SCBWI-BI CONFERENCE 2017 Newbie Feedback

It was Laura Clay's first time at the SCBWI-BI Conference. As a conference newbie, we were keen to find out what she thought of it through both words and pictures (see what I did there?).

As a SCBWI conference newbie, I was more than a little daunted at the prospect of diving into an intense three-day event with fellow writers and industry professionals. But that was also the reason I chose to go: the chance to pick brains, network, and hear keynotes from a host of amazing talent. And what a first conference it was!

We kicked off the Friday Fringe with a Writing Crawl around beautiful Winchester. There were plenty of photo opportunities; it was a great way to meet new friends before the conference.

The lovely Emma Greenwood from Golden Egg Academy helped hone our pitches, cramming a whole term of work into an impressive hour and a half. I came away with a much better idea how to put my manuscript's strengths centre-stage.

Photo credit: Beebee Taylor

Friday Night Critique was packed. I was so grateful to Matt Killeen for chairing our group. The feedback persuaded me to reconsider a manuscript I'd shelved. Team South East Scotland were of course on their best behaviour...

Photo Credit: Sarah Broadley

Saturday saw keynotes from Liz Pichon and Alex T Smith. I wasn't expecting Larry Grayson to inspire Sir Bobblysock and comedy greats like Tommy Cooper to be influences.

And I'll never be able to unsee the illustration of the lady with her 'prize pumpkins'!

I had my first experience of the PULSE strand with a marketing workshop, bringing expertise from traditionally published and self-published authors which I'm sure will prove invaluable, whichever way my novel eventually gets out there.

Photo Credit: Beebee Taylor

Next up was a fascinating interview with Patrice Lawrence and her editor Emma Goldhawk on 'Getting An Editor That 'Gets' You'. It was great to get insight into the editing process (and the quality of Hodder HQ's biscuits...). It was also encouraging to hear how crucial SCBWI critique groups were to Patrice's novel development.

Photo Credit: Sarah Broadley

The highlight of Saturday was being one of the finalists for The Hook. I was terrified beforehand, but when I saw the sea of encouraging faces, the nerves vanished. I was so grateful to the agents for their thoughtful feedback on The Banshee's Kiss. It was wonderful to have delegates come up afterwards and tell me that they really wanted to read my book. What better motivation to keep on writing?

Was that really me up on that stage? I still can't believe it. Photo Credit: Louisa Danquah

After that, I was so ready for the Seriously Funny Party. I've never seen anything as mad as the Mass Book Launch, and Kathryn Evans' Crystal Kite acceptance speech brought a tear to everyone's eye.

I think I was out-costumed by everyone, but my Wicked Witch of the East look wasn't too bad... Photo Credit: Caroline Deacon

After an intense Sunday workshop from Sarah Mussi, and a storming keynote from Julia Eccleshare, it was nice to relax with the 'survivors' and chat about all the fantastic experiences we had.

Sarah Broadley's rendition of William McGonagall's poetry at dinner was certainly memorable...

So it's fair to say that my first conference was more than a little eventful. I left with lots of new friends, renewed confidence in my writing, and I’m already planning next year's adventures. Joining SCBWI was definitely the best decision I've made as a writer.

*All photos, including featured image, credited to Laura Clay, unless otherwise stated.

Laura Clay’s work has been published by Scottish Book Trust, 26, Freight Books, and the Dangerous Women project. As a UNESCO Emerging Writer, she read at the 2016 Edinburgh Book Festival.
Twitter @uisgebeatha


A. M. Dassu is a member of the Words & Pictures editorial team. She manages the Events team and SCBWI BI events coverage.
Contact her at

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