PULSE EVENTS: What are they and what can we look forward to in 2017?

If you haven’t noticed the buzz about the upcoming Pulse event,  We’ve got to talk about Cultural Appropriation, we’ll assume you’ve been stranded on a desert island somewhere with no Internet access. Tickets were sold out within 24 hours of it being announced on the SCBWI Facebook page and the discussion continues to flow in the comments.

Candy Gourlay talks to A. M. Dassu about SCBWI Pulse events and how the Cultural Appropriation event came about.

What is a Pulse event?

Mo O'Hara and I began setting up Pulse events in 2015 with discussion evenings. We wanted to be topical and to respond to issues before they burned out. Pulse is SCBWI branding for anything aimed at published authors and illustrators, and Mo and I are always keen to make sure any event acknowledges the expertise of our audience. Our events expect the audience to speak up and give as good as they get.

Can you tell us more about previous Pulse events?

Our very first one was Call Yourself an Author - soon after Sarah McIntyre questioned the Kate Greenaway prize panel for not listing her alongside her co-author. The second one was Troll Hell, after a series of high profile young adult authors were trolled on social media. Both events were packed and highly charged! 

What is the next Pulse event about and what will it cover?

On 8th February, for Pulse's first event in 2017, we are going to tackle the hot potato of Cultural Appropriation, the subject of vociferous activism in the United States - that is possibly having an impact here in the UK as agents and editors hesitate to take on texts where there is an ethnicity mismatch between author and character. We have invited authors Tanya Landman, whose book Buffalo Soldier won the Carnegie and Patrice Lawrence, Costa Nominated for her brilliant debut novel Orangeboy. Also joining us is Leila Rasheed, who founded Megaphone, a mentoring scheme for BAME authors, and Alexandra Strickland, who is co-founder of the diversity organisation Inclusive Minds.

There are so many questions! What is Cultural Appropriation and what is wrong with it? Can I write a character that is not the same ethnicity as me? When is it appropriation and when is it appreciation? Isn't all fiction cultural appropriation? 

That the topic is sizzling hot is reflected by the speed in which tickets were booked up - all the places were gone in 24 hours. Because of the huge amount of interest, there is a possibility that some SCBWI networks may organise a similar event. 

What do you have planned for the coming year?

Mo and I are planning an exciting Pulse programme ahead of us. The only thing that sets us back is our own busy calendars - Mo is currently super active at CWISL  (Children's Writers and Illustrators of South London) and I've just joined CWIG (Children's Writers and Illustrators Group) of the Society of Authors. But several good SCBWI folk have stepped up to help us and I hope this will mean we can make our plans come true in 2017!

Candy Gourlay has been a loyal SCBWI volunteer since she decided to become serious about getting published in 2001. Her novels Shine and Tall Story both won the Crystal Kite Prize for the region and have been nominated for the UK's top children's book prizes such as the Carnegie, the Guardian Prize, the Waterstone's and the Blue Peter AwardCandy grew up in the Philippines but now lives with her family in North London. She loves dogs, babies, drawing, photography and gardening.

Click here for more information on SCBWI events in 2017


A. M. Dassu rediscovered her love of writing for an audience three years ago. Since then she has become a featured writer for The Huffington Post and written for the Times Education Supplement. She loves writing for children and has just finished writing a contemporary teen novel. She enjoys planning school workshops and as a lover of hats, she spends a lot of her time choosing which hat to wear. 

A M Dassu is a member of the Words & Pictures editorial team, she manages the Events team and SCBWI BI events coverage.
Contact her at events@britishscbwi.org 
Follow her on Twitter: @a_reflective 

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