SPECIAL FEATURE SCBWI-BI's special relationship with Edinburgh Book Festival

SCBWI Scotland's co-Network Organiser, Elizabeth Frattaroli tells the tale of a match made in Edinburgh...

Once upon a time, way back in 1983, the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF) was born. This was originally a biennial celebration and in its inaugural year there were 30 author events. In 1997, it became a yearly festival and now there are over 900 events programmed for people of all ages as Edinburgh's Charlotte Square (and for the past couple of years also part of George Street) is transformed into a magical tented village, where over quarter of a million book lovers and writers from around the world descend.

In the author’s yurt this year (a fantastic place, where everywhere you look you will find a favourite writer or two getting mic’d up, drinking tea and coffee and squeezing into corners going over notes for forthcoming events), Janet Smyth, children’s programming director of the EIBF, said she had always loved her SCBWI coffees and chat. At the end of each year we meet with EIBF to start throwing around ideas, topics and suggested authors who we hope might be put forward by their publishers for the following August, and who would fit in to the broader festival theme. Of course, it’s even better when we can include a few of our SCBWI friends! But how did all this come about? Are you sitting comfortably…?

Enter SCBWI.

In 2014, Scottish SCBWI Network Organisers, Sheila Averbuch and Louise Kelly, met Janet Smyth  to discuss the first SCBWI event at the festival. This was a fantastic opportunity, but also a little scary because SCBWI was charged a significant sum to rent a private space. Therefore, when SCBWI-BI agreed to underwrite things, it was a huge vote of confidence (and meant Sheila and Louise could sleep a little easier). That year SCBWI ran a ‘Festivals Uncovered’ event, talking to agents and editors about how festivals work. And so began the start of a beautiful friendship.

Louise Kelly and Sheila Averbuch (credit: Elizabeth Frattaroli)
At their follow-up meeting, Sheila and Louise asked if there was any way SCBWI could be involved without paying such a huge fee given that we are a non-profit organisation. Janet was sympathetic to this and so donated a space to SCBWI in 2015, although we were not allowed at that time to promote it as an official EIBF event, so it wasn’t in the programme. Instead we sold the tickets ourselves as SCBWI for ‘How to Survive Being Published’ with author Jane Yolen in 2015 and ‘What Editors Want’ with Barry Cunningham of Chicken House, Sally Polson of Floris Books and Lauren Fortune of Scholastic in 2016.

By this time, we had shown a good track record to EIBF and proved that SCBWI can bring in a crowd. Additionally, Janet and her team could see that some of the great new children’s writers of the future were more than likely amongst our members. This was reinforced when Kathryn Evans won the First Book Award in 2016 for More of Me, which was the first time that a YA book had done so.

Kathryn Evans posing for her official EIBF photo by photographer Chris Close (credit: Sarah Broadley)
Thankfully Janet took a leap of faith and agreed to have a programmed event in the EIBF brochure for 2017, in conjunction with SCBWI. By this time, Sarah Broadley and Anita Gallo were the Scottish network organisers and they chaired ‘The Great Gender Debate’ with Kathryn Evans, fresh off her EIBF success, alongside David Levithan and Jonathan Stroud.

Anita Gallo and Sarah Broadley (credit: Elizabeth Frattaroli)
By 2018, Justin Davies and I were the new Network Organisers who chaired SCBWI members Candy Gourlay and Elizabeth Wein, alongside Scottish author, Lari Don, in a panel discussion on ‘Freedom to Read, Freedom to Write’.

Justin Davies, Elizabeth Frattaroli and Janet Smyth (credit: Elizabeth Frattaroli)
Following a meeting with Janet later on that year, where we mentioned that we were organising a Scribble & Scrawl Crawl at the new V&A in Dundee, we were invited to be involved in three joint SCBWI/EIBF events for the first time, to include a Scribble & Scrawl Crawl around Charlotte Square led by Justin (for the scribble) and local SCBWI illustrator Jill Calder (for the scrawl).

Jill Calder and Justin Davies (credit: Sarah Broadley)
Our other events this past August were ‘How to Be A Writer for Life’, where Justin and I chatted with David Almond and Lauren James in the children’s programme, and SCBWI’s first event in the main programme, a panel discussion with two local SCBWI author/illustrators, Morag Hood and Jill Calder, on ‘Picturing Pathways to the Future.’

Janet has now left the EIBF for the National Galleries of Scotland and we wish her all the best in her new role. We are extremely grateful to the EIBF for their ongoing support of SCBWI Scotland and for inviting SCBWI members from around the globe to be part of the largest and most dynamic festival of its kind in the world. We look forward to our relationship with them continuing to go from strength to strength.

Ola Wojtkiewicz of EIBF said of our association with the festival:

The Edinburgh International Book Festival team are delighted with the contributions from writers Elizabeth Frattaroli and Justin Davies, members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, to the Festival 2019 programme. Our audiences enjoyed exploring how books can play a vital role in equipping children with knowledge to better understand their place in the world. A frank discussion about sustaining a writing career in a hugely competitive environment was also appreciated by many. We hope to offer a popular Scribble and Scrawl session next year as they proved hugely successful.

*Header image: Charlotte Square in all its EIBF glory (credit: Elizabeth Frattaroli)

Elizabeth Frattaroli is joint network coordinator of SCBWI Scotland and writes mainly YA and upper MG novels. Her last YA manuscript, 16 Again, was longlisted in The Bath Children’s Novel Award and the Mslexia Children’s Novel Award, and her latest YA WIP won the 2019 T.C. Farries Trophy at the Scottish Association of Writers annual conference this year.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I’ve always wondered how it fits together. I’d love to go one year.


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