SCBWI Success Story Dinalie Dabarera

I got my first children's book illustration contract from taking part in the SCBWI portfolio showcase and the book The Cat with the Coloured Tail (written by Gillian Mears) was published by Walker Books in September 2015. Very exciting.

I actually participated for the first time in the 2012 showcase when I was just out of uni and not earning enough to justify actually attending the conference itself. Although I got a little bit of interest in the immediate aftermath, things were very quiet until an email popped into my inbox two years later from Nicola Robinson from Walker offering me a potential book contract! So definitely a great success for me. And it's a lovely thing that the showcase is accessible to newcomers. If anyone asks me for advice on getting published I tell them this story.

When I put together my portfolio, I definitely wasn't confident about all the work that was in it. I included my best pieces, but I ran out at about 5 or 6, so there was definitely a bit of filler. I think this is generally considered to be bad practice. But the conference only comes around every two years, so being straight out of uni and feeling the need to achieve everything immediately, I decided to just get on it. I made sure to only include two styles, which did restrict the work I could put it in. I know people are divided on this one, but at the time and after, I've found that focusing on a style creates clarity in what people want and expect from me.

The Cat with the Coloured Tail tells the story of Mr Hooper and his magical cat as they travel around the countryside in their moon-cream van bringing joy and ice-cream to those who need it most. It was written by the lovely Gillian Mears. Although she's published many adult fiction books and won many prestigious awards in the past, this will be both of our first children's book.

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