I can say without exaggerration that SCBWI kick-started my career.
I attended my first WA SCBWI conference in February 2008, shy and unprepared. My portfolio was abysmal. But I met a few unpublished author/illustrators around my age. They’ve been my support network ever since.
Fast forward to June 2009 and we SCBWIans are on Rottnest Island for the inaugural SCBWI Retreat. Norman Jorgensen looks at my portfolio (which is now half-decent) and asks if I’d like to work on a book with him. It’s about a fearful boy who wants to be a brave Viking. I say yes; we start work (if you could call it that) almost immediately. His publisher seems interested in the idea.
Fast forward to June 2010, Rottnest again. Sarah Foster from Walker Books is a guest of SCBWI. She reads a manuscript I submitted for a critique, and she offers me a contract. The story is called In The Lion.
June 2011. The Last Viking is published by Fremantle Press. There is much rejoicing, eating of pickled herring and drinking of mead.
2012. In The Lion is published by Walker Books. The Last Viking wins the SCBWI Crystal Kite. I sign on as SCBWI Australia West’s Illustrator Coordinator, and attend my first SCBWI Sydney conference.
I catch my breath.
Just four years before this I had no idea what I was doing. I had very few contacts in the children’s book industry; I had no connections to publishers; I had no support network; I had no portfolio and no workable book ideas.
But then I joined SCBWI, and everything clicked.
So thank you to all involved with SCBWI in the East and the West for everything you’ve given me over the years; you’re a brilliant group of crazy wonderful people and you make a huge difference.
James Foley is a children’s author and illustrator. His books include In The Lion (Walker Books, 2012), The Amity Kids Adventures (2013), The Last Viking (Fremantle Press, 2011) and The Last Viking Returns (Fremantle Press, 2014). In The Lion was selected for the International Youth Library’s White Raven list in 2013. The Last Viking won the 2012 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Crystal Kite Award, the 2012 WA Young Readers’ Hoffman Award, and a 2012 Children’s Book Council of Australia Junior Judges Award. It was shortlisted for a further four awards.
His next book is written by Sigi Cohen and titled My Dead Bunny. It will stink up bookshops from October 1st 2015.
James is the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Australia West. He is also an ambassador for Books In Homes and Room To Read, and a judge for the Shaun Tan Award for Young Artists. His interests include comics, film, psychology, science, history (anything nerdy really), as well as yoga and social justice.
He has far too many books in his bedside reading pile.
Read more about James here.