by Marie Basting and Lesley Moss
SCBWI British Isles would like to say a huge thank you to Lesley Moss, who is stepping down from her position as Network Organiser. For the past six years, Lesley has been the bedrock of the South West Scooby community, managing one of our more logistically challenging networks with gusto and enthusiasm. Thanks to Lesley, the South West has benefited from write-ins, socials, author visits, regular critiques and much more. Lesley is also a great team player, contributing generously to discussions on how to develop the wider networks. We have Lesley to thank for thinking up our 20th birthday summer of celebrations.
Thank you so much Lesley – you are an SCBWI star and we’ll miss you!You can find out more about Lesley below:
How long have you been volunteering for SCBWI and what does your role involve?
I’ve just finished being the Joint SouthWest Network Organiser, based in Exeter. I’m a long time volunteer. I first volunteered for SCBWI in 2010 when I took over the running of the e-critique group ‘Picturebook Too!’ from Candy Gourlay. SCBWI BI e-crit was in its early stages and was a great alternative for those who, like me, weren’t anywhere near face-to-face SCBWI activities – ie London. Next I took on SCBWI BI’s Poetry e-critique, which evolved later into Maureen Lynas’s funEverse.
At that time the SCBWI BI buzz was all about getting writers and illustrators online and we had a bespoke social network on the Ning platform. I set up the SouthWest group on there, with opportunities for craft discussion, arranging real life meetings, and group email messaging. We now had our own identity and place to meet virtually.
As a result, Ellen Renner invited me to be Joint SouthWest Network Organiser, a much more hands-on, real life role, and I rashly agreed, with no plan and no mailing list ...Things have really moved on in the networks since then!
What have you enjoyed most as a Network Organiser?It can be quite a challenge when you’re out in the regions and you don’t often get to the main SCBWI events. You’re working away in a bubble, representing SCBWI, but in a strange way not always feeling part of the bigger picture, or close to the publishing industry.
So I can’t begin to express how amazing the people I’ve met via the SW Network have been over the last few years. Such inspiration, support and friendship, both for me as a writer, and within the group. It’s that teamwork and skill sharing which has kept SCBWI Exeter afloat and made it so much more fun.
Yona Wiseman and Amelia Mansfield have been incredibly committed, helping with socials, write-ins, online groups, events - everything really, and we had people like Lucy Jones, Nick Cook and Mike Brownlow joining in at the start too. The whole Exeter group, Penny Wilcox, Sandra Greaves, Jenny Moore, Rowena House and many more, all the dedicated people who have a long trek into town, those who drop in and out, or who have now moved on – each and every one has been brilliant and added something unique to the mix.
What have been your biggest achievements?
Getting everyone together from far flung corners of the SW on a regular basis has been quite an achievement in itself. Last year was fairly quiet, yet we still managed 26 well attended meetings and events in the network as a whole.
Over several years we’ve had write-ins, socials, sketch crawls, author talks, an editor workshop, a thrilling agent visit from Skylark Literary, MS submission coaching, editing advice from two local authors, started a picture book group (thanks to Emma Draper, Clare Helen Welsh and Co) – and that’s just in Exeter.
Persuading Joanna Thomas to get involved as Organiser after Ellen left (she’s now passed the torch to Helen Liston) meant we finally had a presence in Bristol and Bath. Jo really brought a breath of fresh air and injection of energy to the SW and organised lots of great meetings and events, even a road trip.
Why should SCBWI members get involved in their local networks?See all of the above – spending time with other creatives in your field offers something unique. You speak the same language. You exchange advice, support and information. It’s a safe space you won’t find elsewhere.
Any advice for new Network Organisers? How can they get the most out of the role?I’ve found a great synchronicity in people turning up out of the blue at just the right time and place, offering workshops, venues or other help, so I guess I’d say – be prepared, but expect the unexpected and be ready to run with it!
Could you rise to the challenge like Lesley did? We are still looking for a volunteer to replace Lesley!You’d be well supported, working alongside the lovely Helen Liston to develop the South West network. If you’d like to know more, please talk to Lesley, Helen, 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.
LJ Moss is on Twitter @eponymoss, on thefuneverse.com and her website is ljmosswriter.weebly.com She writes fantasy and funny middle grade novels, picture books and poetry. Once upon a time she worked in community arts, youth theatre, ran a children’s storyclub, and more.