As the Bookworm Literary Festival 2016 gets under way, we talk to festival coordinator Anthony Tao.
What does this year’s Bookworm Literary Festival have in store for families and children?
What it offers every time- we bring world class authors to Beijing. It’s an opportunity for kids to learn from the best. We have a wide variety of events: book readings, storytelling, workshops, suitable for all ages from 6 up.
How do you choose children’s writers for the festival?
This is the festival’s tenth year, so we have a large network of writers. Sometimes we get recommendations from other authors, or embassies will suggest writers from their country.
Do you think children’s writing can be truly international, or is it always specific to culture?
In some ways it can be more international than adult fiction. A lot of authors get ideas from their own culture – for example David Hill, who’s appearing at the festival, uses Maori legends, which are very specific to New Zealand – but myths translate very well to people from different cultures. Myths are universal. And when you add in illustrations, children’s books can be great no matter where you’re from!
Who were your favorite writers as a child? Who inspired you to become a writer?
My first children’s books were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle books – I don’t know who wrote those! At elementary school I loved Maniac Magee, Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Number the Stars, A Wrinkle In Time… They’re just beautiful stories, that get to the heart of what it is to be human, to be alive, for an audience who haven’t experienced it much yet. I’d be curious to go back and read them now. I expect they’ve aged very well, because they’re realistic and true. A Wrinkle In Time is an eerie book, dealing with themes of nostalgia and loss without being obvious about it. When I started writing it was science fiction that inspired me – actually a video game, called Starcraft. Children who are imaginative should try their hand at SF.
What do you have planned for next year’s festival?
That’s too far ahead to think about! We’ll get this one out of the way, and start planning next month.
The Bookworm International Literary Festival starts today and runs until Sunday March 27.
Photo: Jack Soltysik