Friday, 29 July 2016

Picture Book Retreat - Report

The SCBWI Picture Book Retreat this year was another resounding success, with memorable workshops and presentations. Massive thanks to the speakers, and to organisers Loretta Schauer and Anne-Marie Perks. This week, attendee Helen Liston gives her personal view of the weekend.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Event Report: Industry Insiders: How Does Your Book Get Onto Their Shelves?

Tales on Moon Lane
I had a lovely evening at independent bookshop Tales on Moon Lane last month in Herne Hill, south east London, venue and host of the first SCBWI Industry Insider event of the year. 
by Janey Robinson

20 Years of SCBWI The North West Celebrates: Network News North West

 By Susan Brownrigg

A celebration in a book shop 

Where else would you celebrate 20 years of SCBWI British Isles, but in a bookshop? That’s where the north west region gathered in Waterstones to mark the anniversary.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Opening Lines welcomes back Davinia Andrew-Lynch of ANDLYN


What grabs the reader's attention? 

What immediately draws you in and makes you want to read on? 

We are excited to welcome back Davinia Andrew-Lynch from ANDLYN Literary Agency to Opening Lines this month. 

Davinia has taken time out of her busy schedule to offer professional feedback on the opening lines submitted by our brave SCBWIs. 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Small Publishers' Fair in Frome: Inspiring

by Fran Price

When I arrived at Frome's first Small Publishers' Fair on 2nd July, I made a beeline for a man in a trilby - Barry Cunningham of Chicken House - who had just opened the event.

Friday, 22 July 2016

An illustrated book without which...

All illustrators can remember books that have impacted our imaginations and inspired our progress as artists. Bridget Marzo has picked from her bookshelf a title that takes us to a golden world from the mid 20th Century, in the classic compendium Story Land.

Among my over-packed shelves of children's books, old and new, English, American and French, one book stands out like a kind of old teddy bear to me.  It is battered, frayed at the edges and much travelled through time and space.   I truly believe that without this book, I might have been a very different kind of illustrator-author - maybe not one at all. 

The endpapers are a patchwork of watercolour copies of key parts of illustrations from many different stories in the book.
Story Land is a compendium of 48 stories - all from what are now classic US Golden Book titles.  The stunning variety of illustrations by the likes of Garth Williams, Rojanovsky and Mary Blair, were adapted from the smaller Golden Book format to fit in with the generous size of this grand book.

As a child I lived in its hugely diverse world of pictures. I read the pictures first, in fact, then taught myself to read the words that went with them.

Mary Blair's inventive illustrations to Ruth Kraus's wonderfully simple rhyming text A BIRD CAN FLY, SO CAN I
Then, when first learned joined-up writing I was inspired (ahem!) to write "for children" on the title page.

 So central and comforting were the pictures that even as an older child, I returned to look at the pictures in it, especially when I was sick in bed and couldn't face reading. 

Much later, when I started creating books of my own - and when I still want to rinse my eyes - I'll go back to it.  It's not just that it's a passport to my childhood.  I relish its variety  - a gorgeous smorgasbord of art by innovative and skilled Golden Books illustrators, several of whom were immigrants from war-torn Europe.   The children's book historian and author Leonard Marcus has written fascinatingly about how these popular kids' books transformed the US children's book industry and culture in his well-illustrated book, The Golden Legacy. 

To give you a taste of different styles and approaches - just look at these trains from 3 different stories in Story Land.

An inside/ outside view that fascinated me as a child - illustration by Tibor Gergely to  Seven Little Postmen by Margaret Wise Brown
A playful and non-perspectival use of space - JP Miller's illustration to THE MARVELLOUS MERRY-GO-ROUND by Jane Werner made me want to push that train along.

Feodor Rojanovsky's lively illustration to George Duplaix's story GASTON AND JOSEPHINE

When I started out, like many illustrators,  I used to worry about style.   Now I baulk at maintaining a branded style as if that is what really matters in creating for children.  What matters to me is getting the characters and their world right so that the book jumps out and its function is clear. And for that I need to find the most appropriate visual language and materials for the book in hand. I know, it is also a great excuse to go to the art shop and try out the latest gear!

Liberation from the ‘style trap’ came when my French art director told me that what matters is not style but having a strong voice - an underlying tone or feeling that comes out of us without our being aware of it - and is revealed by what we like and our choices.   What do you pick up first in a bookshop?  Dark or light stories - realistic,  or surreal, down to earth,  fantastical?  Liking one or several of these is just one small indication of that complex and unique voice of yours.

Back to Storyland  -  for all its variety of styles and approaches,  there is a love of the everyday in all its aspects, relationships between characters and their many feelings and expressions, plus an energy, playfulness, a genuine warmth.
I love how the title is illustrated here!
I brought it out to show at my monthly picture book crit group recently. And it turned out that Storyland was also a seminal book for my talented friend and fellow author and illustrator, Layn Marlow.  That makes two of us who might have done something quite different without it!

Eloise Wilkin

Do you have a book on your shelf that inspired you as an illustrator? We love to showcase members' inspirations, so do get in touch!!


Bridget Marzo is a former International Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI and current illustration volunteer in the British Isles. Her long string of successful picture books includes the recent Tiz and Ott's Big Draw. She's also a regular contributor to the Association of Illustrators' Varoom magazine.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Proofreading Tips - False Friends Compendium

FF Compendium – 60 pairs of interesting words

Here’s a compilation of the pairs of words which have appeared in Words & Pictures Proofreading Tips as False Friends One, False Friends Two and False Friends Three. 

Monday, 18 July 2016

AUTHOR MASTERCLASS: Standing out in the Picture Book Slushpile with Ellie Brough

Breaking into the world of children’s publishing is a daunting task as a newcomer, so I was really looking forward to hearing from expert editor Ellie Brough of Maverick Children’s books about the mysterious world that lies on the other side of submitting to publishers; do all manuscripts really plop into a pile of slush? We were about to learn the truth, along with a heap of tips to help our work stand out from the crowd.

Long Walk

In 2009, the General Council of the United Nations declared 18th July to be Mandela Day. What on earth has that got to do with the writers and illustrators of SCBWI BI ?

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Liz Flanagan's debut novel Eden Summer

By Charlotte Comley

My daughter asked for a new book for her sixteenth birthday. Unfortunately, it wasn't out in time for the big day. Imagine my surprise after trying to order the book, that the same day the author sent an email informing me she is a SCWBI member and wanted us to put her good news up on the Celebration page!

So with a glad heart I'm pleased to announce Liz Flanagan's debut novel Eden Summer is published by David Fickling Books on 7th July. I do hope that Liz will send us some photographs of the book launch.

Liz Flanagan

Friday, 15 July 2016

Making a Concertina Sketchbook

Lynne Chapman's concertina sketchbooks
at the SCBWI Picture Book Retreat
Become a Sketchbook Making Enthusiast, Concertina Style!
by Anne-Marie Perks

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Event Report: SCBWI’S London Celebrates 20 years of SCBWI BI by Andrew Syers

Photo credit: Janey Robinson
On Monday, the 20th of June,  I took a day off to join in with the London SCBWI BI 20th anniversary celebrations. The first event was a brunch held at Drink, Shop & Do on Caledonian Road – organised by Tania Tay and Janey Robinson.

SCBWI 20th birthday celebrations – Picnic Pitches Network news: north east

By Natalie Yates

There are picnics and there are picnics 

We sat wriggling our toes in soft, dry grass on picnic rugs and blankets, sipping Pimms and nibbling strawberries.  The sun warmed our faces and the surrounding company warmed our hearts as we shared and delighted in each other’s experiences of SCBWI over the past few years.

Stop. Rewind.

Cake and Prosecco
Ok, the British summer put paid to us having a ‘proper’ picnic so our time on Saturday 2nd July was spent in the café in York library, while grey clouds filled the sky and rain threatened outside.  The staff were kind enough to allow us to decamp to one of their rooms for our picnic lunch and indeed, we did share and delight in our experiences of SCBWI and our writing lives.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Debut Author Series - Sarah Baker

The Learning Curve - Insights from Debut Authors 

Nicky Schmidt 

For many the road to publication is long and fraught. For others, a publishing deal comes relatively easily. Those who are still trudging the path may find it hard to imagine what it’s like to be a debut author, and authors with a few books to their name may only dimly recall the original experience. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

Ask a Picture Book Editor

Does Your Plot Read Like a List?
Is it really boring?

If you've created an episodic plot, you will be on Route Rejection faster than an editor can skim your first lines.

Basically, this means that the plot is a list of things the character did.
One thing follows another.

It has a beginning, middle and end.

It has a main character who sets off on a journey.

They get there in the end.

But . . .  “SO WHAT?”

Everything has EQUAL WEIGHT.

There is no drama, no tension, no story.

To avoid this pitfall, ask yourself:

• Does my main character’s problem emotionally engage the reader? Is there enough at stake?

• Do things get worse for the main character with each episode as the plot progresses?

• Is there a clear, climactic turning point where the reader cries out, “oh, no!” and turns the page to see how everything will be resolved?

Imagine if the plot in Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler’s best-selling Room on the Broom were simply:

  1. A happy witch and her cat set off on a broomstick ride.
  2. A dog comes along and asks for a ride.
  3. A bird comes along and asks for a ride.
  4. A frog comes along and asks for a ride.
  5. A storm comes along and . . .
  6. . . . it makes the broomstick snap in two
  7. The cat, dog, bird all fall off the broomstick into a bog.
  8. The witch flies into a cloud and gets lost.
  9. A dragon appears
  10. The cat, dog and bird scare the dragon.
  11. The witch is saved.
  12. The witch says thank you to her new friends and they fly off into the moonlight.

This plot reads like a list: this happened, then this happened, then that happened. The listy things have equal weight. The reader really doesn’t care a hoot about any of these characters or what happens to them. There isn't enough at stake.

Instead, Julia Donaldson creates a page-turning read:

  1. A happy witch and her cat set off on a broomstick ride on a windy day (foreshadowing – the wind will be trouble!)

  2. From Room on a Broom © Julia Donaldson/Axel Sheffler

  3. The dog rescues the witch's hat that has been blown off by the wind (we like him already, he’s so helpful)
  4. The witch loses something else – the bow from her plait is blown of by the nasty wind. (It’s getting worse)
  5. The bird finds the bow (we like the bird, now, too!)
    From Room on a Broom © Julia Donaldson/Axel Sheffler
  6. It starts to rain (making it worse) and the witch accidentally drops her precious wand in a pond (oh, no, how will they find it in such a wet place . . . ! Note the rule of three here – three things happen and then there is a shift.)'
    From Room on a Broom © Julia Donaldson/Axel Sheffler
  7. The frog is the ideal source of help this time. (Plus, he’s so polite and helpful, we like him as well.)
  8. Oh, no, NOW the storm makes the broom snap in two . . . (even worse – NOW all the animals fall into a bog!) AND the witch flies into a cloud with a SCARY DRAGON in it! (make things much, much worse for your main character and keep doing it . . .)
  9. The witch really needs help and now, no help can be found. (Oh, no!) AND the dragon is about to eat her . . . (this is your climactic turning point, where the drama has built up to the max. There is a lot at stake here.)
    From Room on a Broom © Julia Donaldson/Axel Sheffler

  10. BUT . . . IN THE NICK OF TIME, (now we need something unexpected to shift in the plot) a horrible beast rises from the bog and says, “Buzz off! – THAT’S MY WITCH!” (whew! The clever twist is that it's the dog, cat and frog working together to become the horrible beast.)
  11. The beast scares off the dragon (the resolution. This works because readers really care about all the characters now.)
  12. The witch is really grateful, so she mixes up a spell and out comes . . .
  13. . . .  a truly magnificent broom, complete with seats and a shower for the frog and a nest for the bird (the satisfing ending has a fun twist. It takes readers full-circle to the opening, but now the witch has new friends and an improved broomstick to match)
    From Room on a Broom © Julia Donaldson/Axel Sheffler

Ask your characters difficult questions.

Ask yourself, what if . . .

If there were a witch, what if she lost her three most precious possessions? What if a storm came along and actually snapped her broomstick in two? What if a dragon came along and she’d met her match? What if he actually wanted to eat her up and she couldn’t find a way out? How would she re-solve this?
So, next time you’re plotting a book, think about how you can up the ante constantly as you develop your idea. This will mean your action won’t read like a list, but like a story arc with emotional tension that makes readers really care about the outcome.

Natascha Biebow is an experienced editor, mentor and coach, who loves working with authors and illustrators at all levels to help them to shape their stories.
Check out the Cook Up a Picture Book Coaching Courses.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

20 SCBWI Stories for 20 years of SCBWI BI

20 SCBWI Stories for 20 years of SCBWI BI

On Monday, June 20, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in the British Isles celebrated its 20th anniversary in London. To mark this occasion members congregated at events in the capital throughout the day; starting with a brunch at Drink, Shop & Do in Kings Cross, followed by a sketchcrawl led by illustrator Anne-Marie Perks exploring nearby Granary Square and then an evening party with games and book cover cakes at The Lukin near Warren Street.

Those who could attend had the opportunity to share their stories of being a member of SCBWI. It was a way for us to immortalise the notable event and represent a taster of the talent amongst members. This resulted in a collection of 20 SCBWI Stories capturing memories, experiences and the sentiment our creative community shares in being a part of this inspiring society.

Sarah Broadley and Caroline Deacon take on the Story Shop

 By Charlotte Comley

Congratulations to Sarah Broadley and Caroline Deacon from SCBWI South East Scotland, as they take on the Story Shop stage during this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Reading their own short stories in front of a live audience, Caroline will read aloud on Monday 15th August and Sarah will be reading the following day, Tuesday 16th August. Both events are on at 3pm in the Speigletent, EIBF, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. If you are in the area, please come along and show your support.

Caroline Deacon has worked for a number of years as a journalist writing for popular magazines. She's also written five books on childcare, and Babycalming sold 65,000 copies. She is now writing Young Adult fiction, but is yet to be published, so she's delighted to be appearing in Story Shop. Her favourite short story writers are Daphne du Maurier and
 John Wyndham.

Sarah Broadley mainly writes rhyming picture book stories for younger children but regularly dips her toes into the waters of other genres if the tea is hot enough and she's had enough sleep.

Sarah has been a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) since July 2013, where she co-ordinates the middle grade and picture book critique groups for her local network in South East Scotland. 


Friday, 8 July 2016

Memoir, by Sally Kindberg


Sally Kindberg is the illustrator of Bloomsbury’s
Comic Strip History of the World and others in the
Read Sally's Blog here

Thursday, 7 July 2016

How to Prepare for School Visits by Alexia Casale.

Lots of things go into a fantastic school visit – some of them can be controlled, and others can’t. Never underestimate the importance of prep. It doesn’t guarantee success, but if things go wrong at least you’ve done your best. 

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Debut Author Series - James Nicol

James Nicol
The Apprentice Witch

The Learning Curve - Insights from Debut Authors 

Nicky Schmidt 

For many the road to publication is long and fraught. For others, a publishing deal comes relatively easily. Those who are still trudging the path may find it hard to imagine what it’s like to be a debut author, and authors with a few books to their name may only dimly recall the original experience. 

Monday, 4 July 2016

The Funeverse - where the sound of laughter is music to our ears


Can you hear that?

That is the sound of a quarter of a million laughs. The sound of a quarter of a million chuckles, snorts and sniggers. It's the sound of a quarter of a million mouths mumbling poetry.