We are looking back at an excellent first SCBWI NL conference. I think every single participant loved the speakers, their keynotes, lectures and the hands-on break-out sessions.
I particularly liked Doug Cushman’s opening keynote and his advice to always remember how you started, why you started, and, most important, what drove you to wanting to be a writer or an illustrator. His Space Cat is a terrific illustration of that: written when Doug was 8 years old and published a couple of years ago. As he said: we don’t change that much.

Erzsi Deàk of the Hen&ink Agency enlightened us on what agents and editors are looking for these days. Her breakdown of the buzz at the Frankfurt International Book Fair was insightful and helpful and gave us, illustrators and writers alike, a good view of where and how we can gain the most of our talents.

The morning break-out sessions were hands-on and all about honing our craft.
Sarah Blake Johnson gave an excellent writer’s masterclass on character and plot and sent the attendees out again brimming with ideas, bubbling with new plot twists and turns, and with fingers itching to start writing. If you ever need a writing coach: she’s your woman!
Ben Norland of Walker Books UK was just awesome. The illustrators hung on his every word, taking in as much as possible of his knowledge and his creative talents. How to develop characters, how to present your work, what works and what not were on his list, but also solid and down-to-earth information on what the differences are between showing your work on paper or on screen, and his guidance on how to best present your pieces and dummies.

The Amsterdam weather didn’t let us down: an almost springlike temperature accompanied us to the various lunch restaurants around the venue, and of course to the American Book Center for a demonstration of the Expresso Book Machine. A nifty little piece of equipment that can turn your manuscripts into books in a matter of minutes.

The afternoon started with another round of break-out sessions.
Erzsi Deàk put the writers that attended her masterclass right to work. Revising your work was the motto here and revision means ‘the act of seeing again’. Erzsi truly let her audience see their own work again, through reading and rereading, through changing the POV’s, through listening and through tweaking and polishing. We had to call them twice before they were willing to put their pens down and come to the next lecture.
Doug Cushman told the attendees of his masterclass to imagine one of their characters. After that the participants were to sketch their character six times, each time with a different emotion, ranging from fright to anger and from surprise to smugness. His advice: use a mirror to study facial expressions and to perfect postures and poses!

The app developer Omar Curiëre of OCG Studios was a revelation. With pictures and videos he talked us through the making of Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure and the making of Roxie’s Doors, two apps based on the picture books of Roxie Munro. I can safely say that he left the audience in awe. This was not just a pimped digital image of a picture book, this was everything an app should be: thought-out to the bone, well-crafted, interactive and most of all stunningly beautiful.

Martine Schaap of Ploegsma Children’s Books gave us a fun-and-facts insight in the world of Dutch children’s book publishing. What works in the Netherlands and what works abroad. How often do books get translated. What are Dutch publishers looking for and how do they acquire their titles. The Netherlands and the big world our there.

We closed this full Saturday with a panel of speakers, moderated by the founder of the Dutch SCWBI chapter, the gifted translator Laura Watkinson. With thought-provoking questions she led the speakers and the audience a step closer to understanding the complex world of children’s book publishing in a global market.

During the Schmooze, with some well-deserved wine and snacks, two of our members showed their film work. Anne Awh’s ‘Mating Season’ was sweet and quirky. Liesbeth Wieggers short movie featuring a 33-year-old who overcomes illiteracy was lovely and moving. It reminded us once again about why the world needs good writers and illustrators.

Indonesian restaurant Sampurna treated the speakers and the members of the SCBWI to a delicious meal. Ben Norland had a little bonus for us in stock: Joshua Mowll joined us for dinner. His award-winning The Guild of Specialists trilogy has been published in 20 countries. A true example of publishing in a global market.

In short: The Netherlands and the Big World Out There was a fabulous and inspiring conference and most definitely the onset of much more to come!