Ten Things I Learned on the Tenth Year of SCBWI British Isles (Scoobeebee)

This weekend we celebrated the tenth birthday of SCBWI British Isles – SCBWI stands for Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

The acronym, carefully crafted by writers, has morphed on lesser tongues than mine into Scooby (and if we add the British Isles part it would be Scoobeebee, but maybe we should pass on that one).

With ten years under our belt, there's a big story behind SCBWI but here's the story of us in a short video which we screened at the fabulous mass book launch and soiree at our evocatively named Onwards and Upwards Conference.
Defying Gravity is performed by my niece Nicole Ramos, accompanied by TJ Ramos

Well everyone's talking about the conference - and the bloggers amongst us have decided to post our Ten Things We Learned. Here are mine:

1. Speed Critiquing Focuses the Mind. My online critique group took advantage of the big Critique Meet to have our first face to face meeting. It was fantastic - though it took some getting used to Nicky Schmidt as a flesh and blood person. I had come to think of her as an avatar. We only had two minutes each to crit each piece and boy, did we fly!
Jackie, Jeannette, Jeannie, Nicky, Kathy, Me and Ellen

2.  It's  impossible to blog in a hotel full of authors. My roomie, hyper illustrator Sarah McIntyre and I tried all night to get online but according to the wi-fi info, all the bandwidth was being hogged by a certain Marcus Sedgwick. Sarah  finally managed to blog when she got home.

3. One can never have enough book launches. Tall Story has already had a book launch in Waterstones, Islington Green, in Power Books in Manila and in the Philippine Embassy off Trafalgar Square ... but I still had the best time ever at the mass book launch held on the first night of the conference. In fact, it was extra great celebrating with my fellow authors and illustrators.
Such fine, fine, people - the book launchees were Jon Mayhew, Donna Vann, Lee Weatherly, Me, Anita Loughrey, Jane Clarke, Sheena Wilkinson, Savita Kalhan, Sarah McIntyreEllen Renner, Keren David, Lucy Coats, Maxine Linnell, Mike Brownlow, Tamsyn  Murray, Jason Chapman and John Shelley (click to see whole picture - let me know if i missed anyone)

4. It's the STORY. So after years of rejection and banging your head against publishers' doors, schmoozing librarians and booksellers and other authors, here's the big ask, here's what can open the door: a really really good story, well told. That's what they want. Watch the trends, network like mad on Twitter, stalk agents - ultimately the best thing you can do to get published is write a GOOD STORY.
The lovely David Fickling despite a wall-to-wall life (and missing the spectacular Rugby Union game which England won against Australia 35-18 woo hoo!), made time to be the inspirational lynchpin of the mass book launch. "You make things," he said. "Don't forget."

5. It's not about you, it's about them. Well that's what I always say when I do talks about websites. When people look you or your book up online, they are not looking for some self-indulgent claptrap about you. They are looking for themselves - what about you would they identify with? What other stuff can you give them about your book? Can they engage with you? So when you build your website, think about who you're building it for and what they want from you. It will save a lot of time.
Ha! They thought I knew what I was talking about!

6. Twas the Market What Done It. What do publishers want? A unique voice. Then why do you publish samey stuff. Erm. The booksellers want it. Why do you booksellers want it? The market want it.  ... you get the picture. All you can do is try to be the ultimate ultimate stand-out amongst all those unique voices out there.

7. Social marketing is more social than marketing. You might have to be downright slutty ... but you've got to get your name out there because someone's got to do it.
Keren David 

8. There's a bigger picture out there. It's not just writing and craft and getting published. There's the importance of reading, saving libraries and bookselling in the age of digital. It's a whole new level of stalking for aspiring authors and illustrators.
 Our panel for the State of the Nation (the children's book nation of course) featured Waterstones children's book manager John Cooke, independent bookseller Clare Poole, publisher David Fickling, David Blanch, editor of Carousel and Rachel Levy, librarian and judge for the Carnegie Medal

9. We all are in a different place from when we first attended the conference. Every single person I met the first time I attended a SCBWI conference many years ago are in a different place. A better place! We have won prizes, won book deals, published books, and signed up with agents. So many book people, so much good news. It's an incredible thought for someone attending the conference for the first time.

10. Children survive conferences. At least mine did. Nobody broke anything. The house didn't burn down. None of them were missing (although my husband did try to hide one of them for a laugh). And Simon Cowell did a good job keeping them occupied while I was gone. Thank you, Simon.

THE SCBWI STORY In the 1970s, children’s writers Steve Mooser and Linn Oliver were working on a massive children’s series and thought it might be a good idea to join an association of children’s writers. They hunted high and low, finding associations for crime writers, romance writers, mystery writers, writing plumbers, airline executives who are novelists, corner shop short story writers, farmers who write ... there were writing organisations of all shapes and sizes, but none for children’s writers. They created SCBWI (the ’ I’ for Illustrators came along a little bit later when they realized that children’s illustrators shared the same passions and many of the same issues). Forty years on, SCBWI has chapters from Mongolia to Europe. It continues to be the ONLY organization that supports both published and UNpublished writers and illustrators.

Christmas raffle! I am giving away one copy of the UK hardback of Tall Story to commenters who are not based in the United Kingdom; and one copy of the illustrated Philippine edition to commenters who live in the UK! I've been collecting the names of commenters since my last blog post I Was a Librarian's Pet and Other Stories. The raffle ends on the 15th of December. You get a name in the raffle with every post you comment on (one ticket per blog post). If you follow me on blogger, you get an extra ticket! (Desperate bid to boost audience figures)

Other blogs posting their Ten Things and blogging about the Conference
Who Ate My Brain by Nick Cross
Claudia Myatt
Fifteen Days Without a Head and Other Stories by David Cousins
Life Beyond by MC Rogerson
Jabberworks by Sarah McIntyre
Almost True by Keren David
Notes from the Slushpile by Teri Terry
Kathryn V. Evans by Mrs Bung
Scribble City Central by Lucy Coats - part one and part two (parts three to six coming soon!!!)
Julie Day
An Awfully Big Blog Adventure by Ellen Renner
Anita Loughrey's Blog
Rebecca Colby's blog
Sue Eves
Katie Dale
Miriam Halahmy
A Novel Way by Tina Lemon
Absolute Vanilla by Nicky Schmidt