EVENTS SCBWI Conference 2023 – Your guide to industry professional 1-1's


This year’s SCBWI Conference taking place on Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 November at Manchester Metropolitan University - is fast-approaching. In addition to a wide range of talks, hands-on workshops and networking opportunities we will, once again, be giving writers and illustrators the opportunity to pitch their work to industry professionals AND receive instant feedback.

Let's talk about 1-1's: What to expect and how to prepare for your 1-1 


WRITERS (and Author-Illustrators) 

There’s an impressive line-up of agents and editors offering professional reviews to authors (and author/illustrators) this year. Once you’ve booked your conference ticket you will have the option of booking a 1-1 review. You can then choose your own agent/editor and time slot – giving you the ability to check the availability of the person you would like to see and select a time that doesn’t clash with a talk/workshop that you want to attend.

If you would like a 1-1 review with someone from a literary agency, this year you can choose from: Jessica Hare, Becky Bagnell, Camille Burns, Catherine Pellegrino, Penny Holroyde, Callen Martin and Clare Wallace. All types of children’s writing – from Picture Books to Young Adult – are catered for, though you must read each agent’s biography carefully to see which specific categories each is open to critiquing.

Polish your pitch.

But perhaps you’ve already signed with an agent, or don’t feel ready to submit your work to agents just yet. Maybe you’re looking for a purely editorial critique, in which case you may prefer to see Anthony Hinton (Commissioning Editor at David Fickling Books) or Stephanie King (freelance editor and former Commissioning Editor for Usborne). Both are hugely experienced professionals who are keen to read your work – and commissioning editors, like agents, are on the look out for the next big thing too.

Once you’ve booked your 1-1 author/author-illustrator review, details of what to send will be emailed to you. As a general guide, submissions are: a full Picture Book text (or author/illustrator portfolio), or first chapter/s and synopsis of a Chapter Book, Middle Grade or Young Adult (no more than 2K). Non-fiction and Graphic Novels are also welcome, though their submission guidelines are slightly different. Your work doesn’t have to be complete in order to book a 1-1, a work-in-progress is fine.

If you have any further questions about author 1-1s at this year’s conference please feel free to email Jo Dearden

Can you hook an agent with one sentence?

ILLUSTRATOR (and Author-Illustrator) Portfolios

If you’re an illustrator or an author/illustrator looking for personal feedback, this year we’re thrilled to have secured the services of Ness Wood, (award winning art director, book designer, lecturer and educator), Emma Layfield, (Editor and Picture Book Development Director North, Hachette Children’s Books), Libby Hamilton (publisher with Rocket Bird Books) and Tiffany Leeson (Creative Director of Farshore Books).

No matter what stage of your career you’ve reached, whether you’re a published or yet to be published illustrator, the idea of showing your work to experienced industry professionals can be scary. But if you want to develop your craft and progress in the world of children’s books it can be an incredibly useful step.
Make your portfolio shine.

Do's & Don'ts

Firstly, you’ll only have a limited time to show your work, so we recommend you bring a maximum of two of the following to be reviewed:

• a portfolio of 15 examples of your work

• one book dummy with rough illustrations plus text

• up to two finished picture book texts

• One developed storyboard with thumbnail illustrations plus text up to 5 pages (maximum 50 frames) of a graphic novel or comic book project

If you choose to show a physical portfolio, it’s best to display printed examples of your work rather than original artwork, for security purposes. If you don’t fancy carrying a portfolio around, these days it’s quite acceptable to display your work on a laptop or iPad as long as it’s clearly displayed to maximise its impact.

The biggest risk is not taking a risk.

Choosing what work to include is always tricky

It’s best not to overwhelm the reviewer with too many styles. Choose one, or at most two, that you’re comfortable working in, and that best demonstrate your unique approach to illustration. Being able to show that you can draw children and animals in a variety of poses and facial expressions is of course very important, and remember to show work that’s appropriate for children’s publishing. Advertising and design work, no matter how professional and accomplished, might not work in the context of picture books.

For more advice on putting together a portfolio, you might like to check out the following:

• John Shelley’s recent article in Words & Pictures
Portfolio Advice
Surviving your first portfolio review by Jane Heinrichs from Words & Pictures
Why booking a portfolio review is a great idea by Alex Wilson from Words & Pictures
Portfolio intensive feedback by Trish Philips

If you have any questions/queries about Illustrator 1-1s at the SCBWI conference, please email:
Mike Brownlow at or
Paul Morton at

How to book a 1-1 Review

For an extra £40 (£45 for non-members) you can book a 1-1 Review once you’ve purchased your ticket. This is your chance for a face-to-face meeting with an industry professional who is entirely focussed on you and your work. Remember – it’s up to you to do your research so that you select the person who is right for you. There is information on the conference section of the website to help you decide.

Make sure you make a note of your slot time and the reviewer’s name. This should be pinned up at the conference, but it can get a little busy during the weekend so it is good if you have this information to hand. You’ll need to arrive there 5 minutes before your slot time where a friendly face will be there to help.

As you may feel a little starstruck when it comes to your moment, you should consider recording the conversation on your phone (check that your reviewer is okay with this first). Industry professionals are regular people but, if you don’t meet many the situation may feel a little overwhelming, and you may not take in everything they say. They might give you written notes but mostly it’s an informal conversation about your work.

Fifteen minutes with an agent, editor, publisher or art director may not sound like long but it will give invaluable industry professional insight and advice, and it could even be career changing.


See you in Manchester!

*Header: Ed Vere


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

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