Every year since 2009, members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) have gathered on Rottnest Island in June for a winter retreat. We spend four days writing, drawing, working on stories and learning from guest speakers. It’s my favourite time of the year.
The main drawcard for me is getting to hang out with my writer and illustrator buddies. It also helps that we’re a 30 minute ferry ride away from the mainland; somehow being on Rottnest puts life into perspective. This distance also makes it an ideal place for conceiving and developing new stories, and this year I came home with some great new ideas for two books.
This year we had 50 Retreaters including numerous guests: Zoe Walton from Random House Australia, award-winning author Libby Gleeson and her partner Euan, and award-winning illustrator Bruce Whatley and his wife Rosie Smith. We also had the incredible Ann James and lovely Gabrielle Wang from SCBWI Australia East & New Zealand.
Alas, the retreat is over for another year (#firstworldproblems). Next year will be a different experience as I’ll have a lot more responsibility … for the past 3 years I’ve been SCBWI Australia West’s Illustrator Coordinator, but come September I’ll be replacing the irreplaceable Frané Lessac as Regional Advisor. It’s honestly quite daunting; I have some very big cowboy boots to fill. But we have a fantastic group a fantastic team, with Samantha Hughes taking on the Illustrator Coordinator role. I’m very grateful for all the opportunities SCBWI Australia West has given me over the years; the group really kickstarted my career. So my aim is keep things ticking along and make sure the members get more opportunities to develop their skills and put their stories out there.