Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Meet Our Conference Volunteers!

The annual SCBWI British Isles conference is fast approaching, with yet again many amazing keynote speakers, workshops, and opportunities to get your work noticed. But while most of us are worrying about what outfit to wear for the Saturday night party, and polishing our portfolios until they shine, behind the scenes, a group of extremely hard-working and dedicated volunteers are beavering away so that we can all enjoy the huge benefits that attending a conference has to offer.

We asked a few of those fabulous conference committee volunteers about why they volunteer and what SCBWI means to them.


Marnie Riches



Marnie Riches - Conference Chair
During my two decades as a fundraising and marketing professional, I organised many events, single-handedly and as part of a team...from the Duke of Edinburgh’s 80th birthday celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall, to fundraising dinners in premium London venues, to writing masterclasses at Manchester Children’s Book Festival, given by stars of the literary landscape. There is something intensely satisfying about booking speakers/entertainment, deciding on a venue, a theme, producing the printed material and shaping a PR campaign that will ultimately sell tickets to a highly enjoyable event. 

But events-management is not for the faint-hearted. You have to be super-organised, energetic and importantly, have the ability to bring a project to fruition, from vision to end product. 

By 2009, I had started to write seriously for children. A literary agent advised me to check out the Manchester writing scene. I discovered my local chapter of SCBWI. Attending my local crit group galvanised me into pursuing writing seriously as my new career – a vocation that will almost certainly fulfil me and sustain my passion and interest for the rest of my life. When my Time-Hunters deal came along, therefore, (I penned the first six books of the series for HarperCollins Children’s under the pseudonym, Chris Blake) I decided I’d had enough of Lottery and Arts Council funding applications. The day-job bit the dust. Ace! Or was it? Being self-employed and working from home is wonderful. I have always liked being the boss. But what you forget is that working from home can be terribly socially isolating. 

Over time, I found myself turning into that stereotype of the anti-social author; silent, chained to a laptop and motionless, but for typing and scratching myself through week-old pyjamas. So in early 2014, when Natascha Biebow approached me and asked if I’d like to volunteer for SCBWI, I agreed to chair the SCBWI Annual Conference. I knew I could help to put on a fantastic programme, offering something for everyone. I couldn’t wait to meet my committee. And I was not disappointed. They’re a great bunch of fun-loving, talented and committed people. I have no doubt that the conference in November in Winchester will reflect our collective energy and skill. Most of all, I am proud to be putting my name to an event, which promises such quality and variety.


Candy Gourlay



Candy Gourlay -- Volunteer Extraordinaire!

I love seeing an idea turn into a reality -- and this year I had the delicious challenge of curating the Pulse programme for our burgeoning numbers of published members!"   









George Kirk


George Kirk
I always thought that writing was a lonely occupation and then I bumped into SCBWI. A nicer, more well-mannered organisation you will not meet. It’s always opening doors, making introductions and pointing people in the right direction. So when the opportunity came along to lend a hand, well it seemed rude not to. A chance to give back a little, not to mention the fact I love to be fully involved, especially when there is a social.






Sean Noonan



Sean Noonan

I wanted to learn the craft of story writing for children and was recommended SCBWIs. Since my first event, a social in London in 2012, I have been inspired by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the members. 

Attending three conferences in two years I realised these amazing events were put together by volunteers who gave their time and efforts willingly. I knew it was time to step up, make my own contribution.   





Sally Poyton


Sally Poyton

As much as I LOVE writing, it is solitary; spending all day in my own imaginary world talking to characters from my own mind isn't that great for my sanity. This is why I volunteer; to meet and work with other like-minded lovely people and to preserve what's left of my sanity! It’s also a way of paying back for all the opportunities that SCBWI has opened up for me, plus further my knowledge of the industry.







Addy Farmer




Pals, inspiration and boundless possibilities for a creative life. Everyone should join the SCBWI - it's good for you. 











Alice Thorp


Alice Thorp
I attended my first conference in 2011, after winning the Margaret Carey Scholarship. It was such a valuable experience that I promised myself I would volunteer for SCBWI when my children were older. Three years later, I find myself on the Conference Committee! I am particularly enjoying coordinating this year’s Outstanding Contribution Award. Reading about the dedication of each nominee is moving and inspiring. 




Bridget Strevens-Marzo


Bridget Strevens-Marzo
Well over a decade ago (yikes!), I was a reluctant volunteer, having to divise illustrator content for the first non-US based SCBWI conference. I had never 'done the rounds' myself or sent work out as I was too self-critical. Volunteering did wonders for my self-confidence. I’ve met many publishing professionals I had admired from far, and realized there is no 'them and us' divide - and a common interest in creating the best we can for kids. 








If you're interested in becoming a volunteer for our fabulous organisation, check out the current list of volunteer vacancies and how to apply here

4 comments:

  1. What fabulously inspiring and enthusiastic volunteers! This creative life can be a lonesome business, and becoming a part of SCBWI has definitely saved me from going too bananas. I look forward to meeting you lovely people at the conference.

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  2. Bravo to all those hardworking volunteers. So sorry I can't be there this time. I've recently described SCBWI as the "most prestigious organization for children's writers" and I recommend that my students join and if they can't afford it until they graduate - well at least read "Words and Pictures".

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  3. Thank you to you all for your hard work organising the conference - I'm looking forward to it :)

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