The Gift of Time, Focus, and Kindness

In May 2024, a writer and an illustrator arrived at a cottage in Björköby …

For me (the writer), it all began with an invitation to give a lecture at SmåBUS 2023 International Children‘s Book Conference „Courage and Vulnerability“. To my surprise, I had instantly said yes (never before I had given a lecture in English, but the conference title intrigued me – and I had instantly liked the organiser, Joke Guns, when I met her in Berlin). Usually, I‘m way more hesitant and doubtful.

But, there I was, some months later, at a wonderful and inspiring conference, full of writers and illustrators, full of stories. We heard lectures, we talked and talked about our craft, our passion for children‘s literature, about how we write and draw, how we tell stories. There were inspiring workshops and inspiring people – and in the end, there was a new idea for a story (born out of one of the workshops).

And I talked about this idea with an illustrator I had met at the conference, Peggy van Bogeart. She liked the idea, and she instantly said yes to working together. So we started working on the idea. Quickly it became clear, that we wanted to tell the story through words and pictures equally, sometimes writing the story, sometimes continuing the story without words through pictures.

The best decision we made: we applied for a SmåBUS residency, open for those who took part in the conference, met there for the first time and wanted to work on a book project together. We checked all those boxes, and we got lucky: we were invited for a residency at Björköby! Three weeks where we would be able to focus completely on our work, our story!

So, in May 2024, a writer and an illustrator arrived at a cottage in Björköby. They didn‘t know much about each other, just that they wanted to work together on a story they both had fallen in love with.

It quickly became clear, that we fit well together and Björköby cottage made living and working under the same roof cosy and easy. Two bedrooms, a shared working/living room, a kitchen and bathroom turned out to be everything we needed. Add the beautiful surroundings and our luck to be there in May when spring had just begun, it was perfect for getting to know each other better and working on our joined project. We fell into a rhythm of working, taking a walk after lunch (often to the beautiful nearby lake) and then working some more. The time at Björköby allowed us to focus on our story, so that in those three weeks we had it all mapped out and nearly completely written and sketched. The landscape inspired us and if you know Sweden/Småland, you will notice where the woods, the moss, the rocks, the lakes, the wide open sky and much more found their way into the book.

Well, if and when it will become a published book that is. (Fingers crossed and all.)

Back home, I miss everything about it: the cosy cottage, the quiet, all that space around us, the woods, the lake, the endless sky, the rooks – oh, and we even saw cranes (my most beloved migrating birds) – but most of all sitting there in the downstairs living room working together on our book project, Peggy drawing and me writing, sharing what we had worked on in the evenings, taking inspiration from each other‘s work. And I miss our hosts, Joke and Johannes, who made all of this so easy and an all around fantastic experience, allowing us the time and space to build our story. Their kindness made us feel welcome and cared for and I hope we could give something back during our stay.

So if you ever get the chance to spend some time at Björköby, to apply for a residency there: do it.
If you want to read Peggy’s view of our time in Björköby you’ll find it here (just scroll down), along with some inspiring pictures.

And in order to be eligible for the residency, come to the next SmåBUS conference in 2025!

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