Saturday 24 May 2008

How Brad Pitt Didn't Turn Up for the SCBWI Retreat

So I've just returned from a weekend of writing at the British SCBWI retreat in Codsall near Wolverhampton.

It was very fattening.

Anita Loughrey
Anita Loughrey preparing to gorge during the retreat.

But ultimately inspiring. Don't we all look inspired?

SCBWI retreat
Well-fed retreat attendees just before yet another meal. Click on the image to find out who was photoshopped into the picture (that's what you get when you leave early).

We also saw this goose:

SCBWI retreat goose
Goose with grass on its beak

What did I learn?

Well Julia Golding (The Diamond of Drury Lane) assured us that it was entirely possible to write 10 novels in two years even if you have three children (and be slim and beautiful and composed but I'm not going to go there).
SCBWI retreat goose
Julia Golding - and she visits schools and conducts seminars and ...

The charming Shoo Rayner demonstrated how easy it was to get published. All you have to do is write books, illustrate, know html code, learn flash, sing songs, play the guitar, create your own cartoons, design ebooks, have a wonderful, manly speaking voice, speak Norwegian ...

I was so transfixed by Shoo that I forgot to take his picture. Here's a picture of Brad Pitt instead:

SCBWI retreat goose
Shoo Rayner is a polymath. But Brad Pitt isn't. Or maybe he is. He should get in touch and let me know.

On the last day, the ethereal Tessa Strickland of Barefoot Books came to explain how to solve all your childcare problems by starting up a publishing business. Barefoot Books' business plan combines a conscience with a real love for books and by the time Tessa finished speaking, we had all become Barefoot Book authors ... if only she would have us.

Tessa Strickland
We fell in love with Barefoot Books and Tessa Strickland

The word I would use to describe the SCBWI retreat is 'transformational'.

I came away with a fresh perspective, new avenues into writing, and a sense of confirmation that this thing I am into ... writing for children ... is a really good thing!

Thank you to Sue Hyams for organising the retreat!

Shameless Advert: if any of you are at Hay-on-Wye for the Guardian Book Festival, please, please attend my friend Elizabeth Pisani's talk on Sunday. She drew the graveyard shift ... well, it's at 9 in the morning. As an incentive, she is giving away chocolate and durian flavoured condoms.


  1. Candy, I LOVE your report on the retreat! It's fab, I love it, and I laughed so much while reading it because it's funny too!
    Of course it tells the truth and you couldn't find a better word to describe our retreat: Transformational.
    You shot the best ever photo of Shoo! I'm sure he'll be pleased.
    And I'm so glad you did the magic and included everyone in the group photo. I always knew you were a magician with Photoshop :)
    Thank you for the report, it's great. Time to steal it now :)

  2. That's excellent, Candy! Next time I'll make sure I get the real Brad Pitt!

  3. Did Harrison Ford not turn up either? And what about Orlando Bloom or the reasonably yummy, George Clooney? Can they write? Does it matter? I bet there were loads of others who didn't turn up - it's outrageous.

  4. yes sue, i think it would be even more TRANSFORMATIONAL if brad pitt came along. we would all be TRANFORMED into gibbering wrecks!

  5. Miriam Halahmy25 May 2008 at 20:21

    Great blog on the Retreat. My only moan is that you didn't put me in Brad's arms when you photoshopped me into the group photo! Still, he's not a children's writer : yet!
    Miriam Halahmy

  6. Sounds like it was an amazing time, Candy - now you just have to label the group photo - I can pick out Natascha, Paolo, Bekki, Anita, Jacquie, you... And er, why didn't Brad make it into the group shot?!

  7. From left to right: Miriam, Mo, Paolo, Natascha, Stephanie, Bekki (tall), Wolf, Sue, Anita, Jackie, Helen, Beverley, Susan, Carol, Jacquie, Kathryn and Candy

  8. What can I say? Your report makes the retreat sound like SUCH fun that I'm sure we'll have folks banging down Sue's door to come next year. That weekend was a gift for us all -- stacks of time to eat, gaze at greenery, listen to inspirational speakers and meet like-minded children's book authors away from it all!
    Not to mention time to write . . .

  9. Hi Candy, Hmm... Very flattering, but that's how my wife has always seen me!

  10. Great blog post and very clever adding everyone into the photo.

    Just having timetabled writing sessions helped me. I would like to add my thanks to Sue for organising it. I had a wonderful time and definitely put on loads of weight.

    With the promise of Brad Pitt at the next retreat I'll have to make sure I book my place for next year now.

    Hmmm! Can I be more of a gibbering wreck than I already am?


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