K.V. Johansen Author of Fantasy and Children's Literature
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Skopje Macedonia, Vienna Austria Book Tour K.V. Johansen

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Macedonia & Vienna Travel Log

Part Nine:The Book Fair

    After the day of Canadian Culture and the discussion of fantasy in Macedonia and Canada, during which Professor Urosevic was very complimentary about Torrie and the Snake-Prince), it was off to the book launch at the Fair. A prominent literary critic said a number of extremely flattering things about Snake-Prince, and I signed quite a few copies for people. I also met a woman who had translated a Flemish novel retelling the story of "Beauty and the Beast" into Macedonian, which must be one of the more unlikely language pairings to be a translator for. I'm hoping to get some photographs of the launch and the Day of Canadian Culture from Vermilion, my publisher.
    In the evening, I had a half-hour interview on the show "Colours of Macedonia" on the national radio station. It was a very interesting conversation. In addition to talking about the book, we also discussed how Macedonia could create a culture of reading among children. There are serious problems here with children not reading. We talk about that in Canada a lot, but it's much worse here. Very little new Macedonian children's literature is being written. They've become stale, my translator said. One publisher had run a contest for new children's book manuscripts, with publication and a money prize, and had received only two entries. Imagine that in Canada! I talked about the way that the various provincial "Writers in the Schools" programmes bring children and writers (and illustrators) into contact, and the TD/CCBC Canadian Children's Book Week Tour, as well as the CBC's "Canada Reads" as ways that a "culture of reading" is being officially promoted, but also about the importance of parents simply making reading with their children every night a habit, not only when they're very small, picture book age, but once they are of an age to read novels for themselves as well.

There are encouraging moments, too, though. One young boy's eye was caught by the Torrie cover at the fair. He read a bit inside, looked at a couple of the other children's books Vermilion is publishing, and then wheedled his parents into buying them all for him. Then he returned with a friend, whom he had persuaded to wheedle his mother into buying him his own copy of Torrie. So there are young readers here, and since a discussion is beginning on children and reading among academics and in the media, it can be hoped that at future fairs it won't only be adults crowding around the bookstalls.
     Today, I attend the Ana Frank Literary Award ceremony and read to several school classes at a public library. For these children, I'll be the first author they've met.
     I'm also the first Canadian author to be translated into Macedonian.
     My flight leaves at 4:30 a.m. It's going to be a long, long trip home. I hope all the Icelandic volcanic ash over the North Atlantic doesn't cause a problem. The BBC says UK flights are going to be delayed or cancelled, and coming here, we passed over Ireland and Kent (white cliffs!). I suppose my flight from Vienna will be able to swing south to avoid the ash.

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