Saturday, 30 June 2012

The knives were out at the SCBWI Conference....

SCBWI Roving Reporter, Alison Peters reporting from the Hughenden
The knives were out as the SCBWI Conference kicked off at the lovely Hughenden Hotel last night- or at least they would have been had airport security guards not foiled a brazen attempt by leading picture book writer Catriona Hoy to smuggle a carving knife onto her flight.

Ms Hoy escaped arrest with a story about a cake, a mistake,and, you know, being a vague creative type but you can never really be sure with people who make stuff up for a living.

Catriona's Little Dinosaur - an Australian ornithopod
The airport heavies bought it though, and Catriona arrived in Sydney in plenty of time to launch her new picture book 'The Little Dinosaur'.

Catriona's online writing group buddy Claire Saxby introduced the new work, illustrated in stunning detail by Andrew Plant.

According to Claire there are a few simple principles to follow when writing a picture book, the central one being 'Don't kill off your main character'.  This one is closely followed by, 'If you must kill them off, for goodness sake don't do it in the middle of the book.'  But when you are a master storyteller you can stomp all over the rules-and this story of the life, death and rebirth of a little Australian dinosaur works beautifully.

Claire described it as 'a lyrical, informative and beautiful picture book,' but just to see how good Catriona's writing was Claire 'tested' it by reading it out loud. We were entranced from the first page, but just in case we lost the plot, Catriona accompanied the reading with an energetic mime of the life of the little dinosaur (or was it an interpretive dance?) Either way, watching this pair of  long term writing friends working together reinforced the importance of belonging to a supportive writers group.  (The 'volcano spewing lava' part of the performance was priceless. Ask Catriona to do it for you if you bump into her at The Writers Centre over the weekend).

After we sent 'The Little Dinosaur' out into the world with champagne,  love and best wishes, Suzanne Gervay introduced the new regional advisors and declared the 2012 SCBWI Australia and New Zealand conference officially open.

Most of us made a quick beeline for the Illustrator's Showcase where we either sighed or stood speechless at the beauty and scope of the work that lay around us, before moving into the hotel bar and restaurant for a delicious dinner.

As a first time conference attendee I had a few anxious moments wondering if I would find somebody I knew. I need not have worried. Warmth, generosity and friendliness seem to be universal amongst people who write for children, and I was soon swapping stories and business cards with new writerly friends who I feel sure I will stay in touch with, and cheer on from the sidelines as their work is published.

It promises to be an inspiring conference.

The Little Dinosaur by Catriona Hoy and illustrated by Andrew Plant, is published by Working Title Press and distributed by Penguin Books Australia.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your book launch and came away with a signed book.

  2. You'll all be relieved to know that the knife arrived back in Melbourne two hours after me, none the worse for it's airport adventure! Thanks for the great coverage and glad you enjoyed the launch Maria. Also enjoyed your dinner company.

  3. Oh no! We didn't get any interpretive dance at the Melbourne launch! I would've loved to have seen Andrew do that.

  4. Thanks for the lovely summary Alison. The book is published by Working Title Press but distributed by Penguin. And Bren..I can do a private version of dinosaurs munching gingko leaves if you like.