This year the Bologna Children’s Book Fair offered a new fellowship for young international publishers to attend the fair. “It’s modeled on the Frankfurt Book Fair’s fellowship program,” said Roberta Chinni, the fair’s former exhibition director who served as administrator for the project, “but our focus is on junior staff in rights or editorial, which is somewhat unique, I think.”

Five publishers were selected, including Joao Miguel Vieira Alves, editor with Aletheia Editores, Portugal; Dana Dinca, copyright assistant at Curtea Veche Publishing, Bucharest, Romania; Sahra Correia Vandenbroucke, assistant editor at Clavis Publishing in Belgium; Barbara Margarida Soares, editorial assistant, Grupo BertrandCírculo, Portugal; and Ivelina Tsvetanova Dervisheva, junior editor and rights manager, Hermes Publishers, Bulgaria.

The program included meetings at the offices of major Italian publishing houses, including Mondadori, Giunti and Carthusia, visits to bookstores including Milan’s La Libreria dei Ragazzi—the first children’s bookstore in Italy—and Giannino Stoppani in Bologna; and attendance at the Dust or Magic digital publishing workshop held on the Sunday prior to the fair.

“The fellowship in Bologna was incredible both on a professional and a personal level,” Derisheva told PW. “We had meetings which otherwise would’ve never been possible and we actually did business at our first Bologna Fair! The publishing world is huge and overwhelming but now it is a little bit less scary.”

The expectation, Chinni said, is that these young publishers would become friends, stay in touch, and grow together in the industry. Funding for the project came from the Aldus Project, also known as the European Book Fairs Network, along with the Italian Trade Commission and the AIE (Italian Publishers Association). The goal, according to Chinni, is to expand the program in the coming years.

Dinca felt that the fellowship gave her a foundation to grow her network and build her career. “The most important aspect is that they wanted us to realize that is necessary to keep close relationships and work together to continue improvement in education, arts, and culture in general,” she said. “It was an amazing experience.”