National SCBWI Conference

July 20th, 2014 | News, Photos, Poems for children

I have just returned from attending the National SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Conference in Sydney. These are held every second year, and is the first I have attended. It seemed appropriate to do so, now that my book is out.

Suffice to say I had a wonderful time. There were about 150 delegates in attendance in total. Most of them I have still not met. I did talk to a wide range of people, however, and it seemed that every second person had an utterly extraordinary story to tell.

Men, it should be said, were very thin on the ground. There might have been ten of us. I doubt there were any more. This is a constant feature of SCBWI functions, the cause of which remains unclear. Are men kept home by the burden of breadwinning? Do women simply place greater value on networking and mutual support?

The conference took place at the beautiful Hughenden Hotel. Some delegates were staying at the hotel, which was also used for meals and general relaxation. The sessions themselves were conducted in a large marquee erected in the gardens.

Hughenden Hotel

I am not going to give a full report on all the various talks and book launches that were held. This has been done elsewhere by people far more competent to do so than I. One thing that does stick in my mind, though, is the extremely impressive sales figures achieved by some self publishers.

There were very few poets in attendance, and almost no spontaneous discussion of poetry by any Australian presenters. On the other hand, there was a good deal of critical comment directed towards unsolicited picture book manuscripts written in poor rhyming verse.

Professor Ernest Bond “saved the day” to a degree, when he spoke assertively and enthusiastically about the role of poetry in the classroom. To quote from his faculty page, Ernie Bond “is a Professor in the Seidel School of Education at Salisbury University” (Maryland, USA). He read out a poem by J. Patrick Lewis which was extremely well received.

One book launch I will mention was “The Croc and the Platypus”, written by fellow rhymer Jackie Hosking, and published by the same publisher as published my book, Walker Books. Here is Jackie, second from the right, holding it up. On her right is Publishing Manager at Walker Books, Sue Whiting. Third from the left is the book’s illustrator, Marjorie Crosby-Fairall.

The Croc and the Platypus

I discovered to my delight that the Hughenden is very close to Centennial Park, and I went for a long and memorable walk one night in this stunning environment to try to walk off some excess cake and biscuits. Needless to say, I got lost (I always get lost!), but once again my native cunning pulled me through…

The Conference was run by Susanne Gervay, Co-Regional Adviser of SCBWI Australia & NZ, and creative director of the Hughenden Boutique Hotel. Susanne did a wonderful job directing traffic, moving the show along and making sure it all ran like clockwork, while being extremely warm, witty, funny and entertaining in the process. What a woman!

Here she is (in the green top) being showered with gifts from friends and admirers in the marquee at conference end.

Susanne Gervay

I must thank Susanne personally for allowing me to recite my poem “The Chinstrap Penguin” to the assembled throng to commence the final day’s proceedings.

All in all, it was a head-turning, utterly disorienting, yet totally wonderful three days. Thank you to all concerned (especially Susanne!) for putting together such an informative and entertaining programme.