Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Illustrator Info The Bologna Report

By Sarah Baker

I was lucky enough to spend a few days at the 2017 Bologna Children's Book Fair. Here is a brief history of the fair and a few highlights.

The fair began in 1963 in Bologna, Italy. It is one of the largest events in the world that is focused on children's books, and it happens every year in March or April. Over a thousand different publishers and children's book businesses rent space to exhibit in six huge convention halls. The main purpose of the fair is for publishers to buy and sell book rights and to have business meetings, but there are also highly-regarded art shows and the announcements of a few major awards, like the BolognaRagazzi Awards. Individual authors and illustrators also attend the fair to have meetings, get inspired, and peruse new children's books from all over the world.


As usual, this year there was a big focus on original art. The Bologna Illustrators Exhibition, featuring original art from seventy-five illustrators under the age of thirty-five from all over the world, along with the smaller food-themed and silent book-themed art exhibits, displayed current, cutting-edge work. The styles ranged from editorial, to whimsical, to decorative.

The fair had an exciting new feature, called the Illustrator’s Survival Corner. It’s a great place for illustration students and illustrators that are new to the industry, featuring talks given by illustrators, hands-on workshops, and an educational installation on book dummies and portfolios. It also included a small but beautiful exhibit on the art of the pop-up book, with rare, antique pop-up book spreads.

The Author’s and Illustrator’s Café areas were full of presentations and panels, including a panel with illustrator Isabelle Arsenault, her agent Kirsten Hall, and editor Tamar Brazis, talking about the process of making Cloth Lullaby, a picture book bologna-2about Louise Bourgeois. The book was one of the winners of the BolognaRagazzi Awards for 2017.

While perusing the books at the various booths, I noticed a strong trend of picture books about science, history, biography, and nonfiction, all with truly fantastic art and design—sometimes surprisingly so. I also noticed many picture books specifically about artists, both real and fictional. Another popular topic in picture books was immigration and the immigrant experience.

It’s eye opening to see books being published all over the world with art styles that are not the norm within the United States. If you’re an illustrator, I’d highly recommend exploring the Exhibitor Directory  ( and following the links to some different international publisher’s websites. It’s a fun way to expose yourself to new and different art styles. If you find any you are interested in submitting to, you can always use the SCBWI International Market Survey (available as a PDF to members in our Resource Library on to easily find their submission policies and information.

SCBWI exhibits at the fair every other year, so we’ll be there with our booth in 2018. We offer great Bologna opportunities to our members, such as the Bologna Illustration Gallery Award (BIG) and the SCBWI Rights Catalog for published members, so look out for announcements in the coming months to participate and take advantage of our presence there. 


SCBWI Exclusive with Peter Knapp


 Fueled by the thrill of reading a new story for the first time, Peter works creatively with his clients and the PLM team on marketing, branding initiatives and promotions to get great books into the hands Peter Knapp - PLM Grey Finalof  readers. Before joining PLM, he was a story editor at a book-scouting agency working with film clients, and he continues to look for new ways to partner with Hollywood on adaptations and multimedia properties. His clients include New York Times bestsellers Soman Chainani, Lindsay Cummings and Brenda Drake, and Lambda nominee Will Walton. You can learn more about Park Literary at, and you can find Peter online on Twitter (@petejknapp) and Tumblr (


How and why did you get into agenting?

My mom is an English professor and my dad is a business owner, and so getting into the business of books was the most natural fit in the world for me. Right out of college, I worked at a scouting agency that consulted on book-to-film adaptations for Hollywood studios. It was an excellent first job because it gave me a bird’s-eye-view of the industry; in order to do my job, I had to constantly talk to agents, editors, foreign publishers, and Hollywood development executives. I discovered two important things at that job that led me to agenting: first, agents have an independent, entrepreneurial approach to the work they do that was hugely appealing to me; second, not every book I love makes an obvious studio film, and I desperately wanted a career where I could champion the titles I believed in, rather than being limited to seeking out only titles our film clients would want to make.

When I heard that Theresa Park, the head of Park Literary & Media, was looking for an assistant in 2011, I didn’t hesitate: I sent in my resume, interviewed, and very quickly got a job on her desk. Theresa is a remarkable agent and an extremely generous mentor, and under her guidance I discovered my instinct was right: I loved working at an agency, and six years later, I love being an agent.


What gives you the most joy about what you do?

I may be cheating with this answer a little, but what I love most about what I do is everything—by which I mean that I love how varied this job is. I get to discover manuscripts; I get to help edit them; I get to sell them; I get to consult on cover design; I get to weigh in with marketing ideas; I get to meet with the buyers and distributors of mass retailers; I get to travel to book festivals like YALLFest, YALLWest, and North Texas Teen Book Festival; I get to attend excellent writers’ conferences, like SCBWI regional conferences and the Midwest Writers Workshop and the Kweli Color of Children’s Conference. I am never bored with my job—it’s too dynamic, and there’s no time for boredom anyhow. Plus, I love that this is a job that requires faith—which is to say, a gut belief that my taste in a manuscript is spot on, and that the hard work I’m doing (and that I’m asking my clients to do) will pay off. I love taking that leap—and I love the moment when I get to call an author and say, “It’s happening. You have an offer. You’re going to be published.”


When you're reading a submission, what makes you say I have to be this author’s agent?

I am lucky to have seven amazing colleagues, and they can all tell you this as well: when I’m loving a submission, they know it. I will send texts of memorable quotes if I’m reading over the weekend or sneak into my colleagues’ offices during the day to tell them how excited I am. I also find that if I’m into a submission, I edit as I read it, leaving little notes in the manuscript about how the author can push the story further. I think the best word for it is “vision”: I can see what the story is and what it can become, who I can sell it to, how it can be published. I sometimes even begin imagining the movie, the book trailer, the website, the marketing material. When I want to sign a book, it’s because it fully captures my imagination in this way.


How do you work with your clients? 

Each client’s needs are different, so how I work with them varies. In terms of editorial work, I tend to be very hands-on. For example, let’s say I’ve just signed a debut novel: After we agree to work with each other, I read the manuscript again and then deliver an editorial letter as well as notes on the manuscript pages. We keep working on the book together until it is ready to submit—sometimes this is one quick round of edits, and sometimes it takes several editorial rounds, depending on how much developmental work is required to get the manuscript into shape for submission.

My job doesn’t end after I’ve sold the book to a publisher, though. Our agency is unique in that we have an in-house marketing person (Emily Sweet, our executive director of brand development & client promotions) and an in-house retail relations person (Andrea Mai, our director of publisher & retail relations), and so I work very closely with the two of them, the client, and the publisher to develop a cohesive strategy for publication. We also have an in-house foreign rights team, which sells our clients’ titles internationally, and we work with a network of Los Angeles based film and TV agents to figure out a strategy on that front.

This is why I love my job—it’s such an excellent mix of developmental work, editorial work, selling, and business strategy.


You can submit a query to Peter during the month of May and instructions are:

Please send your query and the first chapter or approximately 10 pages pasted into the body of the email to Please put “Peter Knapp” as well as the category and genre of your book (i.e.: “Peter Knapp – YA Fantasy”) in the subject line of your email. I respond to all queries within 12 weeks of receiving them.


On the Shelves Fact & Fiction

logoWhat do taco parties, Western history, and the Missoula Public Library all have in common? Fact & Fiction, of course, the independent bookstore located in downtown Missoula, Montana.
What sets Fact & Fiction apart from other bookstores?
Fact & Fiction is an independent store in downtown Missoula, MT.  We are one of several bookstores in town, each store having a small space and wide selection of titles. F&F specializes in  Montana authors–with children'sbooks, ficiton, mysteries and Western history strengths.  Our booksellers are avid readers and love to recommend books aas well as hear about new titles our customers are reading.
What has been a successful author visit and why do you believe it was more successful than others?
James Lee Burke gives a reading with all of his new releases, he draws several hundred people and we ship signed copies of his books all over the world.  Local authors Sneed B Collard III, Dorothy Patent, Beth Judy, and Donna Love bring readers of all ages into the store.  Most of our events attract an "older" audience—grandparents, young adults and those giving books to a child.  During Children's Book Week we work with Missoula Public Library to "host" a costume character that attends story hour and walks downtown farmer's markets!  

What in your opinion makes a bestselling book?
A bestselling book starts with bookseller excitement, handselling to customers and word of mouth builds.  If "we" like a book it is far easier to sell…recent child rem's favorites were Penguin Problems, Child of Books, Dragons Love Tacos.  We plan to have a taco party for the new dragon taco book this Spring!
A well written title that transports someone to another land or time—a book that brings asmile with the words and illustrations.
How is Fact & Fiction involved in the community?
We work with Missoula Public Library, The Montana Book Festival, and the Montana Book Award.  Our booksellers serve on Open Aids Alliance, Downtown Association, Friends of Library boards.  We host readings and signings at venues across town, have book club luncheons and work with school libraries across the state.
Personal Book recommendation?
The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors
Gotta Go Buffalo
Be Quiet! and other Bruce Higgins titles