Recently, I took a fast plane (rather than a slow boat) to China to present at the Bookworm Literature Festival that took place in three cities: Beijing, Chengdu and Suzhou. Over ten days I mingled with legendary authors, visited local schools, stayed in mind-blowing hotels, and ate Chinese delicacies chosen by pointing at menus with colorful pictures. Sometimes I wasn’t exactly sure what I was eating.
The festival venues were popular hangouts – combination bookstore, cafe and bar…created by Bookworm Festival founder and bookstore owner, Peter Goff, a warm and generous host. Olivia Liu, the Regional Advisor for the newly established Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Beijing chapter, organized my visit. Also representing SCBWI, was co-founder of SCBWI and author Stephen Mooser from the USA and author/illustrator Bridget Strevens-Marzo from the UK. Bridget and I had fun presenting together on panels in Beijing alongside Olivia and again in Chengdu to some highly motivated teacher librarians.
West Australian AJ Betts and I above at the Australian Embassy in Beijing – I’m drinking WATER because I’m about to do a gig! Amanda was on tour with Australian Writer’s Week in China and was also part of the Bookworm Literature Festival.
Visiting schools and conducting workshops – children all love a good story and love to create their own books!
To first view China’s skyline is a shock and awe experience, each building more fantastic then the next. But to put it into perspective, this is the country that built the Great Wall, one of the greatest wonders of the world.
The entire population of Australia fits into Beijing alone, but yet I feel a strange intimate connection. The skyscrapers are being built with the red iron ore mined from the West Australian ground. With all these remarkable buildings springing up all over the country, no wonder it’s easy to spot the Chinese National bird, the (building) crane, they soar in great numbers high in the sky, everywhere. In the 90s, one quarter of the world’s construction cranes were at work in Shanghai alone!!
Experiencing the Great Wall is like riding a meandering a dragon, up and down as far as the eye can see and another 13,000 miles beyond. We took a chairlift up and a toboggan down!
Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, where the unforgettable demonstrations happened back in 1989. Security is still tight. Creepy plain-clothes policeman stand guard over a fire extinguisher in case a protester decides to set themselves alight.
To the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base in Chengdu – I always thought pandas were cute but seeing them in person, they are seriously cuuuuuuute.
The historic city of Suzhou, affectionately known as the Venice of the Orient. We visited several of the UNESCO World Heritage List classical gardens with unique names; The Humble Administrator’s Garden which had the 36 Pairs of Mandarin Duck’s Hall, the With Whom Shall I Sit? Pavilion and the Listening to the Sound of Rain Pavilion. I preferred the quieter Master of the Nets Garden (also called Fisherman’s Garden).
Post Festival, a couple of days to explore where Blade Runner meets Las Vegas. Cool, hip Shanghai, staying on The Bund, to enjoy the skyline of lights.