SCBWIcon19 Newbie Notes from the Land of Edelweiss

I just spent a whole weekend at my dream destination.

No, not the Maldives.

And not Disneyland…

It was the annual conference of SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) British Isles – SCBWIcon19!!!

(Me way more excited than I should be about a badge with my name on, in a lanyard. Did you know those things are called lanyards?! That was one of many things I learnt this weekend!)

SCBWIcon19 was my first ever writing conference and I was looking forward to it for months. Living in Austria, I sometimes feel isolated from the rest of the English-speaking kidlit community (and I’ve yet to meet any German-speaking kidlit writers near where I live – I suspect they all hide away in little wooden Hütten up in the mountains).brown wooden cottage near forestAbout a year ago I was delighted to discover the group Vienna Writers for Young Readers, run by authors Keith Gray and Paul Malone, and I attend that religiously every month, despite a 5-hour round-trip. I’ve met some wonderful people and love having the chance to chat to other writers in person.

(Some of the friendly Vienna bunch)

But most of my almost two-year journey through the kidlit world so far has been online and somehow, purely by accident, I became far more heavily involved in the US than the UK writing scene by participating in wonderful events/contests/challenges such as 12x12PB, ReFoReMo, Picture Book Summit and Storystorm.

I’ve also had the fantastic good fortune to be mentored by American picture book author extraordinaire Vivan Kirkfield via the #PBChat Mentorship Program, created by the indefatigable Justin Colón.

(Vivian looking vibrant with her picture book characters)

So when I arrived in Winchester on Friday evening, I was not only a newbie at the conference, but also to some extent a newbie in the British writing community in general. One of many (oh so many!!) reasons why I wanted to attend SCBWIcon19 was to truly immerse myself in the kidlit community of my homeland (I’m an Essex girl at heart, despite living abroad since 2003!)IMG_20191102_090336.jpgAs it turned out, I barely felt like a newbie at all. I take part in #ukpbchat on Twitter once a month together with other Scoobies (SCBWI members) such as Clare Helen Welsh and Rashmi Sirdeshpande, and I’ve interacted with other authors in various ways on social media, so there were plenty of familiar names and faces (as well as some very recognisable purple hair!).IMG_20191102_215720.jpgI must admit, I initially felt more than a little starstruck when speaking to some of the most well-established authors such as Mini Grey, Candy Gourlay and Natascha Biebow! But I chatted to everyone as if they’re normal people, and do you know what I found out…?IMG_20191104_144552.jpgThey really are normal people!!! Or at least, as normal as someone who dreams up whimsical worlds and fantastic flights of fancy for children on a daily basis can (and should!) be.IMG_20191102_194938They’re also some of the friendliest, funniest, cleverest, kindest and most generous people I’ve ever encountered.IMG_20191102_175353.jpgI’ll leave it up to other attendees to describe in more detail the mind-blowingly fantastic conference sessions and keynote speeches (my photos from those are dark and grainy anyway, as you can see below.)

(Mini’s keynote speech on the Saturday was simply magical!)

I just want to say to anyone who’s new to SCBWI, considering joining, or has simply never been to an SCBWI conference before… Go for it – you’ll be so glad you did!IMG_20191103_182937

(Photo from Natascha Biebow’s extremely helpful session on revising picture book manuscripts on Sunday morning.)

The weekend flew by and all too soon it was time to say goodbye to new friends.IMG_20191104_101614I’ll leave you with a few more photos of the conference itself and the crazy Saturday night party and mass book launch. Please feel free to comment below!




    • Thanks! Shame you couldn’t be there. I’m hoping I have some kind of windfall (I always thought the word was “winfall” until spellchecker just corrected me!) that will enable me to afford it again next year!!


  1. Thanks for your lovely report, Helen! Perhaps you are not too far from Munich and might be interested in joining our SCBWI group for a Saturday critique session? Our next one will be Nov. 30 in Munich, 11 am to ca. 16 pm. It would be great to meet you in person and learn more about your work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Twyla. Thank you so much for the invitation!! I’m not particularly close – 5 hours by train – but nevertheless, I sometimes (once or twice a year) visit my best friend from uni in Stuttgart, so I could maybe combine it with that sometime. The last weekend in Nov my aunt and uncle are coming to visit us though and we’ll be busy showing them around the Christmas markets. How often are your sessions? It would be lovely to meet you too!


  2. It was so lovely to meet you in person this weekend and so fabulous to have you at the conference with us thank you for this wonderful post about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kate!! Haha yes, I went a bit camera crazy – and that’s only a small selection of the best ones! 😀 It was great to chat to you too. Thanks for helping me with the pudding, I wouldn’t have managed it on my own!


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