Taking place online from 3 - 4 October, the AFCC Digital Symposium will bring to your screens, panel discussions by well-known writers and illustrators, publishers, academics and experts from the media industry, focusing on the potential and future of children and young adult literature and stories in this current age and beyond. 

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*Session dates and synopses may be subject to change.

3 October (Saturday)

9:00am – 10:30am (SGT) Convert Time

Children’s Books in the Time of Crisis and Change

In times of crisis and change, how have children's book writers, illustrators, publishers responded to what was happening? What role does literature play in helping children to navigate through such situations? In this session, examine how children's literature have documented pivotal moments in history, and explore how it continues to do so in our current times.

Junko Yokota

Junko Yokota (US)

Dr Junko Yokota is Director of the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books and Professor Emeritus at National Louis University (Chicago).  Her research focuses on picture book illustration and translation, multicultural and international literature, and digital storytelling. Her publications include six editions of Children’s Books in Children’s Hands, 60+ journal articles, and 20+ book chapters.

Bijal Vachharajani

Bijal Vachharajani (India)

Bijal Vachharajani is a senior editor at Pratham Books where she leads a team that creates open access picture books. A journalist with over 19 years of experience in writing, communication, and education for sustainable development, she has a Masters in Environment Security and Peace from the University of Peace in Costa Rica. The former editor of Time Out Bengaluru, Bijal is an award-winning children’s author. 

Camilla Reid

Camilla Reid (UK)

Camilla Reid is one of the three original founders of Nosy Crow which, since it burst onto the scene ten years ago, has grown to become the UK’s 13th largest children’s books publisher. Over the course of her 25 year career, Camilla has created many hundreds of children’s books for publishers, including Bloomsbury, Macmillan Children’s Books and HarperCollins. As Editorial Director of Nosy Crow she conceives, writes and edits almost every title on the Preschool and Novelty list - a list which sells widely internationally and which generates 70% of the company’s turnover.

Emily Lim-Leh

Moderator Emily Lim-Leh (Singapore)

Emily Lim-Leh has written over 30 children’s picture books, with her bestselling Toy Series published in 4 languages in 5 countries. She is the first outside North America to win three IPPY medals and the first in Southeast Asia to receive the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. Emily was named Mediacorp’s Singapore Woman Award 2013 Honoree for inspiring readers through her writing.

11:00am – 12:00pm (SGT) Convert Time

Building Resilience in Children During Crisis

Reflecting AFCC’s continuing discussions on writing about difficult topics for children, this session deep-dives into how books dealing with socially and culturally sensitive issues can be a source of support for children during challenging times.

Myra Garces-Bacsal

Myra Garces-Bacsal (UAE)

Myra Garces-Bacsal is the Assistant Dean for Research and Graduate Studies for the College of Education at the United Arab Emirates University. She also serves as Associate Professor with the Special Education. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she served as a teacher educator in Singapore where she taught for eleven years. She was nominated for an Excellence in Teaching Commendation Award in 2019, recipient of an Excellence in Teaching Commendation Award in 2012 and a Service Commendation Award in 2013. She was selected by the International Youth Library in Munich as an International Fellow in 2016 and 2017. She served as Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) held annually in Singapore from 2011-2019 and currently serves as the International Advisor-at-Large for the AFCC. 

Patrick Yee

Patrick Yee (Singapore)

Patrick Yee is one of Singapore's leading illustrators, with more than 180 children's books. He received the Most Prolific illustrator award from the Singapore Book of Records in 2016. He is actively involved in the local arts scene and teaches at various tertiary educational institutions.

Tohby Riddle

Tohby Riddle (Australia)

Tohby Riddle is a multi-award-winning picture book creator. His books have been published in many languages – one even translated by Haruki Murakami. His new book is The Astronaut’s Cat.

Low Joo Hong

Moderator Low Joo Hong (Singapore/UK)

Low Joo Hong has a degree in fine art, a MA in Children’s Book Illustration, and is currently doing a PhD in Art. Joo Hong is a finalist of the 2016 Best Children’s Title in the Singapore Book Award and the first runner-up for the 2019 Scholastic Picturebook Award.
 

1:00pm – 2:00pm (SGT) Convert Time

The Power of Poetry

Poetry is a powerful tool for children to explore their feelings within a simplified form. This session deep dives into the poetic form, its functions and potential, and discusses what makes it appealing to children. Understand this quiet but inventive medium in children's writing in this session.

Mariko Nagai

Mariko Nagai (Japan)

Mariko Nagai is an award-winning writer and a sought-after speaker on poetry for children. She is the recipient of UNESCO-Aschberg Bursary for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center residency, Yaddo residency, amongst many others. She is the author of Dust of Eden (Albert Whitman 2014), Under the Broken Sky (MacMillan USA 2019), and the forthcoming The Sword of Yesterday (MacMillan USA 2021). She is Professor of Japanese Literature and Creative Writing at Temple University Japan Campus in Tokyo and Co-Regional Advisor of SCBWI Japan.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye (US)

Naomi Shihab Nye is the Young People's Poet Laureate for the United States (Poetry Foundation) and the editor of the New York Times magazine poems. She is on faculty at Texas State University and has written or edited more than 30 books, including Everything Comes Next (New and Selected Poems), Cast Away, Voices in the Air, and The Turtle of Oman (all from Greenwillow, HarperCollins) as well as The Tiny Journalist (BOA Editions Ltd) and the British volume Tender Spot (Bloodaxe Books), She has worked with children and young people in writing workshops all her life.  
(photo by Michael Nye) 

Marc Nair

Marc Nair (Singapore )

Marc Nair is a poet, educator and photographer. He is a recipient of the 2016 Young Artist Award. He has performed spoken word in solo and group performances for fifteen years in more than ten countries and has represented Singapore in international poetry slam competitions. Marc has published six solo volumes of poetry and has released another four books in collaboration with visual artists, photographers and graphic artists. His latest collection of poetry is Sightlines, an ekphrasis response to film photographs by Tsen-Waye Tay. 

Loh Chin Ee

Moderator Loh Chin Ee (Singapore)

Loh Chin Ee is Associate Professor and Deputy Head (Research) at the English Language and Literature Academic Group at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University. She is the co-editor of Little Things, Poetry Moves and co-author of Teaching Poetry to Adolescents: A Teachers' Guide to Little Things by Ethos Books. She is also the co-editor of Literature Education in the Asia-Pacific: Polices, Practices and Perspectives in Global Times (Routledge, 2018).

2:30pm – 3:30pm (SGT) Convert Time

Creating Digital Content: Now and the New Future

In recent years, the production rate and amount of digital content have increased exponentially. Now more than ever, how are content producers, such as audiobook and e-book platforms, catering to this increasing demand from consumers? What trends do they foresee will dominate the world of children’s and young adult content?

Dexter Ong

Dexter Ong (Hong Kong)

Dexter Ong is Head of Asia for Wattpad Studios, based in Hong Kong. He oversees Wattpad Studio’s expansion in Asian markets, working with local entertainment studios, producers and writers to turn Wattpad stories into film, television, print and digital projects.

Jai Zende

Jai Zende (India/Singapore )

Jai heads Content for Audible India since before its launch in 2018. He is responsible for all audiobook and original content for the services. Originally, a banker, Jai entered the spoken-word space in 2010, through his venture, booksTALK audiobooks, which was India’s first major audiobook business in multiple Indian languages.

Goh Chun Hoong

Goh Chun Hoong (Singapore)

Goh Chun Hoong is co-founder of DarkBox Studio, with more than 20 years' experience in the media industry as a multimedia designer and animator and 3D artist. He has been involved in several international animated TV programmes and is currently managing an online comic + motion comic publishing platform with his partner company, Vividthree Productions. 

Gerald Cai

Moderator Gerald Cai (Singapore )

EdTech has been an area close to Gerald’s heart for the past 18 years. He is currently the Managing Director and Co-founder of SnapLearn, a platform bringing learning and reading to life using Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) technologies. He was formerly the Head of Content & Services (Reading & Learning) at Samsung Asia and Regional Director (Education Platforms & Services) at Pearson APAC.

4:00pm – 5:00pm (SGT) Convert Time

This is What I Read: Spotlight on Young Book Reviewers

Hear from our target audience on what they enjoy seeing in the books that they read and what they are looking out for in books to come. Learn more about their likes and dislikes, and the formats and platforms where they consume content.

Ang Ben Wei

Ang Ben Wei (Singapore)

A Ravenclaw through and through, Benwei has always found pleasure in learning. Literature has provided him with ample opportunity for this, and he has spent many a lazy afternoon meandering down passionate sentences. His other hobbies include public speaking, drawing, writing, and scuba diving, and when he is of age, he would like to visit Middle-Earth.

Bobby Hu

Bobby Hu (China/Singapore)

Bobby Hu (Qiaohua) is ten years old and he comes from China. He has been living in Singapore for three years and is currently a Year 6 student studying in Dulwich College Singapore. He enjoys playing chess, swimming, playing the violin, but his favourite activity is reading. He likes to read all kinds of books such as animal books, adventure books, and mystery books. His favourite writers include Roald Dahl, Andy Griffiths, and J.K. Rowling.

Swetha Senthilkumar

Swetha Senthilkumar (Singapore)

Swetha Senthilkumar is a 16-year-old who is very passionate about literature and proudly calls herself a book dragon, being an avid reader. She writes both poetry and prose and has won awards in advocacy competitions. Her works have been published in the World Of Apu magazine and in the anthology Love and Life at the Gallery.

Tay Tze Ern

Tay Tze Ern (Singapore)

Tay Tze Ern studies at Anglo-Chinese School (Junior). He reads any book that catches his eye. He loves history and science fiction, and one of his favourite authors is Eoin Colfer. He grew up listening to audiobooks in the car and now loves listening to podcasts about myths, mysteries and murders on his phone. 

Kim Beeman

Moderator Kim Beeman (USA/Singapore )

Kim Beeman is Head of the Senior Library at Tanglin Trust School in Singapore. She has previously worked as a teacher-librarian at independent schools in Bangkok and New York City, and was a cookbook librarian in New York City for many years. 

4 October (Sunday)

9:30am – 10:30am (SGT) Convert Time

Creative Crunch: Creating Within and About Crisis

As the saying goes - when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. How do content creators cope when dealt with challenges that make the process of creating an even harder task than usual? How do they find inspiration and turn adversity into opportunity? Find out in this exciting panel. 

Ace Khong

Ace Khong (Singapore)

Ace Khong studied Graphic Design at LASALLE College of the Arts, where he graduated in 1999. He became actively involved in design and illustration, and became known as a prolific illustrator. Presently, he is a Multimedia Engineer. His publications (both written and illustrated) included a picture book entitled Jurogic, children illustration books including A Visit to Ah Ma’s House (selected Chinese titles in the reading initiative Read! Singapore 2014/2015), kaikai, dun be afraid!, Let it Snow, Singapore! and Mido picture story books serial. In 2019, he was the Writer-in-Residence for the Toji Cultural Foundation in Wonju, Korea. 

Leila Boukarim

Leila Boukarim (Singapore/Lebanon)

Leila Boukarim was born in Lebanon, raised in several countries, and now resides in Singapore. She spends her time writing stories that inspire empathy and encourage meaningful discussions between children and caregivers. She has published eight picture books to date and has worked with publishers such as Marshall Cavendish and Penguin Random House SEA.

Robert Alejandro

Robert Alejandro (Philippines)

Robert Alejandro is a graduate of Fine Arts from the University of the Philippines, and an award-winning graphic artist, an illustrator, a painter, a crafter, and one of the pillars of Filipino arts and design shop Papemelroti. He is a founding member of Illustrador ng Kabataan (INK), an organization of children’s book illustrators. For a time, he worked as a correspondent for the news program, The Probe Team. He knew, however, that he was an artist since birth, and has also hosted the popular television show “Art Is-Kool”. 

Trevor Lai

Trevor Lai (Canada/China)

Trevor Lai is an award-winning entrepreneur, author-illustrator, and the founder of Up Studios, one of the leading animation studios in China. Since publishing his first book at the age of 17, Trevor has written and illustrated over 25 children’s books, including the Piggy and Tomo series. Trevor created the Super BOOMi television series, which has topped national ratings on CCTV and Hunan TV, and serves as the show’s director and executive producer. Leading technology and media giant Tencent has invested in both the Super BOOMi and Piggy series, which have amassed more than 3.8 billion views online. Trevor also hosted over 100 episodes of Thoughtful China, a talk show about creativity, media and business in China.

Instagram: @upstudiosworld
Twitter: @UPStudiosWorld

Denise Tan

Moderator Denise Tan (Singapore)

Denise Tan started Closetful of Books after six years of working with children’s literature. With Closetful of Books, she shares her love for reading through specially-tailored workshops with authors and illustrators and super-duper fun book fairs in local and international schools. Denise also puts her studies in Mass Communications and English Literature to good use by spending all her time reading.

11:00am – 12:00pm (SGT) Convert Time

(A New) Required Reading: Comics and Graphic Novels in Schools

Comics and graphic novels have long been overlooked as potential reading aids for children, but as more writers and publishers push out comics and graphic novels targeted specifically at the younger crowd, how can parents and teachers help young readers benefit from reading these to cultivate a love of reading?

Felicia Low-Jimenez

Felicia Low-Jimenez (Singapore)

Felicia has worked in bookselling and publishing for over a decade. She is one half of AJ Low, the writing team behind the best-selling Sherlock Sam series and Publisher at Difference Engine, an independent comics publisher. She believes that stories have the power to change the world. 

Carol Tilley

Carol Tilley (US)

Carol Tilley (Associate Professor, School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois) studies the social and cultural history of comics reading and readers with special attention given to the nexus of libraries, comics, and youth. Tilley was a 2016 Eisner Award judge and is a past president of the Comics Studies Society.

Remy Lai

Remy Lai (Indonesia/Australia)

Remy Lai writes and draws stories for kids. Her books include graphic novel/prose hybrids Pie in the Sky and Fly on the Wall (September 2020), and two upcoming graphic novels - Pawcasso (2021) and Bima the Elephant (2022). She lives in Australia, where she can often be found exploring the woods with her dogs.

Minh Lê

Minh Lê (US)

Minh Lê is the author of Drawn Together (winner of the 2019 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature) illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat, Let Me Finish! (named an NPR Best Book of 2016) illustrated by Isabel Roxas, and The Perfect Seat illustrated by Gus Gordon (all published by Disney-Hyperion). He is also writing Green Lantern: Legacy, a middle grade graphic novel (illustrated by Andie Tong) for DC Comics. In addition to writing books, he has written for a variety of publications, including the New York Times, The Horn Book, NPR, and HuffPost.
(Photo by Danielle Lurie)

Lim Cheng Tju

Moderator Lim Cheng Tju (Singapore )

Lim Cheng Tju writes about history and popular culture. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Popular Culture and the International Journal of Comic Art. He co-authored The University Socialist Club and the Contest for Malaya: Tangled Strands of Modernity (Amsterdam University Press /  NUS Press, 2012).

1:00pm – 2:00pm (SGT) Convert Time

Curating the iGeneration Reading List

Reading tastes and subjects change with each generation. As we enter into this new decade, what are the “must-reads” that should be included in the new generation’s reading list and why should they be so? This panel will discuss and debate on their list of suggested reads for the iGeneration.

Jochen Weber

Jochen Weber (Germany)

Jochen Weber is Head of Language Sections at the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany. He is also responsible for the IYL’s Iberian and Ibero-American Section, and is the editor of “The White Ravens”, the Library’s annual recommendation list of international children’s books. From 2006 to 2012, he served as vice president of the Arbeitskreis für Jugendliteratur (IBBY Germany).

Ahmad Redza bin Ahmad Khairuddin

Ahmad Redza bin Ahmad Khairuddin (Malaysia)

Ahmad Redza Ahmad Khairuddin is currently President of Malaysia IBBY (MBBY). He obtained his MBA from Ohio University, USA in 1996 and a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration from RMIT University, Australia in 1993. He has been actively involved in publishing for more than 20 years most notably in the national publication of educational and children's books.  

Rasyidah Angullia

Rasyidah Angullia (Singapore)

Rasyidah Angullia is an Associate Librarian from the Children & Teens team in the National Library Board (NLB), Singapore. She works with primary and secondary schools to build and sustain strong reading cultures through outreach programmes and literary packages for students. 

Maria Russo

Maria Russo (US)

Maria Russo is the co-author of How to Raise a Reader and the Editorial Director of minedition US, where she acquires and edits picture books from creators around the world. She has been the Children's Books Editor at the New York Times and a writer and editor at the Los Angeles Times, The New York Observer, and Salon. She holds a PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey with her husband and three children. 
(photo by Earl Wilson) 

Katie Day

Moderator Katie Day (Singapore)

Katie Day is an international school teacher-librarian. An American with a masters in children’s literature from the UK and a masters in library science from Australia, she has lived in Asia since 1997, including 12 years in Singapore, first at United World College of Southeast Asia and now at Tanglin Trust School.  

2:30pm – 3:30pm (SGT) Convert Time

Building Virtual Communities: Do’s and Don’ts

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way we interact with others, with digital/online interaction now considered the norm for the foreseeable future across industries including creative content and education. This panel will discuss about these changes and how creators and users are building new virtual communities.

Dexter Ong

Dexter Ong (Hong Kong)

Dexter Ong is Head of Asia for Wattpad Studios, based in Hong Kong. He oversees Wattpad Studio’s expansion in Asian markets, working with local entertainment studios, producers and writers to turn Wattpad stories into film, television, print and digital projects.

David Liew

David Liew (Singapore)

David Liew has illustrated Ellie Belly, The Adventures of Squirky and The Plano Adventures. His adventures in children's literature continue with The Change Makers and Eye Spy series released in 2020. He is the Regional Advisor to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in Singapore. In response to the pandemic, he and the SCBWI Regional Team had converted their monthly meetup talks and weekly critique sessions to virtual formats, and thus opened the door for participation that transcends geography and time zones. He and SCBWI Singapore Illustrator Coordinator Paula Pang have launched a collaborative effort with their counterparts in Indonesia to launch "Talking Pictures" - a monthly Zoom talk and chat session for illustrators.

Charlene Shepherdson

Moderator Charlene Shepherdson (Singapore)

Charlene Shepherdson is a Singaporean poet and community organiser focused on language in written, performative and visual forms. She is interested in heritage, technology and creative education. Her poems have been published in From Walden to Woodlands and UnFree Verse (Ethos Books), A Luxury We Cannot Afford, SingPoWriMo 2014: The Anthology (Math Paper Press) and the Straits Times.
(photo by Kai Elmer Sotto) 

4:00pm – 5:00pm (SGT) Convert Time

Digital Festivals and Book Fairs: The New Normal?

This year’s major book fairs and literary festivals have all had a common theme – the conversion of their event from physical to digital. Do organisers consider this as a silver lining or has it affected engagement with audiences? How has the literary industry, whose modus operandi is usually physical in nature, adapted to the unusual situation with the use of digital technology, and do they see this as the prime solution moving forward?

Peter Florence

Peter Florence (UK)

Peter Florence, MBE is a British festival director, most notable for founding the Hay Festival with his father, Norman Florence.

He was educated at Ipswich School, Jesus College, Cambridge and the University of Paris and has an MA in Modern and Medieval Literatures. He holds honorary doctorates from The Open University and The University of Glamorgan, and is a Fellow of Hereford College of Arts, The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and the British-American Project, and is Creative Fellow at the University of Bangor. He was made a Colombiano de Corazon by President Alvaro Uribe for his work in Colombia.
(photo by Paul Musso) 

Carolina Ballester

Carolina Ballester (China - Spain)

Carolina Ballester holds a MA in Political Science from the Madrid Complutense University and university degrees in Chinese and Arabic languages and cultures from the French National Institute of Oriental Studies (INALCO). After a few years working as a translator, she was appointed cultural attaché at the Consulate of Spain in Shanghai. Since 2013, she is an international programme manager for the Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair. She leads the book fair publishers’ fellowship programme and is in charge of inviting international children’s writers and illustrators to take part in the fair’s programmes. She organises the exhibitions, runs an illustration residence, collaborated in the organisation of the Bologna Illustration Exhibition tour in 2018 and acts as a consultant for the Chen Bochui illustration exhibition and collection. She lives and works between Shanghai and Madrid, Spain.

Kamolpaj Tosinthiti

Kamolpaj Tosinthiti (Thailand)

Kamolpaj Tosinthiti was born in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and grew up in her family-owned bookstore. After graduating in French language and literature, she started working at Silkworm Books, an independent academic publishing house founded by her aunt, where she is currently Associate Publisher. With various experience in the international publishing community, she is determined to contribute to the Thai book industry. She has joined The Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand (PUBAT) board in July 2019 and is currently its Vice-president of International Affairs.

Alicia Chew

Alicia Chew (Singapore)

Alicia Chew is part of the Programmes team at the National Museum of Singapore, where she plans and presents programmes for families, such as the annual Children’s Season and programmes in relation to the museum’s special exhibitions. Having previously taught children with autism, she also oversees initiatives and resources supporting visitors with additional needs at the museum.

Julia Wheeler

Moderator Julia Wheeler (UK)

Julia Wheeler is an experienced journalist and interviewer, having worked with the BBC for more than 15 years as it's Gulf Correspondent. She has moderated large-scale conferences and chaired inter-governmental forums, including Stanfords Travel Writers Festival, the Stratford Literary Festival and the British Library. She has also hosted online conversations, webinars and panel discussions for UK and international organisations and audiences.

Julia wrote the award-winning book Telling Tales: An Oral History of Dubai, and is an alumna of the Faber Academy. She also writes fiction and poetry.