SCBWI CONFERENCE Good news stories from the past



We are not super excited for the SCBWI Conference for no reason! It can be life changing for some. Read about two authors who turned a corner in their journey by attending one of the past conferences.


Marie Basting



You hear it said a lot: talent and dedication aside, the difference between a published and unpublished writer is luck . A manuscript landing in the right inbox at the right time; catching the latest trend just as it hits TikTok; or being locked in a lift with your dream editor during a power cut. All it takes is that lucky break.


OK, the last example is a bit random, but the adage is true. Luck does have a huge part to play. But does that mean those aspiring authors you might see on the table in Waterstones in two years’ time are currently sitting around playing Wordle waiting to be discovered? Of course not. They’re making their own luck, putting themselves out there, taking chances and building connections.


Which is exactly how I got published. I took my chances and struck lucky at a SCBWI conference. A speed pitching session to be precise – two short minutes to convince an agent or editor I was their perfect match. I wasn’t even supposed to be there, but this is where lady luck stepped in, manifesting in the form of a last-minute cancellation which transported me from waiting list to the pitching arena.


A double-edged sword perhaps. I’d won the golden ticket, but with little time to prepare, no way was I ready to cash it in. Well, that’s what the voices told me. But with a little help from my SCBWI friends, I shut those voices down and faced my fear. After all, we’re never completely ready. There’s always a reason to doubt ourselves, not to take risks.


My pitch that day wasn’t perfect, but it was enough. At least for Rachel Leyshon (Chicken House) who requested the full manuscript. I’m still working with Rachel now, two books down and a third in the pipeline. Each of them a direct result of that chance encounter at the SCBWI conference.




When Marie Basting was fifteen, she was told by a careers advisor that girls like her don’t become writers. For a long time, she believed this. But then something magical happened and Marie finally came to realise that girls like her can do anything they want. Her debut novel, the critically acclaimed Princess BMX, was published in 2019.


Marie lives in Manchester with her husband, son and giant, hairy woo-dog. When she’s not writing funny fiction for children, you’ll find her supporting other girls and boys to follow their writing dreams. Her latest book, My Family and Other Romans, is just as ‘daft and delicious’ as the first.


Zeena Gosrani



It was the summer of 2019 and I was writing away, minding my own business when my friend, Holly (a SCBWI volunteer), told me I needed to enter The Bent Agency scholarship competition for the SCBWI conference. Of course, I was not entering this competition. My manuscript was a hot mess, and I was not good enough.


Holly didn’t give me a choice. OK, that’s a lie, but she did eventually convince me to enter, because what’s the worst that could happen? If I won, I would get a full MS review, which could help me with my edit.


It turned out Holly might have been onto something, because I won the competition.


So Holly and I set off for the conference in November. Everyone was lovely, though the experience was a little daunting. One of the highlights of the competition was meeting agent, Gemma Cooper. We talked about my book, what inspired it, etc. She said either her or Zoë Plant (who was doing my full MS review) would call me later and I left.


Now, I’ve heard of ‘the call’. This was not going to be that call, despite what Holly and the other volunteers told me. My MS was not agent ready.


It was that call. Gemma and Zoë wanted to offer co-representation. After discussing the changes my MS would need and speaking to their clients, I decided they were definitely the right agents for me. I even sent them a new outline half way through because I hated the direction my edits were going. Not the story as a whole, but the threads were so tangled together, I couldn’t figure out a way to pull them apart without starting again. But they trusted me.


That story sold to Firefly and is due to be released in October 2024.




Zeena is a dyslexic writer who loves oxymorons so much, she thought she'd become one. She has always been a dreamer but never thought she could write until she challenged herself one day when she was between jobs, and she's never looked back. She lives in London with her imaginary cat because she can't have a real one (they had a meeting).


*Header by Ed Vere

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