Hey cHEwY gum gums

Yesterday, I went to the SCBWI conference, eager to catch up with friends, both old and new (well, those who I’ve met on social media first hehe) and also learn a bit more about the writing industry. Yes, some of it I’ve heard before, but it’s nice to hear it again.

If you didn’t follow my countless tweets, I’ve pulled out 10 things that I’ve learnt from the conference.

Get the book done!

The awesome duo of Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo delivered an awesome presentation about building your author platform. Allison Tait said that you can’t sell yourself and build an author profile if you don’t write and finish your story. Make the time. And if you finish your story, start the next one.

Get your author bio in order!

When you write your author bio, list your most recent book first! Oops, I’m guilty of this one here. Also, make it straight to the point.

Find your right social media platform

Allison and Valerie laid out who you can find on different social media platforms. Twitter is more for industry people; authors, agents, editors and publishers. Facebook have a lot of parenting and book-loving groups, and Instagram has teens, readers and fans. Try to do them all and post at least once a day.

Make readers care for your characters

Dr Mira Reisberg (who runs courses at Children’s Book Academy) says that your characters, whether heroic, hilarious or quiet, need to be enduring to your readers. Even villains can be liked if you make them charming or show a tiny glimmer of goodness to them.

Read books twice!

Mira surprised me with this one. You read once for pleasure, the second time for learning the craft.

Animal characters can make them relatable to kids all around the world.

Linsay Knight, editor from Walker Books gushed about animal characters in picture books. They can bridge the gap between the child and not-child. Eve Tonelli, editor from Harper Collins also added that animal characters are universal too.

Marketing matters more than the actual story in a pitch.

Uber-cool Author-Illustrator Christina Booth, who found publishing success with her pitch from the last SCBWI conference, mentioned that when she researched pitching, she went beyond book pitching but everything else including business pitches. She said that the marketing angle may matter more than the actual story itself.

Be patient with your writing

Vivian Kirkfield, acclaimed US blogger and Perfect PB Reviewer spoke about patience, not only as you wait for your submissions, but also for your own writing too. Sit on it, and come back to it later with fresh eyes.

Get out there in the kidlit community!

Vivian echoes a lot of what people have said during the conference. Get active in writing groups and communities, face to face and online. Allison Tait said that you can find out the gaps in the market, recommendations and future contacts all through interacting with different groups. Just avoid self-promoting hehe.

In all honesty, you need to put yourself out there and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best advice and a step-up in your career. You’ll also meet a lot of kind writers and illustrators, some of them will be lifelong friends (online or face to face). So do yourself a favour, sign up to SCBWI and come to the next conference 🙂

Write what you want to write, to help those who need it too

The conference ended with a dinner party, where Author Rachel Noble spoke about her picture book, Finn’s Feather. She didn’t hide from the fact that writing was her therapy to deal with her family’s tragedy, and she was determined to write a book to help others deal with grief. It makes you realise that some books transcend more than just a good story.

I left the conference, hungry to write, eager to connect with more people in the KidLit community and wanting to read more books. Mission Accomplished 🙂


About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree


  1. Helen Edwards says:

    27/02/19 @ 8:41 am 

    thank you for tweeting and sharing your thoughts. It really helps those of us who could not be there. Hoping to meet you at another event!

  2. Oliver says:

    27/02/19 @ 9:26 am 

    Thanks Helen, always happy to share and inspire writers. Hope to see you around soon

  3. Debra Tidball says:

    27/02/19 @ 5:31 pm 

    Brilliant re-cap Oliver! How did you do it so quickly? Must be the power of hamburgers – he he. I’d love to link to to this in my newsletter. And thanks for the photo 🙂

  4. Oliver says:

    27/02/19 @ 5:41 pm 

    Haha I think the tweets and notes on my laptop helped make things easier (and the mere thought of a burger too let’s be honest haha). Sure, I’d be chuffed if you’ll link this to your fab newsletter 🙂

  5. Geraldine Borella says:

    27/02/19 @ 7:26 pm 

    Fabulous roundup! Thanks Oliver.

  6. Dimity Powell says:

    27/02/19 @ 10:22 pm 

    As succinct and vivid as your footwear colours, Oliver. Great takeaways albeit not of the meaty, drippy-cheese kind. Cooler than Pluto seeing you at the Conference. Can’t wait to read your new book, soon! 😉 Dimity

  7. Oliver says:

    06/03/19 @ 6:44 pm 

    Thanks Dimity 🙂

  8. Oliver says:

    06/03/19 @ 6:45 pm 

    No probs, I appreciate you reading my blog 🙂

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