Network News - North east - more changes in the networks

Cathy dances out into the sunset 

There’s more change in the Networks, as the vintage queen Cathy Brumby steps down from her role as joint Network Organiser for the North East and hands over the reins to Claire O’Brien. (By Marie Basting)


Thanks so much for your contribution to the networks, Cathy. We’ll miss your unique style and sophistication. Good luck with whatever the future brings. 

Claire will be working alongside Marie-Claire Imam-Gutierrez to manage and develop the North East network which covers Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Durham, North Yorkshire, and West Yorkshire. Here they are together already looking quite the team.

You can find out more about Claire and her thoughts about the network below!

 Claire answers these questions for Gill James.

Why is SCBWI important to you?

When I first joined in 2011 during my first maternity leave, it was a commitment to myself that I was serious about writing and illustrating for children, I was putting my money where my mouth was.  I perused The Book, the Bulletin, website and Facebook group devouring the useful information. It became more than that when I went to my first event organised by Maureen Lynas in York and I felt like I'd found my tribe. Now the highlight of my month is attending the SCBWI crit group at Seven Stories with some great writers, illustrators and now friends, honing our craft, learning from each other and talking about the industry and our progress in it.

Tell us something about how you got interested in writing and illustrating for children.

I first got interested in writing and illustrating picture books for children while working as a Fundraising Assistant for Seven Stories back in the early 2000s.  I met some amazing authors, illustrators and publishers and couldn't be anything but inspired.  So I had some story ideas and sketches bubbling away but it wasn't until that first maternity leave ten years later that I decided to pursue it seriously.  I laughingly thought I'd be published before the baby arrived but joining SCBWI soon helped me discover that I am in it for the long haul!

Why do you think the networks are important for scbwi members?

The Networks are a kind of hidden bonus to being a member of SCBWI beyond the International presence. They bring the SCBWI experience to you if you make the effort to go to crit meetings and events.  This is especially important to Networks far from London where most SCBWI BI events take place.  I've found that getting involved with your Network it helps grow it and makes it richer.

Current Activities in the North East

Marie-Claire and Cathy organised a lovely event recently with Skylark Literary Agency, and we are planning more events to come, starting with a Character-Building workshop in York in the New Year.  We have two vibrant Crit groups, one in York that meets bi-monthly and has groups for writing and illustrating.  The other crit group is held on the first Monday of the Month in Seven Stories' cafe and is a mixture of YA, MG and PB writers and illustrators.  Up to the end of November you can also see the SCBWI BI Annual Illustration Showcase on display in Seven Stories' cafe.  Currently online you can see some North East SCBWIs such as myself, Jenny Shippen and Katherine Lynas taking part in the Inktober 2016 challenge, where you draw one ink drawing a day.

Do you have any new plans?

 I am going to continue to attend the Seven Stories crit group and get to the York one when I can.  I look forward to working with Marie-Claire on the upcoming events and I'd like to organise an illustration event too so watch this space.

How can members contact you?

Members can find me in the SCBWI BI and SCBWI BI NE Facebook groups, or contact me on 

You can see my illustration portfolio at
I blog about picture book writing and illustrating at
If you like to see work in progress and sketches follow me on instagram
You can like my Facebook page, subscribe to my Youtube and follow me on Twitter too.

Other interviews with me

The Networks offer SCBWI British Isles members a chance to get involved at a local level. Geared to the needs of members, they offer critique groups, workshops, socials, support, networking opportunities and much more. Visit for the latest Networks news.
We currently have vacancies for Network Organisers in the South West, Central North and Central West. Contact Networks Coordinator, Marie Basting:   to find out more.

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