Europolitan Conference May 2017 Brussels

On Behalf Of Dina von Lowenkraft

The 3rd biennial Europolitan conference was held on May 13-14 at the lovely Chateau du Cheneau just south of Bruxelles in Belgium . It was a fabulous, fun weekend.

It sold out a day or two after the early bird sign up period ended in January (64 spots total) and most of the professional consultations (30 in all) were booked in less than 24 hours. This amazing response was due to the success of our 2 previous Europolitans (Paris 2013, Amsterdam 2015).

This year’s theme was Pens, Pencils & Partnerships. Creative endeavors are often solitary undertakings but the path to publication and beyond isn’t and we wanted to help create connections between members as well as to offer an opportunity for members to get to know industry professionals and to see several examples of professional working relationships. We had an author-agent-editor trio (Robin Stevens/Gemma Cooper/Nathalie Doherty) as well as an illustrator-agent duo (Penny Holroyde/Chris Mould) and the two editors (Kendra Levin/Nathalie Doherty) were both from PRH and had worked together on various projects.

If anyone wants to see the schedule, link is here:

For the first time we had an Indie Bookstore (the amazing English-language Treasure Trove) agree to run our bookstore. Many books were sold and signed!

There was an illustrator contest before the conference and winning entries were printed in a notebook (with both lined and unlined pages) with their contact details. These notebooks were given as gifts to faculty and volunteers and sold via Treasure Trove to delegates.

Our faculty were AMAZING, moving us from laughter to tears to being inspired.

UK Professional Faculty:
Editor - Natalie Doherty (Commissioning Editor) at Penguin Random House
Agent - Penny Holroyde of Holroyde Cartey Agency
Art Director - Stephanie Amster of Bloomsbury

US Professional Faculty:
Editor - Kendra Levin (Executive Editor) of Viking Children’s (PRH)
Agent - Gemma Cooper of the Bent Agency
Art Director - Laurent Linn of Simon & Schuster

PAL Faculty:
Author: Robin Stevens, edited by Natalie
Illustrator: Chris Mould, repped by Penny
Author: Angela Cerrito
Author: Susanne Gervay

A little background on the Europolitan:

SCBWI Europolitan started in 2013 when 5 regions in continental Europe (Belgium+Luxembourg, France, Germany+Austria, Switzerland and The Netherlands) decided to combine forces in order to bring their membership programs that our individual regions alone couldn’t offer. Our regions share several common characteristics: we are small (from 15-60 members), our members work in a language that isn’t that of their host country and there is no publishing industry serving our members’ needs locally (meaning in English - there is, of course, a publishing industry in the local language). And although illustrations may not have the same language barrier, they do have a stylistic barrier - what works for the local market may not work for the US or UK markets.

What makes this event special/unique?

1. The number of attendees (including volunteers) was larger than the number of members of any one of our regions.

2. We have an equal number of UK and US faculty. This makes the ratio of faculty to attendees quite high. This year we had a ration of about 1:5 of faculty to paying attendees. What was really interesting was the reaction of the professional faculty members to this mix: they loved it. They all said they don’t have enough opportunities to share with their homologues across the pond (both directions). Several said that attending the conference was almost like attending an industry event since they had so many opportunities to exchange (panel discussions, shared meal times etc) and they learned from each other. We also played on the dual nature of the UK/US markets and had our illustrator portfolio contest judged by both art directors who each chose their winner (in the end they chose the same - even though the two markets are quite different). The announcement included an explanation of what worked for each of their markets and an open discussion in front of attendees. Enlightening for us all!

Our Europolitan goes beyond the weekend…

In order to help create awareness of the event and our faculty members, with the generous support of Cynthia Leitich Smith and her wonderful Cynsations blog, we interviewed the faculty members and were able to share their stories and thoughts about our theme of partnerships. These interviews also allowed our members to get to know the faculty better before arriving.


In keeping with the spirit of getting to know each other and sharing that every Europolitan has embodied, there were several optional (free) pre- and post-conference activities. For those arriving Friday we had a Scrawl Crawl in Bruxelles followed by a pay-for-your-own dinner (attended by nearly 80% of the attendees and volunteers!). For those staying through the Monday we had a critique cafe (work shared before conference) followed by a pay-for-your-own brunch.

We had a faculty and volunteer dinner (24 people!) at an Auberge in the countryside on Saturday after our conference cocktail party/portfolio showcase.

Since not everyone can get away for a weekend/afford the travel costs, we offered a series of webinars with faculty both before and after the conference. Our first webinar was April 7 and our last is coming up June 22. This also helped us cover costs even with attendance limited to 15 (we use a video conferencing platform so everyone can see each other and interact - it’s more of an online workshop than a webinar).

Gemma Cooper during her Breakout Session at the Chateau du Cheneau

Gemma Cooper during her Breakout Session at the Chateau du Cheneau

We offered:
with Laurent Linn, Art Director Simon & Schuster
pre-conf webinar held on April 7, 2017

with Kendra Levin, Executive Editor Viking Children's Books
pre-conf webinar held on April 21, 2017

with Catherine Coe, freelance editor and author (SCBWI BE volunteer and UK faculty coordinator)
post-conf webinar held on June 1, 2017

with Robin Stevens, author of the internationally best-selling Murder Most Unladylike series
post-conf webinar to be held on June 22, 2017 (if we get enough signups)

In addition to these events we also have (and have had since the first Europolitan) several FB groups for people to exchange and maintain their contacts/friendships. We have a general group for regional events and happenings as well as specific groups for writers and/or illustrators.

A few comments:
“The conference was like coming to a family weekend gathering in the country.”

“I felt really uplifted by the SCBWI conference. The open, cheerfull and dedicated participants, the high quality of the workshops, all the extra's like awards, panels and group meetings... I loved the whole thing, and I have brought back enough input to get me going for months, maybe even years (!)”

“In general, I would say that the topics were so interesting that i would have liked them to be longer, at least the practical ones like “Get into character” (Laurent) absolutely useful, but too short.”

“The bookshop was great, i love how knowledgeable the bookshop owner (i can't remember her name) is and how readily she recommended books and is so approachable.”

“It was a very accepting, encouraging, learning and warm atmosphere! Looking forward to the next one!”

“I expected not to gain a lot from the panels, but they were more interesting than I expected. More down-to-earth than expected, well-structured, with useful insights and intelligent moderation.”

“I had a productive weekend.”

The European regions worked as a team and the support and help we give each other is fabulous. SCBWI is an amazing group - all around the world!

Europolitan Co-ordinators:
Dina von Lowenkraft, Regional Advisor, Belgium+Luxembourg
Tioka Tokedira, Regional Advisor, France
Patti Buff, Regional Advisor, Germany+Austria
Elisabeth Norton, Regional Advisor, Switzerland
Melanie Rook Welfing, Regional Advisor, The Netherlands

Cheers to all!