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A five-day immersion in children's and youth literature from the Low Countries

At the end of May, Flanders Literature organised a seventh publishers tour for children’s literature. This was the first time the tour was organised in collaboration with the Dutch Foundation for Literature. A publishers tour brings ten foreign editors and publishers of excellent reputation to Flanders for a five-day stay. This way, they get to know the flourishing Dutch-language literature scene first-hand and they also have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with our culture in general. Often, a publishers tour sparks the interest of publishers and editors in acquiring the translation rights to noteworthy Flemish and Dutch books.

A group picture at the Zoo. Photo © Sonia Goicochea.
A group picture at the Zoo. Photo © Sonia Goicochea.

Publishers from all around the world

The publishers came from all across the globe: Canada, Egypt, Hungary, Italy, Poland/France, Spain, Turkey, the UK and Sweden. After the tour, they were unanimous in their enthusiasm for their stay and the inspirational meetings they’d had. ‘I went back home feeling very inspired and I am excited to start reading and sharing the work of your authors and illustrators,’ one of them e-mailed us afterwards. They appreciated the opportunity to have ‘so many interesting meetings in such nonstandard, nice circumstances, realised with real and authentic involvement and lots of positive energy from the part of the team.’

Words, pictures and even a movie

Jan De Leeuw at the MAS Museum. Photo © Haryanti Frateur.

The foreign publishers spoke with their Flemish and Dutch counterparts, in addition to meeting a large number of authors and illustrators. With the impressive Nottebohm Room in the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library as a backdrop, the publishers got to know Bart Moeyaert and Joke van Leeuwen. Ten authors took them on a tour around the MAS museum, and in the Translator’s House translators presented their favourite authors. We screened a couple of episodes of ‘Rintje’, an animated series based on the books by Sieb Posthuma, as well as Rosie & Moussa, a film based on the heart-warming stories by Michael De Cock and Judith Vanistendael.

Today, I was working on an atlas that we are launching next month. Looking at the pages of Belgium and the Netherlands, I felt a magic connection with them.
From an e-mail received afterwards from one of the publishers

In Ghent’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, illustrators showcased original illustrations, works-in-progress, and their individual techniques during an open workshop. Together with a couple of authors, the visiting publishers also had the chance to discover some beautiful spots around Ghent. In the Tekenfabriek in Antwerp there were live illustration sessions and readings, songs were sung, and authors, illustrators and inseparable partners-in-storytelling gave us a tour of their bodies of work. At the end, the animal lovers among the authors and illustrators – who often include animals in their stories – took the publishers for a walkabout around Antwerp Zoo.

A publisher studies an original illustration by Pieter Gaudesaboos. Photo © Sonia Goicochea.
In Ghent’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Photo © Lien Devos.

A lasting impression

The publishers weren’t just getting to know Dutch-language children’s literature; they were also immersed in our culture and given the chance to take in the atmosphere at various locations. ‘Today, I was working on an atlas that we are launching next month,’ one of the participants let us know afterwards. ‘Looking at the pages of Belgium and the Netherlands, I felt a magic connection with them.’ This publishers tour may have only lasted five days, but it will reverberate in different places around the globe for a long time to come.