Three amazing things happened to three of my lovely SCBWI friends at this year's BI SCBWI conference and I thought I would share my happiness with you.
by Maureen Lynas
SCBWI friend one is Rachel Turner
In my last post I suggested that people have a pitch ready just in case they were in the queue for the toilet and someone said the dreaded words, 'So, what are you writing?'
Well, this is what happened to Rachel, author of Dragonflu.
# I'manauthordon'tsue: The facts are true, the words have been altered for comic effect and no real person, not even Rachel, has been hurt in the making of this scene and I have no idea who the 'Woman next to Rachel' is.
Scene: The cloakroom queue at the conference party (NB not the queue for the toilets, so make sure you are ready for anything in ANY queue.)
Woman next to Rachel: Have you come far?
Rachel: No, not very, I'm local. (She tries to squint at name badge but it's twisted and she can't see. Oh no! She tries to remember the faces of the agents and editors she's been stalking on facebook and decides this woman has Caroline Sheldon's eyes, Anne Clarke's nose and Barry Cunningham's ears.)
Woman next to Rachel: (running out of idle chatter rather quickly in my opinion) What are you writing?
Rachel: (Oh oh, I have no idea who I'm talking to and she's asking THE question! Oh well, here goes. She takes a deep breath and launches into her pitch) It's a fantasy adventure book for 9 to 12 years called Dragonflu. A young boy steals a dragon and he has to enter a dangerous world to try to save it from a deadly virus. It's quite fun and action-packed, but a bit heartbreaking sometimes as well.
Woman next to Rachel: Oh, I'm not into dragons. They've been overdone haven't they, really. Bit like vampires. And it's no good doing anything emotional for that age group. They just want farts or fairies. I'm writing a YA. It's a sort of Watership Down meets Starwars with a sprinkle of Horrid Henry, set in regency times. It's 1,000,000 words, I'm hoping for a three book deal with a film franchise. I'm after an agent, have you got one?
Rachel: (Phew, she's not an agent then!) No, I don't. I've self-published Dragonflu.
Woman next to Rachel:(who has no understanding of the concept of polite) Oh, I would never do that. I think you've just made a huge mistake. No one will EVER take you on now.
Rachel: Oh. I thought it was a good idea. I just wanted to 'get out there' and practise marketing and generally have a go.
Woman next to Rachel: (slowly shakes her head as if Rachel is a right newbie.)
Just then there's a tap on Rachel's shoulder - from behind.
Agent: Hi, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to eavesdrop but I do love the sound of your Dragonflu book. Would you like to send it to me?
Rachel: (gulping, nodding and speechless)
Agent: Great. Here's my card.
Woman next to Rachel: (splutters) But...
So, the moral of this first scoobie story is - When at a SCBWI conferences - speak loudly! You never know who's listening. Good luck, Rachel.
SCBWI friend two is Jion Sheibani
We had lots of hugs and catch ups then later, as I joined in with the judging of the illustrator competition at the conference party, I stopped in front of an amazing illustration. It had the title of Love, and was a tiny boy looking up at a gigantic heart. It was only as I picked it as one of my three winners that I noticed the illustrator's name - Jion. Well the chances of there being two Jions at a BI SCBWI conference was unlikely, so I tracked her down and she admitted the illustration was hers and she'd only just go to the stage where she dared to show her illustration work in public. She'd also taken a very deep breath and submitted her portfolio to the portfolio review competition.
So, I was absolutely delighted when Benjamin Scott (SCBWI volunteer extraordinaire) announced that Jion Sheibani was the winner of the
BEST UP AND COMING PORTFOLIO competition.
So, the moral of this second scoobie story is – Take that very deep breath and show your stuff!
SCBWI friend three is Briony Stewart
Briony is an author/illustrator who was awarded an Arts Council grant to come over to the UK from Australia. Although she's been based in Edinburgh Briony was also working at Seven Stories for a month and emailed me to say 'Hi, Where are all the UK scoobies? Can we meet up?' So, we did. We met up with some other members at Seven Stories for a coffee and a look around the How to Train Your Dragon exhibition. We shared what we were up to, who was published, who was pre-published. What was happening in other regions.
Briony showed us photos of the fantastic retreat island that SCBWI Western Australia use – this is definitely top on my wish list of scoobie doos. I told her about the upcoming Winchester conference and with only hours to spare before the bookings closed, she'd booked her place and taken up my offer of the spare bed in my accommodation. So we were all set to have fun at the conference.
Briony is published in Australia but really needs contacts over in the UK to develop a bigger market for her books. So, like Jion, she also submitted her portfolio to the competition. Over to the lovely Benjamin Scott for another announcement – Briony Stewart winner of the
BEST PROFESSIONAL PORTFOLIO competition!
So, the moral of this third scoobie story is – Say hi to scoobie people wherever you are in the world. You have no idea what might happen.
Well done to you all, it was an amazing conference and your successes put the icing on the conference cake for me.
And I want to say a big thank you to the wonderful SCBWI volunteers who put together such an amazing conference. Never underestimate the opportunities you create.
PS Jion made me add this - Jion would like to add that it is thanks to Maureen that she (and practically everyone else on that Arvon course) signed up to SCBWI. So really, none of this would have happened without her. Thank you lovely Maureen!
PPS - I'd like to add Juliet Clare Bell to that - we did a good job of recruiting that week!