SCBWI - Interview (February 2020)
How did SCBWI Australia get started?
The remarkable Jen McVeity a children’s author and now CEO of ‘Seven Steps to Creating Writing’, kick started SCBWI Australia 30 years ago. She built it from only a few members in Victoria to a major association of children’s writers and illustrators. I worked with Jen, leading SCBWI in NSW while she continued to grow SCBWI Australia wide.
Around 20 years ago, when Jen stepped down, I accepted the role of as Regional Advisor. Author Christopher Cheng joined me in the leadership role for several years. Later New Zealand joined Australia and I led SCBWI ANZ. With the growth of SCBWI in ANZ, West Australia continued to develop its children’s book community. I requested SCBWI head office to create a new chapter. SCBWI Australia West was created, led by illustrator and picture book author Frane Lessac and author Dianne Wolfer. I continued to lead Australia East and New Zealand.
What are SCBWI Australia’s goals?
We aim is to create a vibrant community of kids’ book creators through meetings, conferences, online events and a monthly enewsletter. We connect members with each other and industry professionals so we can develop our craft, learn about the world of publishing, secure publication and have a lot of fun.
As part of the largest international association of children’s book creators (26,000 members), we have access to events, festivals, conferences, awards, networks across the world from London, New York, Singapore to Vancouver. We also provide a voice of children’s creators in the publishing industry.
One of SCBWI’s greatest pleasures in the huge numbers of new and established authors and illustrators being published.
What sort of events do you hold in Australia and New Zealand?
Everything from master classes, publisher panels, conferences, professional days in every state, networks, ‘sketch and scribble days, webinars, critiques, Christmas parties, illustrator showcases… in Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Far North Queensland, Canberra, Auckland, Sydney, Hobart as well as online events.
What resources do you provide?
SCBWI Australia East & NZ provides online critiques groups, monthly ezines from SCBWI East ANZ, monthly blogs with promotion of new books submitted by SCBWI delegates, industry information. Go to www.australiaeastnz.scbwi.org
However there is so much more. As an international association, SCBWI members are invited to access a feast of resources, not only from head office, but from the 80 regional chapters offering conferences, events, podcasts, webinars across the world.
Go onto www.scbwi.org and discover:- 52 grants for everyone from well published to independently published. ‘The Book: Essential Guide to Publishing for Children, continually updated with the latest publishing news. The quarterly Bulletin, monthly Insights ezine, publishing and craft podcasts from renowned speakers, the blue board which is an online discussion on all things publishing, information and articles on contracts to royalties, showcases with member bookshops, illustrator gallery and there is more. The biannual SCBWI stand at the Bologna Book Fair offers a meeting place and events in what can be an otherwise overwhelming experience.
What is your latest book?
Like all SCBWI delegates I shared my new book worldwide through my personal profile on the main SCBWI website and through the SCBWI NEWS blog. ‘The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses’ illustrated by SCBWI’s Marjorie Crosby-Fairall.
A boy. A super hero. A brave pirate, leads his crew of girls and boys. Until the day Sammy feels different. He gets glasses. His parents, teacher, family are happy for Sammy, because life is no longer blurry.
So the great miscommunication begins. The super hero is still heroic, funny, determined as he uses clever tactics and quick thinking to stay on top. But he’s losing his special powers, as he feels no-one can hear him at home or at school. Sammy’s self-esteem plummets, until there’s a crisis where Sammy is alone wearing his big blue glasses. Things have to change.
Through humour, self realisation and the indomitable spirit of kids, Sammy wins the challenge of change. The heroic pirate returns leading his pirate crew.
Marjorie and I are very proud that The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses has been endorsed by Good Vision for Life and is part of a campaign to increase awareness of the need for early vision testing for children. 1 in 5 children have undiagnosed vision problems in Australia/NZ:- goodvisionforlife.com.au/2019/05/28/new-childrens-book-the-boy-in-the-big-blue-glasses. It has also been transcribed into Braille and audio. www.sgervay.com
How can people get involved with the SCBWI Australia?
Join SCBWI through the www.scbwi.org website. It will automatically register you on the Australia East and NZ chapter. Put up your profile so you can be discovered. Then begin your immersion in the SCBWI children’s book world of creators. Attend events. Join a critique group. Read the resources. Listen to a podcast. Networking and more.
Tell us a little about the SCBWI Australia
The SCBWI team include some of Australia/NZ’s most respected authors and illustrators including award winning Deborah Abela, Art Director of Walker Books Sarah Davis, award winning author and editor Sue Whiting, award winning illustrator Marjorie Crosby-Fairall and a feast of creators. Leadership of our chapters include authors Carolyn Goodwin (Victoria), Kelly Hibbert (SA), Nicole Godwin who has just handed the reins to Shelley Unwin (ACT), Sheryl Gwyther who has just handed over to Alison Stegert (Queensland), Anne Morgan and author-illustrator Christina Booth (Tasmania), Frances Plumpton who has just handed over to Gillian Torkler (New Zealand). There are amazing committees working with each of these leaders. There are just so many committed authors and illustrators involved in SCBWI, connecting, networking, developing craft and community.
What’s next from SCBWI Australia East and New Zealand?
SCBWI is developing a yearly professional conference for each chapter making it more accessible to members. It continues to deepen and develop relationships in the publishing industry, promoting networking and opportunities for members. Innovative, inclusive and community based, it is grounded in the children’s book community reflecting who we are. What sums up SCBWI – support, friendship, humour, professionalism, passion for children’s books in Australia and NZ and internationally.