“Life in the Seven Kingdoms is never dull . . .” 

–Jen McConnel, School Library Journal



7 Insights from the SCBWI Europolitan Conference in Belgium

Art Deco building with musical motifs under every window showing the history of written music
This beautiful building is the musical instrument museum in Brussels, Belgium.

What is the SCBWI Europolitan?
A chance to meet people who live in Europe and write for kids in English.

In 2017, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Europolitan Conference was in Belgium.

In 2024, it will be in Cologne, Germany. Here’s a taste of the earlier conference and information about the upcoming one! 

Hope to see you all there!


In 2017, the Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators (SCBWI) “Europolitan conference” was in Belgium. It was fantastic to attend sessions in a tiny palace and connect with talented people doing interesting things. There is so much energy!!!

  • Lots of languages!
  • 65 writers and illustrators, talking books, craft, and life in the EU, at top-speed!
  • Belgian fish and chips!
  • Workshops on illustration, book design, writing mysteries–read on for more!

Top 7 insights from the conference:

1. "Build your own community" was a huge theme.

It’s easy to think “there’s no one near me who writes,” but it’s never true. Even where the official languages aren’t English, there are people writing fiction for children in English. If you haven’t found your people yet, give it another try.

If you need tips, check here and here.

In case you think isolation is a writer problem, think again.

Literary Agent Gemma Cooper organized “Agent Mixers” in Chicago for young editors and agents. Early in her career, she shadowed agent Penny Holroyde to learn the business. The author equivalent: “study the books in your genre.”

Editorial Director Penguin Random House Children’s, Natalie Doherty met with a group of editors from other publishing houses. They declared their meetings a neutral zone: “This is Switzerland.” After all, multiple editors could easily be competing for the same author.

4. Traditional publishing is reaching out

Social media has made things more transparent for publishers too. Editors can contact book buyers from bookstores on Twitter.

Keywords and categories came up even though (in 2017) that’s normally a self-publishing conversation. Traditionally published authors are also expected to know more about their audiences.

5. Genre fiction isn't the whole picture

According to the lovely Natalie Doherty, Books like Wonder, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Holes, and The Book Thief are referred to in-house as having a “Special Book Feel.” They address “weighty themes in accessible ways.” A hopeful sign.

2. Inspiration to write for middle grade (9-12 year olds)

Literary agent, Gemma Cooper’s example of middle grade “obsessions” reminded me of the way it feels to be twelve years old.

As a child, she was obsessed with Egyptian hieroglyphics and her brother was obsessed with space.

This reminds me of why children’s books are the key to a happy life. The things we explore when we are young are the things that enrich our lives. Wealth is not all about the stock market.

How else do people create a world-class collection of musical instruments? Gotta start young. 🙂

6. Transparency isn't quite everywhere

It sounds like getting accurate sales numbers for books is still challenging, even for super agents like Gemma Cooper. If anyone can fix it, she can.

3. Writing for young readers is also about modelling creativity.

Story comes first of course! Both author/illustrator Chris Mould and author Robin Stevens talked about encouraging young readers to draw, write, and look at the world differently.

Robin Stevens’ hands-on way to start a story invites listeners into the process. She’s got the most delicious pile of “clues.” So easy–a sure sign of a true expert! She does school visits the same way. Wouldn’t you love to hear those mysteries?

7. My book cover "Aha!" moment.

 It’s hard to figure out what you need to create a solid book cover. This is why:

“Cover designs bring all the publishing departments together.” —Laurent Linn, Art Director Simon & Schuster.

Creating a book is a group process. The best product comes from a team that works respectfully together.

8. Wishing you'd been there?

FYI, this beautiful illustration was done by @SanneDufft

Here’s your chance . . .















If you have never been to a conference before, they are a wonderful way to learn more about your craft, meet others who do the same thing as you, and talk to industry experts. This year, I have been lucky enough to be on the planning committee for the SCBWI 2024 Europolitan Conference. We are busy planning the greatest conference ever (or at least we think so). We would love for you to join us in October. You do not need to be a member of SCBWI to take part. You only need to be someone who lives in Europe and enjoys writing or illustrating for children. Register and learn more at Scbwi.org/regions/germany-austria/europolitan-conference

For those of you who have done conferences before, please share your experiences with friends and colleagues. Let’s inspire some new writers and illustrators to take the next step!