What’s On: AFCC

by Helle Sidelmann Norup

For children’s book creators, the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) in Singapore is an annual highlight. It will be my third time at the conference, and I can’t wait.

The three days for writers and illustrators are packed with seventy sessions of workshops, presentations and panel discussions about picture books, middle grade stories and young adult novels.

During the breaks, several hundred enthused participants fill the atrium at the National Library. Connections are made. Ideas, feedback, and contact details are exchanged. Participating SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrator) members from across Asia-Pacific seize the opportunity for an evening get-together, and it’s lovely to catch up with friends from previous events.

Up to five sessions run in parallel, so it can be difficult to choose where to go. But the programme is well explained, and a helpful new feature on the AFCC website enables you to download sessions directly into your own calendar. My schedule is already packed and I will tackle the double bookings during AFCC. Some of my programme highlights are:

  • Super Importance of the Superhero with Sarah Odedina
  • Turning up the Tension: Creating Page-turning Fiction with Angela Cerrito
  • Creating Books that Matter with James Mayhew
  • Not So Happily Ever After: Strange and Spooky Tales with Lee Battersby, Heidi Shamsuddin
  • From Fairy Tales through History and Back Again with PJ Lynch

The emphasis is on children’s content, but there are also craft-focused workshops that might interest writers for adults:

  • Deep Point-of-View: What It Is, What It Does, and How to Write It with Kathleen Ahrens
  • Managing Your Novel: Post-its, Charts and Book Maps with Holly Thompson
  • Improvise Your Way Out of Writer’s Block with Jane Vejjajiva

In addition to more traditional sessions, the AFCC offers opportunities for writers (and illustrators) to get feedback on their work. A session called First Pages: Writing Critique is the place to learn how to hook agents and publishers with a killer opening.

The first 100 words of anonymous submissions are read aloud before a panel of authors and industry specialists. Whether you sit with burning cheeks when your words are being critiqued (either wishing to sink into the ground or jump up and scream, “that’s my story!”) or you are listening without a vested interest, you will learn a lot. Deadline for submissions is 2nd May.

Another way to get feedback on your work (and your heart rate up) is through the Speed Pitching sessions. In ten-minute one-to-ones with agents and publishers you can pitch your story. Or, if your idea is suited for a television series or a transmedia project, the Media Speed Pitching lets you present your idea to a programme director from a media outlet.

Prepare and practice your pitch in advance; the ten-minute bell will sound before you know it. Deadline for registration is 14th April.

For those wanting to dig deeper, the AFCC also runs a four-day retreat (facilitated by Holly Thomson, Orit Bergman and Sarah Odedina) before the conference and a number of masterclasses afterwards (e.g. Writing the Weird with author Lee Battersby, Scriptwriting Masterclass with Noel Price).

Peruse the programme and secure your ticket for a single day or a three-day pass. You can also bring your family for the free events (book launches, performances and exhibitions) and visit the AFCC book fair to buy stacks of wonderful children’s books.

Full programme and information about registration and submissions are on the AFCC website.


Helle Sidelmann Norup grew up in Denmark and a plethora of imaginary worlds. She has lived in the UK, the US, Austria, Switzerland and now Singapore, where she resides with her husband and two teenage boys. After she abandoned her pharmaceutical marketing career, her grey business suits gather dust in a closet while she writes children’s stories in colourful flip-flops. Visit Helle’s real and imaginary worlds on: www.hsnorup.com or connect with her on: @HSNorup or https://www.goodreads.com/HSNorup

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