Fun Facts - Getting inside the Sydney Conference

It takes more than just mere wind to set ships in motion. Soon many of the Roving Reporters you’ve met over the past few months will be recording all the wonders, wisdoms and wit of the SCBWI Sydney 2016 Conference for you rather like the bold explorers and navigators of old, albeit now armed with iPads and Androids in lieu of parchment and quill.

But what of those behind the scenes who organise, program, coordinate, provision, negotiate, book, agonise, encourage, and ultimately create the wind that keeps the whole Conference forever afloat and moving forward? This committee, helmed by the indomitable, Susanne Gervay consists of Margaret Roc, Caz Goodwin, Marjorie Crosby-Fairall, Sarah Davis and Deb Abela. Together they more than ably navigate every conference detail, whim and worry with infinite professionalism and patience. Over the years, they have amassed a staggering amount of Conference highlights; fun facts and figures, some of which are too irresistible not to share. Here are but a handful to set your Conference jive alive.

  • In 2014, 47 publishers, editors, designers and other leading industry peeps attended the Portfolio Showcase to view the 50 portfolios being exhibited - that's almost one publisher per folio! Great odds of getting a receptive audience for your work. 
  • The SCBWI Conference supports Room to Read. The Illustrator Duel was a highlight in 2014 with Bruce Whatley and Stephen Axelson and the HUGE PICKLE!!!!!! The auction raised nearly $1000 for Room to Read!!!
  • Including the Committee, there are over 60 volunteers involved, helping to make our SCBWI 2016 Conference to be the most amazing and the best ever.
  • The Beatniks will once again appear at the SCBWI conference—by popular demand.
  • The six-piece band The Beatnickers will be led by veteran SCBWI members Scott Chambers (lead guitar) and Meredith Costain (keyboards) and feature guest vocals and flute from first-time attendee Karen Collum. 
  • They’ll be playing two sets of ‘get up and dance’ rock and blues classics, ranging from Nutbush to Wild Thing. Prizes will be awarded for the best dancers on the night. So don’t forget to pack your dancing shoes!
  • There are over 150 delegates booked which includes a wealth of experience in Children’s Publishing: around 30 Publishers, editors, art directors or agents, and the major proportion are published (and award winning!) authors and illustrators.
  • We have organised approximately 130 critiques with top Australian and International publishers, editors, art directors and agents
  • Just a reminder.... it is compulsory to dance and sing loud and karaoke-style as the band plays up a storm at the party.

If that doesn’t make your heart race with excitement, then I think you need a bigger boat!

So as I prepare to steer my ship of reporters into Sydney Harbour spare a thought for those who have brought life and breath into this Conference and given us something so exciting to report on.

Rove you from Sydney, soon!





Making room for Room to Read

SCBWI Roving Reporter, Kel Butler warms up her note pad with this guest post on why SCBWI and so many of its members are active supporters of Room to Read.

SCBWI has long been a supporter of Room to Read. Susanne Gervay was the very first writer ambassador, even before the organisation launched a fundraising operation in Sydney in early 2009. Jennie Orchard led the launch into Australia, drawing on her collateral as a speakers’ agent and publisher to engage the many writers and illustrators she had worked and formed close relationships with over the years; people like Susanne Gervay. Melina Marchetta and Libby Hathorn.

All three took part in the inaugural Students Helping Students event at the State Library. Later other SCBWI luminaries Deb Abela and Sarah Davis added their support. And at this year’s conference we’re delighted that ambassadors Oliver Phommavanh and Dianne Wolfer will be with us, as well. All of these wonderful ambassadors contribute in a variety of ways, putting the importance of global literacy and education in the spotlight. Our theme this year is ‘Taking Leadership for Literacy’ - and we are so grateful for the opportunity to raise awareness and funds, helping to give the gift of literacy and education to millions of children across Asia and Africa.

So why are so many great Australian writers stepping up to fundraise and advocate for Room to Read? Let’s borrow a few words from Deb Abela, who says: ‘Every child has the right to an education and to the joy of reading. By helping to educate the world’s poorest, we are not only creating better communities, we are helping build a better, brighter world. It is that fundamental.’

Room to Read focuses on literacy because literacy is the foundation for all future learning. Since it was founded in 2000, Room to Read has impacted the lives of over 10 million children by establishing school libraries, publishing original children’s books in more than 25 local languages, constructing child-friendly classrooms and supporting educators with training and resources to teach reading, writing and active listening.

  • More than 18,000 libraries have been established in 10 low-income countries in Asia and Africa
  • More than 1250 children’s books have been published in over 25 languages, including Khmer, Tamil and Swahili
  • More than 18 million children’s books have been distributed
  • More than 38,000 girls have benefited from the girls’ education program

Room to Read attracts support because it is an organisation achieving extraordinary results, and yet at the same time it recognises that there is so much more work to be done. In addition to those already mentioned, our committed writer ambassadors include Jesse Blackadder, James Foley, Kate Forsyth, Jacquie Harvey, Gus Gordon, John Larkin, Frane Lessac, Sophie Masson, Belinda Morrell,  Alice Pung, Sophie Masson and Sally Rippin. Other writers and journalists lend more informal support.

The fundraising campaign which is supported by our ambassadors is the World Change Challenge. This was the brainchild of Tristan Bancks , designed as a way of encouraging schools and libraries to get involved in fundraising and spreading the word for global literacy. This year we want student leaders to take leadership for literacy, understanding the global issue and spearheading initiatives in their school communities. There are still 781 million illiterate people in the world, two-thirds of them girls and women. As UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, has said: ‘Literacy is much more than an educational priority – it is the ultimate investment in the future.’

Right now Room to Read needs schools, libraries and businesses all over Australia to get behind the World Change Challenge and take Leadership for Literacy to a whole new level. Many schools are currently in fundraising mode already, with some of them incorporating stories of Room to Read’s programs into their curriculum. St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School in Brisbane is a perfect example of this, giving students the opportunity to learn about Room to Read’s work in Nepal in the wake of the 2015 earthquakes.

If you are interested in getting involved you can find more information on the World Change Challenge on Tristan's website Or like, share or message us on Facebook at

So that's it in a nutshell, really, why SCBWI and so many of its members choose to actively support Room to Read and to raise awareness and funds for Room to Read. Because there is no greater gift than literacy. And – as Room to Read believes profoundly: World Change Starts with Educated Children. 


Meeting Margaret Roc - SCBWI Conference Volunteer

Merry Margaret

Merry Margaret

It takes great skill and patience to herd cats as they say, perhaps even more so to coordinate large groups of hitherto over-zealous creatives. It is a task no single person should attempt alone. Fortunately for our SCBWI Conference organisers, there is a woman in their midst who is up for the job, Margaret Roc.

Who is Margaret RocAuthor, co-author and editor of over fifty published fiction and non-fiction books for children and teachers, Margaret Roc is a forced to be reckoned with. Yet her demure manner and ever-smiling face belie not only her writing prowess but also her supreme ability to organise and coordinate, qualities required in galleon proportions when facilitating a conference as involved as the SCBWI Biennial Sydney Conference.

Her colleagues regard her as somewhat of a dynamo. Here’s what fellow Conference organiser and Assistant Regional Adviser, Marjorie Crosby-Fairall has to say:

 ‘Margaret has done an amazing job of very patiently organising around 130 critiques. She has had a mammoth job to sort through the schedule, availability and match appropriate assessors and fulfil requests where possible…all while crosschecking that participants aren’t double booked as roving reporters, volunteers or participating in pitches or other panels. In addition, she has been organising all the volunteers for things like timekeeping and registration and all the little things that go unnoticed…unless they are not done.’

 Let’s meet Margaret

As a teacher and Teacher Librarian I especially enjoyed inspiring children in reading and imparting the love of books.

I began writing when my own children were born I have continued writing in my spare time ever since. Now I’m an author, co-author and editor of more than 50 books for children and teachers including picture books, early readers and non-fiction books.

Most of my picture books are light-hearted and amusing but deal with important themes like loneliness, friendship, family and belonging. I love writing about animals and many of my non-fiction books are about animals and the environment. My latest books Jellybean Goes to School (PenguinRandomHouse), Australia's Critically Endangered Animals and Australia's Deadly and Dangerous Animals and Plants (Heinemann) are on the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge.

Is this your first SCWBI Conference? If not how many have you attended, where?   

I have only attended Sydney SCBWI conferences and I have been actively involved as the Critique Coordinator in 2014 and 2016 conferences

What is the most memorable (SCBWI) Conference experience you’ve had to date, or hope to have?

Most amusing and frustrating record: It took 27 emails before I was able to answers all the queries for one delegate

Greatest fun: dancing and singing along to our wonderful Conference Beatnickers band

Greatest pleasure: hearing about our authors and illustrators who have picked up publishing deals through the Conference

Greatest admiration: for those amazingly talented brave souls who pitch their MSs

One of the many most memorable Conference experiences at the 2014 Conference: Bruce Whatley’s amazing session and the wonderfully amusing illustrator’s dual with Bruce Whatley and Stephen Axelson

On behalf of all the Conference delegates this year and past, thank you Margaret!

Well, it’s almost Conference time. Stick around, we’re going to squeeze in a bit more fun before we sail into Sydney Harbour. I hope you’ve packed your dancing shoes…

Rove you Later!