SCBWI-BI CONFERENCE 2017 Introducing The Bent Agency BAME Scholarship

We’re delighted to announce that this year, as well as the two conference scholarships set up in memory of Margaret Carey, children’s writer and illustrator and SCBWI-BI volunteer, there will be an additional scholarship, generously sponsored by The Bent Agency. Susan Wallman interviews Gemma Cooper and Molly Ker Hawn from The Bent Agency.

What is the scholarship? 

It is to enable a BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) author, writing middle grade or young adult, to attend the conference. As with the other scholarships, The Bent Agency BAME scholarship will cover the cost of the conference attendance, a 11 manuscript critique (in the case of the BAME scholarship it will be with a member of The Bent Agency), hotel accommodation and a grant towards travel to Winchester where the conference will take place. In addition, The Bent Agency will pay for a year’s SCBWI membership. If the winner is already a member, the membership will be extended by one year.

Why are you setting up the Bent Agency BAME scholarship? 

We’re very proud of the BAME authors our agency represents, but equally, we’re aware that not enough published books are created by BAME authors. We also know that SCBWI provides valuable resources and support for emerging writers of all backgrounds, but not all writers find attending is financially viable. We’re hoping that this scholarship will encourage more BAME writers to participate in SCBWI activities, and enable a promising writer to come to the SCBWI-BI Conference when that might not have been possible otherwise.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about entering? 

The same advice we’d give to any aspiring writer: Polish your work and make it the very best it can be. Have a look at the editing advice on the TBA blog. If you have critique partners, listen carefully to their feedback and consider whether it would strengthen your manuscript. Check out Words & PicturesKnowHow articles; there’s some great advice there. And most of all, be brave: we want to read your work, because we’re actively looking for promising BAME writers’ work to champion.

How do I enter?

For further details and rules, please go here. Submissions are open now and close at midnight on Saturday 26th August 2017.

Aside from scholarships, what do you think the publishing industry could do to attract more BAME authors? 

Faber’s FAB Prize, Penguin Random House’s Write Now scheme, Stripes’ A Change is Gonna Come anthology, and Little, Brown’s new Dialogue Books imprint are all admirable efforts to encourage work from writers from marginalised backgrounds — we hope we see more like them.

I know you’ve been to the SCBWI-BI conference yourself. What do you think are the key things the scholarship winner will gain from going? 

The SCBWI conference is a peerless opportunity to learn about your craft and the publishing industry, and the networking opportunities are second to none, so we hope many aspiring BAME children’s authors will apply for this scholarship. TBA’s own Katrina Charman won the Margaret Carey Scholarship in 2014, and here’s what she had to say about the experience:

I would never have been able to go to a conference without the scholarship. The best things for me were having access to industry professionals and what they had to say, the workshops, and meeting other writers face to face instead of online.

Katrina was unagented in 2014, and now she’s had five books published, with another ten under contract. We’d love to replicate some of that success with the BAME scholarship.

What’s your summer reading?


The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy — I’ve been waiting 20 years for another book by Roy.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour — It’s been recommended to me by all of my choosiest American YA-reader friends.

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

I thought Wolf Hollow was just about perfect.

Manuscripts, manuscripts, manuscripts!


Hitmakers: The Science of Popularity in the Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson — This was recommended to me by a friend after my recent obsessive book pushing to her of another non-fiction

The Radium Girls — which is the best book I’ve read in years.

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

After March: Book Three won this years Printz Award, I knew I had to read these from the start.

The World’s Greatest Detective by Caroline Carslon — Strongly recommended by an editor friend who shares my love of Midsomer Murders and Agatha Christie.

And also manuscripts, manuscripts, manuscripts!

Gemma Cooper’s Twitter
Gemma Cooper started her publishing career in New York, then spent several years working in London, and now lives in Chicago. She works with authors based all over the world who write for every age of children – from picture books to young adult, fiction and non-fiction. Gemma has a soft spot for all types of middle-grade fiction, young adult romance and funny chapter books.


Molly Ker Hawn’s Twitter

Molly Ker Hawn is based in London and works with authors and publishers in the UK, the US, and all over the world. Before joining the Bent Agency in 2012, her career included editorial roles at Chronicle Books and Penguin Young Readers Group USA. Her list focuses on middle-grade and young adult fiction that’s inventive, well-crafted, and rich with emotion.

The Bent Agency website
The Bent Agency blog

Sue Wallman, author of Lying About Last Summer and See How They Lie, organises the conference scholarships.

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