I love SCBWI and the wonderful things that come out of it. Sometimes it’s practical (a book deal from a meeting with an editor at an event); sometimes personal (enduring friendships). But what I really love about it is that it’s usually both. The annual British SCBWI Winchester Conference is the perfect place for this mix of both to happen.
At the 2008 conference, I sat next to Rebecca Colby at dinner on the Saturday night. We’d never met before. Neither of us was published at the time but we were in a similar place. We showed each other our stories and something just clicked. We’ve shared our writing and supported each other’s journey ever since. A perfect mix of practical and personal. I’ve never written anything that hasn’t been improved by her insightful comments, and for the last three years or so, we’ve been part of the same fantastic picture book critique group.
At the 2014 conference in November, Rebecca and I, who have both fallen heavily for creative non-fiction picture books over the past year or so, did a joint presentation on breaking into the creative non-fiction picture book market (Anita Loughrey did a write up of the panel on this blog last week).
I blogged about the Cadbury project earlier this year on Picture Book Den and at the time of blogging, I’d done months of research and had just given the outline of the structure of the story to the Cadbury and BVT people. And they’d just told me to go ahead and write that story. Since blogging, I have written up a first, then second, then subsequent, drafts. I’ve had them critiqued with both my online and in-person critique groups…
Some of our local picture book critique group relaxing Halloween stylee at the SCBWI Annual Winchester Conference, 2014 (plus Addy Farmer, far right, who is an honorary member and welcome whenever she likes)
…done more edits and a little bit more research - mostly just because I could and it felt so exciting to be able to go to the new Library of Birmingham, place my things into a locker… (no bags or pens allowed –it felt like a secret inner sanctum ritual)...
waited for entrance into the special room where really old archives are kept, and had letters, documents and photos (many over 130 years old) weighed out and handed to me for my perusal...
with gloves on, of course (c) Cadbury Archive
The Cadbury family summer house drawn by Maria Cadbury © Cadbury Archive
George Cadbury, circa 1850 (c) Cadbury Archive
Childhood letter from George © Cadbury Archive
and have done more edits (and critiques) until deciding it was probably time to stop and hand it over.
Jess Mikhail is currently working on the roughs -when she’s not too busy surfing on chocolate
(With apologies for silliness)
or playing hide and seek in an egg…
(And yet more silliness…)
A couple of weeks ago, we went to the printer’s and discussed book size, paper quality and bleeds
Jess, Tim (expert printer) and me
…and were shown how the printing works.
True story picture books, when they’re done well, are amazing. In the Cadbury book and subsequent true story picture books I’m planning, I want to capture that joy of discovery –whether it’s something physical...
The joy that is an acorn
or mind-blowingly magical...
Last week my son was blown away by discovering (with the help of his big sister) that it’s possible to add up much larger numbers that those you can calculate in your head if you know how to do… column addition!
or pure wonder.
This first-time experience was so amazing, he had to immerse himself in it fully…
And that state where you’re completely absorbed and focused on a task
A final thanks goes to my youngest sister, Grace. After a very long phone call with her last week, I had sixty new ideas for non-fiction picture books (which I blogged about over at the Picture Book Den last week). I was nearly four when she was born and I have a specific memory of visiting her in hospital: not only was it Christmas Day, but we got to eat our first ever Womble chocolates, bought at the hospital. I’ve never seen them since… until earlier this year when I was doing research for the Cadbury book and was being taken behind the scenes at Cadbury World by the wonderful Colin Pitt –and guess what we found?
And one last hooray for the British SCBWI conference from which many good things have come. I wasn't sure we could top the 2008 one, but I reckon 2014 was the best yet!
Medusa next to an eye tree. Just because...
(with thanks to my ten-year-old)
Clare is a huge fan of SCBWI, jointly coordinating the Central West British SCBWI region with Julienne Durber, and running the Friday Night Critique at the annual British SCBWI conference. She would highly recommend volunteering with SCBWI (please contact them if you’re even contemplating it, or leave a message in the comments section, here: you’ll get back so much from it). She teaches writing picture book courses to adults, and creative writing to children, and blogs regularly for the Picture Book Den.
National Non-fiction November is the Federation of Children’s Book Groups’ annual celebration of all things factual. Born out of National Non-Fiction Day, the brain child of Adam Lancaster during his years as Chair, the whole month now celebrates all those readers who have a passion for information and facts and attempts to bring non-fiction celebration in line with those of fiction.