International publishers discover Flemish children’s and YA literature: live!
It was a close call, what with new coronavirus restrictions, but during the week starting 22 November, the Flanders Literature team organised another publishers tour for children’s and YA literature. It was the eighth such event in which, at most, ten foreign publishers are invited to spend several days in Antwerp. There they meet Flemish and Dutch publishers and lots of authors and illustrators in various locations and in multiple formats. The aim is for participants to go home inspired and interested in particular titles, and for our team to build a lasting professional relationship with them.
A few days before things got underway, corona did throw a bit of a spanner in the works: due to a travel warning for Belgium, the Danish publisher Jensen & Dalgaard and the German publishing company Jacoby & Stuart were forced to cancel last-minute. Luckily, there were still five participating publishers left: Balivernes from France, Mladinska knjiga from Slovenia, Zygzaki from Poland, Camelozampa from Italy and Versant Sud from… Brussels.
Enthusiasm all around
The programme included meetings with no fewer than seventeen authors and illustrators, three translators and six Dutch-language publishers in eleven locations in Antwerp and Ghent. With face coverings, good ventilation and social distancing in place, the programme was completed as safely as possible. Participants on either side expressed their enthusiasm afterwards. Author Kathleen Vereecken wrote: 'It’s so satisfying to talk about your books with an interested group of international publishers, to feel the sparks fly and hope it will ignite a passion. Many thanks to Flanders Literature for making it possible in these very strange times!'
Gerda De Preter joined a small party of illustrators and authors to read to the publishers in an intimate little theatre. After the event, which was part of Voorleesweek (Reading Out Loud Week), she wrote to us: ‘It’s great to get to introduce your work directly to publishers. The act of reading to them was really special: when you enjoy a story together you experience the power of words.’
‘It could not have been better’
Francesca Segato, publisher at Camelozampa, sent us this lovely reaction: ‘We felt privileged to take part in such beautiful meetings with Flemish authors and illustrators, each one quite unique and distinct, but all very interesting and very inspiring. The locations you had chosen for our tour were also amazing, always different, often breathtaking. We especially enjoyed the historical tour of Ghent based on ‘Ironhead’, really intriguing!'
'This publishers tour was very effective,' Francesca continued, 'in giving us the chance to broaden our knowledge of Flemish children's literature: we had the opportunity to better explore the work of those authors we already knew, like Jef Aerts, and we discovered authors and illustrators of high quality children's and YA books that are still unpublished in Italy. As of this moment, we have 22 Flemish titles we will consider for our list! Moreover, we met illustrators with whom we might also collaborate in the future on some original projects. In short, we think this publishers tour could not have been organized any better than this!’