By Maureen Lynas

Have you ever thought that SCBWI BI is like a dating agency? SCBWI members are constantly matchmaking at events and conferences, nationally and internationally. Then there's the online dating on the yahoo group, facebook, twitter, and Words and Pictures.

WANTED: Author/illustrator/agent/publisher with GSOH. Must love trolls and pirates, and critique for cake. Contact A Wannabe. 5 Writer's Block, Little Obsessive.

Relationships have blossomed and careers have bloomed. Which is fantastic. I've been hankering after a relationship for a while now but not with an author/illustrator/agent/publisher because... I'm in love with a brilliant organisation.

OK, 'in love' is a bit strong and should be saved for things like husbands, children and chocolate. Like? Admire? Respect? Whatever it is, I was over the moon when I received an invitation to a blind date with a member of this particular organisation.

WANTED: Friendly network coordinator to help set up a SCBWI critique group. Contact Cathy Brumby, author, SCBWI member, and duty manager at Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children's Books, Newcastle.

Yay! The thought of a scoobie/Seven Stories relationship blossoming had me skipping about the room. I couldn't wait to meet Cathy and help her to gather SCBWI members in this brilliant building, so cleverly named for the seven basic plots and for the seven levels of the centre.

For those that don't know:

'Seven Stories is the National Centre for Children’s Books. We select original artwork and manuscripts - from first scribbles to finished work - to make our exhibitions, event and learning programmes' They are a charity whose mission is to 'champion children’s books as an essential part of our childhood, our national heritage and our culture. We want to inspire a love of reading across generations.'

 I emailed members in the north east and we had our first date to say hi, what shall we do, when shall we meet, who's writing, who's illustrating, who wants to come? Then we held the first critique group (with many nervous knees knocking under the table) and people shared their projects, their strengths, their weaknesses and their hopes.

They are a very lucky group, having the resources of Seven Stories available to them means members can:

Access the literary greats
Research the current market
Do a bit of historical research
And meet new friends

Great! But that's not all. Another email and another blind date!

WANTED: Friendly network coordinator to discuss planting more SCBWI @ Seven Stories relationship seeds. Large blossoms predicted. Contact Alison Gwynn, director, Seven Stories.

Alison filled me in on the history of Seven Stories and their exciting plans for the future - touring exhibitions, learning programmes, and their desire to have more author/illustrator involvement.


Alison: We want to offer authors and illustrators opportunities to meet their audiences.
Me: So do we!
Alison: We want to offer authors and illustrators opportunities to develop their creative skills.
Me: So do we!
Alison: We want to offer authors and illustrators opportunities to develop their school performances and workshops.
Me: So do we!
Alison: We want to highlight the creative process and show the development work. Not just the finished book.
Me: So do we!
Alison: We want to create online learning resources based on our archive material - 'The Seven Stories collection includes original artwork and manuscripts by around eighty authors and illustrators, including Philip Pullman, Robert Westall, Edward Ardizzone and Judith Kerr, and about 30,000 books.'
Me: Er, we're not doing that.
Alison: Maybe you'd like to be part of the beta testing?
Me: Yes! And maybe you would like to write some features for Words and Pictures to show how we can support each other.
Alison: Yes! We'd love to.

So, here's to two organisations supporting each other in their love of children's books. The seeds are now planted, we'll nurture them and see what comes up. Maybe a beanstalk?
Jack & the Beanstalk by John Shelley

Cathy's group meets on the second Thursday of each month for critiques, research, and chatting. 6pm until 8pm. If you'd like to join, please contact me on and I'll pass your details on.

Maureen Lynas is the SCBWI BI Network Coordinator, the north east Local Network Coordinator, the author of Action Words, the creator of The funEverse, a winner of Undiscovered Voices 2012 and a blogger on Notes from the Slushpile. She writes picture books, poems and funny stuff. You can find out more here: Maureen Lynas on SCBWI


  1. What a lovely article - Seven Stories deserves our support and Maureen - you're my idea of the perfect blind date!

  2. Partnerships are a wonderful thing they very often spawn offspring!
    Thank you Maureen for being a make it happen sort of person. x

    1. I am hoping for offspring, Jan. I think they'll be creative types.
      From one 'make it happen person' to another!

  3. Just saw this, great write up, I'm loving attending the critique group, thanks for your matchmaking coordination, Maureen!


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