SCBWI Victoria Gathering - 14 June 2014


There was a great turnout for the SCBWI Victoria gathering on Saturday 14 June at DiMattina’s restaurant in Carlton.

The session started with a reminder about the SCBWI event ‘Inside Story’ which will be held on 1st November at Readings Hawthorn where authors and illustrators showcase their recently published books. Each author or illustrator has three minutes to tell the story behind their book. Stories can be poetry, picture books, middle grade or YA.

The first member speaker was Chris Bell, committee member and children’s/YA author. Chris gave a fascinating inside look at the application process for a Varuna Fellowship. Chris was ecstatic when she received ‘that’ email congratulating her on being selected for a Varuna Residential Fellowship. The round of applications had the largest number of submissions - 170 in total - from all states and in all genres. The assessors look for excellence in writing, strong authentic voice and a story that will engage readers.

Chris was extremely passionate about her project. She felt it was some of her best work and that her passion shone through in her application.

At Varuna, Chris found inspirational company, quiet spaces, time, endless bookcases, beautiful scenery and nearby coffee shops. She was able to achieve breakthroughs in her writing because of the time, inspiration and support she found at Varuna. She had time to think and problem solve. Winning the Varuna Fellowship gave Chris a feeling of validation and a great boost to her confidence.

The second member speaker was Sherryl Clark who, as a highly experienced author and teacher, gave us an in-depth insight into her experiences in self-publishing. Sherryl has been referred to as a ‘Hybrid Publisher’ - one who has been traditionally published, then self-publishes.  Sherryl said the success of the book in the US and its great reviews gave her the springboard to self-publish Dying to Tell Me for the Australian market.

Pros of self-publishing: Control of the project and ability to visit local printer; fun and addictive; the ability to receive sales information following school visits and the opportunity for innovative marketing.  Cons: Time consuming, stressful when determining print run, being responsible for sales and trying to gain ‘discoverability’ in a market of thousands of other books.

To purchase Dying to Tell Me, send a prepaid self-addressed envelope (up to 500g) and $16.95 to: Sherryl Clark, 116 Chambers Road, Altona North, 3025.  Her book Successful Self-Publishing is available for the cost of postage only.

The last speaker for the day was Susannah Chambers, Commissioning Editor for Children’s and YA Books, Allen & Unwin. She spoke about her 10-week Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellowship in New York, sharing information with editors, publishers, agents and booksellers.  She researched the YA market, what big and small publishers are acquiring, advances, where YA fits in a rapidly changing environment, whether publishers still want stand-alone stories or just blockbusters, book sales on the back of movies and lots more.

Susannah considers that a flair for words, fresh voice, strong engaging characters, a distinct character arc and appeal for both children and adults are essential elements for a successful book. She said to be yourself, write in the genre you love, write not just what you know but what you can imagine. She said that Allen & Unwin must be passionate about the books they take on and equally must make smart commercial decisions.

The next SCBWI VIC gathering will be in Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula on 6th September.

Kaye Baillie