Why I can’t miss AFCC2013

I am excited! I don’t know about you, but whenever I see a programme for a festival or conference, I am excited about two things. One thing is the new learning that the programme seems to offer and the second thing are the new people that I will get to know. Even at my ripe old age, I look forward to another learning journey, a journey where one never arrives! So, I want to share with you my excitement about AFCC 2013. Firstly, as a Kiwi who comes from a rather remote island “down under,” the idea of focusing on a particular country is great! My experience of Malaysia is limited (other than a brief journey 30 odd years ago) so I am eager to hear Cinthia Koeskal tell her story in becoming a young adult writer and to explore the degree to which there are universal dilemmas in her novels that speak to young people across cultural boundaries. In a similar way, I want to explore the art works of  Yusof Gajah and negotiate any cultural particularities that speak of national identity. I have to admit that I am passionate about picture books and will have enormous pleasure searching the book stalls for new treasures like Emilia Yusof’s picture books. I am particularly interested in representations of folktale  and I look forward then to the Malaysian focus during the Festival.

My love of the visual means that I always look for novels that include images as much as narrative, especially for an older audience. For example, when I read in the AFCC web-based review of Dianne Wolfer’s book Light Horse Boy that “the story is told via text and letters, interspersed with stunning charcoal sketches by Brian Simmonds, primary source documents and historical photographs,” I know I have to go knocking on the door The Plaza, National Library on 28th May at lunchtime and enjoy hearing about this book that is to be launched on this occasion. To add depth to my understanding of the picture book, the sessions on the art of the picture book by Patrick Yee and Julia Kaergel, the paper engineering session by Joseph Tan  and the exploration of graphic novels by Wolfgang Bylsma, Paolo Chikiamco  and Sonny Liew are all high on my agenda.

However, what I really appreciate about AFCC is the chance to go in depth as part of the AFCC Seminars and Master Classes where a full day can be spent on professional development. This year, a newish door is being opened up to me through the work of Kate McCallum and the idea and practices of transmedia productions. We live in an age of multi-literacies whereby story is presented though many platforms thanks to digital technologies. From film to computer games, web pages to phone applications, story is now visualised as moving images. The questions that are in my mind are, what is gained and what is lost though this complex interweaving of media; how can children become active creators as well as engaged participants? I am sure Kate will passionately share her knowledge and perspective on this.

I look forward to my return to Singapore. The warmth of the hosts (as much as the weather), my sense of safety and comfort in wandering around the many shops and spaces of Singapore and above all the friendliness of previous visitors as much as strangers makes all the difference. If you see a slightly balding old fella with a Kiwi accent, say hello!

by John McKenzie

John McKenzie
As a Principal lecturer at the University of Canterbury College of Education, John McKenzie designed and implemented the graduate level Diploma in Children’s Literature. He has many conference papers to his credit and is involved in the development of literacy qualifications in South Africa. He received the Betty Gilderdale Award for services to NZ children’s literature.
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