The SAS and Me...

     In 1987, I was a poor lorn creature, sitting alone in my garret, with nought but a computer keyboard to keep me company...



    Then came a letter.  It was from Malcolm Rose.  He wrote that writing was a lonely business,and he and Anne Cassidy were therefore inviting me to join a group of writers who would keep in touch by e-mail.  They were going to call it The Scattered Authors' Society, or the SAS.

Anne Cassidy

It seemed like a good idea to me, so I joined up. I now consider it one of the best things I ever did.


     Since then, the SAS has grown and flourished beyond what anyone could have foreseen.  There are members throughout the British Isles, from the far north of Scotland, to Ireland, to the depths of Cornwall - and more people are joining all the time.

      The inventive Anne Cassidy then went on to inspire the multi-blog An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, where a new blog is posted daily, written by a team recruited from SAS members.

      This blog gave rise to The History Girls, a multi-blog crewed by academic historians and writers of historical fiction, and to the Authors Electric blog, which is written by a team of self-publishing writers, several of whom are SAS members. I contribute to Authors Electric every month, and occasionally to History Girls.

Charney Manor

 SAS Members soon began to meet, and the annual Coventry Conference started, usually over a weekend in March.

    Later the week-long retreats began at Charney Manor, a beautiful medieval manor house near Oxford.

     "Are you going to Charney?" - "You should have been at Charney!"  It's become a by-word for almost the best time a writer can have - four days buzzing with talk and laughter.


     Nearly 30 years later, the SAS Conferences are still going strong, though the Spring one has now moved to a hotel in Peterborough, and another retreat has been added to the calendar, this one in November, at a farm in Somerset.

The Charney Conference, 2011


Here's a photo of the 2011 SAS Conference at Charney Manor - the first all-female gathering, as it happens.

     Who are they all?  That's Jo Cotterill, lying down in front. She also took the photo.

     Behind her, left to right, are: Karen Ball, Jen Alexander, Liz Lyndsay, Di Hoffmeyr and Lynne Benton.

     Behind them, L-R, are Paeony Lewis, Cindy Jefferies, Linda Newbery, Julia Jarman, Yvonne Coppard and Katherine Roberts.

     Behind them, at the far left, in green, is Katherine Langrish; then Liz Kessler, Lynda Chapman, Sue Mongredian, Susan Price (in sunglasses), Linda Strachan, Sue Purkiss, Inbali Inserles, Leslie Wilson, Fiona Dunbar, Celia Rees and Lucy Coats.


Cindy Jefferies

It was Cindy Jefferies who came up with the brilliant idea of setting up a chat-room for the SAS, where we could talk as a group.  It's called 'balaclava' - (the SAS, balaclava, geddit?) - and every single day it's alight with questions, answers, jokes, wisdom, tips, advice, support.

     If you can't think of a title, if you need to know (for your book) how speed-boats were started in the 1930s, if you need a new agent, if you want company at a publishing party, want to try self-publishing - then ask on balaclava!  Someone will know, and will generously share their knowledge. 

     Smaller groups within the SAS have set up their own support groups - I know, because I'm a member of one called 'Flatcap.' Why, because all SAS chatboards tend to be named after headgear, and because the idea behind this one is for the members to spur each other on to complete work.

     We do report to each other on work done, and cheer each other on - but it's just as much about exchanging news, commiserating over disappointments or upsets, passing on advice... In many ways, it's a mini-balaclava.

In Short...

      I've never met such a varied group of people as the SAS, who are, at the same time, so generous and supportive.

     You can only join them if you are a published writer for children, but you can meet many of them over at An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, where members of the SAS blog every day.

     You can also meet many in the Meet The Mates section of this site, with links to their sites.