SCBWI-BI CONFERENCE 2022: First-timer Tips


With the SCBWI-BI Conference 2022 coming up in November — this time in Manchester — illustrator Colin Robinson has put together some helpful tips for first-time attendees.


There is a lot going on and a lot of different people involved in organising the conference so it can get quite complex. I have given tips under three headings:


A. Preparation for Conference


B. At Conference


C. After Conference


Preparation for Conference


1. Book your place as soon as you know you are able to go. (Bookings are expected to go live on July 27th.) This cash and time commitment will help focus your mind on making the best of the experience.


2. Accommodation. This is not part of your conference booking. Manchester is a popular place so book your accommodation as soon as you have booked your place at the conference.


3. Schedule – In the next couple of weeks, find out the options and choices available by visiting the SCBWI website and by following whatever links or references you can find about the conference.


4. Make your choices – so that you can then simplify things and not be overwhelmed by the amount of activities going on, some of which won’t apply to you.


5. Book your choices early if places are limited to avoid disappointment. One example is the opportunity to have a 1-
1 appointment with an agent or publisher. This could be as an artist or an illustrator. For either of these a fair amount of preparation is necessary. My choices meant preparing a portfolio and a dummy picture book to show.


6. Invest in a re-usable portable coffee cup to take along to the conference, this will save throwing away paper or plastic cups and you will immediately feel some satisfaction!


7. Take along paper and pen to make a note of spoken gems and visual diamonds you will encounter, along with useful names and resources.



At Conference

If you know no-one at the conference look out for opportunities to make friends before the conference itself begins. In 2019 the conference, which was in Winchester, started on Saturday but there were a few events on Friday.

Drink and Draw was one that I was able to attend. It proved to be ideal for me in that I was reassured that the conference would be full of friendly people, passionate about writing and illustrating children’s books. One of the games we played was to use our name initials and combine an emotion with an animal character (see below).

Registration and conference folder: at registration on Saturday I received a conference badge and a full schedule for the conference in a smart folder. I felt reassured by this as now I was able to have a full picture of all the activities and select the ones I wished to attend.

Unfortunately I managed to miss the second item “meet your network," which apparently took place in the dining room! Instead, I was trying to find where different rooms were to save time later.

It is important to check when any 1-1 appointment time is and where it will take place as these can run concurrently with a workshop or talk. If this is the case then allow time to arrive at your 1-1 and make a discreet exit from the session you happen to be in.

I had already put my portfolio on display so this needed to be picked up first in order to take it to the 1-1.


Food and Drink: tea and coffee are available between some of the sessions. Here’s your chance to use the portable cup you brought.

Check what meals and refreshments will be provided by consulting your folder schedule. I enjoyed a vegan lunch at the conference but was later surprised to find that dinner would not be provided on Saturday evening. I found plenty of restaurants to choose from in Winchester town centre.

The Saturday Party: Beware! The party was not held at Winchester University, and this may well be the case in Manchester. Do ask if you need help finding your way to the party.

There is time to prepare for the party which can involve dressing up if you feel inclined. I had imagined loud music and lots of drinking but it was not that kind of party at all. Instead we were entertained with tasteful live music from a saxophone quartet.

It was not then a rave or disco, but a celebration of the successes of a community of writers and illustrators who had been published in the previous year. This included the Crystal Kite Award and the Mass Book Launch. It is also a good opportunity to socialise.

The Sunday Sessions: after recognising the amazing contributions made to SCBWI by generous volunteers, a further choice of excellent workshops and talks were available before lunch. Then still more helpful and informative sessions through the afternoon.

The conference ended with coffee and light refreshment with an opportunity to say farewell.


After Conference

Allocate some time to sort, summarise and appreciate all you have been enthused by at the conference by reading your notes and maybe adding a few more.

That way you can make sure the guidance and inspiration does not fade away but comes alive again when you refer back.


*All images by Colin Robinson



Colin Robinson has re-launched his career as an illustrator, after being “on hold” since he became a single parent some twenty five years ago. Now the family has grown up he is in a position to return to children’s book illustration. He has previously written and illustrated five picture books with Bodley Head, Blackie and Penguin. Drawing has always continued to be an important part of everyday life. It is his way of appreciating and giving value to what he sees and to life in general.


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