(Photo from SCBWI LA 2011 “Sleepover” Theme Party)
Ink & Angsters; Tessa, Elle, Pamela & Kelly listen, learn, write, play, party and network at SCBWI LA!
Because the “Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators” is an amazing group of multifaceted, creative, open-minded, share-and-share-some-more writerly wonders! If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times, writers write- But the most successful writers do loads of other things like Read, Take Courses, Watch, Listen and Network! There’s oodles of networking to be had at any SCBWI event, tons of learning, friends to make. A SCBWI event is an opportunity to learn from the best in the business, to chat on a personal, friendly level with authors, editors, agents, publishers and other folks wearing shoes just like yours.
As always, my favorite piece of writerly advice remains, “Surround yourself with people who know more than you and soak up knowledge like a sponge!”
SCBWI is one giant puddle, so jump in! Get your feet wet. See what all the hoopla is about! You’ll be very glad you did!
So read on. Say hello to some kidlit writers who know what a wonderful friend the SCBWI can be!
Drum roll & lots of fanfair please!!!
Click the picks for uber-cool author’s links and websites!
ABSOLUTELY MAYBE & Many Other Awesome Kitlit books!
Member SCBWI Board of Advisors
I began attending SCBWI Conferences before I was published. The world of books was so big and confusing to me. (It still is sometimes.) But the SCBWI taught me that it didn’t have to be scary, and that KidLit people were nice and they were willing to share what they knew. Now that I am published and on the SCBWI Board of Advisors, I try to give back to the organization that helped me get my start.
Top Three Reasons for Attending SCBWI Conferences
Listening to the incredible keynote speeches.
Seeing old friends and making new ones.
Learning — because I can always learn more about craft and our industry.
Cynthia Leitich Smith
DIABOLICAL & more super cool reads.
Top Three Reasons for Attending SCBWI Conferences
SCBWI conferences provide a chance for me to meet and reconnect with the local and national friends and colleagues. I love the social aspect, catching up on everyone’s news.
I like to welcome newcomers. When I got started, a lot of people offered me a hand up. I mentor. I make myself available to answer questions and field concerns. It’s my way of paying it forward.
This will sound weird because I’m a writer, but I love learning more about the illustration side of the business. I’m so in awe of the artist’s abilities and fascinated by the unique challenges they face.
CROAK & Reaper-wonderful sequels to come!
I’ve only been to one SCBWI Conference – and it was as a panelist, after I got published – but it really made me wish I had been going to them all along. Why?
I learned something new
I randomly signed up for a panel titled Book Design, thinking it might have something to do with covers and whatnot, but it turned out to be a glimpse into how picture books are laid out and made. I very nearly left to go find something that was closer to my area of expertise, but I stayed – and was so glad I did. I was enthralled, sitting there with my eyes wide and mouth open and drooling a little like a kid plopped down in front of their favorite Disney movie. So cool.
I got introduced to new authors
The panelists and keynote speakers at my conference were amazing. So amazing, in fact, that I plan on reading all of their books and stalking them on Twitter and following them home and…uh…you get the point.
I made new friends
I’m not one to get gushy or, you know, talk to people, but SCBWI is a great place to sit down at a table full of strangers and chat. I was blown away by how nice and supportive everyone was. Not even a single knife fight erupted! Imagine my surprise!
Note the key word in every one of those reasons: new. Attend a conference, and walk away with something new. It’s that simple.
There is no doubt in my mind, I would not yet be published if not for SCBWI. Although I’d been writing for years before I ever attended a SCBWI conference — that first one I attended taught me how much of a beginner I was. I learned about the intricate web that is the submission process, the ins-and-the-outs, the dos and the do-nots — and as overwhelming as that was, I also learned something else: the value of networking. Don’t go to these conferences as a means to become published. Go as a way to network because networking truly is the key.
I have attended about 15 national conferences and I don’t even think I could count how many regional events, but in every single one I have met someone that has added to my writing career in some way. Through SCBWI I met my critique partners, my support group, my inspirations, and yes, even my agent. If not for the wonderful workshops and critiques I have attended through SCBWI, I can honestly say my writing would never have gone from ‘possibly’ to ‘published’. But the ‘published’ didn’t happen because I met that one person who said “wow, yes!” and signed me up (that RARELY happens!) but because every person I met at the conferences helped spin one more section of my web and it was this web of networking that finally got me there when my writing was ready.
My advice to a beginner who is contemplating SCBWI: Do it. If you can attend national conferences, great, but the real gems are at the regional level, so if you can only attend one thing, attend your local/regional event. Not only will you often get the opportunity to talk a little more freely with the authors, editors, and agents you meet there, but you will also meet the people who will become your support net forever.
Helen Williams/Billy Elm
DELROY IN THE MAROG KINGDOM & DELROY AND THE MAROG PRINCESS (available at Smashwords)!
Through the discussion boards on the SCBWI website, I found out about an online course in children’s writing at UCLA. As a result of taking this course, some of us formed a critique group, with three of us still meeting online weekly, eight years on. I would have got nowhere with my writing without the wonderful friends I have made in this group.
Through Expression Online, the SCBWI international online newsletter, I learned of Joanne Gail Johnson’s request for fantasy stories set in the Caribbean, with elements of folklore. My response to this request resulted in my story being published, along with five books by other authors in the Island Fiction Series.
Through the SCBWI Bulletin I learnt about so many aspects of children’s writing, including instructions on how to make a book trailer. Mine can now be seen on Youtube.
Melanie Hope Greenberg
MERMAIDS ON PARADE & more beautifully illustrated books!
Getting educated – Juvenile publishing is a vast, vast business with many nuances. SCBWI brings the publishing world to conference students to explore and study how to get published and how to keep your books selling well.
Meeting the right people – Once the publishing formulas are structured the conference students will know how to professionally submit their book ideas to the publishing houses that best suits their projects. Or how to find an agent to help them do that.
Camaraderie – It’s a field where we work alone most of the time. And there are lots of questions when the nuances of running a business of being an author or illustrator come up. It’s good to have others who understand the lifestyle and learn from each other.
FRACTURE & HYSTERIA (coming soon)!
Meeting Other Writers
This was my #1 reason for attending my first conference. I didn’t know other writers when I wrote Fracture, and I joined SCBWI while deep in the revision trenches. It was amazing to meet and commiserate with other writers at all stages of the process.
I have two small kids, and while I’d love to consistently devote more time to classes and courses, it’s really not feasible at this point. However, taking a weekend to devote to the craft? To talk writing and books and industry? It’s like a surge of adrenaline. I’m always recharged and reinvigorated when I get home.
Trying Something New
I tend to seek out articles and resources geared toward YA and the YA market—the stuff I write. But being at a conference gives me the opportunity to try something out of my comfort zone, which I think is good for any type of writing. One of the most memorable presentations I went to was for nonfiction writers, and I definitely implemented what I learned there into what I was currently working on.
WATCH OUT & loads of other groovy animal books!
Getting to have productive, random, on-the-fly meetings with editors and publishers you don’t get to see otherwise in a relaxed environment when they are having fun and open to brainstorming.
Having a great getaway where you can work and learn but also party and make new fabulous writer friends.
Connecting with other authors to share stories about our craft and business in a way that isn’t possible in our otherwise typically solitary pursuits.
So there you have it! Tons of wonderful reasons to start networking! If it isn’t an SCBWI conference, let it be something educational, social and fun. Join writer’s groups. Learn. Grow. Write! I highly recommend SCBWI. Try it for yourself, just do it. Let me know what you think! And no matter what, keep those words coming. Keep on rocking your writing!