Saturday, 2 April 2011

“Despatched from the Land of Tomatoes…

…with egg on my face after making an exhibition of myself.”

As a new boy I found the Bologna Children’s Book Fair full of people full of something I couldn’t quite grasp. I don’t think I’ve ever not met so many very important people.

My stand was a brave, if insignificant, fortress from which to observe the strutting, tottering, teeming hordes of sales (rights) executives and unidentifiable editors sweep by, largely in ignorance of or cultivated disdain* for my meagre offerings.

*I had been told that this was a ‘professional aloofness’ I must learn to mimic and thus studied the various posturings, attitudes and intonations with exceptional intensity.

I had time for this (and long sentences) as my appointment book was meagre, having eschewed the obvious path to a full-to-bursting apps–(I use this most ‘modern’ abbreviation for its similarity to the rage-of-the-hour book-animating eudaemon eagerly sought by so many here)–schedule by accepting, as a publisher only interested in selling rights, none of those invitations, from publishers only wishing to sell rights, which would result in that terribly polite stand-off in which each listens intently to the other’s pitch, copiously noted, and both leave in the euphoric conviction the other will buy!

By force of circumstance (after booking, every publisher for whom I illustrate commissioned work, demanding immediate attention and rapid fulfillment), I barely had a minute to lift the telephone or tap my emails prior to arrival at this most impressive of exhibitions in which originality glinted, like embossed gold lettering, on  every façade.

I did have time to talk to plenty of poor peripatetic portfolio people and try to cheer them up a little, before sending them on their questing paths, with the knowledge that soon they too could enjoy the advantage of my position – having their own stand from which to be ignored while seated.

Thus unencumbered by an assumed busy-ness, I remained free to respond eagerly to those few who were attracted to my stand with a real interest in my materials.

Of these, alas, I may say nothing, for fear of queering my pitch, other than this: I have been finding holding cutlery decidedly awkward with crossed fingers.