Monday 23 May 2016

The Importance of a Good Network: Finding Fellow Writers

by Jo Wyton

Writing is a lonely business, or so the saying goes. But I haven't found that to be true. Writing requires time spent alone, for sure, but there is no requirement for it to be lonely.

And, thankfully, there are many ways to find connections in the world of writing and writers - you just have to look. Not that this fact occurred to me whilst I was writing my first manuscript. No. For many years I worked on that book. And it was terrible - I mean, really terrible. And it didn't particularly improve in that time. It simply changed. Over and over and over again.

Oh, the endless rewrites! Oh, the endless exhaustion!

Every now and then during the time I was writing that manuscript, I would google societies for authors, and I'd always come across the Society of Authors, who are fantastic but only accept a writer as a member once they have been offered a publishing contract. And so I would plod on, embracing the Lonely Writer adage, continuing to rewrite, mistaking activity for forward momentum. 

In late 2010, I googled once again and spotted something I must have missed on previous attempts: the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). And they accepted membership from absolutely anybody who wanted to write or illustrate (or both for those with enough energy for such things).

And yet, I hesitated. I had a way of doing things. I knew my own writing routine, and had never shown what I had written to anybody beyond family and close friends. Was I risking all that if I joined such a group? You bet I was.

Daring to peep out...
(Mostly because it's a racoon. I mean, come on. Cute.)

Within a couple of years, I had attended writing retreats, courses and workshops, pub nights and the annual SCBWI conference in Winchester. And I had met people! Actual real-life people! People who wrote and drew and worked hard and failed and succeeded and - and this is the clincher - did it all together.

Because of the people I met through the SCBWI and my local writing group, my writing evolved enormously. I finally stopped editing and started something new, and that manuscript won an award, and secured me an agent, and I discovered that there is nothing lonely about this business.

The reason I tell you all this is because at my first conference I watched Candy Gourlay accept an award called the Crystal Kite for her debut novel Tall Story. I watched her welcomed to the stage with rapturous applause and saw the audience engrossed by her words of thanks, and I doubt there was a single person in that audience who didn't genuinely celebrate with her in that moment. One of the celebrators was Notes From the Slushpile stalwart Teri Terry.

Candy accepts her super shiny award

This November, I will attempt to find a parking space in Winchester, squeeze into a teeny tiny hotel lift with a baby and a pram and then head to that same conference to celebrate all over again, this time with Teri herself, who has just won the Crystal Kite Award for her novel Mind Games. Congratulations from us all, Teri! We can't wait to applaud you onto that stage.

It's a winner! (And brilliant, naturally.)


  1. Aw.....thank you!!
    I found SCBWI in the Children's Writers and Artist's Yearbook, in 2008 - I'm so glad I did. But I remember how nervous I was going to that first conference. Can it really be that this year I'm going to my ninth Scooby conference?
    Time flies when you're having fun.

  2. Congratulations to Teri! So proud of you!

  3. Congratulations, Teri.
    The writing scene has changed so much in the last 20 years. I had hardly any contact with other writers in the 90s. Now the available network is almost infinite online, and there are so many face to face meetings I could be out every night. I never expected writing to be so sociable. The only problem is narrowing it to the groups that work best for you socially and professionally.

  4. What a great post, Jo. I agree that finding fellow writers is crucial to surviving - what would I do without you all?!
    A very big congratulations to Teri for winning the Crystal Kite! I read Mind Games while on holiday recently and loved everything about it. I can't wait to see you collect your trophy in November.

  5. It was very lonely for a very many years and discovering a community of other writers was a lifesaver for me. It was also a heads up. I realised that I was not writing to a level that would catch the attention of an editor! I remember my first conference and the surprise of realising that there were other people obsessing about the same things.

  6. Yay for Teri! And yay for Jo! And yay SCBWI! (can you detect a theme here?)

  7. Well said, Jo! Writing and the support of fellow writers has enriched my life as well as my writing. As for our Teri, I'm proud to know such a wonderful friend and writer. Huzzah!

    1. *blushing*
      Seriously - stop it, you lot - I'll get a fat head.

  8. I'm inspired! I shall investigate the society myself

    1. It's a great community Sue, well worth a look!

  9. This post brought tears to my eyes - have genuinely found the best pals in SCBWI , and I've learned so much, so, so much xx

  10. Excellent post Jo. I think we've all had similar experiences with SCBWI - A reality check, friendships, motivation, and support. I think I'd have given up long ago without you lot. Big congrats to Teri! You deserve this.


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