SCBWI Euro Con Scrawl Crawl through the French Revolution

Sarah Towle (Founder of Time Traveler Tours and author of Beware Madame La Guillotine!) and I

I’m still reeling over all of the incredible information that was given to us at SCBWI’s first-ever European Conference in Paris. I’ve had the opportunity to share about some of the actual conference… but the pre-conference Scrawl Crawl deserves a post of its own.

So here we are!

I arrived in Paris with just enough time to find my hotel, drop my stuff, and Metro over to the Scrawl Crawl meeting place at the Palais Royal. (Yes, I just used “metro” as a verb). 🙂

But first, just what is a Scrawl Crawl? SCBWI provides a great description: 

An event where individuals create something speedily drawn or written [scrawl] that is inspired by their creativity and observational powers as they go from place to place [crawl].

This event is designed to get you and your fellow children’s book writers & illustrators out of the house/studio/office for a day and spend time being creative together.

photo by Kirsten Carlson

In the garden of the Palais Royal I reunited with writer/illustrator friends I’d met last September. I looked forward to spending time with them again.

As if that perk wasn’t enough, I was privileged to meet other excited writers and illustrators, adding to my “collection” of new friends in the writing world of Europe.

Then an unexpected highlight… two students from my Creative Writing class showed up! They were home on Spring Break and joined the Scrawl Crawl, taking the opportunities to write and sketch seriously, to my delight. I loved spending the day with them.

Back to the Scrawl Crawl. We were fortunate and honored to have Sarah Towle guide us through the French Revolution through the eyes of Charlotte Corday. Sarah is the author of Beware Madame La Guillotine! – both in iBook and an app. The tour was so BMLG title screen on iphone - webmuch fun… it totally opened my eyes to a piece of Paris I had never seen or known before. Her app, as she describes it, is a “historical story-based mobile tourism app of Paris for teens, tweens, the young at heart: The World’s 1st StoryApp iTinerary.”

What a brilliant idea!

So we began at the Palais Royal, the birthplace of the French Revolution. We envisioned life in this bustling center of 1793 Paris… where passion was fueled by other like-minded world-changers. We followed Charlotte into the shadows… to the shop where she purchased the kitchen knife she would use to kill Jean Paul Marat… her hope unshakeable, that his death would end the violence tearing apart her nation and people. We paused in the shade of the trees and arcade (not from the sun but from the freezing cold and intermittent rain) to sketch inspired images or write whatever ideas came to mind. I did a combination of writing (until my ink began to run in the rain) and photo-journaling.

Sarah Towle guiding us through the French Revolution... with the Conciergerie in the background (former royal palace and prison)
Sarah Towle guiding us through the French Revolution… with the Conciergerie in the background (former royal palace and prison)

We followed Charlotte on her hunt for Jean Paul… passed the Starbucks for hot chocolate :)… then ultimately to the bridge that overlooks the Conciergerie… where Charlotte was held in prison for Jean Paul’s murder… and eventually beheaded. Again, at this beautiful site on the bridge… with the Eiffel Tower in the background and the setting sun coloring our world in hues of yellow and orange, we stopped and scrawled our ideas.

The Eiffel Tower in the background, with the sun setting on the Seine River.
The Eiffel Tower in the background, with the sun setting on the Seine River.


What a great idea for a Scrawl Crawl. Or any ‘ol day in Paris. I’m not sure which I enjoyed more… hanging out with Sarah, following Charlotte around 17th century Paris, spending the day with my students, rubbing shoulders with talented illustrators and writers, or the waves of disbelief that would find and smack me with “I can’t believe I live four hours from Paris!”

I’m going to end with a special “treat.” I rarely (okay, just about never) share things I’ve written (other than the blog-writing itself). BUT, below you’ll find something I quickly scrawled as we walked around the Palais Royal Gardens… just having learned of Charlotte and her life-giving search for freedom. Clearly, I never would have written this without the journey with Beware Madame La Guillotine! A Revolutionary Tour of Paris. Enjoy!

Dying for the cause that saves

One life for many

To return to nobility and dignity and righteousness

and end terror’s reign on humanity

And old tune, a new voice sings it

A cry for justice…

justice bridled to peace and mercy

But peace is violent

in attaining its reward

Sacrificial blood

Heart pumping for change

A change that will end another heartbeat



Here the river splits

One heart silent…

the other silences death, beats eternal.

© Marcy Pusey, 2013

The Scrawl Crawl group in front of the Louvre.
The Scrawl Crawl group in front of the Louvre.

Vive la Creativite- Day One


Today was a great day, here at the SCBWI European Conference in Paris. I wish I could post more throughout the day but we don’t have internet on site.

All the same, it was a fun day.

It began with me rolling out of my very small bed to turn off my alarm… only to roll smack onto the floor. Ha! My roomie slept right through the thump.

It can only get better from there, right?

Breakfast was a buffet of crepes, croissants, cheese and meat, yogurt, and all sorts of other things. Oh! The tortilla! Apparently the French tortilla is like the Spanish (of Spain) tortilla… thick potato yumminess of some kind.

Anyway, I digress (though how could one not digress on issues of food while in France?)

The conference began with a warm amd hearty welcome from various RAs of europe… including a goodie bag of chocolate. Mmmmm.

Then we heard from two French Editors, Alice and Isabelle.


This may have been one of my favorite sessions. It was interesting to learn the differences (and similarities) between French and American readers. Elizabeth Law shared a great slide of the difference between what various cultures want in a book.


We also got to ask questions of a panel of published authors and illustrators: Amy Plum, Lenore Appelhans, Daniel Jennewein, Anne Nesbet, and Hazel Mitchell.

Then I attended a workshop with published author, Sandra Nickel, on showing not telling as the actors do it. That was informative and hands on though targeted at novel writing. To my slight disappointment, there wasn’t a lot today for picture-book writers but I still gained some good information in general. Tomorrow looks to be a promising day for picture-book folks.


We also had an art gallery for the illustrators which I LOVE. This photo is just a glimpse. The artists here are super talented.

Including this one:


This is Daniel and he is so sweet! He spent a chunk of time yesterday chatting with my two students who joined the Scrawl Crawl. Though gifted, he carries with him a teachable spirit and humility… openly learning from the other creative people around him without pretense. I have appreciated his presence here. All that AND he is the illustrator for the cute Buffalo books! He drew a cool picture on the inside for my two kindergarteners: the buffalo holding hands with a tiger (Corban’s favorite animal) and a cat (Hannah’s favorite animal). He and his wife, Lenore, just published a picture-book together called Chick-O-Saurus Rex.


I’ll conclude with food… minus the falling out of bed bit… though I did bump the waiter as he passed, who almost spilled his dish but bumped a pile of menus instead… which as we tried to straighten them… fell. All of them. Off the table. *sigh*

Back to the food. We ate at this cafe called La Petite Ferme with traditional food from southern France. Lots of duck and organs from various animals. And salmon. I had chicken with a normandy sauce. It was yummy.


I saw the Eiffel Tower sparkling over the rooves of the buildings around. I contemplated walking over to see it but…. it’s freezing. I’ll pop by tomorrow.


It has been interesting to me how third culture this community of european writers is… “Where are you from?” is an awful question to ask any of us. Very few of us are currently living “where we are from” yet the question seems to imply “as of Thursday” which leads to further explanation… if I say Germany, which is where I have come from, I have to explain that I am not German. If I say California, I have to explain that I haven’t just flown here from the States. There has been a lot of explaining going on. I have enjoyed this particular group for that reason.
I shared an idea I’ve had for a novel (though I’ve never planned on writing YA) in a workshop with Amy Plum… who said my idea was one she would want to read! Maybe I’ll give it a shot…

More tomorrow!