Network News: Network Breakfast, Lighting the Spark Conference, Winchester, 2013

Gill James 

A bright and clear autumn Sunday morning. Light floods into the restaurant block of University of Winchester’s King Alfred campus. The view from here is breath-taking but we don’t notice it all that much: there is other work to be done. Never mind that yesterday was a fulfilling and exciting day, full of lots of interesting tips and treats, followed by a glorious party where we celebrated members’ success and further enjoyed the opportunity to meet industry specialists in a relaxed setting. Never mind that we are all excited about the future but a tad tired as well. Never mind all of that – members of network groups, and not-yet-but-soon-to-be-members are out in force.


A handful arrive just after 9.00 a.m. but by 9.10, the coffee and pastries have arrived and so have most of the conference delegates. The noise level rises steadily, but this space is acoustically well-designed: you can still hear what your neighbour is saying.



“I’ll have to spread us out a bit,” says Anita. “London always has a lot.”
Of course it does. London is huge – and not too far from Winchester.
The North East and the North West decide that the Pennines will be no obstacle. The Wars of the Roses are long over. We huddle together.
 “Could you get to York for a day?” says Maureen.Maureen
“We expect so,” say George and Gill. “Could your members make it to Manchester?”
We decide that if we can get different agents and editors to events and plan very carefully there can be some good cross-fertilisation.
I do a quick scoot around the other regions to see what’s hot. Some regions, of course, are huge and have sub-groups: Scotland and the South-East, for instance.
“So, it’s good to be able to meet up here,” says one network-member. “We only know each other through our e-critique group otherwise.”


“Now I’ve met the members of my local network, I’m definitely going to join,” says a relatively new SCBWI BI-member. “They do so much. Yet another bonus of being a member.”


It’s interesting how different groups have different preferences: some like to meet during the day, weekdays, some prefer evenings and some prefer weekends. Most members have to keep a balance of work, family and writing, so squeezing in a network meeting can be challenging. “But rewarding. It’s always worth the effort.”


Scribblers, a Worcester based writing group for all genres, is looking for two more members – and would love to welcome children’s writers. Any age range. Also, a Scrawl Crawl is being organised in January. Please contact Olivia Levez on olivialevez at hotmail dot co dot uk.

A worthy president 

The whole event is presided over by The Cake, which watches benignly from the front of the room.

Everyone a winner 

Everyone I speak to agrees that the conference has given them a lot to take back to their networks. Having the chance to meet up whilst the ideas are still fresh is a huge bonus. Action plans are formed.
And the breakfast is very welcome, too.

 Gill James has been a SCBWI BI member since 2002 and belongs to the North-West network. She was pleased to attend the conference this year ... and managed to win a critique of a YA novel.   


  1. Thank you, Gill.
    Lovely coverage of a really important part of the weekend - SCBWI at ground level.

  2. The Pennines is no obstacle when there is Networking to be done!

  3. It's fun up north! East or West. Thanks, Gill.


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