A Day at The London Book Fair 2023

This year several members of the World Kid Lit community were at The London Book Fair. We caught up with Helen Wang, Claire Storey and Johanna McCalmont to hear what a day at the fair looked like for them. Hope to see you there next year!

Noisy, exhausting but exhilarating!

Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

Helen Wang

I spent one day at the Bookfair this year. I was supposed to be speaking at an event to celebrate Nicky Harman’s translation of Flight of the Bumblebee by Huang Beijia (Balestier Press), but unfortunately it was cancelled, although that gave me more time to focus on my my main aim which was to meet people.

First, a coffee and catch-up with my editor at Walker Books (“Bronze and Sunflower” and “Dragonfly Eyes” both by Cao Wenxuan), then to the Literary Translation Centre to see my translator-friends. The LTC is kind of like a base for translators – there are lots of panels with interesting discussions (the subjects change each year) and translators tend to gather there. I had a half-hour meeting with Chinese publishers, followed by a lunch-time catch-up with fellow translator Nicky Harman and another publisher who happened to walk past us while we were sitting on the floor.

At two, we went down to one of the China stands, to hear about “The Visible Sounds”, the true story of Lihua Tai, a famous dancer who lost her hearing. Written by Yin Jialing, illustrated by Yu Rong, translated by Filip Selucky (UCLan 2021), this beautiful picture book has been shortlisted for the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration 2023. The book was discussed by Pam Dix (IBBY UK), Yu Rong, Jake Hope (reading development consultant), Janet Noble (chair of judges, Yoto Carnegie) Hazel Holmes (UCLan). Also at the stand was Stephanie Gou, who runs the Lit Up Mandarin Bookclub. She has recently worked with Yu Rong on art activities in school, looking in detail at the 10-11th-century Chinese handscroll-painting Qing Ming Shanghe Tu (Along the River During the Qing Ming Festival) . I then dropped by the Phoenix stand where Jack Hargreaves was talking about Chinese children’s author Bing Bo’s new series “The Green People”.

After that, I went back to the LTC, listened to a couple of panels, and met up again with Nicky, Stephanie and Roh-Suan Tong (Balestier Press). All in all, a very enjoyable day!

Claire storey

One of the things I love about the fair is the real mix of scheduled meetings, organised events and chance encounters. I spent two days at the fair this year and experienced a mix of all three. As Helen says, the LTC is a real hub for translators, and I used that as my home-base. Speaking to other non-translators at the fair, I felt really fortunate to have that space.

It was there that I met with translator and WKL contributor Georgia Wall. Georgia also works for Birmingham-based publisher The Emma Press who are celebrating the release of the sequel to The Adventures of Na Willa: Na Willa and the House in the Alley, by Indonesian author Reda Gaudiamo and illustrator Cecillia Hidayat, translated by Ikhda Ayuning Maharsi Degoul and Kate Wakeling. It was also great to bump into Tina Kover and Charlie Coombe, the two translators behind the wonderful Translators Aloud. They are always looking for translators to submit readings from their work, so send your readings over to them!

The schedule of events spans several different areas and are free to attend. I caught the tail end of the International Booker Prize shortlist announcement on the Tuesday morning – congratulations to all! On Wednesday lunch time I attended a session all about the Book Markets of Mexico. This is one of my focus areas, so it was interesting to hear from speakers Simon Littlewood, International Publishing Consultant, Emma James, International Publishing Consultant, Roberto Banchik, CEO, Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial Mexico, David Williams.

Living the the East Midlands, away from London, the fair was also a chance to meet with people I had only so far known online. One of these was WKL contributor Martha Halford who is a is a PR professional in publishing. We met for lunch and it was fascinating to speak to her and find out more about how her PR work fits into the publishing industry.

Johanna McCalmont and Claire Storey with the Spanish Riveter on the Spain stand at LBF2023

Last week saw the launch of The Austrian Riveter at the British Library. This was a lovely evening event celebrating literature from Austria, followed by a trip to a fast-food outlet with some fellow translators for some much-needed chips! This week also sees the launch of The Spanish Riveter and it was great to see copies of these magazines out and about. Coincidentally these are both areas I am interested in, and I contributed pieces about children’s literature to both publications. They can be downloaded for free from the website of the European Literature Network.

Johanna McCalmont

The thought of the London Book Fair and thousands of visitors seemed pretty daunting, but I was excited at the thought of finally meeting up with some World Kid Lit friends in person and attending several literary launches.

Tuesday started with a meander through the Olympia Halls, picking up my contributor copies of the Austrian Riveter and the Spanish Riveter along the way. Lots of great kidlit reviews, as Claire said, so make sure you get a copy too! Claire and I also enjoyed the chance to stop off at the German Stories stand for a meeting with Sarah Hemens from New Books in German and discuss how we could use social media to help boost and promote the books and writers we love. I was then transported to China when I bumped into Helen Wang, Nicky Harman from China Fiction Book Club and Stephanie Gou from the Lit Up Mandarin Book Club at the Literary Translation Centre.

Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, Claire Storey & Johanna McCalmont (left to right)

The day ended in a whirlwind with drinks at the German Stories stand, chocolate and, more importantly, tips from the Swiss embassy on how to arrange a UK tour for a Swiss writer I recently translated. It’s amazing to hear how much work goes into planning the kinds of events I love. Then it was time for a Tube trip across town as a World Kid Lit trio before concluding the evening at the Austrian Riveter launch at the British Library.

I set out on Wednesday morning with a few appointments and seminars in my diary. First up was a meeting with an agent who represents French and Italian authors. After e-mailing for a few years, it was wonderful to connect in person—literally sharing a few hugs—for the first time and get an update on her list and celebrate her successful rights sales!

The rest of my day revolved around the Literary Translation Centre listening to seminars on how to negotiate contracts, rates of pay, and the role of the translator. I was particularly glad to have made it over for the Flip Through Flanders launch, a new campaign to promote Dutch-language literature from Flanders across the UK and Ireland. I can’t wait to see books by so many great writers get more attention—and hopefully see more of them translated into English too! Before the day was out, I squeezed in one last book launch at Swedenborg House where Faeroese writer Sólrún Michelsen and translator Marita Thomsen talked about On The Other Side is March.

A busy few days, but inspiring in so many ways!