Behind the Scenes: Meet THE BEATNICKERS! Scott Chambers

It’s one thing having a pretty front-man with pretty vocals but the true heart of a band lies with its musicians (sorry James). On a whole, they seem to have less demands for scotch finger biscuits. And then, there’s Scott Chambers… For those of you not familiar with this scientifically adroit, guitar strumming, ballad warbling, chocolate swilling, erstwhile writer, and Beatnickers’ institution, assume the brace position whilst banging your drumsticks together for…

Scott Chambers

Scott Chambers assuming his preferred position

Scott Chambers assuming his preferred position

Welcome, Scott! Briefly state your conference role and conference responsibilities

Of late my travels through the lumpy-bits of Europe and Antarctica – or, more specifically, my subsequent obligations to justify to holders of the relevant purse strings why and how I have spent so much of their scientific funding – have resulted in a regrettable lack of inspired, creative fiction writing. Consequently, this year my conference responsibilities will be restricted to facilitating: (a) the letting down of hair; (b) the letting off of steam; and (c) general conduct on the dancefloor and stage that is likely to be regretted when sober, as a member of The <infamous> Beat(k)nickers, for the “optional” (pffft) SCBWI dinner dance party.

How long have you been part of the SCBWI Band and what made you sign up for it: the money, the notoriety, the free scotch finger biscuits?

I have been a member of the SCBWI band since the conference after I first witnessed Meredith Costain and Catriona Hoy stagger walk up to the baby grand in the Hughenden Hotel one evening after a long day and “a few” glasses of red, and belt out an impressive collection of inspired blues tunes. Somewhat star-struck, and in my quasi-sober state at the time, I believe I said something like “let me know if you need some accompaniment next time”. Two years later The Beatnickers appeared on the SCBWI conference programme, which, as I recall, happened before I realised that Meredith had actually taken me seriously … so, time for rehearsals was – shall we say – limited. Luckily, The Beatnickers are now a well-oiled machine (at least it will appear this way if the audience is also sufficiently ‘well-oiled’ on the night ;).

Anyhow, long story not much shorter, to answer the original question, that all happened at least 10 years ago, and I was kinda hoping it would have involved a lot more free wine. Anyhow, in getting me to this point, I am eternally indebted to Sandy Fussell for her friendly smile and the offer of coffee to a stranger on the first morning I found myself standing outside the Hughenden Hotel trying to pluck up the courage to walk into my first SCBWI conference. It is such an amazing community to be a part of.

Describe your most notable achievement or proudest moment in Kids’ Lit to date

Given that I actually only have two in total, and they’re kinda small, can I be proud of them both? (Always pushing the boundaries, eh Scott? Ed.) Success and notoriety, as we all know, is all about culture, image, and optimally influencing the malleable and somewhat fragile minds of our nurtured children. So, naturally, the poems about roadkill and junk food that I had published in the School Magazine and on a pillowcase for the Sydney Writer’s Festival have ensured that I will pen nothing but non-fiction for elderly science nerds the rest of my natural life.

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

The most memorable SCBWI conference experience I’ve had to date includes the entirety of my first ever SCBWI conference. Meeting the amazinglywonderfulenergeticinspirational Susanne Gervay for the first time, having my mind opened and subsequently completely blown (in the most sensitive and politically correct way) by a host of awesome presentations, and bunking down in the idyllic Hughenden Hotel for a couple of nights to be led astray by the SCBWI rat-pack (Meredith Costain, Louise Park, Tracey Hawkins and Mo Johnson) between sessions. A close second though would be the stage invasion, led by Louise Park and Tracey Hawkins the last time The Beatnickers played for the SCBWI crowd – I think we could all cope with that again ;)

Name one thing you can’t live without

Coffeechocolatewine. In the absence of this crucial compound motivation wanes, moral dwindles, creativity is stifled, inspiration declines exponentially, and my ability to tolerate idiots completely ceases to exist; and given that most of the free world seems to be run by them at present, I’d just rather not go there.

Provide at least one Fun Fact from a SCBWI Conference you’ve attended or played at (anywhere in the world)

At our last gig the keyboard stopped working for almost an entire song – as did the bass guitar in another. Luckily, however, the awesome crowd was so into the night and music that they carried us all through and nobody seemed to even notice J … this time, of course, everything is going to run seamlessly! <insert fading sound of hysterical laughter>

Scott, what a wee scamp you are. Visit again next week to meet more of our merry band of musicians as we count down to the next entertainment-filled Sydney SCBWI 2019 Conference. Till then,

Rove ya’ later!

Dimity (Head Gardener)


Helpful Hints for Face to Face Manuscript and Portfolio Critiques

Manuscript and Portfolio Critiques are designed to help you develop your ideas and gain editing insights to enrich and improve your work.

Ask yourself why you want a critique. If it is to be published, you may need to readjust your expectations. If, on the other hand, it is to have an honest assessment of your work, you will learn from your assessor what is and isn’t working. You will need to be as open to criticism as to praise, as hard as that may be.

The value of a critique is to have fresh eyes from an industry professional peruse your work. Avoid submitting work to be critiqued if it just isn’t ready. It is better to spend time perfecting your work as best you can so the critique you receive will be more useful and relevant.


If you do have the chance to have a critique:

• Be calm, respectful and ready to listen

• Remember to keep an open mind and leave emotions at the door

• Prepare and rehearse a pitch out loud (Think one-minute summary)

• Be prepared to take notes and bring a highlighter.

• Ask for clarification if you don’t understand any points

• Leave your full manuscript at home. (If an agent or editor asks to see your work, they’ll let you know how to submit)

• Be your genuine self. Remember that agents, editors, and award-winning authors are people, too. They appreciate a friendly chat.

• If you know who your Critique Assessor is prior to the conference, familiarise yourself with books agented by or edited by that person or company. You’ll gain insight into their tastes and be ready with conversation starters if the opportunity presents itself. (Go to their website, Google them or ask other SCBWI members)

• Enjoy yourself.


Here are a few things to avoid doing:

• Don’t stalk the editor or agent. Let them go to the restroom in peace

• Don’t wear or bring gimmicks in the hopes of getting noticed

• If you are asked what your book is about, don’t whip out your manuscript. Revert to your rehearsed elevator pitch (Think one or two minutes, tops)

• Don’t call yourself the next J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Rick Riordan, etc. Be original

• Don’t disrupt a critique in progress and don’t exceed your own time limit

• Don’t record a speaker’s session without first asking


What to do after you receive your critique:

A critique gives you honest and direct suggestions on how you can strengthen your writing. The suggestions give you an insight into a professional’s point of view and therefore it is worth your while to take their suggestions seriously.

• Take some time to think about it

• Read the critique or your notes again

• Think about the rationale behind the suggestions.

• Ask yourself why they were made and how they would improve the work

• Discuss them with other writers or illustrators

• Incorporate the suggestions into your work and compare the before and after results

• Remember the suggestions can be about the story itself or to do with marketability.

• In the final analysis it is your decision to accept or reject any suggestions offered.

Good Luck!