This week, Anita Loughrey interviews Anne-Marie Perks who joined SCBW in 1991 – before the ‘I’ was added to SCBWI! Anne-Marie has been a continuous member ever since, for about 28 years.

I can’t remember what month I joined but I do know I attended my first SCBW conference at Venice Beach that year. My daughter was still breast-feeding, so my husband came with me, along with the baby and my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. He met me at breaks and meals so I could feed the baby!

At the time I joined, there were no courses on how to become an illustrator for children’s books. I had been an art director, freelance designer and illustrator for ten years and, with the birth of my daughters, I wanted to finally get a chance to illustrate books, but how? SCBW(I) answered that question for me. From my first Los Angeles Conference, I met amazing friends that I still have to this day! I learned so much. My first book and agent was a result of friendships and contacts I made at the Los Angeles Conference and the incredible SCBWI retreat in Monterey. When potential illustrator members ask me what SCBWI has to give, I say,
Inspiration, information and education alongside life-long friendships with others as passionate about the art and craft of children’s books as you are.
In California, I had my hands full with four children ranging from 13 years to infant, yes, teenagers to toddlers! Though I was active in SCBWI, I didn’t have time to participate much as a volunteer.

Book covers by Anne-Marie

When I moved with my British husband and daughters to the UK, I knew I was starting all over again. I already had three books published in the US, but the difference between the look and feel of children’s publishing in the US and UK was miles apart in 2000. My agent couldn’t represent an artist in another country, and I knew no one here. This is where SCBWI came in. I contacted Natascha Biebow and met with people involved with starting SCBWI initiatives at the time from a membership that I believe counted less than 100. I took on the role of Illustrator Coordinator to meet other illustrators and to get to know the children’s book industry in the UK. This led to me discovering that I am passionate about organising events for illustrators, to pass on the enthusiasm and passion I felt as a new member and still feel as an ongoing member. Though I’ve stepped down from the role of Illustrator Coordinator, I still help where I can by organising the Illustrator Masterclasses which followed our success with seven annual Illustrator Days. I met Bridget Marzo in 2002, the International Illustrator Coordinator at the time, for our first Illustrator Day at APU Cambridge, hosted by the lovely Martin Salisbury, who was then course leader of the emerging MA in Children’s Illustration. I am also still involved with an amazing team, John Shelley, Bridget Marzo and Clare Tovey for the Biennial SCBWI Illustrator Member Exhibition.

Anne-Marie at a SBWI-BI Conference comic workshop
In 2018 I stepped down from the volunteer role of Illustrator Coordinator for the British Isles after taking it on in 2001.

SCBWI led me to my first agent and to my first commission as a children’s book illustrator. How I got there? Attending the annual Los Angeles SCBWI Conference and annual Monterey Retreat where I received lots of valuable feedback from industry professionals and learned lots about the industry in the US. When I moved to the UK, SCBWI continued to give me invaluable networking opportunities within a creative community.

The friendships I’ve made and the satisfaction I’ve felt when I hear back from illustrators attending the many illustrator events over the years on how it has inspired and helped them. It doesn’t hurt either that I have a very good collection of signed books.

Over the last 17 to 18 years I’ve proudly helped grow SCBWI here in the UK beginning with Illustrator Days. Starting with a small team, we organised the first annual Conference for Writers and Illustrators in Winchester and I continued to work on the conference team for several years. I’ve run too many illustrator competitions to count as part of the conference; worked with another small team to get the illustrator competition going with Undiscovered Voices; started and still run the Illustrator Masterclasses (four a year); and developed with another great team what is now the Biennial Illustrator Member Exhibition which came out of the annual juried Illustrator Showcase. We’ve also sought out the opportunity to show our annual Showcase in venues across the UK including Seven Stories in Newcastle and during the Edinburgh Literature Festival. Finding new ground to promote and give exposure to our creative illustrator members inspired the move from an annual Showcase to the Biennial Exhibition. As SCBWI in the UK grew, it needed another model to run and maintain all these amazing events, so I formed the Illustrator Core Committee made up of illustrator volunteers in our region.

Volunteering is a lot of work, but it is rewarding. Getting the right balance of giving back and keeping your own career going is always the challenge! Over the years I’ve received much joy out of being part of the adventure called SCBWI.

Now that I’ve stepped back on my time volunteering, I’m immersing myself in my personal work; finishing my graphic novel as well as producing a body of work for gallery sales. Did I mention I’m also finally getting around to a series of 2D and stop motion animations? My final message from my years with SCBWI is to follow your storytelling heart and know there are a lot of people right there with you in SCBWI.

* All pics credited to Anne-Marie Perks

Anita Loughrey is SCBWI's Membership Coordinator. Anita writes fiction for all ages, graphic novels, audio books, teacher resources, educational fiction, non-fiction and creative non-fiction on a wide variety of subjects for a wide range of publishers. She has over 85 books published in the UK and many more worldwide. She also writes two regular double-page spreads for the national writing magazine Writers’ Forum and teaches creative writing.

You can find out more about Anita Loughrey on her website and on her blog. Or follow her on Twitter @amloughrey and Instagram @anitaloughrey

1 comment:

  1. Lovely to hear more about your career and thank you for all the amazing work! You introduced me to SCBWI and the children's book world.


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