For many expats, writing and illustrating provides gainful employment while living in a country where they may lack the languages, skills or time to work a full-time job.
These were among the forces that drove Canadian national and Amsterdam resident Melanie Rook Welfing to first put pen to paper in an official capacity.
“About 10 years ago I decided that if I’m going to do this, I had better get started,” she told Delano. Rook Welfing began writing for children’s magazines, “Highlights” and “Hello” as well as smaller magazines in the US and more recently has expanded into writing chapter books for children.
The writer said a key element to keep her going was being part of a writing community at the local section of the Society of children’s book writers and illustrators (SCBWI). “So much of what we do is about the community in what can be a pretty lonely profession,” she explained. Rook Welfing became regional advisor to the Netherlands chapter, which last year merged to form a Benelux group.
“We’re still finding our feet in what we look like as a merged region. As a Dutch region, we met monthly and held meetings in Amsterdam. They are free meetups, you don’t have to be a member to join,” she explained. “Now we’ve merged with Belgium and Luxembourg, we’re looking at creating similar opportunities in these countries as well.”
In addition to the meetups, SCBWI hosts regular workshop, an annual retreat in Belgium, and the Europolitan conference in Switzerland in May where writers and illustrators can network with industry experts and receive feedback on their work.
In Luxembourg, the chapter hopes to have a presence at literary events like the Walferdange book days. Its first event will be hosted jointly with local network Lux Writers Who Talk on 12 January. There, Rook Welfing will talk about SCBWI, share her experiences as a writer and lead a hands-on workshop on friendship in children’s literature aimed at writers and illustrators.
Luxembourg boasts a thriving English-speaking writers’ community, which received a boost in recent years with the creation of Black Fountain Press, publishing English language books. At the end of 2018 it published “Fresh from the Fountain,” an anthology of short stories and poetry in English by residents of different nationalities, including James Leader, a teacher at the European School I, who won first prize in the 2016 national literary competition for his fiction novel “The Venus Zone”. Incidentally, Leader will lead a three-part poetry-writing workshop coordinated by Lux Writers Who Talk starting 13 February.