Now it’s a countdown till I leave Saturday evening, flying all night via Paris. Now we’re on to the really vital things. The ritual pre-Bologna haircut tomorrow. Pulling copious garments out of the closet, trying them on (why the heck don’t these trousers fit like last year???), throwing them in a pile, searching for tangled leads to all manner of gadgets and adaptors, muttering as I realize I’ll NEVER get all this in that suitcase if I add all the ARCs I’ve promised Rights People I’d take . . . . AND WHAT ABOUT EUROS???

Did I mention that I loathe packing? Way too much stuff or way too little – will I ever get it right?

Power-load the Sudafed. Pack the Kleenex. Stuff the Kindle in the carry-on. We’re off to the fair. And Spring is here – the bulbs are sprouting, the temperature outside is gorgeous, and everything is bursting into life.

Of course, Spring is Bologna time! And after the fair I’m excited to say I’m taking few days’ vacation in gorgeous Italy. Bye-bye Blackberry. So if you have a submission up your sleeve, either prepare for a bit of a wait to hear from me, or perhaps delay sending it until the very end of March.

Oh, and by the way – the photo is of our stand at Bologna last year. Alex Webb and Caroline Hill-Trevor of Rights People. And, of course, big signs saying GREENHOUSE!

Wish Julia and I luck! Go Greenhouse!