- What lead to your decision to visit the Bologna Children’s Book Fair this year? FIRST KATY and then CONSTANZE follows
Katy: Several things motivated my decision to attend the fair. First, as an illustrator and college art professor, I was curious to see all that was out there in the children’s book world. I wanted to see what kind of artwork was being produced, what new trends were emerging in the industry, and who I might meet to broaden my network. Secondly, I love to travel and Italy especially is dear to my heart since I studied there as a student. I’ve always wanted to attend ever since I discovered the fair existed, and was able to go finally as part of a professional development grant (key component!)
Constanze VonKitzing & Katy Betz Bologna!
Constanze: I’m always going, as it’s really next door for me, living in Germany. It’s such a wonderful fair where you can meet everyone from around the globe, enjoy the first rays of real sun and eat lots of amazing food. At the fair I meet with editors and publishers to discuss projects and new ideas. I also enjoy the focus on children’s publishing, there’s no distraction and so much inspiration and input. This year was especially exciting, as Germany was the guest country and there where many things happening around that, like exhibitions, talks etc, and I got invited to talk at a podium’s discussion about “international illustration.”
- Was it what you expected? Yes and no. I expected it to be overwhelmingly awesome, and it was. I also expected it to be somewhat easy to network with publishers, but it wasn’t. They were there for rights, not to talk with illustrators. The overall experience was full of high’s and low’s – one moment I would meet a really cool illustrator, author, translator, or editor, but the next moment, I’d be roaming the giant exhibition halls desperate for someone to pay attention to the fact that I was an illustrator wanting to leave a sample postcard. Despite the feeling of being ignored, I was able to successfully hand out several postcards and was lucky enough to land three portfolio reviews! I didn’t wait in line like several other illustrators, but instead kept wandering around looking for publishers that were selling books with work similar to mine. Then I would approach them and say, “Hi, I’m an illustrator and was wondering if anyone is available to look at my portfolio, and if I could leave a sample?” The response was usually, “no one is here, but I will take a sample and pass it on.” Only a few publishers were not taking samples at all, and only a few who were willing to look at my portfolio.
It was great! Seeing my published books on the shelves gave me a boost, talking in front of quite an audience was so exciting, though admittedly I was seriously nervous beforehand. I was so happy to see my professor again and very proud to see some former students walking around with their first published books. I had many meetings with publishers I met before, so there weren’t long-winded introductions, but I presented my new ideas as they where and all of them were accepted, I was offered another project and during our dinner sessions, my author friend and me came up with a couple of new ideas too. This sounds great! It is, but when I came back home and had a closer look at my schedule and the fact that the Kindergarden classes were closed the week after, I felt like collapsing with a nervous break down, so I’m still figuring out HOW to actually do all this!
Constanze with one of her books from Germany
- What did the Fair uniquely provide for artists from all over the world? It provided camaraderie – I felt like a citizen of the world! Even though everyone was from different countries, we all had a common interest being children’s books, which was very encouraging and inspiring. The Fair also revealed pictorial trends and cultural aesthetics of every country. It was a huge research and development opportunity. I collected catalogs from at least 30 different countries, all which showcase their current book list and publisher contact info. It also provided an opportunity to meet companies who are developing virtual and augmented reality apps for children’s books. Overall it revealed to me that the children’s illustration market is larger than I realized, and that countries are open and eager for collaboration.
You get this massive creative impact through exhibitions, books, talks, it’s crazy. It’s easy to meet new people and to see them again the next year. I have always felt very much supported by more experienced illustrators, so I’m now trying to pass this on. You can meet people from all over the globe and connect, I met illustrators in the past who I call close friends now, there’s many evening parties and dinners, where you can approach editors and publishers informally.
- How was it to meet another CAT artist there and share some experiences? It was so cool to meet Constanze! She introduced me to her friends who were also illustrators and writers from Germany, and they all made me feel welcome to be there. It was like meeting a distant relative for the first time, where you have an immediate rapport because you know you’re family, even though you don’t really know each other that well yet. I attended one of the Illustrator Cafe panels that Constanze was on and learned a lot about the mentality of being an international illustrator. It was also very inspiring!
SO COOL!!! 😀 I was glad that we made an appointment beforehand, as the fair turned out to be so busy. So, the one thing I can say was that I wished we had had MORE time together, but it actually felt like knowing Katy, as she was so easy to get along with and in knowing that we are part of the CAT family. So Katy, I really hope to see you again next year!!!! ❤
- Any advice for others who might visit in the future? Yes. The Fair has an “illustrator’s wall” where you can pin up posters, postcards, biz cards, etc. It’s a great opportunity for advertising yourself but it gets a little insane. The key to success, as was demonstrated by those with experience, is repetition. One stroll along the wall and you see several people have pinned their cards every 3 feet. Next time I will do the same. I was shocked and disappointed to find out that someone had taken down one of my posters and replaced it with their stuff even though I claimed that spot first! Every inch literally gets filled up, so come prepared to dominate or be drowned. The fourth day of the fair is not necessary to attend unless you just feel like wandering around. Everyone is focused on packing up and leaving, and not interested in stopping to talk. Also, don’t wait until the end to buy books. Several of the ones I wanted were sold out. But I found them online so it worked out, especially considering I didn’t have to pack them in my suitcase. Another thing would be to learn basic Italian. My experience with the locals in Bologna was richer for it. I got hearty handshakes and pats on the back, free food and big smiles for making the effort. 🙂
Take a friend! I’ve been attending the fair for many, many times now, but it is still overwhelming and the best thing then is to go out into the sun, have a cappuccino and talk about things. It can be tough to see HOW many illustrators there are, how many books are published, to not always get nice replies to simple questions, like “May I show you my portfolio”. It is very tiring and can really help to know someone there. The other advice is: try to make appointments in advance. With publishers but also with other illustrators or anyone really, but this gives a sort of structure. Have your portfolio ready always. I once showed my works to another illustrator and didn’t realize that a publisher was taking a quick look too – I left with 2 new projects! Have handouts that stand out, there’s SO MUCH there, so try to stand out even more. Try to find out about some evening exhibitions and mark them on your map. Meet new people at the fair and have lunch or dinner together.
THANK YOU CANSTANZE AND KATY!!! wonderful! I had visited the Fair in 2004 for just one day, and this did bring me back to the fun, creative atmosphere and overwhelming but inspiring feelings one experiences! ALMOST like being there…. almost. I encourage all artists who might be able to go, TO GO! and do bring a friend! I was generally alone there (for the Fair), and like any museum or big event, sharing and talking about what you see and feel is helpful to make it real and ‘hold onto it’. Maybe you’ll bump into Constanze there another year!