2019 Sydney Conference - How it All Adds Up - Fun Facts

The SCBWI banners might be re-furled and the band packed away but one thing remains: the verve of another successful gathering of local and international professionals in an enthusiastic exchange of knowledge, art and creative joie de vire; like the scent of summer blooms lingering on a balmy summer’s night.

Spread over three days of book launches, conference sessions and master classes, this year’s Australian NZ Conference drew attention from around the world with keynote speakers from the US, international critique sessions, and featured a spectacular Illustrators Showcase not to mention, the non-stop networking!

Ably organised and run by SCBWI RA, Susanne Gervay and her committee of never-say-never volunteers, the conference went off without a hitch. If you want to relive every glorious moment and sift through the sessions again or couldn’t make it this time around and are curious to see what all the fuss was about, visit our Conference Blog, compiled by yours truly and made possible by the tireless efforts of our SCBWI Roving Reporters team.

Meantime here’s how it all added up:

  • 120 packed into The Children’s Bookshop at Beecroft to see 9 authors launch their latest and greatest works

  • 260 delegates converged in the Novotel Central for the One Day Conference

  • 60 publishers, agents, editors, art directors, designers visited the Illustrators Showcase

  • 50 + portfolios were featured in the Showcase

  • 135 delegates feasted together at the Dinner Dance - a few less actually danced the Nutbush

  • 6 members of The Beatnickers Band played until just before midnight, which was just as well

  • 13 Roving Reporters snapped, interviewed, scribbled and recorded every detail of the event

  • 22 + posts have been generated for the Conference Blog

  • 180 attended 6 Master Classes

  • 100 + teachers, librarians, TLS and educators attended the Creating Creative Writers PD Day

  • 6 committee members survived to see another conference

  • 3 Showcase illustrators were awarded prizes from Penguin Random House and HarperCollins

  • countless numbers of volunteers jumped in to help, distribute, guide, time check, moderator and cheer

  • more than two glasses of wine were consumed (by this Reporter alone) to celebrate

Here’s the result of feeding hundreds of hungering creatives information for three days and some very tasty salmon! Entertainment a la SCBWI Band, The Beatnickers.

Now you see me…watch the video below for a round up of our colourful creatives attending the conference. Apologies if your face did not quite make it on the video. We could still feel your vibe in the room!

Thank you to all who came, conquered, presented, reported, shared, cried, laughed and danced. It’s been a conference rich in colour and creativity.

Stick around for some speed interviews and insights from our delegates and presenters, coming soon. Till then,

Rove ya later,

Dimity (aka Head Gardener)



with thanks to Liz Anelli for supplying the illustrated images

The Inspiration of Finn's Feather with keynote speakers Rachel Noble and Essie White

A touching observation from Roving Reporter, Shaye Wardrop during the SCBWI 2019 Conference Dinner Dance on the special relationship with US agent Essie White and Australian author Rachel Noble.

Rachel Noble

Rachel Noble

Never ignore the stories that come from your heart,’ says author Rachel Noble as she tells us the story behind the publication of her debut picture book Finn’s Feather.

I don’t think there’s a dry eye in the room as Rachel talks about the heartbreak of losing her darling boy, Hamish, and her passion and determination to honour him through her words.

After exploring different genres and using writing as therapy, the idea for Finn’s Feather came in a perfect moment. After rushing home to write it down, Rachel tells us she found a feather waiting for her on the front step and she knew she had found the story she was searching for.

My throat is full of rocks and tears well in my eyes as I listen to Rachel speak. She is passionate and strong and brave and amazing, and Finn’s Feather is a powerful and special picture book that helps kids understand death and loss in the most gentle and heart-warming way.


It is a book for every home, every school, every library, and I urge you to find a copy and experience the powerful and magical story for yourself.

Rachel introduces the crowd to her literary agent, Essie White, of Storm Literary Agency, and Essie tells us how she met Rachel and her work.

Essie says, ‘stories can heal’ and ‘the importance of good literature cannot be understated’, and the crowd nods in understanding, knowing exactly what she means.

Essie tells us she ‘believes so much in the transformative power of literature’, that ‘an authentic story will help you heal’, that ‘stories help kids navigate emotions’.

She is so right, and we all sit quietly and ponder on these insightful words as she talks about her experience and extensive involvement in children’s literature over her career, about her love of books and her belief in the power of books to teach and guide children through their lives.

Essie leaves us with one more thought — one more piece of advice I will never forget.

Essie says,

this isn’t a profession; it’s a vocation. Do your best work because the best people in the world are waiting.’

Thank you Rachel for sharing your journey with us all, and thank you Essie for your amazing insights and powerful advice.

Shaye Wardrop


The Ballad of SCBWI Conference 2016 - or The Spelling Beast

To reiterate our midpoint Story Arc post - 'SCBWI people can party', hearty as it were, arrr!

Here's the little ditty that whet our appetites on the Dinner Dance Party night by poet master, Harry Laing, aka red hot speller; aka twister on the dance floor.


So here we are at The Menzies

soon we’ll be whipping up frenzies


‘cos SCWBI people can party

they’re not just kids’ literati


no they’re crazy, they’re wild

(ask their strange inner child)


or that’s what I think

but then I’ve had a few drinks


first up…Susanne Gervay

who does it her way


she’s a true force of nature

a passionate creature


her voice is commanding

do you think she’s demanding?


when her eye falls on you

you just bloody well do


Tracy get up here

Harry…where are you (feelin’ the fear!)


Susanne’s not really scary

though she can look a bit glary


people do things for her

(would they dare to demur?)



Susanne, you’re a star


which brings me to stellar…

cue Deb Abela


she just gets everywhere

look – she’s under your chair!


and she’s on drugs

now she’s under the rug!


hum, what rhymes with Abela?

here’s a word – fella


blokes, guys, yes men

there’s not many of them


I feel like a minority

triumph of the sorority


yes, you can jump to your conclusions

he’s got masculine delusions


that’s just the way it is

not so much manuscript as Ms


but let’s get back to this feast

and the famous spelling beast


it’s more fearsome than a bee

you’ll get so anxious you will pee


right, spell SCWBI



go to back to your table

with a can’t spell label


OK, next word: seceded

but why is that word needed?


it’s what WA have done

they’ve gone off on their own


so how do you spell SCWBI?

Deb Abela, take more drugs, tell me!





meaning squib, a firework, verbal joust

but I’m sure my time is running out


is there anything I’ve missed?

here’s a final checklist:


are you branded or stranded

has your contract landed


are you showcased, po-faced

is your profile mostly web-based


are you upbeat or defeatist

can you spell TMETUS


did you quiver at the pitches

develop involuntary twitches


have you handed over cards

have you done the hard yards


and I think we’ll leave it there

it’s time to let down the hair!

©Harry Laing 2016