The New York Winter Conference in February 2019 was fab! It had a different format from previous years with intensive breakout sessions over two days. Our very own RA, Elisabeth Norton, was there, right in the thick of it.
Here she gives us some keywords which stuck with her throughout the conference:
That was just a very tiny bit of what Elisabeth came away with from the New York Conference. Do you feel like you have missed out? You could not get to New York?
Well, fear not!
If you need inspiration, are looking to improve your craft, or want to connect with fellow creatives, come to the Europolitian Conference in May in Switzerland!
Registrations are still open for a short time.
See you there!
Here is our second post in this series of interviews with our published members. Please give a very warm welcome to Helle S. Norup.
Helle Norup's debut novel, a middle grade fantasy story, was published in October 2018! Congratulations! Here she is to tell us more about it.
Tell us about your new book.
THE MISSING BARBEGAZI is the story of an eleven-year-old ski-racing girl, Tessa, who gets embroiled in an adventure to save one of the last barbegazi, all while the health of her grandmother deteriorates. It’s also the story of Gawion, a 154-year-old barbegazi teenager, who must overcome his fear of humans to help Tessa rescue his sister. It’s a book about trust, friendship, the power of hope and the magical bonds of family.
What inspired you when working on this project?
When I had the idea for the book, my two sons were on a ski racing team, and we spent every winter weekend on skis. I love snow and have always been fascinated by mountains, perhaps because I grew up by the sea in a flat country. My admiration for the ski club kids, who show up for training in sub-zero temperatures and band together despite internal competition, was my starting point for the story about Tessa and her struggles to win a ski race. It was supposed to be a story set entirely in the real world without any magic or mythical creatures. But I had not written more than one chapter before Tessa met a strange furry elf in the snow. After some research, I discovered that the creature Tessa had encountered was a barbegazi.
Tell us about the creative process for this book.
The initial idea for the book came to me while skiing, a couple of years before I began writing the story. At the time, I was rewriting (for the nth time) an MG fantasy novel set in the afterlife, so I wrote my thoughts on the skiing story in my notebook and later copied them into my ideas collection—a Scrivener file with notes about potential future projects—and then I forgot all about it.
After a “First Pages session” at AFCC (Asian Festival of Children’s Content) in 2015, my dream editor, Sarah Odedina, read my “afterlife” manuscript. She liked the opening chapters and my writing style, but not how the plot unfolded, and she encouraged me to write something else and keep her posted. Even though we were living in Singapore by then, I immediately knew that the skiing story was my best bet.
Over the next six months, I wrote the first draft. As soon as I decided to include a fictional non-fiction book and a barbegazi viewpoint (as described in my answer to the next question), the story flowed. I didn’t plot in detail before writing that first draft, but I had a clear idea of the ending and some plot points in the middle.
After finishing the first draft and letting it rest for a while, I spent a month analysing individual scenes and the overall structure of the manuscript. And then I made a detailed plan for the second draft, deciding what to cut, what to enhance, how to solve plot problems and how to raise the emotional stakes. At AFCC in 2016, before I’d begun writing the second draft, I pitched the story to Sarah Odedina, and she was keen to read the finished manuscript.
The second draft took me another four months, even though most of the structure remained unchanged. When I was happy with the overall story and each of the scenes, I wrote a third draft where I focused on paragraphs and sentences. That took a couple of months of working on one chapter a day, going through the following key steps: I printed the chapters out and used highlighters to mark dialogue, exposition, internal thoughts and conflict in different colours, getting a visual overview to check the balance of these elements. I also read everything aloud (again) to check flow and rhythm and make sure there was a good mix of long and short sentences. Sometimes, I copied the chapter into ProWritingAid’s web tool, to e.g. check if I repeated certain words or word combinations. And I tinkered a lot, moving words around in sentences and sentences inside paragraphs.
When I felt it was ready, I sent the manuscript to Sarah and waited impatiently until she responded a few endless months later with an offer.
Through two further drafts, we worked together, discussing in emails and over Skype to resolve the issues Sarah had highlighted in her editorial letter. Finally, I worked with Tilda Johnson, another brilliant editor, on line- and copy-edits. Tilda’s line-editing questions forced me to clarify descriptions and add some lovely details, so the creative work continued all the way up to this point. Afterwards, grammar and punctuation received a final polish in the copy-editing round, and, later, the page proofs were checked by me and a proofreader. In August 2018, more than two and a half years after I began writing the first draft, I received finished copies of The Missing Barbegazi—my little skiing story had become a real book.
Did you encounter anything unexpected while working on this project?
I discovered the barbegazi! Details about the barbegazi sparked my imagination in curious ways. For example, the fact that barbegazi myths are from the high alps in France and Switzerland, meant that I had to make up a reason for my barbegazi’s presence in Austria, where the story takes place. And, as the name barbegazi comes from the French barbe glacée (frozen beard), I knew their beards were important, so I decided female and young barbegazi needed beards too, and I bestowed barbegazi beards with magical properties.
Consolidating folklore and invented barbegazi “facts”, I wrote part of a fictional non-fiction book, called: Habits and Habitats: A Historic Account of Alpine Elves, to use in my story about Tessa. But it still wasn’t enough. The barbegazi, Gawion, wasn’t satisfied with a minor role; he wanted to speak for himself and tell part of the story from his point of view. I had not intended to write a dual narrative, so that was definitely unexpected.
Now for something completely different! Rain or Snow, Why?
SNOW! How can you ask? I still get excited every winter when I see the first snowflakes floating down, and there’s nothing quite like waking up to a newborn glittering world after a night of snowfall. Snow is magical!
Thank you Helle for sharing with us in detail your creative process for this book. It's wonderful to know more about the barbegazi!
We wish you all the best in your writing journey and hope to see more lovely stories from you.
Bio - Helle S. Norup
H S Norup grew up on a golf course in Denmark and lived in the UK, the US, Austria and Switzerland before moving to Singapore. Now, she has returned to Switzerland with her husband and two teenage sons. She has a Master’s degree in Economics and Business Administration and sixteen years’ experience in corporate marketing strategy and communications. When she’s not writing or reading, she spends her time outdoors either skiing, hiking, walking, golfing or taking photos. THE MISSING BARBEGAZI is her debut novel.
Are you ready?
Registration for Europolitian 2019 Conference - Taking Your Work to the Next Level, in Zurich, Switzerland, opens Sunday, 6, Jan 2019, 8 a.m. Swiss time.
Spaces are very limited so get on this as early as you can. The website is here.
Good luck with registration and we hope to see you at the conference in May!
Europolitian 2019 is just round the corner!
Get your calendars out and mark these dates: 4th - 5th May 2019!
While registration for the conference is NOT YET open, you can already have a look at the program and the faculty who will be there.
You can start planning which workshops you would like to attend and start work on pieces you would like to submit for the one-on-one consultations. There are also pre- and post-conference activities you can choose to take part in; such as the Scrawl Crawl or the Walking Tour of Zurich or the Breakfast Critiques.
For the first time, we can offer participants onsite accommodations. Details on how to secure these accommodations will be revealed when registration opens.
So go explore the Europolitian website and start planning.
Stay tuned for when registrations do open; space is very limited so you will want to get in on this as early as possible.
See you there!
We are excited to launch a new series of blog posts, highlighting our published members and their work. So join in me giving a hearty SCBWI Switzerland welcome to Simona Ceccarelli!
Her new book is called “SOIC and SOT: The Microchips” and it’s a lovely picture book.
Tell us about your new book.
“SOIC and SOT”, written by Jeffrey C. Dunnihoo, is a friendship story…only the friends happen to be microchips! After a harsh separation at the assembly line, they experience all the scary stages of electronics production and finally get to meet again in the most fantastic of ways: through the network.
The book is published by Pragma Media, which has set itself the goal of making electronics approachable and interesting for children. It is part of a three-book series, with the next two scheduled for next year.
Every page of “SOIC and SOT” has QR codes that link to a webpage with additional information about each step of the friends’ journey - for the most curious engineers-to-be.
What inspired you when working on this project?
I had to learn a lot about electronics myself to illustrate this book - and it’s a fascinating topic. It was thrilling to have experts review my illustrations and provide feedback. The author, Jeff Dunnihoo, is an electronics engineer. He was always happy to explain the hows and whys behind every detail: I ended up learning a lot more than what is included in the book and stand in wonder at what happens inside all our electronic devices.
Having a scientific background definitely helped.
Tell us about the creative process for this book.
It was a fun challenge to make microchips interesting and relatable as characters, convey emotions and have some dynamic range of expression. That’s why the first step of the process was extensive character design.
Finding the right style for the final illustrations also took some time. We wanted the book to have a painterly feel, but there had to be sufficient details as well. At the end, we settled for a colored-pencil look, which allowed to have both texture and fine linework.
I work digitally, but in a way that emulates traditional media.
The hardest part of creating the illustrations was collecting the right reference, because all technical details had to be caricatured yet accurate. There is a circuit board on many spreads: to keep consistency, I created a model of it in a 3D software to use as reference. Pragma provided a lot of images as well as technical files of the components and there were many changes before the board looked right: it’s completely fictional but looks like it could work!
Did you encounter anything unexpected while working on this project.
I found myself watching factory training videos to know how the inside of the assembly machines looked like.
Now for something completely different! Autumn or Spring, Why?
Autumn. Red and yellow are my favorite colors!
Thank you very much Simona for giving us an opportunity to learn more about your new book and your creative process. I must say it’s so interesting to hear how much you had to learn in order to produce accurate yet charming illustrations.
We wish you all the best on your continued journey as a children’s book illustrator and look forward to more books by you.
Bio – Simona Ceccarelli
After an exceptionally nerdy childhood, Simona left home with a passion for both art and science, a large library – which has been growing out of control ever since – and a dream that life would offer wealth beyond riches and several roads to travel. Her first journey was to study science and, after earning a doctorate, she worked as a medical research scientist for more than 10 years.
Art eventually lured her back to follow "the road not taken.” She studied illustration and visual development at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, and since 2013 she’s been happily doing illustration and animation projects for magazines, advertising and scientific education.
In 2016 she joined SCBWI and focussed almost exclusively on children’s book illustration. She has since illustrated two direct-to-school reading books for Rubicon Publishing (“The Horse of Seven Colors” and “Circle of Friends”), designed the cover and characters for a successfully crowdfunded book by the Microactivist Foundation and illustrated the “SOIC and Friends” book series for Pragma Media, of which “SOIC and SOT” is the first book. She is currently working on several educational titles for Rizzoli/Mondadori and Scholastic. Her first trade book as illustrator: “If You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon” with Sterling Children’s Books (written by Joyce Lapin), will be released in April 2019.
Simona lives in Basel, Switzerland, with her husband and two children.
For children’s books, she is represented by Andrea Cascardi, Transatlantic Literary Agency
Our Autumn Retreat 2018 was a few weeks ago and i have asked participants to look back on it and let us know what they thought about it. Here's what a couple of them said.
"It was an amazing and tranquilizing experience to be able to work in such a beautiful and silent village with such a beautiful group artists. The working sessions were very productive with the pomodoro method. I was able to go hiking with the bells of cows as a background music in the coffee breaks. Meals were delicious, hotel was cosy and the staff was friendly. Hope to be joining next year too. Perfect place to wash out all the gibberish in one's brain and concentrate on work and relax at the same time :)"
"A small hotel in the alps was the perfect place to kickstart work on my second novel. I prefer to work in solitude, so it was perfect to have a desk with this inspiring view--glad the weather didn’t stay nice the whole weekend or it would’ve been difficult to stay indoors. Getting together for informal meals was great to break up the working day and chat about writing."
It sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Why don't you plan on joining us at the next retreat?
Next year's dates will be announced here on the blog as well as in our regional newsletter.
In the meantime, here are some photos of our hard-working writers and illustrators who were at this year's retreat.
Do you have questions about writing or illustrating for children (anything from craft to marketing) and are not sure who can help?
Well, come to one of our regional meetings and let us help you.
Here are some details:
Zurich - 14 October 2018, Sunday, 2.30pm - 3.30pm
Location - Jack & Jo's, Gustav-Gull-Platz 2 - Zürich, 8004
Please register here for the Zurich meeting so we know who to expect.
Lausanne - 21 October 2018, Sunday, 2.30pm - 3.30pm
Location - Hotel Alpha Palmiers, Petit-chêne 34 - Lausanne, 1003
Please register here for the Lausanne meeting so we know who to expect.
Hope to see you either in Zurich or Lausanne.
On behalf of the SCBWI Switzerland team,
Autumn has arrived; it's time to get out the long sleeves and warm coats, it's time to get cosy. And that is exactly what we plan to do here at SCBWI Switzerland's new blog space.
We hope to be filling this space with news of our latest events and other points of interest for writers and illustrators of children's books. So stay tuned and we hope to see you at some of our upcoming events!
Do check out the About page if you are new to SCBWI and feel free to contact us via the Contact page, should you have any questions.
On behalf of the SCBWI Switzerland team, WELCOME!
It was a fabulous sunny day on 16th of June, 2018 and some of our members met up for our annual Summer Scrawl Crawl. Here are a few photo impressions.
This article was first published in our 2018 Q2 Switzerland Newsletter. I'm re-publishing here for the wider public, with different pictures.
My first Writer’s Retreat with some fabulous fellow-creatives was definitely an inspiration and encouragement to keep on writing.
The place was a quaint little Swiss hotel, run by some lovely people, who catered to all our needs. And because SCBWI was already there before, it felt just a tiny bit like family. The rooms were simple but clean and very nice. I love the sense of history in the place, especially the beautiful landing with its vintage furniture, which joins the two wings. The food was excellent, it took some willpower not to overeat.
The weather was amazingly inviting, sunny and bright all weekend, which made the gorgeous views even more spectacular; making the mountains and lake really sing.
Elisabeth and Monika have done superbly, finding this truly stunning place.
Have I used enough superlatives to tempt you to come for the next one yet? No?
Well, here’s more.
I did not tell many people I was going for a writer’s retreat. I mean, what would they think? “Can’t you just write anywhere?” That’s what we hear most often about a writer’s work, isn’t it? “Oh, all you need is a desk, just sit and write, correct?”
On the one hand, that may be true, to a certain extent. But on the other hand, there is something to be said about having someone else, sitting across from you, facing similar struggles, trying to get that bestseller from brain to paper – and it’s called camaraderie or some prefer community.
We helped each other solve plot problems, we encouraged each other, giving constructive feedback, we shared our creative pains and we took refreshing walks which led to unexpected little adventures (one involving a little black lamb – go ask the participants for details).
All that sharing gave me a new perspective and insight into my craft, which I would, otherwise, not have gained if I just sat at my own desk all the time. I am so glad I took this opportunity to be with and hear from other creatives.
To quote The Write Practice, “We need each other. We need encouragement and kindness as we struggle against the forces of unkindness in this world, and the worlds we imagine. We need community like we need cold, refreshing water on a hot, summer day.”
So thank you all for being such an awesome community. See you at the next event.
Willkommen! Bienvenue! Benvenuto! Bainvegnì! Welcome!