SCBWI-BI CONFERENCE 2019 Illustrator Keynote Mini Grey!

We’re getting excited about this year's SCBWI-BI Telling Tales conference, writes co-chair Sonia Speight. As it approaches we’d like to introduce our Illustrator Keynote speaker, Mini Grey.

Mini is an award-winning author-illustrator, who has won the Greenaway medal for The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon, The Smarties Gold Prize for Biscuit Bear, and The Boston Horn Book Award for Traction Man is Here. She was also selected as one of Booktrust’s Best New Illustrators in 2008. Her work complements our theme this year in so many ways, from her retelling of nursery rhymes and fairytales such as The Pea and the Princess, to her addition of magic and imagination to the everyday, with stories such as The Bad Bunnies’ Magic Show, Egg Drop and Biscuit Bear.

How important is magic in your work?

I’ve spent my life hoping for something truly magical to happen, something inexplicable and miraculous, like my cat suddenly talking to me, or finding another world behind a lamp post or at the back of a wardrobe. And it never has. I’ve discovered that the place where magic happens like it properly should, is in books. Picture books are theatres of magic where you can make anything happen.

Your work is a beautiful balance of words and pictures; what do you think is most important when 'telling tales'?

To tell a tale, you have to persuade your audience to come with you and accept the fantastic story you’re going to tell. To get your audience to believe in the unbelievable, you need to lead them in gently. So the familiar and the everyday and the tangible are a good starting place for travelling to the fantastical.

What's the most magical book you fell in love with?

The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis. It’s the first Narnia book, set before The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe has happened. Uncle Andrew is making magical green rings and yellow rings which can take you to other worlds and back again. Diggory and Polly, our protagonists, find themselves transported to ‘The Wood Between the Worlds’ which is full of pools and they discover that each pool is a different world you could step into. I loved that idea.

If you could take something modern into a mythical world what would you take?

I would take a camera to photograph the Minotaur or whoever I met.

And, if you could bring something magical or mythical into the modern world what would you bring and why?

Please can I have a magic wand that I can wave and bring down atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to 350ppm, halt deforestation, and make it so the Brexit referendum never happened.

If you could be any mythical character who would you be?

I’d like to try out being a flying thing like a pegasus or a hippogriff.

If you could live your everyday in any of your books, which would you choose?

Offley Street where my book Hermelin is set, is a combination of a street I used to live in and the street I live in now. I might choose to spend some time with Space Dog on the SS Kennel, exploring the Outer Spooniverse.


Soni Speight is a freelance illustrator and designer who also champions the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign. She has taken over from Patrick to coordinate the illustrators speakers, sessions and reviews for the conference. Her aim is to ensure the illustrators and author-illustrators, unpublished and published alike, have plenty to be inspired by this year. | @sonispeight


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

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