The Picture Book Retreat

In July, SCBWI British Isles held its first Picture Book Retreat. It was an amazing weekend for the writers and illustrators who came along to Holland House in Worcester.

The Retreat’s organisers, Bridget Strevens-Marzo and Anne-Marie Perks had set one main criterion – a place to encourage creative exploration in the inspiring company of other writers and illustrators. Other criteria were a beautiful venue with plenty of space and great food. Holland House fulfilled them all.

Helen Stephens and Gerry Turley inspired with their stories, and by talking through the work process. They emphasised drawing from life and the need to nurture your creativity. Sarah Frost, commissioning editor from Hodder books, and Alice Bartosinski, commissioning editor from Egmont, shared not only their understanding of our industry but helpful insights into it.

As pictures say so much more than words, we’ve included a selection here.

It all started here, at Holland House in Worcestershire. 

When illustrating a Michael Murpurgo book, Jo-Jo and the Melon Donkey, Helen had to go to Florence!
An example of the beautiful sketches done while there.

Helen Stephens, author illustrator, talking about drawing from life and how it inspires stories.
These are sketches of the dog that inspired, Fleabag.

Storyboard from Helen’s book, Fleabag.

All of us in the lovely conference room at Holland House.
Large windows opened up to a large sloping lawn and flower borders.

Gerry Turley shared his large sketchbooks on a book he is working on, about a bear for Schwartz and Wade publishers. He also shared his prints and sketchbook on his first book, Woooo, with David Fickling.

Alice Bartosinski had us make a list from the picture books she set out as to which ones we thought sold the best. Here we are happily doing our best to figure that out. The results were very interesting! 

We filled every room available at Holland House and had a great time, learning, sharing and supporting each other in the craft we all love. The most frequent comments were 'Thank you!' and 'When are we doing this again!'

Since a child, Anne-Marie has loved to draw, paint and ‘make stuff’. She now works as an illustrator, artist, animator and designer. She is a very active member of the SCBWI family. You can also find her on the Words & Pictures team page.


  1. Great post, Anne Marie - and that's a nice profile pic too!

  2. I enjoyed reading this - and I hope I get a place next year, it looks fab! :)


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