By Marie Basting
So we’ll start with the bad news. Our lovely South West Networks Organiser, Jo Thomas, has only gone and moved to Wales. This means she’s had to step down from the role. Jo was only with us for a short while, but during that time she set up regular meets in and around the Bristol and Bath area, hosting some great events. As for what she couldn’t do with Mailchimp …
Thanks so much for all your hardwork, Jo! We wish you all the very best for your new life in Wales.
But it’s not all bad news. Jo was so efficient she even lined up her own replacement. Please welcome Helen Liston! Helen tells us a little about herself below.
Gill James interviews Helen
Why is SCBWI important to you?
When I first started writing, someone from the industry told me to 'go on a course'. I was a bit too skint at first, but eventually I did as I was told and followed the trail to SCBWI. In July I attended the Picture Book Retreat (my report HERE) where I realised that SCBWI is an incredibly valuable resource. There's just so much support and wisdom out there, and everyone's so very open and generous with their time and skills, no matter what part of the journey they're on. I have to admit to feeling shy of it at first, but it turns out there was no need! And I do feel there are times when I need to hunker down inside my writing cave... this summer I was ready to 'come out'. To my friends and everything! Which I couldn't have done without this connection with other writers.
Tell us something about how you got interested in writing for children.
I've always been in denial about my need to write stories, but after becoming a Mum I discovered picture books. So I started trying my hand at writing some texts. I love this form for its tight structure, for the opportunities for word play and phonic patterning, for the interplay of word and image, and for its potential to create such dense and wondrous worlds. I'm really interested in the impact they have on young minds, and by the power that imagination has on our everyday emotional and practical life.
Why do you think the networks are important for SCBWI members?
In my experience, there's nothing better for building creative confidence than getting people in the same space talking about the things that they love, the issues they have, or the industry (or other!) mysteries that they want to solve. So very often writing folk have passions and concerns that people in our usual circle don't quite understand... but there are people really not that far away who share them! It can only be powerful. If we get together we can find ways to more of what we feel is missing – whether that's kid lit-based cultural events, or opportunities to publicly share work, as John Shelley recently did in the North East.
Tell us a little about current SCBWI activities in the South West
We're currently hoping to get a quite large group of the northerly South Westers to Bath for our next meeting on November 12th, where I hope we can get to know one another better and build a wish list for the next year. There are a few wanting to start a PB critique group, and there are others writing YA and MG who may also want to critique together. It seems to me that there are strong critique groups in highly populated regions like Birmingham and London. I feel that we need to work across the distances that divide us to get the best we can from the SW group. Of course it will always be a challenge across rural areas, and I'm happy to help any volunteers who'd like to form a gathering anywhere across the South West, hot air balloons and helicopters aside.
Do you have any new plans?
I personally would like to do another book share as per our last meet-up, which felt like being at a creative writing seminar! There's also talk of a regular Swindon meet-up, and I'm hoping that Non Pratt can offer us another workshop after this summer's sell out success. I'd also like to find out what we can do for illustrators in the region, who seem to be under represented at present. And we're on the lookout for a volunteer to co-ordinate members in the south of the region. All other ideas are subject to what the group come up with at the meeting in November!
How can members contact you?
Find me in the SCBWI BI and SW SCBWI Facebook groups, or contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
And another word from Marie
How about joining Helen in the South West Networks team? Super SCBWI volunteer Lesley Moss continues to hold the fort in the area but she is looking to step down (let’s not even go there today-too much sadness for one article). If you’d like to know more, please talk to Lesley or, Networks Coordinator, Marie Basting. Volunteering in the networks is a great way to strengthen your writing CV. As well as friendship and networking, benefits also include a contribution towards attending the Winchester conference, free South West network events and discounted SCBWI membership.