#SCBWICON2016 The Friday Night Critique & Dinner, and Keynote Sarah Davies from North West Network

Friday Night Critique and Dinner by Susan Brownrigg 

The Friday night critique and dinner must be monstrous to organise, but yet again the SCBWI volunteers made sure everything ran really smoothly.

Both events are a fabulous opportunity to get to know new people, meet online pals in the real world and catch up with SCBWI friends.

Juliet Clare Bell addresses the
Friday night crit groups
The crit is also a chance to have fresh eyes look at a work-in-progress. Participants are split into groups based on their WIP age group – illustrators, picture books, middle grade or young adult.
This year there were 18 different groups!
My group (MG 11) had five members and was facilitated by the lovely Natalie Perry who ensured we kept to time. Funnily enough because there was a boom in the number of attendees from the North West, I was with two other writers from my network – but we still found fresh comments to make on each others’ stories.

I have lots of notes on suggestions on my first chapter to digest – which brings me onto dinner!

This year - in order to simplify the feat of feeding so many - the Friday night dinner was relocated to the university. Seated at large circular tables, we reflected on our crit feedback, compared travel horror stories and discussed which conference highlights we were most excited about.

The crit and dinner make for brilliant precursors to the conference itself, and it was heartwarming to see so many fellow illustrators and writers together joyous in anticipation of the weekend to come.

Susan Brownrigg writes historical novels for teens. She won the 2015 Margaret Carey scholarship and was chosen to feature in the 2016 Undiscovered Voices anthology. Susan, a museum learning officer,  is currently polishing her work-in-progress about the discovery of the okapi. This was her second SCBWI conference.

Industry Keynote: Sarah Davies of The Greenhouse Literary Agency
By Nina Wadcock

Books, blogs, articles, crystal balls and consultations with soothsayers cannot answer the questions of how long is a piece of string? Or what does it take to succeed? Sarah Davies of the Greenhouse Literary Agency went a long way to describing the later.

It wasn’t bound up in mysticism, rather Sarah delivered a speech based on in depth knowledge found from her role ‘taking the road less travelled,’ setting up a small transatlantic literary agency. A greenhouse to nurture talent.

The Greenhouse Literary Agency receives between 10,000 and 15,000 submissions per year. With those sort of odds stacked against your manuscript, it would be easy to think this was a game of chance. Sarah was keen to say, not so, asking ‘What does it take to succeed?’ and ‘How do we find our edge?’ Citing 'I didn’t love it enough.’ as one of the most common rejections.

Sarah Davies Greenhouse Literary

As writers we’ve cherished our words. Our characters have occupied our minds as much, if not more than our day to day existences and then ping, an agent ‘didn’t love it enough’. But, if we’ve loved and parented our offspring, surely we wouldn’t send them into a storm without being suitably dressed? Why then would we send our manuscripts unprepared to brave the storm?

Sarah reminded us that two words before all else determined her decisions.
1) Concept 2) Craft. 

We must create an inspired concept. Then infuse it with passion. Passion needs to underpin the stories we craft and agents need to see that passion. Once we have a story, we need to spin an idea differently to how anyone else has spun it and in doing so create a concept with a ‘deeply felt theme'.

We’ve all been told write what you know but Sarah quoted LP Hartley:

'Better to write about the things we feel…’

I almost lost count of the seeds of advice and talking of seeds, nurturing, growing, Sarah talked of planting the seeds of your story, building it on great foundations, not instructing the reader, rather ‘sprinkling seedlings’ and of ...

'Going to your desk as if it was the last day in your life, then writing as if you have all the time in the world.’ 

I came away inspired to reread, revise and research my craft. It was not a magical formula, though I do now have some of the ingredients for the potion.

Concept, Craft and Passion. 

Nina Wadcock is one of those rare fish actually from the arty Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge. She did run away to London for a few years and worked for a children's bookshop, (from which she was sacked for reading too many books and looking at too many illustrations.) Nina then worked for a video production company and an indie radio station. Being homesick for the wilds of the Pennines paired with an odd desire to run around the moors flapping her arms in search of the Brontes, Nina eventually came home. She taught art and design, got married, had three children and acquired various lurcher dogs. She's been an 'exhibiting artist who sometimes writes' forever. Now she's started an M.A in Writing for Children at M.M.U., her goal is to be a writer who sometimes paints.

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