The story left untold…

With thanks to Grace Bryant for her words.

We all know the feeling of self-doubt. It tiptoes politely around our tiniest, most beloved ideas, softly seeking permission to be present. Then gently questions, until it becomes a comfortable, familiar and almost reassuring voice. Then it starts poking. And pointing. Over time, that voice makes your tiny idea feel even tinier. This discouraging whisper often becomes a war cry, crushing your tiny idea even before it could blossom into a story.

We’ve all been there. Even the most successful, most talented, most celebrated authors and illustrators suffer this voice. And it’s not a voice that goes away. It must be managed; hushed with words of affirmation, saturated by hard work, reshaped though development, conquered by perseverance and straight up loved into submission. It’s definitely possible to shush this voice and to make space for your tiny idea to grow. And the reward for protecting your tiny idea from that big, nasty voice? Well, I’ll get to that.

SCWBI ACT’s August development event welcomed author/illustrator Caroline Magerl, author Emma Allen, illustrator Hannah Sommerville and NLA publisher Susan Hall, who generously shared their warm voices, brilliant ideas and contrasting experiences with us.

Believe it or not, Caroline Magerl’s pathway into illustration was neither linear, nor easy. She shared with us many ideas; some tiny, some grown and nourished through time and experience:

  • Hold on to your tiny ideas and dispute your personal fail-voice;
  • Modern day networking is a blessing. We’re lucky to be so connected and for opportunities to be visible, as this hasn’t always been the case;
  • We don’t need a license to try, or to succeed;
  • Have an agenda or you’ll become someone else’s agenda;
  • Keep a line in the water; in fact, keep many lines in the water to stay diverse and at the edge of your abilities;
  • In this industry, one success does not guarantee another;
  • Follow through on your ideas and listen to your own voice; 
  • And most importantly, that crafting our tiny ideas into stories is more powerful than we can imagine. A children’s book is capable of influencing many lives.

If you ever get the chance to hear Caroline’s story, you won’t regret it. Not only does she spin a good yarn, its fibres are shorn from hard work, soaked in persistence and challenging times loving stitched together with her successes. Her most recent book, Maya and Cat is drawn from these experiences. It’s evidence that a tiny moment can become a tiny idea, which could impact someone, somewhere. Its stunning word choice and thoughtful, unexpected watercolour and ink illustrations are an utter delight.


Caroline Magerl at SCBWI ACT's August Development Event

Caroline Magerl at SCBWI ACT's August Development Event

Emma Allen, Hannah Sommerville and Susan Hall showed us how the power of an idea can be enhanced, elevated and enlivened by others. And that our collective ideas, skills and experiences enable the ideas and success of others. In sharing the story of their collaboration, we learnt that:

  • Establishing the right working relationship is as important as getting the work right;
  • A genuine collaboration requires trust, as you’re both exchanging something precious;
  • Trust in each other enables confidence in one’s self, one’s skills and in the partnership. Sharing in this trust is a joy;
  • Collaboration is an iterative process. Words, illustration, edits will evolve as the work ceases to be owned by an individual and the story becomes co-owned;
  • If you’re lucky, you might even make a friend though a collaboration;
  • Understanding the rhythm of the story is vital, to allow space for the story to breathe, pant or sigh, rather than simply be told;
  • Regardless of the story that you intend to tell, the readers will always imprint themselves on to it. This is the joy of storytelling and of sharing your tiny idea.

Digby and Claude is Emma and Hannah’s most recent collaboration. Though it’s set in the 1930s, the themes of friendship, imagination and belonging keenly resonate today. Their seamless blend of words and illustrations offer readers the opportunity to explore grief and renewal, in a safe space. Hearing about their collaboration inspired SCBWI ACT to trust others with our tiny ideas.

Susan Hall, Hannah Sommerville and Emma Allen on collaboration

Susan Hall, Hannah Sommerville and Emma Allen on collaboration

And now, to answer that lingering question. What is the reward for persisting and for battling self-doubt? It’s not necessarily global success or a three-book deal. It’s the opportunity to share your tiny idea. To nourish another’s tiny idea. To tell your story. Or, the simple knowledge that the tiny idea left unexplored, or story left untold leaves a greater void than daring to try. You never know the impact you may have simply by sharing your tiny idea. 

Ironically, our own stories are more often shaped by challenge and adversity than success. Success is the easy part. The bit that comes before that is the hard part. Sometimes the ability to push past self-doubt and to choose to listen to the tiny idea rather than that nasty voice is the greatest act of creativity. 

So, go on, persist.

SCBWI ACT is grateful to Caroline Magerl, Emma Allen, Hannah Sommerville and Susan Hall for sharing their magnificent, inspiring and influential ideas. We like you. A lot.

SCBWI ACT send their love.

SCBWI ACT send their love.

A bit about SCBWI critique groups...

With thanks to Shaye Wardrop for her words.

DID YOU KNOW… SCBWI has online critique groups you can join?

Yep! The wonderful admin team of SCBWI Australia East/New Zealand has set up a FREE online critique group system for SCBWI members. Shaye Wardrop (SCBWI ACT committee member) recently joined, and here’s what she said about the experience.

Why did you decide to join a SCBWI critique group?

I wanted to get feedback on my work on a regular basis. I also really liked the idea of getting lots of opinions on the same piece of work at the same time. If everyone likes something, you know it’s likely working. If everyone thinks it’s not quite right, you know you need to take a closer look.

What do you like most about the SCBWI critique groups?

I love that it’s all online; this makes it really easy to fit into my schedule. I also like that the groups are small (max of 6 people), so we all get to submit our work regularly.

There are guidelines to help with setup and management (super helpful), but I also really like that groups can make changes to meet their own needs. For example, my group critiques on a fortnightly schedule (rather than a weekly schedule) because it suits everyone better.

Was it easy to join?

Extremely! You simply go to, read the information there and register to join a group. You’ll get an email when enough people are on the waiting list to form your critique group. 

Anything else to add?

There are groups for authors, illustrators and author/illustrators to join. So no excuses!

Shaye Wardrop, pitching at the the recent SCBWI ACT Level Up conference. 

Shaye Wardrop, pitching at the the recent SCBWI ACT Level Up conference. 

SCBWI ACT Have Been Busy


December finished with lots of celebrations. 

It was a packed crowd at the ACT Writers Centre Book of the Year Awards for 2015 and an exciting time with two of our members- Pauline Deeves winning the 2015 ACT  Publishing and Writing Award- Children’s Fiction Category for her book Midnight Burial, and Tania McCartney awarded Highly Commended for her picture book Tottie and Dot. 

Congratulations ladies.

Our SCBWI Christmas gathering rocked. We had a terrific turn up for drinks at The Mint Bar, Arts Gorman House. Loads of chatting, drinking, eating, laughing and some discussion for ideas and new adventures for 2016.

Popular ideas suggested: In the beautiful months of Autumn, head out of town on a rural writing/illustrating escapade. Literary lunches on a Sunday that may include a winery, and ‘Show and Tell’ events with new and visiting guest speakers. Plenty more to come in general meetings. This year is the year of conferences so we shall work around dates for those.

Our first meeting for the year is scheduled for late February/early March and plans and dates to be confirmed for our year ahead. 

The ACT membership is growing and we had the privilege to meet some new members at xmas drinks.

SCBWI ACT was included in a blog on Capital Letters by Shu-Ling Chua, current blogger in residence at the ACT Writers Centre. Canberra’s Literary scene is exploding with creativity! To read more

2016 also brings a new and exciting interaction for three SCBWI members, Tania McCartney, Irma Gold and Tracey Hawkins who have been invited to be Ambassador’s for the ACT Chief Minister’s Reading Challenge. More details to come later.

It looks to be a very active, fun year ahead for SCWBI ACT.