#LBF17: Fortunately… Unfortunately…

I don’t often post twice in a day, but am afraid by next week all this will feel sadly out of date. Do you know the children’s storytelling game of ‘Fortunately Unfortunately’ (or at least that’s the name we used in our house)? The first person starts off with a story and after a few sentences ends on a cliffhanger ‘but unfortunately then…’. The next person picks up the baton and carries on for a few more sentences, ending with ‘but fortunately then…’. And so on. One positive for every negative development in the storyline. That’s very much how it felt to me yesterday at the London Book Fair.

Fortunately, I was wearing sensible walking shoes, so I could face the acres of books, stands, events with standing room only, frantic searches for toilets and venues. I’d been advised by the brilliantly-organised Twitter friend Estelle to bring a back-pack and a tote, as well as my own snacks and drinks, so I was able to carry the heavy burden of cultural enlightenment. Unfortunately, I kept losing my map and so missed out on dozens of publishers I was interested in meeting.

What I came away with…

Unfortunately, being a Book Fair novice, I did not make any formal appointments or arrangements beforehand to meet people, especially since I felt I did not want to waste anyone’s time. Fortunately, I got to informally see and hug people I knew from beforehand: Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books and Susan from the wonderful website and blog The Book Trail , literary agent Jo Unwin, author and translator Michelle Bailat Jones , Polish language translator Antonia Lloyd Jones.

Fortunately, as I found out at the conference on Translated Children’s Books, there are some great initiatives in place to make it easier for publishers to take the risk on translated fiction, of which Booktrust’s In Other Words, Reading the Way  and Riveting Reads recommendations for school libraries, and the Hay Festival/Aarhus joint initiative of selecting 39 best European children and YA authors under the age of 40. Unfortunately, when I briefly spoke to writer, translator and cultural agitator Daniel Hahn, who has been involved in most of these initiatives, I realised that it was too late to champion the cause for Romanian literature, as the selections have already been made. Let’s hope that this is not just a one-off project, and there will be updates and potential to develop it further in the future. Although I would agree with Hahn that it would be nice to think that such initiatives will no longer be required in the future, because translation will have become mainstream.

Translated Children’s Literature Panel (from l.): Nicky Harman from Society of Authors, Laura Davies from OutsideIn World,Emma Lidbury from Walker Books, Daniel Hahn.

Fortunately, I got a lot of information and reading suggestions for Malta, Latvia and Lithuania, which were missing on my #EU27Project list. I also found out about possible funding for translation projects from Romanian into English. Unfortunately, I managed to gather so many materials (see above), that the handle on my sturdy tote bag broke.

Unfortunately, the Careers Fair for jobs in publishing was extremely crowded and I felt like I was the donkey among sheep (good old Romanian saying, meaning I was the ‘biggest’, i.e. oldest, one there). Fortunately, the recruitment agencies did not seem to think I was a complete waste of space if I fancied a career change (possibly in academic publishing rather than mainstream fiction).

Fortunately, my day did not end there. I met a friend at the Wellcome Collection and then attended a poetry reading at the Bookmarks bookshop in Bloomsbury. The poets reading from their new collections were American poet Michael Waters , Roy Marshall (whom I knew from his wonderful blog) and Mihaela Moscaliuc, whose debut collection Father Dirt I had absolutely loved. Three very different kinds of poets, with a bouquet of poems at once sad and touching, funny and wry, thoughtful and provocative. I got all three books and look forward to reading them at leisure.

Unfortunately, the poetic evening had to come to an end with a mad dash for the train, crying children all the way home and some forgotten school uniforms to sort out for my sons. Fortunately, I have the memories…

29 thoughts on “#LBF17: Fortunately… Unfortunately…”

    1. I hadn’t heard of Bookmarks before this event – and have to admit felt somewhat uncomfortable seeing some socialist books I was more than willing to forget there – but it’s also got a good general selection of thoughtful books, so I will go back.

  1. What a lovely inscription on your book – much nicer than just the scrawled name that some authors manage. You’ll be even more organised next year I’m sure, with a good idea of who you want to meet

    1. Maybe by next year I will have something to offer… And isn’t it a lovely inscription – we spoke a mix of English and Romanian, but it’s interesting that she never wrote poetry while she lived in Romania, so all her poetic language, she feels, comes from English.

  2. Thank you for sharing this, Marina Sofia. I’m so glad that you had this experience, even if there were ‘unfortunately’ incidents along the way. It sounds fantastic and I’m happy for you.

    1. The ‘unfortunately’ were a bit tongue-in-cheek, as I did have a wonderful day. I do try to cram an awful lot in when I go to London, and am shattered the next day, but it was worth it.

  3. It sounds as though you got a lot of your day even if there were a few downsides along the way. Thanks for sharing your experiences – it’s interesting to hear your feedback on the event. The translated lit initiatives sound particularly encouraging…

    1. It’s so important to expose children early on to diversity and different narratives and cultures, isn’t it? I remember some of my sons’ Anglo classmates in France declaring that they don’t bother to read anything but English books, because ‘everyone knows that English children’s literature is the best.’ And they were living in France, where they had easy access to at least French and Swiss children’t lit.

  4. It sounds wonderful to me Marina, especially the comfortable shoes (one of the fortunately points of getting older is I no longer care if on occasion my shoes aren’t pretty). So glad to hear you’ve started opening the door to a career change and seen the inroads translated fiction is making into the world of publishing

    1. I do wish I could have seen more of the authors in action, but there was just not enough time to go everywhere and see everything.
      And yes, I used to be such a high-heel kind of girl, but when I started running through airports to catch my flights or running after children in playgrounds, I quickly learnt the benefits of comfort.

  5. Fortunately, you seem to have acquired plenty of swag. Unfortunately, that means your TBR is now even higher. Fortunately, that thought makes me laugh… 😉

    1. Unfortunately, I think your TBR pile is even higher than mine… Clashé, as the schoolboy slang expression in French goes. Actually, most of them were catalogues rather than books.

  6. Sounds like you needed a great deal of stamina for this! I was at school with Antonia Lloyd Jones and our families lived very close to each other during the first 6 years of my life. I remember her father as the archetypal eccentric professor! Great piece by her about being a translator.

    1. Well, well, what a small world it is! She is absolutely lovely, very voluble, and I am always amazed at how many languages these translators can translate from.

  7. Very pleased that the day ended fortunately. I think our near equivalent is ‘consequences’ which ends with ‘and the consequence was…’. I hope your consequence will be a few career doors opening.

    1. Ah, yes, I think it might have been called ‘Consequences’, but obviously we adapted it for our family… I’m not holding my breath about career opportunities, as publishing generally pays too little for someone mid-career, with a mortgage and a family to feed, but we’ll see. Thank you for your kind thoughts!

  8. I’m so glad to hear that, overall, you had a good day at the LBF, which has obviously evolved a whole whale of a lot since I was last there . . . many (phthisic wheeze), many years ago.

    Back in that long-ago day, the first two LBFs I went to I went with a fresh haircut and resentfully crammed into my best suit (“best” is a relative term here) and even, oh asphyxia, a tie, and came away with absolutely nothing except the memory of a friendly chat with then-neo novelist Salman Rushdie, courtesy of a pal of mine who’d designed one of his covers. That second visit, though, I noticed that the guy who was doing all the business was a designer who broke the suit-and-tie mould: his battered brown cords and denim, tieless shirt conveyed the notion that, forget the sartorial garbagearama, he actually knew what he was doing. He didn’t have to dress smart to impress.

    So the next LBF I went to I wore a teeshirt, jeans that looked as if they were wondering what to do first, fall off or simply disintegrate . . . and I came away with a book contract, a stack of freelance work, a hangover earned through a long evening with some really quite well known writers, and, well, if it hadn’t been for the hangover I’m sure they’d have been glorious memories.

    Not sure it still works that way, though.

  9. Well, you did more tthan get your feet wet. You waded into the sea of book publishers, etc. Maybe you got some good contacts or it prepared you for the next one and gives you a new strategy. I’m sure something can be gained and learned from this experience. And you got new books! (an a bit envious truthfully.)
    Even with the crying children, et al., it still sounds like a step ahead.

    1. It certainly prepared me for what to do in the coming years. I suppose the first time is a bit of a dry run, to familiarise yourself with the sheer size of the event.

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