I am pleased to announce the formation of a new Welsh chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI – known affectionately as Scoobies).
For anyone who's been off-planet for a decade, SCBWI is a great international membership organisation that provides support to lots of creatives who are starting out in this field, as well as to many have been around for awhile. It's launched quite a few careers as well as some great friendships. A more supportive crowd of people you could scarcely find anywhere.
There hasn't been a Welsh branch for a while, the main problem being the huge geographical spread of the country. It's not that there is a dearth of creatives in the land of the bards, but it can take over three hours to get from one end to the other.
And many of us are salted away in the hills scribbling in secluded valleys or wandering (and wondering) pensively on deserted beaches and mountaintops. The spirit of Taliesin pervades the landscape, and myth and magic abound (even in Port Talbot!).
About seven years ago I tried to start a Scoobie branch here, when I lived in mid-Wales, and we met two or three times, but holding it together was difficult because of the travel times. Out of it grew, if memory serves, the Dragontongue blog, which merged with the Awfully Blog Adventure about four or five years ago? (Correct me if I'm wrong.)
I moved to near Swansea about four years ago and since then a few new members have joined who happen to live in various parts of South Wales.
So at the moment it's mostly South Walians (Hwntws – as opposed to the Gogs of North Wales). Who knows, maybe another branch will form in North Wales?
[Using the word 'branch' brings to mind the four branches of the Mabinogion, that collection of ancient Celtic stories from the oral tradition of Wales. Kind of appropriate, no?]
As a group we've only met three times so far, and I don't pretend to speak for the group here. The Facebook group has 12 members and at the last meeting we celebrated the fact that Claire Fayers had received an advance copy of her new swashbuckling magical pirate story that unfortunately will not be published until next summer – in separate editions in America and the UK. That's a shame because we all wanted to get hold of a copy straightaway it looked so exciting.
Claire was in the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices 2014 anthology and was snapped up by Gemma Cooper of The Bent Agency. Well done, Claire. It just goes to show how effective the network is.
We, the south Welsh branch, are making links with the English SouthWest group and hope to meet up with Candy Gorlay in Swansea soon.
If there are other writers and illustrators in Wales reading this, I encourage you to join SCBWI and get in touch with the network organiser Marie Basting.