SCBWI-BI CONFERENCE 2019 Fast feedback

Terrified of speed pitching? Don't be! Conference co-chair Tracy Liennard recalls her first adrenalin-fuelled SCBWI pitching event and invites you to this year's speed pitching session. Plus: the Friday Night Critique.

You have written anything between hundreds and hundreds of thousands of words of your novel. But one sentence has you wrangling over each word more than any other. The elevator pitch.

While it is your story that gets you published, your elevator pitch can be the gateway to having your story considered.

I remember the nerves and the excitement I had when taking part in the SCBWI Pitch Perfect event in London. And how the nerves had transformed into adrenalin after pitching and receiving feedback from children’s literary agents. I immediately wanted to do it again! After all, I’d had the chance to pitch my work to a literary agent actively looking for new authors, I’d honed my pitch even more and I got feedback on my ideas. What’s not to love?!

After all, I’d had the chance to pitch my work to a literary agent actively looking for new authors, I’d honed my pitch even more and I got feedback on my ideas.

The SCBWI conference 2018 was my first experience of running the speed pitching session and I recognised the same expressions of nerves and excitement I had felt the year before. This time it was my job to explain how the event would work and to keep everyone to time — a challenging task when you are moving everyone on after only a handful of minutes.

It was an intense one hour and twenty minutes; once an attendee had pitched to an agent they moved onto another chair and let the next person pitch. It looked like a strange game of musical chairs but with speed pitching instead of music. I listened in on a range of pitches. Agents were warm and enthusiastic, as you would expect from industry professionals who love children’s books. In fact, when I rang the bell to move attendees on, the last ones to stop talking were the agents.

Agent Alice Williams.

This year we are lucky enough to have Alice Williams and Catherine Pellegrino (both editors) as well as Joe Marriot (Penguin Random House) and Emily Lamm (Hachette).

Authors will have the chance to pitch to two of the four, for four minutes each. The advice I would give is practise, practise, practise. Try out your elevator pitch on your other half, your neighbour, the bus driver. Each time you do it you hone the pitch and it feels more natural saying it.

Four minutes isn’t long, so if you want useful feedback, ensuring you have a dazzling and well-constructed elevator pitch is a must. Listen carefully and remember what the agent tells you. Maybe take a notebook or use your phone to write down what they say straight after the pitch session. Relax and enjoy yourself! Our agents are very nurturing souls. It really is a great opportunity to pitch and get feedback on your work or even the opportunity to get picked up by an agent.

Joe Marriott.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up to the conference and sign up to the speed pitching session now. Numbers are limited for this event and it’s run on a first-come first-served basis — so get going!

Full details can be found here.

Friday Night Critique

And if you’re hungry for feedback from your peers, the ever-popular Friday night critique is for you. Over 80 conference writers and illustrators come to the Critique Meet and it’s the perfect opportunity to get more detailed feedback on your manuscript or illustrations.

It’s also a chance to meet old friends and make new ones before the conference even starts. Writers, if you want to be involved, your manuscripts/extracts have to be submitted by 6th October 2019.  Illustrators, you have a little more leeway, as art work can be brought on the day.

This year, attendees will meet at the university from 6pm for a prompt 6.30pm start. It’s a fantastic way to get into the spirit of the conference. And once the session is over, why not continue the conversation over dinner?

The Friday Night dinner is open to everyone, not just those who attend the critique — just be sure to book on the website in advance. Full details, including menu options, can be found here.

*Header image: Speedy Gonzales, Warner Bros.,


Tracy Liennard has been a member of SCBWI for three years and this is her second year on the Conference Committee. As co-chair she has been supporting the speaker co-ordinators and finance function and will be hosting the speed dating session. Her day job as a civil servant involves working on the challenges of Brexit. Everything else in life seems simple by comparison. She has spent enough time drinking tea in cafes to have just finished writing her first young adult manuscript. She also writes picture books.


Fran Price is Events Editor for Words & Pictures, the online magazine for SCBWI-BI. Contact her at

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