So Much to Write, So Much to Learn – SCBWI Europolitan Day 1

I recently returned from the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Europolitan Conference in Amsterdam.


Amsterdam Canal

It was a wonderful, inspiring event, but it reminded me that even when you think you have learnt so much, there is still so much to learn.

The Europolitan Conference, a team effort presented by the SCBWI regions of Belgium, France, German+Austria, Switzerland and The Netherlands was one of the most professional, well organised and inspiring conferences I have ever been to.

Mum and Mina

With my dear writerly friend and conference organiser, Mina Witteman

My heartfelt thanks to the leadership team of Tioka Nparis, Dina Von Lowenkraft , Elisabeth Norton, Patti Coughlan Buff, Dana Carey, Özge Tığlı and Gabriela Nicole Gonzalez – and especially to my dear friend Mina Witteman, RA for The Netherlands who pulled it all together with such style and grace.


One of the highlights for me was the inspiring opening keynote, Here Be Dragons by engaging Marieke Nijkamp, which opened our eyes to the importance of Diverse Books for children and young adults.

Maritime Museum, Amsterdam

Maritime Museum, Amsterdam

Jill Santopolo, Executive Editor, Philomel Books gave us valuable insight into how the sales force sell books in the marketplace. I found this invaluable because it made me think about the following things:

1. What is my story about – what are the high points of the action and the emotional plot?
2. What is the main conflict?
3. What is the theme?
4. What is unique about the way I have told this story?
5. Why would someone want to buy or read this book?
6. How does this book compare to others in the genre with a similar readership?
7. Why did I write this book?

Knowing the answers to these questions also helps you pitch your book to publishers and agents, and do author presentations in bookshops and schools. If you know the answers to these questions you will be able to get to the heart of what your story is about and why it’s important.

Keukenhof, Amsterdam

Keukenhof, Amsterdam

with Marietta Zacker, Senior Agent at Nancy Galt Literary Agency

Marietta talked about seven things that make characters bloom.

1. Emotional Connection – the reader must have a reaction to the character. Their first reaction is very important.
2. Empathy – you must create a character that readers can empathise with.
3. Memorable – your character must be memorable – just like people stand out in real life, characters must too. What makes a character memorable is their voice. if someone could replace that character then their voice is not memorable enough.
4. Adventurous – characters must push the limits and force people to think. Characters must not accept the cards dealt to them, they must push the limits and not passively show story.
5. Unique – characters must be unique but readers must still be able to relate to them.
6. Secrets and aspirations – characters must have secrets and aspirations – and not all will necessarily be resolved.
7. Have heart – characters must show anything and everything they have inside.

with Mina Witteman

Losing the plot literally is a problem I find with my work. Somehow in the translation from ideas to paper, the story can become too complicated, and the essence lost.

Mina’s session focussed on using Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet to help get your story back under control.

Mina presented Blake’s strategies with clarity and used examples of popular books to show us how they could be applied practically.

You can find out more about Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet here. It’s a great revision tool for your novel.

Day 1 of the conference concluded with a cocktail party and an illustration gallery where amazing folios were on display.

The fabulous Day 1 Program

The fabulous Day 1 program

Next week I’m going to blog about Day 2 of the conference where I learnt more amazing things.

If you have any tips from a recent conference (it could be the SCBWI Europolitan) that you’d like to share, feel free to comment at the end of this post.

Happy writing:)


9 thoughts on “So Much to Write, So Much to Learn – SCBWI Europolitan Day 1

  1. Those were really good points and can be used by all writers. Thanks for sharing them. I love the “Why did I write this book?” Does “because I love the characters and wanted to share them with the world” count? I think I always have something to say, but it is never consciously written down, it just sort of comes out of the motivations and life histories of my characters.

    Wish I could have been there with you. And you got to see Amsterdam. I was there when I was nine for a couple of days when we were flying out to East Africa. it was one of the highlights of my life.

  2. The writing is going fine. I am finished my latest Inspector Blake novel and figured I’d go back and edit one of my other novels. Only I got sidetracked by the first novel I wrote and published. I’ve always wanted to rewrite it, smooth it out, add some historical details. So now I am. I have way too many projects and not enough “me’s”.


  3. Glad to hear the writing is going fine, Deb:)

    I know what you mean about too many projects. That happens to me too.

    I guess we have to go with whichever work ‘calls’ us the loudest.

    Happy writing:)


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