Network News Wales: Cardiff Festival

by Zoe Coghlan 

The Cardiff Festival of Childrens Literature is in its third year, and this year the new SCBWI Wales network was there.

Social Event

First off was a Saturday social in Cardiff with special guest, Sibéal Pounder, author of the Witch Wars series.  We spent a relaxed couple of hours over lunch, talking about writing, publishing, and how to handle a workshop of sixty small children!  Thanks Sibéal for being such a lovely encouragement to us.

Good news, bad news 

Next, a talk aimed at new writers with Barry Cunningham from Chicken House and Jon Mayhew, author of the Mortlock and the Monster Odyssey series.  We also heard from Tony Bradman and Phil Carradice so in fact had four writers pearls of wisdom for the price of two - Wales is full of happy surprises!          

Barry led with honesty and as he termed it the bad news, which was that publishing is a business and therefore needs to make money - which is something to keep in mind if you get rejected i.e. maybe your book wasnt right for the market at that time.  But he followed this up with the good news that childrens literature is doing particular well in all genres at the moment, with many older readers choosing to buy it.
He talked about three things he likes to see in books - voice, villains and humour.  And also advised us to provide answers to the important questions like When do we get there? and Whats for tea? i.e. domestic details that are important to children.

 Jon told us how he wrote his first novel when laid up for six weeks after breaking his ankle. And also the dangers of running in the snow, and making off-hand comments about his Jack Russells!  Pointers from Jon regarding your characters were to give them a characteristic that makes them stand out, show that your MC is kind, and ensure they appeal to you - even the villain!  Also, show the cycle of trying and failing (something all writers experience) - all of which help to win over your audience.
 He spoke appreciatively of SCBWI, in particular the Winchester Conference and SCBWIs role in helping him find an agent.

Then the floor was open to questions.  How do you achieve the right tone in your work?  How do you cope with self doubt?  What do you do after rejection? How can agents and editors help you, and is self-publishing worth it?  There was loads of good advice and we all came away inspired and encouraged.

Recruitment drive 

After the meeting the SCBWI members went on a recruitment drive, handing out information and chatting to people about our plans for the Welsh network. With our membership expanding and more meet-ups and events planned, this is a great time to get involved in SCBWI Wales.


  1. Really interesting post, Zoe. I wish I could have been there, a week later and I would have. Maybe next time...

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