EVENTS Suffolk Children’s Literature Festival


SCBWI Central East returned to the University of Suffolk on 20 May for this year’s Children’s Literature Festival. Central East Organisers Sian Mole and Lindsey Scott report.

What a wonderful feeling to be back at the Waterfront Campus in Ipswich for this year’s Suffolk Children’s Literature Festival. The annual event, organised in partnership with the University of Suffolk, was even bigger than last year, with workshops available for PB authors and illustrators and MG/YA writers.

This year’s theme was WE ARE THE WILD, giving guests the chance to explore wild stories, wild adventures, and taking risks in their writing for children and young adults. After morning coffee, some goody bags, and a few animal masks designed for kids but embraced by adults, we set off for the first workshops!

Helen Boyle agent talk

The picture book offering began with the wonderfully wild non-fiction author and illustrator, Vassiliki Tzomaka. In her session, Vassiliki shared how her passion for growing one plant led to the creation of the Extreme Environments series, published by Thames and Hudson. We also had Vassiliki to thank for the festival’s incredible branding, which featured illustrations from her book, Hoot and Howl Across the Desert.

Middle grade writers were delighted to welcome back Sophie Green, author of the Potkin and Stubbs series, for a superbly spooky session on the nature of creepiness! Lots of fabulous practical tips were shared to give MG readers chills and thrills. Meanwhile, our young adult writers spent time with the inspirational Ashley Hickson-Lovence, whose forthcoming YA novel-in-verse, Wild East, will be published by Penguin in 2024. Ashley read an extract from his new book for the lucky attendees and guided them towards writing stories for young adults with flair and without fear.

Karen Jones from Dial Lane Books 

Next up for PB enthusiasts was the delightful writer and illustrator of wild picture books, Julia Groves. Julia talked about her stunning works such as Rainforest and I See the Sea, sharing her top tips for building and promoting an original illustration portfolio. MG writers were uplifted by the positivity and generosity of Dominique Valente, author of the Starfell series. In her talk, Dominque shared her publication journey, her love for grumpy monsters and quirky dragons, and how to persevere when writing that first novel. YA writers were dazzled by a swim in the deep with Natasha Bowen, New York Times bestselling author of Skin of the Sea and Soul of the Deep. Natasha revealed how her passion for fantasy mermaids and African history led her to create characters who don’t conform to past literary norms.

Lindsey Scott (right) with student helpers Molly Britton and Rose Gant

We then enjoyed lunch, a time to catch up, chat with authors, and share writing tips in the spacious Waterfront Building foyer overlooking the marina. Lots of lovely photos were taken, and several books were won thanks to the fantastic raffles organised by Dial Lane Books in Ipswich! To be part of such a vibrant and fun-loving community of writers and illustrators was an absolute pleasure.

Group photo

Lunch was followed by a 90-minute masterclass for some deep creative practice. Vassiliki and Julia joined forces for a practical PB workshop on making fiction and nonfiction picture books, enabling guests to start working on their own ideas and receive immediate feedback. Darragh Martin returned for another fun interactive workshop, taking everyone outside to explore techniques for engaging young audiences with the natural world. Annaliese Avery rolled the die in her adventurous YA session, engaging writers in the liberating process she used for her new YA book The Immortal Games. Plotting and setting were thoroughly dissected and everyone left feeling inspired to create their own wildly imaginative worlds.

Sian Mole (left) with guests

After another coffee break, we sat down to enjoy some sensational editor and agent talks from our very own Regional Advisor, Natascha Biebow, and Managing Agent at Pickled Ink, Helen Boyle. With over 25 years of experience commissioning and editing picture books, early readers, and young fiction, Natascha gave everyone brilliant tips for hooking editors and agents. Helen also brought her 20 years of experience in the children’s publishing industry to explain what an agent does and what exactly she looks for in submissions.

Vassiliki Tzomaka Picture Book workshop 

The day finished with a wonderful pitch event, giving selected entrants the chance to receive valuable feedback on their story openings from the writers’ panel. Our warmest congratulations to everyone who had their work selected, and our thanks to all of our incredible guests for making the day such a warm and truly wild learning adventure.

We hope to see you at SCLF2024!

*All images courtesy of Sian Mole and Lindsey Scott 


Lindsey Scott is Senior Lecturer and Course Leader of the MA Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Suffolk. She loves MG fiction, especially funny and spooky stories.

Sian Mole is a library assistant at the Open University and lives in Cambridgeshire. She enjoys reading and writing MG horror as she likes to be scared — but not too much! She also believes you can't beat a good picture book.


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

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