A SCBWI Success Story: How Jellybean Got to School

by Margaret Roc

Have you ever travelled interstate or overseas and thought about getting in touch with the local SCWBI group, but decided not to bother? I hope my story may encourage you to think again. There are surprising experiences and opportunities out there that you may be missing.

A few years ago I was visiting Britain and Europe travelling through London twice, each time for about a week, some weeks apart. As I had people to visit and things planned I decided not to complicate my life by arranging more activities.

However, amazing author and inspirational Regional Advisor, Susanne Gervay always encourages Aussie members travelling interstate or overseas to check out the SCBWI website calendar for possible meetings/events that may interest them. Not long before my departure I was talking to Susanne at our Sydney SCBWI meeting and she told me again to check it out. Boy, am I glad I did.

The whole procedure was extremely simple. The regional events calendar listed only one SCBWI event in London the first week I was there.  It was part of their Professional Series - Meet the Publisher with Verna Wilkins, Founder and MD of Tamarind Books (Random House, UK). I sent off a quick email to the SCBWI contact address and received a friendly and welcoming email back. I discovered Verna was speaking on a topic I feel very passionate about – ‘enjoyable and superbly illustrated stories which reflect the cultural diversity of the world in which our children are growing up’.

The evening meeting was held upstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, a quaint, popular pub near the Thames, in central London. I was made to feel welcome and it was a pleasure to be introduced to many interesting authors and illustrators and I thoroughly enjoyed Verna’s presentation.  At the end of the meeting I was standing with Margaret Carey, my British SCBWI contact, and some other authors talking to Verna when Margaret mentioned I had recently written a picture book MS about the excitement and misgivings of a little girl starting school. Verna said she was interested in the topic and asked me to email her a copy of the MS from Europe as I was leaving the next morning for Spain. If she liked it she would arrange a meeting for the next time I visited London.

I sent the MS and Verna arranged the meeting. With Verna’s wonderful enthusiasm and her insightful input, some suggested changes were made and I signed the contract a couple of months later after I returned to Australia.

Unfortunately, not long after that Verna retired to pursue her own writing. Over the next couple of years or so various people in charge of the project came and went until I was beginning to think that the book may never be published. Then one day I received an email from Joe Marriott, Picture Book Editor, Random House UK and with his energy and vision and the wonderful vibrant illustrations reflecting ethnic diversity by UK illustrator, Laura Hughes, ‘Jellybean Goes to School’ was finally released in UK, Australia and NZ late 2013.

Margaret Roc is an author, co-author and editor of more than 50 books for children and teachers including many non-fiction titles, early readers and picture books. www.margaretroc.com
Laura Hughes is a talented London based illustrator http://laurahughes-illustrator.co.uk
Susanne Gervay is author of many books including the I am Jack series, and Regional Advisor, Australia East & New Zealand SCBWI www.sgervay.com
Verna Wilkins, author and founder of Tamarind Books, is a patron and consultant of Tamarind Books (Random House, UK, now Penguin Random House)
Margaret Carey, author/illustrator and my very pleasant and obliging SCBWI contact, helped organise the Professional Series for many years. Profseries@britishscbwi.org Sadly, she died in 2011.