Friday, February 27, 2009

Writers and illustrators of children's books gather in Wales!

I have started the Welsh branch of The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). British SCBWI's website is:

The benefits of being a member are - a fantastic membership pack stuffed with contacts, advice and invaluable help; access to crit groups, seminars, training, the conferences, daily support, a profile on the website, access to the mailing list and much more. I joined a year ago and have received huge benefits, made good friends and not regretted a moment.

There were 12 attendees, shown in the picture, clockwise from bottom left:
• David Thorpe (writer - Hybrids)
• Wendy Artiss (illustrator - unpublished)
• Mr & Anita Rowe (writer - Green Fingers & Grit, Stepsisters, A Chance to Dream, regular monthly contributor on 'writing for children' to Writers' News and Writing Magazine)
• Sophie Lording (Hay Childrens' Literature Festival organiser)
• Bethan Gwanas (editor, and writer of 20 children's books in Welsh, inc. the Blodwen Jones trilogy, and Ramboy, an English adaptation of Pen Dafad)
• Gordon Jones (librarian, editor for various Welsh publishers)
• Bear Tyler (writer, unpublished)
• Hedley England (writer - unpublished, director)
• Graham Gardner (writer - Inventing Elliot)
• Brian Lux (writer - Court of Foxes)
• Jenny Fell (illustrator - Second Thoughts, I Can Move the Sea).
In addition, 22 other people expressed interest but were unable to attend. A list of these is below.

After the introductions and a sampling of the free wine supplied by the director of the Arts Centre - for which thank you very much, we discussed the benefits of joining SCBWI, because none of the attendees were members, and how it differed from other writers' organisations.

We learnt about the National Association of Writers in Education (, and the American Children's Writing Resource Centre (

Sophie Lording and Bethan Gwanas reminded those of us who had forgotten, of the existence of the Writing Squads in Wales, which will pay writers £200 a day to tutor on Saturdays promising young writers whom their teachers put forward to come to these squads, although typically the writing is done in Welsh. These are organised by Academi - see

Gordon Jones explained how the editors working for Welsh publishers typically combine many of her the roles of a publisher -- which can include proofreading, copy editing, art direction and marketing as well as editing! A book is considered to do well in Welsh if it sells 1200 copies. The most successful book ever published in Welsh, not a children's book, sold 10,000 copies.

We discussed how membership of a national organisation with a strong networking component like SCBWI could benefit Welsh writers from wider exposure, since they are frequently unknown outside of the principality.

Sophie Lording explained that she is looking for ideas from writers to help her work with the Hay festival. This work includes going into schools, exhibition stands and so on. The programme for this May's festival is 90% booked, but there is room for anybody who wishes to propose an exhibition. Could SCWBI have a stand there?

Academi Is the Welsh organisation which supports writers, and we decided that we if we spoke together as a group we would have a stronger voice in Academi for children's writing.

We discussed the value of Readers Days, and how we should get involved. See for example:

in terms of what we want to do in the future, the following ideas were floated: inviting Welsh editors, English editors and agents to come in from London, librarians, and illustrators agents.

Gordon Jones offered to organise a panel involving Welsh editors. I offered to continue with fund raising and coordination.

The next gathering will be a critique discussion group, on Saturday, 4 April at 1.30pm, venue to be decided.

Apologies from: Sue Moules, Jenny Fell, Brian Lux, Graham Gardner, Jane Moran, Maria Hayes, Henni Tremlett, Nicola/Paul Burgess, Derek Webb, Femke van gent, Liz Whittaker, Katrina Michael, JIm Bowen, Phil Thomas, Herbert Williams, Frances Thomas, Wynford Ellis Owen, Alan H, Dahlian Kirby , Tomos Morgan, Eleanor Burnham, Penny, Jenny Sullivan, Mererid Hopwood