A word from Marie Basting.
Lennon and McCartney, Han Solo and Chewbacker, Sheila and Louise! Sometimes people come together and the results are electric. SCBWI owes so much to our dynamic SE Scottish duo. I had a big spiel planned, where I was going to tell you how fantastic these ladies are, but in true Sheila and Louise style they speak for themselves. And so, I will simply say thanks, a humongous thanks for everything they have contributed to SCBWI, and leave them to tell you more about their ‘tyrannical reign’.
Sheila and Louise, you’ve been amazing!
'… I leave, and heave a sigh and say goodbye.'
Oh, who are we kidding, we’re not going anywhere -- SCBWI has been too good to us -- but it is time we stepped down from our tyrannical reign over SCBWI BI's most northerly network: Southeast Scotland. But in an effort to retain our grip for a few seconds longer, we thought we'd let you have a bit of an insight into the commandments we've lived by as Network Organisers.
1. Be prepared
|Signage for our final event|
Yes... we should have been. We should have known from the very first meeting that we had a lot to learn. The first official session of the Southeast Scotland Network took place in a deluge in the doorway of a closed café. If we'd checked the café’s opening times, it might have been better. Luckily it was only the two of us, so we fit in the doorway. We'd never met before and Louise’s glasses were so steamed up, she just had to trust her instinct that Sheila's invitation to continue the meeting in her nearby parked car was a good idea. This way, strong friendships -- and networks -- are born.
2. A wingman helps you fly
Find someone to play good cop to your bad cop when negotiations get tough. We took it in turns… just about…and luckily we also took it turns in losing the plot, so it pretty much worked out! A close working relationship makes everything easy, though a SCBWI colleague once exclaimed out loud when we stood as a unit once to leave the room. “You’re like velociraptors, always in pairs!” We'll take that… JURASSIC PARK has always been a firm favourite! (and little did she know how spot-on she’d got it – she’d never seen us in top predator mode).
3. Release your inner Rotweiller
It you're going to run an event that you're asking busy people to pay for, or even give up their Saturday afternoon for, then don't waste their time. Discovering we have the inner Rotweiller of timekeeping lurking in us has been a secret thrill. Learning how to put this on a tight leash when the order of the day is a fun social… well, that's still a work in progress. But see point 2… if you're taking turns being a Rotweiller, you might get away with it and people might still think you're doing ok! Maybe. The jury's still out.
4. SCBWI is your shield
There is NOTHING more liberating than going up to speak to someone important in the literary world with the comfort blanket of knowing your opener is 'I'm the organiser of our local SCBWI network and I was wondering…' If you do this enough, you can trick yourself into talking to important people even when it's for your own benefit! We are both sure it's what gave us the guts to approach our agents – both of us secured agents during our time as Network Organisers.
5. Offer events you want to learn from yourself
That was easy for us… there was SO much we wanted and needed to know! If we were playing 'Squirmy situations that writers find themselves in' Bingo, we’d get a full house between us:
· Writing fantastic stories and forgetting to tell the reader where on earth the characters were, tick!
· Forgetting to make our main character the person who brings the story to a conclusion, tick!
· Coming out of a conversation with an agent and not realising they're offering you representation, double tick!
The only thing we realised that we were expert in is enjoying being with our fellow-travellers on the writing road and learning how to do this stuff properly.
6. Reach for the stars
When we started the network, there was one thing people kept warning us: getting to work with Edinburgh International Book Festival is the Holy Grail, but not one we were likely to achieve. It's the biggest book festival in the world and everyone wants a piece of it. Well, huzzah! Call us stubborn, but we put on the SCBWI shield and found that the way SCBWI nurtured its writers was exactly the kind of thing that appealed to the EIBF. They've been fantastic supporters ever since. So here we are with three EIBF panel events, two illustrator exhibitions and myriad other smaller connections with our 'local' book festival under our Scooby belts.
7. Excitement is contagious
Children's writers are brilliant and it turns out that the ones round here have a great homing instinct and come out of the woodwork at the first sniff of writerly activity. After our first damp meeting (which, by the way, had been orchestrated by Maureen Lynas, who at the time ran the North East Network), we were joined by Sean Noonan, who blew trumpets and sent out word far and wide and help draw a crowd. Meeting 3 saw a whole raggle-taggle bunch descend on the Edinburgh International Book Festival for a social, including Maureen. I think she wanted to know she could relax and not worry we'd just keep schlepping down south for our Scooby treats! The sun shone that day and SCBWI Southeast Scotland was well and truly launched. Meetings have never been small since.
Today there are nearly 70 members in the Southeast Scotland Network and there's no shortage of people willing to take on tasks. There are at least half a dozen critique groups, reading groups, individual crit buddies, teach-ins and workshops galore. There are writers and illustrators winning prizes, getting agents and publishing deals and most amazingly of all, not giving up: our members are helping each other to keep going when none of the above comes their way.
We've been touched by the kind words and gifts we've been given as we've left the post, but the best gift is that we're still going to benefit from the friendships and writing relationships that have grown in the network. We're looking forward to lapping up the treats that Sarah Broadley and Anita Gallo, the new Network Organisers, have in store. We have our pencils poised and we're ready to learn. So bring it on, SCBWI SE Scotland! If you want to find Sheila and Louise from now on, Sheila’s on Twitter at @sheilamaverbuch and Louise is
M Louise Kelly writes for young adults (and secretly for Adults too) and is represented by Lindsey Fraser of Fraser Ross Associates. http://www.mlouisekelly.com
Sheila M. Averbuch is represented by Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency and writes Middle Grade sci-fi and fantasy. http://spacekidsbooks.comTogether they founded the Southeast Scotland Network of SCBWI-BI