Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

WRITERS RETREAT with Sophia Bennett

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Date(s) - 16/02/2018 - 19/02/2018
4:00 pm - 12:00 pm

Dunford House Conference Centre
Dunford Hollow - Midhurst, GU29 OAF

Find focus and inspiration at the 2018 SCBWI Writers Retreat

Dunford Conservatory

In need of inspired writing time, fuelled by cake and with expert advice on-hand? The hugely popular SCBWI Writers Retreat returns to Dunford House, Sussex from Friday 16th February to Monday 19th February 2018.

This will be the last retreat at the much-loved Dunford House as the venue is closing next year, so let’s make this one go with a bang!

Headlining will be award-winning author Sophia Bennett and Amber Caravéo, literary agent at Skylark Literary.  Carmen McCullough, Commissioning Editor at Penguin Random House Children’s will also be joining us.



Sophia Bennett – Self-Editing/Make Your Dialogue Work

Sophia will be running a two-part workshop looking at the art of self-editing and also how to use dialogue.

The Art of Self-Editing

On the editing side, Sophia will take examples from her own work to show how she tackles the various stages of the editing process – bearing in mind that ‘writing is rewriting’, so this is really where the book gets made.

Make your Dialogue Work

In the dialogue section Sophia will use extracts from her ‘Make your dialogue work’ masterclass to show how speech in text is never just ‘people talking’, and how you can use it to lift the story to new levels. In practical exercises, writers will get the chance to try out some of the techniques.


Amber Caravéo – Poacher turned Gamekeeper

As a former publisher, now literary agent, Amber will walk you through the inner workings of the children’s publishing industry. Using insights from her time as an editorial director, she will explain how the needs of publishers impact and influence agents and their authors – i.e. you! – and how an understanding of these dynamics can help you get published.






Carmen McCullough – The Editor-Author Relationship/Building a Strategy

During the talk, Carmen will de-mystify the editorial process and the relationship between editor and author. Additionally she will discuss how titles are selected for acquisition and explain how publishing houses shape and build a publishing strategy for a particular book.




Speaker Biographies

Sophia Bennett’s debut novel, Threads, won the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Prize in 2009, was published internationally and became a fashion trilogy.

Since then, Sophia has written several contemporary YA novels for Chicken House and two historical fiction books for Stripes. She has been shortlisted for the Best Book Award and the Oxfordshire Book Award. Her seventh novel, Love Song, won the 2017 RNA Romantic Novel of the Year. 

Sophia teaches the Intermediate Writing for Children course at City University, is a visiting lecturer at the Golden Egg Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Literature Fund.

Amber Caravéo is the co-founder of Skylark Literary, a boutique literary agency that seeks and supports the very best in Children’s and YA fiction.

Prior to founding Skylark, Amber was the Editorial Director for Orion Children’s Books, where she was privileged to work with a host of prize-winning and bestselling authors such as Caroline Lawrence, Liz Kessler, Juno Dawson and Holly Black.

Before that she was Senior Commissioning Editor for Random House Children’s Books after many happy years at Working Partners, where, among other things, she edited and developed the million-copy-selling series phenomenon, Rainbow Magic, and realized that working creatively with authors to produce fantastic books for children was all she ever wanted to do!

Carmen McCullough is is currently Commissioning Editor at Penguin Random House Children’s. She is incredibly privileged to manage the Roald Dahl publishing programme at Puffin, which is really a childhood dream come true! This involves shaping the brand strategy and finding new ways to introduce new readers to the magic of Dahl. Carmen also looks after amazing authors such as Cathy Cassidy and Ruta Sepetys, winner of the 2017 Carnegie medal, and is particularly passionate about commissioning debut authors and bringing diverse new talent to the PRH publishing list.

One-to-one with a speaker

As part of the weekend, you will be offered a 15 minute one-to-one with either Sophia or Amber (subject to availability). You will be required to email material in advance for this. We will try our best to match you with your requested speaker but please be aware that you may not get your choice.



Three nights’ accommodation and all meals are included. Special diets are catered for.

The venue is YMCA building Dunford House so please don’t expect four star hotel standard. You may not be able to work in your room but there are some wonderful libraries and drawing rooms to work in downstairs. The rooms are all very different. Most have an en-suite bathroom but two rooms have a shared bathroom. There is a £20 discount for the shared bathroom rooms, and this is reflected in the deposit required.

All rooms are single accommodation, but if you wish to share with a friend this can be arranged subject to availability. 

Several rooms are in the attic and there are steep stairs. Please let us know if you have any disability issues and would prefer a ground floor room.

For more information about the venue please see:



The total price (includes 3 nights’ accommodation, all meals, talks and a one-to-one with a speaker (subject to availability):

£345 for SCBWI members (£325 for shared bathroom rooms)  

£385 for non-members (£365 for shared bathroom rooms) 

To book your place, please pay a deposit of £50 or £30 for the shared bathroom rooms. 

The balance of £295 for members or £335 for non-members will then be payable by BACS any time before 31st December 2017.

If you require a payment plan please email me and this can be arranged. 

If you do not pay the balance by 31st December 2017 you may forfeit your place and your deposit.

For more information, email Mel at

The full retreat programme is under construction, and subject to change.



This event is fully booked.