SA Full Day Retreat

12 October 2014

25 people plus presenters were welcomed to the annual SCBWI(SA) retreat in the unique Franklin Hotel by our coordinator Katrina Germein.

The Little Big Book Club

Opportunities for creators

Belinda Spry and Nicole Marshall described The Little Big Book Club as a non-profit organisation which works to promote reading, the discussion of books and the promotion of Australian authors and illustrators. The Little Big Book Club is currently in its ninth year of providing 20,000+ FREE It's Story Time Reading packs to SA families. Over the last 10 years, The Little Big Book Club has commissioned 7 children’s picture books and are seeking a new one for next year.

The Little Big Book Club is calling for manuscripts from South Australian authors only for a picture book for a pre-school pack. (Illustrators, please send a couple of samples to be put on file.)

Allayne Webster

Allayne was introduced by Vikki Wakefield as an author with a varied backlist from MG to YA.

Writing War Stories for Children

Aristotle said that stories have the power to civilise us.  In writing a story about the Bosnian war, Allayne has learned to be grateful for what she previously took for granted: food on the table, being safe and well, access to medical care.

A war story’s focus is on the human struggle, relationships with family and friends, how people adapt to trouble, and hope.

Allayne researched at first by interviewing a Bosnian friend who had to run a gauntlet of bullets to get to university.  She found witness accounts provide the small details which give a story authenticity.  She researched the very complex politics behind the war but was mindful that although the book needed to be historically accurate, history had to be filtered through what a child understands, the fear and uncertainty when life has changed.


Do the research.  Immerse yourself in documents and books.  Imagine what it felt to live that way.

Record all sources.  Note these in a separate document and submit with final manuscript.

There are no new war stories.  Ultimately a war story is a tale of loss and survival.

Think how a child sees the world.  What would their reaction be to upheaval?  Fear, confusion, shock, anger.

Be compassionate.  Write the story with love.

Demonstrate change.

People are affected by physical and emotional trauma.  Show their stress signs.

Allayne said writing a war book was a gift which brought her closer to her friend, made her grateful for what we have in Australia, and was a journey of self-discovery.

Celia Jellett

Celia Jellett was introduced by Kelly Hibbert as the senior editor at Omnibus which publishes fantasy, non-fiction and picture books.

Celia is a founding member of the Society of Editors and has been honoured with the title Distinguished Editor.

The process of editing

Omnibus publish about 25 books a year and must stick to their schedule.  It can take 2 years to see a book on the shelves after it has been accepted for publication.

School novels are generally published in Feb/Mar/April to match the school buying patterns. 

Celia kindly prepared a handout describing the 3-stage production process at Omnibus and went through it with us.


After lunch SCBWI members enjoyed creativity exercises presented by Claire Richards.

Peer critiquing was undertaken until the close of the day.Thanks go to all organisers and helpers for a productive, inspiring day for children’s book writers and illustrators in South Australia.

Kathy Smart.