SCBWI BI CONFERENCE 2022 Reflections

That's a wrap! The SCBWI BI 2022 Conference is done and dusted and it seems a fantastic time was had by all. Thank you to all the amazing SCBWI volunteers who made it happen. Here fellow SCBWI's Corryn Webb, Caroline Deacon, Emma Finlayson-Palmer and George Kirk share their experiences and insight. 

Photo credit: Caroline Deacon

Ten Time Attendee, George Kirk’s Top Ten

  1. It was in Manchester! Just a quick bus hop for me. 

  2. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’ve never squealed and squeezed so much in my life! It was an emotional roller coaster. 

  3. From the joys of reconnecting with old friends to keynote speaker Alex Wheatle’s emotional keynote.

  4. Diversity and inclusion were at the heart of the weekend from Alex’s phoenix-like rise from dyslexic, black child to award winning author, Darren Chetty and Karen Sands O’Connor’s in-depth knowledge and observations on the changing faces of children’s literature to Caryl Hart’s picture books highlighting challenging stereotypes.

  5. The conference was a safe space where discussions could be had, questions asked and lived experiences shared. 

  6. I am grateful for the honesty of those who felt they could both ask and answer difficult questions.

  7. It’s time to stop thinking about the ethnic minority and start recognising the global majority.

  8. Despite Covid SCBWI is thriving! There were so many exciting new faces, fresh talents and potential new friends.

  9. It was over far too quickly and I was left wanting more.

  10. But that’s okay, because there is more! We’re still bathing in the ripples, photos, blog posts and the stories that will be written, illustrated and published because of the conference.

So, did I find my power? Yes, it was everywhere I looked. My power comes from the creative, empathetic, diverse people that SCBWI surrounds me with. I am so proud to be one of them.


George Kirk is an author, teacher and school librarian from the North. She likes hats and ukuleles. If Twitter survives, you’ll find her @GeorgeKirkTales

 Double click to view in full size. Video Credit: Tita Berredo

Scholarship Recipient, Corryn Webb

I was very fortunate to attend my first SCBWI conference this weekend on a full scholarship. My aim was to focus on improving my writing and take in all the information I could as I prepare to enter the trenches and pitch my first solo undertaking, a graphic novel.

Unaided by my constant companion, anxiety, and hindered by my neurodivergence I was very much out of my comfort zone struggling with social interactions and sensory overloads - I think perhaps making the cloakroom also a quiet room could help similarly disposed attendees in the future. However, everyone from organisers to attendees were warm and encouraging and it made it much more manageable.

I am having a hard time thinking of a stand-out moment, with such inspiring keynote speakers and an itinerary that had me wishing I could clone myself, it was a high standard from start to finish. My highlight would have to be Don’t lose the Plot with Sarah Grant, hearing the breakdown of her approach to plotting with post-it notes has me completely inspired and I can’t wait to carve out some time to try it out.

I think what really took me by surprise was the sheer volume of support and solidarity, encouragement, critique, knowledge and contacts were shared in abundance with no expected return and it really did make me feel like I was part of a wonderful community.


Corryn Webb is a Welsh freelance illustrator based in the rugged mountains beside the frigid seas of the North Wales coast in the UK.


Sights of Manchester, Photo credit: Caroline Deacon

Conference Newbie, Emma Finlayson-Palmer

As a member of many years but a conference newbie it was wonderful to finally put so many friendly faces to the names I’ve known online for so many years. It was especially exciting to be attending for my debut year, as part of the mass book launch, a highlight of which was having the Autumn Moonbeam book cover as part of the gorgeous, and very tasty, launch cake, and seeing my books on sale over the weekend.

Alex Wheatle’s opening Keynote speech was a brilliant way to start the weekend. An inspiring talk about his writing journey and life where books have always been his sanctuary, with an overarching message of always believing in yourself and reading being a solace and refuge.

The whole weekend was packed full of inspirational and informative talks and workshops. A few particularly useful to me were Power and Politics in YA with Danielle Jawando, Alex Wheatle and Louisa Reid left me feeling excited to follow my passions, write from the heart and tell the stories I want to tell.

Sue Wallman and Tracy Darnton shared brilliant insights into writing thrillers with their workshop ‘The Suspense is Killing Me’, with excellent exercises to develop characters, twists, settings and endings that leave readers wanting more.

My final workshop of the weekend was Writing in Verse with Louisa Reid. Louisa’s passion for poetry and word play was infectious, coupled with exercises that were really eye opening and has changed the way I look at my writing forever.


Emma Finlayson-Palmer runs #ukteenchat, a writing themed chat on Twitter; mentors for #WriteMentor and is one half of Word Witches, an editing and mentoring business.

Photo credit: Caroline Deacon

Third Time’s a Charm for Caroline Deacon

This was my third conference and even though Manchester is much closer to Edinburgh and therefore theoretically better for me, I did think I would miss Winchester - all that mooching around in the last footsteps of Jane Austen, spending too much money in the Christmas market, admiring the old buildings - but everything about Manchester was bigger and brighter.


We kicked off Friday afternoon with a library crawl and I immediately fell completely in love with this city. The fantastic history and heritage, the contrast between former industrial might and the new shiny glass - I walked around, as I do in Edinburgh, with my head bent back, mouth open, staring at the skyline.

In the evening we gathered at the Brewdog to socialise and indulge in yummy food. Something else to shout about - nice food! Winchester was all about school canteen dinners. MMU gave us great lunches and Saturday’s book launch was accompanied by a substantial sit down meal.

SCBWI conferences have always been friendly, buzzing, optimistic events, but at this one, after two years of absence, everything was amplified. New people were swept up into existing groups, old acquaintances and people only known through social media were hugged joyfully.

It’s hard to believe that the conference is organised entirely by volunteers. This one went incredibly smoothly and all of the keynote speakers were brilliant. (I think I’ve got a bit of a crush on Jim Field now).


Caroline Deacon has worked for a number of years as a journalist writing for popular magazines. She's also written five books on childcare, and Babycalming sold 65,000 copies. She is now writing Young Adult fiction.


Stephanie Cotela is the Network News & Events Editor for Words & Pictures magazine.


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