Then came a letter. It was from Malcolm Rose (left.) He wrote that writing was a lonely business,and he and Anne Cassidy (below, right) 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.
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.
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.
Thirty 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.
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.
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.