Behind the Scenes: Meet THE BEATNICKERS! Meredith Costain

Literary legend and master of the keyboard, Meredith is no stranger to SCBWI conferences. If you’ve never got down and dirty (aka hot and sweaty) on the dance floor with her rocking tunes, you’re in for a treat. Wax lyrical for …

Meredith Costain.jpg

Meredith Costain

Briefly state your conference role and conference responsibilities

I have a bit of a mixed bag this year! I’ll be part of the Creating Passionate Poets panel (lots of excellent alliteration right there!) for the PD Day on the Tuesday, and also doing some manuscript assessments for Ford Street.

But most importantly I’ll be flexing my fingers, cranking up the keyboard and – in the words of the immortal Blues Brothers – ‘getting the band back together’ for the Beatnickers’ third outing at the SCWBI Dinner Dance on the Monday night. Should be a hoot! (If not a nanny )

How long have you been part of the SCBWI Band and what made you sign up for it: the money, the notoriety, the free scotch finger biscuits?

The SCBWI band seems to have morphed out of a few late-night (well-oiled) jam sessions around the grand piano in the foyer of the Hughenden Hotel in 2010. By the next conference I’d managed to co-opt a few more SCBWI members to put together a ‘lounge band’ with Scott Chambers and Chris Cheng on guitar, various vocalists (led by the inimitable James Foley) and even a ukulele.

2014 saw us ‘plug in’ for surround sound, with Mark Greenwood on drums, Scott and James in full flight, and a host of guests. Karen Collum stepped up brilliantly to play keyboards at the last conference when I was a late scratching (with even more stellar guests up on stage) – and this year I’m back, ready to (rock and) roll. Bring your dancing shoes!

What made me sign up for it? Ummm … the free wine? (Were there scotch finger biscuits?!?) (There’s free wine?! Where’s my ukulele… Ed.)

Describe your most notable achievement or proudest moment in Kids’ Lit to date

Being awarded the Graham Davey Citation for my contribution to Australian children’s literature at the YABBA awards in November meant a lot to me. The next week one of the Ella Diaries (brilliantly illustrated by Danielle McDonald) won Honour Book in the junior fiction section at the KOALA awards in Sydney. And then a couple of weeks after that I headed off to India with Leigh Hobbs to take part in children’s book festivals, school visits and creators’ content conferences as part of Australia Fest. So a great month!

What is the most memorable (SCBWI) Conference experience you’ve had to date, or hope to have?

Staying up till very late (were there birds chirping?) in a little room in the Hughie, drinking wine and chatting to US poet Ellen Hopkins and people who have since become close and dear (and I suspect lifelong!) friends. This is one of the biggest take-aways an event like the SCBWI conference can offer, and why I keep coming back.

Name one thing you can’t live without

Only one? Good friends that get your jokes and have your back. (Plus the usual: books, music, wine, chocolate et cetera, et cetera, et cetera . . .) ( and nut-filled M & Ms?! Ed.)

Provide at least one Fun Fact from a SCBWI Conference you’ve attended or played at (anywhere in the world)

100+ sweaty people in a room doing the Nutbush! And not letting the band have a break because they wanted to keep dancing. Now that’s commitment.

Visit Meredith and her astounding library of written work at

With only a couple more weeks to go until the next Sydney 2019 SCBWI Conference, you should have packed your dancing shoes, manuscripts, coloured pencils and notebooks and booked your tickets by now. There’s still however plenty of time to settle back and meet a couple more of the amazing faces behind the names of the people behind the scenes of this incredible event. Till then,

Rove ya’ later!

Dimity (Head Gardener)