SCBWI Success Story – Jenny Blackford


If I hadn't been in the audience for Linsay Knight's guest spot at the January 2013 SCBWI meeting in Sydney, my two books of poetry (The Duties of a Cat and The Loyalty of Chickens) would never have been published.

Linsay was at that SCBWI meeting to talk about Pitt Street Poetry, the poetry press that she and her husband John Knight had recently founded. She passed around copies of a few of PSP's superbly-produced books, including a gorgeous little illustrated pamphlet of poems, Etruscan Miniatures, by Tim Cummings.

So, I wondered, might they consider a book of poetry for kids? By then, some of my poems and stories had appeared in the School Magazine, and Linsay had published one of my stories in her Random House anthology 30 Australian Ghost Stories for Children, but we'd never met, and I was too shy to go up to her during the break.


That week, though, I screwed up my courage to email Linsay, asking her whether she would consider looking at a manuscript of poetry for kids. Miraculously, she replied with a yes, so I spent several weeks frantically editing all my suitable poems. Quite a few of them were about cats, including "The Duties of a Cat", which had recently appeared in the School Magazine.

Three weeks after I sent off the manuscript (through it felt like three years!), Linsay wrote back saying that she and John were interested in publishing just the cat poems, as an illustrated pamphlet primarily for adults. Would that be all right? I was, of course, overjoyed. The Duties of a Cat, illustrated by Michael Robson, was launched in December 2013. You can find some reviews here. It's not just for adults; it received a Highly Recommended rating in Reading Time, where Elspeth Cameron called it "a small but utterly charming publication of beautifully crafted poems about cats."

The Loyalty of Chickens.jpeg

Three and a half years later, The Loyalty of Chickens was been launched into the world with a cheep and a squawk at the Newcastle Writers Festival in early April 2017. It's a full-length book of poems for people aged 11+, with a beautiful chicken cover image by Gwynneth Jones. Many of the poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in the School Magazine.

The Duties of a Cat was all about cats (and the human condition), but The Loyalty of Chickens only includes one chicken poem. There are magpies, crocodiles, pterosaurs, pelicans, slugs, dogs and even human beings.

Jenny Blackford's Bio:

Jenny writes poems and stories for all ages, often with a tinge of magic. Her stories and poems for kids often appear in the School Magazine, as well as in Australian and international anthologies. The appeal of her poems spans wide age groups; some poems originally published in journals such as Westerly and Quadrant have been reprinted in the School Magazine.

Read more here.