INDUSTRY INSIDERS The intrepid journey from writer to author

Susan Sandercock shares her reflections on the recent Industry Insiders event with panel, Jo Williamson, Becky Walker, Peter Bunzl and M.G. Leonard.

Writers – we’re all different, but we share certain similarities. At heart, we’re fragile souls.

A common question people ask when I tell them I’m a writer is ‘How do you deal with all those rejections?’ My response is often, ‘I’ve developed a rhino’s hide.’ But what of the delicate butterfly fluttering around within? Doubts and insecurities can crush and kill it, taking with it your creative drive.

The doubts and insecurities that tend to be unique to the creative industries are one of the main reasons I enjoy meeting other writers, along with the industry professionals who build their careers. From Writer to Author – The Intrepid Journey was an inspiring panel event featuring all aspects of children’s publishing.

To share their experiences of the creative process, first drafts, rewriting, responding to feedback and dealing with rejection were accomplished children’s writers Peter Bunzl (Cogheart series) and M.G. Leonard (Beetle Boy series). For the industry side and career aspect, there was Becky Walker, Commissioning Fiction Editor at Usborne, and literary agent Jo Williamson from Antony Harwood Ltd.

I am always interested to hear authors explore those burning questions and doubts we all have as writers: Am I good enough? Will I get published? Should I keep redrafting?! Both Peter and Maya (M.G. Leonard) were generous with sharing their writing journeys and practices, including discussing the benefits of having others read and give feedback on your work, confirming that copious rewrites are the norm (whew!), and emphasising the importance of nailing your genre. There was useful advice about submitting to agents and dealing with rejection – the key tip being to keep going!

It was invaluable to hear a Commissioning Editor’s take on working with writers and their stories, with Becky Walker discussing the importance of a book having a visual element. This was a valuable point, and one I hadn’t truly considered before.

Agent Jo Williamson shared her views on what makes a book marketable, and the process of working with a writer to get their books into the hands of readers. As an unagented writer, I found this insight into the nuts and bolts of the industry incredibly useful, and it is knowledge I aspire to put to good use one day soon.

Towards the end of the panel event, a fire alarm meant we had to be evacuated from the premises. This turned the planned Q&A session into an impromptu networking event at a nearby pub. I’ve always enjoyed the social aspect of being a SCBWI member, and having the opportunity to chat with industry professionals in an informal setting was an enjoyable extra.

On the train on the way home, the writer’s doubts were muted, replaced by messages gleaned from the evening: keep passionate about your writing, keep going, and . . . so long as you identify a genre and an audience for your work . . . it has every chance of getting out there and selling well.

The butterfly can live in harmony inside the rhino’s hide.


Susan’s short story 'Sea Canaries' is included in Tony Bradman’s acclaimed anthology, Under the Weather, she has been shortlisted in Undiscovered Voices and taken part in The Hook. She is a media lecturer in a sixth form college near Southend, which is a constant source of inspiration for her writing. Her other hobbies include baking; she once made 150 cupcakes in one week. 

Find Susan on Twitter.


Anne Boyere is part of the Words & Pictures events team, managed by Events Editor Fran Price. Contact:

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