SCBWI ACT - Learn. Celebrate. Share.

by Cate Whittle, for the SCBWI ACT Team

Here in Canberra, we have had a fantastic SCBWI year, and Learn. Celebrate. Share was all about recognising how far we have all come, what we have achieved (small steps or large), and where we hope to go next.


And it was always going to be a little bit different, with an emphasis on fun. The enthusiasm of everyone attending, along with a bit of tinsel, a drop of wine and some delightfully decadent Christmassy food, resulted in a real party spirit.

First up for the evening was the amazing Jack Heath, for whom we’ve been waiting with baited breath to come and talk to us. A vibrant and exciting writer of fast paced adventure books for both youngsters and slightly older-sters, he is also an engaging and entertaining speaker, and on this particular night he was generous with his wealth of knowledge, gained from his experiences as a published author who started his journey at an enviably young age.

For our listening pleasure and edification, Jack’s talk was on The Danger of Getting Too Attached to One Idea. Jack’s story started while he was still at school, where he had become less than excited by the stories that were available for young readers, and he decided to write one that he would like to read. And at the same time impress a girl. He hoped.

His journey was one of early success, but there were ups and downs along the way, and one of the things he discovered was that you can, in fact, get too much of a good thing. Or, more to the point, good things can lose their appeal. Changing tack to writing Middle Grade adventures developed a whole new set of readers and turned out to be a good move, where his book 300 Minutes of Danger became a ‘smash hit’ in no uncertain terms and left his publisher asking for more.


Early fears that writing lots of short stories was using up his ideas turned out to be unfounded as he realised that the more he wrote, the more ideas he was getting. From here, he also realised that he didn’t necessarily need to write better, he just needed to write faster, and started opening himself up to new opportunities to try new things. This led to his Cosentino books, co-written with an actual illusionist, and also to being offered what has become the Liars series by his publisher.

Moral of the story? It was a good thing that he hadn’t attached himself too tightly to his early ideas. Our learning point? Listen to others and be prepared to try new things!

We then had the opportunity to have a go at the new party game for storytellers that Jack is creating: Lights. Camera. Pitch.

Well done to Holly Bidwell and Craig Cormick who were quick to jump in and spin tales of action and intrigue.


From here we moved into the Battle of the Booksellers, where Jack – a now ex-bookseller with Dymocks in Belconnen – and our own (or that’s how we like to think of him, anyway) James Redden from Harry Hartog, put their bookselling skills to the test to answer some tricky questions (cleverly designed to a: entertain and b: give us some insight into the deeper mysteries of getting our books off the shelf and into the hands of enthusiastic readers) and ‘sell’ a book or two.

Lucky door prize winners Tracey Webb and Natalie Cooke had the opportunity to put the chaps through their paces, and both came away with a copy of Jack’s recent release, Liars: The Truth App, for their efforts.

Many thanks to both Jack and James for getting into the spirit of things and providing us all with much laughter and joy (especially the bit where ‘fake’ Gracie* came along for a photo opportunity).

*The real Gracie saw fit to eschew attending the year’s final development evening in favour of travelling overseas. Good thing she is posting lots of wonderful pics of her adventure so that we can ‘fake’ travel along beside her!

After an intermission with lots of food, wine, and catching up on news, as well as a group photo and the chance to stock up on reading material from James’ sales table full of rcently launched books by local authors, we all had time to share our triumphs of the year, and hopes and dreams for the year to come.

It is fabulous to know that we have such an amazing community of children’s writers here in Canberra and the surrounding area, working so hard to achieve our goals and sharing good company along the way.

We’re looking forward now to one last event for the year on 5th December, a social get together to celebrate Jólabókaflóð, an Icelandic tradition where people exchange books, eat chocolate, and generally enjoy some good cheer. More information is available here: 

Hope to see you there!

Enjoy some more pictures below from LEARN. CELEBRATE. SHARE.