Only 119 sleeps until a pack of writers and illustrators invade Manchester! Co-organiser Alison Gardiner reports.


Excitement is building, your conference team is working hard behind the scenes; although less like MI5 in suits and dark glasses, more T-shirts, readers and an emergency muffin to hand. This year’s theme is Finding Your Power, celebrating writers in all their varied glory and the power of the written word. 


If you’re new to the conference, fear not! Everyone is extremely friendly and chatty, so you’ll feel comfortable asking questions in events and talking to anyone. Writers further along the line are generally very happy to advise those pre-published. We’re all seeking the same: advice, support, friendship, to be heard. It may not be the same boat – some are kayakers, others Sunseekers – but we’re all on the same journey, heading somewhere wonderful, fuelled by rich imagination and fertile minds.


The programme in its full glory appears on Booking Opening Day: 1st August 2022. We are thrilled to have some fabulous speakers including Jim Field who illustrated for J. K. RowlingCaryl Hart and multi award-winning authors Alex Wheatle MBE and A M Dassu

Decide which of the multiple options you most want to attend from the fabulous range and nab a slot early. Some events have a number limit, like Steve and Connie Hartley’s performance one, so snap them up quick; be crocodilian! Even better, book the conference early and you’ll be entered for a chance to win your conference fee back.


Be crocodilian! Snap events up. (Photo credit: artwork from The Enormous Crocodile
 by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake,

We’ll feature the ever popular agent and editor one to ones which is a wonderful opportunity to talk with an industry professional face-to-face, get specific feedback on your work, be able to ask any burning questions. Many writers have found their agents at SCBWI events as an added bonus. On first meeting an agent at an event, I’d expected them to be more robot than human, clearly bored, with one hand clamped around a huge stamp with ‘REJECT’ on it in red. I found that they’re actually human, charming, and generally want to be helpful. (Yes, I was shocked too!)


We’ve invited all our industry professionals to join us during the conference days so everybody has a chance to meet them and chat. Although sitting over lunch is not the best time to pitch agents, a quiet request to view your work and handing over a business card is appropriate. Thus it may be worthwhile printing business cards with your name, book title and contact details or bookmarks which could include a short blurb on the back. Leave your whole MS at home, though; save the planet and email it later. Agents are allergic to being festooned with paper. (That’s possibly not a real medical fact…)


The weekend is a fabulous chance for discussion, linking up with your network, meeting a wide range of dynamic, creative creatures. It is magnificent to be able to spend a relaxed lump of time with people who are steeped in creating and are endlessly fascinated by all the nuances of writing or illustrating. At conference you don’t need to worry whether the person you’re chatting to cares about plot structure – they really do. Leave behind the people with only a polite, possibly glancing interest – best friend, aunt, the dog to whom you read your work – and immerse yourself in a world where to create is enormously important and endlessly fascinating.


The Mass Book Launch party is always fun for the gregarious as well as the less outgoing types. This year we’ll be dressing up as ‘Manchester Through the Ages’ which includes raves, so suddenly you’re vindicated for keeping those flares and psychedelic waistcoat! Dressing up is optional and as many people do as don’t; be wild or normal – you’ll fit right in.


The 2019 Mass Book Launch party cake

Equipment to bring? The only thing of importance is what’s inside your skull: willingness to learn, engage, soak up the atmosphere, network, ask questions, enjoy, experience. Bring a notebook and pen to record all the fabulous information that’ll be presented. Also a re-usable coffee cup if you have one to hand, although MMU assures us they have cups so if you forget, you won’t have to lie under the tea urn with your mouth open. 


Beforehand please grab our Twitter hashtag (#SCBWIcon22) so you can share the experience with the world. And think about volunteering. Natalie Yates would be very grateful to have extra input on the day. She’s on Please approach her if you feel able help. It’s fun, enriching, absorbing, great for making friends – in short, volunteers are terrific, (unbiased view clearly).


Book where you’re going to stay well in advance to ensure you get your first choice. As MMU is so central in Manchester, there are many excellent places to stay within easy striking distance.


In terms of getting there, it’s a fine opportunity for doing some writing on a train or it may be worthwhile linking up with other people in your network to car share. It’s all about the environment! Dress comfortably, even Dolly Parton would be there in jeans and a t-shirt, trust me – although maybe with sparkly high heels.


Mainly, be prepared to have fun, laugh, learn and come away refreshed, stimulated, inspired and equipped to master your work. 


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