What does it take to put together a virtual weekend for writers? Well, that’s easy: keynote speakers, discussions, masterclasses, feedback opportunities, a wide range of authors, and a sprinkle of good luck. Georgina Lippiett reveals what lies in store over November's YA-Hoo weekend.


A weekend like this only really comes to life when it has that sense of community and collaboration we all know makes SCBWI feel so special. Writers and illustrators are generous souls, and when we come together we learn and share and are often energised by the connection. That was at the heart of our thinking as Debbie Edwards, Holly Butcher and I put together the programme for this year’s YA weekend, coming up on November 13th and 14th.


Like tea, cocktails or a reading list, a SCBWI conference is all about getting the right blend. We’ve spent the past few months talking to agents, authors and members about what’s important to writers in the changed world we now live in. The same themes kept coming up: the challenges for debut authors bringing out their novel in these unprecedented times; how the pandemic is shaping what agents are looking for; sex in YA, which is now more of a minefield than ever; and just how hard those first pages need to work in an age of uncertainty. So, we collected a community of agents, editors, authors (and even an educational sexpert) to guide us through these crucial areas.


Of course, Keynotes are still, well, key. The vital and downright wonderful Malorie Blackman OBE has agreed to get our weekend going in style. She has written more than 70 books for children and YA, has won every award going, and written for TV shows including Byker Grove and Doctor Who. It’s such a thrill, and I still have to pinch myself to think that Malorie said yes. Kicking off day two is Jasper Fforde. His writing is quirky and inventive as well as insightful and skilfully crafted; just look at his Last Dragonslayer series. He has a unique voice and cracking sense of humour; we can’t wait!


Panel discussions always play a crucial role in bringing everyone together. We worked hard to get a great range of people to sit on our Agents Panel, Debut Panel and Sex in YA Panel. Meanwhile, our First Pages Panel is already busy going through submissions from delegates – although we’re always hungry for more and would love to see yours!


Workshops are a staple of a good writer’s conference too, for the simple reason that we all want to develop our craft. Whether we’re starting out, or have been working for years, there is always something new to learn. So, we are delighted to have a workshop on world-building with PM Freestone, and Character with Bryony Pearce.


For me, the great joy of putting together the SCBWI YA Conference is the huge range of people we get to meet. We talk to so many agents, publishers, aspiring writers and published professionals, all of them with insights and wisdom to share. And, of course, there are the people working behind the scenes, all volunteers, and all passionate about books and stories; like Soni Speight, the extraordinary artist who designed the fabulous artwork you can see on our webpage; Sean Noonan, the tech-wizard of the North, who built the page and the booking system; and Ashley Taylor, Queen of Zoom and calmer of nerves. So many people, collaborating to create a community. And we would love you to be part of it. 

There’s only two weeks until the event (November 13th and 14th), and one week left to book. We sincerely hope you can join us to learn, share and connect. You are what will make our YA-hoo weekend so special.
See the complete programme here:



Debbie Edwards

Holly Butcher

Georgina Lippiett

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