Chapter Two: 100 years of The School Magazine

The panel

The panel

A Centenary of School Magazine with (Editor) Alan Edwards, (Contributors) Sheryl Gwyther, Marjorie Crosby-Fairall and Wendy Fitzgerald and (Graphic Designer) Josemalene Ruaya.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of The School Magazine, which began publication in 1916 and is now the longest running children’s literary publication in the world. To commemorate this momentous occasion SCBWI included a panel discussion about the School Magazine and their publication process, as a part of the 2016 Conference. Chaired by Sheryl Gwyther, author   and prolific contributor for the magazine, the panel provided an interesting and informative overview of the magazine’s process and it’s glorious 100-year history.

For those who don’t know, The School Magazine is Australia’s foremost literary magazine for children, filled with texts of literary merit that encourage children to read for pleasure and explore stories. Editor Alan Edwards says “we are trying to instill a love of reading in our young students and I think we have done a pretty good job of that over the last century”.

In honor of their birthday The School Magazine has recently released “For Keeps” An anthology of stories, poems and plays from the last century of publications. It is a visual and literary feast for adults and children alike. I spoke with designer, Wendy Rapee, about her choices in putting together this gorgeous treasury.

“It was with a sense of nostalgia I approached this task, so the palette is soft and slightly dusty. Right from the start I wanted to contextualise the pieces for kids of today as well as evoking nostalgia for past readers."

The School Magazine publishes 4 different magazines aimed at children in years 3, 4, 5 and 6 at school.

  • Countdown (year 3)
  • Blast Off (year 4)
  • Orbit (year 5)
  • Touch Down (year 6)


They produce 40 magazines a year along with 40 teaching guides, with each issue lovingly assembled by a hardworking and dedicated team including panelists Alan Edwards and Josemalene Ruaya.

Jose is The School Magazine’s only graphic designer, single handedly responsible for the look and layout of 40 publications per year. Jose gave a fascinating breakdown of her design process and philosophy for the magazine saying

“I tend to design to make our pieces inviting to read and to make sure that the layout and the illustrations and graphics support and enrich the text rather than overwhelm it…we use illustration in many different ways. We always try to add something else that there isn’t space for in the text, we always try to support what’s going on in the text and add value to what’s already there”

The School Magazine has had the input of some of Australia's most prominent children's writers and illustrators throughout their 100-year existence, including but certainly not limited to, Aaron Blabey, Sarah Davis, Duncan Ball, Patricia Wrightson and Ursula Dubosarsky and panelists, Sheryl Gwyther and Wendy Fitzgerald.

Wendy Fitzgerald discussing her latest contribution

Wendy Fitzgerald discussing her latest contribution

As a matter of fact Neridah McMullin’s new picture book “Fabish” came from a story originally published in “Blast Off “Magazine in 2011. The School Magazine has a reputation for inspiring books and launching careers.

But anyone involved in the world of children’s books and primary education already knows this, what made the SCBWI session stand out from all the other celebrations this year, was the way it detailed The School Magazine’s process from submission to publication. Providing a real insight for writers and illustrators about submitting their work and what to expect when they do.

A couple of interesting facts;

  • The School Magazine is one of the last publications in Australia that accepts unsolicited manuscripts.
  • It is also one of the last places that will publish poetry now, making it’s existence even more important on the literary stage for writers and readers alike.

So if anyone is interested in submitting to the School Magazine and wants to know what happens once you do, the process is pretty simple.

For writers:

  • The School Magazine accepts prose, stories, plays, poetry and fiction. 
  • When a manuscript comes in the assessment process usually takes about 4 months and it is read by 3 or 4 different people, before having a decision made on whether it will be accepted or not.
  • Once a submission has been accepted the magazine contacts the author, purchases the piece AND pays them straight away!

"Choice is driven by the quality of the writing." Alan Edwards on the submission decision process

How to submit to The School Magazine

How to submit to The School Magazine

Just another great advantage for contributors to The School Magazine, they pay upon purchase and their purchase is for single use only. So if they want to use your work again, you get paid again, at a reduced rate. Once the piece has been purchased they will wait for the right issue to come up before placing it. Generally you will know when it’s time because a copy of The School Magazine arrives, like a present, in your mailbox.

"Everything we do must add value to the text" Josemalene Ruaya on magazine design

For Illustrators,:

  • The School Magazine provides a rotating cycle of opportunity by having a pool of illustrators it draws upon year round, choosing the illustrator that best suits the written work.
  • Submissions are open for certain periods of time each year, usually June to July but this can change, so it ‘s best to keep an eye on the website. 
  • Just like with written work, illustrators also retain their rights and purchase is for a single use only.

"Illuminate not decorate" Marjorie Crosby-Fairall on her illustrative briefs

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall discussing the magazine's illustrative briefs

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall discussing the magazine's illustrative briefs

Throughout this panel one point became abundantly clear, EVERYONE has nothing but reverence and deep respect for The School Magazine. The people who work to bring it to life, are deeply impassioned individuals who strive to expose our kids to quality literature.  To be accepted as a contributor is an honor, a validation of literary merit and something people own with great pride. So why not try submitting your work and see where The School Magazine could take you too…

Kel Butler Roving Reporter


Welcome to Sydney 2016!

Welcome to Sydney 2016!

Well the ships have finally moored in beautiful Sydney Harbour. The crew have disembarked and the 2016 SCBWI Sydney Conference is about to start. It’s been a long journey to get here so naturally replenishment was in order. Here is a glimpse of the opening night antics at The Menzies Hotel.

There was convivial catching up with old colleagues and new.


Plenty of hands helping literacy in the developing world with the aid of Room to Read’s Wendy Rapee and Kel Butler.






And some extraordinary spelling.

Over all the whole evening exuded an extremely mellifluous air (thanks to Deb Abela and the launch of her new book, The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee).

Stay tuned for more fun, facts and updates on the sessions as we embark on an even more fascinating journey of creativity.

Rove ya Later!



Making room for Room to Read

SCBWI Roving Reporter, Kel Butler warms up her note pad with this guest post on why SCBWI and so many of its members are active supporters of Room to Read.

SCBWI has long been a supporter of Room to Read. Susanne Gervay was the very first writer ambassador, even before the organisation launched a fundraising operation in Sydney in early 2009. Jennie Orchard led the launch into Australia, drawing on her collateral as a speakers’ agent and publisher to engage the many writers and illustrators she had worked and formed close relationships with over the years; people like Susanne Gervay. Melina Marchetta and Libby Hathorn.

All three took part in the inaugural Students Helping Students event at the State Library. Later other SCBWI luminaries Deb Abela and Sarah Davis added their support. And at this year’s conference we’re delighted that ambassadors Oliver Phommavanh and Dianne Wolfer will be with us, as well. All of these wonderful ambassadors contribute in a variety of ways, putting the importance of global literacy and education in the spotlight. Our theme this year is ‘Taking Leadership for Literacy’ - and we are so grateful for the opportunity to raise awareness and funds, helping to give the gift of literacy and education to millions of children across Asia and Africa.

So why are so many great Australian writers stepping up to fundraise and advocate for Room to Read? Let’s borrow a few words from Deb Abela, who says: ‘Every child has the right to an education and to the joy of reading. By helping to educate the world’s poorest, we are not only creating better communities, we are helping build a better, brighter world. It is that fundamental.’

Room to Read focuses on literacy because literacy is the foundation for all future learning. Since it was founded in 2000, Room to Read has impacted the lives of over 10 million children by establishing school libraries, publishing original children’s books in more than 25 local languages, constructing child-friendly classrooms and supporting educators with training and resources to teach reading, writing and active listening.

  • More than 18,000 libraries have been established in 10 low-income countries in Asia and Africa
  • More than 1250 children’s books have been published in over 25 languages, including Khmer, Tamil and Swahili
  • More than 18 million children’s books have been distributed
  • More than 38,000 girls have benefited from the girls’ education program

Room to Read attracts support because it is an organisation achieving extraordinary results, and yet at the same time it recognises that there is so much more work to be done. In addition to those already mentioned, our committed writer ambassadors include Jesse Blackadder, James Foley, Kate Forsyth, Jacquie Harvey, Gus Gordon, John Larkin, Frane Lessac, Sophie Masson, Belinda Morrell,  Alice Pung, Sophie Masson and Sally Rippin. Other writers and journalists lend more informal support.

The fundraising campaign which is supported by our ambassadors is the World Change Challenge. This was the brainchild of Tristan Bancks , designed as a way of encouraging schools and libraries to get involved in fundraising and spreading the word for global literacy. This year we want student leaders to take leadership for literacy, understanding the global issue and spearheading initiatives in their school communities. There are still 781 million illiterate people in the world, two-thirds of them girls and women. As UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, has said: ‘Literacy is much more than an educational priority – it is the ultimate investment in the future.’

Right now Room to Read needs schools, libraries and businesses all over Australia to get behind the World Change Challenge and take Leadership for Literacy to a whole new level. Many schools are currently in fundraising mode already, with some of them incorporating stories of Room to Read’s programs into their curriculum. St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School in Brisbane is a perfect example of this, giving students the opportunity to learn about Room to Read’s work in Nepal in the wake of the 2015 earthquakes.

If you are interested in getting involved you can find more information on the World Change Challenge on Tristan's website Or like, share or message us on Facebook at

So that's it in a nutshell, really, why SCBWI and so many of its members choose to actively support Room to Read and to raise awareness and funds for Room to Read. Because there is no greater gift than literacy. And – as Room to Read believes profoundly: World Change Starts with Educated Children.