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

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 www.meredithcostain.com

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)



Behind the Scenes: Meet THE BEATNICKERS! Scott Chambers

It’s one thing having a pretty front-man with pretty vocals but the true heart of a band lies with its musicians (sorry James). On a whole, they seem to have less demands for scotch finger biscuits. And then, there’s Scott Chambers… For those of you not familiar with this scientifically adroit, guitar strumming, ballad warbling, chocolate swilling, erstwhile writer, and Beatnickers’ institution, assume the brace position whilst banging your drumsticks together for…

Scott Chambers

Scott Chambers assuming his preferred position

Scott Chambers assuming his preferred position

Welcome, Scott! Briefly state your conference role and conference responsibilities

Of late my travels through the lumpy-bits of Europe and Antarctica – or, more specifically, my subsequent obligations to justify to holders of the relevant purse strings why and how I have spent so much of their scientific funding – have resulted in a regrettable lack of inspired, creative fiction writing. Consequently, this year my conference responsibilities will be restricted to facilitating: (a) the letting down of hair; (b) the letting off of steam; and (c) general conduct on the dancefloor and stage that is likely to be regretted when sober, as a member of The <infamous> Beat(k)nickers, for the “optional” (pffft) SCBWI dinner dance party.

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?

I have been a member of the SCBWI band since the conference after I first witnessed Meredith Costain and Catriona Hoy stagger walk up to the baby grand in the Hughenden Hotel one evening after a long day and “a few” glasses of red, and belt out an impressive collection of inspired blues tunes. Somewhat star-struck, and in my quasi-sober state at the time, I believe I said something like “let me know if you need some accompaniment next time”. Two years later The Beatnickers appeared on the SCBWI conference programme, which, as I recall, happened before I realised that Meredith had actually taken me seriously … so, time for rehearsals was – shall we say – limited. Luckily, The Beatnickers are now a well-oiled machine (at least it will appear this way if the audience is also sufficiently ‘well-oiled’ on the night ;).

Anyhow, long story not much shorter, to answer the original question, that all happened at least 10 years ago, and I was kinda hoping it would have involved a lot more free wine. Anyhow, in getting me to this point, I am eternally indebted to Sandy Fussell for her friendly smile and the offer of coffee to a stranger on the first morning I found myself standing outside the Hughenden Hotel trying to pluck up the courage to walk into my first SCBWI conference. It is such an amazing community to be a part of.

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

Given that I actually only have two in total, and they’re kinda small, can I be proud of them both? (Always pushing the boundaries, eh Scott? Ed.) Success and notoriety, as we all know, is all about culture, image, and optimally influencing the malleable and somewhat fragile minds of our nurtured children. So, naturally, the poems about roadkill and junk food that I had published in the School Magazine and on a pillowcase for the Sydney Writer’s Festival have ensured that I will pen nothing but non-fiction for elderly science nerds the rest of my natural life.

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

The most memorable SCBWI conference experience I’ve had to date includes the entirety of my first ever SCBWI conference. Meeting the amazinglywonderfulenergeticinspirational Susanne Gervay for the first time, having my mind opened and subsequently completely blown (in the most sensitive and politically correct way) by a host of awesome presentations, and bunking down in the idyllic Hughenden Hotel for a couple of nights to be led astray by the SCBWI rat-pack (Meredith Costain, Louise Park, Tracey Hawkins and Mo Johnson) between sessions. A close second though would be the stage invasion, led by Louise Park and Tracey Hawkins the last time The Beatnickers played for the SCBWI crowd – I think we could all cope with that again ;)

Name one thing you can’t live without

Coffeechocolatewine. In the absence of this crucial compound motivation wanes, moral dwindles, creativity is stifled, inspiration declines exponentially, and my ability to tolerate idiots completely ceases to exist; and given that most of the free world seems to be run by them at present, I’d just rather not go there.

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

At our last gig the keyboard stopped working for almost an entire song – as did the bass guitar in another. Luckily, however, the awesome crowd was so into the night and music that they carried us all through and nobody seemed to even notice J … this time, of course, everything is going to run seamlessly! <insert fading sound of hysterical laughter>

Scott, what a wee scamp you are. Visit again next week to meet more of our merry band of musicians as we count down to the next entertainment-filled Sydney SCBWI 2019 Conference. Till then,

Rove ya’ later!

Dimity (Head Gardener)