Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Rottnest Retreat 2015

The 2015 Rottnest Retreat Program kicked off on Wed 10 June with our Mainland Events at the State Library.

After her ASA Industry Spotlight talk the previous evening, Libby Gleeson got the ball rolling with her full-day workshop "Picture Books: The DenisCreation and the Craft" and there was nervous excitement in the air as members arrived for one-on-one critiques with our guest publishers Zoe Walton (Random House) and Cate Sutherland (Fremantle Press).

After lunch, Bruce Whatley set the illustrators to work in his workshop "The Diversity of Mediums: From the HB to Duelthe Stylus" and then it was time for the fast-flying fun of old favourite Duelling Illustrators, which saw brave volunteers face off against each other to draw scenes from a series of wacky prompts drawn on the spot.

Our final Mainland event was the First Page & First Look panel, in which Cate Sutherland, Zoe Walton and Bruce Whatley stepped into the shoes of slushpile readers to give their "first impression" feedback on manuscript and illustration samples submitted by members. This was an informative session which gave attendees much food for thought.

FerryThe next morning, it was all aboard for Rottnest as Retreaters gathered at the ferry terminals for the annual pilgrimage to the island.

QuokkaCentralAfter a casual gathering in Dome and a free afternoon with some members participating in one-on-one critiques, our first official gathering was the Opening Barbeque at Quokka Central that evening. After welcoming Retreaters, Regional Advisor Frané Lessac gave a rundown of the weekend's activities and then led Retreaters into the annual Rottnest Pitch Award activity.


The first order of business was the announcement of the 2014 winner, with the coveted trophy going to Meg McKinlay for her picture book Intrepid: A Rhino's Tale. The book resulting from this pitch has been contracted by Walker Books and will be published in 2017. Then it was on to the 2015 pitches, which came fast and furious and ranged from picture books through to YA novels. We can't wait to see which one catches the eye of a publisher first.


With the formalities concluded, it was time for Retreaters to come together over shared food, (mulled) wine and anticipation for the days ahead before turning in for the night at a sensible hour … 

The next day, Friday, saw a mix of activities, including some more critiques and the much-loved Sketch and Scribble Crawl led this year by Kelly Canby.


This was followed by the "Brain to Page" panel, moderated by Renae Gibson, in which Norman Jorgensen, Meg Caddy, Katy Watson-Kell and Meg McKinlay shared insights into the different ways in which they move from initial idea to completed manuscript. A range of strategies were on display including palm cards, notebooks, extensive research techniques and the word-processor Scrivener.


In the evening, we gathered at Aristos Cafe to celebrate the launch of Karen Blair's picture book Our Baby (text by Margaret Wild), which was launched in fine style by Ann James.


With the launching complete, we settled down to dinner at Aristos, punctuated by some between-course presentations. The RTFN award for the May newsletter was given to Sandi Bowie, for her eagle-eyed attention to all things SCBWI West-ish, and dinner speaker Dianne Wolfer talked about her "Bunny in the Headlights" year, with 2014/15 having been a whirlwind of awards, high-profile activities and general excitement.


Another important announcement was made over dinner, as Regional Advisor Frané Lessac dropped the bombshell news of her imminent retirement. James Foley will step into Frané's shoes from September 1, while Samantha Hughes will take on James' current role of Illustrator Coordinator. Many glasses were raised in honour of our treasured leaders.

dinnerdinnermegc dinnerfrane DinnerSam

Saturday saw our daytrippers join us at the Rottnest Country Club for a day of presentations and workshops. Libby Gleeson provided advice on how to "Murder Your Darlings", Zoe Walton spoke on "The Craft of Editing Fiction", and Bruce Whatley conducted a workshop on "Inspiration and Execution".

LibbyRottoZoe Libbyworkshop

In the evening, it was time for another perennial favourite, "Readings By (Almost) Candlelight" in the delightful ambience of the Rottnest Island Chapel. Fifteen members shared 5-minute readings from works in progress to an appreciative crowd of peers.


After the readings, many Retreaters gathered at the pub for an informal dinner and then kicked on to dance the night away to live music at the Governor's Bar. Mysteriously, no photographs of the conga line have been made public.

On Sunday morning, we waved farewell to some early departers and then headed back to Aristos for our final activities. Jan Nicholls from the Children's Book Council spoke on the topic of Children's Book Awards and Amber Moffat from the Department of Culture and the Arts highlighted the funding programs available to WA creators.

We then enjoyed a casual session from Libby Gleeson, Bruce Whatley & Rosie Smith, who spoke about how they got started in the industry and gave insight into their respective publishing journeys. As a backdrop to the morning's activities, we had a wonderful gallery of postcards produced by Retreaters over the course of the weekend, each person having been allocated a fellow Retreater to sketch in words or pictures in time for the Sunday morning SCBWI Post.


Rottnest 2015 served up a fantastic mix of professional development and fun, accompanied with liberal doses of coffee, conversation, camaraderie and laughter. If you can't believe you missed it and want to join us in 2016, keep your eye on your monthly member mailout for details as they come to hand.


With thanks to our merry band of leaders, volunteers, Retreaters and photographers. See you next year!